Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Trouble with Dukes - Grace Burrowes (Forever - Dec 2016)

Series: Windham Brides (Book 1)

THEY CALL HIM THE DUKE OF MURDER...

The gossips whisper that the new Duke of Murdoch is a brute, a murderer, and even worse--a Scot. They say he should never be trusted alone with a woman. But Megan Windham sees in Hamish something different, someone different.

No one was fiercer at war than Hamish MacHugh, though now the soldier faces a whole new battlefield: a London Season. To make his sisters happy, he'll take on any challenge--even letting their friend Miss Windham teach him to waltz. Megan isn't the least bit intimidated by his dark reputation, but Hamish senses that she's fighting battles of her own. For her, he'll become the warrior once more, and for her, he might just lose his heart.

Very good book. Hamish is a former soldier, Scotsman, and a bit rough around the edges. He's not at all happy to discover that he has inherited a dukedom. All he wants is to retreat back to Scotland, but instead, he's stuck in London, dealing with the paperwork and giving his sisters the London season they want. He's also dealing with the aftereffects of the war, the memories, and the rumors.

Megan is the niece of the Duke of Moreland, in London with her sisters and having her own Season. She's quiet, wears glasses, and does her best to melt into the background whenever she can. She's got some problems of her own, mainly a suitor who she doesn't want but who won't take no for an answer.

I loved how Megan and Hamish met. She is at a bookstore where she is subtly bullied by the man who wants to marry her. Megan is unable to fight back without making a scene, and his threats would prevent that anyway. Hamish overhears and intervenes. He and Fletcher know each other from the war, and there is history between them. There follow some scenes involving Hamish and his less than polished behavior, which incredibly gets him and his sisters invited to tea a the Duchess of Moreland's home. His trials continue and end up with Megan offering to teach him to waltz (another fantastic scene). There are sparks between the two from the beginning. Hamish also senses that Megan is having troubles of her own and succeeds in prying the details from her. He discovers a protective streak when it comes to her, and is determined to fix the problem. Megan is surprised by her willingness to confide in Hamish, and grateful for his intervention.

I loved the two of them together. Hamish may be rough around the edges, but Megan sees below the surface to the man who loves his family and does the right thing no matter what others may say. Hamish doesn't care that Megan is blind as a bat without her glasses. He sees her intelligence, kindness and strength. As they spend time together their initial attraction grows into something deeper. They are incredibly comfortable with each other and find it easy to share their deepest fears and troubles. It was sweet to see the big tough Scotsman get all soft in the middle when he was around Megan. And I loved seeing the quiet Megan get bossy when there was something she felt strongly about. Their romance doesn't go entirely smoothly as Sir Fletcher doesn't give up his goal of acquiring Megan's hand in marriage easily. His blackmail of Megan and bad-mouthing of Hamish show his true nature and it was easy to root for his downfall. I loved Hamish's determination to bring about a resolution and thoroughly enjoyed how he did it. Even more satisfying was that Megan doesn't wait meekly for rescue, but takes a hand in her own salvation. The confrontation at the end was fantastic.

Of course, being a Windham means that Megan has an abundance of male relatives to assist and/or interfere. It was only her pride that kept  her from enlisting their help. Their love and respect for her is obvious throughout the book, but they are Morelands and therefore prone to the same kind of scheming they decried in their father. There are some really funny scenes of their encounters with Hamish, and I laughed out loud at his purposeful mangling of their names. The Duke himself gets into the act in some pretty amusing ways, such as his late night conversation with Hamish in the gardens. But they all come together in a most satisfying way to provide Sir Fletcher with the justice he deserves. I can't wait to read the next one.

Cavanaugh on Call - Marie Ferrarella (HRS #1943 - May 2017)

Series: Cavanaugh Justice (Book 34)

Detective Bryce Cavanaugh already has one tough investigation -- an elusive home-invasion team on a dangerous crime spree. And his enigmatic fellow cop Alexandra "Scottie" Scott keeps throwing him curves. She's relentless at taking charge -- and running down leads. But getting the stunning blonde to reveal her secrets is a challenge Bryce just can't resist.

Scottie prefers to solve cases and save those close to her on her own. Keeping one step ahead of Bryce's hardheaded persistence is difficult enough. But tension-filled nights and high-adrenaline days are only fueling the passion between them and putting an inescapable target on their backs!

Very good book. Scottie transferred from Homicide to Robbery when she became convinced that her missing half-brother is involved in the series of robberies that were happening. Known in the department for preferring to work alone, she's not too happy to be paired with Bryce. Working alone would give her the chance to find Ethan without interference from the sharp-eyed detective, but he won't cooperate. Bryce is intrigued by his new partner. She's beautiful, but she's also the prickliest and most solitary cop he's ever known. He's determined to break down her walls.

I loved both Scottie and Bryce. They were so different, but in the end, so right for each other. Scottie had had a miserable childhood, one that has created a bone deep independence and a wariness of getting too close to anyone. She is also fiercely loyal to her only remaining family member. I loved her faith in Ethan and her certainty that if he's involved in the robberies, it's not by choice. Bryce is a Cavanaugh. His childhood was one of a normal, happy family. He's easygoing and open, secure in the love and support of his family. I loved his humor and patience.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Bryce was intrigued from the moment he met Scottie. Her beauty snagged his attention, but her attitude was a challenge he couldn't resist. I loved his teasing attempts to get her to open up and his realization that there was something deeper driving her determination to solve the case. Scottie was not happy when she realized that Bryce was stirring up feelings in her that she didn't want. She was determined to not to give in, but she really didn't stand a chance. I loved their banter as Bryce pushed and Scottie resisted. It was a bit heartbreaking to see her reaction to the close family ties she saw in the Cavanaughs. I loved her take-charge attitude during the baby episode. I loved her subsequent invitation to one of Andrew's get-togethers and Bryce's determination to keep her from missing it. I always love seeing outsiders' reactions to those events. Bryce's persistence pays off, and I loved the changes in Scottie as she begins to believe in him. There's a little bump in the road when she finally opens up about Ethan, but they get past that pretty quickly and become an even stronger team. Both of them are a bit wary of expressing their feelings until a dangerous situation shows them that life can be short. I loved the ending, with both showing a little vulnerability and their love shining through it.

The suspense of the story was good too. Scottie's worry about her brother and his possible involvement laid the groundwork for the question of did he or didn't he? As the search goes on, it looks more and more like Ethan is involved. Scottie's withholding of information adds some stress to the search, as Bryce senses that there is something more going on. Scottie's intense desire to find the truth helps move the case along, and finally telling Bryce the truth strengthens their teamwork. I loved how the clues started coming together. The final confrontation was intense, and I was on the edge of my seat until it was over. As always, Cavanaughs have each other's' backs.

As always, other Cavanaughs are present in the story in some way. I loved how the family teasing was such an eye opener for Scottie when she was coerced into going to Malone's with Bryce. The baby delivery scene was funny as was the hospital scene afterwards. I always love the nurses' reactions to Cavanaugh invasions. Andrew and his parties are a staple of the books, as is his way of seeing to the heart of those who attend. I always look forward to appearances of previous characters and this was no exception. I can't wait to see who is next.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hard Justice - Lori Foster (HQN - Mar 2017)

Series: Body Armor (Book 2)

Playing it safe has never felt so dangerous…

Justice Wallington knows how to harness his strength and intimidating size -- skills he put to good use first in the MMA cage and now as a bodyguard at the Body Armor agency. But no opponent has ever left him feeling as off balance as his new client, heiress Fallon Wade. Far from a spoiled princess, she's sweet and intriguingly innocent. It's a risk-free assignment until he's required to fake a relationship with her in order to blend in.

Sheltered from the world after a family tragedy, Fallon longs to experience life -- going to bars, dancing, talking to strangers. Not easy with a huge, lethal-looking bodyguard shadowing her every move. Justice seems like her polar opposite, but pretending to be a couple stirs undeniable heat. And when danger strikes again, it's not just her safety in jeopardy, but a passion that's real, raw and absolutely against the rules…

Very good book. Justice is a former fighter who has followed his friend Leese (Under Pressure) to the Body Armor Agency as a bodyguard. His latest job is to protect heiress Fallon Wade whenever she goes out. It seems like it will be a pretty low-key job, without any real stress or danger. He expects to find a woman who is spoiled rotten and expects people to jump when she snaps her fingers. He's surprised to find the exact opposite. Fallon is sweet, innocent and ready to expand her world. She's not all that happy to have a bodyguard, but Justice is different than any other bodyguard she has had.

I loved Justice and Fallon. Justice is a bit more rough around the edges than Leese is, but is just as wonderful. He's honorable, strong, outwardly intimidating but with an unexpectedly soft center. I loved his first encounter with Fallon's parents. He's a little intimidated by their obvious wealth, but he doesn't let it show. He simply behaves the way he always does. He is quite a contrast at times, big, tough, with a death-glare that sends people scurrying out of his way, then talking about planting the flowers that his ma and granny gave him and dropping everything to help them when they need it. Fallon is twenty-four years old and tired of being kept in a gilded cage. Her parents had always been protective, but after her sister's death, they really went overboard. She wants a chance to live her life and experience the same things other do. She's a bit naïve and has some issues that cause her to feel unattractive.

I loved the relationship that developed between Fallon and Justice. There are sparks from the moment they met, though Justice tries desperately to resist them. She's a client; she's rich, she's innocent - all good reasons to keep his hands off. But it doesn't take him long to fall and fall hard for her. I loved seeing him try to balance ways to give her the experiences she wanted while at the same time keeping her safe. There were some really sweet scenes of their excursions as they get to know each other. Fallon is fascinated by Justice. His strength and size are a real turn-on for her, but so are the kindness and humor she sees in him. Fallon doesn't believe in her own appeal to a man like Justice, thanks to events in her past. I loved seeing them realize that there is more between them than bodyguard and client and that Justice isn't afraid to jump in with both feet. I loved his forthright discussion with her parents and Fallon's reaction. It was great to see Fallon coming out of her shell as Justice introduced her to his world. Justice goes through some changes of his own as his love for Fallon makes him look at his life differently. I loved the ending with Justice and Fallon and her parents. Her new found confidence was a testament to his love and support.

The suspense of the story was really good. Though there didn't seem to be any real threat when Justice first started with Fallon, some strange things began to happen. There were some uncomfortable encounters with her ex, vandalism, and a possible physical attack on Fallon. There are several possibilities of who is behind it, and the question of why. Clues lead this way and that, keeping me guessing until the end. There is some great support and involvement by Justice's friends and fellow fighters from the Ultimate series, especially when it came to the final confrontation. That was really intense, and I loved how it all came together.

The secondary characters were all terrific. Fallon's parents grated on my nerves at first, until more of Fallon's story was revealed and their attitudes were more understandable. Her mom really grew on me the further into the book I got. Justice's mom and granny were fantastic. I especially loved his granny and her feisty attitude. The fighter, Tom, had me going back and forth as to whether I liked him or not. He reminds me of Justice as he was in the previous series, so there is hope for him yet. Maybe he will feature in the next series. We saw a little more of Miles, who will be in the next book. There also seems to be some connection between Brand, another fighter, and Sahara, the agency owner. I'm really looking forward to his book.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Under Pressure - Lori Foster (HQN - Jan 2017)

Series: Body Armor (Book 1)

He can protect anything except his heart

Leese Phelps's road hasn't been an easy one, but it's brought him to the perfect job -- working for the elite Body Armor security agency. And what his newest assignment lacks in size, she makes up for in fire and backbone. But being drawn to Catalina Nicholson is a dangerous complication, especially since it could be the very man who hired Leese who's threatening her.

What Catalina knows could get her killed. But who'd believe the sordid truth about her powerful stepfather? Beyond Leese's ripped body and brooding gaze is a man of impeccable honor. He's the last person she expects to trust -- and the first who's ever made her feel safe. And he's the only one who can help her expose a deadly secret, if they can just stay alive long enough…

Great start to the new series. Leese, who first appeared in Holding Strong as a brash, cocky young fighter, has since left the MMA scene. In the earlier book, he made some mistakes that put another person in danger. Though he owned up to his actions and was forgiven for them, he hasn't really forgiven himself. He takes his new job as a bodyguard very seriously. In this book, he is assigned to protect Cat; a rich girl turned teacher who has found herself running for her life.

The book started with a bang, as Leese, who was hired to find and protect Cat, saves her from some thugs. She doesn't know quite what to make of him and his associate, Justice. Having been on the run for a couple of months, she's wary of them, but also has an instinctive feeling that she can trust them. That feeling is quickly confirmed when they protect her from one of her more relentless pursuers. But the danger isn't over, and Leese spirits her away to a safe place while they try to figure out how to end the threat. Attacks aren't the only thing they have to deal with. There is an intense attraction between Leese and Cat from the very beginning. Leese tries very hard to resist it, as getting involved with a client is a bad idea, plus a distraction that could be deadly. On the other hand, Cat wants Leese with a determination that is hard to deny. I loved her attempts to seduce him and his increasingly unsuccessful attempts to resist. He especially worries that she is only attracted to him because he is protecting her. When they finally give it, the heat is explosive. It also quickly becomes more than simply physical attraction. Leese is drawn to her quirkiness, and also her unexpected courage and inner strength. It was fun to see him try to keep her under control when she made up her mind about something. Cat was a fun character. She was quite blunt, saying pretty much whatever came to her mind. She had no problem letting Leese know when she didn't like something. She also had her own protective streak, which led to an occasional bad decision on her part. I loved seeing the two of them get to know each other while they were hiding out, from their differing eating habits to Cat's attempt to work out while watching Leese do his workouts.  As their feelings for each other deepened, there was a hint of vulnerability in each of them as they wondered if their feelings are returned. I loved Leese's big moment at the end.

The suspense and action of the story were fantastic. From the first page to the end, there was no question that Cat was in danger. The various attacks varied from creepy to intense, but always exciting. I ached for Cat and her feelings of betrayal after overhearing her stepfather and his associates. I was really impressed with the way that she was able to evade capture for so long. I was also a bit frustrated with her refusal to tell Leese and the others everything right from the start but also understood her fears. There were also a few scenes from the bad guys' point of view. It was difficult to tell at times just who was behind Cat's pursuit, which added to the suspense. There was also a creep factor added by the other bodyguard. There are some great scenes of Leese's protective abilities combined with his quick wit. The final confrontation was exciting and nerve-wracking, and I loved Cat's quick thinking and courage. The wrap up of the complete mystery was perhaps a little too quick and easy, but still satisfying.

I really enjoyed seeing some of the characters from the Ultimate Fighter series. Besides Justice, whose story I am looking forward to, I especially liked seeing Cannon and Denver again. I loved that Denver has completely forgiven Leese for what happened. The support and friendship of the other fighters were clear. I especially loved their scene at the hospital with Enoch. Another secondary character was the head of the Body Armor agency, Sahara Silver. She was one feisty woman and I can't wait to see more of her. I also wonder if there is more to her brother's death than is currently known, and if that will play a part in a later book.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lock, Stock and McCullen - Rita Herron (HI #1583 - Aug 2015)

Series: Heroes of Horseshoe Creek (Book 1)

Sherriff Maddox McCullen cradled Rose Worthington, every protective fiber of his being firing as she shuddered against him. She told him how she had been brutally attacked and had killed the man -- her fiancé! -- in self-defense. But when Maddox investigates the crime scene, he finds nothing. No bullet casing, no blood, no body.

The deeper Maddox probes, the more questions arise, revealing a mysterious past that shatters all Rose has ever known. Caught in the crosshairs of escalating danger -- and his powerful desire for Rose -- Maddox vows to protect her. He'll risk his life to find a desperate enemy who will stop at nothing to keep the past buried.

Good book with plenty of excitement throughout the book. Rose is a local shop owner who is eloping with her fiancé. She's excited to be starting her own family with a man she loves. Her fiancé has suggested a night together before the wedding, and takes her to an isolated cabin, where she overhears him talking to someone about killing her and leaving the body. Terrified, she fights him off, using his own gun to shoot and kill him. She escapes back to town and calls the sheriff. But when they go to investigate, there's no body, no blood, and nothing to show that anyone had been there.

Maddox has been attracted to Rose for a long time, but she belonged to someone else. Now she's in danger and he is determined to keep her safe. The problem he has is keeping his attraction under control and his mind on his duty. I loved seeing how gentle and kind he was with her every time that something new would happen to them. All Rose knows is that she feels safe when she is with Maddox. As the truth comes out about her fiancé, she realizes that the man she thought she loved didn't exist. Instead she discovers in Maddox an honorable, kind and sexy man who shows her what a man should be. I loved seeing how they connected and the attraction grew between them.

Both of them have led rather lonely lives. Maddox on the ranch with his father and having two brothers that are estranged. His father is dying, which is tearing him apart. He's also trying to get his brothers back to the ranch to mend fences with their father before he dies. Rose's life has been a lonely one also. She was raised by two parents who weren't loving, moved frequently, and discouraged ties with anyone. When she became an adult, she moved out on her own, craving a life with roots, separating herself from her parents. I loved seeing the comfort they brought to each other. I loved how Rose worried about Maddox and his obvious stress about his dad and brothers. There was such a sweet scene at the end where she just wanted to be there for him, and his obvious need for her presence was heartwrenching. I also loved how Maddox was able to be the one that Rose was able to lean on and trust. His sensitivity to her pain was pretty sweet. I loved his big moment at the end, as he took a chance on sharing his feelings.

The suspense was quite a wild ride. The more that Maddox and Rose investigate, the deeper the mystery gets. Someone seems to be determined to kill Rose, and he doesn't care who he takes with her. As Maddox and Rose uncover years of deceit, her past becomes more puzzling. I ached for Rose as she learned each new thing. With every clue seemed to come a new attack, each more brutal than the next. Only sheer determination got them out of each jam, from fires to bombings to near drownings. The final confrontation was a nail-biter, with a very satisfying ending.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What We Find - Robyn Carr (Mira - Jan 2016)

Series: Sullivan's Crossing (Book 1)

Between the urban bustle of Denver and the high-stress environment of a career in neurosurgery, Maggie Sullivan has hit a wall. When an emergency high-risk procedure results in the death of a teenager, Maggie finds herself in the middle of a lawsuit -- and experiencing levels of anxiety she's never faced before. She knows she needs to slow down before she burns out completely, and the best place she can think to do that is Sullivan's Crossing.

Named for Maggie's great-grandfather, the land and charming general store at the crossroads of the Colorado and the Continental Divide Trails have been passed down through the generations and now belong to Maggie's eccentric father, Sully. When she shows up unannounced, he welcomes her with open arms, and she relishes the opportunity to indulge in his simple way of life.

But shortly after arriving, Maggie's world is rocked once again, and she must take on more responsibility than she'd planned. Though she's relieved a quiet and serious-looking hiker, Cal Jones is willing to lend a hand, Maggie is suspicious of this mysterious man's eagerness to help -- until she finds out the true reason for his deliberate isolation.

Though Cal and Maggie each struggle with loss and loneliness, the time they spend together gives Maggie hope for something brighter just on the horizon…if only they can learn to find peace and healing -- and perhaps love -- with each other.

Good book about two people who are looking for answers after their lives undergo massive shake-ups. Maggie is a neurosurgeon in a busy Denver hospital. She has a boyfriend who is just as busy as she is. When her co-workers in her practice are accused of fraud, then she is sued by the parents of a patient she lost, her stress goes through the roof. Add in an unexpected pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage, a boyfriend who is a total jerk about it, and her emotions are all over the place. She finally arrives at the point where she knows she has to get away, so that's what she does. She goes home to Sullivan's Crossing, where her father runs a campground and general store. An absence of judging and the opportunity to share in his simple life gives her the respite she needs. Then Sully is taken ill, and she has to step up and take care of him, plus the campground. She couldn't do it without the help of his friends, including Cal Jones, a mysterious camper who is eager to do whatever is needed.

Cal is an attorney who was very successful. He had it all - great reputation, nice house, and the love of his beautiful wife. Then she came down with a devastating illness, and by the time it was all over his material possessions didn't hold the same meaning any longer. Feeling lost and lonely, he set out to hike some of the trails around the Continental Divide, which brought him to Sullivan's Crossing. While waiting for the trails to warm up, he finds comfort in the people around him.

Maggie is suspicious of Cal at first. First, she thinks he's homeless, and that he certainly has no direction in his life. He seems content to just hang out, read his books, and chat with Sully. She can't deny that he's good looking, and that she feels a certain attraction to him. When he jumps in to help with the campground while Sully is recovering, she gets a chance to get to know him. What she finds is a charming, well-read man with a sense of humor and an amazing sense of calm around him. Their friendship starts with banter and teasing and an attraction that simmers just below the surface. As the weeks go on, that simmer grows stronger, and pretty soon the kisses lead to more.

I loved seeing the relationship develop as each of them shares what has brought them to this point in their lives. Cal gives Maggie a quiet port where she can look at her life and the choices that are open to her. He doesn't push or direct or even suggest, he's just there when she wants to talk or just be together. Maggie gets Cal out of his funk and to start living again. Neither one pushes the other to give more than they are ready for, but instead provides the support needed to deal with their issues. I loved seeing them back each other up when complications would arise. I especially loved seeing Maggie dealing with Cal's parents in such a kind, yet matter-of-fact way. It was just what Cal needed to realize that, though his parents are part of him, they don't define him. I really enjoyed seeing that their relationship grew with mature discussions and understanding of what's important, without any major arguments or drama. The ending was sweet and romantic and just right for them.

I loved the setting of Sullivan's Crossing. The people are fun, diverse and interesting.  The stories of the various campers who came through the crossing were varied and fun.  I loved Sully and his unquestioning love for Maggie. They had their issues at the beginning, but her extended time with him gave them a chance to resolve them. I enjoyed how everyone around him helped with his recovery. His friend Tom was great, as a single father of four and a busy life that wasn't too busy for his friends. His ex-wife's problems gave Cal a chance to dip his toes back into the world of lawyering. Tom's son also provided tension at the end with a search and rescue mission that had an unexpected twist for Maggie. I am looking forward to the next book and seeing what's in store for the people at Sullivan's Crossing.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

It Started with a Diamond - Teri Wilson (HSE #2561 - July 2017)

Series: Drake Diamonds (Book 3)

Heiress Nabs Polo Star

A Page Six Exclusive Report

Stunning world-class equestrian Diana Drake's stayed out of the family business for decades. But now Diana has the inside track on a coveted diamond…not to mention a polo-playing partner in crime in Franco Andrade. And after mere weeks, the city's most eligible bachelor is engaged to the jewelry heiress! Still, this whirlwind romance may not be as glittering as the jewels in Drake's. After all, we hear that Franco's first love has always been the polo team that unceremoniously sacked him. And Diana's still recovering from the loss of the sport she's always cherished. Can the handsome Argentine help his new fiancée capture the diamond of the century…and in the process repair her shattered heart?

Good conclusion to the trilogy. Diana is working for the family business, still not ready to go back to her promising equestrian career. The loss of her beloved horse, Diamond, still haunts her. Instead, she is stuck working the Engagements section of the store, which she absolutely hates. She is there when the new "face" of the store arrives for a publicity shoot - one Franco Andrade, Argentinian polo player. She and Franco have a history and it isn't a pleasant memory. She's horrified when she gets roped into participating in the shoot.

Franco is well known as a player, both on and off the field. His off-field antics have resulted in being kicked off his polo team. Working for Drake Diamonds is an attempt to repair his image. He's surprised to see Diana working at the store and not out pursuing her Olympic dreams. He's even more surprised by the attraction he still feels for her.

Both Diana and Franco are shocked when one of the pictures of the two of them together becomes an overnight sensation. Because Drake Diamonds is in the running to be the company to cut a newly discovered large diamond, Diana's brother and CEO, asks them to pretend to be a couple for the next three weeks. This will keep Drake's in the headlines and increase their chances. Diana is reluctant, but agrees to do so in exchange for being made co-CEO of the company. Franco agrees because it will help him prove to his team management that he has changed. Diana is determined to keep Franco at arm's length and the relationship for public consumption only. She doesn't count on being even more attracted to Franco now.

I loved the development of their relationship. Franco is attracted and intrigued from the start. He remembers their one night from three years earlier, and regrets how it ended. He sees this as a chance to make amends. As he spends time with her, he also notices pain and sadness in her eyes and wants to help her. Diana has closed herself off from her feelings. Not just the loss of her horse, but also her mother's death and everything that led up to it, have left her convinced she's better off alone. However, the chemistry between Franco and Diana continues to build and begins to break down the walls around her heart. I loved how he just knew that she needed a puppy to help her start caring again. When the sparks between them burst into flame, the connection between them is amazing. That connection takes a hit when Franco announces their engagement - without telling Diana about it first. He needs her help, just as she needed his, but she's justifiably angry at the way he went about it. She gets a bit of an eye opener about Franco during a night out at the Polo Club, when she has a chance to meet his best friend. She realizes that there is more to him that she thought, and begins to look at him differently. But all her fears come rushing back when Franco is injured during a match, and she pushes him away. Both of them needed to come to terms with their pasts before they could move on to a future together. I loved the assistance they both had from those that cared about them. Franco's big moment at the end was awesome. The epilogue was great and was the perfect ending for the story.

The Princess Problem - Teri Wilson (HSE #2544 - Apr 2017)

Series: Drake Diamonds (Book 2)

A Diamond in the Rough

Always-proper princess Aurélie Marchand never flouts the wishes of her father. But when she's set to marry a man she doesn't love, Aurélie finally escapes -- to glittering New York City. And she's got a surprise for her hosts at Drake Diamonds: a magnificent secret treasure that can guide their fortunes forever. But it's the dour but dashing Dalton Drake who is the true surprise…

Despite a store built on finding true love, after one tragic try at marriage Dalton's wed only to his family's business. When the feisty princess appears on his doorstep, though, she immediately tries his patience…and charms her way into his fiercely padlocked heart. But can the secret-filled runaway royal become his forever bride?

Good book. Aurélie is a princess on the run. She desperately wants a chance to live a little before undergoing an arranged marriage to a much older man. She disguised herself as a courier and accompanied a collection of jeweled eggs to New York, where they will go display at Drake Diamonds. She also brought another treasure to use as the incentive to gain Dalton's cooperation. Dalton's world has revolved around Drake Diamonds for most of his life, even affecting his one attempt at marriage. Aurélie's arrival throws his well-ordered life into complete turmoil.

I really liked Aurélie. She suffered a blow to her outlook on life when she learned the truth about her parents' so-called fairy tale marriage. I liked how she took matters into her own hands and seized the chance to do what she wanted while she still could. I thought her methods were creative. I really liked when she came face-to-face with Dalton and stated her requirements, and didn't back down when he tried to intimidate her. It was sweet to see her enjoyment of the little things like eating a hot dog and shopping for vintage clothes.

I liked Dalton, too. He's a workaholic who has always put the company first, even though it cost him his fiancée, but he unbent enough in the first book, His Ballerina Bride, to help Artem win Ophelia. He's surprised when he is confronted by Aurélie, and hesitant to put his arrangement with her father at risk. It was fun to see him try to keep her under control and failing miserably.

I enjoyed the development of their romance. There are sparks flying between them from the start, but both have good reason to resist. Aurélie because she knows she will have to go home and marry, and Dalton because he swore never to put another woman at risk because of his behavior.  I loved how helping Aurélie with her wishes began to pull Dalton out of the shell he had built around himself. He stunned everyone around him by actually ditching work to be with her. Aurélie was able to forget what was waiting for her when she was with him, and discovered that she was happier than she had ever been. The attraction continued to build until neither could resist it any longer. I loved how Aurélie seized her chance with such enthusiasm. The connection scared Dalton a bit and he started to pull away. A family crisis intensified his need to avoid more loss in his life and he continued to push. I loved that Aurélie stepped up to help in a different crisis, which brought the two of them back together in an intense encounter. But an unexpected arrival the next morning brought everything crashing down and sending Aurélie back home. I ached for Dalton and his misery at her absence and loved seeing his sister point out the obvious. I loved Dalton's solution once he made his decision. There was still an expected twist waiting for him before he could carry out his plans and I loved what it was. The ending was great and I loved how Aurélie proved to have more courage than she expected. I'd love to see more of her and her new future.

Friday, July 14, 2017

His Ballerina Bride - Teri Wilson (HSE #2526 - Jan 2017)

Series: Drake Diamonds (Book 1)

The Ultimate Pas de Deux

A Page Six Exclusive Report

Debonair Artem Drake has had tongues wagging all over New York since he became surprise CEO of Drake Diamonds. This playboy hopes to bring new life to the storied old business before those rumored bad investments sink the family ship. He's even plucked an ambitious salesgirl out of the shadows to become the store's new star designer. But Ophelia Rose isn't the ingenue she seems. The swanlike beauty's hiding a past that glimmers as bright as a Drake diamond -- she once graced the stage as a professional ballerina…until she was forced to take her final curtsy and hide from the limelight. Now can Artem bring her back to center stage? Or will their glittering future together wither under the secrets of the past?

Fantastic book. Ophelia is a former ballerina who lost her career thanks to a devastating medical diagnosis. Now she works on the sales floor of Drake Diamonds and dreams of becoming one of their jewelry designers. A chance encounter with Artem Drake, CEO of the company, gives her the opportunity to show her designs. Artem inherited the position of CEO, but he doesn't want it. He's never felt part of the tradition. On his way to his brother's office to submit his resignation, he sees Ophelia and is immediately drawn to her. In the course of that meeting, Artem offers to look at her designs.

The chemistry between Ophelia and Artem is intense from the very beginning. Every encounter sees the sparks flying between them. Ophelia is determined to resist because of her fears about her future. Artem is attracted so much that he can't get her off his mind. I loved the night at the ballet, meant to be publicity for the company and how it turned out to be so much more. I ached for Ophelia and her sense of loss at not being able to dance, and wept at her reaction to the shoes. I loved how she seized on the chance to take one night for herself to make memories to last her in her self-imposed exile. What she and Artem experienced was incredible, both physical and emotional. But the dream came to an end the next morning, with a public exposure of her past. I ached for them both as Ophelia dealt with the consequences of the stress and Artem with the effects the news of her illness had on his feelings. I loved the way that he stood up for her against his brother and tried to protect her. The ending was awesome with Artem's determination to do whatever he had to in order to win her, and Ophelia finally willing to believe she could have a life worth living. Artem's big moment was awesome and the perfect way to bring the story full circle.

There was so much I loved about this book. At the top of the list is the realism of Ophelia and her illness. The devastation of the major changes in her life and her fears for her future are what so many experience. I loved seeing her making the best of her new reality and trying to stay as positive as she can. I ached for her and the effect her former fiancé's rejection had on her. Artem also had his demons to overcome. The stigma of his birth and his fear of being like his father had a huge impact on his life. His relationship with his brother was strained until they found a way past the issues that kept them apart. I also loved how the Drake Diamond had a connection to both Artem and Ophelia, and that Ophelia finds a way to show Artem that it is just as important to him as it is to her. I wasn't surprised by Artem's gift to Ophelia, but it was so very sweet and romantic.

The Cowboy's Twin Surprise - Cathy McDavid (HWR #1649 - July 2017)

Series: Mustang Valley (Book 10)

DAD ON THE DOUBLE

Frankie Hartman never thought she'd see Spence Bohanan again. Not after he broke her heart and walked away before she could tell the wandering cowboy about his twin daughters. Now that he's back in Mustang Valley, Frankie has to reveal the truth. At least about his kids -- Spence can never find out that she still secretly aches for him.

Spence finally has his life together and he's ready to prove himself to the only woman he's ever loved, but her revelation shakes everything up. It doesn't take long for him to fall in love with his little girls, but repairing the trust between him and Frankie won't happen quite so quickly. Spence is ready to be a family man -- will Frankie give him a chance?

Good second chance story. Frankie is the single mother of twin girls. She has raised them on her own, after the man she loved left town before she could tell him she was pregnant. She never wanted to trap him into marriage, so she hadn't made any effort to find him. Now he is back in town and she has to tell him the truth. Spence spent years hopping from job to job, looking for something he couldn't name. He finally found it and has come home to Mustang Valley to win back the woman he's always loved. What he finds shakes him to the core.

I really liked Spence. He owned up to his mistakes of the past and has made big changes in his life. He shows up at the café where Frankie works, ready to pick up where they left off. He knows he has to make amends for his past actions, but he's a little shaken by the depth of animosity that she exhibits. When she breaks the news that he's a father, he is stunned and angry, but determined to step up and be the best father he can be. His anger is understandable, but he does get over it pretty quickly. I loved how quickly he connected with his little girls. There are some really sweet scenes between them as they get to know each other. He is also determined to show Frankie that he is back to stay and that she can depend on him.

I liked Frankie too, but she also frustrated me. I loved that her girls were her main priority in her life, and everything she did was with their benefit in mind. I ached for her when her hopes at the café were dashed and thought that she handled it well. Spence's return threw her into turmoil as she knew she had to tell him about the girls. She was afraid of what his reaction would be. She was also wary of letting him into their lives, afraid of what would happen if he left again.

The more that Spence got involved in their lives, the more that he wanted. His feelings for Frankie had never died and now he wants it all. He tries so hard to show Frankie that he has changed, but often feels that he is fighting an uphill battle. Frankie wants to believe in the new Spence, but she'd been hurt too many times before. I loved seeing Spence helping with the girls, assisting with her catering business, and making commitments to the community. Everything he does shows his new maturity. He makes a few mistakes along the way, but his intentions are always good, and he admits when he screws up. Frankie frustrated me in places because she would let Spence get closer, then freak out and push him away. She seemed to be constantly watching him for indications that he was going to leave again and totally ignore the things that showed he was going to stay. The attraction that had always been there between them continues to grow and is part of what brings them closer. Everything looks promising until a combination of bad luck and bad decisions causes Spence to let Frankie down. Though he tries to fix it, Frankie's reaction is extreme, and harsh words are exchanged. I ached for Spence because he had tried so hard, and I wanted to shake Frankie for being so hard on him. I loved seeing her finally take a long and honest look at her own behavior and realize what she had been doing. I loved her big moment at the end.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness - Deb Marlowe (Deb Marlowe - Apr 2014)

Series: Half Moon House (Book 1.5)

It's warring nations, dueling philosophies and the battle of the sexes as American-born Miss Liberty Baylis takes on Simon Lansing, Viscount Brodham, in the fight for her friend's happiness. Brodham wants only to retire to the peace and quiet of his country estate, but he'll take on the cheeky American chit if that's what it takes to keep his nephew safe and happy. The war is on . . . but when banter and flirtation become weapons and kisses disrupt strategies, will Brodham and Liberty ever wish for the battles to end?

Good quick read. Liberty is an American heiress visiting London with her parents. Accustomed to more activity and freedom, she is bored and frustrated by the lack of both. A series of advertisements in the newspaper intrigues her and leads her to a new friend. Felicity is a young lady who is trying to find the gentleman who came to her rescue a few weeks earlier. Liberty decides that helping her new friend is a perfect project for her. She runs into some trouble when the gentleman's uncle tries to keep the two apart.

Lord Brodham has spent a good deal of his adult life rescuing other people from their scandals or trying to prevent them in the first place. He's tired of seeing the worst of people and ready for some peace and quiet on his estate. But first, he has to untangle his nephew, Peter, from potential disaster.

There are sparks between Brodham and Liberty from the moment they meet. She is determined to do everything possible to help the young couple, while Brodham seems determined to keep them apart. They carry on a lighthearted battle, each trying to make their point. Underneath the battle is a simmering attraction to each other. Brodham is especially wary, as Liberty is definitely not the quiet and safe kind of woman he had been envisioning his life. Liberty had certainly not been looking for a stuffy Englishman. Their encounters are mostly fun and flirty as they try to top each other in their efforts. When one encounter turns more emotional than Brodham is comfortable with, he withdraws back to his safe and quiet life. He discovers that quiet and comfortable isn't all it's cracked up to be, and wonders if it's too late to make Liberty part of his life. I loved the ending, as Peter and Felicity return the favor and bring Brodham and Liberty back together. I loved seeing his walls come tumbling down as he opens his heart completely to Liberty.

A Cowboy's Wish Upon a Star - Caro Carson (HSE #2918 - Dec 2016)

Series: Texas Rescue (Book 5)

From Hollywood…

A cattle ranch is the perfect place for movie star Sophia Jackson to escape her scandalous past and the paparazzi hot on her trail. But foreman Travis Chalmers makes it clear who's running the ranch. When their constant clashing ignites unexpected attraction, Sophia takes on her greatest acting role: pretending she isn't falling for the sexy, domineering cowboy.

…to Motherhood

Once Travis sweeps her into his arms at her sister's wedding, she knows the feeling's mutual. But a precious secret followed Sophia to Texas. And now a Hollywood hurricane is about to blow through Travis's peaceful Texas town. Is the mother-to-be ready to fight for her future and see her most passionate Christmas wish granted -- she and Travis vowing to love each other forever?

Good book. Sophia is a movie star whose recent bad decisions have put her in the paparazzi's crosshairs. Her sister and future brother-in-law have arranged for her to hide out on a local ranch. She's not thrilled with the idea, but she doesn't have any other options. Travis is the foreman of the ranch and not very happy to have to deal with the diva, but he'll do what he has to.

The sparks flew between these two from the moment they met. At first, they were very confrontational. Sophia behaves like a spoiled brat, expecting Travis to do whatever she wants him to do. Travis isn't having any of it and lets her know that he has more important things to do. But underneath the antagonism is a simmering attraction that neither wants to admit.

I liked the development of their relationship. Travis is practical, level-headed and unexpectedly fascinated by Sophia. It was fun to see him fight his fascination as thoughts of her invaded his mind at all hours of the day and night.  I really enjoyed how he calmly stood up against her brattiness and began to see the vulnerability that her attitude hid. There are some really sweet scenes as he begins to break down the walls she has built around her heart. Sophia was hard to like at the beginning, but it soon became obvious that she used that attitude to hide her fears. All she wanted was to be loved, and with the betrayal of her ex and her sister getting married, she felt very alone. I also ached for her because her ability to trust those around her had been destroyed by those who just wanted to use her. As she settles into life on the ranch, her softer side emerges. I loved the scene with the kitten and her determination to take care of it. She is just as attracted to Travis as he is to her. There are some funny scenes as she tries to use her acting skills to come on to him, but he sees through them. As they really get to know each other, the heat between continues to build. This just adds to the connection between them. I loved the changes in Sophia brought about by Travis's care for her. But she is hiding the secret of her pregnancy from him, and it hits him hard when it comes out. I ached for them both as Travis worked his way through his feelings of betrayal. But his realization of his love comes just in time to deal with her obnoxious ex. I loved that scene, as well as its aftermath. The epilogue was fantastic, as Travis's calm continues to be the perfect balance for Sophia's occasional freak outs.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Texas Rescue Christmas - Caro Carson (HSE #2376 - Dec 2014)

Series: Texas Rescue (Book 2)

Home for Christmas

Trey Waterston has been on the outside looking in for so long he nearly forgot where home is. But when he has to go back to the ranch that is his Texas birthright, he expects it to be as difficult to navigate as everything else in his life. He does not expect to find a halfhearted search afoot for a missing heiress. Beautiful and innocent Rebecca Cargill has disappeared, and nightfall -- and a snowstorm -- is coming. If they don't find her, she could die.

Not on my watch. Instinctively, and directed only by a photograph, Trey knows he is the only one who can help her. Maybe he can finally claim his legacy. But why is he suddenly so sure Rebecca is a part of it?

I loved this book. Trey is part owner of the James Hill Ranch, but hasn't been home in ten years. After a promising college football career ended with him flunking out of school, he has spent his time working out of state and trying to hide what is happening to him. After one too many blows during football games, Trey suffers from memory problems, ones that make him feel stupid and useless. When he receives an invitation to his brother's wedding, he knows it's time to go home, but he dreads it. He arrives home in the middle of a search for a missing wedding guest.

Rebecca has spent her entire life under the thumb of her social-climbing, money-grubbing mother. She has had no life of her own. When her mother announces that it's time for Rebecca to start pulling her weight by accompanying her and a gentleman friend on a trip, Rebecca has had enough. She flees to her former stepsister, Patricia, who just happens to be marrying Trey's brother. She arrives in the middle of a storm to find that Patricia isn't there. A disturbing call from her mother sends Rebecca fleeing across the ranch on a borrowed ATV, unprepared for what she encounters.

I loved that Trey immediately takes charge of the rescue. Being back on the ranch seems to give him a boost of confidence, and his own experiences give him some insight into Rebecca just from her photograph. His quick action gets him to Rebecca before it's too late, and they hole up in a cabin to wait out the storm. Trey's attempts to behave like a gentleman while he works to warm Rebecca inside the sleeping bag were so sweet. Rebecca is innocent but much stronger than she believes. She shares her life story with Trey, who is impressed by her willingness to take a chance on her future. I loved their connection. Trey's care of Rebecca gives him a purpose and a focus that keeps his issues mostly in the background. Rebecca feels a sense of safety with Trey that gives her the courage to explore her own feelings and desires.

After their rescue, which has some of its own challenges, Trey welcomes Rebecca back to the ranch. He invites her to stay as long as she wants to. Over the next few days, they explore that which is growing between them. I ached for Trey, whose self-worth took a beating every time he had a problem with his memory. He was falling so hard for Rebecca but believed that there was no way for them to be together. At the same time, Rebecca fell in love with Trey, but because of her mother's example is suspicious of the truth of her feelings. Of course, Rebecca's mother eventually catches up with her, but things don't go quite as she expected. I loved that scene, with her going up against Rebecca and Trey together. Trey still believes that he doesn't deserve Rebecca, but he's losing the battle thanks to her love and understanding. I loved his big moment at the end, with his "you are imprinted on my heart." I adored how Rebecca took over the planning of their honeymoon and what she came up with.

I loved the realism of Trey's issues with his memory. His fears and frustrations are understandable and believable. I hurt for him every time he forgot something or said something unexpected, and how it made him feel. It was great to see that there was no miracle fix at the end of the book, but the honest truth that there would always be challenges. There was also hope given for some improvement. I hope they make appearances in later books so I can see how they are doing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Detective Defender - Marilyn Pappano (HRS #1957 - Aug 2017)

"Someone knows, Martine. And they're coming after us."

Martine Broussard has never forgotten the terrible night years ago that drove her and her best friends apart. Now a vengeful someone is brutally killing each woman involved. Martine has one chance at survival -- and that's the one person she distrusts most! And the passion flaring between them is anything but safe…

Rule-breaking New Orleans detective Jimmy DiBiase wastes no time putting Martine under his 24/7 personal protection. His bad-boy ways caused them to fall out years ago; now all he wants is to guard her and end this nightmare. With every lead they follow, every secret they can't hide sparks a hunger neither can resist -- even as a killer's vicious end game turns desire into a devastating trap.

Good second chance romance mixed with some pretty intense suspense. Martine is surprised when she gets a phone call from an old friend she hasn't seen in twenty-four years. Pauline wants to see her and tells her that someone is killing their group over a teenage prank. Martine is reluctant to believe it until Pauline ends up dead also. Jimmy is the lead detective on the case. He and Martine have a history together, one that he regrets and would like to change.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Martine is still angry at Jimmy over the fact that he had still been married when he made a pass at her. She's made her feelings known every time they encountered each other over the year, which was fairly often, as Jimmy's partner is her best friend's husband. But she can't deny her relief at his presence now. Jimmy has had a bad boy reputation for a long time, especially with the ladies, but now he's ready for something different. He just has to convince her that he has changed. Martine remembers how attracted she was to him before she found out he was married and discovers that she still is. She's wary of trusting him again. I loved their conversations as Martine begins to see and accept that Jimmy has changed for the better. His protectiveness and sensitivity showed her a side of him she had never seen before. Their attraction simmers away as Jimmy sticks close to her until it finally comes to a boil. One of the things that I loved about them is that both are mature enough to talk about the things that caused their problems and work through them. I loved seeing how their coming together made him realize how deep his feelings for her really were. Martine also accepted her feelings for him but wasn't ready to risk telling him. Nearly losing each other in the final confrontation opened their eyes to what was important. I loved their big moment in the end, especially Martine's final line.

The suspense of the story was very good. Martine's first contact with Pauline brought back the memories of the event that had driven them apart. Martine could see Pauline's fear and wanted to help, but Pauline ran before she could. The discovery of Pauline's body and what was done to it gave a good indication of just how creepy and evil this killer was. I wanted to shake Martine the first time she talked to Jack and Jimmy for not telling them everything and loved that they both knew she wasn't. She wasn't fully convinced she was in danger until her first contact from the killer. Several people became possible suspects, and just as I would settle on one, something else would make me lean towards another. As the tension built, I kept waiting for the killer to find a way to get to Martine in spite of Jimmy's efforts to keep her safe. The final confrontation provided a couple of surprising twists, including who ended up taking down the killer.

Monday, July 10, 2017

From Kiss to Queen - Janet Chapman (Jove - July 2016)

Jane Abbott knows that she's nobody special, so instead of looking for romance she's hunting partridge in the Maine woods when a plane crashes into a nearby pond. Diving in to save the pilot, Jane instinctively gives him air by way of a lifesaving kiss, and leads him to safety through a barrage of gunfire.

The handsome stranger returns the favor by kidnapping her.

Clearly no ordinary man, and insisting Jane's life is in danger, Mark spirits his stubborn guardian angel to an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean. Only then does she discover that the mysterious Mark is actually Prince Markov Lakeland.

Soon to be crowned king of the young country of Shelkova, can Mark persuade Jane that she has what it takes to be his queen?

Fantastic book. Classic Janet Chapman, with a strong female and very alpha male, who strike sparks off each other from the beginning. I laughed out loud so many times during this book, as Jane and Mark would go head to head, each trying to get their own way. Jane is hunting in the woods when she witnesses a plane being shot out of the sky. It lands in the water, and she immediately dives in to save the pilot. She has to give him air a couple times via a lifesaving kiss before she can get him free of the wreckage. She leads him through the woods to safety, evading their pursuers along the way. Jane, who is quite confident in the woods that are her home, has no trouble bossing Mark around. Mark, who is obviously more accustomed to bossing rather than being bossed, has no choice but to allow it while he recovers from the crash, but he obviously doesn't like it. By the time they have reached safety, he has recovered and refuses to leave his "guardian angel" behind, at the mercy of those who are after him. When she resists, he simply kidnaps her.

I loved both Jane and Mark. Jane is an intriguing mix of confidence and insecurity. In the woods, and working as a guide, she is confident in her abilities. But outside of that, she sees herself as less than a nobody. She is an orphan, raised first by nuns, then by an older couple who weren't especially loving. She limps from a childhood injury and doesn't consider herself attractive at all. This isn't helped by the way she is treated by the men she encounters. She is also stubborn, kind, smart and curious. Mark is the oldest son of the king of a newly emerging country, who is soon to become the king himself. He was in America looking for a bride when he encountered Jane. He is just as stubborn as she is. And extremely protective of his "angel."

I loved the relationship that developed between Mark and Jane. He was intrigued and captivated by her from the very beginning. She also frustrated the daylights out of him. He is determined to keep her safe and drags her off to Shelkova to do so. He is also determined to make her his queen, but convincing her is an uphill battle. Jane doesn't believe that she is the type of woman a man like Mark would want. She's certainly attracted to him, and believes that he's attracted to her, but that it will end as soon as she gets him to safety. Once she finds out exactly who he is, she is doubly certain that she has no place in his life. She fights against his plans with all her might, feeling completely out of her depth. I loved their interactions, as she stands up against his bossiness, treating him just like any guy who gets on her wrong side. At the same time, Mark really wants to win her over. I loved the way that he slowly begins to understand her and how her mind works. There are some fantastic scenes on the aircraft carrier, with the push and pull of their relationship heating up. I also loved Jane's down-to-earth attitude around all the pomp and circumstance, and the reactions of those around her to her treatment of Mark. She also had incredible compassion and kindness in the midst of adversity that drew Mark to her even more.

Once they arrive in Shelkova, the pressure really heats up. Mark is determined she'll be his wife, and Jane is equally certain that she is not what he needs. His family gets into the act, with his father leading the way. Reynard is just as much a rogue and charmer as his son and is enchanted by Jane. I loved his efforts to show Jane how wonderful she is. Mark's three brothers are great, and I loved them all. Mark's aunt Irina is fantastic, as she becomes a true friend and confidant for Jane. All of them together work hard to show Jane that she's loved, wanted and needed by them and by the country. Jane still has her doubts, and I loved Mark's understanding of those and her actions as she tests those doubts. The story doesn't end with the fairytale wedding, but we also get to see them settle in to married life and Jane into being Queen. There are awesome scenes of Jane as she breaks traditions right and left and helps move the country into the modern age.

But not everything is sunshine and roses, and trouble strikes a few months into the marriage. Jane and Irina are kidnapped, then kidnapped from the kidnappers. The following days are tense, but also have some lighter moments. There's a fun twist to the end, once Mark arrives on the scene. The epilogue is fun, as Jane plans her revenge on one of the second kidnappers. There was one question left hanging (the sex of the expected baby) but I have a feeling I know the answer. I can't wait for the next book.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Colton Undercover - Marie Ferrarella (HRS #1939 - Apr 2017)

Series: Coltons of Shadow Creek (Book 2)

On the hunt for escaped criminal mastermind Livia Colton, FBI agent Josh Howard knows just where to start: the fugitive's family. Namely, Livia's eldest daughter, Leonor Colton, who was very close to her criminal mother. Could the alluring museum curator be hiding the Colton matriarch? Maybe.

Undercover as a billionaire art collector, Josh is invited into Leonor's life. He's surprised to find that the heiress, betrayed by an ex and at odds with her siblings, needs a strong shoulder, and there Josh is all ears. But when an attempt is made on Leonor's life, Josh finds his cover is about to be blown along with his unexpected true feelings for his Colton connection.

Very good book. Leonor first appeared in the previous book, Colton's Secret Son, when she showed up at her stepfather's ranch, looking for a place to stay for a little while. At the beginning of this one, we learn that she is trying to get her life back together after being betrayed by the man she thought she loved. Instead, he took her confidences about her family and plastered them across the internet, then helped himself to her bank account. Her siblings are mad at her for spilling family secrets. I loved her stepfather, Mac, who is awesome in not judging and just being there for her. He also finally tells her to stop hiding and get out of the house for a while. As she prepares to eat lunch at a restaurant, she is accosted by another lone diner, who asks if they can eat together. Leonor is wary, still reeling from her ex's betrayal.

Josh is an FBI agent who has been assigned to get close to Leonor. He and his boss believe that Leonor is the one who helped her mother escape from prison, and Josh is determined to find the proof. He is posing as a billionaire art collector who was to display some of his art at the museum where she is a curator. He senses that she needs someone to talk to and he is more than willing.

I loved the development of their relationship. It starts out slow, with Leonor very wary of Josh. She's been burned by her ex and trusting another man isn't going to be easy. Josh is also suspicious of her because of who she is and his belief in her complicity with her mother. But the more time they spend together, the more Josh comes to believe that she is innocent. He sees a woman who is protective of her family and hurting from the things that have happened. At the same time, Leonor starts to lose her wariness and believe that Josh is just what he seems - a nice guy with the same interest in art that she has, though she still gets the occasional twinge of doubt. But as the attraction between them builds, Josh starts to feel really guilty about his deception.

Then two attempts are made on Leonor's life, and Josh is suddenly much more interested in keeping her safe. But can he do that and still keep his cover? I ached for them both when the truth comes out, because Leonor had finally started to believe in herself again and the betrayal really hit her hard. I loved that Josh 'fessed up properly, and still insisted that he was going to protect her whether she wanted him to or not. I loved the whole "Go to hell" and his response that after she's safe he'll "look into hotter accommodations". I really enjoyed his protectiveness and refusal to back off. Leonor does her best to resist him, but her heart won't let her hold on to her anger. I loved Josh's big moment at the end and his combination of confidence and vulnerability.

The suspense was great as Josh and Leonor try to figure out who has it in for her. The logical assumption is that her mother, Livia, is trying to get even for Leonor not helping her. An attack at the museum's fundraising gala nearly succeeds, leaving Leonor fighting for her life and Josh fighting for her. An unexpected visitor to Leonor's hospital room shines a different light on what happened, and stuns Josh when he finds out about it. The identity of the attacker isn't a complete surprise, but it wraps up this book quite well. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Manhunt on Mystic Mesa - Cindi Myers (HI #1728 - Aug 2017)

Series: Ranger Brigade: Family Secrets (Book 3)

A rule-following ranger finds himself on the hunt for a killer -- and falling for a woman who should be off-limits…

On the hunt for a serial killer, ranger Ryan Spencer can't afford any distraction. But Jana Lassiter, sister to one of the missing women, won't let Ryan investigate Mystic Mesa alone. Even though the seasoned officer has always been by the book, something tells him it wouldn't be so bad to break a few rules for Jana.

When Jana's life is suddenly jeopardized, the lawman is forced to face his darkest fears. He's allowed desire to overshadow duty. Now he has to rein in his emotions to save Jana from becoming the next victim. Because losing this woman he's inexplicably fallen for will destroy this warrior forever.

Good book. Questions continue about just what a man calling himself "The Prophet" is up to. Three young women are missing, each of whom may have had some connection to him. The sister of one of those girls, Jana Lassiter, has come to town to find out what has happened to her sister. She insists on following ranger Ryan Spencer, even though he tries to tell her it's against the rules. But something about Jana has Ryan reconsidering his position, and when she is attacked keeping her safe is more important than the rules.

There are sparks between Ryan and Jana from the beginning. Ryan finds her quite distracting, but also admires her determination. Jana is equally attracted to Ryan, and better yet, comes to trust him. Ryan's protectiveness really comes out when she is targeted, though he also has to balance it with her need for independence. There were some really good scenes of the push and pull between them as they learned to compromise over their needs. I also really liked Ryan's support of Jana when her fears for her sister would overwhelm her. He never tried to sugar coat things, but he wasn't unnecessarily harsh either. I liked seeing Jana fall for Ryan's kindness and sensitivity. I loved seeing them give in to their attraction and how it brought them even closer. I liked their big moment at the end, as they confessed their feelings and that they wanted to see where it would lead.

The mystery of the three missing young women was really well done. The Rangers' first suspect is the Prophet because of the way that young women are so drawn to him. Through the previous books and into this one, there's still the feel that the man is up to something unsavory. There is also the head of the archaeological dig taking place at Mystic Mesa. He was the last one to see Jenny, and was known to be carrying on with her, even though he is married. The question is, is there any connection with the other two missing girls? Then there is Eric, the newspaper reporter who claims to be engaged to Jenny. He is brash, cocky, and insists that he is just the person to break the case wide open. I ached for the members of the Brigade, each time another body was found and the clues seemed to go nowhere. I started to get a feeling for who was behind it, but it still came as a bit of a shock when the final confrontation came. I loved that Jana kept her head and refused to give in to fear. My heart was in my throat as I waited for Ryan to connect the dots and get to her in time.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Maverick Fakes a Bride! - Christine Rimmer (HSE #2557 - July 2017)

Series: Montana Mavericks: Great Family Roundup (Book 1)

Do You Take This (Faux) Fiancée?

Rust Creek Ramblings

All the single ladies in Rust Creek Falls know Travis Dalton. And they all know the sexy, rascally rancher is not the marrying kind. So how is it that our town's most notorious bachelor has wound up engaged on a Western reality TV show?

We here at the Gazette are pleased The Great Roundup has chosen our hometown heartbreaker as a contestant. And we are definitely rooting for Travis's unexpected union with childhood friend Brenna O'Reilly, the one girl we believe can keep this cowboy on his toes. But is it true this betrothal is strictly a fabrication for the cameras? Pass the popcorn, dear readers. We suspect this made-for-TV romance could be headed straight for a Hollywood happy ending!

Very good book. It had me hooked from the first page to the last, and has me hoping to see more of Travis and Brenna in later books. Travis is determined to win a spot on The Great Roundup reality show. The winner gets a million dollars and he has plans for that money. But he runs into a snag when the producers want to know if he has a girlfriend. So he stretches the truth and says yes, not expecting them to insist on meeting her. Not only that, they turn said girlfriend into a fiancée. Desperate to make the final cut, Travis goes to Brenna and proposes a deal: she pretends to be his fiancée and he'll split the money with her if they win.

Brenna has loved Travis since she was six years old, but he always considered her too young for him. Helping him out with this will do two things for her: earn the money to make her future plans happen, and give her the chance to show Travis that she's a grown woman.

I loved the development of their relationship. From their appearance at the Ace in the Hole and Brenna's "audition" for the show, to the very end, their chemistry is fantastic. Spending as much time together as they do, thanks to the show, just confirms to Brenna that she loves Travis and nothing is going to change that. For Travis, his attraction to Brenna comes as a surprise and he does his best at the beginning to fight it. It's a losing battle, and I loved watching him fall. There is some drama provided by a rodeo queen who has set her sights on Travis, and some terrific scenes of Brenna staking her claim. There's a sweet scene involving Travis, a bottle of whiskey, and some alcohol induced confessions, that brings hope to Brenna that they may have a future together, even though he is still fighting his feelings. I loved seeing them give in to their attraction as it deepened their connection. Their night back at the Lodge was steamy and funny too, and I loved their appropriation of some of the room's "amenities". The end of the filming, including the agreed upon special event, brought everything to a thrilling conclusion. I loved their big moment at the end, with Travis finally realizing his feelings. His sensitivity to her fears opened the door for them to really talk. I loved what they decided and would love to be a fly on the wall when they are finally able to talk about it.

I really enjoyed the reality show setting. It was fun to see Travis's preparations and how he dealt with the audition process. Once the filming started, I loved the various challenges and seeing how they were handled. The diverse personalities made things even more interesting. I loved the friendships that were made, especially with Steve and Roberta. I even enjoyed the rodeo queen, Summer, because her actions helped show what a great guy Travis was. I'd love to see reactions when the show airs.

*copy received in exchange for honest review

A Son for the Cowboy - Sasha Summers (HWR #1650 - July 2017)

Series: Boones of Texas (Book 5)

IT'S TIME TO DADDY UP!

For retired rodeo queen Poppy White, settling down in the picturesque little town of Stonewall Crossing, Texas, had seemed ideal. Until Toben Boone showed up on her doorstep. It had been a lifetime since their explosive one-night encounter in Cheyenne. Her son Rowdy's lifetime. And she hadn't heard a word since.

Toben was still easy on the eyes, still able to set her pulse racing -- and still breaking the hearts of buckle bunnies all over the circuit, she had no doubt. But if he thought his boyish cowboy charm, dangerous dimples and baby blues were going to sweep her off her feet again, he was in for a big surprise. A big six-year-old surprise!

Good book. After years of traveling on the rodeo circuit, Poppy is looking forward to settling down with her son and her new business. She had fallen in love with Stonewall Crossing during one of her rodeo trips and can't wait to settle in. That is, until she recognizes the cowboy peering in her shop window. She hasn't seen Toben Boone in almost seven years - since the night he snuck out of their hotel room, and ignored every attempt she made to contact him.

Toben left the rodeo circuit several years earlier and now works on the family ranch. He's never forgotten Poppy, though he certainly tried. He's surprised to see her in Stonewall Crossing, but stunned at the news that he's a father. At first he's angry that she hadn't told him, until he realizes that it's his own fault that he didn't know. Now he's determined to be a good father to Rowdy.

There is a whole bunch of emotion flying around during this book. Anger, hurt, fear, and ultimately, love. Poppy is justifiably angry at Toben for not being there for her when she discovered she was pregnant. She was also hurt by what she saw as his rejection, causing her to build up walls around her heart so she wouldn't suffer like that again. She is also very protective of Rowdy, and lets Toben know in no uncertain terms that if he can't commit to being the father Rowdy deserves he'd best just stay away. She will not let Toben hurt Rowdy the way he hurt her.

Toben knows he screwed up big time. That night he spent with Poppy had affected him deeply and that scared him to pieces, so he ran. Then he missed her so much, and felt so guilty, that he ignored all her attempts to contact him. He tried to forget her using drink and women, but that didn't work either. So now he works, doesn't allow himself to get close to any woman, and tries to deal with the hole in his heart.

I loved the development of their relationship. Toben is determined to show Poppy that he can be trusted with Rowdy. I loved the immediate bond between father and son. They were so awesome together. There is also no denying that the chemistry between Toben and Poppy is as strong as ever. Poppy is determined that she will not fall for him again, not trusting that he won't leave again. Toben is equally determined to show her that he has changed and that he wants them to be a family. It isn't easy, and he stumbles a couple times, but he's hopeful that love will conquer all.

Toben had some really sweet scenes as he gets to know Rowdy. There are also some pretty steamy ones as his feelings for Poppy keep growing. I was really impressed with everything he did to show Poppy how much he wanted to be with them. I understood Poppy's fear of being hurt again, but there were times that I wanted to shake her and tell her to give the man a chance. I did like seeing her relax around the Boone family and realize that they wanted to be her family too. I was happy to see her finally realize that she loved him and could trust him. The epilogue was really sweet, and I loved how Rowdy was keeping them in line right before the wedding.