Friday, December 15, 2017

How to Manage a Marquess - Sally MacKenzie (Zebra - May 2016)

Series: Spinster House (Book 2)

Two possible futures loom before Miss Anne Davenport. The first option: sharing an unhappy home with her father and soon-to-be stepmother. The second: a life of independence at the Spinster House--if only her friend, Cat, would vacate the premises and marry the Duke of Hart. A well-placed whisper about the pair's secret tryst might speed the course of true love. But the duke's stubborn cousin poses an obstacle. A ridiculously handsome, very persuasive obstacle…

Nate, Marquess of Haywood, has spent his life looking out for the duke, hoping to stave off a family curse. The only way to keep his cousin alive is to keep him single. That means convincing the intriguing Miss Davenport that her lovely lips could be put to far better use than gossiping. Kissing, for instance. In fact, Nate is beginning to hope that Miss Davenport's destiny lies not in the Spinster House at all, but with him …

Good continuation of the series. This book, about the second of the women vying for the Spinster House, takes place at the same time as the first book (What to Do with a Duke). Anne really wants to be the one chosen to live in Spinster House, as her father is about to remarry - to a woman younger than Anne, with two young sons. The thought of living with them horrifies her. Unfortunately, her friend Cat is the one chosen, leaving Anne stuck at home. That is unless she can encourage Cat to marry the Duke of Hart. But as much as she wants the marriage to happen, the duke's cousin is equally determined that it won't.

Nate has spent his entire life watching out for Marcus. The family curse, which states that no Duke of Hart will live to see his heir born, has been in effect for 200 years. The only way to keep Marcus alive is to keep him single for as long as possible. Which means he has to keep Anne from talking about the tryst that she witnessed.

I really enjoyed the development of Anne and Nate's relationship. It started out quite antagonistic, as each was determined to get their own way. But under that initial antagonism is an undeniable attraction. It gets quite a jump start in the garden of Spinster House, as a confrontation over the tryst they witness turns heated, then passionate. Their argument is interrupted when the cat, Poppy, succeeds in causing them to trip and fall, landing in a very provocative position. Nate's "male instincts" take over and things nearly got out of hand. They manage to extricate themselves with no harm done, but forgetting is another question entirely.

Nate and Anne part ways, only to meet unexpectedly at a house party. I felt bad for Anne at this point, because it quickly becomes obvious that her father's relationship with the widow has moved much faster than she thought and an announcement was imminent. Nate was there as a family friend, filling in for another family member who backed out at the last minute. There was also some awkwardness as the other members of the house party do everything they can to throw Nate and Anne together. He saw the writing on the wall and tried to save Anne from embarrassment. The dinner scene was pretty funny as Anne imbibed a bit too much and Nate tried to stop her. I also loved Nate's sensitivity and kindness as he got Anne away quickly after the announcement. I loved seeing them in the garden as Anne lost many of her inhibitions thanks to the alcohol consumed, and Nate tried so hard to resist. His care for her under difficult circumstances is pretty sweet.

As the party goes on Nate and Anne spend more time together under some pretty unusual circumstances. I loved their time together with the widow's sons, who brought out the best in both Anne and Nate. I loved seeing the protectiveness that both displayed toward the boys and each other. Anne realizes that she has fallen in love with Nate. He is a bit freaked out about his feelings, especially since he sees no way for them to be together while he watches out for Marcus.

When Anne's reputation is threatened, Nate seizes the opportunity to propose marriage and is stunned when she turns him down. Though he returns to London and tries to resume his normal life, things just aren't the same. It gets worse when Marcus states his intention to marry Cat, and Nate blames Anne. He makes a bit of an ass of himself at the wedding, before realizing that he needs to apologize to Anne. I loved the help he had from a certain cat, who made sure they spent enough time together to face their feelings.

I liked both Anne and Nate though I had some issues with each of them also. Anne was sweet and kind most of the time but did have moments of selfishness too. I understood her fear that her father was being taken advantage of since the widow was so much younger, but she also didn't seem to understand that maybe he was lonely. I liked that Anne became a little more sympathetic after Nate talked to her. Nate was an honorable man who was also loyal to those he cared about. He was a bit overprotective of Marcus thanks to the fear instilled in him by his mother, and I completely understood Marcus's frustration. Nate's attraction to and fascination with Anne was fun to watch, especially when the attraction would get out of hand. His conversations with his "man parts" were hysterical as he would try to get himself under control.

Throughout the story, Anne's father really ticked me off. He didn't seem to take her feelings into consideration at all. I didn't expect him to give up his plans, but it looked like he was doing his best to shove Anne out the door as fast as he could. I hated the way he treated her at the house party. I didn't care for the widow either. She made no effort to get to know Anne and seemed to be the driving force behind shoving Anne toward Nate.

I'm looking forward to the last book in the series and seeing what happens with Jane. She seemed to be a little too willing to do anything to get her way as far as getting Spinster House went. It will be interesting to see what love has in store for her.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

In the Spinster's Bed - Sally MacKenzie (Zebra - June 2015)

Series: Spinster House (Book .5)

At Spinster House, a woman can enjoy the spoils of single life -- or find the love of a lifetime…

It has been twenty years since Lord William Wattles laid eyes on Annabelle Frost. Still, he remembers everything -- her ethereal beauty, her bookish intelligence, her surprisingly modern attitudes about love...and lust. But Belle’s allegedly wanton behavior led her father to send her away to save the family’s reputation. Now she resides at Spinster House in the village of Loves Bridge, where an unmarried lady can live -- and in Belle’s case, support herself as a librarian -- in peace...

Beautiful, passionate Belle -- sworn off marriage? William can’t believe the woman he once knew could end up like this. But when the hands of fate bring him to Loves Bridge, his long-lost love might just end up back in his arms. Is their unwavering desire worth the sweeping scandal that is sure to follow them both? Absolutely.

Good introductory novella to the Spinster House series characters though it doesn't have much on why the Spinster House exists to start with. The current resident is Belle Frost, though she's known as Miss Franklin to the people of Loves Bridge. Twenty years earlier she had been kicked out of her home by her father for scandalous behavior and sent to a relative in Loves Bridge. She has served as the town librarian ever since and led a quiet life.

William shows up in Loves Bridge looking for a place to hide out for a while. He is tired of being the butt of gossip because of his wife's antics and wants somewhere to go where no one knows him. He will be plain Mr. Wattles and fill in for the music teacher while he is in Loves Bridge.

Belle and William's reunion came as a shock to both of them. Belle does her best to convince William that he has mistaken her for someone else, but he doesn't believe her. William is stunned to find the passionate girl he knew is all prim and proper. Neither can deny the sparks that still fly between them. A confrontation between them gets heated, then passionate, until Belle recalls that William is married and calls a halt. They spend the next several months doing their best to avoid each other and temptation. Then Fate takes a hand, and William is free to pursue Belle again.

I liked the development of Belle and William's  relationship. Though they had been apart for twenty years, they had never forgotten each other, even as they went on with their lives. I liked seeing their backstory as it was revealed through flashbacks. I admit to being a bit disappointed in the young William's behavior when he returned to school and didn't try to contact Belle, leaving her to deal with the fallout when it happened. I liked that he realized he was wrong to kiss (and more) Belle while he was still married and avoided temptation after that. When he returns after his wife's death, there is no longer an impediment to their being together. It doesn't take long for them to fall into each other's' arms. Those times between them are intense and rekindle the feelings they had before. At this point neither is thinking of the future, until William is called home because of his father's illness.

There isn't much love lost between William and his father and two older brothers. I had the feeling that many of William's actions as a young man were directly because of how they treated him. But he certainly didn't expect the depth of the tragedy that awaited him when he arrived. I ached for William and everything that he went through. During those weeks he finally realized his feelings for Belle and that he needs her with him and in his life forever.

Meanwhile, Belle has to deal with her own unexpected circumstances. I wasn't surprised at the fix she was in, only that she had believed herself too old at all. I ached for her and her fear that she wouldn't see William again because of his new status. I loved her surprise at his sudden appearance and their joy at being together again. Poor Belle was so nervous about confessing her secret, but William's reaction was great. I loved his way of proving to her that his proposal was not being forced by honor.

Stranded with the Navy SEAL - Susan Cliff (HRS #1968 - Nov 2017)

Series: Team Twelve (Book 1)

For one navy SEAL, danger and passion are brewing in paradise

Working on a cruise ship was supposed to be the perfect distraction for chef Cady Crenshaw. Instead, it made her the perfect target. Abducted and thrown overboard into foreign waters, she has only one shot at survival…and it comes at the hands of an irresistible ally.

Navy SEAL Logan Starke's protective instincts were locked and loaded the moment he met Cady at the ship's bar. When a violent struggle to take down her captors leaves Logan and Cady stranded on a deserted island, he leaps into rescue mode. But the hot sand and the even hotter attraction between them can't be denied…and temptation could be the deadliest threat yet.

Good book, though a little different than the romantic suspense that I am used to. The parts I considered "suspense" happened at the beginning and the end, with the middle being a very good survival story. Logan is onboard a cruise ship near Tahiti, where he was supposed to be acting as a bodyguard. However, the client canceled, and he decided to take the trip anyway. He is recovering from an injury received on duty and looks forward to a little rest and relaxation. He also wouldn't mind a little female companionship.

Cady is a chef on the cruise ship. She took the job as a distraction after her ex cheated on her. She is normally a very cautious person, but she picks this night to step outside her comfort zone and sets her sights on Logan. Some conversation and a couple of dances later the sparks fly between them, and they head for his cabin. That's when things go haywire in a big way. Logan is attacked and thrown overboard, and Cady has a bag thrown over her head and is taken off the ship onto a raft.

I loved how Logan's instincts and training kick in even when he's injured and dazed. It doesn't take him long to decide that the only course of action is to swim after the kidnappers and save Cady. The action was intense as Logan worked to get them safely off the boat, only to find themselves floating helplessly in the middle of the ocean. The description of their time on the raft was so vivid that I could almost feel the sun's heat myself. The scene with the shark was terrifying and realistic. I found myself wondering how much more they could take before finding land.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship as it progressed under such challenging circumstances. Cady is understandably freaked out at the beginning. She is so intent on avoiding risk in her life that she has no idea how to handle their circumstances. Logan, thanks to his training, is cool under pressure and knows how to keep them alive. Once Cady breaks free of her panic, I loved seeing her rise to the challenges that Logan gave her. The two of them have to work together to survive, but it isn't always easy. There are some terrific scenes of the two of them butting heads as Cady stands up to some of Logan's caveman moments. Logan's protectiveness can be a little excessive, intensified by some things that happened during his most recent mission with the SEALs. His personal code of conduct tells him that giving in to the attraction between him and Cady would be wrong while he is responsible for her safety. Cady's fear of risk frequently causes her to accuse Logan of purposely doing dangerous things when he's only trying to take care of them or find a way off the island. All the while the heat between them continues to build until they can no longer resist it. Those scenes are intense and the connection between them is far deeper than either expects.

All the time Logan and Cady are on the island they are on the lookout for planes or boats that could provide a rescue for them. They also fear that the men who kidnapped Cady could track them down. When that happens, they once again have to fight for their lives. Thankfully, Cady has changed a lot in the last six weeks, and the outcome this time is different, though no less intense. I enjoyed their arrival back in civilization and had to laugh at their dinner choices for their first meal off the island. They still have some things to work out before they have the future that each of them dreamed of. I really enjoyed the ending with its two unexpected events. I can't wait to read the next book in the series. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mine Till Midnight - Lisa Kleypas (St Martin's - Oct 2007)

Series: Hathaways (Book 1)

When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother was easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton. Even more challenging: the attraction she feels for the tall, dark, and dangerously handsome Cam Rohan.

Wealthy beyond most men's dreams, Cam has tired of society's petty restrictions and longs to return to his "uncivilized" Gypsy roots. When the delectable Amelia appeals to him for help, he intends to offer only friendship--but intentions are no match for the desire that blindsides them both. But can a man who spurns tradition be tempted into that most time-honored arrangement: marriage? Life in London society is about to get a whole lot hotter....

Fantastic story. The Hathaway family is a bit different than the usual HR. They are of noble birth but without the usual type of society background. There is Leo, the oldest, who recently inherited a title, followed by our heroine, Amelia, and her sisters Win, Poppy, and Beatrix. There is also a not quite family, not quite servant Gypsy man named Merripen who is an integral part of the group. Life has been difficult for the Hathaway family recently. A scarlet fever epidemic killed their parents, Leo and Win nearly died, Leo's fiancée did die. Leo has been so devastated by Laura's death that he is doing his best to kill himself with dissipation. The man that Amelia loved threw her over for another woman. As Leo has no interest in anything but his own misery, Amelia has taken over the running of the family.

As the story opens, Amelia is searching for Leo, who has disappeared once again. She is determined to take the family to their estate in Hampshire, away from the memories and pitfalls of the city, where they can begin again. Amelia is stubborn, independent, and convinced that she is the only one standing between her family and disaster. In her search for Leo, she encounters Cam Rohan, the half-Gypsy/half-Irish manager of a gambling establishment. Though he has no intention of interfering in their family issues, Cam finds himself unable to refuse to help Amelia find Leo. Once he does, he thinks that the end of it. Fate has other plans, and they meet again in Hampshire in a most unusual manner.

Amelia was impressive and frustrating. I loved her determination and her protectiveness toward her family. She will do anything for them. However, she is a bit overprotective and controlling, especially when it comes to Win and Leo. She tends to take charge, steamrollering over any objections. She also exhibits a very human side. I loved that she wasn't always cheerful and unflappable, but shows the effects of bad days, frustration with her siblings and others, and the occasional loss of her temper. There was also a hysterical scene involving a lizard and a dinner party where her behavior was not what I expected.

Cam was wonderful. We get a little bit of his background, and I have high hopes of learning more in later books. He was taken from his Gypsy family at the age of ten and went to work for the gambling house. As an adult, he is the right-hand man to the club owner and extremely (and unwillingly) wealthy. He has a bit of an internal battle going on between his Gypsy and Irish sides, which has made him rather restless. One of my favorite things about him is that he is comfortable with who he is. He has accepted that he is considered an outsider by both Gypsy and non-Gypsy folks, that he has the respect and friendship of those who mean the most to him and doesn't care about anyone else's opinion of him. He thinks about walking away from it all and returning to the Gypsy way of life until he meets Amelia.

I enjoyed the development of Cam and Amelia's relationship. There were sparks between them from the start, though they initially try to resist. Cam quickly became very protective of Amelia. Once he realized that she was the perfect woman for him, Cam was pretty relentless in his pursuit of her. I loved his way with words as he would tell her of his intentions. He also did not suffer from "I'm not good enough for her," that society could deal with them or not. Amelia was a little harder to convince. She did not doubt the power of their attraction, as shown by the flames that erupted between them whenever he touched her. But she was afraid that a half-Gypsy man would never be content in a traditional marriage, and would begin to resent her instead. I loved that Cam didn't give up on making her see that they were meant to be together.

There were also some secondary stories going on. First was the whole issue with Leo and his dissolute attitude. I was very frustrated with his whole "poor me" attitude. Losing his fiancée sucked, but he still had four sisters that he was responsible for. He redeemed himself a little at one point where he supported Amelia during her encounter with her ex, but that was a very small moment. I ached for him at the end, when Cam made him face his past and make a decision.

There was also something going on between Win and Merripen. Merripen's background is very mysterious, and there appears to be some connection with Cam, outside of them both being Gypsies. He is also very protective of Win and sensitive to her moods. I loved the whole cleaning scene and the solution he came up with that satisfied both her and Amelia. It is quite obvious that Merripen is in love with Win, but he does feel unworthy of her. It is hard to tell at first if Win feels the same way about him. Things get very interesting after the fire in which Merripen is injured, and I loved how the fragile Win comes out on top. I am looking forward to their story.

A Child Under His Tree - Allison Leigh (HSE #2509 - Nov 2016)

Series Return to the Double C (Book 12)

'Tis the season for second chances…and secrets!

Forget the mistletoe maneuvers. Kelly Rasmussen isn't planning on having that reunion kiss with Dr. Caleb Buchanan any time soon. Things had long ago gone south for these former high school sweethearts. Except for that one night six years ago -- which resulted in an explosive secret Kelly's kept till this very day.

Now career and family have brought them both back to Weaver, Wyoming. Their unavoidable clashes -- and instant chemistry -- make them realize this town isn't big enough for the two of them. Or three of them -- counting Kelly's son. Because there's something about that little boy… For one thing, he has Caleb's eyes…

Good second chance story. Kelly and Caleb had been high school sweethearts, but when Caleb went away to college he ended his relationship with Kelly in favor of another pre-med student, breaking Kelly's heart.  The book opens several years later. Kelly and Caleb had a brief encounter that didn't end well, and Kelly is pregnant. Her mother, a real piece of work and doesn't know about the encounter, wants Kelly to try to pass the baby off as Caleb's because "those people take care of their own" (meaning her). Kelly isn't about to force a marriage of obligation on Caleb, having suffered her mother's resentment all her life. So she packs up and leaves home, swearing to give her baby a better life.

Six years later she has come home to settle her mother's estate, bringing her son Tyler with her. An unexpected trip to the clinic brings Kelly and Tyler face to face with Caleb, who she did not know was back in Weaver. She is very nervous because she never told him about Tyler. Caleb is pretty oblivious because Kelly's mom put out the story that Kelly had eloped and had a baby after leaving Weaver. However, there are definitely some sparks flying between them, and it isn't all anger.

Kelly and Caleb have a lot to overcome before they can have a future together. Kelly still holds a lot of anger and hurt over the way that Caleb had dumped her all those years ago. She had been waiting at home for Caleb and he had been with another girl. It didn't help that Kelly's mother was always down on her, telling her that she wasn't good enough for him. Now she also feels guilty that she didn't tell him about Tyler. Caleb has  his own guilt that he has to deal with. Now that he's older, he realizes what a jerk he had been and how badly he had behaved. His reaction after their truck encounter also left him with another reason to feel guilty.

I did enjoy seeing Kelly and Caleb get to know each other again. Kelly's fears had her trying to keep Caleb at a distance, but Weaver is a small town and they see each other frequently. I loved seeing the connection between Caleb and Tyler (right down to their mutual dislike of carrots), which made it more difficult for Kelly to avoid him. There were some really sweet scenes between Caleb and Tyler. Every time he and Kelly meet, the attraction burns a little hotter. Caleb, especially, remembers the things that drew him to Kelly to begin with, and her new confidence and maturity make her even more attractive to him. I liked those times when Kelly could forget the past and allow herself to enjoy Caleb's company. However, the secret of Tyler's birth began to wear on her and she finally blurted out the truth.

This is where Caleb lost me a bit. I understood his initial shock and anger. That was logical and believable. But then he turned controlling and threatening, not even attempting to look for a compromise. I so wanted to grab him and shake him, especially during the confrontation at the hospital. It was so sweet seeing Tyler stick up for his mommy. I ached for Kelly with the solution that Caleb finally arrived at, because she never wanted to be an obligation, and that's all she could see. But she wanted what she thought was best for Tyler, so she put her own needs aside. There were some sweet scenes with Caleb and Tyler, but I continued to want to pound both of Caleb and Kelly because they constantly believed the worst of each other. I liked Caleb's big moment at the end, when he finally figured out his feelings and what he had to do to make things right with Kelly. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Vegas Wedding, Weaver Bride - Allison Leigh (HSE #2563 - Aug 2017)

Series: Return to the Double C (Book 13)

"I do. Wait…did I?"

Hometown girl Penny Garner is having a Vegas moment: waking up in bed with her teenage crush, a ring on her finger. Then there's the matter of the marriage certificate. How did that happen? The jury's out on whether it's Penny's dream come true or worst nightmare.

Quinn Templeton has to wonder what they actually did that night, too. And when they get back to Weaver, Wyoming, the air force pararescueman can't just ignore the real feelings for his fake bride -- especially if Penny's pregnant. Will they remember what brought them to the altar in the first place…and maybe sign up for a repeat performance?

Good book. Penny and Quinn were confused when they woke up in bed together. Neither could remember how they got there nor could they remember the circumstances leading up to the marriage certificate they also discovered. Penny desperately wants to believe that it is fake, a joke played on them by someone. Quinn is pretty sure it's real. Penny is desperate to keep the marriage quiet until they can arrange a divorce, but Quinn doesn't seem to be all that worried, as they head back home to Wyoming.

I liked Quinn. He's home on leave, recovering from injuries received during one of his PJ missions and trying to get back into fighting condition. He doesn't want to think about what will happen if he isn't able to go back to the job he loves. Quinn is also getting to know his grandmother, Vivian, a very wealthy and very eccentric woman. I really liked the way that he was so calm compared to Penny's drama. I loved his calm in a crisis personality and his sensitivity to Penny and her issues.

I had a harder time liking Penny. I understood her initial panic, but her constant refusal to acknowledge their marriage began to irritate me. Penny had a lot of issues that influenced her. Her childhood in and out of foster homes, thanks to her mother's alcoholism, made her superconscious of being the subject of gossip. She fell in love with a man who had also been a foster child with her. Unfortunately, he was killed in the war just a week before their wedding, causing her to lock down her emotions. She also had self-esteem issues, believing that it was easy for people to walk away from her.

I liked the development of Penny and Quinn's relationship. They had a history together, though not one that Penny liked to remember. She'd had a crush on him when she was fifteen, and he shot her down when she tried to make advances to him. She didn't know that he had noticed her even back then, but he was an adult, and she was just a kid, so he kept himself under control. Thanks to their unexpected marriage, those old feelings have been stirred back up again. Penny panics because Quinn makes her feel things she hasn't felt since Andy's death. She's afraid to get involved with Quinn because, especially with his job, she can't handle the idea of losing again, so she keeps pushing him away. I liked how Quinn realizes that he'd like to keep Penny in his life. I ached for him the morning after her birthday when her fears got the best of her. I liked his big moment at the end as he made another attempt to show Penny how he felt. His words are so heartfelt and emotional. I loved her surprise and shock when she finally accepted the truth.

Penny's boss and Quinn's grandmother, Vivian, was quite a character. She is blunt and outrageous with some of the things she does, but deep down, I think she just wants to be accepted by her family. I enjoyed her run at politics and attempts to get the incumbent to debate her. I also loved the part with her sons and the paintings - clever! I get the feeling that she has a lot of love to give, she just doesn't know how.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Last Single Garrett - Brenda Harlen (HSE #2549 - May 2017)

Series: Those Engaging Garretts (Book 12)


For twelve years Tristyn Garrett ignored the near kiss with family friend and current boss Josh Slater…until the confirmed bachelor shows up with three adorable little girls in his arms. Making him simply irresistible…


But resist she must, especially when she's trapped for the summer in an RV on the car-racing circuit with the girls and the one man she can't allow herself to have. Because he broke her heart once -- she won't let him do it again!

Caring for his nieces on the road, Josh needs Tristyn. But the kiss that got away looms large in the small space…till Josh devises a plan: kiss her again and get it out of his system. With three little chaperones, what can possibly happen?

Fun story and terrific conclusion to the series. Tristyn and Josh have known each other for twenty years. He is her cousin's best friend, and also her boss. Josh is also the subject of her girlhood crush. He stepped in and took her to her senior prom when her date came down with the flu. It was a magical evening for her until the end, when he broke her heart by backing away from her kiss. Josh has never forgotten the kiss that almost happened. But Tristyn was his best friend's cousin and just a kid. Since then he's done his best to keep his distance.

I loved the opening of the book, as Tristyn became more irritated with Josh's disappearing act, leaving her to deal with the results. However, her irritation turned to worry as she continued to be unable to reach him. I loved seeing her show up at his house and her determination to find out what was wrong. It was fun to see Josh try to deflect her with his innuendos only to be exposed by one of his nieces. I loved how Tristyn jumped in to help the obviously overwhelmed Josh. That whole scene was fun, from the cellphone to the explanation of the number of dirty dishes.

Over the next few days there are several more encounters, including July Fourth celebrations with her family. I loved how Josh and Tristyn's attraction is obvious to everyone else, but they try to ignore it. Because it's the height of the racing season, Josh's need to care for his nieces presents some interesting challenges. But the biggest challenge comes when Daniel suggests that Josh use an RV to travel the racing circuit with his nieces and Josh insists that Tristyn come along to help. Tristyn is reluctant because she knows that protecting her heart will be hard if they're together that much.

I loved watching the development of their relationship. They had to work together to care for the girls, and underneath it all was that simmering attraction for each other. Eventually that attraction comes to a boil and they have to decide what to do with it. Wanting to protect themselves, both Tristyn and Josh insist that they aren't up for anything permanent, but giving in and "getting it out of their systems" is possible. Of course, each is lying through their teeth, because their feelings are already involved, though neither will admit it to the other. I especially enjoyed seeing Josh realize that what he had was more than just physical, that he also craved the closeness of talking about anything and nothing and just being together. Tristyn knows that she loves Josh, but is afraid risking rejection once again.

When Josh's sister returns earlier than expected and their road trip comes to an end, Josh and Tristyn have to decide what to do. I ached for Tristyn as she allowed her fears to push Josh away. I also hurt for Josh, who really wanted to see where the relationship might go, though he still isn't quite ready to admit his feelings. Josh's big moment at the end was so sweet and romantic and perfect for the two of them. The epilogue was great, and I loved Ren and his checkered flag.

Besides the fun of seeing Josh and Tristyn together, I loved the three little girls. It was so sweet to see "Uncle Josh" turn into a puddle of goo around them. I loved his patience with their food foibles and seeing him cope with car sickness and potty emergencies (oh, that shower scene!). The one that melted my heart was when Hanna had her nightmare. Each of the girls had their own realistic personalities and behavior for their ages. I especially loved Charlotte and her "it's in the book."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Texan Takes a Wife - Charlene Sands (HD #2551 - Nov 2017)

Series: Texas Cattleman's Club: Blackmail (Book 11)

A temporary tryst with a sexy Texan…no problem, right?

All it takes is a daring out-of-character ride on a mechanical bull to send Erin Sinclair straight into the arms of one fine-looking cowboy. With Royal, Texas, on edge over the criminal targeting their secrets, she needs to blow off steam.

Dan Hunt is happy to give the ex-nanny the time of her life, but the rich rancher insists he doesn't do relationships. With Erin leaving Royal in a matter of weeks, why not have a no-strings affair? Even if it feels like it could be the commitment of a lifetime…

Good book. Erin came to Royal from Seattle to work as a nanny. That job ended when her employer fell in love, so Erin is at loose ends until she returns to Seattle at the end of the year.  After a night out with friends at a local bar, Erin decides to try a ride on the mechanical bull. She quickly finds herself flat on her back, staring into the eyes of a big, hunky cowboy.

Dan was more than happy to be the one to pick Erin up. He'd noticed her earlier and been drawn to her. As he walked her to her car, they witnessed a dog get hit by a car. As they work together to care for the dog, attraction simmers between them. They fall into bed together for a night of passion, but reality hits the next morning. Dan makes it clear that he doesn't do relationships and since Erin is leaving soon, they leave it at that.

But neither can forget the other. When Erin agrees to help her friend Chelsea in her investigation into the person blackmailing members of the Texas Cattleman's Club, she discovers that Dan is Chelsea's brother. As the two work together to help Chelsea, they find themselves combining investigation with passion as the attraction burns between them.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Dan and Erin. Besides the obvious physical attraction, it was clear that they liked each other. I loved their time together riding, taking care of Dan's many rescued animals, and just being together. As time goes on, Erin realizes that her feelings are more than a fling and that she wants more from Dan. A pregnancy scare brings home just how far apart they are. Dan likes being with Erin, and he's happier than he's been in a long time. But he doesn't believe in happy-ever-afters thanks to his mom's abandonment of the family. I ached for them both on Thanksgiving Day, as Dan witnesses Erin's joy at her friends' engagement and her happiness holding baby Faye, and realizes that he can't give her what she needs. As his guilty feelings over hurting Erin begin to build, he distances himself emotionally. I liked Erin's strength as she left early for her new job as a way to end things with Dan quickly and cleanly. I hurt for them both as their unhappiness at being apart was obvious. I loved Chelsea's sneaky way of getting Dan to face his fears and realize the truth of his feelings. His big moment at the end was awesome, especially considering his strong and silent personality.

There is more progress on the search for the blackmailer known as Maverick. Though a couple of leads didn't work out, at the end there is one that looks quite promising. I am looking forward to the next and final book in this series and the resolution of the mystery.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Expecting a Lone Star Heir - Sara Orwig (HD #2554 - Nov 2017)

Series: Texas Promises (Book 1)

Former army ranger Mike Moretti is finding it hard to remember that Vivian Warner is forbidden. She's his late buddy's widow and his new boss. Mike hired on at the Warner ranch to help Vivian, not to seduce her.

But playing the role of pretend suitor leads to irresistible temptation…and an unexpected pregnancy. This cowboy's code of honor demands he do the right thing, but Vivian won't say, "I do," for anything less than love.

Good book. In the midst of battle, Mike promises his dying buddy Thane that he will take the job of ranch foreman and look after Thane's wife Vivian for at least three months. He already regretted the promise as he arrived at the ranch six months later, not happy about working for someone who knew nothing about ranching. But a promise is a promise. He's surprised by Vivian's beauty when he meets her and jolted by the zing of attraction he feels when they shake hands. For him, being attracted to his late friend's wife is a definite no-no.

Vivian loved Thane and deeply mourns his loss. She is an artist with no knowledge of ranching, so she is happy to have Mike take over as ranch foreman. She isn't as happy about the flare of awareness she feels with him. However, that doesn't stop her from asking for his help in discouraging the attentions of a neighbor.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Mike and Vivian, though there were several times I really wanted to shake Mike or bash him on the head with something. From the moment they met there was a connection between them. Though they had never met, they knew each other a bit through Thane and the way he talked about each of them. I liked the way that Vivian felt she could trust Mike as soon as she met him, which made it easier for her to ask his help with the Clint problem. I liked Mike's protectiveness and how he stepped up to help her. The scene at the art gallery was especially good. With each "date" they went on, the attraction between them built until they could no longer resist, though it was fun to see them try.

But both are resistant to the idea of something permanent, at least at first. Vivian is still reeling from Thane's death and is afraid of losing again if she allows her heart to get involved. Mike has made it clear that he is unlikely to stay past the three months that he promised Thane he'd stay. On Mike's side, he can't get past the idea that Vivian is the heir to billions and has already inherited Thane's millions. He is adamant that a real man doesn't take money from a woman. He went on and on about this so much, and all I could think was that he was going to miss out on what could be a wonderful future because of it.

When Vivian ends up pregnant, she realizes that she has fallen in love with Mike, even though she never intended to. She also knows that Mike's code of honor means that he will want them to marry, and she can't bear the idea of marriage without love. I liked Vivian's confidence in her ability to be the kind of mother she wants her baby to have. I also liked that she was willing to stand up to Mike's attempts to convince her that love could come later. It took almost losing her for Mike to realize just what she meant to him and what was truly important. I enjoyed his big moment at the end and seeing how they worked out their issues. There's a little bit of a lead-in for the next book, and I can't wait to see what is in store for Noah.

Charming the Firefighter - Beth Andrews (HS #1962 - Dec 2014)

Series: In Shady Grove (Book 5)

Look who she attracted!

One glance at the hot firefighter who responds to a misguided 911 call and Penelope Denning knows she's out of her depth. Leo Montesano is a charmer with an exciting career. She's an accountant focused on getting her son through his teenage years. Yet Leo is definitely pursuing her. How can she possibly resist?

As the attraction between them ignites, Penelope discovers a wild side she never knew. The passion makes her think about a future beyond this affair…until her real life interrupts. And when she's convinced she must choose her son over romance, Leo does something she never expects!

Good book. Penelope is the single mother of a teenage boy. They moved to Shady Grove from California to start over after her divorce. Her son, Andrew, isn't happy about the move and leaving his friends behind and has been a royal pain in the behind. One day, after another exchange of words with Andrew before he storms off, Penelope indulged in a little too much wine, then attempted to use the gas grill. Leo is one of the firefighters who responded to the neighbor's 911 call.

Once he realized that she was alright, Leo was pretty amused by Penelope. Her precise speech and habit of talking with her hands fascinated him, especially once he realized she was drunk, not injured. He was also attracted to her. I enjoyed seeing him make excuses to stick around a little bit longer to make sure she was okay.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Penelope was shocked when Leo showed up at her work to ask her out. He's younger than she is and very good-looking, but she doesn't see any point in their going out. It was a rather painful scene, especially for Leo. He's not used to be turned down flat when he asks a woman out, and Penelope was pretty blunt. I also thought she was a bit obnoxious in her response to him; it seemed like she had no interest in even being polite. It got even worse when Penelope discovered that Andrew had lied his way onto the school football team, for which Leo is the coach. That confrontation among the three of them was loud and antagonistic, at least from Penelope and Andrew. I had a lot of respect for Leo because he kept his cool. It was interesting to see the deal that they ended up working out among the three of them. It also gave Leo his chance to get to know Penelope. It was pretty sweet to see how much they did have in common and how the attraction and feelings between them grew.

But Penelope has a major stumbling block to anything serious with Leo, and that is Andrew. Because of his serious illness as a child, Penelope has become extremely overprotective. Andrew is the be-all and end-all of her life, and she lets him walk all over her. There was a horrible scene when Andrew realized what was going on between his mom and Leo. I liked the way that Leo dealt with Andrew and his attitude. He also had some blunt words for Penelope about her attitude. I wanted to shake her until she saw the truth, and ached for Leo when she walked away. I loved the event that opened her eyes and her reaction when she did. It was great to see her finally stand up for herself. It was nice to see that it was the woman having to admit to being an idiot, and Penelope's big moment at the end was great.

Now, for Andrew. No doubt about it, he was a brat for most of the book. His crappy attitude toward his mom was really obnoxious, especially considering how she had cared for him when he was sick. Yes, she was overprotective and a bit controlling, but a better attitude might have been able to change some of that. He was also manipulative, and I loved seeing Leo call him on that instance of it. At first, I thought his friendship with Gracie was going to have a good effect on him, but he even managed to screw that up. I loved seeing her confront him over his actions. He got a real wakeup call from his mom at the end, and it was encouraging to see the effect on him.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Billionaire in Disguise - Soraya Lane (HR #4443 - Oct 2014)

"So much for staying out of trouble…"

Nathan Bell left his high-flying London life for the rolling green hills of New Zealand to shake off the shadows of his past and start again—under the radar. He should not be getting distracted by a feisty blonde who spells nothing but trouble!

Jessica Falls has her own reasons for keeping things with Nathan commitment-free…yet every kiss erodes her defenses. And when she discovers how much pain he's hiding, Jessica knows only she has the power to heal her broken billionaire!

Good story about two grieving people who find comfort and healing together. Jessica has returned to New Zealand to settle her grandfather's estate and finish healing from a devastating riding accident. There she meets Nathan, a sexy Englishman, who has been renting her grandfather's guest cottage. Nathan fled halfway across the world to escape the memories of the events that upended his world. Neither expected the attraction that flared between them.

I ached for Nathan. He is still haunted by the circumstances of his wife's death and his feeling of responsibility. He blames his workaholic ways for not seeing how unhappy she was. During his time in New Zealand, he has begun to make some changes in his lifestyle and attitudes, determined not to make the same mistakes in the future. The last thing that he wants before he's ready is to get involved with any woman.

I hurt for Jessica, too. Her grandfather's death was unexpected and happened right after her accident. She was stuck in the hospital in England and couldn't even get home for his funeral. Now she is home, not knowing if she'll ever be able to ride competitively again, and desperately missing the only family she'd had left. Having recently been burned in love, she's not too thrilled to be attracted to the guy in the guest cottage.

I liked the development of Jessica and Nathan's relationship. It started out a little rough, as Jessica's pain and exhaustion caused her to be less than polite and welcoming to Nathan. Fortunately, he was pretty laid back and understanding, and didn't fight back. As he had become good friends with Jessica's grandfather, they were able to bond a bit over their memories of the man. Nathan also found himself feeling rather protective toward Jessica. When Jessica expressed her doubts over the lawyer's news about her inheritance, Nathan offered to help her discover the truth. I liked watching them grow closer over their shared memories and enjoyment of the peace and solitude of the farm. I also liked the way that Jessica noticed the sadness in Nathan's eyes and wanted to help him. The scene at the market was pretty sweet as she got him to open up a little, though I had a feeling that the information he didn't share would come back to bit him later. Neither expected the passion that flared between them from one kiss. With Nathan's departure coming fast, they decided that giving in would not be dangerous to their plans to avoid relationships.

Then Nathan realized that he didn't want to be apart from Jessica quite yet. Just being around her made him feel better than he had since his wife's death. Though he has to return to get some work done, he invites her along, promising that he won't return to his workaholic ways and they will spend time together. I ached for Jessica because that's exactly what he did. I wanted to shake him so hard because he knew what he was doing and still kept doing it. Then his worst fear came to pass, and Jessica found out the truth about his wife's death. I liked that Jessica held onto her pride and stood up for her own needs. Her loneliness when she arrived home was eased somewhat by the surprise that Nathan had arranged for her, but she couldn't forget about her feelings for him. I liked his big moment at the end, as he made the changes in his life that were truly needed for him to have the future that he wanted. I also loved the surprise that Jessica had for him, regarding her inheritance. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Billionaire After Dark - Katie Lane (Forever - Apr 2016)

Series: Overnight Billionaires (Book 2)

With endless wealth comes irresistible temptation . . .

It's an undisputed fact that Nash Beaumont is the hottest of the Beaumont brothers. His slow, sensual smile charms every French Kiss employee-and tempts every woman to buy the company's lingerie. But beneath Nash's raw charisma is a dark, kinky side that he struggles to control . . . a side that may be exposed by one lovely-and unexpectedly adventurous woman.

Reporter Eden Huckabee needs a story. And when she discovers Nash's dirty little secret, she thinks she's found it. But Eden doesn't count on Nash turning the tables on her-or that she will fall so deeply for this unbelievably sexy, one-in-a-billion Beaumont.

Good continuation of the Overnight Billionaires series. Eden is a reporter who actually isn't very good at her job. To keep her job at the newspaper, she needs to find a good story. While researching a piece on prostitution (by playing the part of an escort), she discovers the identity of a patron referred to as "The Dark Seducer." All she needs is a little more information, and she'll have what she needs. She doesn't count on falling for the subject of her investigation.

Nash is the sexiest of the Beaumont brothers. His Southern charm and sexy smile have the women throwing themselves at him, But Nash has a secret life that no one knows about until one particular woman gets under his skin. Suddenly the control he is so proud of isn't as strong as he thought it was and his life is about to undergo a complete upheaval.

I liked both Eden and Nash. Eden is bold, tenacious, smart, and has a softer heart than she wants to admit. I loved the way that she threw herself into everything she did, from researching the escort business to her story on marathons. She also tends to get too close to her story subjects, which wrecks her objectivity. I loved her interactions with Madison and Chloe, who go from sources to friends. Nash is sexy, charming, loyal, and protective. I loved watching him use his charm to make things happen, from repairs at Eden's apartment to calming various crises at work.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Nash and Eden. There was an immediate connection between them when they met, in spite of the deceptive circumstances. Nash is very attracted to Eden, but the secret that haunts him has made him unwilling to get close to any woman. When Eden discovers what it is, all she wants is to help him see that he is punishing himself for no reason. I loved seeing him slowly lose the haunted vibe and begin to open up to Eden. Eden falls for him just as hard, but her deception weighs on her. She knows she needs to tell him the truth but is afraid of what will happen when she does. I ached for him when that truth came out, and Nash is left feeling used and betrayed. He gets some unexpected sympathy and advice from his father, which opens his eyes to some things he hadn't considered. I also hurt for Eden, who had given up on the idea of publishing the story when she realized that she loved Nash. I loved seeing her use that tenacity to show him that she cares. I loved the marathon scene at the end, which was sweet, romantic, and pretty funny.

There were appearances of characters from the first book, as well as the introduction of new ones. Of course, the other two brothers, Deacon and Grayson, have large parts, as well as Deacon's wife, Olivia. I loved Deacon's attempts to deal with low sales on their bras, trying to keep Grayson focused on the swimsuit catalog, and dealing with his over-the-top mother-in-law. I loved the artsy Grayson and his way of getting lost in his painting and sketching. He did surprise me a bit at the end with his involvement in the rescue of the escort, Chloe. It makes me really look forward to his book. I loved Madison, with her chocolate fixation and wild ideas for her life after leaving the escort business. Chloe was a bit rough around the edges but turned out to be a good friend to both Madison and Eden. But my favorite characters were the elderly nudist neighbors from the first book - who turned out to be Eden's grandparents! They were a hoot with their "magic brownies" and their costumes for the charity ball.

The Maverick's Return - Marie Ferrarella (HSE #2577 - Oct 2017)

Series: Montana Mavericks: Great Family Roundup (Book 4)

Congratulations…it's a girl!

Rust Creek Ramblings

Talk about mending fences -- have you heard that rugged rancher Daniel Stockton is back in town? It's been ten years since Dan left Rust Creek Falls with Anne Lattimore's heart in tow. She soon married someone else and had a child, but their marriage didn't last. We here at the Gazette think we know why. It has something to do with Anne's beautiful daughter, Janie…

Now that Dan has returned, will Anne find the courage to forgive him -- and tell him that sweet Janie is really his? Will Dan find the courage to ask for a second chance? Stay tuned, you hopeful romantics, to see if love really can conquer all!

Good second chance story. I ached for Dan from the very beginning. The book opens with him getting to his cabin after a long day dealing with "dudes" at the dude ranch where he works. He's exhausted, down in the dumps, and just plain lonely. So lonely that he turns on the television just for the illusion of having someone with him. As he's getting ready to find some food a familiar voice comes from the television, hurtling him into the past - the voice of his youngest brother. The next thing we see is Dan standing on the porch of Jamie's house, trying to get up the nerve to knock. I could feel his nervousness, his fear that his brother wouldn't want to see him, and I found myself holding my breath until that door opened. I loved Jamie's reaction and the obvious love he still has for his brother. I loved seeing Dan's happiness at being part of his family again. It was also pretty sweet to see Jamie immediately start playing matchmaker and push Dan into going to see Anne right away.

Anne has never forgotten Dan or the love she had for him. She was devastated when he left town without saying goodbye. It was even worse when she discovered she was pregnant and no one knew where he was or how to reach him. She was at the end of her rope when she met Hank, who offered to marry her and raise the baby as his own. He was a good man, who adored Janie and loved Anne. He spent years hoping that she would come to love him, too, but finally gave up and divorced her. But he's still involved in Janie's life as the father she adores. Anne is shocked when she opens her door and finds Dan standing there. All she can see is the upheaval his presence could cause in her life. She knows she should tell him about Janie, but what sort of pain could that cause for both Janie and Hank? And what kind of risk to her own heart and peace of mind is possible?

I enjoyed seeing Anne and Dan get to know each other again. Their love for each other is still strong, but both of them have fears that have to be dealt with before they can think about a future together. One of the things I really liked about Dan is that he owned up to his mistakes. He knew he had been wrong to leave the way he did and freely admitted it and apologized. I liked watching his tentative yet charming overtures to Anne. But he's also carrying a secret guilt that contributed to his departure and long absence, something that still haunts him. As they spent time together, I liked how Anne saw glimpses of the boy she knew in the man he was now. This helped her to see the pain he was in and want to help him. As Anne's feelings for Dan grew stronger, she worried that he would disappear again, devastating her all over.

I also liked that she didn't wait too long to tell Dan about Janie. Once he got over the shock, I loved how happy Dan was to be a father. He was smart enough to know that they couldn't just blurt out the truth to Janie. It was so sweet to see him spend time with her and get to know her. I loved the whole bit with her superhero show and how surprised she was that he actually listened to her. It was great to see the friendship that grew between them. The Halloween scene was great, showing the family-like feelings that were developing. I ached for Anne, as Janie's attempts at some independence made her heart hurt. Dan was understanding and supportive of both, which couldn't have been easy. I hurt for all of them when they finally broke the news to Janie, and she didn't react well.

I liked seeing that both Anne and Dan did some growing up at this point. Anne realized that she didn't want to hide from her feelings any longer. I loved seeing her decide that she was going to fight for a future with Dan. I hurt for Dan who was so unhappy with the way things had turned out with Janie. He was hiding out at his brother's, trying to lose himself in work. I loved seeing Jamie give Dan the kick in the pants that he needed to try to make amends with Janie. That was such a heartwarming scene, with Dan treating her like an adult and being honest about his feelings. I loved the unexpected pep talk that followed and led to Dan's big moment with Anne. The epilogue gave a tantalizing look at the future. I hope to see more of them in later books.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Marrying His Cinderella Countess - Louise Allen (HH #1340 - Aug 2017)

A proposal from the enigmatic earl

Plain, lame Ellie Lytton isn't destined for marriage. She's perfectly content being her stepbrother's housekeeper… Until the high-handed Earl of Hainford arrives with shocking news -- her stepbrother has been killed!

Ellie believes the earl is responsible for her plight and that he is duty bound to escort her on the journey to her new home. But soon Blake's fighting an unwanted attraction to his argumentative companion… And when she needs protection, he determines he'll keep her safe -- by making Ellie his countess!

Good book. Ellie is fairly content with her life. She's been told often enough that between her plain face and her limp she isn't marriage material. She fills her days being a housekeeper for her stepbrother and writing educational books for children. All that changes when Blake, Earl of Hainford arrives to tell her that her stepbrother is dead.

I enjoyed this first scene with Ellie and Blake. He arrives on her doorstep, bleeding from a bullet wound, and instead of going into hysterics as he expected, Ellie takes charge and insists on treating his wound. Meanwhile, Blake tries desperately to give her the bad news. He's rather surprised by how well she takes it, which adds to his guilty feelings about how her brother died. Those guilty feelings grow stronger when he discovers that her brother lost her inheritance in a stock gamble.

Ellie is practical, intelligent, and honest. She takes what she knows of her circumstances and plans accordingly. She knows that making the long trip to her sole remaining option of a house in Lancashire by herself is a risky proposition. So she takes a chance and informs Blake that it is his responsibility to see her safely there. Blake is surprised by the demand, amused by her reasoning, and finds himself agreeing to escort her and her maid.

I liked Blake. In spite of the circumstances that resulted in her brother's death, he is not the reckless rake he appeared to be. He works hard at his responsibilities and plays hard when he gets the chance. He is haunted by an event in his past that has him keeping his emotions locked up. But he can't deny that he feels a need to protect Ellie.

I enjoyed their trip to her property. Their conversations are fun as Blake is intrigued by a woman so different than the others he knows. Blake also shows an unexpected sensitivity as he realizes that there is more to Ellie's discomfort around men than just being unused to them. This is demonstrated during the carriage accident scene. I ached for Ellie and her panic and appreciated Blake's understanding. His protective feelings for her continue to grow as they reach their destination. But when he sees the condition of the house, he goes a bit overboard in his reaction. This makes Ellie even more determined to stand on her own, and he has no choice but to leave her there. However, he is unable to forget about her and attempts a secret rescue when he finds out her home is in trouble. The confrontation when she discovers the truth is another one where Blake finds himself doing the unexpected and unexplainable - he proposes marriage.

Blake knows he eventually needs to marry. He likes Ellie and can see an acceptable future with her. He has no intention of letting his emotions get involved - his past has shown him that it's a bad idea. Though a bit disdainful of her looks and appeal when they first met, he has begun to see past the surface. Ellie is stunned by the proposal. She can't imagine why he would want her when there are more beautiful and accomplished women available to him. But she is determined to be the best wife she can be while protecting her heart.

I was a little frustrated with Ellie at this point. She was so determined to be the perfect wife that she did things that were unnecessary, such as trying to disguise her limp and hiding her writing. Blake won big points with me with his care for her when he realized what she had done. He was also tender and sensitive when it came to their wedding night and dealing with her fears.

I had high hopes for them as they started their honeymoon. It was obvious that their feelings for each other were growing stronger. There were some wonderfully romantic scenes between them. But Blake was still haunted by his past, and that kept him from recognizing his feelings for Ellie until it was almost too late. I ached for Ellie over what she witnessed and believed. Her feelings were understandable, and I thought the way she gained some extra time to think was pretty clever. I enjoyed the ending as Blake was finally able to let go of the past and embrace a future with Ellie. I also liked that Ellie finally believed that Blake loved her just as she was. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Snowbound in Sweetwater Ranch - RaeAnne Thayne (HSR - Jan 2017)

Series: Logan's Legacy (Book 8)

After an unbelievable makeover gave her the confidence to strut her stuff at a charity ball, Kate Crosby went from harmless flirt to bedroom vixen. But she wasn't about to let a single night of oh-so-sultry passion with archenemy Peter Logan become anything more. Of course, she didn't count on seeing their lip-lock featured in the local paper!

Finally able to track the mysterious beauty down to a remote cabin, Peter learned the truth about her identity -- and that she was going to have his baby. Unable to stop thinking about Kate since the moment she walked into his life, he needed to convince her that their one-night stand should become a one-life stand.

Good book. This is an enemies to lovers/Cinderella story. Katie has always been the quiet, bookish one in the family, and very intelligent. She runs the research and development section of the family company. Thanks to a witch of a mother and a neglectful father, her teen years were pretty miserable, leading her to feel like an ugly duckling. After years of being overweight, she has turned her life around. A friend gave Katie a makeover just in time for a local charity ball, and she had never felt more beautiful. She didn't expect to draw the attention of hot bachelor Peter Logan, her family's archenemy, and her teenage crush. Katie avoids telling him her real name to spend time with him, and the attraction they feel leads to kisses and more. The next morning Katie sneaks off, not realizing that one of their kisses had been caught by a photographer.

Three months later Katie gets a couple of shocks. First, the photographer has finally identified the people in the photograph. Katie dreads what will happen when her family discovers she's been consorting with the enemy. Second, Katie discovers that she is pregnant with Peter's baby. This is the icing on the cake of disasters in her opinion. Needing time away from the firestorm that is sure to erupt, Katie flees to the family ranch for some peace and quiet to decide what to do. The last thing she expects is to have a very angry Peter show up on her doorstep.

Peter has been looking for the mysterious beauty ever since that night. He is horrified and angry to discover that she is a member of the hated Crosby family. Convinced that she seduced him to steal company secrets, he flies to Sweetwater to confront her. But the woman he finds there is very different than what he expected to find.

Their reunion is passionate, but not in a positive way. Peter is angry and spouts off with a lot of unsubstantiated accusations and slurs against Katie's character. She is stunned and equally angry about being accused of something so unlike her. She wants nothing more than to get him to leave her alone, but the weather doesn't cooperate. A spring blizzard strands them together.

I liked Katie a lot. She is super intelligent, but also a bit socially awkward. Though her makeover had given her a boost of confidence the night of the ball, it doesn't roll over into her everyday life. I ached for her and her belief in her undesirability. Though shocked at her unexpected pregnancy, she is determined to give the baby a better childhood than she had.

I liked Peter, too, once I got past his ranting and raving. As his past and insecurities are revealed, I understood his anger over what he believed had happened. In spite of knowing that he is loved by the parents who adopted him, he still feels that he has to earn his place. His fears over his family's reaction cause him to lash out at Katie.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Forced into close proximity by the blizzard, Katie and Peter have to call a truce to their battles. With the questions of motivation put on the back burner, Peter quickly realizes that the Katie he thought he knew is far different than the one who is with him now. I loved seeing him get to know the real Katie and discover that he likes her. I loved that he saw her for the beautiful and talented woman that she was. Over the next few days, as they work together, a deeper bond is formed. There are some fun and sweet scenes of them together, and also some places where their fears and tempers get the better of them.

As Peter and Katie discover that their feelings for each other have begun to grow and change they will have to find a way to overcome their fears before they can make a life together. A crisis with Katie's pregnancy shows just how much Peter has come to care for her and he starts to push for a future together. An unexpected appearance by Katie's mom shows Katie the truth of his feelings and enables her to believe in her own desirability. I loved how Peter called out her mom on her attitude toward Katie and the impact his words had on Katie. I liked the epilogue and how it showed the changes to the relationships between the families.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Twins for the Billionaire - Sarah M. Anderson (HD #2552 - Nov 2017)

Series: Billionaires and Babies (Book 87)

Seducing the Single Mom

Widowed mom Sofia Bingham needs a job -- fast! Her babies won't feed themselves. Working for real estate tycoon Eric Jenner is the perfect solution. But her childhood buddy is all grown up now…and tempting as hell. Surely one unforgettable night of passion wouldn't hurt? After that, they can go back to being all business!

But Eric doesn't agree that they should put their red-hot romance on ice. He can't deny his connection to Sofia's adorable twins -- or his consuming desire for their mother. What will it take to convince her that he's playing for keeps?

Good story that is a combination of second chances and friends to lovers. Sofia is a widowed mother of twin toddlers. After the death of her husband, she needed help and moved in with her parents, because she was having trouble making ends meet. She really needs a job with good pay and regular hours, when she sees an ad for an office manager for Eric's company. She takes a chance on applying, even though she isn't totally qualified.

Eric has made an incredible success of his company. He is known as one of the most eligible bachelors in Chicago. Ever since the end of his engagement, he has felt like there is a hole in his life. His friends are all settling down, but he is still alone. It is hard for him to know if a woman is interested in his money and position, or in the man that he truly is. He is stunned when he recognizes the job applicant as his childhood friend.

I loved the development of their relationship. Just seeing Sofia again reminded Eric of what good friends they had been when they were kids. He feels very protective of her and offers her the job right away, even though he has no idea if she can do it. I loved that scene as they point out each other's negotiating failures. But now that she works for him, Eric tells himself that she is off limits, even though he's very attracted to her and wants to get closer. It was really sweet to see the way that he tries to take care of her. Sofia is just as attracted to him. She doesn't see the ruthless businessman or the playboy billionaire. She sees the kind and handsome guy who was her friend when she was a kid. However, she also knows that mixing business and pleasure is a bad idea, especially since she really needs that job. Plus, she still sees herself as the housekeeper's daughter and therefore not good enough for the billionaire bachelor. I loved their business trip where she got a taste of his life. The passion flared between them, but a crisis back home left Sofia drowning in guilt over what happened, so she pushes him away. I ached for Eric because all he wanted was to care for Sofia and the kids. I loved the ending as Eric exposed his vulnerability along with his heart. I also loved seeing Sofia finally accept that Eric loved her for who she was. The epilogue was a sweet picture of the new family.

I really liked Eric. He has a reputation as ruthless in business, but underneath he is a good and honorable man. He doesn't fool around with his employees, though he does flirt lightly with some of them. Those same employees truly respect him, and I loved seeing the relationships he had with them. He was burned by love once, but it hasn't put him off the idea of finding the right woman. He also really wants to be a father and I ached for him over the disappointments in his past.

Her Rocky Mountain Hero - Jennifer D. Bokal (HRS #1970 - Nov 2017)

Series: Rocky Mountain Justice (Book 1)

When security expert Cody Samuels finds fugitive Viktoria Mateev in hiding, he can't believe his luck. Turning her in will be the perfect revenge on the crime family who destroyed Cody's DEA career. But to his surprise, Cody is just in time to rescue Viktoria from assassins. He soon finds himself tracking her son's kidnappers -- and trying to resist his deepest desires…

To keep her son from her ruthless in-laws, Viktoria went on the run. Now she's teaming up with a man she can't trust. Cody's courage and bold gambits are a temptation Viktoria can't resist -- even as a risky sacrifice guarantees they may not survive to see another holiday.

Good book about a man bent on revenge and a woman who will do anything to protect her son. Cody has been trying to bring down a Russian crime family ever since they destroyed his career with the DEA. When the security firm he works for is tasked with finding the fugitive daughter and grandson of his nemesis, Cody is thrilled. But when he watches the house to witness the takedown, something doesn't feel right.

Viktoria is desperate to keep her young son away from her ruthless father-in-law. When he tries to have her declared an unfit mother so that he can take custody, she takes Gregory and runs. A few weeks later they have settled into an isolated cabin in the Colorado mountains and Viktoria feels like she can give Gregory a traditional Christmas. Then she awakens one night to find her son gone and men waiting to kill her.

The book takes place over just a few days, enabling the intensity to build quickly. From the moment that Cody realizes that the men he sees enter the house aren't law enforcement to the apprehension of the kidnapper, it feels as though the action is nearly non-stop. A lack of trust between Cody and Viktoria complicates their rescue planning. Cody believes that Viktoria is just as guilty as her family and it takes him awhile to realize that she isn't.  However, Cody won't let a little boy pay the price for his family's crimes.  Viktoria doesn't want to trust the man whose actions brought the kidnappers to her doorstep, but she can't refuse the help. I liked the realism of seeing that not all their actions went according to plan. I also liked seeing the action from the bad guys' side as they dealt with the unexpected complications caused by Cody and Viktoria. The final confrontation was exciting as Cody and Viktoria raced against time to keep the bad guy from taking Gregory out of the country. I especially loved seeing Viktoria's part in saving her son, showing you don't get between a mama bear and her cub.

The development of the relationship between Cody and Viktoria was very fast. There was immediate attraction between them, in spite of the lack of trust. Beyond that attraction, there was also a connection that neither could deny. I ached for Cody and his feelings of being broken, especially with his estrangement from his sister. I loved seeing Viktoria bash her way through his walls and help him heal. The scene at the end where she played "Santa's helper" was sweet and showed just how well she had come to know him. Both felt vulnerable at the end, not sure if the other felt the same way.