Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Fortune in Waiting - Michelle Major (HSE #2521 - Jan 2017)


FORTUNE ON THE MENU

Even in a town as eclectic as Austin, Keaton Fortune Whitfield stands out. With his dreamy British accent and his slate-blue eyes, he has captured the fancy of every red-blooded Texas female in town…except one. Francesca Harriman, his favorite waitress at Lola May's, seems completely immune to his charms. When she's not on her shift, she's too busy studying to pay attention to him -- which only makes him want her more.

Francesca has been burned before, and she won't let the Londoner melt her heart. What would a brilliant, wealthy architect want with a commoner like her? She's not about to abandon her schooling to become Keaton's catch of the day. Could a hash-slinging waitress really find happiness with a Fortune?

Very good book. In the previous series (Fortunes of Texas: All Fortune's Children), the children of Gerald Robinson have discovered that their father used to be Jerome Fortune before he changed his name. He was also a philanderer, and they found out that they have an unknown number of half siblings. Keaton is one of the first that they have located. A well-known architect in London, he has come to Austin to work on a project there and use the time to get to know his new siblings. He usually has dinner at the same diner and has become fascinated by one of the waitresses, Francesca.

Francesca has recently left a long relationship and is getting back on her feet. She works full time at the diner and also carries a full course load at the local university. When she isn't working she is studying, and doing her best to ignore the sexy Brit.

I loved the relationship that grew between Keaton and Francesca. Both of them are really nice people. Francesca is wary because she can't really see anything coming of it, as they come from such different worlds. Her treatment by her ex-boyfriend left her especially low in confidence. Keaton is cautious also, as he has not seen himself in a committed relationship. He worries that he's like his father and would hurt whoever he loved. I loved the sweet and respectful way that Keaton treated Francesca, and the thought he put into the things they did together. There was also an intense attraction that burned between them, and also provided some amusing moments. Both tended to get a bit flustered around the other, creating some awkwardness and occasional clumsiness. When they give in to their attraction, it's far more intense than they expected. Francesca realizes that she's falling hard for Keaton, but pulls back when his reputation runs into her insecurities and his fears. Keaton has to decide if he's going to believe that genetics can win, or if he can be the man she deserves. I loved his conversations with his brother Ben and his mother helped open his eyes. His big moment at the end was romantic and emotional with an awesome climax. The epilogue was great too.

I also liked the continuation of the Fortune story. Keaton's developing relationships with his siblings was great. His determination to help find any other siblings and help them deal with "becoming a Fortune" was fantastic. I liked catching up with the various characters from earlier books and seeing how they are handling the changes too. I loved seeing Keaton's feelings as he gets to know his brothers and sisters.

*copy received in exchange for honest review

Friday, April 28, 2017

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

Series: Protectors (Book 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Series: Duchess of Love (Book 3)

A Little Misunderstanding. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*copy received in exchange for honest review.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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

Series: Campbell Cove Academy (Book 3)

THE BEST MAN…IN EVERY WAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Series: Apache Protectors: Tribal Thunder (Book 4)

To trust and protect…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

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

Series: Apache Protectors: Tribal Thunder (Book 3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

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

Spend a year in Amish country with four sweet romances.

Rooted in Love

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Love for Irma Rose

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

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

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

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

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

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


Patchwork Perfect

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

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

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

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

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


When Christmas Comes Again

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Because of Miss Bridgerton - Julia Quinn (Avon - Apr 2016)

Series: Bridgerton Prequels (Book 1)

There were Bridgertons before the eight alphabetically named siblings. In this first of a new prequel series, we go back to where it all began...from New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn.

Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places...

This is not one of those times.

Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband... someday.

Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should...

Or not.

There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he's arrogant, annoying, and she's absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can't stand the sight of him, either.

But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor...

Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can't abide is the one person they can't live without...

I loved this book. I was very happy to see a return to the Bridgerton family, and intrigued to see that the new series explores the generation before the orginal series. Though someday I'd like to see the Bridgerton children too.  This is the story of Billie (Sybilla), the oldest of the Bridgerton siblings. She is twenty-three and has lived most of her life on the family's estate in Kent. She never had a London Season because of an unfortunate incident at her Court presentation, but that's fine with her. She's happiest when she's riding about the land (in her breeches), supervising planting and harvests and checking on tenants. As the only child for so long, she took on the role of a son to her father, learning the estate's management, and has continued to help until her younger brother is old enough to take over. She is smart and sassy, has no problem expressing her opinion, is loving and loyal to her family, and tends to be just a tad impulsive/reckless. Her best friends have been Mary Rokesby and her two brothers Edward and Andrew. They all ran pretty wild together as children, and still have a close friendship. Billie expects she'll marry either Edward or Andrew someday. Her relationship with the oldest brother, George, is more contentious. She always feels that he's judging her, and reacts by teasing him whenever possible.

George is the oldest, and as the heir, spent most of his childhood in training for his future duties. He never really had the chance to run around like the rest of them. He is quiet, always aware of his responsibilities, but would do anything for his family. While he loves his home and the land, there's a small part of him that is envious of his brothers ability to join the military and fight for King and country.

I loved the beginning of the book. Billie has gotten herself into a predicament - she is stuck on the roof of a building and has sprained her ankle. She hopes that someone will come along soon who can help her get down. Unfortunately the first person to show up is last one she wants to see - George. The encounter is pretty funny, with each giving as good as they get in attitude. Through yet another mishap, George ends up stuck on the roof with her, until his brother Andrew comes along. It's during this forced time together that George comes to a rather startling realization. He is attracted to Billie, absolutely the worst person he could choose as a bride. But he starts to see that there's more to her than the hoydenish bane of his existence. Billie also feels something unexpected around him and isn't sure what to make of it. She's never paid attention to his features or his build before, but the kindness and sympathy that emerges has her looking at him differently. The usual banter continues between them that evening, but there is also something different about it.

I loved the progression of their relationship. They have spent so long as antagonists that both are a bit confused as to why they suddenly want to spend more time together.  Their arguing and teasing continues, but there is a different feel to it. I also enjoyed how their fascination was demonstrated in the way they would sneak looks at each other, find ways to touch each other. Billie's mother's decision to have a house party threw them together even more. I loved seeing the jealousy that popped up, especially in George. For such a calm and normally reasonable man he had some pretty amusing reactions to the men who showed an interest in Billie. She wasn't too far behind in her reactions to other women, especially one. The Pall Mall (croquet) game she instigated was pretty funny.

But just when things were starting to get interesting, disturbing news for the Rokeslys arrives, ending the house party. I ached for their pain, and George's worry about his father that put more responsibility on his shoulders. I loved how Billie was there for all of them, but especially worried about George. It was funny to see his mom find a way to get Billie to London with them. Billie is hoping to be able to just stay in the background and be support, but his mom has other ideas. Billie is terribly worried about making an appearance at the ball because of her lack of experience. George plans to be there to help her through it, something comes up that prevents it. While this could have been a huge misunderstanding to create drama, they deal with it quite differently, with the resulting realization that they belong together. The final scene is great, with George doing his best to keep Billie from another reckless action and discovering that all it takes is to tell her why. I loved the depth of his emotion as he expressed it and the effect it had on Billie. I loved his mom's reaction which honestly didn't surprise me at all. I had seen those wheels turning early on in the book.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of the books in the series. Georgiana especially intrigues me, even though she's still young. She has spent so long being somewhat ignored by the others that she's bound to make her presence known in some spectacular way. I'm also looking forward to Andrew's story. He is such a rogue and a flirt that he needs someone who will lead him on a merry dance.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Agent Bride - Beverly Long (HI #1608 - Dec 2015)

Series: Return to Ravesville (Book 2)

Finding an amnesiac bride stranded in a blizzard wasn't how a navy SEAL pictured his homecoming…

Navy SEAL Cal Hollister is stunned when the white flag he sees flapping in a snowstorm turns out to be a veil attached to a beautiful woman. Unconscious and dressed only in a bridal gown, Cal calls her Stormy and carries her to safety. But it isn't long before trouble finds the mysterious bride, and trying to discover her identity puts a target on her back. Using every resource at his disposal, Cal uncovers a sinister plot involving terrorists, a forced marriage -- and that who Stormy really is might get them both killed.

Good book. Cal is on his way home for Thanksgiving after leaving the Navy. He's got a lot on his mind, not the least of which is the snowstorm he's driving through. When he spots a white flag waving in the storm, he's stunned to discover that it is the veil of a woman dressed in a wedding gown and unconscious in the snow. He carries her to safety, only to discover that she can't remember who she is or how she got there. When he witnesses two suspicious looking men searching for her, his protective instincts kick in. He calls her Stormy and is determined to help her figure out who she is.

Stormy has no idea how she ended up where she was, but she's pretty sure that the men looking for her don't have her best interests in mind. Though cautious at first, she trusts her instincts when it comes to Cal and feels safe when she's with him.

The story is fast paced and takes place over just a few days. Cal and Stormy need to figure out who she is and why they are after her. As she begins to get flashes of returning memory, Stormy is certain that there is something big that is going to happy on Saturday. Each memory gives them another clue to follow, which all begin to lead to a local college and an impending political visit. A bit of bad luck puts them both in the hands of the bad guys. The intensity of the confrontation kept me turning the pages, as I anticipated their escape. In an interesting twist, what the bad guys had planned was not what had brought Stormy to the case, but the two were linked. I loved the tension of seeing Cal do his part, while Stormy, memory restored, does hers and worries for his safety. I liked the ending.

The development of their relationship was really fast. Cal has avoided relationships because of his work as a SEAL, but something about Stormy really draws him. He is attracted to her, but because of the wedding gown considers her off limits. Stormy is just as attracted to him and is certain that no one else has a claim on her. Other than some hot kisses, at the beginning they don't have time to pursue what might be between them. I liked seeing them work together. Cal starts out be super protective, for reasons that come out later in the book, but Stormy is good at showing him that she doesn't need to be coddled. I liked seeing her stand up to him when it happened, and loved how he saw his error and changed his ways. It also gave him a chance to open up about his past and what has brought him back to Ravesville. Stormy had realized her feelings for him when he went off to defuse the bomb. I ached for her when she thought he was gone, and enjoyed their big moment at the end.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Baby on Her Christmas List - Louisa George (HM #711 - Dec 2014)

Best friends…to parents?

Nurse Georgie Taylor has just one thing on her Christmas list: a baby! But she never expected her best friend, broodingly handsome Dr. Liam MacAllister, to offer to be the father…

Liam's heart has always been strictly off-limits—a baby is the last thing on his Christmas list! But he'll do anything to make Georgie happy, and seeing her pregnant with their miracle baby ignites feelings that he just can't ignore…feelings that could destroy a beautiful friendship—or result in so much more!

Emotional friends to lovers story. Georgie is twenty-eight years old and really wants a family of her own. But her search for Mr. Right hasn't been going so well and time is running out, so she's decided to go it alone. Disappointed when her first choice for a donor is unavailable, she's surprised when her best friend Liam offers to be the donor. Liam has never made any secret of the fact that a family is not in his future plans.

I liked both Georgie and Liam. Georgie was abandoned as a baby and grew up in foster and group homes. All she has ever wanted is a family of her own and a chance to love and be loved. I liked the way that she considered her options and made her decision, then stood by it, even in the face of Liam's initial disapproval. She is a woman with a kind heart, which comes out frequently in her interactions with her patients.

Liam is a workaholic who spends much of his time providing medical services to war-torn or disaster affected areas. He uses his job to keep from forming any kind of emotional bond with other people. A childhood tragedy has left him with feelings of guilt and a need to pay a sort of penance. Even Georgie is only allowed so close. But giving her what she wants so badly opens him up to feelings he never expected.

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. The two of them have been friends for eight years, setting each other up with dates, hanging out together in between. But Liam is shocked by Georgie's decision, and tries to talk her out of it, even at the risk of their friendship. When he realizes how serious she is, he offers to help, since he just wants her to be happy. He's also surprised to realize that the idea of her carrying some stranger's baby bothers him more than it should. Along with the connection they now share, both begin to experience an unexpected attraction to each other. As Liam heads off on another medical mission, he hopes that it will go away before he returns. Liam had initially told Georgie that he only wanted to be a donor, not be involved with the child in any personal way. But while away, he realized that he didn't want his child to feel the way he did. Now all he has to do is convince Georgie that he's serious.

Georgie has spent too long watching Liam keep everyone at a distance, and is reluctant to believe that he won't change his mind yet again. Especially with the unexpected heat that keeps building between them putting a strain on their friendship. Neither wants to risk giving in to the attraction and have it ruin what they've had together. I loved seeing Liam's protective nature come out in the way that he takes over doing many of the repairs and renovations on her house. He also keeps a close eye on her health. The biggest problem he has is that, in doing all these things with her, his attraction to her keeps getting stronger. Georgie is feeling the heat herself and starts to wonder if maybe they can give in without risking their friendship. When it finally gets to be too much to resist, each is blown away by how good they are together. As the weeks go by, they keep getting closer, to the point where Georgie is even able to get Liam to talk about what had happened to him as a kid. Georgie is falling hard for Liam, but still can't tell what he really feels about her. Until he gets a call for another mission and their two differing philosophies of life collide in a spectacular blowup. I ached for Georgie and her broken heart, but was impressed with her determination to keep moving forward. It took Liam arriving at his destination and realizing what he had left behind to open his eyes to the changes in his own feelings. I loved his big moment at the end, as his vulnerability combines with his determination to convince her of his feelings. His arrival was perfectly timed too!

I loved some of the descriptions of the places that Liam and Georgie visited together, from their bike ride to the island and vineyard. I really felt as though I was there, which makes me even more determined to visit New Zealand someday.

**copy received in exchange for honest review

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Prince and I - Karen Hawkins (Pocket - Aug 2015)

Series: Oxenburg Princes (Book 2)

Gregori Romanovin, Oxenburg’s warrior prince, is escorting his grandmother to a house party deep in the Highlands when he and his entourage are robbed at sword point by a group of ruffians led by a man the locals have dubbed “The Scottish Robin Hood.” The battle-savvy prince instantly realizes there’s something different about this thief, and it’s not just the Scottish accent -- it’s the fact that “he” is really a “she.”

Lady Murian, a young widow out for revenge against the powerful earl who killed her husband and stole his birthright, is now living in the woods with her family’s banished retainers. To stay alive, she and her band of men rob rich nobles coming to visit the evil earl. But when she ambushes the Prince of Oxenburg’s golden coach, she gets far more than she expected. For when the prince uncovers her true identity, she’s afraid that he might be the real thief…of her heart.

Good book with a twist on the Robin Hood theme. Max is accompanying his grandmother on a visit to Scotland when they are waylaid by a group of bandits. As an experienced soldier, he realizes that there is something different about them. A confrontation with their leader, which he barely won, reveals that "Robin" is actually a woman. When they have what they want, they disappear as quickly as they appeared, leaving Max frustrated and intrigued.

Murian is the widow of the former owner of Rowallen Castle. Her husband was killed and the castle stolen by the Earl of Loudan, who evicted Murain and all those who served the castle. Determined to find the proof of what happened, she and her people have moved into the woods, and harass the Earl and his guests on a regular basis. She gets more than she bargained for when she stops Max's coach.

I loved their initial confrontation. Max's frustration at being caught unawares was obvious, as was his surprise at the efficiency of the group. I loved the request for "donations" instead of demands (this is important later on). I also liked Max's keen observations that revealed more about the bandits than they realized, leading to a fun exchange with the Grand Duchess about some chickens. The sword fight was exciting, and it was fun to see Max having more difficulty than he expected. The whole confrontation ends up in something of a draw, and Max and company continue their journey to the castle.

We see Murian and her people as they live their lives in the woods, trying to survive while at the same time looking for a way to succeed in their goal. Murian's care and worry for them is obvious, especially as the cold weather approaches. Their worries are worsened when villagers who have helped them are attacked by the earl's people. At the same time, Max has been searching diligently for Murain. When he finally succeeds, he's surprised to find the reasons for her actions.

I loved Max. He can be very imperious, as a prince and a general of his country's army. But he is also loyal and loving to his family, as shown by the way he cares for his grandmother. She irritates him, but he loves her, and will do almost anything for her. He is also very observant, and I loved the way he recognized the straits that Murian and her crew were in.  He wanted to help and brought his men to make repairs without talking to Murian first. I liked that he saw where he had gone wrong and apologized, without getting all sulky. He's also very protective of her, and gets a bit overbearing when he's trying to keep her safe.

Murian was awesome. Her marriage had been an arranged one, but she and Robert fell in love. She had felt right at home with the castle and the people. When Robert was killed while she was away for a few days, she was stunned and heartbroken. When she discovered that the castle had been taken by the earl, she was certain that there had been trickery of some kind and was determined to prove it. I loved her way of getting even with him, by taking all the contents of the castle that could be moved within those few days they had to vacate the castle. She was also incredibly clever, thanks to the unusual education she got from her guardian, and I enjoyed seeing her use those abilities to confound the earl and also Max at the beginning. She is also very stubborn and it is hard to make her see reason when her activities become more dangerous. I did enjoy seeing her stand up to Max when he needed it.

I loved the development of their relationship. It started out as friendship and Max's sense of justice compelled him to help her regain the castle. As they spent days together working on the village repairs, that friendship started to change. There had been sparks of attraction from the start, but both tried to ignore them, until they became too strong to do so. It wasn't too long until they were taking every chance they could get to get their hands on each other. But both have very definite views on the idea of a relationship. Max is a soldier who has seen too much death and unhappiness. He doesn't intend to marry because he never wants to put a woman through the grief of losing her husband. Murian has no intention of deserting her people, and falling for a man who cannot stay in Scotland is something she doesn't want. But hearts can't be denied, and decisions will have to be made. When the end came, Max's solution was perhaps implausible, but definitely romantic. I thoroughly enjoyed the epilogue, both for the view of their future and the setup for the next book.

I also adored the Grand Duchess. She is quite the piece of work, with very definite opinions and her own set of morals. Her part in the confrontation with the bandits was hilarious, especially when it came to the chickens. She also had her own reasons for wanting to visit Rowallen Castle, though Max had a terrible time getting her to tell him the whole story. I just had to shake my head when she finally got around to telling it all. She also has quite the mind of her own, and no qualms about using her Gypsy heritage to bend people to her will (something about turning people into goats gets their attention). Her appearance in Murian's village was unexpected, and watching her and Murian put their heads together for their own plan to find their missing items was pretty funny, as was Max's reaction.

The mystery of the truth behind Robert's death and the loss of the castle was very well done. The earl was definitely a bad guy with no redeeming value. His actions against the Grand Duchess were also so very wrong, and the discovery that she wasn't the only one to lose to him at cards wasn't really a surprise. I loved how he got what was coming to him at the end, with the coup de grace coming from an unexpected connection to Max's other reason for being there.

I also loved the descriptions and characterizations of the other members of Murian's village. Each one was unique with their own personalities and quirks. I loved Ian's protectiveness toward all of them, and how he tried to keep Murian from going too wild with her plans. I also enjoyed the various widows and their attempts to push Murian and Max together. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Ten-Day Baby Takeover - Karen Booth (HD #2509 - Apr 2017)

Series: Langford Family (Book 3)
           Billionaires and Babies (Book 81)

A billionaire's baby deal!

One look into his infant son's trusting blue gaze and Aiden Langford knows his wild, carefree days are over. If only he can get Sarah Daltrey, his son's temporary guardian, to give him daddy lessons… Certainly the soft-hearted entrepreneur will agree to his ten-day proposal to stay as the nanny. Aiden just needs to keep his mind on parenting and off Sarah's seductive curves…

Being in the handsome tycoon's arms puts up Sarah's emotional defenses even as her body begs her to let go. But being a babysitter with benefits isn't on her agenda -- especially for a father and son who might steal her heart…

Very good book. I've been wanting to read Aiden's story since he appeared in That Night With the CEO and Pregnant by the Rival CEO. I knew there had to be a story behind why he wasn't in charge of the family business, as the oldest, and a reason for the tension between him and the rest of the family. There had been hints, but here we finally get the full story.

Sarah has come to New York to turn over custody of her best friend's baby to his unsuspecting father. She's been trying to reach him for weeks and been ignored, so she has shown up at his office and refuses to leave until she sees him. It isn't going well, until an encounter with Aiden's sister Anna gets her in the door. She was hoping for a quick turnover so she could get away without losing more of her heart to little Oliver. But it didn't work out that way.

I loved how Aiden was so stunned at being a father, but stepped up right away. He is a man known for his high risk activities, but being totally responsible for Oliver was a daunting prospect. He isn't known for his negotiating abilities for nothing, and he soon has Sarah agreeing to stay for ten days of daddy lessons in exchange for helping her with her business.

I loved the development of their relationship. There is a strong attraction from the beginning, but Oliver comes first. The scenes of instruction were fantastic, sometimes funny, sometimes emotional, and always spot on. I adored seeing Sarah send Aiden and Oliver into the bathtub together, telling him it would be a bonding experience for them. It was awesome to see Aiden fall so sweetly for his little boy. This was also a scene where the sparks between Aiden and Sarah were really flying. Sarah can't stop checking him out, and Aiden definitely returns the interest. Over the next few days they spend a lot of time together as Sarah instructs him in the basics, and they begin to learn more of each other. Sarah is there to witness the tension between Aiden and his mother, and is able to get him to talk about it. I loved how she was able to point out to him that it was his chance to give Oliver the kind of love he felt he never had.

I also loved how Aiden quickly came to understand how much Sarah's business meant to her. He went through a lot of effort to help her with one particular contact. He saw her nervousness and took steps to give her the confidence she needed to do what she had to do. Sarah realizes that she is falling hard for Aiden, which scares her because she had already been burned once. I liked that she was willing to take the risk and give in to the attraction. What they had together seemed to be growing stronger. Their connection was definitely evident when Aiden had his confrontation with his mother and Sarah was there to help him through it. But their relationship takes a hit when Sarah confesses her feelings and Aiden panics. I ached for her as she leaves Aiden and Oliver behind, as well as her heart. I have to admit to being pleased that Aiden was so miserable. It was fun to see his conversation with Anna as she pointed out his idiocy. I loved his big moments at the end. His groveling when he went after Sarah was terrific, and his proposal at the end was sweet and romantic.

I enjoyed seeing the other Langford couples again. I especially loved Anna's involvement from the beginning. I loved her shock when she met Sarah and Oliver in the office lobby, and her immediate determination to help. The enthusiasm with which she and Jacob jumped in to babysit Oliver was sweet to see. After years of being pitted against each other by their father, I really liked the way that the siblings have begun to improve their relationships. I was also happy to see their support of Aiden when he finally learned the truth he had been searching for for so long.

**copy received in exchange for honest review

Friday, April 14, 2017

In the Rancher's Arms - Trish Milburn (HWR #1638 - Apr 2017)

Series: Blue Falls Texas (Book 10)

THE ONLY PLACE SHE FEELS SAFE…

After her capture by human traffickers, international reporter Arden Wilkes should have felt safe back in her small hometown. Blue Falls, Texas, feels comfortingly familiar -- and painfully foreign. Disoriented, Arden struggles to regain her sense of self and deal with the aftermath…only to find a sense of safety in the last place she ever expected.

Rancher Neil Hartley knows too well the kind of scars that trauma can bring. However, what started out as warm friendship with Arden is quickly turning into a deepening attraction. But despite Arden's slow recovery -- and the promise of love -- her old life still awaits her return. Now Arden must choose between the woman she used to be…and the safety of her rancher's arms.

Very good book. Arden has spent years traveling the world as an international reporter. Then she was captured by human traffickers while doing a story and held for weeks. After her rescue, she has come home to recover, but she isn't finding the sense of safety she expected. Instead, the only place she feels any peace is with rancher Neil Hartley.

From the very beginning of the book, the effects of the trauma on Arden were very obvious. Far from being the fearless reporter she had been, now she is nervous in crowds or in wide open spaces, and strange noises have her ducking for cover. During an incident at a convenience store, Neil comes to her rescue, easing her out of a panic attack and flashback.

Neil has some experience with trauma of his own. Thanks to his adoptive parents, he's overcome most of the effects, but it has made him very empathetic to what Arden is going through. Fate throws them together a couple times, where Neil can't deny the connection he feels with her.

Arden feels very alone, still caught in the nightmare that happened to her. She's dealing with the memories that still ambush her, night and day. She also feels a boatload of guilt, blaming the heart attack her dad had and the resulting medical bills on herself. She wonders what she's going to do with the rest of her life, because the thought of going back to her old one scares her to death.

I loved the development of their relationship. It starts out simply as friendship, a man who has come back from his own problems wanting to help someone else through theirs. Neil can't deny the attraction he feels, but is sensitive enough not to push. I loved the scene at the rodeo, where he sees her distress and provides a little distraction and buffer against the rest of the world. Arden is relieved by his presence and feels a sense of peace with him that she doesn't feel anywhere else. She also notices how good looking he's become, and feels a spark of something that makes her feel alive again. Over the next few weeks the time they spend together helps Arden begin to feel normal again. And the sparks that both feel are getting brighter and harder to resist. Neil has visions of a future with Arden in it, but fears giving his heart to a woman who will eventually find the courage to resume her old life. I loved seeing how Neil's support helps Arden regain a bit of her old self. There's a terrific scene where her growing feelings for Neil bring out her own protectiveness, combined with her old instincts, as she faces down a threat to his livelihood. That scene also brings her to the question of if she's really ready to give up her old life. I ached for Neil as he realized that he had to let her go if that was what she wanted. I loved Arden's conversation with her Southern friend in a London pub and the truth it made her see. I loved her big moment at the end, it was so romantic and sweet.

I fell completely in love with Neil's family. His parents are awesome with the way that they opened their hearts to the kids they adopted. It was such a loving family, that accepted everyone for who they were. I especially enjoyed how they so quickly made Arden a part of their group. I also loved Neil's brothers and sisters. It was obvious that they all loved and supported each other, but there was also a fair amount of teasing that went on. I hope that they all get their own stories, too.

I liked the attention that was paid to Arden's struggles. We got just enough information about what she'd been through to make it real, without it overpowering the romance. I especially enjoyed the visit with the puppies and hoped that there would be one in her future.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Family in Wyoming - Lynnette Kent (HWR #1620 - Nov 2016)

Series: Marshall Brothers (Book 4)

A COWBOY'S PROTECTION

Rancher Wyatt Marshall always does what's right. He raised his three brothers and is currently hosting at-risk teens on his family's ranch. So when Susannah Bradley and her children seek refuge at the Circle M, fleeing an abusive husband, Wyatt immediately invites her into his home… His heart, though, is off-limits.

Susannah is drawn to the stoic cowboy, but the ever-honorable Wyatt keeps her at a distance, refusing to get in the way of Susannah starting a new life. But for the first time, Susannah is free to go after what she really wants…and increasingly what she wants is the life she has on the Circle M -- with Wyatt.

Good conclusion to the series. Wyatt is the oldest of the Marshall brothers and the one who runs the ranch. He is currently recovering from a riding injury which broke his back, and is rather testy at having his activities limited. His brothers have stepped in to help run things on top of doing their own jobs. They have also been hosting seven at-risk teens on their ranch for the summer. At the beginning of the book, one of the boys, Nate, has gone missing. He went home to check on his mother and little sister, and found them being abused by his father. When Wyatt's brother Ford ad social worker Caroline arrived, they brought Nate and his mother and sister back to the ranch for safety. Wyatt offers Susannah the job of cooking and running the house, while she and her kids stay on the ranch for the summer.

I really liked Wyatt. He's the quiet one of the family, keeps things running smoothly. When Wyatt was sixteen the boys were orphaned and Wyatt went to work to keep them together. They were all taken in by the previous owner of the Circle M, who then left the ranch to them when he died. They have chosen to honor him by helping the teens. Helping Susannah is just an extension of that calling. I loved at the beginning, when he was grumpy, because it was so realistic of guys when they're sick. I liked his protectiveness and how he watched over everyone. He's also carrying a load of guilt around, because he feels responsible for their father's death.

I also liked Susannah. She is much stronger than she gives herself credit for. She married her husband young, running away with him before she was eighteen. He turned out not to be a good husband, drinking too much, unable to keep a job, and ultimately being abusive. She feels guilty about her poor judgment in men, and that it put her kids in danger. She's grateful to the Marshalls for the sanctuary. She also regrets that her trouble has brought trouble to them.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Wyatt and Susannah. There were sparks of attraction from the beginning, but Susannah is still married, so Wyatt tries to resist. He's also a bit cautious, having been burned once before in a relationship. The first thing that comes out is the protectiveness that Wyatt shows for Susannah and the kids. Besides just giving them a place to stay, he also gives Susannah a purpose,  which helps her feel more comfortable staying there. There are also some sweet scenes between Wyatt and Susannah's little girl Amber, who has him wrapped around her fingers. As the summer goes on, Wyatt and Susannah build a good friendship, but the attraction simmers underneath. When it bursts forth, Wyatt tries to pull back, not wanting to keep her from experiencing the freedom she now has. He wants more, but not at the expense of her happiness. Meanwhile, Susannah has grown to love Wyatt and her life there at the ranch. She sees past the gruff exterior to the man who cares so much. But she's afraid that he's just being nice, so she makes her plans to leave the ranch by the end of the summer. I loved seeing how both of them get an added push to go after what they really want. I especially loved the lecture Wyatt got from Susannah's son Nate. I loved seeing how both of them finally found the courage to speak of their feelings. I loved the last chapter, with the December reunion with the teens, and the surprise that Wyatt and Susannah had for the whole group.

There was some added tension in the story provided by Susannah's ex. He was determined to get her back and made a couple unwelcome appearances. The final confrontation with him was a bit intense, and I wondered how it was going to end. I loved that Wyatt was so calm throughout.

There was also a fair amount of time spent with the teens who are staying at the ranch. I enjoyed seeing the changes they'd gone through during the series. During this book there was some boy/girl tension, as one of the girls had turned into a real flirt. Another girl was a bit insecure and had a serious crush on Nate. I really enjoyed seeing the interactions among them all.