Sunday, December 31, 2017

Texas Rebels: Elias - Linda Warren (HWR #1670 - Dec 2017)

Series: Texas Rebels (Book 7)

FIRST LOVE, SECOND CHANCE

Maribel McCray knew moving back to Horseshoe, Texas, would mean facing Elias Rebel, the cowboy she was forbidden to love in high school. She just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. With her teenage son, Chase, in trouble, she needs Elias’s help. He may be a Rebel, sworn enemy of every McCray, but he’s also Chase’s father.

For the lone bachelor of the Rebel clan, there’s only one way to make up for lost years with his son -- become a family for real. But Maribel’s distance runs deeper than the Rebel-McCray feud. Elias won’t settle for a marriage of convenience with the woman he’s falling for again. How can he convince Maribel some second chances are worth taking?

Excellent conclusion to the series. Elias is the last of the Rebels left unmarried. In the previous books, he has been shown to be the brother who works hard and plays hard. He can be a little on the short-tempered side, seemingly enjoying a good fight when the opportunity arises. At the beginning of the book, Elias gets roped into helping the sheriff watch for some kids who have been stealing beer around town. He's there when three teen boys take their chance and helps catch the one who tries to run. He is surprised to find out that it is Maribel McCray's boy.

Maribel and Elias had known each other in high school. Because of the feud between their families they were told to stay away from each other. She left Horseshoe before graduation, escaping from an abusive father. Now she has come back, along with her teenage son. Maribel had been living in Dallas with a friend who died, forcing Maribel and Chase to find another place to live. Then Maribel lost her job and they came home to Horseshoe to live with her sister until she gets back on her feet. Her son Chase is not happy about the move and has been getting into trouble, hoping to force Maribel to move back to Dallas. His latest stunt has gotten him into trouble with the law and Maribel is desperate to get help with him - to the point of asking the boy's father for help. The problem is that Chase's father doesn't know about him.

To say that Elias is stunned by Maribel's news would be putting it mildly. It was fun to see Elias process that news. I loved the way that he immediately stepped up to provide the guidance that Chase needs. Both Chase and Maribel try to fight it, but quickly realize that Elias isn't going anywhere. Theirs isn't the only resistance. Elias is flabbergasted by his mother's reaction to the news, which creates some unexpected family drama. I loved Elias's firm but fair treatment of Chase and the difference it made to Chase's attitude. Though Chase was certainly antagonistic at first, it didn't take long for him to come to respect and like Elias.

The rekindling of the relationship between Elias and Maribel was a slow and steady process. Elias starts out with the determination to take care of Maribel and Chase. The purchase and renovation of a house for them was the first step. With the three of them working together it gave them all a chance to get to know each other. Elias is pretty quick to realize his feelings for Maribel are growing. Maribel suspects that hers are too, which scares her. Thanks to her past, she has turned her back on love, believing that she doesn't want any part of the kind of love that she witnessed. Though she agrees to marry Elias to make the family they feel they need, she makes it clear that deep emotion will never be part of the equation. But Elias has something else in mind and works hard to show her what they could have together. It takes a friend to give Maribel a different point of view and help her realize that she was letting the past dictate her future and chance for happiness. But it takes a near disaster for her to finally let go of the last of her fears and open herself up to Elias's love.

Family dynamics played a huge part in this book. I loved the support that Elias received from his brothers and their wives. The surprising development was the attitude of Elias's mother, Kate. As she had accepted the other two McCray's into the family, I was stunned by her vicious attitude toward Maribel and her threats to Elias if he went against her wishes. I ached for Elias, who felt betrayed by her and hoped to see Kate come to her senses. I loved Elias's grandfather and how he connected with Chase. It was interesting to see the reaction of Maribel's father when she came back to Horseshoe. I loved Elias's protectiveness toward Maribel during that scene. I have enjoyed seeing the younger generation make it clear that the feud has no place in their lives any longer. There was a surprising and heartwarming scene at the end that gave hope for the future of the two families.

I have really enjoyed this series and can't wait to see what is next for this author. I admit that I would love to see Jericho get a story of his own. He has been a steady presence throughout the series and deserves to find his own chance at happiness.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Stone Cold Undercover Agent - Nicole Helm (HI #1730 - Aug 2017)

Series: Stone Cold (Book 2)

This undercover Texas Ranger is her last, most dangerous chance

Jaime Alessandro fears he's been undercover too long. Now his only shot at destroying one of Texas's largest crime organizations is Gabriella Torres -- a "gift" from The Stallion and his longest-held captive. Her inside info and inspired moves are helping Jaime take the gang apart. But what he's starting to feel for the brilliant, tough-minded Gabriella could get them worse than dead…

Gabriella learned early to put her emotions on lockdown. She has no reason to trust Jaime. But every moment together, every stolen glance, kindles a desire she hungers to explore. And now trust is the only weapon they dare risk -- even if it proves lethal.

Good book that caught my attention from the beginning. Gabby is a woman who was kidnapped and has been held as a slave for eight years. At this point, she has given up hope of ever being found and released. As the oldest one there, she serves as kind of a mentor for the other three women captives. Things take an unexpected turn when her captor gives her to one of his henchmen.

Jaime Alessandro, an FBI agent aka Rodriguez, has worked his way up The Stallion's organization over two years. He has begun to feel that he has been undercover too long. He is disturbed by some of the things he has had to do and has started to feel like he no longer remembers the real Jaime. He's not very happy at being "given" one of the women until he discovers just how good a resource Gabby is.

I loved the development of their relationship. Gabby was understandably wary at first as she has no reason to trust Jaime. I loved their first encounter, as his actions bewildered her until she figured out that there was something different about him and he told her who he was. I loved the way that he was so impressed by her observational and deduction skills. It was kind of funny how he was so freaked out by how easy she figured him out. There was also an immediate attraction between them. This surprised Gabby, who thought that her emotions were permanently suppressed after being held captive for so long. His strength and unexpected sensitivity rekindled things she had long forgotten. Jaime tries hard to resist the attraction he feels for Gabby. She is a victim and vulnerable, plus getting involved could put them both at risk if discovered. But the more they are together, the harder he finds it to resist his growing feelings for her. It was interesting to see how their relationship/partnership evolved. Gabby's growing strength and confidence were fantastic and I loved seeing her stand up to him when it was necessary. I was surprised by how he was willing to risk the investigation at one point. When everything was over, it was interesting to see how both Jaime and Gabby dealt with what had happened. I liked the realism of Gabby's worry over re-entering the real world and his bosses' concerns for Jaime after his return. Jaime's concern for giving Gabby enough time to recover was sweet, but Gabby wasn't having any part of it. I loved watching her go after what she wanted.

The suspense was good from the beginning. The Stallion was so unpredictable that it made him even more menacing. Jaime's need to project his henchman persona was obvious, especially when it came to the other two men who were there also. I loved seeing the way that he and Gabby worked together to try to identify the fourth compound. It was nerve-wracking to see how Layle was constantly in Jaime's face. When Gabby's sister was threatened (Stone Cold Texas Ranger) Jaime becomes even more determined to bring the case to a quick conclusion. The tension at the compound steadily increases and begins to affect the women also. I wasn't sure how the whole thing with Alyssa was going to go and was very impressed with the way that Gabby handled it. Jaime's confrontation with The Stallion was intense, all the while he worried about Gabby and her safety. I loved how the women took matters into their own hands, though once again Alyssa was a problem. That confrontation was intense, but also a bit amusing in places. I'm really looking forward to the next book and reading Alyssa's story.

Texas Rebels: Paxton - Linda Warren (HWR #1653 - Aug 2017)

Series: Texas Rebels (Book 6)

THE COWBOY'S REDEMPTION

After years of girls, beer and a wild life on the rodeo circuit, bull rider Paxton Rebel is done being "The Heartthrob." His brothers have already settled down and are starting families. Paxton doesn't really believe he's meant for love…until he rescues the slight, lovely woman with sea-green eyes on a cold, windy beach.

Remi Roberts can't trust a charming lady-killer cowboy like Paxton -- especially since he's a Rebel, a family she's been taught to distrust. She needs to concentrate on recovering from her accident, which is the only thing standing in the way of her adopting the baby girl she adores. Besides, fairy tales don't exist and bad boys definitely don't change. Only, this cowboy is determined to prove her wrong…

Very good book. It opens with Paxton doing a bit of soul-searching. He has been on the rodeo circuit for a long time, enjoying the parties and the buckle bunnies. But after seeing most of his brothers settling down, he has started to realize that he's missing something in his life. He's not sure he's cut out for love until he runs into Remi Roberts.

Remi is recovering from serious injuries received in an accident. She has to get healthy fast because she wants to adopt her best friend's orphaned baby girl. She doesn't need the distraction of a bad boy Rebel.

I really enjoyed the development of Remi and Paxton's relationship. Paxton was bowled over by Remi from the beginning and couldn't get her off his mind - even after he discovered she was a McCray. There is something about her combination of determination and vulnerability that really gets to him. He is a bit wary of getting involved, especially after he learns of her adoption plans, because he doesn't think he has what it takes to be a husband and father. I loved seeing the way that Paxton found ways to help Remi with her recovery without trampling on her independence, as was demonstrated by the scene with the stick. His trip to a therapy session with her was awesome and showed just how serious he was about helping her. I also loved how he was smitten by Annie, which changed his viewpoint on fatherhood. Remi is especially wary of Paxton because of two things: his reputation with the ladies and his being a Rebel to her McCray. She does her best to push him away and is surprised when he sticks around. I liked how she began to accept his support and help the more time that they spent together. I liked how their feelings for each other grew steadily and the feeling of family that they experienced. When they ran into trouble over the adoption, I ached for both of them. Paxton was hurt by the way that Remi pushed him away when all he wanted was to be there for her. I also loved his determination to give her the time she needed and not give up on her. I wanted to shake Remi a little bit. She loves Paxton but believes he'll be happier without her in the long run. It takes her a while to realize the truth of their relationship, and it takes a couple of geese to do it. I loved her big moment at the end - it was perfect for her and Paxton. There was also an unexpected but wonderful twist to finish off the book.

There were also some new and interesting things revealed about the McCray family. I loved Remi's grandmother, Miss Bertie. She was delightfully eccentric, though a little scary at times. She was a real trip with that shotgun of hers. I ached for Remi and her desire to reconnect with her brother. It was interesting to see the development of that relationship. I liked the support that Paxton received from his family once they realized that he was serious about Remi. The interactions among the brothers are always fun to see, especially when it comes to their love lives and this was no exception. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens with the final brother, Elias.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Protecting Her Secret Son - Regan Black (HRS #1969 - Nov 2017)

Series: Escape Club Heroes (Book 3)

After escaping a world of ruthless crime with her child, Shannon Nolan finally thought she'd left her nightmares in the past. Then the worst thing she could imagine happens: her son is kidnapped! With nowhere else to run and no one else to trust but her boss, she puts her life in Daniel Jennings's hands.

Firefighter Daniel knows Shannon is safe under his protection, but the one threat he doesn't want to face is his growing passion for her. Moreover, she's vulnerable and isn't searching for love. But as they put everything on the line to rescue her son, that very connection might just be what saves them all…

Excellent blend of suspense and romance. Shannon had escaped an abusive marriage and moved to Philadelphia, where she changed her name and started a new life for herself and her son. She now has a good job with Jennings Construction and is happily raising her son Aiden. She has even allowed herself to have a bit of a crush on her boss, Daniel, not that anything could come of it. She is always aware that her ex is out there and could come looking for her. Then her worst nightmare comes true and Aiden is kidnapped from the sitter's house. In her panicked state, she turns to the only person she can trust - Daniel.

Daniel has been watching Shannon for a long time. He's impressed with her devotion to her son, her work ethic, and her friendliness, not to mention her beauty. He has just about gotten up the courage to ask her out when the kidnapping occurs. He follows her home knowing that she shouldn't be alone. When he finds out what is going on, he knows just who to call for help.

I loved Daniel. As a firefighter he's used to remaining calm in a crisis and that ability is desperately needed. I loved how he was able to take charge without steam-rolling over Shannon; he was sensitive to her fears and her need to do something. He's not perfect, as he has some issues of his own going on. He is a firefighter to the bone, but he is also a Jennings and involved in the family construction business. There is a major conflict between Daniel and his father, who wants him to give up firefighting and take over the business.  The relationship between the two men is definitely strained at times.

I really enjoyed the balance of suspense and romance in the book. The intensity of the search for Aiden started at the beginning with Daniel's involvement with the Escape Club. I loved each twist and turn as Daniel and Shannon raced to find Aiden. There were odd demands that led Shannon to figure out who was behind it and the unexpected revelation of why. The scene at the pier warehouse had me on the edge of my seat until it was over, but there were still threats hanging over Shannon's head. The final confrontation was intense and really showed the strengths of both Shannon and Daniel.

I loved the development of the relationship between Shannon and Daniel. The attraction was there from the start with each very aware of the other. The kidnapping gave Daniel the chance he needed to spend time with Shannon. Shannon was so overcome with fear for Aiden that it took Daniel's calmness to break through and help her focus on what needed to be done. I loved seeing them get to know each other and develop a friendship. I liked how they shared everything from their struggles to their dreams, finding that they had a lot in common. I loved Daniel's determination to keep Shannon from running and find a way to keep her in his life. I ached for Shannon and how sure she was that there was no way she would be able to stay after she got Aiden back. Once Aiden was rescued, I loved seeing the instant connection between him and Daniel. The two of them together were adorable, and I could see the effect it had on Shannon. The attraction between Daniel and Shannon kept building also, and added to the feelings that grew between them. The question became one of whether Shannon would have the courage to stay and fight for the future she wanted. I loved the ending and the surprise offer that was the icing on the cake of their happiness.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Flame and the Flower - Kathleen Woodiwiss (MacDonald & J - Oct 1980)

Series: Birmingham Family (Book 1)

LOVERS FOR THE AGES!

In an age of great turmoil, the breathtaking romance of Heather Simmons and Captain Brandon Birmingham spans oceans and continents! Their stormy saga reaches the limits of human passion as we follow Heather's tumultuous journey from poverty...to her kidnapping at a squalid London dockside...to the splendor of Harthaven, the Carolina plantation where Brandon finally probes the depths of Heather's full womanhood!

THE FLOWER

Doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons fears for her innocence - until a shocking, desperate act forces her to flee...and to seek refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

THE FLAME

A lusty adventurer married to the sea, Captain Brandon Birmingham courts scorn and peril when he abducts the beautiful fugitive from the tumultuous London dockside. But no power on Earth can compel him to relinquish his exquisite prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed lovely his woman...and to carry her off to far, uncharted realms of sensuous, passionate love.

This is still one of my favorite books, in spite of the events at the beginning. Heather is young and innocent and quite the Cinderella figure. Her parents are dead and she is forced to live with her aunt and uncle. The uncle is henpecked and the aunt is abusive and obviously jealous of Heather's youth and beauty. Heather is turned over to her aunt's brother, who offers to take her to London and get her a job at a school. However, he's lying through his teeth, because he plans to use her himself then sell her to a brothel owner. In a rare show of spirit, Heather manages to escape him but ends up lost on the London docks. There she is grabbed by a couple of American sailors and given to their captain.

Brandon's ship has just arrived in London from South Carolina and he's feeling frisky. He's had a bit to drink and doesn't believe Heather's claims of not being a prostitute until after he has forced her. While he feels a slight pinch in his conscience, he's determined to set her up as his mistress for future visits. He's arrogant and overbearing and fully expects her to obey him when he tells her to stay put.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Heather show a bit of backbone when it came to her escape. Previously she had been quite timid and gave in quickly when berated by anyone. It was great fun to see her overcome Brandon's servant George with an empty pistol, then make her way back to her aunt's home. I ached for her and the abuse she continued to experience at her aunt's hands. Though Fanny's motives were selfish, I was happy to see her go to Lord Hampton for help in finding Brandon. I loved Lord Hampton's kindness and how he wanted what was best for Heather. In that time period, that meant forcing the man in question to "do the right thing." Though Brandon is angry at being threatened, there were hints that he isn't quite as bad as first impressions indicated. I loved the scene where he covered Heather in his cloak after Fanny ripped Heather's dress.

It was terrific to see the changes that both Brandon and Heather undergo over the course of the book. Brandon is initially arrogant, angry, and sometimes cruel. But when it comes down to it, actions can speak louder than words. His anger is expressed in the things he says, accusing Heather of setting out to trap him. He makes threats about keeping her prisoner, making sure she gets no benefits from the marriage, and stating that he will never sleep with her again. Yeah, that one comes back to haunt him. But in spite of his words, he takes her to get a whole new wardrobe (including something special for the cold weather sea voyage) and makes sure she is protected while they wait to sail. Heather is quiet and fearful and provoking Brandon's temper, but inside there is a spark of spirit that continues to grow. I loved her obvious relief that she is going to avoid her "wifely duties" and the dent that made in Brandon's ego.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Brandon becomes more intrigued by Heather with each day. She isn't what he expected and he isn't quite sure how to deal with that. I enjoyed seeing the kinder side of him emerge and loved his shopping trip with her. There were times during that period that Heather was able to forget her fear. I loved her sense of wonder and fun during those lighter moments and ached for her when something would set Brandon off. It made me laugh to see the way his physical frustration grew because it was his own fault. During the sea voyage, the confrontation between Brandon and Heather that ended up causing her illness was a turning point in their relationship. Brandon's attitude softened somewhat and Heather was able to relax a little bit of her hyperawareness.

Things got really interesting once they reached Charleston. The extreme difference between Heather and Brandon's ex-fiancée, Louisa, was obvious. In spite of Brandon's claims otherwise, he treated Heather with great care and respect around other people. I loved the effect it had on Louisa, who was a real piece of work. Brandon still had moments of being a jerk, but it became more and more obvious that those were in reaction to the battles he was fighting with himself. There were more and more scenes where he stood up for her, especially against Louisa. Heather also began to bloom in her new circumstances. She gained more confidence in herself, though encounters with Louisa still tended to dent that confidence. I loved the part where they were all cleaning the mill house and everyone kept trying to keep Heather from working and she would resist their efforts. I also loved the scene with the former mill owner and how Heather stood up to him. I loved seeing her and Brandon grow closer and lose most of their antagonism. Their individual decisions to find a way to fix their marriage were pretty funny since they both wanted the same thing. If they had just let go of the pride that was holding them back and actually talk to each other about their feelings things might have gone more smoothly. I ached for Heather when it seemed that her past was about to ruin her hope for a happy future with Brandon. The confrontation with that past was intense and I loved how Brandon was there for her. I loved how they were finally able to admit their feelings for each other and admit their mistakes.

The secondary characters were very well done. Louisa was an excellent foil for Heather. Her selfishness and arrogance made her so very easy to dislike. It was quite satisfying to see the way that she was consistently shown up by the differences between her and Heather. Her frustration at not being able to drive a wedge between Heather and Brandon was acute. I must admit to enjoying the scenes where she was thwarted in her attempts to do so. I feel badly about what happened to her at the end, but it did serve to wrap things up well. I also enjoyed Hattie and her fussing over all the Birminghams. It was fun to see her get in a few digs against Brandon and his idiocy. My favorite secondary character was Jeff. I loved how close he was to Brandon and the respect and love they had for each other. I adored his immediate support of Heather and the friendship that grew so quickly between them. I loved the scenes where he showed Brandon what an idiot he was. I especially loved the scene while he and Brandon were waiting for Heather to give birth and the calculations he did. He had such an air of innocence while he was jerking Brandon's chain. I know I have read his story, but I would like to go back and read it again.

The bit of mystery at the end, dealing with Heather's past and the murders that took place, was also interesting. The fear that Heather felt was real and kept me hooked to see how it would turn out. The final confrontation was intense and I could feel Heather's terror as she tried to escape.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Always a Lawman - Delores Fossen (HI #1749 - Dec 2017)

Series: Blue River Ranch (Book 1)

A sheriff’s heart-wrenching past threatens to destroy his future

Ten years ago, Sheriff Gabriel Beckett helped convict the man who murdered his parents in a shocking crime that still haunts his small Texas town. Now the terror has returned and the woman who escaped the attack is a target again.

Jodi Canton loved Gabriel -- until that love shattered with his parents’ murder and her father’s conviction. Taunted with threats, she’s determined to bait the real killer out of hiding. Drawing out a criminal puts her life on the line, but Gabriel’s protection puts her heart in danger. Even if they survive a predator, can they risk everything to heal each other?

Exciting start to the new series. Nearly non-stop attacks, multiple suspects, and a simmering attraction kept me glued to the pages from start to finish.

Ten years after the murder of his parents, Gabriel is the sheriff of Blue River. He isn't very happy to find Jodi, the daughter of the man convicted of those murders, at the scene of that crime, and where she had also nearly lost her life. He's even less happy to discover that she is receiving threats and has made herself a target to try to draw the attacker out. Both of them get quite a shock when they find a knife like the one used in her attack and a dead body in his parents' old house. Having a masked man shoot at them just adds to the tension.

I liked Jodi a lot. She is independent, determined, but also vulnerable. The attack that nearly killed her continues to affect her. She has learned to protect herself so that she can keep herself safe. She is determined to discover the truth of what happened that night and clear her father's name. She is also haunted as much by what she doesn't remember of that night as by what she does remember. If she can find out who it was, maybe she can finally move on with her life.

I also really liked Gabriel. He is honorable, protective, and has his own regrets from that night. Ten years ago he had turned away the young Jodi who had shown up at his place with seduction on her mind. In his opinion she was too young, so he turned her down and sent her away even though he wanted her too. Now that she's back, he is determined to keep her safe.

The suspense is fantastic. Jodi's actions have stirred up a veritable hornet's nest. There is attack after attack on Jodi; attempts to silence her before she can fully remember and expose the person who tried to kill her. With each attack, someone different rose to the top of the list of suspects. Is it Hector, who was there to pick up the pieces after Jodi's attack? Or her uncle August, who doesn't think she's trying hard enough to clear her father's name? Or her ex-boyfriend Russell, who claims that his association with her has put him and his family in danger? Through most of the book I couldn't decide who I thought was the actual culprit. The final confrontation was intense as the bad guy had Gabriel and Jodi cornered. The resolution was heart-pounding as Jodi faced her attacker and came out on top this time. Though the mystery of who tried to kill Jodi is solved, there is doubt now over whether her father is truly the one who killed Gabriel's parents. I can't wait for the next book to see what new information is revealed.

I loved the development of Jodi and Gabriel's relationship. Jodi had thought that in the intervening years her crush on Gabriel had diminished. She was not very happy to realize that her feelings for him were as strong as ever. Gabriel also wasn't happy to feel that same attraction that he had found so hard to resist before. I loved seeing the strength and determination that Jodi had developed. It was great fun to see her stand up to Gabriel's attempts to keep her out of the line of fire. His protectiveness was sweet, but it sure did frustrate Jodi. I also liked his sensitivity to her wariness about being touched. I loved seeing them finally realize that they were meant to be together. I'm looking forward to seeing more of them in later books.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Single Mom's Bodyguard - Lisa Childs (HRS #1960 - Sept 2017)

Series: Bachelor Bodyguards (Book 6)

Emilia Ecklund hears her child cry when he's smiling. She sees intruders where there are none. She's either losing her mind -- or someone wants her to think she is. Desperate, she asks her brother's best friend, former Marine and Payne Protection Agency bodyguard Dane Sutton, to investigate. But the only way is for him to move into her home…and bed.

Dane's secret mission: to pose as Emilia's boyfriend while watching every door and window like a hawk. He vows to keep things purely professional, but he's severely tempted as his feelings intensify. And as the threats escalate, the guarded loner has everything to lose.

Very good book, action-filled and intense from the start. Emilia is trying to get her life back together after being kidnapped and nearly losing her baby to an adoption ring. She has a good job helping Penny at the wedding chapel, and her brother is finally letting up a little on his overprotectiveness. Then strange things begin to happen. Emilia hears a baby crying while her son is fast asleep, windows that she knows she locked are left open, and she hears footsteps in her house. She starts to wonder if she's losing her grip on reality. Desperate for answers, she asks Dane for help.

Dane is her brother's best friend and also a former Marine. His past has convinced him that he isn't cut out for love and family, and all the new relationships around him have him a little freaked out. That he is drawn to Emilia bothers him even more because she's his best friend's sister and that's against the rules. But he can't say no when she comes to him for help.

I loved the development of the relationship between Emilia and Dane. Though he tried to deny it to himself, he was drawn to Emilia before he even met her, because of how much Lars talked about her. I loved how he sensed that there was something going on with her even before she asked for his help. Emilia was also drawn to him and he was the first one she thought of when she was so frightened. Dane's idea for moving in and pretending that they had a relationship set him up for having to face his feelings. I really liked the way that Dane believed in Emilia and didn't give in to the doubts that others raised. Dane's faith in her also gave Emilia the strength to stand up against the fear that threatened to overwhelm her. Emilia's feelings for Dane also grew quickly. I loved seeing her get between him and Lars when they were macho idiots. She was also just as protective of him as he was of her. I ached for her at the end, when she was certain that Dane didn't want her. The ending was sweet, as Dane exposed his vulnerability in his talk to the baby. I loved seeing both Emilia and Dane let go of their pasts and embrace their future.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. The attempts to make Emilia think she was crazy were really creepy and gave me goosebumps. As the attempts turned physical, I was glued to the pages waiting to see what would happen next. The brief glimpses into the mind of the attacker increased the intensity as it became obvious that nothing would make him give up on his goal. The final confrontation was a real nail-biter as Emilia put herself in danger to save Dane and bring the threat to an end. The culprit was not who I expected and I loved that it was Emilia who figured it out.

I loved the relationships that were highlighted in the book. The love that Emilia and her brother Lars had for each other was never in doubt, nor was Emilia's frustration with his attitude toward her. It was great to see her finally get through to him, with some pretty amusing confrontations. I also loved seeing more of Lars and Nikki and her attempts to rein him in regarding Emilia and Dane. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Manny and can't wait to read his story. I have a feeling that he's going to fall hard as well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rough Rider - B.J. Daniels (HI #1737 - Oct 2017)

Series: Whitehorse Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping (Book 2)

He was sure he could handle one petite PI with an attitude -- but he’ll need her help to solve the secret of his missing sister and outwit a ruthless killer

His family never fully recovered from the kidnapping of his siblings decades ago. Now Boone McGraw finally has a lead on his missing sister’s location, but it means working with feisty private investigator C.J. Knight.

Desperate to solve her partner’s murder, C.J. doesn’t believe her case could possibly be connected to the sexy horse breeder’s investigation…until they find themselves running for their lives.

Good conclusion to the series. Boone has been given a mission by his father. Go to Butte and find PI Hank Knight and find out what he knows about who kidnapped Boone's twin siblings twenty-five years ago. But when Boone arrives, he discovers that Hank is dead, killed in a hit-and-run accident. Or was it? Hank's partner, CJ Knight, is convinced that Hank was murdered.

CJ is determined to find out who killed Hank and why. She doesn't have the time or inclination to deal with a cowboy who has his own agenda. She's not convinced that the two cases are related until attempts are made to stop their search for answers.

I liked both CJ and Boone. CJ is smart, determined, and loyal. She is devastated by the loss of the man who was like a father to her. She is also very independent. I enjoyed seeing her and Boone butt heads at the beginning. Boone is just as determined and loyal as she is. His family means everything to him and he will do whatever it takes to find his missing sister.

The suspense of the story was very good as was the development of the relationship between CJ and Boone. I had fun watching Boone stick to her like glue as she tried to get to the bottom of Hank's death. Boone was certain that it was linked to the kidnapping. As each lead was uncovered and pursued it became obvious that Hank had been keeping quite a few secrets from CJ. I ached for her as she tried to reconcile the new information with the man that she had known and loved. As Boone and CJ got closer to finding Boone's missing sister, the man behind the kidnapping became more desperate to cover his tracks. I wasn't too surprised by the revelation of who he was, which came fairly early in the book. The final confrontation was intense and ultimately unsuccessful thanks to unexpected interference. I loved finally hearing the whole story as the family was reunited.

The romance between Boone and CJ was mainly in the background. There were sparks between them from the moment they met, but both tried to resist. CJ is too focused on finding Hank's killer to want to deal with the distraction that Boone poses. Boone is surprised by his attraction to CJ because they are so different. He can't see anything coming of it, as he is tied to the ranch and she loves living in the city. But the longer they spend together, the more the feelings between them build. I liked seeing what love did to change them both. The epilogue was terrific as it showed the whole family and their changes a year later. I would like to see a couple more McGraw books to show the twins getting their own love interests.

Gone in the Night - Anna J. Stewart (HRS #1965 - Oct 2017)

Series: Honor Bound (Book 3)

Psychologist Allie Hollister is still haunted by the unsolved death of her childhood best friend. She never expects her past to meet her present when a young patient is abducted and the cold case is reopened. Allie knows she shouldn't get involved, but the child's uncle, firefighter Max Kellan, needs her as much as she needs him.

Once, Max simply wanted to put his past to rest; now he demands nothing short of justice. As he and secretive, sexy Allie track a lethal criminal, their chemistry is an undeniable adrenaline rush. Their attraction will be put to the test when they confront their most dangerous threat yet: the truth.

A very good blend of romance and suspense, roller-coaster emotions, and strong but vulnerable characters. This is the third book in the series, and though I haven't read the first two, I never felt lost. That being said, I intend to read the other two as soon as possible.

Allie and her two friends, Simone and Eden, are haunted by the death of their friend Chloe twenty years earlier when they were all nine years old. When one of Allie's patients, nine-year-old Hope disappears, the circumstances are eerily similar. Added to the events of the previous books, it appears that the murderer is back and determined to torment them.

Max is Hope's uncle. He is a retired firefighter who moved in with his brother and niece to help care for her while her parents go through a divorce. He will stop at nothing to help find Hope, even team up with a dreaded "shrink." He is haunted by the events that led up to his departure from firefighting and feels the loss of the career he loved deeply.

I was sucked into the story from the very beginning. Though Allie is worried about Hope when she first arrives at the scene,  the parallels to her past create an unimaginable fear. I was incredibly impressed with Allie's ability to remain calm while she talked to Hope's friends, and again when telling Max what happened. I loved her patience and understanding with him as he vents his anger and fear and then keeps him from doing something stupid. I ached for Max when his confrontation with Hope's mother was over, and the realization of Hope's danger hit him.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Max and Allie. It was fast and intense. Max was very distrustful of Allie at the beginning, thanks in part to his issues with mental health professionals. He also sensed that she was keeping information from him, which he found unacceptable. I thoroughly enjoyed the scene where he took matters into his own hands. The confrontation between Max and Allie was the beginning of a truce between them and also exposed their underlying attraction.  I loved the humor of some of their conversations, especially when Max used it to help alleviate some of the tension they were under. Their competition over Max's nickname was an ongoing thing and served as a great way for them to get to know each other. Neither is perfect though and at one point their differing focuses drive a wedge between them and harsh words are exchanged. I liked that both are mature enough to see that neither was fully right and they could move past it. I loved the ending and the unexpected visitor beneath the tree house.

The suspense of the story was excellent. From the moment of Hope's disappearance to the very end, the suspense was intense. There were clues that were also links to the past, which increased the feeling that the kidnapping was also linked to Allie's past. I loved seeing Allie and her friends, as well as their significant others and law enforcement, all working together to bring Hope home safely. There was a surprising twist, caught by Max, that turned out to be important. I was glued to the pages as the hours passed toward the deadline imposed by the kidnapper. Just when I thought all were safe, an unexpected appearance put Allie in danger. I loved Allie's confidence in both herself and Max as the final confrontation brought everything to a successful conclusion.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Her Secret Life - Tara Taylor Quinn (HS #2072 - Mar 2017)

Series: Where Secrets are Safe (Book 10)

It takes courage to choose love…

Internet security expert Michael Valentine knows his place in Kacey Hamilton's life. The soap opera star lives in two worlds: glamorous Hollywood and small town Santa Raquel, where she volunteers with him at The Lemonade Stand women's shelter. The key to their friendship is maintaining boundaries. And after an accident years ago left him badly scarred, he won't expect anything more. But when threats against Kacey escalate, Michael will stop at nothing to protect her. Even if his investigation means confronting more than just her attacker as Kacey's interest in him starts to go deeper than friendship…

Good friends to lovers story. Kacey is a Hollywood actress who, when not working, volunteers at The Lemonade Stand, a shelter for abused women. There she met Michael, an internet security expert who also volunteers at the shelter. They have become very good friends. When Kacey discovers that someone is posting unflattering pictures and innuendos of her on the internet, she asks Michael to investigate.

I liked Kacey. She recently realized that her life was going in a direction she didn't like and resolved to change it. She has cut back on the partying and drinking and spent more time in Santa Raquel with her sister Lacey and is slowly repairing their relationship. She likes her Hollywood life and work as an actress, and also cherishes her time away, where she can recharge with the peace and quiet of the beach. It is interesting to see how she has compartmentalized her life, with the two parts being completely separate.

I liked Michael, too. He's badly scarred from an accident ten years earlier which has affected the way he lives his life. He has his work, his family, and his friends, but tends to avoid crowds and strangers. He doesn't like feeling like an object of pity. His relationship with his family can be strained at times, but there's no doubt that the love is there. I especially liked his closeness to his brother Willie and his willingness to alter his own life to help Willie straighten out his.

I enjoyed the relationship between Michael and Kacey. The connection between them is obvious from the start. I loved how Kacey was so comfortable with Michael and able to tell him about the photo problem. It's also pretty clear from the beginning that Michael feels more than friendship toward Kacey, but his problem with his scars makes him certain that anything more is impossible. He doesn't seem to realize that the scars make no difference to her. I loved how Kacey saw past them to the man he was. Through most of the book, both Kacey and Michael are so determined not to let anything harm their friendship that they fight the feelings that are growing between them. But when something terrible happens to Kacey, it is Michael she reaches out to, and their two worlds start to overlap in unexpected ways. I loved Michael's tenderness and willingness to step outside his comfort zone to help her. I enjoyed their talk after the Hollywood event when they finally acknowledged some of what they were feeling. Their conversation about boundaries and rules was pretty amusing but typical of them both. When they took that next step, it was more than either had imagined possible.

But both are in for a shock when Kacey identifies one of her attackers. I never saw that one coming, and I wasn't sure how they would deal with it. I thought Kacey's strength and compassion were amazing. I ached for Michael and the effect it had on the dream he'd only just started to believe in. I loved Kacey's big moment at the end, and how she took one thing that he had said to her and ran with it. I also enjoyed the help she received from her accomplice. I hope to see more of them in later books to see how their future plays out.

The other mystery, that of who was stalking Kacey and posting the pictures was also solved. This culprit was not much of a surprise. I would like to have seen more in the way of consequences, but in the big picture it ended up being pretty unimportant.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sugar Pine Trail - RaeAnne Thayne (HQN - Oct 2017)

Series: Haven Point (Book 7)

Librarian Julia Winston is ready to ditch the quiet existence she's been living. She's made a list of new things to experience, but falling for Jamie Caine, her sexy military pilot neighbor, isn't one of them. Julia's looking to conquer life, not become the heartbreaker's latest conquest. But when two young brothers wind up in Julia's care for the holidays, she'll take any help she can get -- even Jamie's.

Happy to step in, Jamie reveals a side of himself that's much harder to resist. Not only is he fantastic with kids, he provides the strength Julia needs to tackle her list. She knows their temporary family can't last beyond the holidays, but the closer she gets to Jamie, the more she wonders if things could be this merry and bright forever…

Very good book with a roller coaster of emotions. The story opens with Julia, a shy, quiet librarian, watching nervously as the person she has rented her upstairs apartment to arrives. Her gut feeling is that she has made a terrible mistake, as it is none other than Jamie Caine, local heartthrob and the man she's had a crush on for years. But she is determined to take charge of her life and not let her fears hold her back.

Jamie is the corporate pilot for Caine Technologies and spends his days flying people all over the country and the world. He has quite the reputation with the ladies as a charming flirt who will never commit but is fun to be around. He is very careful not to lead anyone on.

I loved his first evening at the house when he came across Julia after the end of her book club meeting. She was a little the worse for wear thanks to the drinks that had been served. She no longer seems quite so starched and stiff, and Jamie is intrigued but determined to keep his distance. Julia's life is about to change dramatically though, as she discovers that two young boys who have been spending a lot of time in the library are living on their own because their mother is missing. After calling a friend who is a social worker, Julia finds out that the boys will likely be sent to separate foster homes. Horrified by the idea, Julia offers to keep them herself.

Julia is way out of her depth but determined to do her best. Things are rough at first because Clint and Davy resent being removed from their home, in spite of the conditions they were living in. Luckily for her, Jamie is part of a large family with lots and nieces and nephews, so he has lots of experience in kid wrangling. I loved watching him connect so quickly with them. It isn't long before he is captivated by the sweet and kind woman under Julia's starchy exterior. As Jamie spends time helping Julia with the boys, she sees a different side of him, one that is far too appealing to her.

I loved seeing the development of their relationship. Jamie is protective of her, something that comes out when he comes to her rescue when she has the flu. He is surprised by the depth of his need to take care of her. I loved his reaction to her bucket list, and how much he wanted to help her achieve those dreams. What he didn't expect was how much he enjoyed bringing that kind of happiness to her life. But no matter how much he likes her, he won't allow himself to let it go too far because she deserves someone much better than he is. Jamie is haunted by some things that happened in his past that have convinced him that he doesn't deserve the kind of happiness that having her in his life would give him.

Once Julia gets over her tongue-tied reactions when Jamie is near, she discovers that he is a wonderful man. Watching him with the boys melts her heart and makes her wonder why he doesn't have a family of his own. I loved how quickly she tumbled onto the realization that he uses his charm and his killer smile to distract when he doesn't want to talk about something. I loved seeing her call him on it when he tries it on her. She knows that she is well on the way to falling for him, which will get her a broken heart. After all, a man like him isn't really going to be interested in a plain, small-town librarian.

I loved the time they spent together, with and without the boys. The ski lessons were great, especially Jamie's "rewards" for helping her up when she fell. The charity gala was incredible and I loved seeing Julia bloom under the attention of various members of Jamie's family. I ached for her when she was confronted by that woman and loved that she was able to get Jamie to open up to her about what had happened. I loved her support and how she tried to make him see that he wasn't responsible.

I loved the way that Julia, Jamie, and the boys started to feel like a family. I cried when they received unexpected visitors right before Christmas and the change it brought to Julia's life. I hated seeing her push Jamie away when he wanted to comfort her. I loved that he finally figured out how he felt about Julia and ached for him when she refused to believe him. I wondered what it was going to take for her to see and accept the truth and loved that it was something so simple and sweet. I loved the ending as Julia opened her eyes and her heart and took a big chance. They brought me to tears and made me smile with the depth of their feelings. The epilogue was fantastic, especially with the completion of Julia's list. Jamie was adorable with his attempt to appear innocent. The love and happiness they felt simply glowed.

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)

THEIR LIVES DEFY CONVENTION.
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.

THEIR DESIRE CONSUMES THEM BOTH...
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.