Monday, June 26, 2017

Wild West Fortune - Allison Leigh (HSE #2551 - June 2017)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: The Secret Fortunes (Book 6)


In a small Western town with more horses than people, feisty city reporter Ariana Lamonte may have uncovered the scoop of a lifetime: not one, not two, but three secret Fortunes, hiding in plain sight. Exposing these heretofore unknown Fortune heirs could make her career. But it could also break her heart.

Falling in love with cowboy/military man Jayden Fortune was never part of the plan. When Jayden offered Ariana shelter from a storm, he didn't know who she was -- and she didn't know what she was in for. Trapped in a dark, damp cellar with the sexy-as-sin rancher, Ariana unlassoed her inner cowgirl, and now she's got a problem: her "secret Fortune" has become way more than just a story…

Good book. Ariana is a reporter who has appeared in several earlier books. She is writing articles about the Fortunes, especially the newly discovered ones. She is also planning to write a book about Jerome Fortune/Gerald Robinson. A chance encounter with Gerald's wife Charlotte gives her a lead to more Fortunes. Not one to let grass grow under her feet, she heads for Paseo to see what she can find. What she finds first is a deserted road, no town, and an approaching storm - and one cowboy rescuer. Jayden Fortune, former army and current rancher, can't leave a damsel in distress, so he takes her back to his home. They take refuge in the storm cellar as a storm rages overhead - and in the cellar.

The developing relationship between Ariana and Jayden, as she waits for the repairs to her car, is fun to see. Ariana may be a city girl, but she's also adaptable, and quickly gets involved in the day to day life of the ranch. I loved the part at the Ybarra's ranch, as she sees a community come together to help one of their own, and how it affected her. The heat continues to grow between them as do their feelings. But Ariana hasn't been completely open with Jayden about her plans, and when the truth comes out he feels angry and betrayed. A confrontation with harsh words sends Ariana fleeing back to Austin, while Jayden faces the truth of his feelings for her. A conversation with his mother reveals a not-so-surprising truth and he knows what he has to do. I liked his big moment at the end. He does a bit of groveling, but it's his heart that's on the line and he's nervous about if she'll forgive him. His efforts were pretty sweet and I loved seeing their happy ending.

The truth about whether Jayden and his brothers are Jerome/Gerald's is answered by the end of the book. There is also a scene with the Robinson siblings as they are discussing the search for other siblings. A discovery by Olivia reveals a shocking secret about their mother and may be a lead in for the next series of Fortune books. I hope so, because I still want to know Jerome/Gerald's reasons.

From Fortune to Family Man - Judy Duarte (HSE #2540 - Apr 2017)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: The Secret Fortunes (Book 4)


Kieran Fortune, vice president of Robinson Tech, knows his strengths. He's good with technology; he's good at making money and at making love. But he doesn't know one thing about parenting. And he's just become a father. To a toddler.

When the ever-so-sexy millionaire agreed to sign on as legal guardian to his best friend's daughter, he considered it a mere formality. But now Zach is gone and Kieran is…Dad. In a fit of desperation, he reaches out to Zach's ex-girlfriend. Dana Trevino is a serious-minded graduate student who is great with little Rosie. She is also Kieran's polar opposite and the very last woman he should be interested in. It isn't fair. It isn't right. It's also just about inevitable…

Good book. Kieran is a tech guru and a ladies man. He is also a good friend. When his best friend asked him to be guardian to his daughter, Kieran never expected to have to follow through on it. But when Zach dies, Kieran steps up, determined to be whatever Rosie needed. He's also feeling a bit overwhelmed, so he asks Zach's former girlfriend for help.  He doesn't expect to be drawn to her. Dana and Zach had been closer to friends than lovers, but she adored his daughter. She's more than happy to help Kieran whenever he needs it. She's not nearly as happy about her attraction to him.

I liked both Kieran and Dana. I liked how he changed his life around to give Rosie the life he feels she deserves. I loved that he was hands-on, rather than just hiring a nanny and turning Rosie over to her. He'd been raised by nannies himself, and though they'd been good, they weren't his parents. There are some terrific scenes of Kieran and Rosie together as he moves from Uncle Kieran to Uncle Daddy to just plain Daddy. Dana is sweet and loving. With no family of her own, she loved becoming part of Zach's, though she feels a little guilty. Their relationship hadn't been as deep as so many had assumed. She's grateful that Zach's parents still want her in their lives and Rosie's.

I loved the development of their relationship. They had met a few times previously, but didn't really know each other. Kieran first sees her as quiet, serious, and nothing like the other women he knows. He's puzzled by the sparks of attraction he feels for her, and tries to subdue them. After all, she was Zach's girl and even though he's gone it just isn't right. But he desperately needs her help. It isn't too long before he realizes that he also wants to be with her for his own sake. This freaks him out a bit because he's always been the committed bachelor. This causes him to do and say some things to Dana that are meant to put some distance between them but end up being hurtful. Dana is equally attracted to Kieran, but considers him to be way out of her league. She sees him as rich, successful and gorgeous and she's just a former foster kid. She doesn't see her own beauty and the sweetness that appeals to him. Spending time together with Rosie brings them closer and they start feeling like a family. Dana knows she's falling for him, but she can't stop her feelings from growing, even though she's sure nothing will come of it. Kieran's own feelings are changing and he doesn't know how to deal with them. Though I wanted to shake him over the whole wedding invitation thing, I liked that he quickly realized how stupid he had been. His big moment at the end was sweet and romantic, and showed an unexpected bit of vulnerability in him.

There wasn't much said in this book about the Fortune-Robinsons' ongoing search for any other half-siblings from their father's frequent affairs. There is some inclusion of the reporter Ariana Lamonte, who is doing a series of articles on the new Fortunes. There is also a hint that she may have a bigger story in mind.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Twice a Hero, Always Her Man - Marie Ferrarella (HSE #2522 - Jan 2017)

Series: Matchmaking Mamas (Book 17)

She'd stopped believing in happy endings…

Widowed TV reporter Ellie King had given up on looking for heroes ever since her beloved husband was killed in a robbery gone wrong. Because she could have used one then, but there was no one around -- or was there?

…until a hero walked back into her life.

Detective Colin Benteen had been the first on the scene to comfort Ellie's husband, to hold his hand when it was clear his wounds were fatal. Now, years later, Ellie is interviewing the handsome officer when she realizes who he is -- a single parent (to his niece), all-around good guy and proof that once in a lifetime can happen twice! But Colin might not be the only one who needs convincing…

Good book. The matchmaking mamas are at it again. Their friend Connie wants their help finding someone for her daughter. Ellie's husband had been killed two years earlier and she feels that Ellie is just going through the motions of living. Maizie and company come up with the who, and fate drops the how into their laps. I loved Maizie's conversation with the station manager. What she doesn't know is that there is already a connection between Ellie and Colin. When Ellie arrives to interview Colin, she recognizes him as the officer who had been first on the scene at the robbery. She still feels guilty that she had never thanked him for all he did, but during the interview isn't the time to do it. She doesn't expect the first spark of feeling she's had since her husband's death to happen when talking to Colin.

Colin is a great guy. He used to be quite a ladies man, then his brother and sister-in-law were killed in an accident, making him the guardian of his ten year old niece, Heather. He never hesitated, but changed his entire life in order to be what she needed. He's also pretty humble, and isn't all that thrilled to be the center of attention in Ellie's story. He is intrigued by her, plus there is something about her that keeps picking at his brain. I loved the way that he indulged Heather by setting up a chance for her to meet Ellie. It turned out way differently than he expected, especially when he was called into work and Ellie offered to stay with Heather.

This was the beginning of a pretty sweet relationship. There were a few bumps at the beginning as Ellie keeps putting off telling Colin about their connection, until such time as Colin figured it out himself. He didn't take it all that well, as he still feels guilty for not being able to save her husband, and thinks she hid the connection until she could get even with him. I ached for Colin and how he is still haunted by that night. Ellie is suffering from some guilt of her own. First, that she blames herself for what happened to him, something that she has been suppressing for way too long. I loved Colin's tenderness and kindness when she finally fell apart. She's also feeling some guilt over the feelings that are growing for Colin. I really enjoyed the slow and steady growth of their feelings for each other. There were some marvelous scenes that showed just how right they were for each other. I loved Ellie's arrival with the puppy for Heather, and how Colin used that as a way to keep Ellie in their lives. Ellie's nurturing heart was shown in the way she loved to cook for them. The Thanksgiving scene was great, especially her horror that they were going to go to a restaurant to eat. As they grew closer, Ellie's biggest fear was that she would lose Colin the way she lost her husband. I ached for her at the end, when she had to face her fears, and loved the strength of will she showed. The ending was a heartfelt expression of emotions on both their parts and I loved the honesty between them.

I also adored young Heather. Her love for her Uncle Colin was obvious, as was her appreciation of all that he had changed for her. He is equally smitten with her, and I loved his struggles with finding the balance between being the fun uncle and the responsible dad. I enjoyed her quick connection with Ellie and how much fun the two had together. She was also pretty realistic, with her occasional sadness over the loss of her parents, mixed with the natural resilience of being a kid. The scenes with her and the puppy were fantastic, and I could see how perfect they were together. I loved the story the author told at the beginning of how Pancakes came to be part of the story.

Where Azaleas Bloom - Sherryl Woods (Mira - Sept 2012)

Series: Sweet Magnolias (Book 10)

Single mom Lynn Morrow is determined to put food on the table for her son and daughter. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband has failed to meet his obligations time and again -- but it turns out that Ed is struggling with his own demons.

Enter contractor Mitch Franklin, an unlikely knight in shining armor. A widower with two grieving sons, Mitch once admired Lynn from afar. Now he sees in her not only the sweet girl who got away, but a woman desperately in need of support. While rushing to the rescue of Lynn and her children comes naturally to Mitch, he's also wise enough to encourage Lynn to find her own way…hopefully straight into his arms.

Good book. Lynn is in the midst of a crisis. Her soon to be ex-husband has missed child support payments and hasn't been paying the mortgage on the house. She's down to her last few dollars with little food in the house and no way to pay the bills. She is justifiably angry at Ed, but determined to protect his relationship with their children. This is especially difficult with their fourteen year old daughter, who is old enough to understand what is happening. She has one part-time job with friend and neighbor Raylene, but needs something else. While looking for a job in a bad part of town, she is spotted by Mitch, who offers her a job with him instead.

Mitch is a widower who lost his wife to a drunk driver a year earlier. He is slowly working himself out of the overwhelming grief he had felt at the beginning. Mitch and Lynn have known each other since they were kids. Mitch had had quite the crush on her when they were thirteen, but she was already fixated on Ed, so he never did anything about it. Now he can't help but want to make things better for her.

I loved Mitch. He is sweet and protective and he understands Lynn very well. I really liked the way that he didn't stomp on her pride in his eagerness to help, but instead made it possible for her to help herself. I really liked how they began with friendship that slowly grew into more. Mitch is careful to ensure that he is truly ready to move on after his wife's death before he tries to advance things with Lynn. I also enjoyed his interactions with her kids, especially taking Jeremy under his wing.

I liked Lynn's determination to take care of her family. There were times when her pride refused to allow her to seek the help she needed, but her children's welfare was always at the top of her priorities. I liked watching her stand up to Ed when she needed to.

The development of their relationship was slow and sweet, with a hint of fire lurking under the surface. I liked the way that Mitch made his interest clear without pushing Lynn to move faster than she was ready for. Lynn was surprised by her attraction to Mitch, and a bit wary of her feelings at the beginning. There was one stumbling block that had to be dealt with, but I thought that Mitch handled it very well. When Ed decided to use Lynn's relationship with Mitch during the divorce proceedings, I ached for Mitch and what he decided to do. There was also a little bit of drama with Mitch's sons, but again, maturity and communication went a long way toward resolving that issue. I loved the ending and seeing Mitch and Lynn get the future they wanted.

The drama of the divorce was well portrayed. The problems faced by Lynn are all too common. I loved seeing Helen's reactions to Ed's antics and her determination to protect Lynn and the kids. The mystery of what Ed and his lawyer were up to was interesting, and had me considering several possibilities. What it turned out to be never crossed my mind. There were times I detested Ed and others when I felt sorry for him. In the end, I felt that Lynn handled everything quite well, including her dealings with Ed's mother. I also ached for the two kids, most especially for Lexie. Her feelings for her father were affected by his actions and she was torn in how she wanted to treat him. I liked the way that Lynn helped her to accept her feelings, but also to look at things from other perspectives.

Also running through the book was a continuation of what is happening with the three senior Magnolias. In the previous two books we had seen that Frances is having health problems that have begun to escalate. I hurt for her and her fears and frustration, and ached for Liz and Flo as they helped her deal with them. Their problems were lightened somewhat by Flo's revelation of what she has been up to. Helen's reactions are just what is expected, and seeing the two of them resolve the strain between them was both funny and heartwarming.

As always, the deep friendship among the Magnolias and their support of each other through thick and thin is a force to be reckoned with. I loved Lynn's acceptance into the group and how each of them helps her in their own way. I hope that there will be more books in the future, when the younger generation, who have already shown Magnolia values, are ready for stories of their own.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Catching Fireflies - Sherryl Woods (Mira - Aug 2012)

Series: Sweet Magnolias (Book 9)

When bullying threatens to destroy a teen's life, painful memories resurface for dedicated high school teacher Laura Reed and pediatrician J. C. Fullerton. With the support of the Sweet Magnolias, they bring the town together to ensure that a promising student's future isn't ruined. And to establish once and for all that bullying has no place in Serenity, South Carolina.

Both J.C.'s and Laura's passion for the cause is deeply personal, and their growing feelings for each other are just as strong. But with so many secret hurts to overcome, can these two vulnerable lovers find the strength to believe in happily ever after?

Excellent book. A teacher and a pediatrician are brought together in a sweet romance when they combine forces to deal with a case of bullying at the high school. Misty is a junior, smart and hard-working, so when she starts skipping class, Laura is worried. JC is equally worried when Misty comes to him asking for a note that will let her get out of going to school. Since she won't tell him what's happening, he makes her promise to talk to someone, and have that person call him. Though she talks to Laura, the lack of real information has Laura and JC determined to discover the truth.

I really liked Laura and JC. Both are deeply caring people who want the best for those around them. Laura has seen the bad side of love in the past and doesn't do much dating. JC has been burned himself and considers himself too bad at relationships to indulge again. That doesn't stop various people from doing their best to find matches for them (JC's nurse is especially persistent). From the moment they meet, there are sparks between Laura and JC, though they both try to resist and deny. It was fun to see them both try to deny the attraction even as they found reasons to get together. It was hilarious to see the whole town get involved, commenting on sightings of them together. I really loved JC's bewilderment at the way he can't stay away from Laura, and how his feelings are changing. The support they showed for each other during some really tough times was sweet and heartwarming. I loved JC's big moment at the end.

The romance was wonderful, but there is more than that. The case of bullying that brings the two together is an eye-opening look at one of the toughest issues kids today face. When Laura and JC discover what the problem is with Misty, it calls to them in a deeply personal way. Both had had experience with bullies in their own youths, affecting their lives even now. I loved the honesty and depth with which the issue was handled. Misty, who is having other troubles at home, tries to deal with the problem on her own. She gets some support when her best friend gets involved, but swears that friend to secrecy. Fortunately that friend is a daughter of a Sweet Magnolia and finds a way to keep her promise and still help. I hurt for Misty and everything she was going through. As the truth comes out, Laura and JC are assisted by the Magnolias and others as the issue of bullying is brought into the spotlight. I loved seeing Misty come out the other side, not unaffected, but stronger for surviving.

I loved seeing so many of the Sweet Magnolias and their husbands in this book. Their willingness and desire to do whatever necessary (loved Helen!) made resolving the issue even more successful. They were especially critical in support of Laura when the mother of the bully got involved. I also loved seeing the husbands checking out JC and making sure he knows that he's being watched. There are some terrific scenes that had me laughing out loud - margarita nights were especially good at that. Others had me cheering as they banded together. I loved Frances's speech at the rally, while JC's brought me to tears.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

An Amish Garden - Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Tricia Goyer, Vannetta Chapman (Thomas Nelson - Mar 2014)

Rooted in Love by Beth Wiseman 

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 Saul 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.

Flowers for Rachael by Kathleen Fuller  

Rachael Bontrager’s flower garden is beautiful, but at twenty-four, she’s  lonely. Gideon Beiler fell in love with Rachael almost at first sight. After her grandfather has a stroke, her days are filled with caring for him, and one day Rachael finds her garden in shambles. However, she won’t accept Gideon’s offers of help. Will she realize she doesn’t have to do everything on her own and that God is in control?

Good story. Rachael has come to Ohio to take care of her ill grandfather. When she isn't caring for him she is working in her garden. She's rather lonely because she doesn't allow herself much time away from Eli. However, she is intrigued by neighbor Gideon, though he doesn't seem to share her interest. Gideon is rather shy and awkward around women. His one attempt to ask one out ended badly and he hasn't tried since. He has fallen hard for Rachael, but has no idea how to proceed.

Gideon and Rachael have become friends, though each wants more. It was fun to see Gideon's sister get involved and try to help him along. The idea she came up with was pretty sweet and he pulled it off well. It certainly got Rachael's attention as she tried to figure out who was doing it. His shyness almost ended things before they began, but an assist from Eli got things going again. Gideon was still afraid he was relegated to friend, until a crisis with Eli gave him a chance to show Rachael how much he cared. Rachael has spent so long doing everything herself that she has forgotten how to accept help from anyone. Between his help with Eli and then when her garden is damaged by hail, Rachael finally learns that a burden shared is much easier to bear. The ending was really sweet, with Rachael delivering her own floral message.

Seeds of Love by Tricia Goyer 

Sadie Chupp finds her greatest joy in the greenhouses in her Montana community. A company is interested in buying her heirloom seeds, but they are the only thing she has left from her deceased parents. Eli Plank is a traveling bachelor who believes he can help Sadie, but a misunderstanding leaves her heartbroken. Will she trust him again, and let the seeds of a new relationship take root?

Sadie moved to Montana to escape her overwhelming grief over the loss of her parents and the sometimes smothering attentions of her older siblings. She plants the heirloom tomato seeds that are all she has left from them, hoping to continue the tradition. She meets Eli, a newcomer to the community, who is a traveling writer. Eli has enjoyed his travels, but something about the community feels right to him.

Sadie and Eli are drawn to each other and connect over her garden. Nurturing the garden does the same to their feelings. I loved seeing Eli's desire to ease her grief as they worked together. There are some sweet scenes as they cope with several issues. A misunderstanding drives them apart, but a marauding bear and destroyed garden helps bring them back together. Then a message from the past brings peace to Sadie and hope for her future.

Where Healing Blooms by Vannetta Chapman 

When Widow Emma Hochstetter discovers a run-away teenager in her barn, and the bishop asks her to provide a haven for a local woman and her two children she finds her quiet life has been interrupted.  Then, her mother-in-law, Mary Ann, reveals one of her garden's hidden secrets, something very unexpected.  Will Emma continue alone or will she accept the gifts God has given her?

Good second chance story. Emma and her mother-in-law have both been widowed within the last year. Mary Ann finds great comfort in her garden, though she can no longer work it the way she used to. That is left to Emma, whose own children are grown with families of their own. She is left feeling a bit at loose ends, wondering what purpose she has now. Also plaguing her is the return of a former beau, whose presence in her life brings back memories of what they once had. Danny left the community as a young man, wandering the country and experiencing life in other towns. He recently returned to the family farm, where he now writes and watches over Emma and Mary Ann.

Then Danny and Emma find a teenage boy hiding out in her barn. Mary Ann and Danny suggest they give him refuge, a place where he can feel safe and wanted. Then the bishop asks them to open their home to a woman and two children escaping from an abusive situation. Suddenly Emma has a full house again and a feeling of usefulness. There's also a reawakening of the feelings between herself and Danny. When Mary Ann reveals a long kept secret of her garden, a world of possibilities is opened, if only Emma has the courage to take it.

I liked the close relationship between Emma and Mary Ann. There was love and respect and a deep understanding of who they are. I liked the way that Mary Ann had of making gentle suggestions to Emma, helping her to look at things from a different perspective. I loved Danny's patience as he waited for Emma to be ready to accept his love. I liked their plans for the future.

Midnight Promises - Sherryl Woods (Mira - July 2012)

Series: Sweet Magnolias (Book 8)

When Elliott Cruz first courted struggling single mom Karen Ames, it was a romance worthy of any Sweet Magnolia fantasy. The sexy personal trainer made it his mission to restore Karen's strength -- physical and emotional -- and to charm her children.

Now, a few years into the marriage, colliding dreams threaten to tear them apart. Elliott's desire to finance the business opportunity of a lifetime with their hard-earned "baby money" stirs Karen's deep-rooted financial insecurities. It's the discovery that their brother-in-law is cheating on Elliott's sister -- and thinks it's justified -- that puts their irreconcilable differences into perspective. Will their own loving fidelity be a bond so strong they can triumph against all odds?

Good story about trust, communication, and belief in each other. Elliott and Karen have been married for a couple years. Their courtship had been difficult, as Elliott had had to overcome Karen's fears and wariness. Their marriage has been going well, as they settle into life as a blended family. Elliott adores Karen's two children and Karen herself. His goal in life is to make sure they never want for anything. When he is given the opportunity to be part of a new gym for men, he jumps at the chance - but doesn't tell Karen about it. To say that she isn't happy about it would be a vast understatement. Karen's first marriage ended when her husband walked out, leaving Karen with a mountain of debt she had known nothing about. Now her two biggest hot buttons are secrecy and money. When she finds out about Elliott's plans from someone other than Elliott, she is furious and terrified. Confronting Elliott doesn't really calm all her fears.

I liked both Karen and Elliott, but each of them had their issues that contributed to the stress between them. Karen's biggest issue is her fear of financial difficulty. Having barely survived the results of her first marriage, she is determined never to fear for the ability to pay the bills again. I understood her point, but her obsession with it got to be very annoying after a while. Especially since Elliott is nothing like her first husband. Elliott is a kind, loving and protective man. He is also a product of his upbringing in a traditional Hispanic family, where the man was the head of the household and made the decisions. Though he wants to believe that he is better than his father had been, there are some things that he just doesn't realize he does. Keeping the gym plans secret was one of those things. He didn't want to worry Karen about it until he had all the information ready to show her because he knew what her reaction would be.

I liked seeing how Karen and Elliott worked to resolve their differences. It wasn't easy, and both had some hard lessons to learn. Karen's constant fear was caused by what she went through with her first husband, and she had to fully accept that Elliott was not going to do the same. Though her heart knew it, her head would frequently create doubts in her mind. She was also oblivious to the fact that her doubts hurt Elliott's pride. Though Elliott is well aware of Karen's phobias about debt and keeping secrets, he still has a hard time being fully open about his plans. He is confident about the prospects for success, but has difficulty finding a way to share that confidence with Karen. He is also suffering from what he sees as a lack of faith in him. Elliott also wants to adopt her children and doesn't understand why she is dragging her feet.

The problem with the gym was the catalyst for Karen and Elliott to realize that since their marriage their lives had gotten extremely busy and they had lost their ability to communicate openly and honestly with each other. Thanks to the interference of several friends, they started making a concerted effort to remedy that, and things started to improve. When Elliott's sister began having problems with her marriage, Elliott and Karen realized that though they may have their own issues, their love for each other was never in doubt. Something Adelia says to Elliott about their father also makes him aware of the mistakes he had been making in his own life, and opens his eyes to the changes he needs to make. Thanks to some prodding from her children, Karen also realizes that she has been letting the past influence her future, and that she's the only one who can change that. By the end of the book, their marriage has made it through the rough patch and emerged stronger because of it.

The problems Adelia is having with her marriage show the differences in outlook between Karen and the women of the Cruz family. Adelia has been raised to be a peacemaker and to go along with whatever her husband says. But his constant affairs have become unbearable for her, and when it also begins to affect their oldest daughter, Adelia realizes that she has had enough. I loved seeing her start to regain her self-respect and to stand up to her husband. I got very irritated with the way that even the women blamed Adelia for the breakdown of her marriage. It was great to see Adelia and Karen grow closer, as Adelia discovers that Karen is a better source of support than her own family. Even Elliott needed an occasionally smack upside the head when it came to his family.

I loved catching up with other residents of Serenity who have appeared in earlier books. The deep friendships showcase the support that is always there for those who need it. I loved seeing Frances, Flo and Liz, the "senior Magnolias" and what they were up to. I ached for Frances and her fears, and loved seeing how everyone rallied around her.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Summer to Remember - Marilyn Pappano (Forever, July 2016)

Series: Tallgrass (Book 6)


It's been a long time since widow Fia Thomas felt the spark of physical attraction. But from the moment she meets Elliot Ross one stormy night, she yearns for a fresh start, for him to make her feel whole and well again. With his broad shoulders and a warm smile crinkling his dark eyes, he could finally offer her the solace she's been seeking. And she's willing to give him anything in return . . . except a promise that could break his heart.

Now that Elliot is out of the Army, he's looking for a place to call home. Tallgrass was just a stop to stretch his legs, yet one look at Fia halts him in his tracks. In her sweet, sassy company, he finds the soul mate he never thought he'd have. But Fia is holding something back-something that keeps her from making any plans. Elliot's new mission: gain Fia's trust...and convince her that summer's end can mean a new beginning.

Good book. Fia and Elliot meet by chance one night in the rain. Elliot has recently left the army and is looking for a place to call home. During the journey he rescued and adopted a dog he named Mouse, and it is while walking her in the rain that he meets Fia. Fia is one of Tallgrass's Margarita Girls, an army widow putting her own life back together.

I loved both Elliot and Fia. Elliot is one of those naturally upbeat people. He is sweet and sensitive and just plain wonderful with people. He's been wandering the country for six months, working odd jobs and looking for a place where he feels at home. He's a good looking man who loves women, but is not a player. He loves to cook and bake and make people happy. He grew up in a happy family, with parents who loved each other and their kids, and is looking for some of that for himself.

Fia has had a tougher life. She grew up with parents who didn't want her and made sure she knew it. She was pretty wild as a youngster, until she met and married Scott. They had been happy together until he was killed in the war, and she was back to being on her own. Fortunately she has the other Margarita Girls as her support, which becomes very important when she starts suffering from a mysterious illness.

I loved the development of the relationship between Elliot and Fia. There were sparks between them from the moment they met. Elliot's attention makes Fia feel like a normal woman again, something that has been missing for a long time. Elliot believes he may have finally found the woman who will give his heart a home to belong to. I loved seeing them get to know each other, sharing meals and walks with the dog. Elliot finds a job as a baker with two of the other Margarita Girls, Patricia and Lucy. Fia is happy to enjoy her time with Elliot for as long as it lasts. She keeps her health issues under wraps, not wanting to wreck her relationship with him. By the time she realizes that her feelings for him have grown deeper than she planned, she doesn't know how to tell him. Elliot's feelings for Fia grow quickly, though he senses that she is holding something back. I ached for Elliot when Fia had an episode with her illness and he had no idea what to do. Then Fia tried to push him away, not wanting to be a burden to him. I loved how Elliot refused to be pushed, and instead showed her just how much he cared. Her illness wasn't minimized, instead they had realistic conversations about it, and Elliot made clear that he was with her no matter what. I loved seeing her allow herself to lean on him. I loved the ending and Elliot's heartfelt statement of his feelings.

There was also a secondary story involving another Margarita Girl, Marti. She has been on her own for several years and is managing just fine. Then her life is shaken up a bit, as her fourteen year old niece, Cadence, comes to live with her for a year while her parents are overseas. Cadence is a sweet girl and fits in better than expected into Marti's life. There are some really sweet scenes between the two of them. I especially liked the one where Cadence takes it upon herself to add some color to Marti's wardrobe. It is also though Cadence and her love of horses that Marti is brought into contact with Dillon. Dillon was the wild child in his family and ended up making some bad decisions in his life. He's back in Tallgrass after having paid for those decisions. He and Marti are unexpectedly drawn to each other. I loved seeing the beginnings of something special between them, and would love to see a book with their story. I'd also like to see more of Cadence, who I think would have a much happier life with her aunt than with her own parents.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The SEAL's Return - Patricia Potter (HS #2068 - Feb 2017)

Series: Home to Covenant Falls (Book 4)

This is the home he never expected…

With a terrifying ordeal behind him, former navy SEAL Jubal Pierce was supposed to stay in Covenant Falls, Colorado, for only a day or two. That's it. He's not prepared to put down roots here -- no matter how intriguing the town's new doctor happens to be. Not to mention Dr. Lisa Redding's teen brother is on a troubled path that's all too familiar. Suddenly Jubal finds himself entangled in the community and with deep, unfamiliar feelings for Lisa. But maybe a little detour is just what a warrior needs to find his true purpose…and true love.

Good story of healing, not just for Jubal but also for Lisa, Gordon and Kerry. Jubal is a former SEAL who is dealing with the loss of his career and the memories it has left him with. He had been on a mission in Africa with his team when they were killed and he was captured. He spent two years in captivity, being beaten and tortured. When he finally got away he had too much physical and mental damage to be able to continue as a SEAL. At loose ends, he accepts the invitation of his friend Clint to visit him in Covenant Falls. He only plans to stay a few days before moving on. But early in his visit he catches a teenage boy trying to set fire to his dock. Seeing a lot of himself in Gordon, he wants to steer Gordon in a better direction.

Lisa is a doctor in Chicago, completing her residency. Her father had passed away several years earlier and her mother more recently, leaving Lisa as guardian of her younger brother and sister. Neither kid has dealt well with their loss, and Gordon has been getting into more and more trouble. When he's arrested for joyriding in a stolen car that also contains drugs, Lisa knows she has to take desperate measures. She accepts an offer as a replacement doctor in Covenant Falls and moves there with her siblings.

I loved Jubal. I ached for him and the pain he is in, for how lost he feels without the career he's had for twenty years. Thanks to his captivity, he has become quite a loner, avoiding crowds and people whenever he can. He's a little freaked out by the changes he sees in his friend Clint, who he remembers as a hell-raiser, and who is now married and the chief of police. He doesn't plan to stay long, but he quickly gets sucked into small town life. I loved seeing how easily he connected with Gordon and the straightforward way he treated him. He felt badly about not telling Lisa about Gordon's actions, but he also knew that Gordon needed to trust him.

I also really liked Lisa. She loves her siblings and gives up her plans for her own future to do what is best for them. I ached for her guilty feelings over Gordon's issues. I enjoyed seeing how quickly she settled into small town life, especially since she's only lived in the city before that. 

I liked seeing the relationship develop between Lisa and Jubal. They are attracted to each other right away, but neither is looking for a relationship. Jubal isn't planning to stay for more than a few days, and with his issues from his captivity he doesn't feel that he's a good bet anyway. Lisa also only plans to stay a year or so and is more interested in giving her siblings a steady home life than in finding someone for herself. She also worries about Jubal being ex-military, as she equates that with the same sort of violence she saw in the city emergency room. She also is concerned about what kind of influence that would have on Gordon. However, they can't deny their fascination with each other. I loved seeing Lisa's attitude toward Jubal change as she got to know him and see the man behind the hardened exterior. She tried hard to keep herself from falling for someone who was going to leave, just as Jubal kept trying to convince himself that he wasn't going to stay. I loved seeing each of them setting down roots without realizing it until they were well and firmly planted. They also discovered that those roots were intertwined. I loved seeing them come together at the end and realize that they were both exactly where they were supposed to be.

I really liked how Jubal's healing was partly tangled up in his efforts to help Gordon. He recognized that Gordon was much like him at that age and was sure that he could help. It was fantastic to see how the two connected and that Jubal was able to get through to Gordon. I also loved seeing Jubal get involved in taking care of Luke's horses, and how that also began to soothe his pain. It was great to see Jubal start thinking about his future instead of just drifting from day to day.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Promise of Forever - Marilyn Pappano (Forever - June 2015)

Series: Tallgrass (Book 4)

Sergeant First Class Avi Grant's return to Tallgrass, Oklahoma is a long-deferred wish come true. With her final tour in Afghanistan over, Avi can focus on her future-a job here at home and a family of her own. There's just one thing she has to do first: visit her beloved commanding officer's widow and share her grief. The last thing she expected was to feel an instant attraction to the woman's son. Too bad the sexy surgeon is impossible to ignore . . . and even harder to resist.

The sting of his parents' divorce still niggles at Ben Noble. So when a warm, funny, and beautiful young sergeant arrives, mourning his stepfather's loss as strongly as his mother does, Ben can't help but feel conflicted. If his parents taught him anything, it's that love doesn't last-especially with a career soldier. But try as he might to keep his distance, Ben begins to see that Avi-and the spark she brings to his life-is the stuff forever is made of. As Avi's leave ticks away, can Ben convince her to take a chance on forever with him?

In the previous book, A Love to Call Her Own, we met Patricia and Ben. Patricia is the newest member of the widows group, the Tuesday Night Margarita Club. Ben is her estranged son. He is a surgeon who lives in nearby Tulsa. In the previous book he began to reconnect with his mother, after his stepfather's death. He comes to Tallgrass on weekends to see if she needs anything. Their relationship is slowly improving, though still somewhat strained. He still resents that she left his father, sisters and him to marry George, and pretty much ignored them for years.

Avi is a soldier home on a month's leave. Her grandparents lived in Tallgrass and her parents recently moved there. George had been a good friend of her parents and a mentor and role model for her. She had been serving with him in Afghanistan when he was killed, and it was one more death on top of others that have left her hurting. One of the first things she plans to do is visit Patricia. She does not expect to meet Ben.

The attraction between Ben and Avi is immediate. Neither one is particularly happy about it  at first. Avi knows she only has one month in Tallgrass before she returns to Georgia and her next duty assignment. Getting involved with a man who is rooted in Oklahoma would not be smart. Ben certainly isn't looking to get involved with someone in the army. First, he associates the army with his mother's desertion of the family. Second, he has no desire to uproot his own life and leave his practice and his sisters behind.

I liked the development of their relationship. They acknowledged the attraction and were honest with each other about their future plans. Avi has eight years left in the army before she retires. She likes what she does and plans to stay. She wants a family of her own, and hopes to find someone that's right for her. Ben is clear on his plans to stay in Oklahoma. They make the decision to spend time together anyway. They know their relationship has an "expiration date" but spend as much time together as they can. I loved seeing how much fun they had together. Though they don't always see eye to eye on everything, there are no major disagreements between them. I especially loved seeing how Avi's relationship with Patricia and George, and sharing memories of him, helps Ben deal with some of the resentment he still had. As the days went on Ben and Avi both realized that their feelings were growing far deeper than they had planned. I ached for them both as it looks like there is no way for them to be together. Avi has no real choice, as she still has at least two years before she could get out, even if she wanted to. Ben I wanted to shake a few times, because it would be so easy for him to pick up and go. I loved the heart to heart conversation with Patricia that makes him think about his future without Avi, and his sisters' two cents that seal the deal. His big moment at the end was great.

I loved the realism of the life of the military people and their families in Tallgrass. The good is shown with the bad, such as the depth of the friendships and the support that is always there. There is also the bad, such as the deaths, injuries, and mental problems. We were introduced to Calvin Sweet, another Tallgrass native, who is having trouble dealing with the memories that have built up over the years. A heartbreaking and scary moment with him is an excellent lead-in to the next book. I also liked seeing more of Lucy and Joe, who are good friends. It becomes increasingly clear that Joe would like more than just friendship, but Lucy is blind to it.

There are also some wonderfully fun moments to lighten the mood. The post-it notes that Avi's mom leaves around the house for her were great. I loved her parents' attitude toward Avi and Ben's relationship, accompanied by a terrific scene with Ben's mom the night before Avi leaves to return to Georgia.  My heart melted when Avi went to the animal shelter with her mom and came home with a new friend.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Renegade's Pride - B.J. Daniels (HQN - Mar 2017)

Series: Cahill Ranch (Book 1)

The renegade cowboy returns

It's been nine years since Trask Beaumont left Gilt Edge, Montana, with an unsolved crime in his wake, and Lillian Cahill has convinced herself she's finally over him. But when the rugged cowboy with the easy smile suddenly shows up at her bar, there's a pang in her heart arguing the attraction never faded. And that's dangerous, because Trask has returned on a mission to clear his name and win Lillie back.

Tired of running, Trask knows he must uncover the truth of the past before he can hope for a future with the woman he's never forgotten. But if Lillie's older brother, the sheriff, learns that Trask is back in town, he'll arrest him for murder. Now Trask is looking for a showdown, and he won't leave town again without one or without Lillie.

Very good second chance story and beginning of a new series about the Cahill family of Gilt Edge, Montana. The main focus of this book is Lillie, the youngest and only girl. Nine years earlier she and Trask had been in love and planning their future. But Trask was also known for having a short temper. After a public argument with his boss, when the man ends up dead, Trask is number one on the suspect list. Rather than stick around and get arrested for a crime he didn't commit, Trask took off, leaving a broken hearted Lillie behind. Now he's back, determined to clear his name and get Lillie back.

Lillie has convinced herself that she's moved on. She owns the local bar/café, The Stagecoach Saloon, with her twin brother. She hasn't done much dating, but blames that on being busy with the bar. She also seems to spend a lot of time bailing her father out of jail. She comes home one evening to find Trask waiting for her and realizes that maybe she's not as over him as she thought. She'll help him with his quest, but she doesn't want to risk her heart on him again.

Trask is clear in his determination to win Lillie back. He's grown up a lot since he left. It doesn't take Lillie long to surrender to the feelings that still burn between them. As they spend time together searching for the truth, those feelings continue to grow. I loved how they opened up to each other about how they'd felt while they were apart. I also loved how each wants to protect the other and the lengths they go to do so. It was hard for Lillie to keep Trask's presence a secret from her brothers, though they each sensed that there was something going on. I really liked Lillie's confidence in Trask's innocence and how much it meant to him that she believed him. I loved his big moment at the end. His surprise was sweet and romantic and perfect for who they are.

The suspense of the story is great. Trask is determined to find the truth and to stay out of the hands of the law until he does. Contact with an old friend creates some unexpected questions. Lillie's questions also seem to stir up a hornets nest and puts her in the crosshairs of those who don't want their secrets revealed. Each lead that she and Trask follow seems to lead to yet another person with motive for murder. The danger increases as they get closer to discovering the truth and those responsible get more desperate. Every time I thought I had figured out who it was, something would come up to make me doubt. The final confrontation was intense and not what I expected, with a whole raft of consequences.

Uncovering the murderer was not the only thing going on in this book. Second oldest brother, Flint, is the sheriff of Gilt Edge. Four years after his divorce he has begun to move on. He and his girlfriend Maggie are moving along in their relationship. But lately, whenever he has a special date planned, something comes up to sabotage it. Strangely enough, each time the problem is related to his ex-wife, Celeste. I wanted to shake him frequently because he is blind to what she is doing. I ached for Maggie, who can see it, and is ready to give up on his leaving his past behind. Flint is also dealing with the mystery of a missing woman. His investigation turns up some odd behavior and he has his suspicions but no proof.

Ely Cahill, patriarch of the family, has turned over the ranch to his children and spends as much time as he can in the mountains, panning for gold. He is also known for his assertion that, in 1967, he was taken by aliens and then returned near the missile silo that occupies a portion of their land. The book opens with him seeing something again. Flint's calls to the people in charge of the silos gets him no satisfaction and only suspicion that there is more going on there.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Silent Rescue - Melinda di Lorenzo (HRS #1950 - June 2017)

To find her daughter, she must trust a handsome stranger

Since her brother's tragic death, Maryse LePrieur has been in hiding. Left to care for her niece as her own, Maryse heeded his cryptic wish: that they run fast…and far. But Maryse discovers far wasn't quite far enough when she wakes up one morning to find her beloved daughter missing. Frantic, she enlists the assistance of an unexpected ally…

When he spots a beautiful woman being forced through the streets at gunpoint, Detective Brooks Small acts quickly. But helping Maryse brings passions and unexpected connections to the surface and elevates this mission from professional to personal. Brooks soon realizes love between mother and daughter isn't the only kind of relationship at stake.

Terrific book, had me hooked from the first page to the last. Family was everything to Maryse, and taking care of her younger brother and the trouble he got into was what she did. The last thing she expected was to find a newborn girl on her doorstep and instructions from him to run as far and as fast as she can. Years later, she has found a home and a little bit of security in a small town in Canada. Until she wakes up one morning to find Cami missing. One small clue and she's off on her own, trying to find her daughter and get her back.

Brooks has been banished on a forced vacation to Canada after he gets into trouble during his investigation into a Vegas criminal. He's not happy being away from the action, and even less happy being stuck in the frozen north. When he spots Maryse being forced down the street at gunpoint, he can't help but jump in to save her. Her fear and determination touch him and he promises to help her find Cami.

It's a real rollercoaster ride as each new clue adds a piece to the puzzle. Every time they think they are getting close, it seems the bad guys are either a step ahead of them or right on their heels. There are shootings, car chases (and an interesting game of "chicken") and fires. Along the way, Brooks discovers that there's an unexpected connection between Cami's disappearance and his investigation. Things got even more intense when the action moved from Canada back to Las Vegas. There are a couple of great scenes with Brooks' partner and his captain as the action ramps up. The final confrontation is really intense, with a couple interesting twists. Even in the midst of the danger, there are some sweet moments between Maryse, Cami and Brooks.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Brooks and Maryse. She's very wary of him at first because she has spent so long not trusting anyone. It doesn't take too long for her to realize that she can believe in him. Brooks felt a connection to Maryse from the first moment he saw her. He briefly fought his need to help her, knowing he shouldn't get involved, but that didn't last long. I loved his patience with her fears and his ability to keep calm when things got crazy. It was sweet to see how quickly he started thinking of being a family with Maryse and Cami. The attraction between them was very strong also, which increased the depth of their connection. I loved seeing Maryse open up her heart to him. The ending scene in the helicopter was sweet and romantic.

The title of Silent Rescue is especially appropriate. Cami's deafness and the use of sign language throughout the story was an unusual occurrence. I loved how Brooks and Maryse regularly mixed their speech and sign language.

Four Weddings and a Sixpence - Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, Stefanie Sloane (Avon - Jan 2017)

Beloved authors Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Stefanie Sloane deliver the stories of four friends from Madame Rochambeaux's Gentle School for Girls who find an old sixpence in their bedchamber and decide that it will be the lucky coin for each of their weddings.

SOMETHING OLD by Julia Quinn 
This prologue introduces heroine Beatrice Heywood and the premise for FOUR WEDDINGS AND A SIXPENCE.

A brief prologue where we meet the four heroines as young girls and get a bit of their backgrounds. They imbue the found sixpence with some romantic magic and vow to save it for their weddings.

SOMETHING NEW by Stefanie Sloane
An ever vigilant guardian decrees that Anne Brabourne must marry by her twenty-first birthday.  But love finds her in the most unexpected of ways.

The first of the friends to find love.  Anne is in London for another Season of looking for a husband. Her uncle has insisted she find a husband before her twenty-first birthday, only a few weeks away. Looking for some peace during yet another ball, she sneaks away to the library, confiding her troubles to the dog laying before the fire. She doesn't realize the library is occupied until Rhys, Duke of Dorset, makes his presence known.

I loved their meeting. Rhys is amused by what he heard and intrigued by Anne's pragmatic attitude toward marriage. She's quite blunt about what she is looking for, and he isn't it. Having witnessed her parents' volatile relationship, Anne isn't interested in love or passion. She wants a biddable husband who will let her control her own money and live her life as she wants. Rhys enjoys his bachelor ways and has no intention of marrying any time soon. He offers to help her find a suitable man. Over the next few weeks they spend a lot of time together and form quite a friendship.

Rhys soon realizes that he isn't having any luck finding a man he feels is good enough for Anne. I loved the museum scene and his friend, Lord Penbroke's, statement of what is going on with Rhys. An unexpected kiss between Rhys and Anne throws them both into turmoil, as Rhys faces the changes in his feelings. Anne is equally shaken, and thanks to a misunderstanding, believes that Rhys has regrets. There's a wonderful scene between Rhys and Anne's uncle that had me laughing out loud, and another between Anne and Lady Marguerite that opens Anne's eyes to her fears. A fright over Rhys's safety sends Anne running to his side. I loved the ending, with Rhys showing Anne just how well he understands and loves her just as she is. The only downside was a rushed intimacy that didn't really seem to fit in the rest of the scene.

The lucky sixpence is encased in a locket that Anne wears. She's not sure she really believes in its magic, but wears it to make her friends happy. She begins to wonder and questions its effectiveness as her husband hunt is unsuccessful. By the end, she discovers the charm had it right all along.

Tells the tale of Cordelia Padley, who has invented a betrothed to keep her family from pestering her to wed.  Now she'll need to borrow one to convince them she's found her true love.

Cordelia has received the sixpence from Anne, along with an invitation to her wedding, to include Cordelia's mysterious fiancé. The problem is, Cordelia doesn't really have a fiancé. She made him up to get her aunts to stop trying to set her up with eligible men. Cordelia doesn't want to marry, she wants to fulfill her dream of exploring the world. Now she has to find someone to play the part or admit she's been lying all along.

Kipp, Earl of Thornton, has the unenviable task of having to find a wealthy bride. When he unexpectedly inherited the title it was to discover that the estate was flat broke. If he wants to protect the people he's responsible for and save the estate, he needs money and lots of it. He's not really looking forward to proposing to Miss Holt, daughter of a cit, who is more interested in his title than in him. Before he can go through with it, he receives an unexpected visit.

I loved seeing Cordelia's attempts to appeal to Kipp's sense of honor and adventure that she remembers from when they were children. Kipp has given up his childhood dreams of mapping his way around the world, beaten down by his responsibilities. But Cordelia's appeal brings back the memories of happier days and he decides to help her out.

I loved seeing the two of them get to know each other again. It was fun seeing Cordelia bring the light back into Kipp's eyes as they make their way to Anne's wedding. At the same time, Cordelia begins to understand Kipp's devotion to his land and his people. I ached for both of them as they realized that their time together was only temporary, or as Cordelia said "He's only borrowed and I will have to give him back". It doesn't take long before they both realize what they feel, but have no hope of making it work. Then an unexpected and not very welcome visitor arrives throwing everything into confusion. I loved how Kipp dealt with the issue, and then followed up with Cordelia. There was some confusion the next day, and an unexpected twist that made their happy ending that much sweeter.

SOMETHING BLUE by Laura Lee Guhrke
Unlucky Lady Elinor Daventry has her sixpence stolen from her and must convince the rake who pilfered the coin to return it in time for her own wedding.

Not my favorite of the stories. Ellie and Lawrence had been in love and engaged up until six months earlier. Then Lawrence began an investigation into Ellie's father, accusing him of purposely using inferior materials to make guns in order to reap more profits. Ellie finds out about the investigation and believes that Lawrence is putting his ambition to advance ahead of their love. At the same time, Lawrence feels that she should trust him and his love above her father, even though he refuses to provide any evidence to her.

At Cordelia and Kipp's wedding, the sixpence is given to Ellie. She is in expectation of a proposal from a man who's family can stop the investigation into her father's alleged wrongdoings. But Lawrence overhears the exchange and manages to steal the sixpence. From there, all Ellie's plans seem to go awry and she is determined to get the sixpence back. There are some fun scenes of her attempts, which always backfire on her.

In spite of their split, the attraction between them is just as strong as ever. The sparks fly with every encounter, and not just with temper. Ellie can't understand why she still wants a man who is so determined to ruin her father. Lawrence is also fighting his feelings because he can't see Ellie ever forgiving him for what he is doing.

I could see things from both their points of view. Ellie loves her father and can't believe he'd do something as heinous as what Lawrence is accusing him of. Lawrence simply can't put his personal feelings ahead of what he sees as his duty. He tries his best to make Ellie see things his way, but she's adamant in her support of her father.

I'm still not sure I liked the ending. Yes, they are together, but Lawrence's "proposal" was less than romantic. I rather liked what Ellie did for her father, and Lawrence's attitude is harsh. His determination to continue the pursuit seems to me to be asking for a buildup of resentment further down the line.

Finishing up with the story of Beatrice Heywood, who never believed that the sixpence was anything but a tarnished old coin -- until it led all of her friends to true love.  But her faith in the coin is tested when it keeps sending her to the wrong man!

The blurb isn't right on this one. Yes, Bea is skeptical about the magic of the sixpence, but there's only one man in this story. Bea is given the sixpence at Ellie's wedding. She doesn't want it - she has no intention of marrying, but plans to take care of her elderly aunts. But her friends give her no peace until she agrees.

Bea is loyal and caring to her family, independent in her thinking, and fascinated by astronomy. As she's walking down the street one day (griping about the sixpence in her shoe) and watching the clouds, she collides with a gentleman. Though she notices his eyepatch and scar, she's more intrigued by the color of the eye she can see and is caught staring.

Frederick was injured in a carriage accident and took a long time to recover from his injuries. Tired of the looks of revulsion and pity he gets from people, he has purchased a small estate and continues his study of theoretical physics away from contact with most people. When he runs into Bea he sees her staring as the same he always gets, which makes him rather grumpy with her. They part ways, then see each other again at the stationer's shop. Here they actually take the time to talk a little and learn that both are into the sciences. Frederick is intrigued by her, and when the opportunity comes to aid her, he takes it. Their following conversations create a definite connection between them.

I enjoyed the quick and sweet development of their romance. Bea brings Frederick's senses back to life after his accident. He's fascinated by her mind and warmed by her lack of pity and matter-of-fact attitude about his injuries. I loved his desire to do something special for her, and his offer to take her to the observatory was perfect. Though she had been so determined that she'd never marry, Bea is stunned by how quickly she loses her heart to Frederick.

Their trip to the observatory was adorable. Bea's excitement is contagious and Frederick's happiness at her enjoyment is obvious. Even Bea's Aunt Callie gets into the spirit. Aunt Callie is also a bit of a rogue, and plays matchmaker with the two. My favorite line, as Bea goes tearing up the stairs to the telescope and Frederick is grinning, is when Aunt Callie says "You'd better follow. I won't be out of breath for long." Frederick is surprised, but not stupid, and takes her advice. I loved his big moment up there and how he opened himself up to her.

I loved the epilogue and how they brought the sixpence full circle. I also enjoyed the conversation before Bea arrived, and have a suspicion that she is more like her friends than the think she is.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Claimed by the Rancher - Jules Bennett (HD #2524 - June 2017)

Series: Rancher's Heirs (Book 2)

Just how far is this wealthy rancher willing to go for his pregnant lover?

Their years apart haven't diminished Nolan Elliott's desire for Pepper Manning. Even knowing she's pregnant with another man's baby, the rancher can't stay away. He didn't claim her when she needed him so long ago and the sting of losing her, and their child, still resonates.

With custody of her unborn baby now in jeopardy, Nolan vows to use his wealth and power to give Pepper everything she wants. That means proposing a marriage…in name only. But is that a vow the rancher stands any chance of keeping?

Very good second chance story. Nolan made his first appearance in Twin Secrets, as the oldest of the Elliott men. There's something in his past that gives him the experience to help Colt through his romantic difficulties. In this book we get his story. Ten years earlier, Nolan and Pepper had been young and in love, making plans for a future together. But an unexpected pregnancy followed by a miscarriage drove them apart. Now Pepper is back in town, pregnant with another man's baby.

From the moment they meet again, it is obvious that the sparks are still there between them. In the years since they parted, Nolan has dedicated his life to his work with only superficial relationships outside it. He's never forgotten her and his regrets for the way he handled the loss of their baby. Pepper has been drifting through life, looking for her place and purpose in life. With her unexpected pregnancy she has come back to Stone River to rebuild her life. She hadn't expected to run into Nolan so soon, and it's quite a shock to both of them. When her apartment catches fire that night, Nolan happens to be in the area and saves her. His protective instincts kicking in, he steamrollers her into coming home with him that night. But fate isn't done with her yet, and the next day the parents of the baby's father show up, telling her they are going to sue for full custody. I ached for Pepper and her fear of losing this child she wants so much. Nolan can't stand to see her hurting like that and decides that the only way to make amends for the past is to help her now. Pepper doesn't want to accept his help, but doesn't really have any choice if she wants to keep her baby.

I loved the development of their relationship. Nolan has convinced himself he is only helping her because of his guilt over how he had treated her before. And because the attraction is still so strong that he wants her in his bed again. But he doesn't want anything permanent because he's not about to open himself up to that kind of hurt again. He even goes so far as to marry her to ensure that the custody suit goes her way, still insisting that it is only temporary. I loved seeing that, no matter what he says, his feelings are getting involved. There  are some really sweet scenes of him doing anything he can to make her happy, from shopping for baby things to indoor picnics. He's also super protective and I loved seeing him take care of her. Pepper is very reluctant to accept his help because she can see herself falling for him all over again. She doesn't want to risk that kind of devastating pain again. I loved watching her try to maintain her independence, reminding herself that it's only temporary. But his care and consideration work their way past her walls, and she can't deny that she's never stopped loving him. When the need for their marriage ends and Pepper leaves, Nolan finally faces the truth about his feelings. I loved his big moment at the end when he finally opens his heart to her.

The family is also a central theme to the story. Though medicine is his calling, being part of the family ranch is a big part of who Nolan is. I liked seeing his bit of envy over Colt and Annabelle's happiness together, reminding him of what he could have had. I loved seeing how quickly Pepper and Annabelle became friends. We also see a bit more of Hayes, the military brother, as Colt and Nolan prepare for his homecoming. The epilogue is a lead-in to his story as we get a glimpse into the pain that is driving him. I can't wait for his book.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Twin Secrets - Jules Bennett (HD #2506 - Mar 2017)

Series: Rancher's Heirs (Book 1)

This wealthy rancher is about to meet his match…and her two little secrets!

Colt Elliott is as handsome as he is cunning. And he wants his neighbor's ranch. So when the owner's beautiful daughter begs him to save her family's home, he gives her a job so she can pay off her debt…and he becomes consumed with a new goal: seduce the fiery virgin.

But Annabelle is the guardian of her infant twin nieces and all three ladies begin to pull at his heartstrings. Colt will go to any lengths to get what he wants -- but will his hidden agenda cost him Annabelle?

Emotional start to the new series, full of passion, betrayal and love of family. Annabelle has returned home with her heart battered and bruised. She recently lost both her sister in a car accident - after discovering that her fiancé had been cheating on her with her sister. Annabelle is now the guardian of her sister's twin daughters and is determined to give them the best home possible. Then she finds out that her father has gambled away his life savings and his home, the same home that she has dreams of turning into a B & B. She blames his rich neighbor for taking advantage of her father's weakness.

Colt has wanted the ranch next door for years. His father's dream was to turn it into the best dude ranch in Texas and Colt plans to make that dream come true. He has an ironclad plan to make his dream come true, but he doesn't count on his neighbor's daughter and her desire to save her family home.

I really liked Annabelle. She has had the rug pulled out from under her in so many ways, but she refuses to let it break her. She is passionate about her dream and about her family. Finding out that her father has borrowed money from their rich neighbor infuriates her and has her racing to his ranch to give him a piece of her mind. I loved her determination to save her home, and her willingness to work for the enemy to do it.

I had a harder time liking Colt. I really felt that he had been terribly underhanded in his methods of acquiring the ranch. Then to agree to Annabelle working for him to pay off the debt, knowing that he would still own the ranch at the end, was even sneakier, all because he wanted to sleep with her. His extreme confidence that he could have her in his bed for as long as he wanted her, then just walk away when the secret was out just made me mad. He did start to grow on me as his attitude changed.

The development of their relationship was fiery to say the least. There is no doubt that they are attracted to each other from the moment they meet. Colt is determined to get her into his bed and makes no secret of it. Annabelle is equally determined to resist him. There is some fantastic banter between them as Colt pushes and she resists. What Colt doesn't expect is to be impressed and moved by Annabelle's care for her father and her girls. There are some really sweet scenes where his growing feelings for her and the girls are evident. The more time he spends with her, the guiltier he feels about what he is doing, but he suppresses that guilt to continue with his plan. As Annabelle spends more time with Colt, she begins to see a different side to him than the ruthless businessman she first encountered. She's moved by his obvious love for his family, and her heart melts seeing him with her girls. She knows she's falling for him and hopes that he feels the same. But when bad timing reveals the truth of the fate of her home, his betrayal cuts deep. I ached for her and her pain, and loved seeing her tear into him for what he did. Only when it was too late did Colt realize what he had thrown away. It was really satisfying to see his brother point out what an idiot he was and give him some good advice. Colt's big moment was pretty sweet as he laid out his heart for her in hopes of her forgiveness.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series. Though all the brothers are different, there still seems to be a solid core of love among them. We only hear a little bit about Colt's twin, Beau, and the military brother, Hayes, but the oldest brother Nolan is fully present. I liked his attempts to talk sense into Colt, giving him the benefit of his own experience. I ached for his loneliness and regrets over the mistakes of his past, and am looking forward to his story.

I will say I was a little confused by the title and blurb. There was nothing secret about the two little girls. The only real secret was that which Colt was keeping from Annabelle.