Thursday, August 17, 2017

Christmas on Crimson Mountain - Michelle Major (HSE #2520 - Dec 2016)

Series: Crimson Colorado (Book 7)


Peace and quiet -- that's all Connor Pierce wanted from the rented cabin on Crimson Mountain. Yet the caretaker turned out to be lovely April Sanders -- a total distraction. As were the two little girls she was caring for. Connor's plan to forget his painful past soon detoured into giving the ladies a Christmas to remember.

Being named guardian of two motherless girls has upended April's world. Add to the mix a mysterious, brooding writer claiming he wanted to be left alone while going out of his way to bring a little joy to the girls, and she has quite the quandary. April had counted herself out of a happy ending. But maybe Santa still had a few surprises up his merry old sleeve…

Fantastic story of loss, love, and healing. Connor, April, Shay, and Ranie have all been beaten down by life. Connor, who suffers from writer's block ever since the tragic deaths of his wife and son, has come to Crimson Mountain for the peace and quiet he feels he needs to finish his book. April is the caretaker of the cabin where he is staying and is tasked with providing his meals and whatever else he needs. She has also recently lost a good friend to cancer and is caring for that friend's two little girls. Twelve-year-old Ranie and five-year-old Shay are dealing with the loss of their mother and the uncertainty of their future.

The pain is evident from the beginning. April is on her way to her cabin with the girls. A breast cancer survivor herself, she is reeling from the loss of her friend and her fear of caring for the two girls. How can she commit to raising them when she can't be sure she won't get sick again? Both girls are suffering from the loss of their mother, though little Shay seems to be handling it well. Ranie, on the other hand, is snarky and sullen and determined to be as contrary as possible. When they arrive on the mountain, April discovers that Connor has gotten there first. To say that he isn't happy when he sees the girls is putting it mildly. Connor comes across as a veritable Scrooge, wanting the girls gone, and only reluctantly agreeing to their staying if they stay quiet and don't disturb him.

I hurt for Connor. He had lost his wife and young son in a car accident several years earlier. He blames himself for their deaths and has shut himself off from the world because of it. Just hearing Shay's laughter brings all that pain to the surface and he lashes out at April because of it. I loved that April stood up to him and forced him to see that he was unreasonable.

I ached for April, too. She comes across as having her life all put together. She's organized, friendly, warm and caring. She has made a place for herself in Crimson, and yet she holds a part of herself away from everyone. Her past has shown her that it hurts to care too much. The one person who should have stood by her, her husband, instead walked away in the middle of her treatment, unable to deal with her disease and its consequences. She's afraid that if she gets sick again, the next person to walk away will destroy her.

I loved the development of their relationship. April's innate kindness and compassion have her wanting to help Connor see that withdrawing from the world is not the way to honor his family. I loved seeing her and the girls slowly draw him out of his shell. It isn't easy on him, and his occasional panic attacks are believable and understandable, as the emotions he has buried for so long begin to reappear. There is also an unexpected attraction that flares between them. Connor is a bit freaked out by the depth of his need for April, as he still considers himself too broken, but he accepts April's declaration of "it's right for right now." In spite of his feeling broken, there's a tremendous amount of sensitivity in him. I loved how he showed April that she is beautiful even with the outward scars of her disease. Over the next few days and their stolen moments together, the feelings for each other deepen, but neither is ready to believe in a future.

Part of their growing relationship is the way they work together to make Christmas special for Shay and Ranie. Connor's initial antagonism is breached by the adorable Shay, who refuses to let his grumpiness keep her down. He is also drawn to the sulky Ranie, whose grief is so like his own. The two of them bond over an ice skating lesson. Connor fights it at first, but both girls wiggle under his defenses. I love his gentleness with Shay and his way of teasing Ranie. April is awed by his ability to help them and saddened by his refusal to believe that he can love again. April fights her own fears regarding the girls. She knows their mother wanted her to raise them, but she thinks that she is unfit to do so. She has come to love them and isn't looking forward to giving them to their aunt. As Connor and April accuse each other of being unwilling to risk their hearts again, a crisis with Shay causes a ceasefire. I loved that April finally saw the truth of her feelings for both Connor and the girls and that she embraced what needed to be done. I ached for both her and Connor as his fears sent him running. I loved his return and seeing him finally open his heart completely. The little bit with the pinecone figure was especially sweet. The epilogue was a wonderful opportunity to see how much life had changed for all four of them.

*copy received in exchange for honest review

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Fair Princess - Vanessa Kelly (Zebra - Sept 2016)

Series: Improper Princesses (Book 1)

Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.

Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?

Fun book. Gillian is the illegitimate daughter of one of the princes. She was raised in Sicily by her mother and stepfather on the fringes of society. After participating in a dangerous bout of revenge that puts her life at risk, her mother and grandmother decide it's time to go home to England and find her a husband. Before they can do that, they need to find a way to smooth her rough edges. Enter Charles, Duke of Leverton and paragon of virtue. Much to his dismay, he is enlisted to provide the transformation.

I liked Gillian. She has dealt with the scornful attitudes of others all her life. Outwardly she doesn't care what they say about her, but she is very protective of her mother. It hurts and angers Gillian to see the effect the gossip has on her. She is outspoken and blunt, but never intentionally mean. She is a bit naïve in her belief that her actions in Sicily won't have long term repercussions and that she can eventually return there. She is stubborn, certain that her way of doing things is the best way for her. She can be sweet and charming when she wants to be. She also has a definite idea of what is right or wrong and feels that it is up to her to fix those things that are wrong. This can and does get her into trouble.

I liked Charles, too. At the beginning, he comes across as quite stuffy and rigid, but it doesn't take long for that to go away. His issues with his father and a love affair gone wrong have turned him into a man with the reputation of always doing the right thing. He's also well known for his unshakeable composure under any circumstances. Gillian's grandmother uses that reputation and family connection to recruit him to provide the polish that Gillian needs.

I loved the development of their relationship. Gillian challenged Charles and his composure from the very beginning. He is horrified by her outspokenness and lack of feminine accomplishments. He is used to people doing what he says and is confounded by Gillian's resistance to his instructions. I loved seeing them butt heads as he tried to bend her to his will and she refused to give in. As much as she fights him, Gillian admits to herself that she may have met her match in stubbornness. The more time they spend together, the more they are drawn to each other, which confuses them both. Gillian is not the type of woman he had seen himself with as a wife, but her honesty, character, and liveliness grow on him. In spite of her frequent success in irritating him, Gillian finds that his opinion of her matters more than she thought it would. When a public confrontation with a gentleman at a ball results in some very bad gossip, Charles whisks Gillian into the country while the furor has a chance to die down. Away from the stresses of the Season, Charles and Gillian can relax a little and get to know each other and begin to understand what makes each other tick. As Charles learned more of Gillian's background his admiration for her resilience grew. As the attraction between them grew, so did their feelings for each other. I loved Charles's confusion as all his beliefs in what he wanted in a wife went out the window, but he's still trying to protect his heart. Gillian worries about her feelings for Charles because she can't believe that a woman with her background would be an acceptable match for him and fully expects to get her heart broken. I loved when they gave in to their attraction. Gillian surprises him once again in a scene that is sweet, hot and romantic and Charles comes through in an awesome way when she shares a big fear with him. There are still some fireworks to come as Gillian and Charles try to work out their future. An encounter with smugglers brings some clarity to them both as they realize what is truly important. I loved his big moment at the end when he told her how he felt.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

One Night with a SEAL - Tawny Weber, Beth Andrews (HB #943 - June 2017)

Series: Uniformly Hot (Book 71)

All Out by Tawny Weber

Navy SEAL Zane Bennett can't walk away from a challenge. He's determined to win a bet with his brother -- until he collides with the luscious Vivian Harris. Their attraction is immediate and searingly hot, but Zane can't bring himself to bow out of the bet. Now the game is really on…and Zane is embroiled in a wicked matchup he can't resist!

Good story. The book opens with Zane getting ready to head home for his ten-year high school reunion. He's doing some last minute training and pondering the fact that he works best when he's competing with someone else. He admits he doesn't like to lose, though losing to a fellow SEAL is bearable. One of his greatest competitors has always been his twin brother, Xander, who is also a SEAL working on the east coast.

Once back in his home town and hanging out with Xander and their high school buddies, talk turns to old times. Zane and Xander both have reputations for engaging in outrageous dares. One of their friends challenges them to win a date with Quinn Oswald, their high school princess, for the reunion dance. Zane can't turn down a challenge, even though he suspects that his brother has more interest in the lady than he does. Zane gets distracted from his goal when he meets Vivian. The attraction between them is immediate and explosive. Though he doesn't know it at first, Vivian is the little sister of one of his friends and has had a crush on him for years. Vivian has been working in the family bakery but has dreams of branching out on her own with her naughty treats. She gets no support for her dreams from her family and is hesitant to step outside her comfort zone and commit fully to those dreams.

Zane and Vivian settle into a hot and heavy fling that they don't expect anything to come of other than a few days of fun. Both are surprised to discover that they have more than just chemistry in common. Zane is a bit freaked out by the way that he suddenly realizes that what he feels for Vivian means more than winning a silly dare. Vivian wonders if her feelings for Zane will give her the courage she needs to take the chance of a lifetime. And what will happen when Vivian finds out about the challenge? I loved the scene between Vivian and her brother when he found her and Zane together. I also liked seeing Vivian stand up to Zane about the challenge and what she did about it. The scene at the reunion dance was pretty awesome.

All In by Beth Andrews

Of the Bad Boy Bennett twins, Navy SEAL Xander is always the gentleman. That is until he's challenged to go against his brother for a date with Quinn Oswald -- the girl Xander's wanted since high school! It takes only one kiss for Quinn and Xander's deliciously sexy chemistry to explode. But how much is Xander willing to gamble…before he goes all in?

Sweet and spicy second chance story. Xander is the quieter one of the twins. He just rolls his eyes at the latest challenge from his high school buddies, until the subject of the challenge becomes Quinn. All through high school he had crushed on her but had never tried to pursue her. The thought of losing her to his brother is unbearable and provides the kick in the pants he needs to go after her. Quinn has come back to town after her divorce to get her life back together. Her marriage had done a number on her confidence and her ability to trust.

I loved the start of their relationship. Xander is quite the gentleman and insists on escorting Quinn home after her shift at the bar. He's a bit awkward about it and sticks his foot in his mouth a couple of times, but eventually, convinces her to let him. Quinn really wants to refuse. She is intensely attracted to him but doesn't want to be. The sparks are flying between them, but Xander's scruples won't let him follow through when he senses that she isn't really ready. I loved seeing him show up the next day with a bolt for her door and a plant to teach her self-defense.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship as the attraction between them takes off and is enhanced by the way that they spend time getting to know each other. I especially liked Xander's opinion of her ex and the way that he was determined to show her how strong she is. Quinn realizes that she is falling for him and that against her common sense she has come to trust him. Xander is surprised by the way that he is looking past the reunion and staying in touch with Quinn. When she finds out about the challenge, she is hurt and furious at what she sees as his betrayal. Their confrontation exposes some deep vulnerabilities that both need to face. I loved Quinn's big moment at the reunion and seeing her take a chance on her happiness.

In both stories, I really liked the relationship between Zane and Xander. They are competitive with each other and have typical sibling interactions. But they are also always there for each other. I liked how Zane sensed that Xander was more interested in Quinn than was conveyed to their buddies. I also loved the scene where they were wrestling with each other and then their nephews, before Xander said something really stupid to their sisters. It made me laugh to see two big strong SEALs running scared from her.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Soldier's Seduction - Jane Godman (HRS #1954 - July 2017)

Series: Sons of Stillwater (Book 2)

From the front lines to unexpected romance -- and danger -- in small-town Wyoming

After a war zone bomb nearly destroyed Bryce Delaney, he's worked hard to hide his scars. Back in his Wyoming hometown, he can pretend the nightmares don't exist. But when a secretive, beautiful new woman in town disappears, Bryce's protective instincts put him on the front lines again.

Wanted for murder and on the run under an alias, former A-list actress Steffi Grantham can't return to her life until she clears her name. It's her boss, Bryce, to the rescue, but desire ties them together, and she's forced to make a choice that could cost them both. Trusting the wrong man once before almost stole her freedom. Now it might take her life.

Good book. Bryce has returned from the war a changed man. He still goes to work each day and does his job, but he's haunted by the things that happened. When one of his new employees blows off another meeting, he's had enough. Steffi has challenged him from day one, but it's that odd connection that has been helping him get through each day. When he arrives at her home to fire her, he discovers her weak and sick instead of purposely defying him. His inner protector is stirred, and he stays to take care of her and is there when someone attempts to kidnap her.

Steffi is more than just Bryce's newest driver. She is a famous Hollywood actress who is wanted for questioning in a murder investigation and is hiding out in Wyoming while she tries to figure out how to clear her name. She is wary of trusting anyone, least of all her boss. But she can't deny that he was there for her when she needed him most.

This book was a good mix of action and romance from the beginning. There is a definite connection between Bryce and Steffi, an attraction that simmers beneath the antagonism. When Bryce finds her and cares for her while she's sick, she has an unexpected feeling of safety with him. There's also something about her that won't let Bryce walk away from helping her. Things get very intense, very fast, when Steffi and Bryce are attacked and kidnapped. Steffi has discovered a connection between the murder she is wanted for and the murder of her parents. The man responsible desperately wants to get his hands on her.

It was an intense time as Bryce and Steffi play cat and mouse with the murderer. A brief encounter as they are captured reveals what the man wants before they can make their escape. Their attempts to find the proof they need have them barely one step ahead of the bad guy in several heart-stopping close encounters. Each new piece of information strengthens their knowledge of what they have to do. The final confrontation is beautifully planned and executed with the help of Bryce's brothers, though there are a couple of unexpected twists.

I enjoyed the development of Bryce and Steffi's relationship. The attraction is strong and pulls hard at them both, though each has reason to resist. Bryce's war related issues have him avoiding any kind of emotional entanglements. He limits himself to brief no-strings affairs, cutting ties when anyone seems to get too close. For Steffi, witnessing the deaths of her parents, then Greg has reduced her already limited ability to trust to nothing. I liked how the situations they found themselves in drew them closer together and encouraged them to share their fears. I especially liked Bryce's patience as Steffi learned that she could believe in him. Bryce's willingness to finally share what happened to him went a long way to getting him to see the possibility of a future with Steffi. The scene in the hospital, post confrontation, was romantic with just enough amusement to make it perfect. I liked the ending, and how, though love was declared quickly, they still took the time to get to know each other better. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Risky Engagement - Merline Lovelace (SRS #1613 - June 2010)

Series: Code Name: Danger (Book 15)

Secret Service Agent: Rafe Blackstone

Codename: Wolf

Mission: Prevent breaches in U.S. government security by any means necessary. Bring down Sebastian Cordell, international thief suspected of selling top-secret technology to the highest bidder.

Method: Zero in on target in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico -- and persuade sexy, brilliant medical researcher Dr. Nina Grant to help secure his undercover her fiancé.

Obstacle: It's too easy to be "engaged" to Nina. Despite the dangerous circumstances of their alliance, the peril excites her. The intrigue is powerful -- the attraction sizzling between them, unstoppable. In the end he must choose: keep Nina safe by walking out of her life, or be her only protector...forever.

Good entry in the Code Name: Danger series. Rafe is on the trail of an international thief with some stolen information when he encounters Dr. Nina Grant. Nina is on a forced vacation after her staff threatened to mutiny if she didn't take some time off. She meets Sebastian Cordell when her car breaks down, and Rafe is quick to use that chance meeting for his own purposes.

The book starts with a tension filled scene and the intensity never really lets up throughout the entire book. We are dropped right in the middle of the op, as Rafe and company are watching Cordell. He is suspicious of Nina's arrival on the scene even after it appears to check out as innocent. Thanks to who she is and what she does, he feels that she would be the perfect accomplice to help him get closer to Cordell.

I liked the initial meeting between Rafe and Nina. There are sparks between them from the beginning, and Nina briefly contemplates the idea of a vacation fling. That is until Rafe blackmails her into helping him with his mission. Though it makes her angry, it doesn't do much to reduce the attraction. Once she hears the reasons that Rafe needs her help, she is all-in for doing whatever she can, including having Rafe pose as her former fiancé.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Rafe is a loner who has avoided ties and entanglements throughout his career. He is attracted to Nina more than any other woman he's known. He knows he should keep it professional, but his body and heart have other ideas. When the need arises to make their relationship look even more genuine, he has no trouble doing so. He is surprised by the depth of the protectiveness he feels for her, and the way his mind and heart tell him he wants to keep her in his life. Nina is drawn to the strong and sexy Rafe, but wary also. She recently ended her engagement when she discovered her fiancé stealing proprietary information from her computer. She's not sure how much to trust Rafe or her growing feelings for him. But the intensity of their situation and the danger they are in makes them realize just what they have. It was pretty sweet to see the tough guy have a little trouble expressing his feelings at the end, but he did manage quite nicely.

The suspense of the story was good. Rafe needed to find Cordell and stop him before he could sell the information to the highest bidder. Cordell is smart and slippery which is why he hasn't yet been caught. His interest in Nina was because of her business and what he could do with it. Rafe's determination to succeed caused him to go a little overboard in his methods of recruiting Nina, but she eventually understood why he did it. I was impressed with the way that Nina handled herself throughout the whole thing. Though she started out unwillingly, by the end, she was quite coolheaded. The danger to Nina increased as the sale time grew closer. The final confrontation was very intense. I loved that it was Nina who figured out where the disc was and saved the day.

Million Dollar Cowboy - Lori Wilde (Avon - Apr 2017)

Series: Cupid Texas (Book 5)

The illegitimate son of a Texas ranching dynasty, Ridge Lockhart left home ten years ago with one goal: to become more successful than the father who never accepted him.

Mission accomplished, but now he’s back at the Silver Feather Ranch for a wedding -- three days of best man duty until he can hightail it out. Then he spies Kaia Alzate, and suddenly leaving isn’t quite so appealing.

Kaia Alzate grew up the daughter of the ranch foreman, servants to the mighty Lockharts in the mansion. Back then, she followed Ridge around like a puppy. Now, she’s fighting the attraction she feels for this sexy CEO. She’s determined not to make a big mistake -- but when Ridge takes her in his arms she’s stunned…could he be the man she’s waited for all along?

Very good book. Ridge is back in Texas after ten years away, but only because he promised his best friend that he would be there for his wedding. He plans to stay for the bare minimum of time required before leaving again. But those plans become a little less urgent when he sees Kaia again. Kaia, who is his best friend's bratty little sister, is all grown up and very intriguing.

I loved both Ridge and Kaia. Ridge tugged at my heart from the beginning, when his mother left him on his father's doorstep at the age of three. His father was a cold, hard man and his wife was even worse. Ridge never felt loved, or even wanted by his father, no matter what he did to try to win his approval. Ridge left home after college when he arrived at his new house to find his girlfriend in bed with his father. He has spent his time since then working nonstop, determined to become richer and more important than his old man. He has succeeded in that ambition, but he is also alone. He doesn't trust easily, and he never allows himself to get emotionally involved with anyone. He is stunned by his reaction to seeing Kaia again, and not quite sure how to deal with it.

Kaia is six years younger than Ridge and as a child used to tag along behind her brother Archer and Ridge. Ridge used to call her "Braterminator" because she was such a pest. She didn't care because she was never happier than when she was with them, and as she got older, she developed quite the crush on him. When he left, she was devastated and buried herself in her studies and her work. Then she was involved in an accident that nearly killed her and made the decision to embrace life. Now she looks on the brighter side of things and does what makes her happy. She believes that she has gotten over her feelings for Ridge until she sees him again.

I loved the development of their relationship. The sparks fly hot and hard from the start, though both try to resist at first. After all, he's only going to be in town for three days, and she doesn't want the heartbreak. And she's his best friend's little sister, definitely a no-no. But they've also been friends for a long time. When Ridge is injured, Kaia is the one who takes care of him, and their connection is reestablished. I loved the banter between them, as Kaia stands up to his attempts to resist her treatment. It doesn't take too long for them to give in to the heat between them. It is much more intense than either of them expects, and Ridge especially doesn't quite know how to deal with it. Kaia is very familiar with the reasons he left Cupid and feels that he has allowed those reasons far too much influence over his life. I loved watching her try to teach him how to let go and live a little.

Ridge really struggles with his feelings toward his father. Their relationship is strained at best and antagonistic at worst. Their confrontations are intense and painful. But when Duke has a heart attack, Ridge steps up to do what needs to be done. He learns some unexpected things about himself, but stubborn resistance keeps him from believing that there is anything lasting possible between Kaia and himself. Kaia accepts her feelings for Ridge much more quickly but has her family's traditional indicator to fall back on to convince her. The "Song of the Soul Mate" is something she didn't believe in until it happened to her. I ached for Kaia as Ridge pushed her away when she opened up about her feelings. I loved her courage in standing up for herself and telling Ridge her expectations. It takes Ridge a little longer, but when he finally sees the truth, he is all in. I loved his big moment at the end and the vulnerability that is evident under the confidence. I loved the actions he took that showed what a changed man he was.

I also liked seeing the importance of family. Kaia's is obviously strong and supportive. I loved her sisters. Their teasing was fantastic, but they are also there when someone needs help. I would love to see each of them get their own story. Ridge's family was quite interesting. No matter what he did, Ridge always felt that he was an outsider. We didn't see much of his brothers, but the feeling was always that they were in Ridge's corner. His relationship with his father and stepmother/ex was definitely complicated and it was interesting to see how it worked out.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stranded with the Secret Billionaire - Marion Lennox (HR #4563 - Apr 2017)

Rescued by a brooding stranger…

Jilted heiress Penny Hindmarsh-Firth sets her broken heart on escaping high-society city life. Instead, she's trapped by floods in the Outback and a handsome stranger on horseback comes to her rescue!

After a betrayal shattered his life, Matt Fraser withdrew from the world -- but he can't deny Penny a refuge. The secret billionaire is reluctantly intrigued as the society princess starts proving there's more to her than meets the eye…

Fantastic book. Penny is on the way to a new job in the Outback, escaping the heartbreak and notoriety of her broken engagement when she gets stranded by rising floodwaters. She's rescued by Matt, a sheep farmer out checking his land. He sees a blond woman with a pink car and a poodle, stuck in the stream and immediately writes her off as a ditz, but can't just leave her there. He reluctantly invites her to stay with him until the flood waters recede.

I loved their first meeting. Penny is trying to remember that she is a strong woman who doesn't need a man in her life ("I am woman. Hear me roar."), but reluctantly admits that she needs help getting out of her present predicament. Matt's mind is on the fact that he has twenty shearers ready to start work and the cook he's hired is on the wrong side of the flood. He's brusque but amused at Penny's bravado and figures he can handle a couple of weeks of company. After all, he'll be busy with the shearers and won't see much of her. When she offers to help with the cooking, he doesn't expect much from a society princess, but he'll take what he can get.

That first day was a real eye opener for Penny. Her initial offering was pitifully inadequate, and Matt's reaction was a blow to her feelings. But it was also a boot to her pride, and a challenge she couldn't resist. I loved seeing her go from slightly cowed to Iron Chef in a heartbeat. Her no nonsense instructions to Matt and the speed with which she was able to improvise was amazing. By the end of the day, Matt realized just how much he had underestimated Penny.

I loved seeing the development of their relationship. Over the next ten days, they got to know each other pretty well and formed a solid friendship. Though their days were busy, in the evenings they talked. I loved how Penny was able to share what her life had been like, the good and the bad, and begin to overcome the humiliation she had felt. Matt was more closed off at the beginning. His difficult childhood and then the disintegration of his marriage had destroyed his trust in people. I liked how Penny's willingness to share her story helped him to open up about his. By the end of the shearing time, each of them has realized that there is something more growing between them. I liked how Matt asks Penny to stay longer, using the excuse of needing help to get the house ready for a possible visit from his daughter. The attraction that has been building between them comes to the surface, and they agree to see where it takes them. But when Matt learns that his daughter will be visiting much sooner than expected, both his and Penny's fears return. Penny leaves to go back to Sydney, feeling rejected all over again.

Penny's return isn't all bad. Her time with Matt has given her the confidence to stand up to her father. I loved seeing her take this time to pursue her own dreams. She misses Matt and still hurts over the way they parted. She is in for a surprise when Matt arrives at her home in time for the dreaded family dinner. This scene is so emotional, as Penny fights her desire to lean on him and accept his help, yet has trouble trusting that he doesn't have some motive of his own. His patience and kindness, along with a bit of amusing deception were a joy to witness. He continued his gentle assault on Penny's fears the next day, as he also requests her help with his daughter Lily. But the real icing on the cake was when he and Lily arrived to take Penny and her mother to the wedding. I loved how perfect they all were together and the effect it had on Penny. Matt wasn't finished, though, and I loved the plans he had made with Lily's help and collusion. His big moment there was sweet and romantic exactly what Penny needed to push her over the edge of her fears. There was a final perfect moment on the last few pages that cemented how right they were for each other.

I loved the author's descriptions of life on the sheep farm. I could almost hear the sheep bleating and smell the atmosphere around the sheds. The rigors of shearing and the effort it takes day after day made a vivid picture. I also loved the amazing beauty and peace of the waterfall and pool, which reminded me of places I had visited in Hawaii. It has intensified my desire to visit Australia someday.