Friday, April 28, 2017

Forged in Desire - Brenda Jackson (HQN - Feb 2017)

Series: Protectors (Book 1)

Strong enough to protect her. Bold enough to love her.

When good girl Margo Connelly becomes Lamar "Striker" Jennings's latest assignment, she knows she's in trouble. And not just because he's been hired to protect her from an underworld criminal. The reformed bad boy's appeal is breaching all her defenses, and as the threats against her increase, Margo isn't sure which is more dangerous: the gangster targeting her, or the far too alluring protector tempting her to let loose.

Though Striker's now living on the right side of the law, he's convinced his troubled past keeps Margo out of his league. But physical chemistry explodes into full-blown passion when they go on the run together. Surrendering to desire could be a deadly distraction -- or finally prove that he's the only man qualified to keep her safe, and win her love.

Good start to the new series, with an intense start. Margo has been on jury duty, and the newly convicted criminal has stated that everyone involved in the case is in danger of being killed until he is set free. No one takes him seriously until people start dying. Concerned for her safety, Margo's uncles hires Summers Security to provide protection. Striker is the protector she gets.

From the moment they met, the heat between them is intense. Both are determined to ignore it at the beginning. Margo recently ended a relationship and is off men for awhile. She's also not happy about having him underfoot 24/7, interfering with her life. Her attitude is less than pleasant, partly as a defense against the attraction. Striker has never felt such a strong attraction to any woman, much less a client. His job is to keep her safe, not get distracted by her.

I liked both Margo and Striker. Margo's parents were killed when she was younger and she was raised by a bachelor uncle. She's a talented wedding dress designer, independent, and beautiful. She has no trouble making her opinion known about Striker's presence in her life, but finally accepts the necessity. Striker was terrific. He has turned his life around after spending several years in prison. Events from his past have influenced his need to protect, and he takes it very seriously.

I loved their first meeting. There is some serious antagonism, fueled by an instant attraction. Each one gave as good as they got until they realized that they were going to have to live together for the time being and called a truce. I enjoyed their conversations as they got to know each other. Neither had any trouble pushing the boundaries of nosiness about the other, and both ended up sharing things that they hadn't shared with others. As their attraction grew, it finally reached the point where neither could resist, and they were explosive together. Neither has been looking for love, but it found them anyway. Margo was pretty accepting of her feelings once she admitted them to herself. Striker was a harder nut to crack. Thanks to his past, he doesn't feel he's good enough for her. Plus, he's carrying a boatload of guilt about some of those events, and that has him afraid to risk loving anyone. I liked the ending, as Margo gave him the time he needed to put them to rest. His big moment at the end was sweet and romantic and perfectly timed.

The suspense in the story was really good. There was a lot going on. The main thing was the assassin who was taking out people involved in the trial. The police and FBI are stumped and frustrations are high. I loved the involvement of the psychic. There were some really good scenes with her, especially as she dealt with the skeptics. She also had an intense scene with the criminal behind the killings. There are multiple twists and turns as law enforcement wonders how the assassin can keep eluding capture. The final confrontation with him is intense. There are also secondary problems involving her ex, her uncle's ex, and another who seems to come out of nowhere.

I also loved the feeling of family that ran throughout the book. Striker, Quasar and Stonewall met and became friends with each other in prison. With the help of Shep Granger (Grangers series), they turned their lives around. There are also connections with their boss Roland, and the respect and care they have for each other is obvious. There are also family secrets that come out. The background story on that is a bit heartbreaking, and I loved seeing some healing begin. There's also a fantastic scene where Margo stumbles onto the secret and won't let go until all is revealed. I also enjoyed seeing the Granger men and their wives as they made guest appearances in the book.

I'm really looking forward to Quasar and Stonewall's stories. There are hints in this book as to how those are going to go.

Loving Lord Ash - Sally MacKenzie (Zebra - Mar 2014)

Series: Duchess of Love (Book 3)

A Little Misunderstanding. . .

Kit, the Marquis of Ashton, is in a sticky wicket. He married young and for love -- how naïve. He discovered his mistake the very day of his wedding, but he is saddled now with a wife he's reluctant to trust. And however much evidence he gathers against faithless Jess, he can't seem to prove her guilt to the final judge -- his foolish heart.

Jessica knows she's bobbled her marriage, however innocently. A fairytale wedding makes no difference if she hasn't got the marquis charmed to show for it. Well, she's had enough of accidental encounters with naked gentlemen and near misses explaining things to her husband. It's time to buck up and go win her man back -- even if she has to fight very dirty indeed.

Fun book. Kit and Jess have been married for eight years - and separated the entire time. Kit caught Jess in a compromising position and rather than listen to her explanation, he took her to his country estate and left her there. Since that time, he has lived in London, alone and miserable, because he still loves her. During those eight years, rumors have abounded about her faithless activities. He knows that he needs to have an heir, and is ready to make a deal with her to do so.

Jess has spent the last eight years stuck in the country. She doesn't mind, in some ways, as it gives her all the time she wants for her painting and sketching. She also knows that the problem with her marriage is mostly her fault, for believing in Percy's words. But she is about at the end of her patience, especially with the stories of Ash's romantic exploits in London. It is time to reclaim her husband.

The opening was pretty funny, with Ash arriving at the estate as Jess is painting one of the servants - a naked servant. He walks in just as the man has lost his balance and fallen on top of Jess. Ash, of course, believes that history is repeating itself, and is ready to throw in the towel and ask for a divorce. But Jess isn't ready to give up, and they strike a deal. Jess and Ash will go to London and see if they can rescue their marriage. If not, they will part ways.

I liked Kit and Jess, but their problems would have been solved much quicker if they had just talked to each other. But Kit let his pride get in the way, and went off to sulk in London. Jess simply believed that Kit had realized that marrying the daughter of the Irish groom had been a mistake. On Kit's side, it doesn't help that he was deeply in love with Jess and had been saving himself for their marriage, so he is also suffering from extreme frustration. This has a tendency to cloud his thinking.

There are some pretty funny moments throughout the book. Jess's ease with her all male staff at her home, thanks to the fact that none of them are interested in her as a woman, was something that didn't set well with Kit because he was blind to the reasons. They went to his home in London to avoid dealing with his mother, the Duchess of Love, only to discover that she was there ahead of them. This meant that they had to suffer through unwanted and frankly embarrassing advice for her. I loved the scene where one of Jess's servants, who was actually a baronet avoiding his family, confronted Ash and pointed out some things he felt Ash should know.

I loved how Jess and Ash were slowly reconnecting, motivated by the attraction that is still just as strong. I enjoyed seeing Jess play the temptress, even though she was just as inexperienced as Ash. The biggest thing they had to get past was the event that had caused their separation to start with. The final confrontation with Percy was satisfying and funny, as he got what was coming to him. It was also the catalyst for Ash and Jess to finally talk about what had happened. I especially liked that Kit finally got through to Jess that he loved her just as she was and that her parentage made no difference to that.

*copy received in exchange for honest review.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fugitive Bride - Paula Graves (HI #1699 - Mar 2017)

Series: Campbell Cove Academy (Book 3)


Watching his best friend marry the wrong man is Owen Stiles's worst nightmare…until he and the would-be bride are kidnapped. Someone wants Tara Bentley out of the picture, enough to frame her for the murder of her fiancé. All that stands between Tara and destruction is Campbell Cove security agent Owen.

Moments away from calling off her wedding, Tara's life is turned upside down. Now the man she's always considered her best bud has transformed into some kind of sexy special agent. Owen is prepared to do anything to clear her name and secure her safety. But who's keeping her heart safe from him?

Action filled friends to lovers story. Tara is getting ready to marry the perfect man. After growing up seeing her parents' unhappy marriage, she had a list of the things she required, and Robert met them all. But an hour before the wedding, she's ready to call the whole thing off. Before she can do so, she and her best friend, man of honor Owen Stiles, are kidnapped.

Owen and Tara have been best friends since they were in the sixth grade, there for each other through their crappy childhoods. But lately, Owen has wanted more than just friendship, so seeing her marry someone else is a special kind of agony. But before the wedding can take place, Tara and Owen are kidnapped.

Though Owen is more computer geek than agent, he has the basic training that all Campbell Cove Security employees get, and he and Tara are able to escape their kidnappers. After a flight through the woods and a night in a deserted cabin, Owen is able to reach his boss Alexander Quinn, only to find that Tara's fiancé has been murdered and she and Owen are suspects. As always, Quinn is there for his people and gets them to a safe place for the night while he tries to get more information. But the plan they come up with is derailed when Tara spots one of the kidnappers in the uniform of a local deputy. I loved their escape scene, with the bit of play-acting and the discovery that Quinn had planned for any occurrences. Owen is determined to protect Tara, and they go on the run while trying to figure out why Tara has been framed for murder. At the same time, Owen is desperately trying to keep his hands off Tara.

I liked Tara, but I loved Owen. He's been in love with Tara for a long time, but has respected her wishes to keep their relationship as friends only. It's getting harder to do, and spending all their time together has brought him to the breaking point. I thought he had an incredible amount of patience to be able to continue as they were. He knows her well enough to understand her fears, but no matter what he says, he can't get her to take the risk. Tara's friendship with Owen is her safety net. He has always been there for her no matter what she needed. She is attracted to him also, but terrified that if they do anything about it that it would ruin their friendship, leaving her with no one. She flat out refuses to take that chance. But when their lives are in danger, she realizes what is really important. I loved their big moment at the end, which was sweet and romantic with an unexpected twist.

The suspense of the story is really good, and kept me hooked all the way through. There are questions about why her fiancé was murdered and what it had to do with her kidnapping. And why was she taken, when the project information she has would be useless within days. There are also questions about which side the local investigator is on. There were a couple interesting twists that increased the danger to Tara and Owen, and left them at the mercy of the bad guys. The final confrontation was intense and I felt really badly for Archie. It was also interesting to see the tie-in between this story and a previous series. 

The Warrior's Way - Jenna Kernan (HI #1715 - June 2017)

Series: Apache Protectors: Tribal Thunder (Book 4)

To trust and protect…

Tribal police chief Jack Bear Den will do anything to stop ecoterrorists. But partnering with disgraced ex-FBI explosives expert Sophia Rivas is trouble even his trail-tested skills never anticipated. Her out-there deductions are blowing up false leads, exposing treacherous lies -- and sparking an attraction too dangerous for even Jack to resist.

By the book was never Sophia's style. To save lives, she has to gamble on her instincts more than ever. If Jack doesn't trust her, she can handle it -- but letting him uncover her deepest secrets is a distraction neither can afford. And with the clock ticking down and disaster about to strike, getting too close may be the last move she and Jack ever make.

Excellent conclusion to this segment of the series. In the previous book, Firewolf, it was suspected that the ecoterrorists plan to blow up one or more of the dams above the reservation. FBI agent Luke Forrest brings fellow agent Sophia Rivas to the reservation for her opinion on how it could be done and how to stop it or mitigate the effects.

Sophia is currently on administrative leave after killing someone in the line of duty. She is worried that she could be found at fault and lose her job. That job is very important to her as it is the symbol of how far she has come from her own unhappy childhood on the Black Mountain reservation. She doesn't mind giving advice on what she finds, but she doesn't want to get involved for fear of aggravating the case against her. While at Turquoise Canyon she is partnered with Detective Jack Bear Den.

Jack is a detective on the tribal police force and also a member of Tribal Thunder, a group dedicated to protecting their people. He will do whatever it takes to make sure his people are safe. The closer he and Sophia look at dam security, the more worried he gets. It doesn't help that Sophia also has a target on her back and he must protect her too. Jack is also dealing with a personal crisis, having to do with whether or not he is truly a member of the Bear Den family.

There are sparks of attraction between Jack and Sophia from the beginning. Neither wants to give in to them, as it is a distraction they don't need. Jack is tied to the reservation, with his family and his people his top priority. Sophia can't wait to get off leave and get back to the city where she feels she belongs. I enjoyed seeing the development of their relationship. It doesn't take long for Jack's feelings for Sophia to grow and change from attraction to more. He admires her dedication to her work, her independence, and her intelligence. I ached for him also, because he's certain that there was no way she would ever want to stay. Sophia's feelings for Jack grow also. I loved seeing the support she gives him when he needs it most. I loved how Sophia's time at Turquoise Canyon also begins to help her overcome some of her more negative experiences growing up.  I did want to shake him a few times because he doesn't tell her of his feelings when he should have. Instead she believes he's just trying to protect her. I loved the ending, as a conversation with his mother points out the errors he made. His big moment at the end was really terrific. The hint of vulnerability made his words even sweeter.

The suspense of the story was great. If you've read the earlier books, you're very aware of the background, but even if you haven't there's enough of the backstory given that you won't be lost. The worry over the safety of the dams has all of the local law enforcement people on edge, especially since the feds aren't taking their worries as seriously as they should. The tension builds as word comes that something is going to happen soon. The intensity of the final actions, with the fear that it wouldn't work had me on the edge of my seat, especially with the extreme danger that Sophia was in. I could feel Jack's fear until she was found. The wrapup was interesting, not quite what I expected, with some things left hanging. There was also mention of something else going on, involving some missing teenage girls. I hope that this is a lead in to a new series.

Another big part of the book was the final resolution of Jack's questions about his place in the family. It has been a theme running through the books, and it gets addressed in this one. I ached for Jack and his fears that he didn't really belong. I loved that it was Sophia that gave him the courage to face his fears and confront his parents. I had had an idea of what it might be and liked that I was partially right. However, there were some interesting twists to the story that made it even more emotional. I would have liked to see what Jack does with the information he gets.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Firewolf - Jenna Kernan (HI #1711 - May 2017)

Series: Apache Protectors: Tribal Thunder (Book 3)

When opposites attract, the sparks ignite more than they bargained for…

Dylan Tehauno is a hotshot, an expert in preventing and fighting forest fires. He knows that the inferno that killed a tech billionaire was no accident -- and he suspects that he and filmmaker Meadow Wrangler were supposed to die, too. When lawmakers identify Dylan as a prime suspect, he and Meadow decide to find the real arsonist themselves.

Dylan and Meadow have nothing in common. He's a proud Apache and a war hero, a self-made man. She's a rich girl with a tabloid past. But there's no denying the heat between them. Is there more to their attraction than physical desire? Will they survive long enough to find out?

Very good book. This book was action packed from the beginning, and the tension rarely let up. Dylan was on the way to do a fire inspection of a billionaire's new house when he ran across Meadow. She was filming the house, something she'd been doing since construction started, as part of a documentary. After a slight altercation he continued on his way, just in time to see the house explode. As a firefighter and Hotshot, he knew he had only moments to get back to Meadow to save her life. The intensity of the fire scene was incredible. I could practically feel the heat and smell the smoke as the author described Dylan's efforts to protect Meadow and himself from the fire. The description of his actions made me feel as if I was there.

As part of the Tribal Thunder unit, Dylan is aware of the attacks by a group of eco-terrorists (Turquoise Guardian and Eagle Warrior). When he first meets Meadow and finds out who she is, he isn't certain if she can be trusted. He also has a feeling that he and Meadow were not supposed to survive the fire, a feeling borne out when they are attacked by supposed rescuers. As he and Meadow are pursued, accused of starting the fire, they are determined to find out the truth of what happened and who was behind it. There are multiple twists and turns as Dylan and Meadow escape several attempts to silence them. There were several times when I really wasn't sure how they were going to get out of trouble and I was on the edge of my seat until they did.

I loved the relationship that grew between Dylan and Meadow. It is definitely one of opposites attracting. Dylan is a pretty straight arrow, a man who follows the rules and doesn't do anything that is reckless. He's seen two of his friends fall in love, and realizes that he wants that kind of happiness for himself. Meadow is the youngest in her family and has been in trouble of some kind for most of her life. Many of her exploits have been chronicled in the tabloids. Different as they are, there are sparks that fly between them from the very beginning. Dylan finds it hard to believe that he is drawn so completely to protect her, and that his heart so quickly wants to make her his. But he's pretty well convinced that she would never want to be with him. Meadow has been searching for her place in the world. I ached for the way she felt so unloved by her family. There are some interesting twists that are revealed as Meadow searches for the truth behind the attacks.

I loved the protectiveness that grew between Meadow and Dylan. Both wanted what was best for the other, and believed that they were not it. There's a sweet scene between Meadow and Dylan's mother at the end that shows Meadow that maybe she's not such a bad person after all. I loved the ending and seeing Meadow want to prove her love, and Dylan's ability to understand why she feels that way.

I loved seeing characters from previous books. Carter and Amber are still in Witness Protection. Ray is working with the hotshots and fills in for Dylan as captain while Dylan is on the run. Jack Bear Den is there every step of the way to try to keep Dylan and Meadow safe. I loved seeing the lengths he went to in order to do so. FBI agent Luke Forrest is also front and center as he works to find the terrorists while still staying within his Apache beliefs.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Just Kiss Me - Rachel Gibson (Avon - Aug 2016)

"Hello, Ms. Vivien . . . it's been a long time."

And with those words, Vivien Leigh Rochet nearly melted. It's been years since she last saw Henry Whitley-Shuler. She was a teenager scrubbing houses for a living. He was the gorgeous son of rich parents, not fit for the likes of her.

Vivien had vowed to get out of Charleston, become a big Hollywood star, and stick it to the snooty girls who made her cry.

She got what she wanted -- and more -- but why does her glamorous life seem so trivial?

Henry got out too . . . making it all the way to Wall Street, until a heart attack forced him to trade in his cufflinks for a good set of hand tools.

Making furniture soothes his soul, but escaping the Whitley-Shuler heritage is nearly impossible. And now he's come face-to-face with the one who got away. He's not looking for love. He's not even looking for sex . . . so why is resisting her the hardest thing he's ever done?

Very good book and a fun read. It starts out with excerpts from the diary of thirteen year old Vivien, with all the teenage drama that implies. We hear about the boys in the "big house", the sons of the woman that her mother works for. Vivien has a bit of a chip on her shoulder and it comes out in the way she talks about them all. Her descriptions of them are vivid and it is easy to see things from her point of view. There are similar excerpts throughout the book.

It then switches to present day, as Vivien arrives back in Charleston after learning of her mother's death. She had done what she planned all those years ago - got out and made it big, and is now a famous movie star. But her mother's death devastates her, and she feels like a lost girl all over again. Then help comes from an unexpected source.

Henry has returned to Charleston after his fast paced financial career in New York nearly killed him. Now he makes furniture and does renovations and is much happier. He didn't expect his mother to rope him in to helping Vivien. He remembers what a pain the butt she had been to him and his brother, and isn't interested in spending any time with her now.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. It starts out just as snarky as it had been when they were teenagers. I loved some of the banter between them as they dealt with those old memories. But Henry also sees the vulnerability hiding beneath the tough façade, and the southern gentleman inside him wants to make it better. When his mother enlists Henry's help in making sure that his brother Spence doesn't get involved with her, he doesn't really want to, but his mom has her reasons. And Henry suddenly finds himself a lot more willing to spend time with Vivien than he ever expected.

There is a steamy chemistry between them that they can't resist at all. What neither expects is that they find they actually like spending time together too. Vivien still has work commitments, but in between she returns to Charleston to work on settling her mom's affairs. She and Henry discover that they have much more in common than they ever thought. I loved seeing them grow closer, though each tried to deny what they were feeling. Then Vivien took her courage in hand and told Henry how she felt, and Henry was too freaked out to realize that he felt the same.

Unfortunately for both of them, Henry's mother is something of a snobby bitch, and has been guarding several family secrets. Henry is aware of them, and has gone along with his mom, until those secrets come back home to roost. Now Vivien is devastated by the thought that Henry has been lying to her all along, and he has no idea how to convince her of his feelings. I loved seeing Spence step in to take care of her, especially since those secrets have affected him, too. Both Henry and Vivien have to come to terms with their own pasts before they can look toward a future together.

I loved the various characters and how unique each one was. Vivien was tough, yet vulnerable. I loved her diary entries and seeing some of the ways she coped with her mother's illness. She also had some pretty vivid descriptions of Nonnie and the boys. Nonnie was the epitome of the Southern society maven, so worried about appearances and reputation. I had a feeling there was something behind the relationship with Vivien's mother, and wasn't too surprised by what it was. I did have a hard time deciding whether her treatment of the adult Vivien was real or just part of her desire to protect the family name. I felt a little bad for Henry, having to deal with his mother's secrets and the hold she had on him because of them. I liked the way he became protective of Vivien, and loved seeing him stand up to his mother because of her. I especially liked seeing him force her to come clean about the family skeletons. I also liked Spence. He's definitely something of a rogue. I felt bad for the pain he was in over the end of his marriage and that he was being so reckless because of it. I hurt for him when he found out the truth and that Henry had never told him. I hope that he gets his own story because I would like to see him get his own happy ending.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

An Amish Year - Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson - Dec 2015)

Spend a year in Amish country with four sweet romances.

Rooted in Love

Rosemary Lantz is doing her best to run her family's household. She excels at all her tasks except one: gardening. Saul Petersheim has pursued Rosemary for years, but Rosemary keeps turning him down. What Saul doesn't know is that she has good reason--something no one can know--especially not him.

Good story. Rosemary and Saul had dated when they were teens, until Rosemary abruptly broke things off. Now she takes care of her widowed father and her three brothers, and dreams of what might have been. Saul has never given up on the love he felt for her and keeps asking her out. When Rosemary's dad and Sauk are injured in an accident, Saul insists on helping out, in spite of his own injuries, hoping for another chance.

I loved Saul. He's true in his love for Rosemary and doesn't give up, even when it seems hopeless. His sense of honor insists on him helping out because he was the one who caused her father's injuries. It was a bit amusing to see that he didn't handle his own injury too well.

I had a bit more trouble with Rosemary. She doesn't treat Katherine very well because she's jealous of what appears to be the other woman's perfect life. I admired the way that she has taken care of her family since her mother's death, especially since she is often overwhelmed by it all. But she is also a little bitter about having missed out on the husband and children she wants. She is still in love with Saul, but doesn't treat him very well. The reason she broke things off haunts her, and she wonders if it was worth the loss of the man she loves.

I got pretty frustrated with her because she was so inconsistent with her treatment of Saul. I was glad to see her talk to her friend about what happened and that it gave her the motivation to actually talk to him about it. When she finally got up the courage to do so, it was to find that it had been a misunderstanding of what she heard. If she had only taken the time to talk to him about it, so much time wouldn't have been lost. However, I liked Saul's philosophical look on the lost years.

There was also a secondary story involving Rosemary's dad, Wayne, and Katherine. Rosemary's treatment of Katherine nearly ruined the blossoming of their romance. I ached for both Wayne and Katherine and their unhappiness. I was happy to see Rosemary see her mistakes and try to fix things.

A Love for Irma Rose

The year is 1957, and young Irma Rose has a choice to make. Marry the man who loves her? Or go after Jonas, the high-spirited, yet noncommittal man her heart loves?

Good story. Irma Rose is sixteen and finally old enough to date. She has two young men who are pursuing her. Jake, an upright, serious and handsome fellow. And Jonas, a rascal of a guy with a taste for speed and cigars. She feels that she's being led toward Jake, otherwise why would her hands be clammy and her stomach churn around Jonas? But Jonas won't give up, even when she chooses to date Jake instead. She thinks she has her life all planned, but something happens that has her rethinking.

I really liked Jonas. Yes, he's a bit reckless and wild at times, but he's also steady and loving. He had first seen Irma Rose three years earlier and knew right then that she was the girl for him. He just had to be patient. I enjoyed his confidence that things would eventually work out. His father died three years ago, leaving Jonas to take care of his mother and four sisters. He works hard and sometimes makes poor choices when he gets a chance to take a break. In this story he ends up with some Englischers who are arrested for drag racing and drinking. Because he can't pay the fine, he ends up in jail for two weeks, just after his mother is hospitalized.

I liked Irma Jean too, though she seemed to be a bit hard on Jonas. She was so intent on dating Jake that I had to laugh a little over the date itself. It didn't go quite as she expected. She is a kind person at heart, and when Jonas's mother is in the hospital, she's one of the people that brings food to help the family. When she goes back later and discovers the girls there alone, she steps right in to help. It was fun to see the things she learned about Jonas from his sister (always a good source).

Both Irma Jean and Jonas learn something about themselves and their choices during this story. I liked seeing Jonas realize that he's in control of his own life and his choices affect more than just himself. Irma Jean discovered that perhaps she likes a little more adventure in her life than she thought. I also liked that she realized she was still pretty young and didn't need to decide her whole life right away. I loved the segment at the end showing she and Jonas as grandparents.

There was also an interesting bit between Jonas and his cellmate, when Theo was talking about his life. Jonas tried to help him. It turned out that there was an unexpected connection between the two of them. I liked knowing what happened to Theo after he got out of jail too.

Patchwork Perfect

Eli Byler has been a widower for two years when he chooses to make a fresh start in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Eli's children are determined to keep their family the way it is, but they aren't in Paradise long before the available ladies begin to show an interest in Eli. As Eli juggles the admiration of two women, he meets Miriam Fisher--the most unconventional Amish woman he's ever met. She doesn't fit the mold for what Eli is looking for, but it isn't long before Eli realizes that Miriam is everything he wants. But with two children constantly trying to sabotage his efforts, will he ever be happy again?

This was a good story. Eli has moved to Paradise with his two children two years after his wife's death. He wants to marry again, but his district is small with few available women. Two widows, Ruth and Elizabeth, notice him right away and make their interest plain. He also meets another woman, Miriam, who is nothing like he expects. She has made it plain to everyone that she doesn't intend to marry. He is fascinated by her, even though she doesn't cook, garden, or do the other things expected of an Amish woman.

It was fun to see Eli trying to find his way through the dating world. Both widows are appealing to him at first look. But a meal with each of them shows him that perhaps they aren't quite what he's looking for. It doesn't help anything that neither of his children is exactly enthusiastic about the prospect of a new mother.

Eli's daughter Grace is having her own problems. At almost sixteen, she's caught the eye of Wayne, a seventeen year old with a reputation as a heartbreaker. She's happy about his attention, until he starts to want more than she's willing to give. Several times they are interrupted by Miriam, who knows Wayne's reputation. Grace soon realizes that Miriam is someone she can go to for help if she needs it, and she soon does.

I loved Miriam's understanding and compassion when she talks to Grace. She opens up a little to Grace, sharing some things about herself that helps the girl. I liked how she talks to Eli for Grace, and his own understanding about Miriam comes out of that talk. I loved how Eli showed Miriam that she too deserves a chance to be happy.

When Christmas Comes Again

Katherine knows the first Christmas without Elias will be hard for her and the children. But when a mysterious Englischer appears with photographs of her late husband, Katherine begins to wonder what other blessings Christmas could have in store.

Good story, though not a romantic one. Katherine and her children are all having a hard time dealing with their grief after Elias's death. Katherine is a little disturbed when a strange man starts following her around. Then he delivers a box of photographs of her husband and she and the children, with an invitation to meet for coffee so he can explain. Who he is comes as a surprise to her, and she continues to meet with him.

Mary Carol and her boyfriend Abe meet the same man at an abandoned farmhouse. There is something about him that Mary Carol finds interesting, and the two befriend the man.

I liked how James had such insight into the grief they felt and an amazing sense of how each would deal with it best. I also enjoyed his stories and wondered, along with the others, how much of it was true. His actions were occasionally bizarre and I had a feeling there was a story behind them. I loved the ending, with the way that the family embraced him.