Friday, September 30, 2016

The Warrior's Captive Bride - Jenna Kernan (HH #1295 - Sept 2016)

His wife for two moons…?

Plagued by a mysterious sickness, Crow warrior Night Storm captures the witch he believes cursed him. But his anticipated revenge dissolves when he realizes that beautiful Skylark might be the only one who can provide a cure…

Skylark agrees to pose as Night Storm's wife so she can find a way to heal him. But when an unexpected desire flares, Sky's mission changes and she'll do everything in her power to find a way to make their arrangement last a lifetime!

Intriguing book. Skyark is a medicine woman with her Crow tribe. She's out gathering plants when she is spotted by Night Storm, a warrior from a neighboring tribe. He is drawn by her beauty, and even though he is promised to another, wants to make her a second wife. Before he can spirit her away, he is struck by a mysterious illness. Several months later he sees her again, this time convinced that she's a witch who has cursed him. Fortunately, he quickly realizes his mistake, and instead tries to convince her to help him. 

Sky is a loner within her tribe, focused on her healing talents. She'd like a husband and children, but none of the men seem interested in her. She is fascinated by Storm when she meets him, but has no intention of playing second fiddle for any man. When she learns of his illness she is willing to help, but not too happy about the method.

Because he is a warrior, Storm refuses to reveal his illness to anyone. To cover for her presence he suggests that Sky return to his camp as his bride until he is healed, and then they will part. She agrees, since she won't remain with a man who puts her second. But neither of them realizes the depth of their attraction to each other. As they work together to deal with Storm's problem, they grow closer and no longer wish to part, but there are obstacles to making that happen.

Though I understood his reasoning, there were times when I felt Storm's stubborn refusal to face the truth was somewhat selfish of him. He never knew when an attack would happen, which put others at risk. He was also so focused on being a warrior that he couldn't see that there were other options. He also had quite a blind spot regarding his intended. He was so intent on keeping his promise to marry her that he couldn't seem to see what a nasty person she was. I loved seeing him grow to love and value Sky, but his tunnel vision frequently frustrated me.

Sky has her own issues to deal with. Though she is an excellent healer, she doesn't have a very good opinion of herself. She thinks that everyone believes her to be "odd" which is why she isn't courted. She doesn't seem to see that she tends to push people away. Though reluctant to go with him, I liked how she wanted to help Storm. I liked the way that his mother and sisters welcomed her, though she felt guilty about deceiving them about their marriage. I would have liked to see her show a bit more backbone when dealing with the other woman. I felt especially bad for her when her healing arts were turned against her by the tribe's shaman.

The tension really began to pick up when Storm went on the raid and had another episode. Between that and finding Sky gone when he returned, he realized that his life was not going as he had planned. The events that happened as he chased after her, were really intense. I loved the difference in attitudes between the shaman of his tribe and that of hers. I ached for Storm as he had to face what seemed to him to be an impossible future. His discussion with Sky's shaman was a real eye opener, and he struggled to accept the truth. As he went through that process, Sky had to wait to see if there was any hope of a future for them. It was a struggle for her to maintain hope. I loved the scene at the end as he accepted his fate and his vulnerability as he hoped that Sky would still be his. The final chapter was a great wrap up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Cowboy's Claim - Marin Thomas (HAR #1591 - Apr 2016)

Series: Cowboys of the Rio Grande (Book 3)


Everyone knows Victor Vicario -- he's the scarred loner who's on his way to the National Finals Rodeo in Vegas. But no one knows about the guilt that drives him. And until he achieves his goal, there's no room in his life for attachments.

So when Vic is given temporary custody of his young nephew, he is torn. He can't turn his back on family, but how can he look after a kid when he's traveling the rodeo circuit? Then he runs into feisty barrel racer Tanya McGee and makes her an offer. She helps him with Alex, and he'll pay her rodeo expenses. The problem is their little "family" starts to feel all too real.

Very good book. I have been waiting for my chance to read Vic's story and it did not disappoint. Vic is one of three friends who grew up in the barios of Albuquerque. All of them had rotten childhoods, but Vic wears the scars of his on the outside. These days he is a rodeo bronc rider, doing his best to make it to the Finals in Vegas. He has a goal to win, and until he does there is no room in his life for anything else. Then he gets a call that his four year old nephew needs him. He's never met the boy, but he can't ignore him. So he takes Alex on the road with him, not realizing the challenges he will face.

Tanya is a barrel racer putting in her last season of competition. Her previous season ended when she was in an accident that took her a year to recover from. She wants to end on a high note, but she is having issues with her horse and is almost out of resources to continue. A chance encounter with Vic has him offering to help her continue competing if she will help him take care of Alex.

There were times in this book, and throughout the series, that I thought Vic was really selfish. It was his actions that got his friend Cruz sent to prison (A Cowboy's Redemption). He also avoided his old friends and ignored their attempts to reconnect with him. In this book, his quest to make the Finals seemed to come before everything else, including proper care of Alex. Instead, he takes the boy on the road with him, spending long hours on the road, staying in different towns and cheap motels every night. But partway through the book, his motivation is finally revealed, and I felt much more sympathetic toward him. I also loved how devoted he was to helping Alex. The boy had had a very traumatic life so far, and Vic is determined to make it better. Because of his own past he has a greater understanding of his nephew and his problems. I loved his patience in helping Alex overcome his fears.

His relationship with Tanya was a complicated one. He doesn't do relationships because of his intense focus. But from the moment he met her, he hasn't been able to get her off his mind. A hookup with her right before he found out about Alex scared him with the way he connected with her. He knows he should avoid her because of the distraction, but she's also the only one he is willing to trust with Alex's welfare. As he offers her a deal, he hopes he can keep his mind on his goal. It doesn't take long before their partnership starts to show results in Alex's behavior. But Vic can't allow himself to think of a future with Tanya and Alex when he doesn't know how or when his quest is going to end.

Tanya finds it very easy to fall for both Alex and Vic. In spite of his fearsome appearance and reputation, she sees the good in Vic. She would like nothing better than a future with both of them, but she's been burned once before. She's not so sure she can trust him with her heart, but she can't stop herself from giving it to him anyway. I loved how she got him to open up to her about his past, his motivations, and his hopes for Alex. Her support of him and his goals was just what he needed.

I loved the ending as everyone came together at the Finals in Vegas. I was just as nervous as Vic and Tanya as I waited to see how the competition would go. The scene under the bleachers between Vic and Cruz was heartfelt and incredibly moving. The emotion was intense, with just the right bit of lightness added to keep it from being too much. The icing on the cake was the follow on scene between Vic and Tanya. I loved her reaction to his question, which just showed that she had no trouble going after what she wanted. I see great things for him now that he has been able to let go of the past.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stolen Encounters with the Duchess - Julia Justiss (HH #1296 - Sept 2016)

Series: Hadley's Hellions (Book 2)

She would rather burn in his presence than pine in his absence

Faith Wellingford Evers, Duchess of Ashedon, is tired of society's endless gossiping about her failings and her late husband's infidelities. Seeking escape one night, she's attacked by ruffians, but is saved by an unlikely figure from her past!

Having risen from penniless orphan to Member of Parliament, David Tanner Smith is no longer the quiet boy Faith once knew. With the first spine-tingling kiss, their old friendship is transformed. And in its place is an explosive mix of illicit encounters and forbidden desire…

Good combination of a second chance and friends to lovers story. Faith is the widow of a Duke, one who had professed his love for her until they were married. After that, he became controlling, cut her off from friends and family, and carried on numerous affairs. He died under scandalous circumstances, leaving her to face society's gossip and disdain. Escaping from yet another evening of such misery, Faith is attacked by thugs, and rescued by a passing gentleman. That gentleman turned out to be an old friend.

David, an up and coming member of Parliament, used to work for her uncle. They met when she was sixteen and he was twenty and became good friends. David would have liked to be more, but their statuses in the world were too far apart. When David came to her rescue, he barely recognized the girl he once knew. This Faith was a shadow of her formerly glowing self. He was determined to help her regain her joy in life.

I loved seeing how quickly Faith and Davie reconnected. Faith found it easy to confess her troubles to him, and was happy to renew their friendship. She did not expect to be so aware of him as a man. Davie also quickly realized that the love he'd had for the young Faith had never died, and that being near her only made those feelings stronger. Though he knows that there is still no chance of a future with her, he still takes every opportunity to spend time with her. 

I really enjoyed the way that they were still able to talk about anything and everything. I loved how Davie took steps to bring her into his circle of friends that are active in political and social issues. It was so sweet to see how he watched her like a proud parent as she quickly made a place for herself within the group. His support and belief in her also went a long way toward repairing her confidence in herself. Before seeing Davie again, Faith seemed to be easily intimidated by her snotty mother-in-law and the often vicious society women. With his support, and some timely advice by her new friend, she gained the courage to stand up to them. I especially loved her death glare at the snide remarks made by one woman.

Spending time together as they did, the attraction between them continued to grow. I was a bit disappointed in Faith as she considered having an affair with Davie, but never considered that they could have more. I did like seeing her take her courage in hand and make advances to him, even though she wasn't sure how it would turn out. As hard as it was for him to do, I had great respect for Davie, as he refused to do anything that could bring disgrace to her name. 

Both Faith and Davie had some serious self-worth issues that were keeping them apart. Davie couldn't see past the social divide and believe that he was no longer that poor farmer's orphan. I loved that moment of truth when he realized that the Reform Bill that they were working so hard on showed that he was easily a good enough man to ask for her hand. But he was still cautious, and I loved the way that he wanted to make sure that he wouldn't create more problems for her. The support he received from his friends and mentors was wonderful. Faith had spent so long being diminished by her husband, her mother-in-law, and society, that she couldn't believe that she would hold Davie's interest for long. She was willing to accept whatever time she could get with him, just for the momentary happiness it would provide. I ached for them both when Davie made his case and Faith couldn't believe that it would last. I loved how her sister was able to talk sense into her, and Faith's big moment after that.

The secondary characters were all terrific and important parts of the book. Faith's mother-in-law was rather a nasty piece of work with the way she was constantly putting her down. I loved seeing Faith gain the confidence to stand up to her, On the other hand, Faith's brother-in-law was just plain creepy. His unwelcome advances and threats were scary, and I certainly understood Faith's fear of what he would do. I loved how Davie dealt with the problem while at the same time keeping his promise to Faith. My favorite of the secondary characters were Faith's three sons. I loved seeing how her relationship with them changed through the book as she was able to spend more time with them. I especially loved how she was determined to make sure her oldest didn't grow up to be like his father.

I also really enjoyed the attention to the detail of the politics of the time. It was fascinating to see the work done on the Reform Bill and its efforts to make things more equable for all Englishmen. Even the riots were accurately portrayed. I enjoyed the touches of the personal as Faith took care of one of the tenants and ended up showing the woman's radical grandson that not everything was as bad as he thought. I also liked seeing Davie and Faith team up to defuse another potential problem.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ms. Bravo and the Boss - Christine Rimmer (HSE #2503 - Oct 2016)

Series: Bravos of Justice Creek (Book 5)


Elise Bravo needed a job, desperately. And soldier turned thriller writer Jed Walsh burned through -- almost literally, it turned out -- assistants like hellfire through brimstone. Turned out he had some…unusual work habits to go along with his giant talent and ego. He threw knives to relax. He cleaned his guns as he acted out scenes. And more than anything, he hated cats…

Enter Elise, crack typist, master plotter and perfect for the live-in job in every way but one…two if you counted Mr. Wiggles, her furry companion. For though Jed had sworn he would never get "involved" with a woman who worked for him, it took only a day or two with the perfectly professional, pencil skirt -- wearing Bravo beauty to realize that his interest in Elise broke all the rules. He had to make her his -- even if he had to win over her kitty to do it…

Very good book. Elise has had some really bad luck lately, compounded by some bad decisions. Most recently, her catering business burned to the ground and her business partner decided to move on. There was insurance money, but half went to her partner, and Elise used hers to pay off her debts. Her finances are especially tight because she had made the decision to loan money to two "friends" who then declined to pay her back. So in order to make the money to restart her catering business she has been doing odd jobs for several of her sisters. Then one of her sisters tells her that thriller writer Jed Walsh is looking for a new assistant and is paying top dollar.

Jed is a very interesting man. Raised by a survivalist, he then did some time in the military before turning to writing. He dictates his writing to a typist and has very exacting demands. He also has some very interesting quirks, such as knife-throwing and gun cleaning when he's working through a rough patch. He'd had the perfect assistant, but she left to be near her grandchildren almost a year before. Since then he has acquired a reputation for being impossible to work for. When Elise shows up at his door, he's pretty much reached the end of his rope. 

I loved his "interview" with her, and how he was pretty blunt about his requirements. It was really amusing to see her deal with each of his demands, then make a few of her own, including that she would only work for him for the length of this book. Jed was also very up front with her that he was attracted to her, but that he had no intention of doing anything about it. He doesn't want to screw up a potentially good thing. I loved her first day at work and how she had no trouble keeping up with him and dealing with his attitude. By the end of her three day trial period, Jed had decided that not only was she perfectly suited to his needs, he wasn't going to let her go,

It didn't take long for their professional relationship to turn to friendship. For all his gruff and grumpy exterior, Jed is actually a pretty sensitive guy. When Elise had a meltdown over the problems she'd been having, Jed did an awesome job of comforting her. That comfort also underscored the heat that had been building between them. It doesn't take much longer before their "professional only" vow goes up in smoke. I loved seeing how suited to each other they were. Jed shows Elise that she is beautiful just as she is. And I loved seeing her challenge Jed's rigid ways and even help him with his writing. It was also really sweet to see how the guy who says he hates cats had a "catio" built for Mr. Wiggles.

However, there were problems ahead. In spite of Elise's statement that she would only work for him for the length of this book, Jed is determined that she will stay with him. He completely ignores every indication that she is perfectly serious about it. Then he has the nerve to be mad when she goes ahead with plans to restart her catering business. I loved seeing Elise take her reinvigorated self-confidence and explain to him exactly what his problem is. Now it is up to Jed to decide how to go about getting Elise back in his life. I loved his wedding crasher scene and his oh-so-sweet and vulnerable moment with Elise as he tried to tell her how he felt. I'm looking forward to seeing more of them in later books.

*copy received in exchange for honest review

Stockyard Snatching - Barb Han (HI #1655 - Aug 2016)

Series: Cattlemen Crime Club (Book 1)

A Texas rancher will do anything to protect a woman in jeopardy and the little boy who could be his son…

With the ferocity of a tigress, Kate Williams desperately fights a kidnapper trying to snatch her adopted son from her arms. When rancher Dallas O'Brien sees the skirmish, he bravely saves the infant and his lovely mother. Single and new in town, Kate accepts the handsome cowboy's offer of a safe haven at his ranch.

Spurred on by their Texas-sized attraction, Dallas and Kate untangle a web of lies that throws the baby's paternity into question. And Dallas wonders -- could he be a father? Could he be a husband? But when bullets start flying, the real question is, will he survive to find out?

Good book. Dallas is at the feed store when he sees someone attempting to snatch a baby from a woman's arms. He jumps right in and saves the child and his mother, then takes it upon himself to protect them both. But does he have some extra motivation, other than his feeling of responsibility? Dallas has recently received word that a former girlfriend gave birth to a son, and that he could be the father. He has set a PI to investigating and discovered that her child may have been put up for adoption, through the same agency where Kate adopted her son.

Kate's marriage recently ended, but not her desire for a family of her own. So she has adopted a baby and set out to make her own life the way she wants it. She is running a soup kitchen and giving back to the community where she has made her new home. She is terrified when someone attempts to kidnap Jackson and grateful for the help of the stranger who came to her aid. There's something about him that makes her feel safe, but she's wary of getting involved with another man.

I loved the way that Dallas fell so hard and so fast for both Kate and Jackson. He quickly makes them part of his life and doesn't want to let them go. He's also fascinated by Jackson, and wonders what the chances are that he is Jackson's father. I loved his protectiveness toward them both, and how he is determined to get to the truth about the attempted kidnapping and follow on attempts. 

I felt bad for Kate and the problems she has been having with her own family. Their lack of support is only emphasized by the closeness of Dallas's family. She is also wary of getting involved with Dallas so quickly because of her experience with her ex-husband. She is afraid of making the same mistake again, though her heart tries to tell her that there is no comparison. 

The mystery of the attempted kidnapping is very well done. When they discover that the attempt on Jackson is just one of a series, the question becomes why. It is especially puzzling because the kidnapped infants show up unharmed a few days later. It also appears that there could be a link between them kidnappings and the disappearance of Dallas's former girlfriend. It was interesting to see the false clues left, and how Dallas and Kate worked to figure out the truth. I liked seeing what it was and what it meant for Dallas. 

There was also some unexpected information that came out about the recent deaths of Dallas's parents. He had held himself responsible for what had happened to them, but the new information shows something entirely different/ There are hints that things were not all what they should have been in some of the family dynamics. I suspect that this storyline with continue through the series, and I am looking forward to seeing if I am right about who is responsible. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Texas Rebels: Phoenix - Linda Warren (HWR #1606 - Aug 2016)

Series: Texas Rebels (Book 5)


Once he gets over the shock of finding out he's a father, Phoenix Rebel is ready to do right by his toddler son. The gorgeous barrel racer he runs into on the circuit could add a much-needed woman's touch. There's just one problem. She's a McCray -- a Rebel's worst enemy.

Rosemary could gaze into Phoenix's warm brown eyes forever. And helping the sexy bull rider and his adorable two-year-old has ignited a fierce yearning in Rosie. Somehow she and Phoenix have to find a way to create their own family -- even if it means leaving everyone else they love behind…

Very good book. Phoenix is the youngest of the Rebel boys and the one best known for his fun-loving ways. So it comes as quite a surprise to him to find out that he is the father of a two year old little boy. As unprepared as he feels, a Rebel doesn't run from responsibility, and Phoenix steps right up.

I have to say right off that I loved the way that Phoenix jumped right into being a dad. He connected very quickly with little Jake and I loved how he understood Jake's separation anxiety. He could very easily have accepted the offers of various family members to help him out, but he understood Jake's fear and was determined to be there for him. I also understood his frustration with the way his family seemed to think he wasn't capable of caring for Jake. It added to his determination to do it himself. 

Phoenix had been aware of Rosie for awhile, but because she was a McCray, he ignored her just as she ignored him. But an encounter while parking their trailers brought them into closer contact and sparks flew between them. Their next encounter had Phoenix asking for her help in shopping for things for Jake, and Phoenix's fascination with her grew.

Rosie had grown up with the feud between the families, but had had problems of her own to deal with. Her father had forced her to marry an older man who would help with the family finances. The man turned out to be abusive and had beaten Rosie so badly at one point that she lost her baby. Since her divorce from him her father had disowned her and she'd had no contact with her family. Seeing Phoenix's son brought back her grief, but also brought some light back into her life.

As she and Phoenix began to spend more time together, their feelings grew stronger. As long as it was just the two of them with little Jake, everything was fine. The love they shared was obvious and they were the perfect family for Jake. But the feud between their families was always hovering, ready to take the joy out of their lives. I really enjoyed seeing Rosie face down her father and brothers and make it clear that she was done with them. There was a brief moment of support from the brother whose son caused problems in the previous book. Meanwhile, Phoenix had been avoiding telling his mother about Rosie because of her own attitude toward the McCrays. I have to say that for most of this book I really didn't like Kate much at all. Because she didn't want to tear Phoenix away from the family he loved, Rosie tried to break things off with him.

Just as Phoenix is really settling in to being Jake's daddy, Jake's mother suddenly comes back into the picture. There were some scary, stressful days as Phoenix worries about losing custody of the son who has come to mean so much to him. The scene in the courtroom was fantastic, with the new Phoenix really shining.

But it still left the relationship between Rosie and Phoenix in limbo. I loved Phoenix's determination that he would marry Rosie no matter what. I especially enjoyed his grandfather's straight talk to Kate and his unwavering support of Phoenix. There were some intense moments there in Vegas as everyone waited to see what Rosie would decide. I loved the ending and seeing the little family finally have it all.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Texas Rebels: Jude - Linda Warren (HAR #1589 - Apr 2016)

Series: Texas Rebels (Book 4)

Rebel Dad

The day his son was born, Jude Rebel knew he was meant to be a father. That was why he had to stop the adoption. How could he give away his own flesh and blood? For twelve years, Jude has kept his secret. Until Paige Wheeler comes home to Horseshoe, regretting the decision that changed both their lives forever.

At eighteen, all Paige wanted was to escape her Texas town and troubled, hardscrabble life. Her ticket out cost her dearly. Now she has a chance to make things right. Finding out Jude has been raising their child is only the beginning. Is it too late for forgiveness? Or have they all been given a second chance?

Good story of second chances, redemption, and family. Paige and Jude had been high school sweethearts, but their futures were set on different paths. Jude loved his family's ranch and had no desire to go anywhere else. Paige had a miserable home life with an emotionally abusive mother and couldn't wait to get out of Horseshoe. She has a scholarship for medical school and can't wait to use it. Then she finds out she's pregnant.

Both Jude and Paige are young and know that they aren't ready to be parents. Paige is especially scared because of her mother. She takes her worries to her school counselor, who encourages Paige to consider adoption. Paige constantly asks for Jude's thoughts, but gets no real response. Jude has plenty of thoughts, but never expresses them to Paige, feeling that he has no right to ask her to give up her dreams. But when the baby is born and they've signed away their rights, Jude is torn. He says goodbye to Paige, but then makes the decision to cancel the adoption and raise the baby himself.

It isn't easy, but he has the help and support of his family. Zane is the center of Jude's life, and he will do anything to keep him safe and happy. Then after twelve years, Paige comes back to Horseshoe for her mother's funeral. She has been haunted by her decision for years, and wants to find out what happened to her child. Jude isn't happy, but knows he has to tell her the truth. He also knows that his son's happiness comes first, and it's up to Zane to decide what he wants to do.

This was a very emotional book, as three people had to deal with the consequences of a decision made long ago. There were things I did and didn't like about the ways they went about it. I loved Jude's devotion to Zane and the way that he stepped up and took responsibility. Though he had help from his family, he was Zane's father and the main caregiver. However, I had trouble with his lack of communication with Paige, both in the past and present. Back during her pregnancy, he never spoke up about his feelings and what he thought was the right thing to do. He just went along with her decisions. When he went and got the baby, he never tried to reach her and tell her what he had done. When Paige came back, he still wasn't the most communicative. He did tell her some of what he felt, but wasn't always as open as he should have been.

Paige had had a miserable life at home. It left her with some real problems with her self esteem. Because of her mother's attitude, Paige didn't feel that she could bring a baby home, which left her vulnerable to a counselor who had her own agenda. When Paige came back and told Jude what it had been like for her after she left, I completely understood Jude's anger. She had wallowed in her misery, never bothering to even call Jude and tell him how she felt. Of course, when she found out that Jude had been raising Zane, she wanted to meet him. She wasn't happy about Jude's resistance, and proceeded to still beat herself up about her past actions. I wanted to shake her and tell her to snap out of it. 

Then there was Zane. He's a really smart, happy kid. He's enthusiastic about the things he likes. He's been curious about his mother, and Jude has been honest with him about what happened. But he's still only twelve, and it rocks his world when he finds out about Paige. I ached for Paige when he refused to have anything to do with her, but had high hopes that his better nature would win out. His was the part I liked most, as he worked his way through his feelings.

Paige and Jude also discovered that the feelings they'd had as teens had not gone away. Neither had their old ways of dealing with things. Jude knew that Paige had to go back to California to finish her training, and did not talk to her about it. Paige had to make a decision about her future, and didn't talk to Jude either. So much angst could have been avoided if they had just talked to each other. They nearly blew it again, but finally had the courage to confront their fears. I did like the way that they worked things out.

Rescuing the Cowboy - Cathy McDavid (HWR #1615 - Oct 2016)

Series: Mustang Valley (Book 8)


After three years of wrongful imprisonment, Quinn Crenshaw is ready to rebuild his life and find the daughter he has never met. A job training horses at his cousin's Arizona cattle ranch becomes something wonderful when Quinn meets Summer Goodwyn and her special-needs little boy. The single mother believes in him…and is raising this former rodeo champion's spirits sky-high!

The equine therapy program is helping Summer's young son connect with others -- including one super-attractive rancher determined to be a father to his own little girl. Despite the obstacles in their path, can she make Quinn see they have a future worth fighting for?

Very good, very emotional story. Quinn has been released from prison after new evidence proves him innocent of the charges. His cousins have offered him a job on their ranch, training horses for them. It gives him a chance to rebuild his life. He also discovered that his former girlfriend had been pregnant and never told him. He is trying to find her, determined to be a father to his little girl. While waiting, he meets Summer and her autistic son, Teddy.

Summer is a single mother with her hands full. Teddy is severely autistic and a participant in the ranch's equine therapy program. She is surprised by how quickly Teddy connects with Quinn - and he isn't the only one! She's been cautious about new relationships, but something about Quinn tells her she can trust him.

I really enjoyed seeing the relationship grow between them. Both of them are wary, having been hurt before, but the connection between them can't be denied. Because of what he has been through, Quinn has become much more patient, which becomes obvious in his dealings with Teddy. I loved seeing his patience and mellow demeanor have a calming effect on the little boy. His obvious care for Teddy was also one of the things that made Summer fall for him. At the same time, Summer sees past the ex-con label that Quinn is stuck with to the man he really is. She sees the tender and sensitive side that others do not, which helps Quinn believe that a future is possible for them. 

My heart ached for them both, but especially Quinn, when his past comes back to bite him. It underscored the difficulty that people like him have when they resume life on the outside. I was really disgusted with Summer's ex and his attitude, and loved his new wife's actions. He also had the whole situation with his daughter and her mother to deal with. I didn't care for Jenny at all, with the way she flip-flopped back and forth. I really understood Quinn's desire just to chuck it all, even though he hated the idea of leaving Summer and Teddy.

I loved the support he received from his cousins throughout the whole story. I really liked the way that they stood with him during his problems with the parents. Best of all was how they found a way for him to have everything work out for the best possible outcome.

*copy received in exchange for honest review

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Safe in His Sight - Regan Black (HRS #1914 - Sept 2016)

Series: Escape Club Heroes (Book 1)

The stalker shadowing lawyer Julia Cooper's every move is vowing to ruin her life -- unless she discloses information about a major criminal case. For discreet help, she turns to the shadowy Escape Club, where investigative brainpower and brawn are for hire. Mitch Galway, a firefighter on leave, becomes Julia's round-the-clock bodyguard. All sculpted biceps, sexy bravado and conflicted past, Mitch works overtime to uncover the identity of the person hunting her. But as they track the creep getting way too close, Julia must share more of herself with the intriguing man protecting her…which puts them both high on a lunatic's hit list.

This was an exciting and intense book. Julia is a new hire at a prestigious law firm, and is assigned as part of the legal team on a major case. She has begun receiving threatening texts from a stalker who wants sensitive information on the case. Unable to go to her bosses or the police, she goes to the Escape Club for help. Firefighter Mitch Galway is assigned to be her bodyguard.

There are sparks between Mitch and Julia from the beginning, even though they don't want to admit it. Mitch has had a relationship go bad because he got involved with a rescuee, and he doesn't want to risk that again. Julia was betrayed by a previous boyfriend because of her past, and she feels safer being on her own. I loved seeing Mitch's protectiveness grow into something more as he got to know Julia better. There were some really sweet scenes as he worked his way past her protective walls and got to know the vulnerable woman under the shark-lawyer facade. Julia had spent so long depending only on herself that she wasn't sure what to make of Mitch. I ached for her as she kept expecting him to pull away from her. I loved seeing her get absorbed into Mitch's family, and her horror at the events that happened during Sunday dinner reinforced her idea that she was no good for him. It doesn't take long for Mitch to be sure of his feelings for Julia, but he also knows that if he rushes her it will ruin everything. It was fun to see him try to pull himself back. Julia also suspects her feelings, but is afraid to risk her heart again. I really loved seeing them come together in the end, especially Julia's willingness to believe in a future together.

The suspense of the story was really good. We find out quickly who the stalker is and what his motivation is. The big question is why he fixated on Julia. The intensity of the story kept going up as the stalker increased the pressure on her to cooperate with him. You never knew just what he was going to do next, and each new threat increased the tension. I thought the car bomb was bad, but the final confrontation really had me on the edge of my seat. I loved seeing Julia's part in it and how she stood up to him. The epilogue was a nice wrapup for the things that had been done to her. I do wonder if we'll see that hacker again. 

Julia's job situation was left hanging a little bit. I admit that I did not like her boss at all and would love to see her use her talents for someone else.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Triple Threat - Jennifer LaBrecque (HB - Mar 2009)

Series: Uniformly Hot (Book 3.5)

Subject: Airborne Captain Eli Murdoch.
Current status: Ready and raring to go!
Mission: Serve his country.
Obstacle: Sexy Tara Swenson. Impossible to resist.

Weddings are a minefield for Eli Murdoch. Each time he goes to one, he falls into bed with the same woman--Tara Swenson! But a relationship between a footloose soldier and a homebody can never work. Can it?

Tara can't seem to keep her panties on and her legs together around her former high school crush. But she wants more than wham bam, thank you ma'am. Although Captain Hard Body is very good at that!

When he returns for a third wedding, Tara's faced with a man trained to outmaneuver her! So she makes the first offensive move. Directly into Eli's very willing arms...

Very short story, only 49 pages, so not a lot of development. Eli and Tara have known each other for several years. Tara moved to Jackson Flats as a teenager and instantly developed a crush on senior ROTC Eli. Of course, he never noticed her, being so much younger. They encountered each other at a friend's wedding and the chemistry between them was off the charts. But Eli was focused on his career, not starting a relationship, and they didn't see each other again until another wedding two years later. Second verse, same as the first. This time, Eli skedaddled quickly, and again there was no contact for about two years. Now there is a third wedding in the offing and both are determined not to let history repeat itself.

So much for good intentions. They weren't in each other's company more than an hour before the steam started rising. Back into bed they fell. But Tara wants more from Eli than hot sex every couple of years and she begins making her wishes known. Eli has avoided relationships, feeling that they don't mix well with a career that can have him gone more than at home. 

I felt that Tara was a bit more mature than Eli. She knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to say so. I felt bad for her when she declared her feelings for Eli and got nothing in return. Eli came off as rather selfish, only interested in hooking up with her when he was in town, then ignoring her the rest of the time. It wasn't until the end that we discover that he is simply scared by the strength of what he feels for her and doesn't know how to deal with it. He was rather a horse's ass on the trip to the airport, and I loved seeing Tara rip into him. He saw the light almost too late, but managed to redeem himself. I liked that the epilogue showed that they waited six months to get married, and presumably had much better lines of communication during those six months.

An Unlikely Daddy - Rachel Lee (HSE #2492 - Aug 2016)

Series: Conard County: The Next Generation (Book 30)

In love with his best friend's wife…and baby

Keeping a promise to a dead man isn't easy. But Ryker Tremaine is determined to keep his word and make amends to his late friend's wife. When Ryker meets lovely, pregnant Marisa Hayes, she's still grieving. She doesn't believe the official report of her husband's death. And Marisa believes Ryker has the answers she craves.

Bound by secrecy, the hunky CIA operative tries to help Marisa find a sense of normalcy…and uncovers a sizzling attraction! As Ryker discovers the richness of life back on the grid, old secrets threaten. Marisa still seeks answers and Ryker knows if he tells her the truth about her husband's death -- and his role in it -- Marisa and her baby may be lost to him forever…

Good story about grief, acceptance and moving on with your life. The book opens with Marisa at her husband's funeral. She has lots of questions about his death, but no one is answering them. She's also recently found out she's pregnant. Six months later, she is still swimming in her grief, taking things day by day, and looking forward to the birth of her baby. Then she receives a visit from Ryker, a friend and coworker of her husband's.

Ryker had promised John that if anything happened, Ryker would check on Marisa. It has taken six months, but he can now keep that promise. He's reluctant to face Marisa because he feels guilty that he got John that job in the first place. His guilt only increases when he finds out she's pregnant.

When Ryker first arrives, Marisa isn't particularly welcoming. Ryker can't, or won't, answer her questions about John's death, and his appearance resurrects the pain. But Ryker won't give up, and insists on helping her. I really liked Ryker. He has some hard edges because of what he does, but he has some pretty sweet and sensitive moments, too. I loved seeing him rub her feet, and bring the Christmas spirit back into her life.

I really liked seeing the relationship develop between them. After her initial antagonism, Marisa invited Ryker to stay at the house. Being together all the time, both Ryker and Marisa realized that they were attracted to each other. Both of them resisted at first, both with feelings of guilt. Ryker didn't feel right wanting his friend's wife, and Marisa felt that she was betraying John. I loved the fact that they faced those feelings and talked about them before taking action on their feelings for each other.

Besides the guilt he was feeling, Ryker is also experiencing a normal life for the first time in a long time. I loved watching him enjoy the simple things in life again and start to question the direction his life has been going. He began to dream of having Marisa and the baby for his own.

Then Marisa receives a visitor who reveals stunning news about her husband and his death. As she deals with the feeling that she never really knew him, she also has to deal with the knowledge that Ryker knew these things all along. Once she got over the shock, I loved her attitude. I also loved how the knowledge also freed her from her grief. It also had quite an effect on Ryker, and helped him make a decision that would change his life.

As always, the Conard County community is there for its members. I loved Ryker's encounter with the sheriff. It was also great to see Marisa's friends embrace Ryker too. I especially enjoyed Julie's attitude toward him, both warning and encouraging him. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Into Dust - B.J. Daniels (HQN - Aug 2016)

Series: Montana Hamiltons (Book 5)

He's meant to protect her, but what is this cowboy keeping from her about the danger she's facing?

As the daughter of a presidential candidate, Cassidy Hamilton left the Montana family ranch to escape notoriety and live her own life. But when someone tries to abduct her off a Houston sidewalk, Cassidy finds protection in the tall, dark and sexy form of cowboy Jack Durand. The gorgeous Texan doesn't recognize her, wants nothing from her and is determined to keep her safe.

Jack hates keeping secrets from the beautiful Cassidy, but he knows more about her kidnapping attempt than he's admitting. Forced on the run, Jack and Cassidy begin piecing together a jagged family puzzle, exposing a plot years in the making -- one that will either tear them apart or bring them closer together than ever.

Another very good entry into the Montana Hamiltons series. This one centers on Cassidy, one of the twin sisters who are the youngest of the family. She has been staying as far away from her father's campaign for president as she possibly can. While walking to visit friends, she is attacked and nearly kidnapped. If not for the action of a passerby, she would have been in trouble.

Jack was not exactly there by chance. While visiting his mother's grave, he had seen his father hand cash to a suspicious looking man. Worried about what his father was mixed up in, he followed the man, and was there to see him attempt to kidnap a young woman. Jack rushes in to save her, and determined to keep her safe, they go together to see if Jack can discover what his father is up to. What they find out is that Jack's dad isn't who he thought he was, and was mixed up with Cassidy's mom years ago.

As Jack and Cassidy try to evade the people who are after them, the sparks fly between them. The intensity of the danger they are in draws them closer together. I liked the support they gave each other as they learned more about what their parents were/are involved in. Their love happens quickly, but all does not go smoothly. They are captured twice, and the second time separates them for what seems like forever. Though they do come back together, because of the actions of Prophecy members, they don't remember each other. The romance part of the story felt unfinished because of it. I hope the next book gives them their HEA.

The series storyline, involving Sarah Hamilton's apparent return from the dead, continues to reveal new bits of information. More members of the group, The Prophecy, are introduced and their fanaticism exposed. There are some truly nasty people at work and it still hasn't been revealed just what their plan is. As Sarah regains some of her memories, she is more certain she wants no part of what they have planned. But because of threats to her family, she is forced to comply with their demands. It will be very interesting to see how this all works out in the end.

There was also some time spent with Sheriff Frank Curry and his wife Nettie. Frank is still dealing with the psychopathic young woman who is bent on killing him. We get more evidence of just how evil she is and her determination to have her revenge. I really thought she was going to succeed this time, but all worked out for the best.

I'm really looking forward to the next book and seeing what everyone does.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Killer Countdown - Amelia Autin (HRS #1909 - Aug 2016)

Series: Man on a Mission (Book 8)

TV reporter Carly Edwards has the scoop of a century! She's discovered that Senator Shane Jones was diagnosed with a life-altering illness, but she can't help but be drawn to his courage. So when Shane saves Carly's life from a killer, she resolves to keep her story -- and the irresistible politician -- alive…

A politician and a media personality are a recipe for romantic disaster. The last thing Shane wants is to endanger Carly. But how can he prevent her from getting close when the very air between them sizzles? As their lives are threatened, Shane realizes Carly's the one woman he wants forever -- if he can keep them both safe!

Amelia has done it again - written a story that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. I saved it to read on a seven hour trans-Atlantic flight, and I have never had a trip pass so quickly. Shane is the oldest of the Jones kids and has the super-protective attitude of many firstborns. His life hasn't exactly worked out the way he planned. He had been a Marine, planning to make a career of it, when an injury ended those dreams. He transferred his sense of duty to the political side, and is now the junior Senator from Colorado. He's had loss in his life also, losing his father when he was younger, then his pregnant wife was killed in a terrorist attack. He has plans for his current career that may be in jeopardy once again. He has been diagnosed with a condition that could end those hopes. When the story opens, he is at the Arizona Mayo Clinic, where he has just received the results of all his tests. He spends a few minutes feeling sorry for himself, but in true Jones tradition, tries to shake it off and figure out how to move forward. He doesn't expect a visit from his "fiancee", and is intrigued enough to go along with it.

Carly is a television reporter with an outstanding reputation. She has reported on wars, police actions, disasters and any number of hot stories. Right now she is trying to find out why Senator Jones is at the Mayo Clinic. She's resourceful, and pretends to be his fiancee to get access to him, and is stunned when he allows her in. Her reputation precedes her, and Shane strikes a bargain with her, that if she will keep his secret for now, he will give her the exclusive when he's ready to talk. Carly has had her own trials and tribulations, including losing her fiance in an accident for which she blames herself. That memory has her accepting Shane's deal.

Things start to go a little crazy when someone shoots at Shane on his way out of the hospital. Carly is there and takes off after the shooter, using her cellphone to capture video of him. Shane is on her heels and protects her when the shooter turns his sights on her. Shane is furious that she took the risk, but also impressed by her presence of mind. When another attack happens back in DC, Shane realizes that Carly is at risk because she can identify the shooter. He is determined to keep her safe, not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because she rouses feelings in him he hasn't experienced since he lost his wife.

I loved the development of their relationship. Shane is super-protective, even though he is well aware that Carly is capable of protecting herself. He is also a straight shooting man, who doesn't play fast and loose with the truth. I loved the fact that he made up his own mind about issues without allowing outside influences. This is one of the things about Shane that really draws Carly to him. Likewise, Carly is an honest journalist who doesn't make things up to create a more sensational story. Shane appreciates that honesty, which makes it much easier to ask her to do the story on his illness. There is also an undeniable attraction between the two of them, but both have been badly hurt in the past, making them reluctant to risk their hearts again. The attraction grows stronger every day, but Carly especially is in denial. She tries to convince Shane that they can be together while keeping their emotions under control. I loved that Shane was already fully invested, but pretended to go along with her until he could convince her. Even though she makes that claim, she already suspects that it is too late to claim emotional distance.

I loved Carly's strength as she holds it together through each attack. She is determined not to crumble, and to fight against whoever has targeted them. She is also just as protective of Shane as he is of her. There were a couple of great scenes where she lays into him for taking risks - hello pot, meet kettle. She also slowly learns that it is okay to lean on someone now and then. I loved the scenes where she broke down and Shane was there for her. It was obvious that she felt deeply enough for him that she could trust him that way, even though she wasn't ready to admit it. 

I also loved how quickly they got to know each other's quirks and foibles. I loved seeing Shane try to protect her without giving her the impression that he didn't think she could take care of herself. He knew her well enough to know that would push her to take more risks. And Carly understood that Shane hated the fact that his illness was something he couldn't control. When he tried to push her away to protect her from what could happen, she wouldn't stand for it. I loved seeing her stand up to him and call him on his cowardice (not something a Marine would take well!). When the danger was all over, they have to decide if they are willing to take the risks of loving each other. I really loved the proposal scene. The epilogue was great, and I loved seeing where their lives have gone.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. The first attack at the clinic is a real attention-getter, and Carly's involvement just ups the stakes. When Shane realizes that she has become a target too, he's determined to find the reason. Each attack comes a little closer to succeeding. I loved seeing the assassin's frustration as Shane's innate abilities foil every attempt. It was interesting to see who Shane suspected was behind the attacks, and those whose help he asked for in checking it out. It was also very satisfying to see Carly put her investigative reporter's brain to work and come up with a completely different scenario.  I also loved seeing Niall, the brother we haven't seen much of, and his involvement in their protection. I loved seeing Shane finally get fed up and take matters into his own hands. The final confrontation was intense, exciting, and I really didn't expect the identity of the person who saved Shane. I also loved Niall's last word and the motivation behind it! Now I can't wait to read his story!

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

Plains of Passage - Jean Auel (Crown - Sept 1990)

Series: Earth's Children (Book 4)

With her companion, Jondalar, Ayla sets out on her most dangerous and daring journey--away from the welcoming hearth of the Mammoth Hunters, and into the unknown. Their odyssey spans a beautiful but treacherous continent, the windswept grasslands of Ice Age Europe, casting the bold pair among strangers. Some will become friends, intrigued by Ayla's ways of taming wild horses and wolves. Others will become fierce enemies, threatened by what they cannot understand. But always the orphaned Ayla and the wandering Jondalar will heed the voice and vision that urges them on, deeper into the dark and spectacular heart of an unmapped world. For they are driven to reach that place on earth they can call home. Together, they hold their future in their hands.

A reread of this book. I always enjoy this series, and this book is probably my favorite. Ayla and Jondalar have made the decision to leave the Mamutoi and make the trip back to Jondalar's home. Along the way they meet up with several other groups of people, some good and some not. 

Ayla is nervous about leaving the Mamutoi, who have adopted her and given her a family of her own. But she loves Jondalar and will go with him despite her qualms. Because she was raised by "flatheads" after her own family died in an earthquake, she frequently faces prejudice from those who don't understand. However, she is always able to win over her detractors by way of her healing skills or personality. 

Jondalar started out his Journey with his brother, but ended up with Ayla after a cave lion killed his brother and injured him. While happy to be with Ayla, he is homesick for his own people and convinces Ayla to come with him. After spending several months with the Mamutoi, it is time to move on. Having made the Journey this far, Jondalar knows the way back home and is anxious to get there. 

I liked the descriptions of the land and animals that they saw along the way, but my favorite parts were when they encountered other people. The first of these are the Sharamudoi, with whom Jondalar and his brother had stayed before. They arrive to find that the wife of the leader has been hurt and Ayla immediately steps into healer mode to help her. She is successful, of course, which puts her in good graces with the rest of the people. I also enjoyed the reactions to Ayla's wolf and horses. They stay for awhile with the group, who want them to stay, but Jondalar insists that they keep moving.  

The next group they encounter are the S'Armunai, with a welcome that is not so pleasant. The leader of the group is a woman who stole the leadership and is mentally unbalanced. Jondalar is captured and is confined with the other men. He does what he can to help the other men while he tries to figure out how to escape and find Ayla. Meanwhile, she has been looking for him, and watches the camp for several days while trying to find the best way to rescue him. How she does so is very dramatic and intense. Of course, she also insists on staying long enough to treat those who have been injured and neglected, before they leave to continue their Journey.

Next up are the Losadunai, who live at the edge of the glacier Jondalar and Ayla must cross to get to his home. Again, they are warmly welcomed and treated well. I enjoyed seeing Ayla getting to know everyone. There is also some drama involving a young girl who was assaulted by some young men. Ayla's empathy helps the girl move past it and embrace her future. As Ayla and Jondalar continue their journey they run into those same young men who have attacked a Clan (flathead) man and woman. After reading them the riot act and sending them on their way, Ayla treats the injured man as they share their fire and a meal. I liked how seeing Ayla with a man of the Clan helped Jondalar understand her a little better. 

There is danger as they cross the glacier at the end of the winter. The arrival of spring temperatures can cause dangerous melting, putting them at greater risk of injury or death. After several close calls, they make it off the glacier, to the home cave of some of Jondalar's family. A bit of a romantic tangle is present with a young woman there that adds a bit of angst. Ayla also encounters a man of "mixed spirits" half clan and half Other, who reminds her of her son Durc, left behind in the first book of the series. I really enjoyed their connection and seeing Ayla ease his anger about the way his mother was treated. After a brief period with them, they at last reach Jondalar's home, with a cliffhanger ending as we wait to see how they are welcomed.

I always enjoy seeing Ayla win over new people, and this book was no exception. I also loved seeing reactions to the animals, especially Wolf. I especially loved his part in the rescue of Jondalar from the S'Armunai. It is also really sweet to see Wolf with the various children.

This was not my first reread of this book and it won't be the last.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wed by Fortune - Judy Duarte (HSE #2479 - June 2016)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: All Fortune's Children (Book 6)

You are cordially invited
to witness the courtship
of Graham Fortune Robinson
Sasha-Marie Gibault Smith

Graham has always thought of Sasha as his "little sister."

Sasha has always considered the rugged rancher out of her league.

Now that Sasha is all grown up, there is nothing keeping them apart… Except she has a daughter. An ex-husband. And a very noticeable baby bump. And the always proper Graham suddenly finds himself thinking very sexy thoughts about the sweet single mom!

Perhaps Fortune is finally smiling on Graham -- in the form of the true love this rich, unencumbered cowboy has always longed for!

Good conclusion to this year's Fortune series. Graham works on the Galloping G ranch with his best friend's father, as they turn it into a place for at-risk boys. Sasha has returned to her uncle's ranch after the end of her marriage, hoping for a place to raise her daughters and to repair her relationship with her uncle.

I loved Graham. He's one of the Robinson side of the Fortune family, and sort of a black sheep. He wants nothing to do with his father's business, in spite of his MBA. He's much happier ranching and helping turn the ranch into a place for at risk boys. When he was a teenager, he and his friend Peter made some bad decisions during their rebellious phase. Peter died because of one of those decisions, which sobered Graham right up. Since then he has joined with Peter's father to make the ranch a tribute to Peter. He remains at odds with his own father. Graham was surprised to hear that Sasha was coming back to the ranch, and even more surprised when he saw her. He remembers her as the little girl who used to be a pest, but she's a beautiful woman now. She also has a daughter and is pregnant. Graham is also determined to make a difference to the boys who come to the ranch. I loved seeing how good he was with them, just the right mix of discipline and friendliness. 

I liked Sasha too. She had married a man she thought she loved, even though her uncle didn't like him and said that he wasn't what he seemed. This caused a rift between them, not a total break, but certainly plenty of awkwardness. She hopes that she can mend their relationship while she's there. When she arrived she was surprised to see Graham there. She had had quite the crush on him when she was a teenager, and she discovers that he still has the power to stir her. Her seven year old daughter Maddie also falls under his spell. 

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. They quickly slid back into their old friendship, but this time there was an added zing to it. However, both of them have some relationship insecurities. Graham thinks that there is a good chance that Sasha will end up going back to her husband, so he's reluctant to risk his heart on her. He thinks she still loves him, plus they have the two kids. That doesn't stop him from thinking about the possibilities and wishing they were real. Sasha also has her doubts. She doesn't think that a rich cowboy like Graham could be interested in a single mom like her. A couple of hot kisses have them both thinking toward the future, until a visit from Sasha's soon-to-be-ex occurs. Graham jumps to conclusions about the visit, cutting things off with Sasha in a very confusing (to her) phone call. She jumps to some conclusions of her own, and blows off some steam at him. It takes a determined little girl to get them to actually talk to each other, with the expected happy results.

Through the series there have been two ongoing storylines. The first is the question of whether or not Gerard Robinson is really Jerome Fortune, and whether he'll ever admit it if he is. The previous book had him telling his story to his daughter Zoe, though some of the kids are skeptical. In this book the truth is finally revealed. The second one is the decision by Kate Fortune to look among her relatives for someone to take over as CEO of Fortune Cosmetics. She has been visiting them all, looking for her ideal. She shows up at the ranch to talk to Graham and gets a tour of the ranch. I loved the real interest she showed. At the end of the book she makes her decision and it really is perfectly done.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Colton Cowboy Hideout - Carla Cassidy (HRS #1903 - July 2016)

Series: Coltons of Texas (Book 7)

After years in hiding, Josie Colton has her life back. But to settle a family promise, she must find an old clue buried at the Colton Valley Ranch. She enlists the help of ranch foreman Tanner Grange -- in exchange for working as his twin toddlers' new nanny. On their search, the single dad soon begins to lasso Josie's heart.

Tanner agrees to assist Josie and is alarmed by how the Colton beauty fits so perfectly into his life. He's got his hands full investigating the disappearance of his boss and caring for his little girls. When it's clear someone will kill to stop Josie from uncovering the clue, Tanner vows to protect her…for life!

Good book. At the end of the previous book, A Baby for Agent Colton, Josie's father had asked his kids to find a pocket watch that he had buried on his cousin's property near Dallas. Josie has taken on this project herself, and shows up at Colton Valley Ranch to fulfill her promise. She arrives just in time to discover that his cousin Eldridge has mysteriously disappeared and she's stuck on the ranch while the investigation goes on. Ranch foreman Tanner has been assigned to help her. When his nanny quits without notice, Josie volunteers to take care of his girls while she's there.

I liked Josie. She's had a rough life, but has come out of it pretty well. Her father murdered her mother, so Josie and her six siblings ended up in foster care, but not together. She was moved around some. Then when she was twelve she witnessed a murder, but the killer threatened her family if she told anyone. When she was seventeen she finally had the courage to go to the police, and was put into Witness Protection to save her life. She only left WP a month earlier and has been reconnecting with her family since then. She's been at a bit of a loss about what to do with her life now. She is determined to find the watch and bring closure to that part of her life. She didn't expect to be so drawn to Tanner and his girls.

I liked Tanner, too. Tanner is the single father of twin girls. He is the ranch foreman and really likes his boss, Eldridge Colton, though he's not so fond of the rest of the family. He and his ex-wife had split up right before her death, leaving Tanner with sole custody of his kids. He has no intention of getting involved with anyone, as his last experience wasn't so great. He blames himself for not knowing how unhappy his wife was with the isolated life on a ranch, and thinks that he's unsuited for marriage. He's attracted to Josie, but doesn't want to do anything with it.

I liked the development of their relationship. The attraction is strong from the beginning. One of the things that really draws them together is Josie's care for his daughters. I loved seeing how quickly she connected with them. Besides her attraction to Tanner, Josie loves how wonderful Tanner is with the girls. Each evening after the girls go to bed, Tanner and Josie sit and talk and discover how much they have in common. Josie quickly falls for Tanner, even though she won't be staying. It was interesting to see how quickly she began to daydream of a future with Tanner. As much as she loves her siblings, she really dreams of a family of her own, and starts to see Tanner, Lily and Leigh as that family. When she and Tanner share an explosive kiss, those dreams skyrocket. Tanner is equally drawn to Josie, but is far more resistant. He sees Josie as very young and without the experience yet to know what she really wants. He thinks she would soon regret tying herself to such an isolated life and doesn't want to risk his heart again. 

My heart ached for both, as Josie really put her heart on the line by confessing her feelings. She knows her heart and that her feelings are real, but she can't get Tanner to see it. I wanted to shake Tanner for painting Josie with the same brush as his ex-wife when they are nothing alike. It was heartbreaking to see Tanner reject Josie's feelings, even though he shares them. When the mystery is solved, he lets her go home without saying anything. I loved his big moment at the end, as he finally allows himself to believe in their love.

The book has two separate mysteries running through it. The first is the search for Matthew Colton's watch, which is solved by the end of the book. The second is the disappearance of Eldridge Colton. This one is not solved, and I expect with continue through the rest of the series. Josie had arrived at the ranch fairly confident that she could find it quickly and get home. Unfortunately, when she and Tanner went to the location where it was supposed to be, they were attacked by a man with a gun, who also wants the watch. Tanner insists that Josie not go looking on her own, and that they wait a few days before they try again. A few days later, her room is searched, making them realize that the man isn't going to give up. After Josie has her big confrontation with Tanner, she makes the boneheaded move of looking on her own so that she can leave right away, and gets into trouble with the man with the gun. Tanner arrives to save the day, and Josie's brother Trevor arrives the next morning. Opening the box brings an unexpected surprise, but brings closure to that part of Josie's life.

The ongoing mystery of Eldridge's disappearance will be quite interesting. There are any number of possible suspects, from his kids, stepkids and current wife, to staff members and business rivals. We do get to briefly meet the members of this branch of the Colton family, and I must say that I wasn't impressed. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Baby for Agent Colton - Jennifer Morey (HRS #1900 - June 2016)

Series: Coltons of Texas (Book 6)

Jocelyn Locke can't resist her sexy boss, FBI profiler Trevor Colton. When she winds up pregnant, Trevor insists they get married for the sake of the baby, which has nothing to do with their killer chemistry -- or so she keeps telling herself. But as Jocelyn begins to dream of forever, a sinister slayer haunts her nightmares.

Trevor never bargained on having real feelings for the woman he's tried so hard to resist. Especially when he's so close to having everything he ever wanted -- a perfect family and a murderer behind bars. Yet danger still looms, and he'll do anything to keep the Alphabet Killer away from his bride and baby-to-be -- but he may not have a choice…

Good book. The FBI and its task force are getting closer to catching the Alphabet Killer, thanks to the hard work of people like Trevor and Jocelyn. They now know who the killer is, they just have to find a way to lay hands on her. In the meantime, the attraction between Trevor and Jocelyn continues to simmer until it finally boils over.

Jocelyn has been attracted to Trevor since the moment she met him. She really wants a chance to get to know him better and see if something will come of it. Trevor is determined to keep their dealings professional. He'd already had his heart tromped on by getting involved with a fellow agent, he's not going to go through that again. But when the adrenaline rush from a case hits them hard, they find release in each others' arms. Jocelyn hopes that it's the beginning of a dream come true, but Trevor is backpedaling as fast as he can. The emotions she stirred up are much stronger than he is comfortable with. 

I liked seeing the relationship develop between Trevor and Jocelyn. She is so open and straightforward about what she wants. On the other hand, Trevor is convinced that he doesn't have what it takes for a successful relationship. As the son of a serial killer, who ended up in foster care and has family issues because of it, he hasn't had the example of a good marriage. Jocelyn believes that they are right for each other, but can't convince him. Then she turns up pregnant from that one night together. Trevor insists on marriage, because no child of his is going to grow up in a broken home. But Jocelyn wants love, and is determined to show Trevor that they can have it all.

At the same time, the Alphabet Killer case is heating up. They know who they are looking for, but haven't been able to catch her. Then Jocelyn offers herself up as bait to draw the killer into a trap. Trevor is furious with her for putting herself in danger, but can't deny that the plan is a good one. I loved seeing them pose as husband and wife at the same time they are trying to get used to the idea for real. As they close in on the killer the danger becomes more intense, especially to Jocelyn. The final takedown seemed pretty realistic as their great plan hit several problems along the way, leaving her vulnerable. I loved seeing how Trevor went to his father for insight on where the killer might have taken Joscelyn. It was very intense, but of course everything came out alright. Trevor also had his eyes opened about what he deserves. I loved seeing their wedding and how it compared to their Vegas wedding.

Also running through the book was the ongoing saga of their father, Matthew Colton, serial killer, who is also dying of cancer. He has been coercing his estranged kids into visiting him by offering clues about where he buried their mother. The last clue is Josie's and besides solving the mystery of where their mom is buried, also explains what has been happening to her. I'm looking forward to reading her story, as her life has been a really tough one. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Fighting Dirty - Lori Foster (HQN - Feb 2016)

Series: Ultimate (Book 4)

With the life he's led and the muscles he's gained, Armie Jacobson isn't afraid of anything. Except maybe Merissa Colter's effect on him. It's not just that she's his best friend's little sister. Fact is, she deserves better. Women pursue him for one night of pleasure, and that's all he wants to offer. Until rescuing Merissa from a robbery leads to the most erotic encounter of his life. 

Good girl meets bad boy. It's a story that rarely ends well. But Merissa is taking matters into her own hands. No matter how he views himself, the Armie she knows is brave, honorable and completely loyal. And as past demons and present-day danger collide, they're both about to learn what's truly worth fighting for…

Really good book, my favorite in the series. Armie has been a big part of the previous books and I have been waiting anxiously for his story. It was definitely worth the wait. Armie, Cannon Colter and Merissa Colter have all been friends since high school.  Armie had a horrible home life, but got experience with a good family through his best buddy Cannon. Merissa has been in love with Armie ever since. Armie has been interested in her too, but as his best friend's little sister, she's off limits. He also feels that she's way too good for him.

I loved the interactions between Armie and Merissa. He is determined to keep things in the "friend zone" and she has become equally determined to shake him out of it. Armie has been known for his way with the women, mostly one night stands, and has a pretty wild reputation. It seems that the more he fights his feelings for Merissa, the more he needs the distraction. Merissa does her best to tempt him, but lately has been getting a little discouraged. When Armie helps foil a bank robbery at the bank where Merissa is a manager, his protective instincts go into overdrive. Because he is so intent on hiding his feelings for her, he's shocked when Cannon tasks him with helping her through her reactions, since Merissa doesn't want Cannon hovering. I loved the way she went to him for comfort that evening, and Armie's struggle to do what was right. There's a great scene the next morning involving a magic marker, a workout at the gym, and what happens in the shower. It had me laughing out loud as I read it.

Armie has been content to keep his fight bouts local, but had been getting pressure from Cannon and others to sign on with SBC. He finally agrees, but then starts to worry. He has some trouble in the past that he's afraid is going to get resurrected because of his growing popularity.  Much of what he has experienced in the past has made him who he is today. I loved seeing how good he was with the kids at the rec center, and the interest that he took in Bray. He truly believes that his past makes him completely unworthy of Merissa.

Merissa has always been part of the group of fighters at the rec center. She is comfortable with them and they are all great friends. I've enjoyed seeing her friendships with the women who have claimed the other fighters.  There's a hysterical scene where the ladies go shopping at a particular store and find their men waiting for them when they come out.  

I loved the development of their relationship. When Armie finally gives in to Merissa's pursuit, he's stunned by the strength of their connection. He's also worried about what her reaction will be to the trouble in his past. I was very happy with his decision to tell her, and loved his reaction to her response. I was a bit disappointed by his desire to keep their relationship secret, though he did have his reasons. It was also fun to see all his worry about Cannon's reaction and what that reaction really was. Merissa was so happy when they finally got together that I couldn't help but smile for her. Because she's already familiar with the fight world, she is able to fit easily into his life. She wasn't happy about keeping their relationship quiet, but was hopeful that he would relent soon. She is very independent, so it was hard for her to let him protect her and worry about her. Armie becomes convinced that she's in danger because of him and tries to pull away to protect her. Merissa has an unusual reaction and I liked seeing how they dealt with it.  When it's all over, their relationship is stronger. I loved their big moments at the end, and how it was Merissa with the last word.

There was a suspenseful edge to the book as there were two negative things going on. With Armie's increased visibility, the trouble in his past is coming out, and he has to find a way to deal with it.  Merissa is also having problems with an ex-boyfriend who isn't happy that he's been cut loose. He goes all stalkerish, going overboard and dangerous in his attempts to get her back. I liked how everyone comes together to help protect her. When his attempts get out of control, it's Armie and company who save her in an intense and satisfying scene.

As always, there is plenty of involvement of characters from previous books. Cannon, Denver and Stack all had their parts to play. The relationship among all the guys is always fun to watch, with their teasing and testing, but they are always there for each other when needed. There was also involvement of Detectives Baredon and Riske, and Rowdy from the previous series. Earlier characters from SBC books were part of Armie's new team. There was also the introduction and tease for the next series of books, starring Leese and his friends. Can't wait!