Thursday, February 23, 2017

A SEAL Forever - Anne Elizabeth (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Dec 2015)

Series: West Coast Navy SEALs (Book 3)

Even a hero needs someone to believe in him...

Parkour instructor Maura Maxwell has always denied her attraction for her bachelor neighbor because she's seen his revolving door of women and doesn't want to become another notch on his belt. But the man who rescues her from a sudden storm isn't the one she thinks she knows-he's Master Chief Declan Swifton of SEAL Team Five, and he literally sweeps Maura off her feet.

Just as his teasing and tenderness start to work their way into Maura's heart, Declan and his team are called in for a dangerous op in the Middle East. The man who returns is facing the toughest fight of his life, and he needs Maura by his side more than ever...

Very good book. Maura and Declan are neighbors who share a balcony in their apartment building. Maura is attracted to Declan, but too shy to do anything about it, especially seeing the variety of beautiful women who pass through his apartment. Declan is a Navy SEAL who makes no secret of his avoidance of committing to any one woman. His job makes relationships difficult, and a SEAL is all he's ever wanted to be. When Declan rescues her from a stormy dip in the ocean, it's the impetus she needs to go after what she wants.

I really liked Maura. She may be shy around Declan, but when it comes to the rest of her life, she's a hard charger. As a gymnast, she lost her Olympic dream when she was involved in a car accident. Now she teaches parkour and gymnastics and dreams of owning her own gym - a dream that is about to come true. She's also a woman with a big heart, which shows in the way she cares for the kids and families who use her gym. I loved how her brush with death motivated her to overcome her shyness with Declan. She is also a woman with incredible inner strength. She used that strength to beat her injuries, and she used it again to help Declan.

Declan was great. He is a SEAL with a lot of years in the teams. What he does is a huge part of who he is. He has a great relationship with his Team brothers, and I loved the scenes of them together. Though I was a bit mad at Declan  that first night after he rescued Maura, when he followed through on his plans with another woman, that didn't last long. Once he really got to know Maura, that was it for him. Declan is a big, strong guy of course, but is also pretty sensitive. He has good insights into what makes people tick and has a talent for bringing out the best in them.

I loved the development of their relationship. Their first date, where she asked him out to say thank you for saving her, was really unexpected. I loved how it turned out, and it was a good indicator of how their relationship would go. Over the course of several weeks, Declan realized that there was something different about the way he felt for Maura. Instead of being bored after a few dates, there was always something new to be learned about her, or to do with her. This had never happened to him before and had him believing that there might be a future for them together. Maura feels the same about him, but she has a few doubts. She worries that she isn't enough, and an encounter with an old girlfriend of his has her questioning their relationship. She pulls away, and by the time she sees the light, he's been called away on a mission.

The description of the mission and its aftermath are very well done. During the whole thing I felt as though I was there. Declan's injuries were life-threatening and I ached for him when he found out just how bad they were. His own inner strength and determination came out as he knew he had choices in how he dealt with them. I ached for his fear that he would lose his work with the SEALs because of them. I was also a bit mad that he never contacted Maura the whole time he was in the hospital, though I sort of understood his reasoning. I loved how the closeness of the SEAL family was shown in the support that he got while in the hospital.

Declan was worried about how Maura would react when she saw him. I was a little surprised at how smoothly that went as I would have expected at least some anger over the long silence. Most likely because of her own injuries, Maura is very accepting of his. But she's also no pushover, and doesn't let him wallow in his fears for long. I loved her gentle butt-kicking, and the effect it had on him. Their progress together, as Declan learns to cope with his new reality, strengthened their relationship. I also loved how her push also got him looking at a new direction in his life with the SEALs. I loved Declan's big moment at the end, and the epilogue was a nice addition.

I loved all the interactions with Declan's Teammates, both his and Maura's. The closeness of the brotherhood really came out in the post-injury support. I loved that there was no pity, only the effort to make things as normal as possible. From adapting his motorcycle to being his support team for the triathlon, they were there for him. I also loved their acceptance of Maura, especially during his emergency surgery. I would love to see Leaper get his own story.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Christmas Getaway - Anne Stuart, Tina Leonard, Marion Lennox (HQN - Nov 2008)

Claus and Effect by Anne Stuart

Take Eloise. First she's kidnapped by Santa, and now she's camping out in an abandoned lighthouse with the most infuriatingly intoxicating cop she's ever met. Is she sleeping with the enemy or the man destined to make her Mrs. Claus?

This is a three part book, with each part written by a different author. In the first, Ellie is in a bridal shop, wearing a butt ugly dress belonging to her fiancé, and having second thoughts. Next thing she knows, the shop has been evacuated and she's been kidnapped by a Santa with a gun. James is a cop who has been set up to take the fall for murder and a jewel heist. He thinks Ellie may have some information he needs, but instead she ends up saving his life.

This was face-paced from the first page, with only a short time to tell the story. I loved that Ellie doesn't panic when James takes her hostage, but instead gives as good as she gets. Once he gets away, he doesn't want to keep her, but now that she knows he's hurt, she refuses to be turned loose. Between taking care of him and dodging the dirty cops who are after them, they also try to fight the attraction that's sparking. I loved the back and forth snark at the beginning and how it turns to real conversation as they travel. By the time they reach their destination and hole up waiting for their chance to talk to James's friend, the blaze is too much to ignore. The ending is exciting and funny, as both Ellie and James realize their feelings. Loved James's uncle and his suggestions.

Caught at Christmas by Tina Leonard

Meanwhile Jean is abducted to a remote ranch, stuck teaching a handsome Texas Ranger how to enjoy a little sensual Christmas cheer.

Jean is the maid of honor for her best friend at a society wedding. She's trying to figure out how to tell Molly that her groom is a no-show when the shooting starts. She's immediately grabbed and rushed away by Sam, a Texas Ranger who is also Molly's brother. It seems that Jean overheard something she shouldn't have, and the dirty cop groom and his cohorts feel he has to take her out. Sam is determined to protect her, and Jean just wants to get home for Christmas with her family.

Jean has trouble believing that someone actually wants to kill her until Sam makes her see the truth. He takes her to his ranch for safekeeping. Sam is pretty much a loner except for his sister, but something about Jean has him acting out of character. Jean is a cheerful, look at the bright side librarian, and finds herself irresistibly drawn to Sam. I liked seeing her start to break through his self-protective walls by bringing some Christmas cheer to his ranch. It was also fun to see her talk him into taking her home for Christmas, even though it went against his better judgment. This was proven out when they were attacked on the drive and escaped thanks to a Santa like truck driver. The attraction between them really starts to burn hot, but Sam is intent on protecting and trying to resist the sparks. Jean really wants a chance to explore the feelings. I loved the scene at her parents' house when he sneaks in during the night and disappears by morning, only to return with the news that he has to get her away again. He fumbles through that explanation and his real intentions in a totally adorable way.

Candy Canes and Crossfire by Marion Lennox

And Molly? Her nuptials are shot up and her fiancé's a no-show, but when she arrives at a supposedly private Australian hideaway to recoup, she's not alone and the heat is enough to melt the mere memory of a white Christmas.

In the final section of the book we have the bride, Molly. She's ready to go through with the wedding, but the groom isn't there. Instead, there is gunfire and a hunky good Samaritan who tosses her out of the line of fire. Once all the excitement is over, she just wants to get away, so she heads off to an Australian hideaway - only to find it's already occupied.

Joe is an Aussie who came to the States to see his orphaned nieces and nephew, attendants at a wedding. After the trauma that occurred at the wedding, he takes them back to Australia to their parents' beach house. Joe is a bachelor uncle who has absolutely no idea what to do with the kids. He's relieved by Molly's arrival and hopes that she'll stick around and help.

Both Joe and Molly are commitment-phobic people. Molly's marriage was going to be one of partnership, not love, and she's now questioning her judgment in getting involved with him at all. Added to a dysfunctional family and childhood and a tragedy as a teen, she's not looking for any kind of involvement for her future. Joe grew up in foster care, without much experience of love (except for one foster mother). His closest relationship was with a foster sister (Ellie, from the first story). He knows that he's all that the kids have and is really afraid that he'll screw things up.

I loved Molly's arrival at the house. The kids are thrilled, Joe is relieved, and Molly just wants to hide. But she can't refuse to help the kids. The only fly in the ointment is the attraction to Joe, and his obvious interest in her. She doesn't want to open herself up to that kind of pain again. Joe was great. I felt bad for him being so overwhelmed by trying to take care of the kids. He wanted to make them happy, but he was clueless. He hadn't been able to forget Molly, and having her show up at the house was like a dream come true. I felt that he turned out to be a pretty sensitive guy, comforting her when she needed it and backing off when she seemed overwhelmed. It was sweet to see him realize that he was actually falling for her.

There was some intense excitement at the very end when the bad guy showed up, forcing Molly, Joe and the kids to run into the woods. While the actual capture was rather anti-climactic, I loved the ending with all three couples coming together. Fun scene with foster mother Ruby also.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Scene of the Crime: Means and Motive - Carla Cassidy (HI #1673 - Nov 2016)

Series: Scene of the Crime (Book 13)

Gabriel Walters didn't need some know-it-all FBI agent charging in on his territory. But Jordon James wasn't about to let some local police chief derail her, not with three unsolved murders over at the Diamond Cove B and B. If she just immersed herself in the investigation, she could avoid the troubles she'd left back home…and run head-on into some new ones with Gabriel. He didn't want to discover a fourth victim, which, if the note slid under Jordon's bedroom door was to be believed, would be her. Now it will take their full cooperation to catch a killer -- before he strikes again.

Good book. There have been three murders at the Diamond Cove B&B and police chief Gabriel Walters is at a dead end in his investigation. Enter Jordon James, an FBI agent with an excellent track record. He isn't thrilled about have the Feds involved, but he wants the murderer caught. Jordon is used to getting attitude from local law enforcement, but she won't let it stop her from doing her job. Neither one expects the sparks that flare up between them.

I really liked both Gabriel and Jordon. She is a kick butt agent, very good at what she does. She also tends to be a loner, preferring to work by herself rather than with a partner. This got her into trouble a year earlier when she nearly became the next victim of a serial killer. She's sure that her boss has sent her on this job just because she'll have to work with the police chief. Her first impression of him is that he's intense and uptight, but also very sexy.

Gabriel had come to Branson from Chicago, looking for a job that wasn't quite so intense. He's frustrated by the lack of progress in this case. He'll do whatever necessary, even work with the FBI agent the mayor has foisted on him. He quickly notices her beauty and sexiness, but is determined to resist the unprofessional attraction.

I loved their first encounter. They reminded me a little of two dogs circling each other, trying to decide if they'll be friends or not. Both of them were guilty of a bit of prejudging, seeing what they expected to see. I loved seeing Jordon confront him right away about his attitude, and also that Gabriel admitted his fault right away. Air cleared, it made it much easier for them to move forward as a team. I also liked that Jordon was fully aware of her own faults. It was pretty sweet to see how protective Gabriel was of Jordon, even though he knew that she was a trained agent. His frustration at her insistence on staying at the B&B was obvious.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Constantly in each other's company, they quickly got to know each other. I loved seeing how tuned in to each other's feelings they were. It was especially obvious during their investigation of the house of mirrors, when Gabriel could sense Jordon's unease. I loved how he got her to tell him about what had happened to her. Their conversations were frequently filled with unexpected humor, as that was Jordon's way of dealing with the stress. It didn't take Gabriel long to realize that Jordon was exactly the kind of woman he had been looking for. She understands the life of a law enforcement officer, and he respects her abilities, too. But Jordon isn't so quick to reciprocate. She had been married before and her husband had done a number on her ability to believe that a man would ever love her. Added to the constant disapproval from her parents, she doesn't think that there is hope for a long term relationship, so she pushes him away. I ached for him as he laid his heart on the line for her and she was too afraid to accept it. I wasn't sure how long it would take her to realize the truth. The ending was great, and I loved the epilogue.

The suspense of the story was really good. The lack of clues was frustrating to both as they worked to develop a list of suspects. There were multiple possibilities and all of them seemed to have reasons to do it. There were several times I really wanted to smack Jordon for the things she did. She was way too determined to put herself in danger, and she took a lot of risky chances. Each time an attempt took place, I thought for sure they'd figure out who was responsible. When the final confrontation came, Jordon showed that she still hadn't learned her lesson. Back in the house of mirrors, with a killer whose identity I did not see coming, the encounter was scary and intense.  Jordon was very lucky that Gabriel had discovered she was missing. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mountain Shelter - Cassie Miles (HI #1682 - Dec 2016)

A mountain hideaway is all that stands between a bodyguard and the killer after his beautiful client…

As a highly skilled cyber security expert and bodyguard, there are few dangers Dylan Timmons can't handle. But his next assignment brings unexpected risks. Hired to protect brilliant -- but socially reclusive -- neurosurgeon Jayne Shackleford, Dylan seeks answers in what he suspects was a foiled kidnapping attempt. As the daughter of an oil tycoon, Jayne is the perfect target for ransom, so retreating to the mountains is the first step in keeping her safe. The second step is remaining vigilant in their secluded surroundings -- and resisting the beautiful brunette with a target on her back.

Good book that starts with intense action and never really lets up. Jayne is a neurosurgeon who escapes an attempted kidnapping. Dylan is the cyber security expert she hires to be her bodyguard. Together they work to find out who is after her and why.

I really liked both Jayne and Dylan. Jayne is brilliant, having gone through her schooling to become a doctor in a very short time. She is incredible at what she does, but outside the hospital not so much. Because she had concentrated on her studies from a very young age, she never really learned how to interact with people her own age. A few dating disasters have put her off romantic relationships also. But she recognizes her attraction to Dylan for what it is and is determined to pursue it.

Dylan is a brilliant computer programmer and has put his talents to good use with the security company he runs with his brother and friend. He is not the typical bodyguard type, instead he is a tall, lanky, glasses-wearing geek. His strength seems to be in out-thinking the bad guys rather than beating them up. He is attracted to Jayne right away, not just to her physical beauty, but also to her brilliant mind.

I loved the development of their romance. Both are incredibly smart and find that sexy in each other.  Dylan takes his job seriously and is determined to protect Jayne without getting involved with her, because that would be a distraction that could get them both killed. Jayne is equally determined to have her way with him. She doesn't expect anything to go past his time of protecting her, because nobody has ever wanted her for real. It was so much fun to see them connect on their nerd levels - the scene where she got excited over him having a 3D printer was priceless. I also enjoyed their time on the RSQ ranch and seeing Dylan teach Jayne how to have fun. It was such an unusual experience for her that my heart ached for her. Both of them tried to protect their hearts by attempting to ignore the depth of their feelings, but in the end they couldn't be denied. I loved the ending and the matter-of-fact way they made their decision.

The suspense of the story was also good. Once they knew who was after her, they had to figure out why. Many of the actions of Koslov didn't make sense in light of what they knew about him. As more information was uncovered it became pretty obvious who was behind it and why, the only question was how it was going to happen. I loved the intensity and fast pace of the final confrontation. It was great to see how her time with Dylan had given Jayne more confidence in her ability to handle herself, and she used that ability to hold off disaster. I loved seeing her medical talents hold true and how it brought about a satisfactory ending for most.

Jayne's relationship with her father was also a big part of the story. Their interactions had always been painful for Jayne, who felt that her father never appreciated her for who she was. I got the feeling that part of the problem was that he simply didn't know how to relate to her. The final scene with them was pretty sweet, and I have high hopes that the future will be very different for them.

The Holiday Gift - RaeAnne Thayne (HSE #2515 - Dec 2016)

Series: Cowboys of Cold Creek (Book 15)


With two kids and an active life, widow Faith Dustin only wants peace and quiet for Christmas. But her snowy Pine Gulch ranch is nothing but chaotic. All that keeps Faith going is her helpful neighbor, cowboy Chase Brannon. He's always been "good ol' Chase," her faithful friend. Until he kisses her under the mistletoe…

Years ago Chase blew his chance with the woman he's loved since childhood. Now he's determined to step out of the friend zone…and into the role of husband. But the scared and stubborn Faith won't let herself fall. With Christmas just days away, Chase will need all the magic of the season -- and the help of her two matchmaking children -- to unwrap a second chance at love.

Fantastic friends to lovers story. Chase and Faith have been best friends since she was sixteen. He'd been in love with her even then, but was waiting for her to heal from the traumatic events that brought her and her sisters to live with their aunt and uncle in Pine Gulch. But before he could tell her of his feelings, she fell in love with and married their other friend Travis, and he had to stay in the friend zone. Two years earlier Travis had died and Chase was there to help her with whatever she needed. Now he's tired a just being a friend and wants more, but he doesn't know if she's ready. When a mutual friend sounds him out about dating Faith, Chase realizes he needs to make his move or risk losing her again. Faith has depended on Chase and his friendship for a long time. He's always been there for her. But suddenly there's tension between them and she doesn't know why - until he kisses her. He wants more than she's ready to give.

I loved the development of the actual romance. I thought Chase was an amazingly sensitive and patient man. He also was determined that he wasn't going to lose out again, and when he saw that someone else was looking to date her, he knew he had to act fast. Faith knew him well enough that she knew something was up on the trip back from the auction, but she had no clue what it was. Chase's insistence that the stockgrower's dance was an actual date, not just friends going together, totally freaked her out. She was afraid that if they changed their relationship and she lost him, she would be devastated. It was interesting to see how oblivious she had been to his feelings for her, until he kissed her. She was also clueless about her own feelings for him. I wanted to shake her when she tried setting him up with another woman even though he had made his interest in her very clear. It was fantastic to see how patient Chase was, but that he also refused to be pushed away. I ached for him when he finally declared himself and had to watch Faith continue to deny her feelings. I loved seeing her finally face her fears. The scene in the barn on Christmas Eve was fantastic. I also loved the epilogue and catching up with everyone a year later.

There is also a strong sense of family throughout the book. Faith and her sisters are very close and are there for each other. I loved their cooperation on running the Christmas Ranch, even though some of it can be reluctant. I especially loved the way that Hope and Celeste and Aunt Mary all were fully aware of Chase's feelings for Faith and completely bewildered by Faith's obliviousness. It was fun to watch them all try to get Faith to open her eyes. I also loved how Chase was such a fantastic father. I loved his relationship with Addie. He's also terrific with Faith's kids. I loved the way that he thought of her family as his, and they felt the same way about him.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Nowhere to Hide - RaeAnne Thayne (SIM #1264 - Dec 2003)

Series: The Searchers (Book 1)

As an on-the-run single mother out to protect her little girls, Lisa Connors needed two things: money, and to keep her identity secret. But it was just her luck that the possibility of the former would threaten the latter -- for as the caretaker of the hunk-next-door with two broken legs, her ability to keep her distance was already shaky. When she found out said hunk's profession -- FBI agent -- it was downright demolished....

Gage McKinnon had spent most of his life trying to keep away from all things familial, so the last thing he needed was to have two adorable little girls take root next door. But it was their mother who posed his greatest threat. For in Lisa he felt that door in his heart -- the one that had been slammed shut twenty-five years ago -- start to open, just a crack.

Very emotional book, more than just a love story between two people. Lisa is at her wit's end when she ends up in Park City. Her husband had died two years earlier and his parents are involved in a custody battle with her. Terrified of losing her girls to the people her husband couldn't wait to get away from, she took them and ran. Aggravating the issue is her battle with diabetes. When her car breaks down, she finds a job cleaning houses, where she can remain under the radar. Then she discovers she is living next door to an FBI agent, which ramps up her stress.

Gage is an FBI agent working with the Crimes Against Children unit, which is pretty much his life. He lost his sister to a kidnapper many years ago, and the effects it had on his family has turned him into a hard and driven man. He is also eaten up by guilt, feeling he should have been able to stop it. Having two little girls right next door just increases the feelings.

I loved the development of the romance. It had a slow start, due to a rather contentious first meeting. But even that aggravation didn't stop both from feeling a spark of attraction. When Gage was injured on the job, his friend and landlady, knowing she had nursing experience, hired Lisa to take care of him. Gage is a stubborn man and the clashes between him and Lisa were fun to see, especially when he ended up agreeing with her. I ached for Gage, whose boatload of guilt had him trying to push both Lisa and her girls away. I loved the scene in the kitchen when little Gaby bulldozed him into doing what she wanted. I loved how seeing Gage with the girls also started to heal Lisa's heart from the loss of her husband. The attraction between Gage and Lisa kept pulling them together, no matter how hard they tried to fight it. But Lisa still fears discovery, and what would happen if Gage knew the truth. I cried for her when those fears sent her running again. The ending was fantastic, with a resolution that came about differently than I expected. I loved seeing the changes in Gage's outlook and how he and Lisa came together.

Also part of the book was how the kidnapping of his sister affected Gage and his entire family. His deep seated guilt had caused him to distance himself from his brother Wyatt and his mother. I loved the scene in which Wyatt showed up and read Gage the riot act for not telling his family about his injury. I also loved seeing Gage and his mother reconnect and clear the air between them. The part where they talk about the kidnapping was heartwrenching and had me in tears. I have also discovered that both Wyatt and the missing sister have their own stories and I can't wait to read them.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Everywhere She Goes - Janice Kay Johnson (HS #1896 - Jan 2014)

Series: Mysteries of Angel Butte (Book 2)

Standing between her…and danger

Returning to her hometown is Cait McAllister's chance to stand on her own. That means taking a break from men and relationships. Then she meets her new boss, the intriguing Noah Chandler. As the mayor, he's got bold plans for Angel Butte. As a man, he's so tempting that Cait's vow of independence is in jeopardy.

The most persuasive part of him, however, could be the way he looks out for her. Because when a threat from her past puts her in danger, Noah is there to protect her. And there's no way she can resist a man who has so much invested in keeping her safe.

Very good book. Cait has returned to Angel Butte, escaping from an abusive relationship. It also gives her a chance to reconnect with her estranged brother, who is a police officer with the town. She plans to stay away from men and relationships until she is more confident in her judgment. She takes a job as the city planner, working for Mayor Noah Chandler.

Noah moved to Angel Butte looking for his father, whose last known address was there. He stayed as he built his restaurant business, then ran for mayor. He's a solitary man who has avoided all relationships.

I loved both Noah and Cait. Cait moves to Angel Butte to escape the attentions of an ex-boyfriend who is stalking her. Having grown up in an abusive family, she's embarrassed that she got caught up in the same situation. She's determined to put it behind her and start a new life. Part of that entails getting the job as the city planner. I loved her confidence in her abilities as she stood up to every question Noah threw at her during her interview. Underlying it all is an unexpected attraction to him, one that she isn't comfortable with at the beginning. Cait is still dealing with issues caused by her father's and boyfriend's abuses, and worries that she can't trust her judgment about him. Her relationship with her brother is also still rocky, aggravated by tension between the two men.

One of the things I liked best about Noah is that he's not a drop dead gorgeous man. He's even a bit on the homely side by most people's reckoning. He's also pretty forceful, and has made a name for himself as a mayor who can't be pushed around. He's dismayed by his attraction to Cait, as getting involved with an employee has never been an option for him. But he finds that he can't stay away from her. He has issues that hold him back from committing to anyone, stemming from his own childhood in a dysfunctional family.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. They can't fight their attraction as it simmers under every time they are together. When Cait is targeted by someone from her past, Noah's protectiveness really comes out. It was fun to see him and Colin on the same side in this, when they are adversaries in so many other ways. As they spend time together and find so many things in common, their feelings begin to grow. Cait realizes what is happening and is afraid that she's going to end up getting hurt. Noah is pretty clueless about what is happening to him. He gets flashes of what it would be like to have Cait with him always, but fights them off. When he finally clues in to what is really going on, he doesn't handle it very well.  It takes a life threatening crisis to bring them back together and show them both what they could have together. I loved the ending, especially the visit from the three council members.

The mystery of what was happening kept me hooked throughout the book. Cait left Seattle for Angel Butte, hoping to leave her problems with her ex behind. A series of attacks after she arrives in town make it clear that she is still in trouble. Besides the corruption and other problems that came to light in the previous book, there has also been another murder. As both Noah and Colin work to protect Cait, it becomes apparent that there is more going on than a simple stalking case. There are several unexpected twists and turns to the case that show an unexpected connection between Noah and Cait. The final confrontation with an unexpected foe was very intense, with both Cait and Noah fighting for their lives. While the main mystery of this book was resolved, there are still ongoing issues in Angel Butte. I've read some of them, and each book is just as riveting as this one.