Sunday, July 31, 2016

It's a Wonderful Wife - Janet Chapman (Jove - Aug 2015)

Series: Sinclair Brothers (Book 3)

Jesse Sinclair and his two brothers spent years dodging the women his grandfather threw in their path. But then the matchmaking old wolf died, and his brothers did the unthinkable: they ran off to Maine to get married.

Now Jesse wants to join them. Convinced the Pine Tree State must have another eligible woman to spare, he buys a small island just off Castle Cove to build a home for his future family. But as he discovers, finding the woman of your dreams isn't as easy as his brothers made it seem. First of all, the only woman capable of filling those wedding shoes is Cadi Glace and unfortunately, she's already engaged.

So imagine Jesse's surprise when he finds the aforementioned Miss Glace hiding out in his camper, charmingly, adorably drunk. And apparently single.

Really fun book. I spent a large portion of the book laughing out loud at the conversations and other antics that went on. Jesse has been envious of his brothers' happiness in their new lives and decided that he wanted the same thing. But his busy life in New York didn't seem to lend itself to finding Ms. Right, so following in their footsteps he has headed to Maine. He bought an island (Hundred Acre Island) and planned the perfect house for his future family. Six months later he has come back to Castle Cove to check on the progress of the plans. What he gets is a series of unfortunate events that throws all his plans into turmoil.

Cadi Glace is the woman who makes the 3D models for the firm owned by her father and his partner. Shortly before her father's death, she and the partner got engaged, and she has continued doing the models. Cadi has grown up in Castle Cove, only leaving to go to college, before coming right back home. As Jesse arrives in town, he sees Cadi watching her car burn. Being a gentleman, he stops to assist her, and gives her a ride. She is headed the same place he is - the architectural office. He's a couple days early to see his model and she's got a surprise birthday party planned for her fiance. The surprise is on her, as what she finds rocks her world.

This event sets the tone for the whole book as it turns out things aren't quite like they appear. I felt for Jesse as his house models are destroyed before he really gets a look at them. Cadi is understandably distressed by what she found, but not for the reason you would think. As she seeks to escape the pitying looks of the townspeople, she ends up hiding in Jesse's camper, where he finds her after driving to the harbor. She's quite drunk, and Jesse's protective instincts have him taking care of her.

Jesse is smitten by Cadi from the beginning. She is so different from the women he dates that he is intrigued by her. But as far as he knows, she is still engaged, so she's off limits. When he finds out that she has ended the engagement, he is determined to pursue her himself. Cadi is wary, because she sees herself as a small town girl, with no experience outside her small town. She doesn't see how he could truly be interested in her. SHe also sees that she has spent her life being what other people need, to the point where she has lost sight of her own needs. She takes the opportunity for some soul-searching and plans to set out on her own, to experience all those things she has missed out on.

Before Jesse can make his interest known, a business emergency calls him out of the country. I loved the conversation with his brothers, as he tries desperately to get one of them to deal with it. While he is gone, Cadi's boss and ex-fiance discovers that his brother has gotten involved with crook, and that he is the same man that Stanley has committed to designing a house for. Unfortunately, this same man has taken a shine to Cadi and has made it clear that nothing will keep him away from her. 

Suddenly Stanley is no longer the mild-mannered architect, and I loved seeing how he takes charge of making sure that Cadi understands just what kind of danger she is in. His instructions to her were great, and her reactions were fun to watch. But Cadi also has a mind of her own, and is a lot more independent and capable than she believes. While she takes the need to disappear to heart, the way she goes about it was unexpected.

I loved how Jesse arrived back in Maine earlier than expected because he was so anxious to see her again. He was disturbed to discover the danger she was in, and determined to find her and protect her. I thoroughly enjoyed his efforts in tracking her down. His stunned surprise in finding out just where she has been hiding was hilarious, especially the way he found out. I loved seeing how the early misunderstanding continues, with Cadi taking advantage of it by pretending to be Jesse's wife to all the townspeople. The scene in the beauty salon was hysterical, with Jesse playing the loving husband to the hilt.

Once they are back on the island, Jesse has his work cut out to show her how he feels. Cadi's self image issues have her convinced that he is only playing house with her. I enjoyed seeing them get to know each other. Jesse finally starts to understand some of her issues and tries to figure out how to overcome them. Cadi has an amazing talent for understanding what people need, even when they don't realize it themselves. There are some really funny scenes where Jesse tries to stand up for what he wants, only to find that Cadi has out-argued him and gotten him to see things her way, everything from treehouses to home offices to where a house should be built.

When Jesse's assistant, Nathaniel, arrives with some information about not just the man who caused the problems, but Stanley too, Jesse has some decisions to make. I loved the discussion that he and Nathaniel had. There was a lot more to Nathaniel than I had expected, and I liked him more every time I saw him. I liked the interaction between Cadi and Nathaniel, though each looked at it differently. I felt bad for Cadi, who thought she had insulted him, while Nathaniel thought she was wonderful. I loved his comments to Jesse about her. 

The story concluded with Jesse's brothers and their wives arriving because of a family crisis. I loved seeing all their reactions to Jesse's "wife", though his sisters-in-law nearly wrecked what progress he had made with Cadi. I loved seeing Jesse finally win an argument with her, as it was the argument of his life. 

The only thing I didn't like is that things with Stanley were left hanging. We definitely get the idea of what he had done about the problem, but then there's nothing else about him. Do he and his new partner come back or just disappear?

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

His Stolen Bride - Barbara Dunlop (HD #2459 - July 2016)

Series: Chicago Sons (Book 4)

To love, honor and abduct a beautiful bride…

"Will you take this woman?" Yes. As a favor to his estranged father, investigator Jackson Rush agrees to kidnap Crista Corday from her high society wedding. His job is to stop her marriage to a con man, not seduce the alluring Crista himself. But two days together, on the run from her fiancé's shady family, obliterate every rule…

Crista has no idea of the danger drawing near. Jackson can't reveal it without divulging who really sent him. And that's a risk that could cost him everything…unless Crista will put herself under his passionate protection forever.

Good book with ups and downs of emotions combined with a bit of suspense. Jackson is a PI who gets a call from his incarcerated father. Jackson hasn't seen his father since he was thirteen and his father was imprisoned for embezzlement. His father's cellmate, Trent Corday, needs Jackson to stop his daughter's wedding. He claims the man only wants Crista for the diamond mine shares she owns - shares that she knows nothing about. His plan is to see her, tell her about it, and leave her to decide. Once he sees her, all his plans fly out the window.

Crista is a jewelry designer who fell in love with the romantic man who courted her. When Jackson kidnaps her from her own wedding, she refuses to believe the wild tales he tells her, about her fiance's cheating and plans to steal her shares. However, she can't deny the attraction she feels to Jackson. Returning to her fiance the next day, the reception she receives causes her to rethink her engagement. But her fiance isn't ready to let her go. Panicked by his attitude, she relies on Jackson to get her away.

I enjoyed seeing the relationship build between Jackson and Crista. As Jackson tries to protect Crista from her ex, he discovers that she has become more than a job to him. I liked seeing the lengths he went to in order to protect her and his determination to keep her safe. But he also knows that if she were to find out that it was her father who sent him, she would be furious. He struggles against his growing feelings for her, and it was fun to see his friends' reactions. Crista's reactions to Jackson are all over the place at first. Initially of course, it's fear and anger over the kidnapping, with a bit of unwilling attraction thrown in. Once she's convinced she's in no danger from him, the anger grows, especially when he tells her the things he's learned about Vern, and then about the diamond mine shares. While I understood her anger and distrust of her father, and her desire to believe in her fiance, her flat-out refusal to believe the evidence that Jackson produces really irritated me. She even tried to convince herself that Vern wasn't behind the attacks on her. However, she can't deny that she is starting to feel things for Jackson that are far stronger than anything she had felt for Vern. When they give in to the attraction the strength of their connection scares them both. Crista's discovery of her father's involvement adds to her confusion, and sends her running. A last ditch effort by Vern puts Crista in danger and both Crista and Jackson have to face their real feelings. There are still the diamond mine shares to deal with, and that whole issue is pretty amusing to see them handle. I liked the ending.

The suspense was pretty good with the whole idea of keeping Crista and her shares out of Vern's hands. He definitely wasn't the man she thought he was. There was an increasing amount of danger as shown by each attempt to get her back. I enjoyed seeing Jackson and his security coworkers as they dealt with each threat and uncovered more information. There was an interesting twist involving Crista's father. The resolution at the end was effective, but not necessarily satisfying on consequences for Vern.

There was a fun secondary relationship between Jackson's friend/coworker Mac and Crista's best friend Ellie. I enjoyed the back and forth between the two and their relationships to Jackson and Crista.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Once a Rancher - Linda Lael Miller (HQN - Apr 2016)

Series: Carsons of Mustang Creek (Book 1)

SLATER CARSON might be a filmmaker by trade, but he's still a cowboy at heart -- and he knows the value of a hard day's work under the hot Wyoming sun. So when he sees troubled teen Ryder heading down a dangerous path, he offers the boy a job on the ranch he shares with his two younger brothers. And since Ryder's guardian is the gorgeous new Mustang Creek resort manager, Grace Emery, Slater figures it can't hurt to keep a closer eye on her, as well…

GRACE EMERY doesn't have time for romance. Between settling into her new job and caring for her ex-husband's rebellious son, her attraction to larger-than-life Slater is a distraction she can't afford. But when an unexpected threat emerges, she'll discover just how far Slater will go to protect what matters most -- and that love is always worth fighting for.

Good start to the new series. Slater is the oldest of the three Carson sons, and the one known as "Showbiz" to his brothers. Besides being an honest-to-goodness cowboy, he is also a producer of well respected documentaries. He's just wrapped one up and is ready to start thinking about another one, when his evening is interrupted by Grace and her teenage stepson.

Grace is a former Seattle cop who is now working as a resort manager. Ryder is her ex-husband's son who she is caring for while he is deployed. Ryder is a bit of a challenge right now, as he's not real happy about moving to the middle of nowhere. When she discovers that he has stolen a sign off one of the production company's trucks, she marches him to Slater's office to apologize.

Sparks fly between Grace and Slater from the beginning. Slater definitely wants to pursue it, but Grace is a bit more wary. Her last relationship din't work out so well, and she isn't sure that she can trust her judgment. Slater is a force of nature, however, and won't be deterred from his pursuit. While she fights it at first, she gives in pretty fast. They do spend a fair amount of time getting to know each other. Slater is pretty forceful in his wants, but he's also sensitive to what she needs. I liked the times when she called him on his actions and he would, sometimes unwillingly, back off. Grace's independence often gets in the way of her willingness to accept his help, but eventually she learns that doing so doesn't make her weak. I really enjoyed the give and take between them as both learned the art of compromise. The ending was sweet, with a rather unusual wedding.

Both Slater and Grace are single parents, and I enjoyed seeing how both handle it. Slater and his daughter's mother are good friends and have an excellent parenting relationship. You can tell that Slater and his daughter have a terrific relationship. I liked seeing him extend the same kind of relationship to Ryder. Grace's relationship with her ex isn't as good. She's pretty much disgusted with the way he has treated Ryder, putting his work way ahead of his family. It was great to see how she is there for Ryder, providing the stability he needs. She still struggles with him, and I enjoyed seeing how Slater stepped in and became a great role model. The help allows Grace to relax just a bit, and not be quite so tough on him.

There's a bit of suspense in the story, as Grace deals with a disgruntled former employee. This man had been fired for stealing and doesn't take it well. He turns into a rather nasty stalker, committing various acts of vandalism before setting fire to her house. As a former cop, Grace doesn't panic over it, but turns it over to the local police. I liked seeing her try to rein in Slater, as his protectiveness comes to the surface. The resolution of the problem is well done.

The secondary characters all add depth to the story. I loved Ryder, who was a pretty typical teen who is dealing with family upheaval, While he exhibits some bad attitude at times, he is a good kid. I liked seeing the effect that the entire Carson family had on him. Slater's younger brothers, Drake and Mace are also great. Each one has their strengths, which I'm sure we'll see more of in later books. I enjoyed the sibling rivalry among the three brothers. They could be snarky but the love and support underlies it all. Their mom, Blythe, was awesome. Though the guys all live at home, she is able to treat them as adults - except, of course, when they are acting like teenagers and she gives them "the look". I liked the way that she took Ryder under her wing. The brief appearance of Grace's ex, Hank, showed just why she divorced him and had the issues she did. I was disgusted with his disregard of Ryder and Grace's feelings. It was fun to see his reaction to Slater. There were also brief appearances by previous characters, such as the police chief, Hadleigh, Melody and Becca from the Brides of Bliss County series.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Spinster's Guide to Scandalous Behavior - Jennifer McQuiston (Avon - Nov 2015)

Series: Seduction Diaries (Book 2)

A mysterious journal may provide a potential spinster with instruction -- or lead her to her heart's desire

Free-spirited Lucy Westmore isn't yet a spinster, although she fully intends to be. Fortunately, an eccentric aunt has left her both a diary detailing the secrets to spinsterhood and a cottage in Cornwall. Unfortunately, an insufferable marquess is angling for her prize! Turning Lord Thomas Branston down flat should be easy. So why does this man who won't take no for an answer make Lucy's body and soul sigh yes?

Thomas knows the real value of Heathmore Cottage, and he has no intention of letting some silly Society miss get her hands on it. He'll simply have to charm Lucy into selling. But the clever young woman he encounters, first in London, then en route to Cornwall, stands stubbornly on her own two (quite lovely) feet. And now, Thomas can think only of sweeping her off them.

Good story about a headstrong young woman and a man with a haunted past. Lucy is twenty-one years old and about to start her long delayed Season. The problem is, she doesn't want it. She has no desire to parade herself in front of a bunch of men who only want her for her dowry. She would prefer to follow in the footsteps of her Aunt Edith, who is a spinster. Then she gets word that her aunt has died and left her a cottage in Lizard Bay, Cornwall. Lucy takes this as sign that she's on the right track. She also receives a package with her aunt's diaries, a chronicle of her life on her own.

Thomas is living in Lizard Bay and was friends with Miss E, as everyone called her. When Lucy's father comes for the funeral, Thomas makes an offer for the cottage, which her father accepts on Lucy's behalf. The property holds secrets and Thomas is determined to protect them. He is stunned to receive a letter a few days later, from a furious Lucy, who has canceled the sale. He heads to London to convince what he's sure is a silly young girl to part with the property. That meeting isn't at all what he expected.

I had some trouble liking Lucy. She was sheltered, therefore completely inexperienced with the real world. She was a bit selfish, taking action without thinking how it would affect others. I understood her need for independence, rather than following the norms of the day. I even understood her desire to see the house for herself. But she was far too impulsive and proceeded without really thinking things through. Her meeting with Thomas was very confrontational, with her being rather judgmental and unwilling to listen to him, though she is also rather drawn to him. When she encounters him on the train, her stubborn attitude continues, even though he is obviously trying to help her.

I liked Thomas a lot. He had his errors in judgment at the start, by not telling her the truth about the cottage and why he wants it. But he is at heart, a good man. Three years earlier he had moved to Lizard Bay, trying to escape the memory of what he saw as his failure to help his sister. Friendship with Miss E and becoming part of the community helped, but he still carries a lot of guilt. He is intrigued by Lucy, who is nothing like he expected.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship, though I frequently wanted to smack Lucy. They arrive in Lizard Bay and Thomas offers to show her the property, but she is sure that she can't trust him. After two days of trying to get someone else to do it, she finally gives in. By the time they arrive it is dark and raining and the house is only partly habitable. Lucy still insists that she can't trust him, and sends him on his way, only to find herself alone in the house with no clue how to go on. I loved the bit of self-realization as she admits her own shortcomings to herself. An encounter with a rat brings Thomas (who hadn't gone far) running. His protectiveness toward her has him staying close, and attraction continues to flare between them. Her stubbornness gets her into a dangerous situation the next morning. A combined rescue from Thomas and her father also brings out one of the secrets of the property. Lucy's mistrust is stirred again, and she is left wondering which is the real Thomas - the one who keeps secrets or the one who helped her?

A little real soul-searching has her finally realizing that she at least owes Thomas the courtesy of listening to what he has to say. I loved this part, as Thomas opens his heart and shows her the real treasure hidden on the property. He also opens up about his past and his feelings for Lucy. But there are still obstacles, mostly his, that come between them and a future. I liked Lucy's realization that Thomas must make certain decisions on his own and how she leaves him to it. I also liked seeing her stand up to her father about her property, and their conversation after was pretty sweet.

A trip back to London for her delayed entry into the season puts Lucy back where she started. She still has no desire to participate, but will do so for her mother and cousin. A surprise arrival brings Thomas to her door, after a lecture from Lizard Bay's vicar (who had an interesting revelation of his own). The day brings additional surprises, as well as the happy ending that both Lucy and Thomas yearned for.

I loved the epilogue, back in Lizard Bay. Lucy has found a way to help the town that they love. There is another surprise waiting for them, one that I rather expected, but satisfying anyway. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hard Core Law - Angi Morgan (HI #1654 - Aug 2016)

Series: Texas Rangers: Elite Troop (Book 4)

HE'D BREAK THE LAW TO GET HIS KIDS BACK

The twins were all Josh Parker had in this world. So when they were kidnapped, he couldn't rely on his Texas Rangers star to get them back safely. Or involve Tracey Cassidy, the only person he trusted to care for his children. A family of criminals was asking him to break the law if he ever wanted to see his children again. But when Tracey caught wind of his plan, she knew no matter how big Josh's heart was, he had a future with his twins to look forward to. They needed their father. And this was one burden he wouldn't have to shoulder alone.

Good book and conclusion to the series. As the commander of Company F, we've seen Josh in the previous books, as he supports his Rangers' sometimes unorthodox methods of getting things done. He has also been seeing them fall to Cupid's arrows, one by one, making him realize what has been missing in his life. It's been four years since his wife's death from cancer, and he's finally ready to move on. 

Tracey was hired when the twins were babies, to help with them and with Gwen. She quickly became a friend as well as caretaker to the kids (don't call her a nanny - she HATES that!). After Gwen's death, she remained to help Josh with the kids. Now that she has finished her doctorate, she knows it is time to move on with her life. She's in love with Josh, but doesn't believe he feels anything but friendship. Though the thought of leaving hurts, she has to do it.

The excitement begins when an accident is staged as a setup to kidnap Josh's kids. The bad guys want something from Josh and only by holding his kids hostage can they ensure that he will cooperate. There is an added complication, in that Josh's son is diabetic, and needs to be monitored at all times. It's a harrowing situation and Josh is determined to do whatever necessary, even if it means going against the FBI and his fellow Rangers.

I liked how Tracey kept a calm head and was determined to be there for Josh. It was interesting to see the kidnappers include her in their demands, and how she and Josh dealt with it. The reason was clear early on, and I liked that she didn't hesitate for a second in agreeing to their demands. Tracey is very observant and clever, and tries to find a way to get herself and the kids away.

As the book goes on, the danger increases as the bad guys force Josh and Tracey to play their parts. There is some chaos as the bad guys' plans don't always go the way they want, and Josh tries to capitalize on it. The final confrontation was intense, as time was ticking for Jackson's condition, and Tracey came under additional danger. I loved how it all came together in the end.

There wasn't a whole lot of chances for romance, as Josh and Tracey were apart for most of the book. However, we do discover that each has feelings for the other, though they hadn't shared them. As they had known each other for four years, there has been plenty of time to develop the trust, loyalty and respect, as well as love, that they have for each other. There are a few steamy kisses that give them the hope that their feelings are returned, but no time for anything more. I loved Josh's big moment at the end, and the help he had for it. 

The only disappointment I had was at the very beginning. Josh had thrown a birthday party for Tracey, inviting his coworkers and their ladies. I got the impression that they had treated her more as the help than as an important part of Josh's household, which made me sad. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Native Born - Jenna Kernan (HI #1646 - June 2016)

Series: Apache Protectors (Book 4)

HERITAGE OR HEARTBREAK?

Apache tribal counsel member Clyne Cosen needs the FBI's protection. But having Agent Cassidy Walker as his personal bodyguard presents its own dangers. His involvement in the custody battle for Cassidy's adopted Apache daughter muddled the lines between personal and professional. Now he has feelings for a woman who was not native born.

Cassidy will do her job at any cost. But being so close to Clyne means the FBI agent sees him as more than just the man who could take her daughter -- he might also steal her heart. Duty. Desire. Which path will Cassidy take…or will a bullet make that decision for her?

Good book and conclusion to the series. Questions from previous books are answered and a little girl's future is resolved in a way that no one expected. Clyne is the oldest of the Cosen brothers, a member of the tribal council, and very vocal about his vision for his people. Cassidy is an FBI agent working a drug case on the reservation, and has also been assigned as his bodyguard when he leaves the rez.

There are some serious conflicts between the two. Clyne doesn't like having federal officers on the rez, and he really doesn't like having one dogging his steps. What is worse, is that Cassidy is the woman who adopted his little sister, and is resisting the family's attempts to regain custody. All Cassidy can see is the man who is trying to take her daughter, the only family she has left. Being this close is the last thing she wants, but she'll do her job.

I liked Clyne and Cassidy, but both had their blind spots. All Cassidy can see when she thinks of Amanda going to live on the rez is the crime, the poverty, and other negatives. She doesn't consider the importance of her knowing her birth family or the culture she was born to. She is determined to make sure that Amanda chooses her, and then plans to move far from Arizona. Clyne is proud of his heritage, but is focused on keeping all white influence off the rez. He only see the bad things that have come to the Apache because it. He hates the idea of Amanda being raised by a non-native, and only thinks of his desire to get her back to the family. He doesn't consider that she will have lost the only mother she's ever known, all her friends, and have to live with complete strangers.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. There were sparks between them from the beginning, both professional and personal. The attraction that flared between them annoyed them both. Cassidy couldn't believe she was attracted to a man who was trying to take her daughter, and who made his disdain for whites very obvious. Clyne wasn't happy to be attracted to a white woman at all, as he has been vociferous in his belief that native should only marry native. When Cassidy was ordered by the court to allow Amanda to live with the Cosens for six months, she was heartbroken and desperately worried. I really liked seeing both of them begin to open their eyes to their own prejudices and see how harmful it was. Spending as much time together as they were forced to, the sparks between them grew hotter. Clyne's attitude that she was fine to sleep with, but not have a relationship with really bugged me. When they finally gave in to the heat, the strength of it freaked them both out. Both tried to fight it, but eventually couldn't deny it. I loved the ending and seeing Clyne put his own happiness ahead of other peoples' expectations for a change. I really liked his big moment, right there in the middle of the street.

The suspense was good, though not as intense as in some of the previous books. An attack at one of the rallies put Cassidy and Clyne in danger, emphasizing the need for protection. The question arises as to whether it was Clyne or Cassidy that was the target. I liked following the investigation to figure it out. When the bad guy takes Amanda hostage, things got really scary really fast. I loved Cassidy's determination to rescue her daughter, no matter what. An important part of the final confrontation was seeing Clyne face his demons to become part of the solution. It was definitely exciting to see it all go down.

I loved learning more about the Apache traditions. It all felt like an integral part of the story, not an information dump. I liked seeing Amanda take to learning about her background, and the fact that Cassidy learned a lot right along with her. The epilogue, with the description of the Sunrise Ceremony, was wonderful. I especially liked the last little bit about the corn pollen.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Conard County Baby - Rachel Lee (HSE #2390 - Mar 2015)

Series: Conard County: The Next Generation (Book 23)

MOTHER…NANNY…BRIDE?

On the run from her overbearing family and a fiancé with more menace than love in his eyes, Hope Conroy finally took refuge in Conard County, Wyoming. A place of safety, maybe even possibility. But what could a former -- and pregnant! -- socialite do to keep a roof over her head?

Divorced rancher Cash Cashford never expected to be raising an angry tween all by himself. Something about Hope told him immediately that she was what his daughter needed. And since the new nanny had secrets, he vowed to keep his distance -- for all their sakes, especially his own! But Hope called to him in a way he never imagined, making him yearn to heal their fractured hearts…and form the family they all longed for.

Good book. Hope is almost four months pregnant and almost out of money. When she stops at the diner in Conard, she sees an ad for a nanny/companion and calls about the job. She has no experience, but she is desperate. Cash is the one who placed the ad. His thirteen year old daughter came to live with him after the death of her mother, and it isn't going well. He is just as desperate for help as Hope is.

Hope is nervous about the interview, but is upfront with Cash about her circumstances. She is the daughter of wealthy parents, and was engaged to a man with political aspirations. But when he raped her and she got pregnant, her parents refused to believe her and tried to force her to marry Scott and have an abortion. After being confined to the house for months, she was finally able to escape. I liked that Cash believed her right away, and took a chance on hiring her.

Cash is a bit wary of hiring her because of her background. His ex-wife, even though she had grown up on a ranch, hated being married to a rancher and took Angie and left him. Cash is afraid that someone as privileged as Hope wouldn't last on the ranch. 

I liked both Cash and Hope. Cash is a straightforward man who loves his daughter and is torn up over his inability to connect with her. He feels as though he is doing everything wrong, and hopes that finding her someone she can relate to will help. I also liked his belief in and support of Hope. I really liked the strength of will that Hope showed in standing up to Scott and her parents and finding a way to escape. I liked her determination to help Angie and Cash get together. Her new self-awareness was awesome and I loved her excitement at learning "normal" things.

I loved the relationship that grew between Cash and Hope. They were attracted to each other from the moment they met, but their pasts made them reluctant to pursue it. Cash didn't want to get involved with someone he was certain would leave again. Hope was reluctant to trust her ability to know a good man, since she hadn't seen the trouble with Scott until it was too late. Though it was their care of Angie that brought them together, they quickly realized that there was something special growing between them. Though they eventually take it to the next level, Cash gets spooked by the strength of his feelings and his fear of being hurt again. He starts to pull away, which confuses and upsets Hope. But it's Angie that gets them talking to each other to clear things up. It was sweet to see Cash admit his vulnerability, and to see Hope step outside her comfort zone and make her needs known. I loved the final comments by Angie as they finally come together as a family.

I really liked Angie as Cash's daughter. Her reactions to moving to Wyoming are very believable for her age. But for all the angst that she is creating, she is really a good kid. I liked seeing her connect with Hope and start to settle in to her new home. I loved her understanding of Hope's circumstances, and felt for her because of why. I loved her defense and protectiveness of Hope when Scott and her parents showed up. She grows up a lot between the beginning and end of the book and I expect that the new family will do quite well.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Second Chance Summer - Jill Shalvis (Grand Central - July 2015)

Series: Cedar Ridge (Book 1)

RESCUE ME

Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is famous for crisp mountain air, clear blue skies, and pine-scented breezes. And it's the last place Lily Danville wants to be. But she needs a job, and there's an opening at the hottest resort in her hometown. What has her concerned is the other hot property in Cedar Ridge: Aidan Kincaid-firefighter, rescue worker, and heartbreaker. She never could resist that devastating smile . . .

The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance . . .

Very good book. Lily left Cedar Ridge ten years earlier, trying to escape the memories of her sister's and father's tragic deaths. But her terrific life in San Diego suddenly became less so, and in need of a job, she has come home to help a friend there. The last person she wants to run into (and the first one she does) is Aidan, the guy she left behind.

Aidan was great. He had been a bit of a bad boy and troublemaker back in his teens, but the best thing that had happened to him was Lily. He was devastated when she left town without a word. Since then, he's turned his energies to firefighting, search and rescue, and helping with his family's resort. He has his own painful past - a father that deserted the family, multiple half-siblings from his father's other relationships, and knowing that the resort is in financial trouble that is bearing down rapidly on them. A strong family relationship helps keep it all going. He's surprised to see Lily again, and determined to protect his heart from being hurt again. 

I liked Lily. She's a nice person, friendly, with a bit of sass to her. She's also dealing with some trouble that wasn't entirely her fault. Working in a salon that caters to the stars comes with its own problems, and she got caught up in some of those problems. What hurt her was that her boss (and boyfriend) let her take the fall, and now she's paying the price. Her friend from home has hired her to fill in at the salon he manages, which gives her a place to recover while she looks for a new job. 

I loved the reigniting of the relationship between Lily and Aidan. Though he wouldn't admit it, Aidan is a nurturer, and from the start he can't resist taking care of Lily. She insists she doesn't need it, and doesn't want it, but it doesn't take long for him to start getting past her walls. I loved the scenes with the firewood, and how Aidan just rolls over her protests. The attraction between them strikes sparks whenever they are together. The connection that they feel scares Lily, who is afraid to love anyone again. Aidan, whose feelings have grown quite fast, is patient, and encourages her to work through her feelings at her own pace. I loved how he was there for her when she needed the support, and yet could step back when she needed him to. It doesn't mean he's perfect, as he does have at least one boneheaded moment, but he does a good job of redeeming himself. Lily really fights her feelings, until a stormy rescue event reminds her that life can be all too short. I loved the post rescue moments, both on and off the mountain, which were both romantic and funny.

The supporting characters were all great. I loved Aidan's brothers and the loving, fun and snarky relationship that they had. I loved the pranks they pulled on each other. I'd love to know more about how Penny and Gray got together, as I suspect it would be quite a story. As one of the half-siblings, Hudson has some of his own issues, but his love for his family is unmistakable. We only heard of Jacob in this one, and I'm looking forward to learning more about him. The boys' mother is fantastic. I loved her way of straightening them out. Their reactions to her dating were hysterical, and I loved seeing her take advantage of it. Lily's friend Jonathan, who gave her the job at the salon, was great. I loved his combination of support and straight talk. He's determined to make Lily see that she belongs in Cedar Ridge.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Bride for the Boss - Maureen Child (HD #2450 - June 2016)

Series: Texas Cattleman's Club: Lies and Lullabies (Book 8)

This rich rancher needs his assistant for business and pleasure!

Andi Beaumont has a dilemma: she's wedded to her job, when she really wants to wed her boss, Mac McCallum. The only solution: quit and save herself from heartbreak. But Mac isn't having it.

The Texas Cattleman's Club stalwart has weathered many storms, including a recent attempt to destroy his ranching business. He can't let Andi get away. So he comes up with a plan to get closer to her. But his all-business approach is about to backfire when he discovers the pure pleasure of being with his alluring assistant…

Very good conclusion to this series of the TCC. We've seen Mac and Andi in previous books, as Mac was the center of Rafe's revenge plot (A Surprise for the Sheikh). It has been pretty obvious that Andi has a thing for her boss and that Mac is totally oblivious.

Andi has been working for Mac for six years. She is the one who keeps him on track, knows everything about all aspects of the business and his ranch, and keeps his personal life moving smoothly too. She has worked the same hours he has (long ones) and is always on call when he has a question or needs something. She has finally realized that she has no life of her own, and that her dreams of a life with Mac are unlikely to happen. She makes the decision to quit her job and try to move on with her life.

Andi has been such a huge part of his life that he is stunned when she walks into his office and gives him her resignation. He can't believe that she is serious, and attempts to talk her out of it. When that doesn't work, he accepts her request for two weeks vacation before her departure, and hopes that after that two weeks she'll be ready to come back. After two days without Andi at his beck and call, Mac regrets that he took her for granted. Determined to show her that he appreciates her, Mac decides to show up at her house and help her with her long delayed renovations. 

What follows is so much fun. Andi is reluctant to let Mac help, fearing that being with him constantly again will weaken her resolve to move on with her life. Mac is equally determined to remind her that they are a great team. What Mac doesn't expect is to see Andi as something more than his right hand man. I loved his surprise at noticing that Andi is a beautiful woman, and how that adds another layer to his desire to get her back to work. Andi decides to treat herself to his company, enjoy it, but resist dreaming that it could lead to more. Now that she has decided that she wants a more balanced life, she is also determined to teach Mac that there is more to life than work. I loved her bargain with him about the phone (how many of us would like to do the same thing with our loved ones?). She was convinced that he couldn't do it, he was determined that he would. His struggle was pretty funny, and I loved seeing how it all played out. His prize of taking her to dinner at the TCC was great, and I loved seeing them together in that setting. What happened next was not unexpected, and put them on a whole new level.

I loved the development of their personal relationship. They knew each other quite well on the work front, but there were still some things to be discovered. Mac had avoided relationships because of the way that business had taken over his life after his parents' deaths. Commitment would just be one more thing in an already overburdened life. I loved seeing Andi show him that it is possible to have a balanced life. Andi has loved him for years, but after watching him go through woman after woman, has no confidence that he would want a lasting relationship with her. She is surprised by his pursuit of her, but certain that it is only one way of getting her to come back to work. She begins to have a little hope as she sees him change, but when business once again interferes with the personal she sends him on his way. As he struggles against admitting his feelings, even to himself, some interference from his sister sends him right back to Andi. The question is, can he admit those feelings and find the happiness he knows he can have with her, or is he going to have to let her go? I loved seeing Andi hold out for what she needs as Mac finally sees the truth.

The epilogue was a nice wrap up for both book and series. I loved seeing the changes in Mac. Andi has gotten everything she could wish for and is ecstatically happy. I also enjoyed seeing the couples from the previous books and how they are doing.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

My American Duchess - Eloisa James (Avon - Feb 2016)

The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford -- an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.

But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.

The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:

All is fair in love and war.

Very good book. Merry is an American heiress who has come to London to find a husband. She was engaged twice back home in Boston, but ended both of those engagements. She has just become engaged to Lord Cedric, who seems to be the perfect choice. He's romantic and attentive and she is determined to make it all the way to the altar this time. 

Trent has avoided marriage so far, but knows he will have to marry soon. He's looking for a woman who will fit perfectly into his life, looking only for respect and friendship, and avoiding messy emotions. He doesn't expect to run into an American woman who immediately attracts and fascinates him.

I loved their first meeting at the ball. Merry had gone outside for some fresh air, a short time after Cedric's proposal. Her peace is interrupted by Trent's arrival. He's angry and frustrated with his brother and is trying to get under control. Merry first mistakes him for another American, certainly not as one of the highest ranked of the aristocrats. I loved their conversation, with Merry being her usual forthright self, and Trent stunned by his immediate fascination with her. In spite of his usual antipathy toward Americans, he is determined to find out who she is and claim her for himself. He's dismayed to discover that she's his future sister-in-law.

I really enjoyed seeing that he was so smitten, even though he didn't admit that to himself. He was immediately protective of Merry. He had several confrontations with his brother, who he felt was not treating her properly. He tries hard to do the right thing and stay away, as she belongs to his brother, but he just can't do it.

I really didn't like Cedric at all. He was selfish, snobby and mean-spirited. He only proposed to her because of her fortune, and immediately started to change who she was. I hated the way that he was constantly putting her down. It all came to a head during the "pineapple incident" and I wanted to shove him in a fountain. I liked seeing Merry finally stand up to him and see the truth.

I liked seeing the relationship that grew between Trent and Merry. Trent doesn't believe in romantic love, has seen too many times when it just disappears. This feeling is reinforced by Merry's three engagements, where she swore she "loved" each of those men. He would rather base a relationship on respect and friendship. Merry has given up on love because her history has shown her that she's no good at it. I liked Trent's support of Merry after the pineapple incident and how he was determined to claim her for himself. The way he went about it could have turned out very badly, but Merry forgave him pretty quickly.

Once they got to Trent's estate, the fun really began. I liked seeing them get to know each other. Trent's appreciation of Merry's intelligence was great. I loved seeing them debate issues over their meals. They also discovered that the attraction between them was intense. They spent a lot of time exploring that. I also liked the way that Merry learned more about what made Trent the man he was. Merry was the first to realize that she had fallen in love with him, and of course, had to speak out. His reaction was not unexpected, but I hurt for her. The next parts were emotional as she suffered through all his rebuttals. I was so frustrated with him, because it was so obvious that he loved her, too, but he couldn't see it. I liked her reactions and what she she does to try to wait him out. Even more satisfying is his reaction. I loved how he finally realized the truth, and then had to deal with being on the other side of the equation. I loved his big moment at the end, with the nod to what had brought them together. The epilogue was great, with a surprise twist involving Cedric. I hope there will be a story for him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Deep Secrets - Beverly Long (HI #1644 - June 2016)

Series: Return to Ravesville (Book 4)

Agent Rafe Roper has come back from the dead to protect the only woman he's ever loved

Fate brought Rafe Roper into Trish Wright's café one stormy night. Unfortunately, their storybook romance ended far too soon when an accident took Rafe's life…and broke Trish's heart. But what his wife doesn't know -- can't know -- is Rafe "died" in order to protect her from the criminals he's pursuing. But taking down these particularly nasty terrorists goes from undercover mission to personal vendetta once Trish's life is put on the line. Now that his innocent bride is caught in the crosshairs, Rafe has no choice but to expose his lie and hope she forgives him. Otherwise, without her trust, they'll both wind up dead. This time for real.

Terrific second chance story. The book opens with Trish remembering her life with her husband, and that this is the fourth anniversary of his death. She thinks back to how they met, and the short time that they had together. Her friend Milo, the cook at her diner, tries to cheer her up by offering to take her to a movie. About that time, Trish's twin sister arrives home early from her honeymoon, knowing how hard today will be for Trish. Then Milo is stabbed and left for dead outside the diner, his last words "Tell Rafe they know" driving a stake through Trish's heart. Desperately needing to get away, she takes her dog and heads to a rental cabin in the Ozarks.

While there, she is attacked, and tied up, her dog is shot, and her captors tell her that she is the means to an end. What she doesn't know is that Rafe is actually still alive. He had faked his death to protect her from the terrorists he is trying to bring down. When he finds out what happened to Milo, he's on the first plane back to Missouri to make sure that she's ok. Only to find out that she's missing and no one knows where she is.

I liked both Trish and Rafe. Their initial romance had been fast, with Rafe giving up his undercover life for her. But his belief that he could walk away was shattered when his former team members were murdered, and he knew he would be next. I liked the protectiveness that had him taking such extreme measures to keep her safe. I thought that Trish had been a little naive about him, as his paranoia about everything having a place and reactions when they weren't should have been a clue. I felt for her grief over his death, and how hard it has been to get past it. I really liked the way that she kept her head pretty well when the bad guys tied her up. Her mind was actively trying to find a way to escape. Her shock at Rafe's appearance was understandable, and I rather liked that she didn't just fall all over him.

I really enjoyed the steady buildup of the tension and action in the book. From Rafe's first inkling that something was wrong, he had a plan all ready to go. I loved his attention to detail. His involvement of Summer's husband got him the information he needed to make a start at finding Trish, and I enjoyed seeing how he did it. The number of bodies he found made him increasingly worried about her safety. Once he found her and got her away, the next steps were to end the threat. I loved seeing Trish's strength of will in convincing Rafe to give her a key role. The buildup to the final confrontation at the lake was nervewracking, and I couldn't read fast enough to find out what happened. Just when it looked like all was well, there was an unexpected twist that put her back into danger. Definitely a heartpounding conclusion.

The repair and renewal of Rafe and Trish's relationship wasn't a smooth or easy thing. Trish was understandably angry at being left to suffer for four years, believing Rafe to be dead. She did get a little bit of revenge by letting him know that she had started dating again. I loved seeing how Rafe hadn't been able to stay completely away, and had taken periodic trips to Ravesville to watch her. Being together again made it obvious that neither had stopped caring, but that they did have to find a way to overcome the past before they could have a future. I liked seeing how they did it. There was also a really sweet surprise at the very end.

One Night in Texas - Linda Warren (HAR #1497 - May 2014)

THE SECRET OF HORSESHOE, TEXAS

Angie Wiznowski has made mistakes -- the biggest is the secret she's kept from Hardison Hollister for ten years. The man she loved has the right to know what happened following that hot Texas night long ago. And it could cost Angie the most precious thing in her life.

Hardy has no inkling he's a father…until an accident leaves a young girl injured and the Texas district attorney with an unexpected addition to his family. Blindsided by shock and hurt, Hardy can't forgive Angie for her deception. But as he gets to know his child, old and new feelings for Angie surface. While scandal could derail Hardy's political future -- is that future meaningless without Angie and their daughter?

Good second chance story. Back when she was eighteen, Angie was in love with her best friend's older brother. But he treated her like another sister, until the night of a party got out of hand. Punch was spiked and Angie got rather tipsy. Afraid to go home because of her mother's strictness, Hardy put her to bed at their house. The next morning, a grateful kiss from Angie turned into something more. By the time Angie discovered she was pregnant, Hardy was engaged to another woman, so she kept her secret. She married a friend to give Erin a name, but it didn't work out and she came home to Horseshoe and the support of her family.

For ten years the secret has weighed on her. When Hardy moved back to Horseshoe she knew she had to tell him, but circumstances kept it from happening. Until the day Erin ran out in the street, right in front of Hardy's truck. Suddenly there's no keeping the secret any longer. Hardy is stunned, angry at being kept in the dark for so long, and determined to get to know his daughter.

I thought this was a pretty realistic look at how people react to things that happen in their lives. Because of her mother's rigid religious beliefs, Angie had been afraid to confess her pregnancy to her family. The desperate marriage and its end are not uncommon. Erin has become Angie's life, and she will do anything to protect her. She's mostly able to put Hardy out of her mind, until he moves back to Horseshoe. Hardy had been attracted to Angie way back, but the age difference was significant at the time. Plus, he had had his life and career mapped out since he was a kid, and Angie had no place in his plans. So he buried the memory and moved on with his life. When he came back to Horseshoe he did what he could to avoid coming in contact with her. He was horrified by the accident and was determined to do whatever necessary to make things right.

As scared as she was, I was happy to see Angie finally tell Hardy the truth. She is nervous about it, afraid of his reaction, and worried about the effect it will have on Erin. Hardy's anger is understandable, but I also admired his determination to be involved. I loved the fact that they actually talked about it like rational human beings. I was a bit mad at him at first, as he tried to lay all the blame on her, but he redeemed himself when he finally admitted that some of the blame was his own.

What followed was a terrific story of two people brought together by a child. I enjoyed seeing Hardy get involved in their day to day life, dealing with the good and the bad. Spending that much time with Angie has the old feelings coming back. Angie also discovers that her love for Hardy had never really gone away, and was now growing even stronger. She worries that their growing closeness could damage his political aspirations, and tries to keep him at arm's length because of it. Hardy has his own battles to fight, against his father's expectations, and against his girlfriend's determination to sweep it all under the rug. A threat against Angie brings everything into sharp focus for him, and I loved seeing how he dealt with it, though I would have liked stronger consequences for the instigator. I liked seeing Hardy's vulnerability at the end, as he goes after what he really wants. I loved the epilogue and seeing how things are going a year down the line.

I loved their daughter Erin. She was quite character in her own right. Her reaction to the news was not unexpected, and I thought that Angie and Hardy handled it well. Her happiness at having a father was sweet, and I loved Hardy's reaction the first time she called him daddy. She also has a pretty strong will, and I loved the way she took sharing the news into her own hands.

The assorted family members also had their places. The strongest ones were Angie's mother and Hardy's father. I didn't like her mother for most of the book. She was far too rigid and judgmental, and her reaction to the news was just plain mean. There was a neat scene where she was called out by her mother-in-law, and she did redeem herself pretty well at the end. Hardy's father is one of those men who seems to enjoy running his children's lives. His constant harping on Hardy and what he had to do was annoying. Once Hardy found out about Erin, I liked seeing him push back. I wanted to smack his father over his visit to Angie and loved seeing her stand up to him. Fortunately, he came around pretty quickly.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Full Throttle - Julie Ann Walker (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Dec 2014)

Series: Black Knights Inc (Book 7)

Steady Hands, Cool Head...

Carlos "Steady" Soto's nerves of steel have served him well at the covert government defense firm Black Knights Inc. But nothing has prepared him for the emotional roller coaster of guarding the woman he once loved and lost.

Will All He's Got Be Enough?

Abby Thomson is content to leave politics and international intrigue to her father-the President of the United States-until she's taken hostage half a world away, and she fears her father's policy of not negotiating with terrorists will be her death sentence. There's one glimmer of hope: the man whose heart she broke, but she can ever tell him why...

As they race through the jungle in a bid for safety, the heat simmering between Steady and Abby could be a second chance for them-if they make it out alive.

Another exciting adventure. Carlos and Abby had known each other eight years earlier, but the time wasn't right for them. Abby was the eighteen year old daughter of a presidential candidate and Carlos was the twenty-five year old med student who was the son of immigrants. Carlos's sister Rosa was Abby's student adviser. The book starts with a flashback to the event that changed their lives. Abby has just encountered Carlos, who she has a massive crush on. She is on the way to meet his sister, but can't resist stopping to talk to him. She is so into him, but feels like he sees her as a little sister. On the contrary, Carlos is very attracted to her. But there are too many obstacles. First, she's so much younger than he is. Second, the differences between them are too great. Not that it stops him from imagining more. Just as she's ready to leave Carlos to meet Rosa, there is an explosion. She is whisked away by the Secret Service and Carlos heads to the scene - the coffee shop where his sister was waiting. Other than Rosa's funeral that the last she sees of Carlos.

Eight years later, Abby has given up medical school for a degree in botany, and is in Malaysia giving a speech at a conference. The president himself requested backup security from BKI because of intercepted threats. One of the people sent is Carlos, who had given up med school for the army Rangers, then BKI, as his way of avenging Rosa's death. He's not too thrilled to be babysitting the woman who broke his heart, but orders are orders. Abby isn't very happy either. Every time she looks at Carlos, she remembers his sister.

Things start to get exciting when Abby is drugged and kidnapped from her room, which is followed by two explosions on their floor. We see her fear as the drug takes effect, and as she is helpless to resist what happens to her. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, the intensity of what happened kept me glued to the pages. There is harsh reality as they see the results of the explosion, tension as Ozzie receives a life threatening injury, and fear as the ones left standing realize that Abby is missing. I loved seeing Carlos and Dan, as the BKI team, do what they do best, as they work to find out what happened to Abby. They also had the help of Penni, the last surviving Secret Service agent. 

Part of Carlos's mind is freaking out with his fear for Abby, but most of it is concentrated on finding her. Of course, he succeeds, but there is a snafu with the rescue team and he takes matters into his own hands to rescue her. What follows is an intense trek through the jungle as they try to stay ahead of those that are after them. I loved the way that Carlos lived up to his nickname, Steady, and always seemed to be in control. I thought Abby was great too. She didn't fall apart when Carlos showed up to save her, and was pretty awesome in her determination to keep up with him during their escape. Her rather unique way of cussing broke up some of the moments of tension and frequently made me laugh. The final confrontation with the man after them was really intense and I wasn't sure how they would get through it. The resolution was great.

In their time together trying to escape, neither Abby nor Carlos can deny that their feelings haven't changed. If anything, they have gotten stronger. Back then, it was mostly Carlos's insecurities keeping them apart. He is now more mature and has a world of experience behind him. I loved seeing the relationship develop. I enjoyed Abby's surprise when she discovered that Carlos had been far from indifferent to her back then and that just intensifies the attraction she feels for him. There were a couple times that the attraction exploded at inappropriate times (hello, Mr. Elephant). Each of them spent a fair amount of time thinking about what they wanted to do with the other. Throughout the book, Abby was haunted by a secret she has kept for eight years, one that she is certain would drive Carlos away from her. The ending was terrific, as Carlos gets some unexpected help in winning his girl.

There was a secondary story mixed in, involving Dan and Penni. In previous books Dan has been dealing with the loss of his wife. He's finally starting to live again, and is surprised by his attraction to Penni. She feels the same, but the events surrounding Abby's kidnapping have thrown her into turmoil. She's dealing with guilt over the loss of her comrades and the reason she wasn't with them. But she buries it as deep as she can while working with Dan to find Abby. The tension between them is obvious and I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses for them.

I liked meeting the SEAL team and seeing their connection with Dan. The nod to the upcoming series involving the members of that team was a great lead in. I also loved the scene at BKI headquarters, with the guys, the SEALs and their visitors. I was also happy to get an update on Ozzie and really hope to see things work out for him.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

In Pursuit of His Wife - Kristi Gold (HD #2444 - May 2016)

Series: Texas Cattleman's Club: Lies and Lullabies (Book 7)

They married for convenience. Will they stay together for the baby…or for love?

Nasira Edwards has come to Royal, Texas, to escape her past and stop her brother from making a terrible mistake. But her own marital mistake has tracked her down. Her husband, shipping magnate Sebastian Edwards, has followed her across the ocean and he refuses to leave Texas without his wife.

Sebastian knows their convenient marriage isn't about love. That's the way it has to be. But the passion between them is as hot as ever. And he's come west to coax the beauty back into his bed -- while keeping his emotions in check. Then Nasira reveals she's pregnant…

Good book. We first met Nasira in A Surprise for the Sheikh, when she showed up in Royal to set the record straight on the event that had set Rafiq on his quest for revenge. In this book, she has stayed in Royal to take the time to decide what to do about her marriage. She and Sebastian had married for convenience, to save her from an arranged marriage to an old man. They've gone along quite well for ten years, with a passionate marriage, even though love was not involved.

Then Nasira got tired of waiting for Sebastian to agree to have a child and took matters into her own hands. She stopped taking her pills and eventually got pregnant, which did not please Sebastian. Unfortunately she lost the baby, devastating her. Sebastian withdrew completely, spending less time with her and refusing to talk about trying again. She has come to love him, but if she can't get him to talk to her, she doesn't see much hope for the future.

Then Sebastian shows up in Texas, determined to get Nasira back to London and in his bed where she belongs. Getting his emotions involved is out of the question, but if he can show her that the passion is still there, maybe she'll come home and forget what drove them apart.

I had some trouble liking Sebastian at the beginning. He shows up, being well aware of why Nasira left him, but still unwilling to talk about it. Because Nasira is unwilling to just fall in with his wishes, he makes the decision to stay in Royal until he can persuade her. I got really frustrated with his refusal to talk about why he was so against having children. He also seemed to be far more interested in her beauty than in anything else. Even Nasira bugged me a bit at the start. First, she had started all the trouble between Mac and Rafiq by her actions ten years earlier. Then she had deceived Sebastian in order to get her way, never a good thing to do. 

It was interesting to see the rebuilding of their relationship. Nasira started out trying to decide if it was possible to save her marriage, but she could only do it away from him. His extreme control over his emotions, especially after the miscarriage, makes her wonder if there is any chance at all. She was shocked by his arrival, and his attack on Mac, as she had never seen him lose control like that. I liked her stated intention that Sebastian can stay, as long as he doesn't try to seduce her away from getting the answers she wants. Sebastian is equally determined to keep his emotions and the past events that has caused them under wraps. For all her determination to keep him at arm's length, she gave in awfully quickly to allowing him to share her room that first night. And of course, what happened next was no surprise. It disturbed me that Sebastian tried to blame her for it, and that she was no longer on birth control when he didn't exactly stop for a condom. However, her giving in that once gave him hope that he could pull off getting what he wanted without giving her what she wanted.

Though I was irritated at Nasira for having no willpower whenever Sebastian touched her, I was happy to see that she stuck to her guns about getting him to talk to her. I really enjoyed the scene in Dallas as she bargains with him for his cooperation. He also begins to see that there is far more to her than he had realized. The more that she was able to get out of him, the more I began to understand his fears. Nasira also began to understand, but realized that he was basing those fears on misunderstandings because he was a child at the time. Unfortunately, Sebastian refuses to be swayed by her arguments. Then she reveals that she's pregnant from that first night's encounter, and his reaction is everything she feared. I loved seeing her stand up to him. Now Sebastian has to face losing her anyway if he can't come to terms with his fears. I liked his big moment at the end, but did feel that he didn't have to grovel quite as much as I would have liked. However, I have high hopes for their happiness, especially after their conversation at Rafe's wedding.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Matchmaking Twins - Christy Jeffries (HSE #2489 - July 2016)

Series: Sugar Falls Idaho (Book 4)

Double The Trouble

Parenting is hard enough when Dad has to be a mom, but widower Luke Gregson has twins -- boy twins, Aiden and Caden. As a navy SEAL, Luke saw plenty of action, but nothing could prepare him for trying to raise two eight-year-olds alone. Parenthood is not for sissies. Maybe that's why the boys have set their eyes on a certain new candidate for Mommy…

Officer Carmen Delgado seems tough enough to handle anything -- including Aiden and Caden! She adores the rascals. Her feelings for their heroic father, however, are complicated, and her tragic past has her heart on a seemingly permanent lockdown. Could two mischievous, persistent boys and their overwhelmed, sexy daddy be the ones to finally set Carmen free?

Good book. We first met the twins and Luke in his brother Drew's story (Waking Up Wed). Various family members have been taking care of the boys after their mother's death and while Luke has been deployed with the SEALs. Now that Luke has been transferred to recruiting duty, it's time for him to resume parenting duties. He is rather overwhelmed by it all.

Carmen has been participating in a mentoring program through the police department, and has been taking the boys after school one day a week when Luke has to work late. Carmen is a former Marine and also comes from a large family, so the twins are no problem for her.

The bigger challenge for both Carmen and Luke is their feelings for each other. Carmen is attracted to Luke, but a past failed relationship and the reasons for it, have her believing that there is no happy future in store for her. But she still longs to be seen as a woman with needs of her own. Her feelings are so conflicted that whenever she's around Luke she tends to give off really strong "don't touch" vibes. At the same time she is frustrated because he seems to see her as just one of the guys. Luke is intrigued by Carmen. He's impressed by how good she is with his kids and would like to get to know her better, but he keeps getting the feeling that she doesn't like him. Because of their shared military background, he frequently tries to use that as a way to connect, usually unsuccessfully. He gets a real eye opening surprise when he sees her in civilian clothes and realizes what an attractive woman she is,

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. The twins are the catalyst that brings them together. It was great fun to see all the antics that they got up to and how each time brought Luke and Carmen closer. The incident on the river had the sparks flying between the two as their bodies sat up and took notice. Then the meltdown at school brought them together as they tried to find out what had set Caden off. I really enjoyed their teamwork as they prepared for the twins' birthday party. Luke's panic was pretty funny to see, and I loved the way that Carmen took charge and walked him through it. It was at this point that both of them start thinking about "what ifs". But Carmen is under the impression that Luke is still grieving for his wife and there's no way he'd be interested in her. Plus she has that other issue that makes her believe that Luke wouldn't want her anyway. For his part, Luke is still beating himself up over his belief that he'd been a terrible husband and that trying again would be a bad idea. Once again, it is the twins who bring them back together at the baseball tournament, giving them the chance to finally face their fears. I loved seeing them finally communicating (some of that communication was quite steamy) and realizing that they are meant to be together. I loved the arrival of the twins the next morning and their reaction. The epilogue was awesome, with the truth of the boys' antics coming out at last.

I'm looking forward to seeing who is next to fall in Sugar Falls.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Marriage, Maverick Style! - Christine Rimmer (HSE #2485 - July 2016)

Series: Montana Mavericks: Baby Bonanza (Book 1)

THE MAVERICK MEETS HER MATCH

RUST CREEK RAMBLINGS

As summer arrives in Rust Creek Falls, the town is bursting with babies…and the Gazette is bursting with news. Did you hear there's a new billionaire in town? President and CEO of Drake Distilleries and Drake Hospitality, Carson Drake is no one's baby daddy…at least, not yet. But the handsome, delicious Los Angeleno has his eye on our own Tessa Strickland, and things are about to get very interesting…

Sweet, serious Tessa has had firsthand experience with heartbreak and is determined to avoid a second go-round. But after one unexpected night in Carson's sheltering arms, she begins to waver. Dear readers, that's only the beginning of the surprises. Saddle up and find out what happens when two commitment-phobes discover that love is life's richest reward!

Good book. Carson has come to Rust Creek Falls to see if he can get the recipe for Homer Gilmore's moonshine. The same moonshine that is responsible for the current baby bonanza (see series Montana Mavericks: What Happened at the Wedding). Carson is watching the Memorial Day parade and spots a woman dressed as a stork and holding a baby on one of the floats. He can't take his eyes off her and is desperate to meet her. Tessa is the woman in the costume (she got tapped because the costume fit her) and spots Carson at the same time. Unlike Carson, her instinct is to get as far away from him as she can. Something tells her that he could mean real trouble for her.

Tessa is a local girl who moved away to pursue her dreams as a graphic artist. Just when she had landed her dream job, everything got derailed when she met a man. Tessa was so into him that she neglected her job, screwing up an account that her boss had trusted her with. Oh, and that man? He was her boss's ex, which didn't help her cause any. So Tessa ended up fired and threatened with being blackballed in the industry. She went home to Montana to try to get her life back together. She's freelancing her art, and determined to keep men off her radar for a long time to come.

Tessa's attempt at avoidance doesn't work, and she is introduced to him later that day. She is just as attracted to him as she feared, and can't say no when he wants to hang with her for the rest of the day and evening. I loved seeing how quickly they connected, finding several things that they have in common - including the intention to not have children. When Homer shows up and gives Carson a jar of his moonshine and promises that they'll talk later, Carson and Tessa share a few sips from the jar. I loved their comments on its properties, which give away that there is something pretty freaky about the drink. And like in the previous series, Carson and Tessa wake up in bed the next morning with no idea how they got there, or memory of what they did (though the evidence is pretty clear). Tessa completely freaks out at how fast things moved and pushes away from Carson as hard as she can. Carson on the other hand, wants to spend as much time with her as he can.

I loved the development of their relationship. Carson is determined to pursue what he sees as the potential for the future. He goes to great lengths to get closer to her. I loved his conversation with his friend Ryan, as he looks for advice on how to do it. It was great to see him settle on moving into the boarding house where Tessa is living also. Tessa is still freaked out, but finally agrees to spend time with him. They discover that not only is there attraction, they actually like each other. Carson tries to convince Tessa to come to California with him, even going so far as to line up a job interview for her. But thanks to that past relationship, Tessa has some big trust issues. She doesn't trust her own judgment, since she fell hard and fast the last time also. And she doesn't trust that something that has happened so fast will last. 

Then Tessa gets some news that turns both their lives upside down. Carson's pursuit of her becomes even more determined, and Tessa digs in her heels about not being rushed. I loved Carson's realization that pushing harder isn't going to help, and how he backs off a little. However, he hasn't given up, and I enjoyed seeing all the things he did to show her that he believed in them. It's starting to work, but Tessa just can't get past that last obstacle. Then a picnic by the falls provides an exciting twist that changes everything. I loved the follow on scene.

The epilogue was great. I wasn't too surprised by the second result that came of their moonshine experience. Both of them had made comments during the latter part of the book that made me think it would be perfect if they both were right, and it was. I also liked how they worked out the balance between their professional needs and personal wants.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fortune's Prince Charming - Nancy Robards Thompson (HSE #2473 - May 2016)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: All Fortune's Children (Book 5)

CINDERELLA 2.0

Zoe Robinson had never known true love -- until Joaquin Mendoza rode into Austin and stole her innocent heart. The new guy at work is brilliant and aloof, but Zoe's nursing a secret of her own: her dad might be connected to the famed Fortune clan! But the determined beauty has never backed down from a challenge -- not when it comes to her family, and not when it comes to love.

Joaquin believes he's all wrong for the wealthiest gal in Texas -- he's got one too many family issues keeping him from surrendering his heart to lovely, innocent Zoe. Until shocking allegations surface about her family drama and Joaquin realizes that he might be the ideal match for his Texas princess after all!

Good book. Zoe and Joaquin first met at the wedding of their siblings, Rachel and Matteo (Mendoza's Secret Fortune). Zoe was interested in Joaquin then, but she didn't get to spend much time with him. A few months later, Joaquin got a temporary job with the Robinsons' software company, working on a special project. Zoe tries to get his attention, but Joaquin isn't biting.

Joaquin is keeping his attention on his job. He's recently been burned by getting involved with his boss's daughter and has no intention of going down that road again. He's also got some family problems that have him questioning who he is. 

I liked both Zoe and Joaquin. Zoe may be the boss's daughter, but she works hard at her job and doesn't try to use her relationship for her own gain. She is also a firm believer in love and fairy tales. She really wants a chance to get to know Joaquin. Zoe is also the youngest of the Robinson siblings and the one who is closest to their father. She is angry with those of her family who are pursuing their belief that their father is Jerome Fortune. She believes him when he says he isn't and wants them to stop tearing their family apart. Joaquin is a nice guy who is being eaten up by his doubts about his paternity. He doesn't want to cause his father distress, but he really feels that he needs to know the truth. He's interested in Zoe, but feels he's too old for her, plus there's the whole work thing.

I liked the development of their relationship. Joaquin tried really hard keep Zoe at a distance. It was fun to see her determination to get to know him. The company teambuilding day at Cowboy Country was really fun to see. I loved the way that Zoe quickly figured out that the woman from HR was rigging the team choices to keep Joaquin for herself and Zoe's clever way of foiling her. It came back to bite her when Zoe was left stranded, but Joaquin came to her rescue. That was the true beginning of their relationship as they got a chance to get to know each other away from work. I loved seeing how much they had in common. Though Joaquin doesn't think of himself as a romantic guy, I really enjoyed seeing the sweet way he treated her. When the attraction started to burn really hot, there was an interesting twist and I loved how he dealt with it. I liked how quickly they connected and built up to feeling able to talk about anything. 

When Zoe discovers something disturbing about her father, she confides in Joaquin, needing to be able to vent to someone. She's stunned by his reaction to the news. She can't believe the way that he seems to be judging her decisions on what she wants to do. When Joaquin confesses his own family dilemma, she understands a bit better about why, but is still hurt. She has advice of her own for him before she leaves, worried that this problem spells the end of their relationship. I liked seeing Joaquin think about what she said once he calms down, and then take action on it. I loved hard look at what he wants and how he realized that Zoe was it. His big moment at the end was great and super romantic. 

I loved the relationship that Joaquin has with his dad. They are really close, which is why Joaquin's questions are so hard on him. He doesn't want to cause his father pain. I loved the revelations and how they all worked out.

The questions on the Robinson side continue to cause stress within the family. Zoe is completely on her father's side, until she makes a discovery that has her questioning everything she believed. Her confrontation with her father reveals some things that leave her reeling. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book.