Christmas Hearts by Jillian Hart (Angel Falls, Book 4)
Thirteen-year-old Amelia longs for a new ma. Little George needs a father's guidance. For their children's sake, Cole Matheson and Mercy Jacobs agree on a businesslike marriage. But though Cole tries to keep his distance, Mercy offers the very thing he's stopped believing in--the chance to forge a real family.
Sweet story. Cole needs a new mother for his daughter, who desperately needs a woman's influence in her life, while Mercy's son George longs for a father to do guy things with. Cole and Mercy agree to marry for their children's sake without any expectation of feelings between them. Cole feels that his heart died along with his wife and son and that he's got nothing left to give. Mercy would like a real marriage but is willing to give that up to have a father for George. I really liked how quickly Cole and George bonded. I also enjoyed seeing the way that Mercy was able to get Cole to lighten up a little on Amelia. Mercy's care and compassion went a long way toward enabling Cole to open his heart up to love again.
Mistletoe Kiss in Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad (Dry Creek Historical, Book 5)
"Passable cook wanted as wife. Marriage in name only." Noah Miller doesn't expect any replies to his plainspoken ad, though it's the only kind of offer the guarded rancher's prepared to make. Until widowed Maeve Flanagan and her sweet daughter arrive, turning his home and his heart upside down....
Noah's ranch hands had put the ad in the paper, wanting someone who could cook for them, but Noah went along with it. He'll marry for propriety's sake, but he doesn't plan to risk his heart again. He had married once before but wasn't good enough for his wife to stay around. He expects an older widow when Maeve answers the ad, not the Irish beauty and her daughter. It isn't long before Maeve has become an important part of his life, if he can just gather the courage to tell her so. Maeve had come west to start a new life after her husband was killed. It hadn't been a good marriage and she is wary but hopeful of finding true love with the man who sent for her. She is also pregnant with her late husband's child and worried that Noah won't want to marry her because of it. I loved the ranch hands and how determined they were to keep Maeve there. I found their care for Maeve's daughter really sweet and loved the lengths they went to to make her comfortable. There was a surprise visitor who could have made things bad for Maeve and Noah, but who turned out to be just the help they needed.
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