Thursday, October 19, 2017

Once a Soldier - Mary Jo Putney (Zebra - July 2016)

Series: Rogues Redeemed (Book 1)

As heir to a title and great wealth, Will Masterson should have stayed home and tended his responsibilities. Instead he went to war. Now, after perilous years fighting the French, he intends his current mission to be his last. But all his plans are forgotten when he arrives in the small mountain stronghold of San Gabriel and meets her.

Knowing herself to be too tall, strong, and unconventional to appeal to a man, Athena Markham has always gloried in her independence. But for the first time in her life, she finds a man who might be her match.

Two of a kind, too brave for their own good, Athena and Will vow to do whatever it takes to vanquish San Gabriel's enemies. For neither will back down from death, and only together can they find happiness and a love deeper than any they'd dared imagine. . .

Terrific start to the new series. The book begins with Will a prisoner along with five other men, awaiting execution by the French. Thanks to a bit of luck brought on by a thrown wine bottle, Will discovers a way for all six men to escape. Drawn together by their experience, they make a pact to stay in touch.

Five years later the war is finally over and Will looks forward to going home to England. Before he leaves, his commanding officer asks him to escort a group of soldiers from San Gabriel back home and to check on the conditions in the small country. Upon his arrival, he discovers a country heavily damaged but determined to recover. Their king and prince are missing, having been taken prisoner by the French, and the country is led by their young princess, Sofia, aided by her friend and companion, Athena.

I loved the meeting between Will and Athena, as he is held at gunpoint until she is sure he is not another marauding soldier. Will is immediately smitten by the tall and fiercely protective Athena. Athena is attracted to him, but thanks to her past feels she is too far beneath him for anything but friendship. I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. First comes a deep friendship, aided by their work to help the people of San Gabriel. I loved their ability to talk honestly with each other. The scene where they shared the trials of their pasts was fantastic. Learning of Athena's past does nothing to dim Will's determination to win her heart. The attraction between them heats up with the sharing of some pretty intense kisses. I loved Will's patience as he works to overcome Athena's fears. There were a few times I wanted to shake her for letting her mother's reputation keep her from accepting Will's love for her. The danger of their situation brings some clarity to Athena's thinking and their attraction moves ahead. Their HEA is artfully engineered by Princess Sofia when Will and Athena nearly lose each other, though Athena still has her doubts. There is a delightful twist at the end that finally ends her fears.

There is a secondary romance between Princess Sofia and Will's friend Justin Ballard. Justin has come to help Will with the rebuilding of San Gabriel. He and Sofia experience the lightning bolt of love at first sight, but know that nothing can come of it. Sofia is a princess and will be Queen if her father and brother are not found. Justin is a Scottish merchant with great wealth but no pedigree. I enjoyed seeing them get to know each other, deepening their feelings for each other yet accepting the reality of their circumstances. I couldn't wait to see how things were going to work out for them and I was not disappointed. It was especially fun to see Sofia take the lead in that scene.

The setting was a very important part of the whole story. I loved reading a Regency romance that did not take place in the ballrooms of London. Instead, we are treated to the Peninsula during and after the war. There is a realistic look at the ravages of the war upon the land and the people as we see how the people of San Gabriel coped with the devastation caused by the French. The descriptions of the land and the people were vivid, and I could easily picture them as I read. I could feel the hope blossoming after Will's arrival and the promise of the supplies they needed. The various repairs and projects were interesting and worked well to further the connections among the main characters. There was also the growing tension as Will felt the sense of impending danger. The scene by the river was fast-paced and exciting as Will, Athena, Sofia, and Justin faced down the French scouts. I loved seeing Sofia and Athena take the lead in a solution quite different than Will would have come up with. As Will discovers that his instincts were right, I was enthralled reading of their plans and preparations. The final confrontation was intense and felt realistic in the way it was portrayed, including the injuries. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Soldier's Rescue - Betina Krahn (HHW #199 - Sept 2017)

Series: Single Father (Book 33)

He has to find good in the world again…

Warmhearted Kate Everly is a veterinarian with a special love for dogs. But she's about to find out if her inner strength and unique "puppy whisperer" skills extend to healing wounded humans, too.

Florida state trooper Nick Stanton, a struggling single dad, is former military, and his army exploits led him to avoid dogs with a passion. Then a fateful rescue on a lonely back road brings the veteran and the veterinarian together over a gravely injured dog. Before long, Kate has her hands and heart full with a man coming to terms with his traumatic past…

Fantastic book. Kate is a veterinarian with a special affinity for dogs. We first see her with some puppies that have been dropped off at the shelter by an unknown person, setting the stage for later events. Her warmth and compassion for the animals she cares for is obvious. Her skills are needed when a state trooper arrives with a dog that had been hit by a car.

Nick came across the injured golden retriever while out on patrol. Standing guard over the golden was a German shepherd who was very protective. The injured dog resurrects some hard memories for Nick, but he does what he needs to do. I loved his gentleness with the golden and the way he handled the German shepherd. It was fun to see the way that he talked to the dog.

Nick and Kate's first encounter was awesome. I loved the teamwork as they worked together to treat the golden. There were also some definite sparks flying between the two of them. Kate is wary, having recently ended one relationship and feeling too busy with work to want another. Nick is busy raising his son and dealing with his memories from his time in Iraq. Thanks to a mutual desire to put an end to a puppy mill and a dog-fighting ring, and the enthusiasm of Nick's son Ben when it comes to dogs, Nick and Kate find themselves spending a lot of time together.

I loved the development of their relationship. It is a slow process of getting to know each and learning what makes them who they are. Nick especially has some serious issues to overcome. I loved Kate's sensitivity and compassion as Nick opens up about some truly heartbreaking things that happened to him. It was awesome to see how sharing the pain helped lighten the burden of those memories. I also loved the way that Nick was there to support Kate during the heartbreaking hours of the puppy mill rescue operation. There were some conflicts when Nick's protectiveness toward Ben ran up against Kate's more relaxed style. It was fantastic to see that they were able to talk things over without resorting to dramatics. I liked how they embraced their deepening feelings for each other as a crisis tested them both. Nick's plans for the future were a perfect complement to Kate's work. The epilogue was great and I loved catching up with both two- and four-footed characters.

The concurrent story of the puppy mill and dog-fighting ring was intense and heartbreaking. I loved the bravery of Miguel and Alejandro as they took steps to help as many pups as they could. The rescue scene was scary and heartwrenching as Nick faced down the old woman who owned the dogs. The descriptions of the conditions of the dogs made me want to cry. The situation became even more intense later, when young Miguel went missing. My heart was pounding as Nick and the others searched for him. The confrontation with the dog fighters was fierce with an unexpected hero saving the day.

The secondary characters were all wonderful. I loved Nick's son Ben. He is bright and enthusiastic, and an endearing mix of kid and adult. I really liked the closeness of the relationship between Ben and Nick. Kate's grandmother was quite a trip with her farm full of rescued animals and unconventional views on raising kids. My favorite of all was the German shepherd, Soldier. I loved the way he protected Goldie and continued to watch over her. What was especially moving was the way he connected with Nick. I loved the way that Soldier helped Nick break free of the chains his memories of Iraq had on him. At the same time, Nick's attention to Soldier gave the dog a purpose to live again. I loved seeing Soldier come through for Nick at the end. There was also a brief mention at the end involving Kate's brother, Jace, and her vet partner, Jess. I will keep my eyes open to see if there will be a story for them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband - Julia Quinn (Avon - June 2017)

Series: Bridgerton Prequels/Rokesbys (Book 2)

While you were sleeping...

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He's unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier's life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie...

I told everyone I was your wife

When Edward comes to, he's more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out six months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is even if he does not recall her face and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he'd always assumed he'd marry his neighbor back in England.

If only it were true...

Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself completely to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.

Good book. Cecilia is alone in the world after her father's death, except for her brother, a Captain in the army who is posted in the Colonies, and a very unpleasant cousin. When she receives word that her brother has been injured and her cousin makes unwelcome advances, she takes ship for America to nurse Thomas back to health. Unfortunately, when she arrives, Thomas is missing, and no one can tell her anything about him. She does discover that Thomas's best friend, Edward Rokesby, is in the hospital in a coma. If she can't help Thomas, at least she can help his friend - except that the powers-that-be won't allow anyone but family into the hospital. Desperate to help, she declares that she is Edward's wife, not thinking what will happen when he wakes up and exposes her lie.

When Edward regains consciousness, he's very confused. First, he's missing a large chunk of his memories from the last several months. Second, he recognizes Cecilia as his friend's sister, thanks to a miniature that Thomas had, but he doesn't remember marrying her. But with everyone around him treating her as such, he allows himself to be convinced.

I enjoyed the development of Edward and Cecilia's relationship. They had already become friends thanks to a long-running correspondence through sharing Thomas's letters. I loved the excerpts from those letters included at the beginning of each chapter. Each one showed a little bit more of the progression of their friendship. With Edward's release from the hospital, they are thrown into constant contact with each other. They are brought closer by their shared concern for Thomas and their determination to discover what had happened to him. Proximity also brings out other things. Edward is attracted to the woman he believes he is married to, but can't do anything about it until he is more fully recovered. I also loved his protective streak, as he found himself wanting to save her from worry over her brother. It was also sweet to see his realization that he had started to love her through her letters and to get to know her had finished the job. Cecilia has a rougher time of it. There is no doubt in her mind about how deeply she cares for Edward, but she feels horribly guilty about the lies she has told. First, she worries that telling him the truth could cause a relapse. She also fears what will happen to her once she does. Then the lies keep building up, and she continues to put off telling him the truth. She knows she has to tell him before he regains his memory, but she just can't bring herself to do it. I ached for Edward when the truth came out, first for his sense of betrayal and then for his fear that she doesn't really care about him. Cecilia's love for Edward has her wanting what is best for him, which she feels is not her. She can't bring herself to tell him face-to-face and tries to escape on her own. Edward's big moment is romantic and amusing, thanks to Cecilia's cabinmate and the ship's captain. The epilogue was great and has me anxiously awaiting Andrew's story.

The concurrent story of Thomas's whereabouts and what led to Edward's injury and memory loss was interesting. Edward's frustration over being unable to remember what had happened to him was obvious and heartbreaking. I fully understood his anger with his commander once his memories did return. I ached for both Edward and Cecilia as they learned more about what had happened to Thomas. Thomas's letter to Edward just about broke my heart.

I loved the setting of the American Colonies during the Revolutionary War. It is a time period rarely used during historical romances which is too bad. It seems to me that there is great opportunity for some more unusual storylines.

Wicked Cowboy Charm - Carolyn Brown (Forever - Feb 2017)

Series: Lucky Penny Ranch (Book 4)

ONE BLIZZARD, ONE BUNKHOUSE, AND A WHOLE LOTTA TROUBLE . . .

Josie Dawson is new in town, but it doesn't take a local to know that Deke Sullivan is trouble--in a smokin' hot package. He's sweet, sexy, and has charmed just about every woman in Dry Creek, Texas. Well, Josie won't be next. She'll keep her distance, even if he is great with babies and makes a mean cup of homemade hot chocolate.

Deke Sullivan really is a one-woman type of guy. He just had to do a lot of looking to find that one woman. Now he thinks he's found her and he won't let a strong, sassy gal like Josie slip away. Just when he's wondering how to convince her he only has eyes for her, they get stranded in a tiny cabin during a major blizzard. If Deke can melt her heart before they dig out of the snow, he'll be the luckiest cowboy in Texas . . .

I have been looking forward to Deke's story since he first appeared in Wild Cowboy Ways. He is a smooth-talking charmer of a man with a well-earned reputation as a ladies' man. He's known for his weekend antics, but no woman has been able to tempt him into more. He finds himself rather envious of the happiness his friends have found and wonders if there is someone out there for him, but is wary of picking the wrong one.

Josie Dawson is Jud's younger sister and partner in their fledgling oil business (Merry Cowboy Christmas). She is tall, blond, and independent. She has come to Dry Creek to set up oil drilling on the Lucky Penny and look for a ranch of her own for the rodeo stock she wants to acquire. She recently ended a relationship and had no plans to get involved in another one and figures she'll be too busy working anyway.

Fate has plans for Deke and Josie. One look at each other over a couple of bags of goat feed has the sparks flying, but there are obstacles. Josie is kin to his best friends, and there are rules about that type of thing. Getting involved with her could create a whole host of problems. For Josie, she has been warned about Deke and his reputation. She's been burned once by a man who couldn't stick with one woman; she wasn't about to go down that road again.

I loved the development of Josie and Deke's relationship. From the moment they met there is a connection. Because Deke has always been like a member of the Logan sisters' family, that relationship has continued and included their Dawson husbands. There are some good scenes early on where Josie gives as good as she gets when Deke's teasing gets going. She also can't deny the attraction she feels, though she does her best to ignore it.  Deke and Josie discover that they're both headed to Montana to look at bulls for their ranches, though Josie is relieved to know that they are headed to different parts of the state. Mother Nature throws a kink in Josie's plans when a winter storm cancels her sale, so she asks around for another one she can go to instead. Sure enough, she finds herself at the same ranch as Deke, where they both get snowed in.

I loved this week with Deke, Josie, Deke's dog Rascal, and ranch owner Emmett. Emmett is a real character of a man with a pretty wicked sense of humor. Deke and Josie end up sharing a very small bunkhouse, giving them the opportunity to really get to know each other. I loved seeing a real friendship grow over the sharing of ranch chores, meals, and long hours of not much to do but talk. There is a really sweet scene where Deke's cowboy gentleman comes out as he saves Josie from a vicious spider without even a hint of laughing at her. There is also a proposition from their host that will give Deke and Josie an unexpected boost in their individual ranch plans and bring them even closer together. Simmering under all that friendship and business talk is an attraction that just keeps getting stronger. By the time they head back to Texas, together this time, neither can deny the heat. Their trip home is filled with further adventures, from trying to outrun more storms to delivering a baby.

By this time Deke knows that he has finally met the one that could make his dreams come true. The problem is trying to convince Josie of that fact. Things look pretty good until a bit of Deke's past makes her wonder if she's made another mistake. Deke is left having to work for the attention of the woman he wants. I have to say that he came through with flying colors thanks to the dates he came up with. My favorite was the first one, with the hints that led up to it and the thought he put into it. The second showed just how much he had changed, and the third was just plain smoking. I loved the reactions when he was seen sharing a hymnal at church, and walking out of the service together. Deke's big moment right before Valentine's Day was sweet and romantic.

The couples from the previous books make appearances, but my favorite secondary characters were Emmett and Martha. He is sweet, a little bit lonely, and a lot of fun.  It was so wonderful to see how quickly he became a friend to Deke and Josie. I loved his stories about his late wife and his current lady friend, Martha. His proposal to Deke and Josie about the bulls and his future was incredible. The fun really picked up when Martha arrived. Her sense of humor was even more wicked than Emmett's. She and Josie had some hilarious conversations, especially over some apple pie moonshine. I loved Martha's reaction to Emmett's plans and what she did about it. I loved the decisions they made after visiting Dry Creek and would love to see more of them. Another fun character was Deke's dog, Rascal. He was described so well that I could picture him easily. I really loved the descriptions of his reactions to the snow in Montana, and the way he kissed up to Emmett. "His" gift to Emmett when Deke and Josie and he were ready to leave was adorable.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Merry Cowboy Christmas - Carolyn Brown (Forever - Sept 2016)

Series: Lucky Penny Ranch (Book 3)

THIS CHRISTMAS, SANTA'S WEARING A STETSON
Tis the night before Christmas and all through the house is the presence of one wickedly hot cowboy who's come to stay for the holiday. Fiona Logan is downright shocked to return to her childhood home and find that the tall blond stranger who came to her rescue on an icy road will be sleeping just across the hall from her bedroom. Talk about temptation . . .

Jud Dawson never believed the Lucky Penny Ranch would live up to its name until now. Fiona is gorgeous, smart, funny, and everything he thought he'd never find. Now all he has to do is convince her to stick around town instead of hightailing it back to Houston. But with wild weather, nosy neighbors, and a new baby in the family, getting her to admit that she's falling in love might just take a Christmas miracle.

Good book. The third in the series, this one is about Jud Dawson, cousin to Blake and Toby, and co-owner of the Lucky Penny Ranch. He is the last to move to the ranch as he had a previous job commitment to finish. He's looking forward to putting down roots and building a place for future generations of Dawsons. All he needs now is to find the right woman to have everything he wants. I really liked Jud. He's easygoing, sweet, and hardworking. I loved the way that he could see the fun in almost any situation.

Fiona is the third of the Logan sisters and the one who flew the nest the furthest. Now she is back in Dry Creek, but not entirely by her choice. She isn't looking forward to telling her family about her failed marriage and the loss of her career but after a year of barely making ends meet she is at the end of her rope. She has come home to regroup and reconnect with her family before looking for another job in a city. She is smart, sassy, and has a bit of that red-headed temper going for her.

I loved the development of their relationship. From the moment he and Fiona met, Jud was pretty much a goner. But instead of a full frontal assault, Jud takes things slowly. I loved seeing them develop a good friendship first. From late night talks over leftovers or cookies and milk to conspiring to rehabilitate the grouchy couple who created such trouble in the previous books, Jud and Fiona slowly get to know each other. I loved the way that Jud really understood Fiona. She has never felt like she really fit in her family or the town, but came to realize that the city wasn't right for her. With a little bit of experience under her belt, she discovers that home is much more important to her than she had thought. I loved watching her settle into life in Dry Creek. The relationship between Fiona and Jud also began to heat up, and both realized that there was something deeper growing between them. But when Fiona is offered the chance to go back to the city, she has a decision to make. Give up her new life in Dry Creek and fly away, or put down those roots she hadn't realized she wanted? I loved Jud's support of whatever decision she made and how it helped her see the truth. I loved the ending and how everything came together for them.

I loved seeing more of the previous couples and the scenes with baby Audrey were adorable. There was an interesting minor thread dealing with Jud's plans to look for oil on the Lucky Penny and the possible involvement of his sister Josie. It made a nice lead into the next book. But the most unexpected and fun was the big part that Truman and Dora June O'Dell played. The two of them had caused a lot of trouble in the previous books with their negative attitudes. In this book, their house burned down, and Fiona's mother invited Truman and Dora June to stay with them. The young people are horrified but obey Katy's "love your neighbor" directive. It doesn't take too long for them to see a different side to Dora June and I loved seeing her quickly make a place for herself. Truman was a harder nut to crack. It was hilarious to see Jud take him on as a project, and his methods were ingenious. The Santa Claus thing was a riot. Truman's Christmas gift to Dora June showed just how much he'd changed.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Best of My Love - Susan Mallery (HQN - May 2016)

Series: Fool's Gold CA (Book 20)

To overcome her painful past, baker Shelby Gilmore goes on the hunt for a friend -- a male friend -- to convince her stubborn psyche that men can be trusted. But where in a town as small as Fool's Gold will the petite blonde find a guy willing to not date her?

Dark, charming Aidan Mitchell puts the "adventure" in Mitchell Adventure Tours…and into the beds of his many willing female tourists. Until he realizes he's inadvertently become that guy -- the one-night Casanova -- and worse, everyone in town knows it. Maybe Shelby's boy/girl experiment will help him see women as more than just conquests so he can change his ways and win back his self-respect.

As Aidan and Shelby explore the secret lives of men and women, the heat between them fires up the Fool's Gold rumor mill. If no one believes they're just friends, maybe they should give the gossips something to really talk about!

Fantastic book. This may be my favorite out of the series because it was emotional, fun, and definitely different than the others. Aidan and Shelby are two people who are determined to make changes in their lives. Aidan is a good-looking charmer of a guy, with a reputation as a ladies' man. Then he is confronted with the realization that he doesn't like the man he has become. He's determined to avoid women for a while until he can find a way to earn back his self-respect. Shelby is an attractive young woman who really wants what her friends have - a man to love and a family of her own. But an abusive childhood has left her unable to trust men, which makes finding that happy future more difficult. Shelby decides that what she needs is a man she can be friends with and who can show her that men can be trusted.

I loved the way the book started, with Aidan suffering from a hangover and regrets. It is easy to see his pain, both physical and mental. He wasn't in the best shape to deal with Shelby's questions and comments, which left him confused about her reasons. I loved her arrival a few days later to put an unusual idea in front of him. She proposes that they become friends for the next six months. Just friends, no sex. Instead, they will hang out together, giving them a chance to get to know each other. Shelby will learn to trust that he won't hurt her, and Aidan will learn to see women as something other than bedmates.

The idea is pretty simple. They will hang out together, taking turns doing "girl things" or "boy things." This will give each of them a peek into the other's world and hopefully expand their understanding. There was so much opportunity for fun here and the book totally delivered on it. Shelby introduced Aidan to lunches with the girls at Jo's, baby showers, and - gasp! - pedicures and talking about feelings. Aidan shared outdoor excursions, poker with the boys, and pool. I admit to laughing out loud during the trip to the shelter and Aidan's search for a "manly" dog and ending up with Charlie. One thing that is supposed to be completely off the table is the idea of being anything more than friends. Letting sex or romantic feelings intrude would interfere with their goal. Of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and both of them find moments of attraction creeping into their get-togethers.

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. Things started out a bit awkward as neither is used to encounters with the opposite sex not having the potential for more. There was a lot of teasing as they became more comfortable with each other and seemed to delight in pushing the envelope of gender events. In the midst of all the fun, there were also moments of seriousness as each opened up about the events that have led to their issues. I loved the support they each provided as they dealt with those issues. As the weeks went on and their friendship deepened neither was willing to admit that there was something more going on. Strangely enough, it was Aidan who realized it first, and I loved watching him come to terms with the idea. Shelby resisted hard, insisting to herself and others that it was just friendship, even after they had added "with benefits" to the description. When she could no longer deny the truth, she panicked and pushed Aidan away. In previous books, when there was a breakup, the ladies would descend on the wronged woman and commiserate. This book continued its turnabout with an unexpected twist in the process that was a riot to read. I loved Aidan's patience as Shelby worked through her fears, and the kick in the pants that Shelby received from her friend Madeline. The ending was sweet and romantic and perfect for the two of them.

There were also plenty of other things going on in our characters' lives. Shelby has her work in the bakery she co-owns with Amber. She has many ideas of ways to expand the business, but Amber isn't always as enthusiastic. It turns out that there is more going on there than Shelby knows until Amber hits her with an unexpected offer. I loved all the support and encouragement that Shelby received, not just from Aidan but from so many people. Meanwhile, Aidan is dealing with family issues, stemming from his father's actions. I really liked his relationship with his brother Nick and how his support eventually helps Nick take control of his life. I ached for both of them as they finally accepted the truth of what had to be done. It's a nice lead-in to the new series, and I can't wait to read the stories of the three other Mitchell brothers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sheik Defense - Ryshia Kennie (HI #1724 - July 2017)

Series: Desert Justice (Book 4)

He's the one she can't remember, she's the one he can't forget…

Tossed overboard, Ava Adams had been left for dead, drifting at sea. But security specialist Faisal Al-Nassar was determined to find her. He owed her father a great debt and had never forgotten the connection he and Ava had once shared. Yet after rescuing Ava he discovered she barely remembered him.

Amnesia had left Ava uncertain of who had tried to kill her. She did know, however, that Faisal was a man she could trust. The sheik's embrace was familiar and enticing…and possibly even more dangerous. How could she succumb to feelings for her protector when what she didn't know could get them both killed?

Good book with some intense suspense and a touch of romance. Ava has accompanied her father on a yachting vacation before heading off to start her new job. She doesn't expect to be awakened one night by the sounds of a fight on the deck. She discovered her father fighting off an attack by a business associate. To protect her, her father forces her into a life raft and off the boat just before the bad guy, Ben, renews his attack on Dan. Terrified for her father, Ava drifts at sea.

Faisal and his family are longtime friends of Dan and Ava. Faisal was scheduled to have a meeting with Dan, and when the yacht goes off the radar, Faisal is notified. His family runs an international security firm, and Faisal immediately sets out to find both Dan and Ava. I loved the intensity of Faisal's determination and could feel his need to find them both.

When Ava is rescued, her condition is grave, and in her delirium the things she says give Faisal cause to worry for her safety. As she begins to recover, her memories of what happened are sketchy, but she knows that there is something very wrong. As her memories begin to return, instead of doing as her father said and confiding fully in Faisal, Ava sets out on her own to discover the truth. This leaves Faisal playing catchup, trying to find Ava before Ben finds her first.

I definitely wanted to shake Ava at times. She was very smart and determined, but also rather naïve about her ability to handle this trouble by herself. By the time she realized her mistake, it was almost too late. I really liked Faisal throughout the book. He remains calm and in control most of the time, though the occasional moment of desperation does pop up.

The suspense starts out intense with the fight on the yacht and the search for Ava and Dan. The intensity decreases somewhat as Ava recovers and then makes her way to Texas. It then ratchets back up as Ava, Faisal and Ben all converge on the tiny town. Brief segments told from Ben's point of view show just how much danger Ava is in. The final confrontation had me on the edge of my seat until it was resolved.

There wasn't a whole lot to their relationship until near the end. Both Faisal and Ava remember their past with both fondness and regret. It was sweet to see how Faisal looks back and realizes that he was too young to appreciate what he could have had with Ava. Meanwhile, she remembers her youthful crush on him and is wary of believing that what she feels now is more. I loved seeing them take some time at the end to get to know each other again. Faisal's big moment at the end was sweet and romantic.