Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Executive Protection - Jennifer Morey (HRS #1800 - May 2014)

Series: Adair Legacy (Book 2)

Crime investigator Thadius "Thad" Winston must protect his high-ranking political mother after she is shot and nearly killed. He is prepared for risks. What he isn't prepared for is Lucy Sinclair. Hired as his mother's nurse, Lucy is capable, compassionate and entirely inconvenient for Thad. He doesn't envision a life of shared love or commitment, yet he can't deny the intense attraction growing between them. And when a stalker sets his sights on Lucy -- possibly the same man who tried to kill his mother -- Thad realizes just how much he has to lose.

Good book with enough suspense to keep me enthralled and some wonderful emotional growth on the part of the hero. Continuing from the first book in the series Her Secret, His Duty, the investigation into the attempted murder of Thad's mother goes on.  Thad feels responsible for not protecting his mother and is determined to find out who is responsible.  He runs into roadblocks all along the way, being told that the feds are in charge and with no one sharing any information.  Thad and his partner aren't backing down, even after they are threatened.  There are quite a few twists and turns on their investigative path, including a connection to Lucy's stalker. Even when they find out the identity of the shooter, they are left with more questions than answers.

Lucy is his mother's nurse.  She is very good at what she does and has a very caring personality.  She also has no trouble standing up to Thad when she feels he's out of line.  She's attracted to him, but he's made no secret of the fact that he is anti-marriage.  He's just as attracted to her, but he knows she's not the no commitment type.  He is adamant that there will be no marriage in his future.  Thad witnessed the way that his parents' marriage fell apart as his father had multiple affairs and his mother ignored them because she loved him.  He believes that even if you're in love it won't last and that everyone ends up hurt and refuses to put himself or anyone else through that kind of pain.  

Thad's mother, Kate, takes every opportunity she can to throw Thad and Lucy together.  She is convinced that it will just take the right woman to overcome his objections and that Lucy is the right one.  Lucy is having problems with a stalker and Thad's protective instincts kick in.  He finds himself spending a lot of time with her, fighting his attraction the whole time. When Lucy takes in one of the foster children in her literacy class, Thad ends up in situations mirroring family life.  The things he's starting to feel for both Lucy and Sophie scare him. I loved the way that Lucy could see what an awesome family man he could be if he would just allow himself to believe it.  I also liked the way that she stood up for her own needs.

The time that Thad spends with Lucy and Sophie makes him start to question his attitude.  He is constantly being surprised by how right it feels to be with her.  I loved watching all the people around him point out what his feelings are, even though he doesn't believe them.  It takes two attempts on Lucy's life before he can finally accept the truth of his feelings.  I found the ending interesting and not quite what I expected.

The Viking's Touch - Joanna Fulford (HH #1082 - Mar 2012)

Series: Victorious Vikings (Book 2)

His old life shattered, Wulfgar Ragnarsson lives only for the moment, cheating death and growing rich as a legendary mercenary. His heart may be frozen, but his desire burns hot for courageous widow Lady Anwyn, who needs his protection....

For the safety of her son, Anwyn will risk everything. Even giving herself to a Viking warrior who teaches her not all men are monsters -- although he shows little sign that he will ever again be capable of love.

After the deaths of his wife and son due to an epidemic that swept through his lands, Wulfgar and his men have spent the last six years as mercenaries.  Wulfgar feels guilty that he had spent so much time away from his family and swears that he will never get emotionally close to anyone again.

Anwyn lost her husband a few months ago and rejoices in it.  He had been a brutal man who enjoyed inflicting pain on her.  She has no intention of marrying again, but the neighboring lord, Ingevar, has designs on her and her land.

After a storm damages his ship Wulfgar lands near Anywyn's home to make repairs.  The neighbor tries to run him off, but Anwyn intercedes and invites Wulfgar and his men to stay as long as they need to for their repairs.  After receiving threats, Anwyn first hires Wulfgar and his men as additional protection, but then proposes a marriage of convenience to protect her from forcible marriage to someone else.

Anwyn's experiences with men have been limited to types like her late husband, but she senses there is something different about Wulfgar.  It doesn't take long for her to discover that he is both honorable and amazingly kind.  It doesn't hurt that he's darned good looking too.  I liked the courage that she showed in standing up to Ingevar, and also in overcoming her fears to ask Wulfgar for his help.  

Wulfgar has spent the last six years actively seeking death, only to be defeated by his own abilities. I loved the way that Anwyn gets under his guard and he finds himself wanting to help her.  He lets her know that he won't stay, even if they marry, but that he'll make sure she's well defended before he leaves.

Wulfgar's kindness to her and her son soon has Anwyn falling in love with him.  She dreams of him staying, even though he has made it clear that he won't.  Wulfgar also finds himself dreaming of staying, but his certainty that he would make a terrible husband and father forces him to continue his plans to leave.

Wulfgar nearly loses everything because of his fears, whereas Anwyn does a much better job of leaving her past behind.  I really enjoyed seeing her confront Wulfgar about his fears and point out what he is doing to them both.  His "ah-ha" moment came almost too late, but he did manage to save the day.

I did get frustrated with his actions regarding Ingevar, as by giving in to Anwyn regarding his fate he set up the trouble that came at the end.  He'd have done better to follow his instincts, at least the second time, and explained to her why he did it.

I did enjoy the epilogue a lot.  It was fun to see them a year down the line.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Prosecutor - Adrienne Giordano (HI #1483 - Mar 2014)

Chicago assistant state's attorney Zac Hennings just got handed a political hot potato: keeping the convicted murderer in a high-profile case behind bars. He's up against his most formidable -- and alluring -- adversary. First-year law student Emma Sinclair is passionately fighting to free her brother. But she needs the take-no-prisoners prosecutor's help.

Caught between attraction and letting a killer go free, Zac walks a tightrope. Until evidence surfaces that the real culprit's still out there. With his career and Emma's life on the line, Zac races to right a terrible wrong. Refusing to back down, he'll bring a cunning lawbreaker to justice -- or die trying.

Very good book with good blend of suspense and romance.  Zac is a state's attorney who has been given the job of reviewing a case to make sure that a convicted murderer stays in prison.  Emma is the sister of the convicted man, convinced he is innocent and determined to prove it.  When new evidence surfaces she finds an attorney willing to take on the case, who just happens to be Zac's sister.

Emma has been fighting this battle for a long time and she finally feels like she's getting somewhere.  She's thrilled with the new lawyer and her determination to prove Brian innocent. I loved her attention to detail.  Meeting Zac, the man who's determined to keep Brian in prison, gives her an unexpected jolt of attraction.  But she's also impressed by the way he insists he will go after the truth.  

Zac is handed this case and told to make it go away.  The state's attorney's office doesn't want any scandal cropping up in regards to the case.  Having his sister working the opposite side of the problem makes him realize that this isn't going to be an easy fix.  The more he finds out about the investigation that was done, the more problems he sees. He gets pressure from his boss to prove Brian guilty, but he refuses to be intimidated. He has to work with Emma as the two sides share information to get to the truth of what happened.  

There is an instant and strong attraction between Emma and Zac.  Both of them know that they shouldn't do anything about it while the investigation is going on as it could severely jeopardize the case. But they don't seem to be able to stay away from each other. I loved the chemistry between them both on the physical and mental sides.  Zac also gets very protective of Emma as she receives several threats telling her to back off.  I loved seeing the way he took care of her while still respecting her abilities.

I loved the suspense of watching as the evidence piles up that shows Brian is innocent.  Zac doesn't want to believe that the investigation was so badly handled, but he can't deny the truth.  There are some very interesting twists and turns on the way to finding out who is responsible.  I have to say that it was so well done that I didn't figure it out until the end and even then there were a couple surprises.  The ending was immensely satisfying.

There are some really fun parts in among the intense search for the truth behind the murder.  Zac the prosecutor and his sister Penny the defense lawyer have a truly fun relationship.  Both are extremely competitive and have no trouble showing it.  Penny has a talent for pushing Zac's buttons, but she also knows that he is honorable enough to do the right thing.  Zac is completely aware of his sister's actions, and also knows that she is honest about what she finds.  I loved seeing the way she really jerks his chain about being with Emma.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Latimer's Law - Mel Sterling (HRS #1802 - May 2014)

Stealing a pickup truck, newly widowed Abby McMurray hopes to escape her abusive brother-in-law. But the vehicle's owner and his attack dog halt her plans. She knows she's made a terrible mistake. Yet there's something tender about the stranger that makes her feel safe.

K-9 deputy Cade Latimer senses Abby isn't a criminal. And when he sees her bruises, he knows she's running from someone. Physically and emotionally scarred from a botched investigation, Cade has his own demons. Yet he can't resist protecting the gentle woman who's capturing his heart. But little do they know, Abby's brother-in-law will go to any lengths to track Abby down....

Emotional debut book that started with a bang and didn't let up throughout the book.  It begins with Abby impulsively stealing Cade's truck, trying to escape her brother-in-law.  She's knows it was the wrong thing to do, but she was desperate.  Finding Cade and his police dog in the back when she stopped increased her hopelessness.  Cade was furious at first, but once he calms down and talks to her he goes into protector mode.  

Abby has gone through so much.  When her husband died she was devastated and when her brother-in-law offered to help her while she recovered she was grateful for his help.  She never noticed the little ways that he was slowly taking over her life until it was too late.  His controlling attitude got worse and then escalated into physical violence.  She was afraid to try to leave for fear of what would happen if he caught her, and also for fear of what he might do to her adult day care people.  When she finally snaps and steals Cade's truck, it's easy to feel her fear and desperation.  Being caught by Cade just adds to her fears, especially when he's badgering her for her reasons.  She's become so used to not telling anyone what's going on it takes her awhile to realize that she can.  She quickly comes to feel safe in Cade's company, and is able to tell him some of her story, while he guesses the rest.  Cade's gentle treatment of her and insistence that she's stronger than she thinks begins to build up the confidence in herself that she has lost thanks to Marsh's abuse.  I loved seeing her thought processes as she starts to come out of her abused mindset and realizes that she can make the changes she needs to make.  I also really liked seeing her look at Cade and see the man, not the scars on his face. Though the story takes place over only three days, she develops a deep emotional connection with him. Her actions at the end show her trying to prove to herself that she's good enough to have a chance that he'd have her back even after all the things she's done wrong.

Cade was an undercover cop who had been hurt while on an assignment.  Now he has extensive scarring on his face that ended his undercover career and sent him to work as a K9 officer.  He's used to people being repulsed by his looks, but his dog Mort doesn't care.  He's furious when his truck is stolen and is determined to punish the thief when the truck stops.  He's surprised by Abby and her quick surrender.  Something about her makes him want her story before he does anything about the theft.  When he spots her bruises he gets a good idea of the reason behind her actions and finds himself wanting to help.  He's also attracted to her, but works hard to bury those feelings.  Mostly he thinks that there's no way she would be interested in someone who looks like he does. I loved the way that Cade's experiences as a cop made him able to see what Abby has gone through and know how to reach her to build her up.  His protectiveness is incredible and his gentleness with her is so sweet.  He is surprised by the way that his scars don't seem to bother her at all, and the gentleness she shows him in return starts healing his inner pain.  He starts dreaming of a future with her, but isn't sure that she's interested in him past gratitude for his help.  I could feel his fear for her when he realized she took his truck to go back to her house and his fear that he wouldn't reach her in time to protect her.

The look into the mind and actions of Abby's brother-in-law was a vivid picture of just how an abuser can think and rationalize their actions.  The things that he thought and did were quite frightening and creepy.  It was easy to see why Abby had finally reached the point of desperation.  Some of the things she found at the house were really disgusting.  I loved the final showdown and seeing Cade and Abby look at moving on together.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Deadly Hunter - Rachel Lee (HRS #1792 - Mar 2014)

Series: Conard County: The Next Generation (Book 19)

With a scar on his cheek and wounds on his soul, the only thing Allison McMann's new neighbor reveals is his name. But when a toxin kills some cattle and Allison is charged with finding its source, Jerrod Marquette appoints himself her protector. The ex-military man has the skills to keep her safe, yet Allison doesn't need--or want--his help. His midnight eyes see too much, his powerful body ignites feelings long buried. Even when she learns of the danger lurking in the mountains she tracks, Allison can't help feeling the greatest danger lies within her white-hot lust for the mysterious outsider.

Another winning visit to Conard County.  At the end of Killer's Prey some cows were found that had been killed by a deadly toxin. The challenge now is to find out if it was an isolated incident or if there is more of it out there, and also to see how much contamination there is.  Allison is a local chemistry professor with some hazmat training.  She has been asked by the state to collect soil and water samples for testing and to see if she finds any more dead animals.  Her new neighbor, Jerrod, is concerned for her safety and appoints  himself her protector.  As a former special forces soldier, he has the skills to keep her safe and his instincts tell him that there is something going on out there in the woods.  Allison isn't so sure she's in danger out there, but she can feel a whole different threat to her peace - her attraction to Jerrod.

Both the romance and the suspense were great.  Allison's first encounter with Jerrod wasn't the most pleasant.  She said hello to him when he arrived next door and he pretty much ignored her until she slipped on the ice.  He came to check on her, helped her up, then walked away.  Jerrod is ex-special forces, medically retired, and is having a rough time adapting to civilian life.  Most of his adult life is classified so it's hard for him to talk to people because he can't tell them much about himself.  He feels bad about the way he treated Allison, so he goes over to apologize.  When he finds out that she's headed to the woods alone, he offers to go along to help.  It's while they are out there that he feels someone watching them and gets concerned for Allison's safety, a concern that seems warranted when her car is vandalized.  He worries that the person who poisoned the cows could hurt Allison to keep from being discovered.

Jerrod difficulties adjusting to civilian life have brought him to Conard County, a place he had heard about from a fellow soldier.  The wide open spaces and peace sound like just what he needs to try to get a handle on what he wants to do with his future.  He struggles with trying to talk to Allison because he is so unaccustomed to talking about himself, but there's something about her that makes him want to try.  He is also very sensitive to Allison's moods.  I loved the way he talked to her about her former boyfriend's shortcomings and the way he showed her how wonderful she really is.

There are so many differences between Allison and Jerrod that at first it's hard to see how they'll ever get together.  I loved seeing them get to know each other.  Allison feels like she should be more cautious around him, but her instincts tell her that she can trust him.  Her attraction to him is getting stronger but she has some real confidence issues when it comes to intimacy thanks to her former boyfriend.  I loved seeing the way that Jerrod handles her fears.  I also enjoyed the realism of the way that they occasionally said something that doesn't go over well, not because they're trying to hurt the other person but because their worlds are so different.

As the mystery intensified I really liked seeing characters from previous books, such as Jake and Gage, and how they all worked together to answer the questions.  There was a very interesting twist to the identity of the person behind the attacks.  I had begun to suspect the truth, though I ended up being slightly off on my conclusion.  It definitely increased the tension as the story built to the climax.  There was also tension between Jerrod and Allison as their two worlds collided.  Allison made a couple decisions that could have ended badly but worked out well in the end.

All a Man Is - Janice Kay Johnson (HS #1908 - Mar 2014)

Series: Mysteries of Angel Butte (Book 3)

Is this reward worth the risk?

Big risks hold no appeal for Julia Raynor after losing her husband to his high-danger career. And his vice cop brother, Alec, doesn't seem much different -- although he is there for her and the kids. So when her son is headed for big-city trouble, Alec voluntarily becomes police chief in Angel Butte, Oregon, to remove him from temptation.

But temptation stalks more than her son. Living close to Alec, the long-denied attraction Julia harbors won't be ignored. And Alec's actions say it's not one-sided. Can she believe in another Raynor man? Yet, when a threat catches up with her family, Julia knows Alec is the only one she can trust!

Good book.  The romance is a slow growth one, but no less intense because of it. Julia lost her SEAL husband a year and a half earlier.  Her thirteen year old son wasn't handling it well, so she packed up her kids and moved to LA to be closer to her brother-in-law Alec who has been a great support to her.  They aren't there long before Matt is getting into worse trouble, so Julia decides to move the kids to a small town somewhere.  She's surprised when Alec offers to move with them, to continue to be an influence in their lives.  He gets hired as the new police chief in Angel Butte and Julia follows a few months later.

I really liked both Julia and Alec.  Julia was obviously at her wits end trying to figure out what to do about Matt.  Ever since her husband's death he's been angry, rude and constantly in trouble.  She really hopes the smaller town will reduce his chances and get him back to the kid he used to be.  She's also very happy to be near Alec again, as having another adult to help will reduce her stress somewhat.  But it increases in another area, because being around him so much just strengthens her attraction to him. She's fighting guilty feelings over her husband's death, as they had argued before he left.  Their marriage had been in trouble for awhile. She had never expected to be attracted to Alec, who also has a dangerous job.  

Alec has been attracted to Julia for a long time but as his brother's wife he buried those feelings deep.  With his brother's death he feels responsible for looking out for them and is just as worried about Matt as Julia is.  When he hears her plans to move them away from the city he realizes that he really doesn't want to let them so far out of his life.  He has no problem with the idea of uprooting his own life to do what is best for them, so starts applying for jobs in smaller towns.  He gets hired as police chief in Angel Butte, replacing a chief who had been found to be corrupt.  Cleaning up the department has been a challenge but things are getting better by the time Julia and the kids arrive.  Having them so close makes Alec realize how much he's been missing in his life and how much he wants them all for himself.  It's not long before he discovers that the feelings he has for Julia are mutual, but both of them have to lay their guilt to rest first.

I felt so bad for Julia.  Her son is being a real pain in the butt and she is running out of ideas on how to cope.  She knows there has to be a reason he's behaving that way but so far she hasn't figured it out.  I loved seeing the trust and cooperation between her and Alec as they worked out the best way to deal with him.  I could feel their worry about him, and their hope that they could soon find out what was behind his behavior.  There were some very intense times as things came to a boil for them all.  That confrontation was heartwrenching for them and emotional to read.

Alec was also dealing with some threats against him and the family.  He's being told to give up supporting a candidate for sheriff who is running against an incompetent, possibly corrupt man or harm could come to his family.  He also has to return to LA to testify in the murder trial of a drug trafficker.  He isn't sure if the two things are connected, and when Matt is kidnapped he has to find a way to save him.  This was a very intense part of the book and kept me hooked until it was all over.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Honorbound - Tracy Hughes (HAR #381 - Mar 1991)

Series: A Century of American Romance (Book 10)

1973 - A cease-fire has been declared in Indochina, but in Carrie Hunter's heart, the war rages on. A tragic loss fuels her political activism ... but disillusionment won't be healed by rallies and rhetoric.

Johnny Malone is an angry stranger in a strange land. The country that sent him into battle holds no parades--no place--for him and the men and women who proudly wore the Marine Corps dress blues.

Though survivors, Johnny and Carrie feel like casualties of war. When past enemies won't be buried and a peaceful future remains elusive, how can they surrender to a desire that defies their differences?

Excellent story of two people on opposite sides of a very emotional issue and how love can bridge that gap.  Johnny has spent the last two years in Vietnam as a Marine.  He has returned to a country that shows no respect for the job he has done.  Just the opposite - he's called names, he's attacked, and he's discriminated against for jobs.  Carrie has spent that same amount of time as a political activist, protesting against the war.  

The day Johnny arrived home he saw Carrie at one of her protests on the college campus, noticed the pretty blond with the green eyes, and heard her refer to "soulless shells of men who came back to us, brutal and morally destitute, ruined as human beings."  And he suddenly felt more than he'd felt in the jungle because he was home.  Johnny went to stay with his sister until he could get a job, and discovered that jobs for vets were almost impossible to find. In spite of his business degree, he was only being offered low paying manual labor jobs, and told to grow his hair and leave his service off his applications if he wanted a better job, something he's not willing to do.  His sister knows the local high school principal who is looking for a football coach, and suggests Johnny see him.  So Johnny ends up taking the coaching job until he can figure out what to do.

Carrie is a high school history teacher who has spent the last several years working to protest the war. Her fiance had been in the army and was sent to Vietnam, where he ended up taking his own life.  Shortly after that her brother was drafted, but after training and before he was sent to Vietnam, fled to Canada.  Now she's working to get people like that pardoned so that they can come home.

Both Carrie and Johnny are working at the same high school.  Their first meeting is rather acrimonious as neither can really see past their own viewpoints.  But as they are thrown into each others company more often, they begin to talk.  Carrie begins to see the man behind the uniform and gets to know him and what makes him tick.  Johnny finds out about the fiance that Carrie lost, and the anger and betrayal that motivates her.  Later he also learns about her brother.  As they talk, they also discover an attraction that is drawing them even closer together.  

That doesn't mean that things go smoothly for them.  Johnny has his job with the football team, but it isn't an easy one.  His assistant is prejudiced against military and the blacks that go to the school and has no problem showing it.  One of his best players is a black kid who almost flunked out, but football is giving him the discipline he needs, if Johnny can just keep him on the team.  The player is attacked by a white player, but the principal only punishes the black one, creating tension among all the players on the team and the students in the school.  Johnny and Carrie work together to try to fix the problems, but it isn't easy or completely successful.  While Johnny is good a being the coach and being a role model for his team, he's not completely happy at it.

Carrie is having problems of her own.  Her family has been torn apart because of her brother's actions.  Their father, a vet himself, has disowned his son because of what he did and refuses to even speak of him.  Her mother misses him and is caught between her husband and her son.  When she has a heart attack, Brian comes in from Canada even though he knows that he could be caught and arrested.  This also puts stress on the relationship between Carrie and Johnny because of Johnny's feelings about Brian's desertion.  There's a great scene where Johnny and Brian sit down together and actually talk about their views and feelings and find that they have more in common than either would have believed.

By the time Thanksgiving comes Johnny has finally started to think about his future and what he really wants.  He remembers how he had wanted to be a Marine since he was a little kid.  He also remembers the comradeship among his fellow Marines, and how much he liked the job he was doing when he wasn't dealing with the problems created by those running the war. And he began to wonder just why he left the Marines when he came back and think about going back in.  This creates a problem with Carrie, because she can't see how she and Johnny can be together with their two different outlooks.  Things got very emotional once Johnny made his decision.  I liked seeing how things went after that, and how the final resolution was not an easy fix but something that had to be worked for.

I loved the realism showed of the attitudes of the time, both towards the veterans and toward the African Americans that attended the school. I could feel Johnny and Carrie's frustration as they tried to help a deserving student only to be blocked by other people's prejudices.  I also enjoyed the inclusion of some of the political turmoil of the time and how it influenced and affected Carrie and Johnny's actions.

Traitorous Attraction - C. J. Miller (HRS #1801 - May 2014)

To find a "dead" agent, intelligence analyst Kate Squire needs the man's brother--retired Sphere operative Connor West. His skills as a trained assassin are essential for her mission...but her immediate, raw attraction for the man himself is not.

For a loner like Connor, trekking into the jungle with a secretive killer blonde at his side is not textbook. Caught between armed insurgents and hungry predators, he fears Kate may be his deadliest threat...until their very agency turns on them. Stranded, outmanned and outgunned, Connor has nowhere else to turn. Trusting the gorgeous spy may be the only way to get them out alive....

Very good book that kept me involved from beginning to end.  Connor is a retired agent who left Sphere because he didn't like some of the things he saw.  His younger brother was also an agent who was reported killed six months earlier. Connor feels guilty for being the one who got Aiden involved in the agency.  When Kate shows up at his remote cabin claiming that Aiden is alive, he's reluctant to believe her, but he has to take the chance. 

Kate has received some information leading her to believe that her friend and coworker Aiden is alive but a prisoner.  The agency they work for insists that he is dead so she takes time off and searches out Aiden's brother for help.  She needs his help, but she also knows enough about him that if she tells him everything she knows at the beginning he'll refuse to take her along.  She makes it clear to him that he has to take her along.  What he doesn't know is that she feels partly responsible for Aiden's capture so it's up to her to make sure he's rescued.

The initial meeting between Connor and Kate was pretty rough.  Connor doesn't trust anyone, and having someone from Sphere show up unannounced sets off all his warning bells.  He wants to believe that Aiden is alive, but he also thinks that it could be a setup.  He wants Kate to tell him what she knows so that he can go off and do his thing by himself, and is furious when she won't cooperate.  Kate refuses to be left behind, so they reach a tentative agreement and leave for Tumara.

Almost immediately upon arriving in the country they are followed by agents wanting to stop them from looking for Aiden.  At that point it's Connor's skills that help them escape and get them on the road to finding out what happened to Aiden.  Kate discovers she isn't quite as prepared for fieldwork as she thought she was and has to depend on Connor to survive in the jungle.  By this point, they both realize that they are attracted to each other, but try to bury it for the sake of the mission. It's easier said than done.

Kate was familiar with Connor's reputation as an agent, but had been surprised by her immediate attraction to him.  She's mostly annoyed by his paranoid attitude toward her, but sometimes she gets the feeling that he's attracted too.  She also has moments where he's actually nice to her.  Because of her friendship with Aiden she's aware of some of the things in his past that have made him the way he is.  She would really like to get him to trust her.

Connor's distrust of people runs very deep and he starts out not trusting Kate at all.  If she's not the one setting him up, then she's being used to do so.  He's attracted to her almost from the beginning, but he also thinks that she belongs to Aiden, so he isn't going to give in to it.  By the time she convinces him the she and Aiden are just friends, that attraction has a good hold on him.  Once they are in the jungle searching for news of Aiden, Connor begins to develop some respect for Kate, as she does whatever is needed for them to survive.  That respect grows the further into the mission they get, especially when her mad computer skills are called for.  He also finds himself beginning to trust her more than he's trusted anyone other than his brother, and feelings start to grow from that.

I loved the intensity of their mission. From their escape at the airport to the trek through the jungle to their arrival in the city, the action never stopped.  There were people they encountered along the way that you weren't sure whether they were good guys or bad guys, and some you suspect right off are not to be trusted.  I couldn't get through the last part of the book fast enough I was so involved in whether or not they were going to be able to save Aiden, and if they were going to make it out themselves.  I thoroughly enjoyed that last confrontation and the way it all happened.  

The epilogue was a highly satisfactory wrap up.  It was great to see the changes that happened to everyone, but especially to Connor.  I wonder if we will see them again in a later book.  I'd also like to see more of Finn and Alex Hyde.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Bride Unveiled - Jillian Hunter (Signet - Oct 2011)

Series: Bridal Pleasures (Book 2)

Miss Violet Knowlton knows the dangerous boy she watches in secret from her window is someone a proper young lady should avoid. Yet temptation overcomes her. Kit scoffs at her offer of friendship -- until, slowly, her innocent trust opens a door to a world he's never known . . . a world where Kit can break off the shackles of his shameful past.

Then Kit disappears from Violet's life. Lost, she dedicates the next decade to becoming a true lady, only to have her world turned upside down one night at a ball in London. There she encounters a handsome and celebrated sword master -- and recognizes him as her childhood friend. Soon the flames of their forbidden past reignite into a passion neither of them can refuse.

Kit can no more resist his first love now than he could years ago. But she's been promised to another. Sworn to protect her, he vows that he will also find a way to possess her . . . no matter what stands in his way.

Good story of childhood friends reunited and the love that grows between them.  Violet is an orphan being raised by her aunt and uncle.  They are overprotective but loving.  One day she sees Kit in the churchyard practicing swordfighting and is drawn to him.  She is quite naive and doesn't understand anything about his background and current circumstances of living in the local workhouse, but she offers her friendship anyway.  She, Kit and two other friends have a wonderful summer of adventures, until Kit disappears.  Violet misses her friend, but goes on to follow her aunt's dictates and devote herself to becoming a lady.

Ten years later she is engaged to a local  businessman who appreciates her ladylike behavior and looks forward to her ability to help his business.  He's not terribly exciting as a fiance, but her aunt approved of him.  Then, while attending a ball that also has a fencing demonstration as entertainment, she sees the sword master everyone is talking about and recognizes him as her old friend.  They dance together and attraction flares between them.  But Violet is engaged to someone else and while Kit feels bad at the idea of taking another man's woman, his feelings won't be denied.

I liked both Violet and Kit.  I liked the fact that Kit's background never mattered to Violet, that she saw him for the boy, then man, that he was.  Even though she's engaged to Godfrey, her feelings for Kit are strong and she knows that she can't go through with marrying Godfrey.  She just has to find a way to break things off with him and tell her aunt that she doesn't want the man her aunt picked out for her.  I liked the way that she was concerned for her aunt's feelings but wasn't going to let them stop her from being with Kit.  There are some very good scenes where they meet up and catch up on what has happened in their lives, and feel their desire for each other increase.

Kit was taken from the workhouse and sold to a man who adopted him and treated him as his own son.  That man trained Kit as a sword master, and Kit has spent the last few years teaching people the art of the sword.  He is also an honorable man who places great importance on doing the right thing.  He is stunned to see Violet at the ball where the members of his fencing academy are performing.  After the dance they share together he realizes that he has loved her for years and wants her to be his.  His honor makes it difficult for him to reconcile taking Violet away from her fiance but she is his.  It doesn't help that her fiance is also one of his students.  I enjoyed seeing Kit doing the work he loves and how it shows the type of man he has become.  

I loved seeing Violet and Kit together as they admit their feelings for each other and try to find a way to get their lives together.  I also enjoyed seeing how their friends also tried to throw them together.  The secondary characters were also well done.  I liked the way the marchioness and Violet became friends so quickly, and how her past helped Violet see that there was no shame in her feelings for Kit.  I also liked seeing Winnifred the governess and how she and Kit had remained in contact.  She had also done a lot of changing in the last ten years and I loved seeing those changes.  One of the best characters was Violet's aunt Francesca.  Her protectiveness of Violet was ultimately explained.  I enjoyed seeing the way she herself changed over the course of the book, as she learned more about the man she had approved and then saw Violet with Kit.  Violet's fiance Godfrey was rather stuffy and definitely a snob.  He didn't really care about Violet herself, just saw her as another tool for his business plans.  I had started to feel a little sorry for him until his actions at the end, then I was happy to see him lose out.

I liked seeing Kit and Violet get their happy ending.  There wasn't too much working against them getting together, so it wasn't too hard for them to overcome.  I enjoyed seeing two characters who were closer to ordinary people rather than being of the aristocracy.  It made a nice change.

The other two friends from Violet's childhood foursome were also there as adults.  I liked Eldebert and the way he had matured into a good man.  It was nice seeing him looking out for Violet, especially at the end.  Ambrose had been a real pain when they were kids and he wasn't much better as an adult.  I didn't like his initial plans for the house party he was giving and had high hopes that something would change his mind.  There was also a fencing student of Kit's that had other plans for Kit than learning from him.  I felt like that confrontation could have been more intense, but it was okay.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

And Then Comes Marriage - Celeste Bradley (St Martins - Aug 2013)

Series: Worthingtons (Book 2)

After years of being a quiet, dutiful wife, the recently widowed Mrs. Miranda Talbot is finally free to do as she pleases. As an attractive woman of independent means, Miranda is suddenly turning heads all around town. When she meets the dashing Mr. Castor Worthington, she is swept away by his passion. Is he too good to be true?

Little does Miranda know that there is more to Castor than meets the eye. In fact, he's a twin. Castor's brother, also a confirmed bachelor, takes his romantic pursuits--and rivals--very seriously. When Castor discovers Miranda is being courted by his own twin, his competitive nature takes over. Who will be the one to win Miranda's hand and heart? The race to say "I do "is about to begin...

Very good book that is funny in some places and emotional in others.  Miranda's two years of mourning are up and she is ready to start living her life.  She is being courted by Pollux Worthington and really enjoys his friendship.  She sees him while she's out one day and follows him to speak to him.  When she is caught in an explosion he saves her from harm, takes her home, and kisses her.  But what she doesn't know is that this man is Poll's twin brother Castor.  She's furious when she discovers the deception and vows to avoid them both, until they come to her and ask her to allow them both to court her.  They may be twins but they are very different and Miranda is torn between them.

Miranda has spent her life trying to do everything right and avoid trouble.  Her parents had had a drama filled marriage before her father went to prison for embezzlement and her mother died.  She was sent to live with her grandmother who kept her under rigid control to prevent any scandalous tendencies she might show.  She was then married off young to an older, socially rigid man with a sister who was even worse.  Now that her husband is dead she finally has a chance to live a little.  She also plans to enjoy her widowhood and not marry again, putting herself under a man's control again.  She is enjoying the attentions of Mr. Worthington, who has begun to awaken the feminine side of her.  It is her following his assets that puts her in danger from the explosion caused by a Worthington invention, and thrusts her into the arms of Castor Worthington.  

Castor is intrigued by Miranda and takes her home, thinking to have some fun with the widow.  He doesn't realize at first that this is the woman that his twin has been spending time with.  Once he does, his competitive nature kicks in and he is determined to be the victor.  He doesn't expect Miranda to start to mean more than just a romantic victory, and that really scares him.  Castor gave up on the idea of love long ago, when an older woman took advantage of his youth and passion.  He sees a need in Miranda to step outside the life she's been living and he wants to be the one to help her do it, but he doesn't want to hurt her either.  Being with her makes him want to be a better man, but he doesn't think he's capable of it.  

Both Cas and Poll are part of the wild Worthington family.  They have always been even wilder than the others, frequently taking advantage of their twinship to create havoc.  They dabble in inventing things, but those frequently don't turn out the way they intend.  Neither one seems to have much of a moral compass either.  Poll tends to be on the nicer side, whereas Cas definitely has a darkness to his soul.  They have been best friends all their lives until their competition for Miranda drives a wedge between them. It was hard to see the misery that their arguments caused them and their family.  Both Poll and Cas are immature and have quite a bit of growing up to do before they can truly reach their full potential.

The chemistry between them is explosive and Cas introduces Miranda to a side of herself she never knew before. Just as things are starting to look good for Miranda and Cas together, a misunderstanding drives them apart.  Cas's insecurities make him overly sensitive to the plans he overhears his brother and sister talking about and he storms away to do something stupid.  Miranda is lured into witnessing that stupidity by her nasty sister-in-law, devastating her at what she sees.  It is then up to the family to try to bring them together.  The emotional turmoil that both Miranda and Cas go through at this point had me in tears.  It's at this point that Miranda finally starts to develop her own backbone as she tries to put her life back together.  I loved seeing her put that newfound confidence to work, especially when she went after Cas.

There's a lot of humor in the book as the Worthingtons are up to their usual insanity.  Where Attie was dangerously out of control in the first book, in this one she wants to help.  At first she blames Miranda, but soon grows to like her.  She is still pretty devious, and it's fun to see the things she does to "help". There were quite a few places that had me laughing out loud at what was being said or done. I liked the way that she got Mr. Button involved in helping Miranda to look good, even though their intention was initially to draw her away from the twins.  I also liked the way that Miranda took an interest in Attie that her own family never did, and what a difference it made to Attie's behavior.

The epilogue shows the changes in Cas and Miranda's life, and gives us a glimpse into what Poll has decided to do.  There is also a neat setup into the next book, which is Elektra's story.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

All He Ever Desired - Shannon Stacey (HQN - Mar 2013)

Series: Kowalski (Book 5)

A second shot at first love?

After college, Ryan Kowalski decided to leave Whitford, Maine, rather than watch Lauren Carpenter marry another man. Now his siblings need his help to refurbish the family-owned Northern Star Lodge and he's forced to face the past sooner rather than later when he collars a vandal -- and learns the boy is Lauren's son….

The last person Lauren needs back in her life is Ryan Kowalski. With a bitter ex-husband and a moody teenage son, she has enough man trouble already. But her son needs to learn a few lessons about right and wrong, even if Lauren has to escort him to Ryan's door every day to work off his crime.

With all this close contact, Ryan and Lauren can't deny the chemistry between them is as powerful as ever. But can a few searing kisses erase their past and pave the way for a second chance at true love?

I love second chance stories and this one was fantastic.  Ryan is back in Whitford to help his family repair the family lodge.  He's left his successful construction business back in Massachusetts for the month he figures it's going to take.  On his brief visits before he's managed to avoid Lauren, remembering the way she shot him down when he asked her to leave with him.  When he catches Lauren's sixteen year old son vandalizing the lodge he offers to let the boy work off the damages, which also gives him a reason to see her frequently.

Lauren remembers when Ryan offered to take her and Nick with him, but she'd been married at the time, even if the marriage wasn't the greatest.  Since her divorce she's spent a fair amount of time thinking about "what if".  But she has enough on her plate dealing with Nick's issues, her ex's bitterness, and trying to make ends meet.  She really doesn't need the complications that Ryan will bring to her life.

One of the things I love about the Kowalski books is that the people seems so completely real.  They deal with the same kind of issues that the rest of us have.  Ryan feels guilty about the way he neglected the family business and is trying to make up for it.  He and his siblings are close, but they each have their own lives.  I really enjoyed the way that they give each other a hard time, but they also provide support when it's needed.  

The beginning of the books spends a lot of time showing us who Ryan and Lauren are.  Ryan is furious at the vandal, but when he learns who the boy is he finds a solution that will work for everyone.  I liked his matter of fact way of dealing with Nick, not letting him get away with anything but also not being too hard on him.  He spends a lot of time teaching Nick and being a good role model for him.  He also takes the time to talk to Lauren and settle their past so that they can move on to the present.  He also discovers that his attraction to Lauren is as strong as ever, but doing anything about it is probably not a good idea.  As for Lauren, she is a single mother working to support her son in a small town without a lot going for it.  Her marriage ended when she caught her husband cheating, but she still shares custody of their son with him.  Knowing that Ryan is back in town adds another layer of stress to her life that only increases when she finds out about the vandalism.  I loved the fact that she was on board with Nick having to work off his debt to Ryan.  Her biggest problem with it is that it throws her and Ryan together more often than she really wants, especially with the attraction she feels for him.

The heat between them continues to build until the day of Ryan's brother's wedding.  With Nick at his father's for the weekend, the chemistry between Ryan and Lauren finally hits its flashpoint and they have an awesome night together.  Things get awkward when Nick arrives home early and finds them together.  Overall, they dealt with it quite well, with realistic attitude from Nick and some honest conversation from Ryan.  This begins a relationship between Ryan and Lauren that neither is quite sure has a future.  Ryan has his business and home four plus hours away, and trying to run his business and have a relationship with Lauren is physically and mentally exhausting.  Lauren knows Ryan has to go back to Massachusetts, but her life and job are in Maine, as is Nick and his life.  

Ryan has a tendency to avoid serious conversations by wanting to just see how things go and let them work out on their own.  When he finally realizes that isn't going to work he goes and has the first serious conversation with the wrong person, setting up a big argument with Lauren because she feels disrespected.  All Lauren can think about is how much she loves Ryan, but the thought of moving away and starting a new life scares her to death.  Ryan's errors just give her an excuse to break things off and try to protect herself. The pain they caused each other had me going through several tissues.  I loved the realism of the argument that was then followed by the family and friend support, which then leads to the couple seeing where they made their mistakes and finding a way to fix them.

There are some great scenes with various members of the family poking their noses into Ryan's business.  They do it with love, but there is also a fair amount chain jerking going on at the same time.  The Kowalski's surrogate mother Rose also plays a large part in keeping everything running smoothly by dispensing food and advice whenever needed.  I love this line of hers: "I don’t harass you kids. I persistently guide you in the right direction."

Master of the Highlands - Veronica Wolff (Berkley - Feb 2008)

Series: Highlands (Book 1)

Lily Hamlin has finally realized that her life isn't as perfect as she once thought. Lily hopes that making a pilgrimage to Scotland, a land she's only heard about in lullabies, will help her to find her place again. But while exploring the Highlands, she discovers an overgrown maze and a strange stone map--and lands in the Lochaber of 1654...

Ewen, Chief of the Clan Cameron, is a busy man who must figure out how to save his people from the brutal redcoats and has time for little else. Having sired an heir, the widowed Ewen has no need--or room--for another romance. Then into his life drops a saucy lass with a peculiar accent, no regard for his title--and an arousing body. Drawn to each other despite their differences, they both realize that they don't want Lily to go back to her own time. But with battles brewing between the Camerons, the redcoats, and a rival clan, staying is a gamble.

Pretty good book.  Having devoted years to her job, Lily has finally realized that something is missing.  She takes a trip to Scotland, visiting places that her grandmother talked about and hoping to find some peace.  While looking for something different to sketch she wanders into a strange maze and comes out of it more than 350 years in the past.  She's rescued by Ewen who takes her to his home while he tries to figure out how to get her back where she belongs.  Meanwhile, he is trying to protect his people from the incursions of the English.  He doesn't have time to deal with Lily and her strange ways, but there's something about her won't let him ignore her.

I liked Lily.  She's independent, resourceful, yet also has a soft heart once she opens it up.  Her trip through the maze also showed a somewhat reckless side to her personality.  Her instincts were telling her not to go into it, but she ignored them.  When she came out in 1654 she was very disoriented and was pretty much out of it when Ewen picked her up.  When she regained consciousness at the castle she was sure that she had fallen in with a bunch of crackpot reenactors, even after the truth was explained to her.  She tried running off to find her way back to civilization and ended up captured by some English soldiers.  By the time Ewen rescued her again, she accepted that the impossible had happened and that she was stuck there for the time being.  Since she needs to earn her keep, Ewen puts her to work teaching his ten year old son who is quite a handful.  It takes some work, but she soon has the boy behaving fairly well and interested in learning what she has to teach.  She's pretty adaptable and is soon handling things pretty well.  The arrival of a woman who is determined to marry Ewen by fair means or foul creates some real problems for Lily.  By this time she has realized that she is falling in love with Ewen.  She senses that Rowena is trouble and is kept on her toes trying to protect herself and Ewen's son. The final showdown is pretty intense with Lily needing to protect Ewen's son, and then also protect herself when she's attacked by a rival clansman.  While that turned out well overall, there was also some sadness that came along with it. 

Ewen is young to be laird of his clan, but he was well trained for it.  The Cromwellian army has been wiping out groups of highlanders and Ewen is trying to find a way to keep his clan at peace.  Accepting a bribe from General Monk and swearing allegiance to England is not the way he plans to do it.  I loved seeing him stand up to the general, who did not measure up well compared to Ewen.  It is on the way home from that meeting that he finds Lily.  There's something about her that appeals to him from the moment he met her.  She is very different from any woman he has ever met, and he finds himself really liking those differences.  He's attracted to her but has no intention of ever marrying again.  His wife had been a real stinker, not faithful, and with a nasty personality.  She died in childbirth.  Ewen has his son and feels no need for other children.  He's not overly surprised at her story of time travel, as his foster brother had also come from another time.  He does know that he needs to keep that particular information from others who would not understand.  I loved the way that Lily tests his self control.  It shows that his heart is getting involved even though he didn't want it to.  It was great fun to see those feelings develop and his various ways of trying to fight it.  He did seem a bit oblivious to Rowena's machinations, at least until she put his son in danger.  I liked his growing appreciation for Lily's abilities and the trust he put in her when he left for the battle.  I loved the ending and the way he gave Lily the choice of whether to stay or go, though he made sure to let her know that he wanted her to stay. I liked the epilogue, with just enough information to see they're on their way to their happy ever after.

Though the book can't really compare to Gabaldon (nobody can), Kurland, Moning or Chapman, I found it a very enjoyable book to read.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Legend of Smuggler's Cave - Paula Graves (HI #1486 - Apr 2014)

Series: Bitterwood P.D. (Book 6)

One man will go to any lengths when a vulnerable woman and her little boy are threatened

County prosecutor Dalton Hale is convinced widowed Briar Blackwood has information that can help him take down a local crime organization. Getting it is no easy task, though, considering the distrust in the Bitterwood police officer's beautiful gray eyes. But since he started his investigation, Briar and her tiny son have been attacked twice. The only solution is to move her and Logan into his home, where he can ensure their safety. However, neither Dalton nor Briar is prepared for the deepening feelings between them. Playing house is one thing, but when Briar's son is kidnapped Dalton recognizes he wants the real deal -- and will put his own life on the line to get it.

Loved this conclusion to the Bitterwood series. There's a lot going on in this book.  First is the mystery of who is attacking Briar and just what it is they want. Second is the romance that develops between Dalton and Briar.  Third is the whether Dalton will ever be able to accept his relationship to the brother and sister he never knew he had.

The book starts with Briar discovering that her aunt has been attacked and her home searched for an unknown reason.  While at the hospital she is questioned by Dalton, who is convinced that her late husband was involved in some shady dealings and that she may know something.  When she and her son are attacked again, he feels an unfamiliar need to protect them, so he moves them into his house.  He's drawn to her in a way he'd never felt before.  

It's been seven months since Briar's husband was murdered.  She doesn't understand why there have been attacks on her after all this time, but she's determined to get to the bottom of it.  She's irritated by Dalton's questions at the beginning, but his concern for her and her son's safety is evident.  When he offers his home to keep them safe, she feels that she can trust him to do it.  She's not so sure she can trust herself around him.

Once they realize that the attacks started after Dalton intensified his investigation of the Cortland organization, they had a place to start looking.  Once they began working together things started happening fast.  When Logan was kidnapped in order to force Briar to turn over information, they had to work quickly to find it and save the little boy.

I loved both Briar and Dalton.  Briar is an independent, confident and kickass mountain woman.  She has always been self-sufficient, even after marrying her husband.  Her recent promotion to police officer has only increased those abilities and she will do anything to protect her son.  Dalton rubs her the wrong way at first but she does cut him a little slack because she knows of the personal issues that are affecting him.  I liked the way that she trusted her instincts and moved in with him in order to protect Logan.  The two of them struck some real sparks off each other, but tried to resist because of everything that was going on. Briar's growing feelings for Dalton were enhanced when she saw how wonderful he was with her son.  I also enjoyed some of the interactions between them as they got to know each other. She does have some feelings of not being good enough for him because of the differences in their lives. She also sees enough of his conflict over his personal issues that she can't resist trying to help him through them.

Dalton has had a rough few months.  In a previous book he learned that he had been kidnapped as an infant, and that his grandfather and father were responsible for the death of his birth mother.  He had a good life growing up, but now he feels like he doesn't really know who he is.  He's feeling all kinds of anger over it also.  He's taken a lot of that stress and channeled it into his work, especially the Cortland investigation, and Briar's husband is an important part of that investigation.  The first time he sees her he feels a tug of attraction, unwelcome though it is.  When he questions her about her husband, he's impressed by her straightforward attitude, but he also sees some vulnerability.  That vulnerability has him wanting to protect her when she is attacked again.  I loved seeing how easily they became part of his life when they moved into his house. I loved seeing him enjoy being with Logan and take to all the daddy like activities.  He realizes just how much he cares for her when she's put into danger.  It was great to see him give her the support she asked for, even though he just wanted to protect her.  I really liked the way that he wasn't threatened by her abilities.  I also enjoyed their interactions about their differences.

One of the best parts of the book was seeing the relationship between Dalton and his brother and sister develop.  It had started out so confrontational on his part that it was hard to see that he would ever be able to get past the anger.  Thanks to the problems Briar is having, he ends up spending more time in Doyle and Dana's company and slowly gets to know them.  There are some great interchanges between them that sound more like siblings than adversaries.  Having been an only child he had no experience with the kind of support that siblings can give until he gets a taste of it here.  I loved seeing the way Briar pushes him to let go of his anger.  

The solving of the mystery was very well done.  I loved seeing the way that Briar's experiences held an important key to finding the missing information.  The kidnapping and search for Logan were definitely edge of the seat for me as I waited for them to rescue him.  There was a very interesting twist to the events that led up to the kidnapping and happened after the rescue.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A SEAL's Salvation - Tawny Weber (HB #783 - Feb 2014)

Series: Sexy SEALs (Book 3), Uniformly Hot (Book 42)

Subject: Navy SEAL Petty Officer Brody Lane
Current Status: On leave
Obstacle: The one girl who was off-limits…

Where Navy SEAL "Bad Ass" Brody Lane goes, trouble follows. Being run out of his hometown years ago for misbehaving with Genna Reilly -- the sheriff's daughter -- was one thing. Now Brody is about to step into real danger. Not the suggestive letters he's been exchanging with Genna, but the kind of trouble that can send a soldier home injured and broken inside…

Genna's entire life has been orchestrated by her family. The right job. The right friends. Enough! Brody's return offers the promise of lust-filled pleasures. Of flesh teased and tasted. She's not expecting to find a soldier with distant eyes who has secluded himself from the world. But this good girl knows exactly how to bring a bad boy back to life….

Very good book.  Brody was the bad boy, son of the local drunk.  Genna was the seventeen year old daughter of the sheriff, with a huge crush on Brody.  One night she took a dare to corner him and kiss him. Just as things were getting interesting they were caught by her father. Brody was given the choice of joining the military or being arrested.  Being a smart guy he left town and joined the navy.

Ten years later, Brody is a navy SEAL who hasn't seen Genna since that night.  When he receives a letter from her, telling him about her brother's death, he writes back, beginning an exchange of steamy letters.  When he gets injured during a mission, his grandmother brings him back to his hometown to heal and try to escape the memories of that mission.  He doesn't expect to be faced with Genna almost as soon as he gets there.

Genna has been paying for that one kiss for ten years.  Thanks to her brother's out of control behavior her parents became even more overprotective.  She's been stuck in her hometown, doing the job her father got her, dating the men they approved of, and never making any waves.  When Brody comes back to town she figures it's her chance to live a little.

I loved the two of them together.  Genna has always had some sass to her personality, but it's been buried under her efforts to please her parents.  It really comes out when she faces down Brody the first time she sees him after he comes back.  She doesn't let him get away with hiding out.  Brody has always had the bad boy reputation, but under all that attitude is a pretty sensitive guy.  The loss of his friend during the mission has caused a loss of confidence in his abilities to protect the rest of his team.  He is ready to turn his back on the job that he loves because he feels he isn't capable any longer.  The chemistry between Brody and Genna is sizzling, but Brody is determined to resist.  I loved seeing the way they settled for friendship at first, giving them a chance to actually get to know each other, before Genna gives in to her attraction and seduces him.

I loved the growth that both characters went through.  Just having her hero back in town gives Genna the self confidence to finally stand up to her parents and go after the life she wants.  I loved seeing the way that she takes her stress-coping mechanism of baking and turns it into the career she can love.  I liked the way that she made her plans with the options that were most flexible for the life she wanted to have.  I loved seeing her with Brody's friends who visited and asked her help with Brody.  It opened her eyes to more of who Brody is beneath the bad boy exterior.  Meanwhile, Brody has had to deal with healing his physical injuries, but also to come to terms with the loss of his friend.  He tries leaving the job he loves behind, but his sense of loss gets even worse.  It is a conversation with Genna's dad that actually brings him the peace he's been looking for, and is reinforced by Genna in an act that shows just how well she's come to know him.

Her Secret, His Duty - Carla Cassidy (HRS #1796 - Apr 2014)

Series: The Adair Legacy (Book 1)

When Debra Prentice discovers she's pregnant, she knows two things are true: that she can't wait to become a mother...and that she can never reveal the father's identity to anyone. Because not only is Trey Winston her boss's son, he's also got his eye on the North Carolina senator's seat--and he doesn't need a scandal.

But when Debra must work with Trey in organizing his fund-raising dinner, the sparks from their one night of passion still sizzle. Trey knows he should stay away from Debra, but it soon becomes impossible. And as Debra's life is threatened, Trey promises to keep her--and, unknowingly, the baby she carries--safe.

Very good book, really kept me wondering what was going to happen next.  Debra has known Trey for years, as she is his mother's personal assistant.  She has been attracted to him from the time they met.  One night, after unexpectedly seeing each other at a local bar, they had a passionate encounter.  Now Debra is pregnant and she can't tell him or anyone else that he's the father.  Trey is about to start a campaign for senator and doesn't need a scandal attached to his name.  His mother, Kate, is thinking about a run for president, and Debra doesn't want to cause problems for her either.

I really liked both Debra and Trey, though there were also times I wanted to shake them both.  Debra is the daughter of a single mother who wasn't really interested in being a mother.  Her father was married and wanted nothing to do with her.  Debra was independent and driven from an early age, and has loved working for Kate Adair Winston.  When she discovers she is pregnant from that night with Trey, she is determined to protect him from the scandal her pregnancy would cause.  When Kate asks Debra to help Trey plan his fund-raising dinner to kick off his campaign, she can't say no.  Spending that much time with Trey, the sparks are not only still there, they are getting hotter.  Debra tries to keep him at a distance, knowing he needs a different kind of wife, but when she becomes the victim of several attacks his protectiveness just strengthens her love for him.  I just wish she wasn't so sure that she wasn't "good enough" to have a relationship with him.

Trey is the oldest of the three brothers and has always intended to run for office.  He is very conscious of what he needs for a successful future.  He has been dating one woman who seems to be perfect for the job of his wife.  But what he feels for her can't hold a candle to the attraction he feels for Debra.  He hasn't been able to forget that night with her and has found his desire to be with Cecily waning, though he knows she is the type of wife he needs.  Working with Debra to plan his event shows him how much he likes being with her.  The sparks are there, but he also just likes to be with her.  He starts to realize just how much she means to him when she is attacked.  He is surprised to find out about the baby, but not at all upset at the idea of being a father.  He asks her to marry him, but she turns him down.  

I got frustrated with Trey's plans to marry Cecily because she was the "right" type of woman to be his wife.  I know that his parents' marriage hadn't been the best example, but that seemed a pretty bland way to pick a partner.  I loved seeing him try to deal with his growing feelings for Debra and try to reconcile them with his future plans.  His eye opening moment was great, but if he had just told her of his feelings some of his stress might have been allayed.  

There are a couple mysteries going on in the book.  The first is who is trying to kill Debra and why.  It starts with some odd things going on in her house before escalating into physical attacks.  There seemed to be several possibilities and I admit to some surprise at the person it turned out to be.

The second one is centered around Kate Adair Winston.  Her husband had been a senator who had not been a faithful husband and created a scandal upon his death.  Kate had taken over his seat when he died and discovered a talent and love for the political process.  She went from senator to vice president and is now thinking of running for president.  At the beginning of the book we learn of a secret in her past.  There are also some questions raised by the ravings of her mother who is possibly suffering from dementia.  By the end of the book we know there is something going on, but have no idea what is behind it.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Recipe for Romance - Olivia Miles (HSE #2328 - Apr 2014)

Series: Maple Woods (Book 2)

When Scott Collins walks into the Sweetie Pie Bakery on opening day, Emily is convinced she is seeing a ghost! It has been twelve years since he left town without a word -- twelve years since he shattered her teenage heart. What has brought him back to Maple Woods? And why now?

Time has only improved Emily's beauty, Scott muses. He would give anything to take away her pained expression, to be able to hold her in his arms again. But the family secret that drove him away still stands between them. And telling her the truth could ruin more than just their second chance at a happy ending….

Good book with some heavy emotions on both sides. Emily and Scott had been high school sweethearts, until the day Scott left town without speaking to her.  He hasn't been back for twelve years.  Now he's come back to help out his father's construction business for a few weeks.  Scott has never forgotten Emily or the way he felt about her.  He'd like to be with her again, but the secret that sent him running is still there.

Emily was stunned to see Scott appear at the bakery.  He hasn't been back or even contacted her since he left.  Seeing him again brings back all the pain of his departure, but there's also a part of her that still cares.  Her life hasn't been easy since the death of her father in a construction accident at one of Scott's father's sites. With no insurance money coming, Emily's mom had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Then her high school romance ended abruptly.  There was no money for her to go to college, so she has stayed in their small town, and now works as a baker for Scott's sister.  She's finally ready to follow her own dreams and has applied for culinary school.  Even though she knows Scott isn't staying, she can't help thinking of what might have been, especially when they start spending time together again.  Just when she's fallen for him all over again, he finally breaks his silence and tells her why he left.  She's furious that he kept it from her all these years and doesn't know if she can forgive him for what was done or that he didn't tell her to start with.  Emily spent a fair amount of time fighting her feelings because of the hurt and anger from the way he left.  I thought her reactions to his reappearance were very realistic.  I especially loved the pie throwing contest, it must have been very satisfying for her.  It was interesting to see how her sister started out being anti-Scott but by the end was pointing out how much he loved Emily.

Scott had been so in love with Emily back then and didn't understand why his parents had a problem with him dating her. When he found out why he was devastated.  He had a big blowout with his parents and left home that night.  He hasn't been back in twelve years.  He now owns his own construction business in Seattle, but came back to Maple Woods when his sister begged for his help.  He still wants nothing to do with his father, but consents to staying long enough to get the library project started.  Seeing Emily again makes him remember just how much he loved her, and still does.  He's drowning in the guilt he feels over what happened to her father and for leaving without telling her why, but he wants to spend time with her.  As he finds ways to be with her he also realizes he can't hide the truth from her any longer.  It was a difficult decision because he knew it could turn her against him. Scott's problem with his parents actions have created a problem between himself and his sister Lucy (who is also Emily's boss).  He doesn't want to cause her to look at them differently so he can't tell her why he refuses to come home.  Though finally sharing with Lucy ends up making a huge difference to his relationship with Emily, I was disappointed that there wasn't really any kind of conversation with his parents.

Friday, April 18, 2014

More Than She Expected - Karen Templeton (HSE #2324 - Apr 2014)

Series: Jersey Boys (Book 2)

Neighbor, handyman and…husband? One woman finds her heart's desire right in her own backyard

He's just a friend! is the mantra pregnant Laurel Kent lives by while pretending not to stare at sexy Tyler Noble, the gorgeous neighbor who's been all-too-kindly playing Mr. Fix-It in her house. After all, she needs the help more than she cares to admit -- her sharp-tongued grandmother is her only family. But it's getting nearly impossible to ignore the sparks and butterflies she feels in her tummy every time he smiles at her…and that's not the baby talking!

It's ironic to Tyler that he's repairing the fence separating his yard from Laurel's when all he wants is zero barriers between them! Sure, she's pregnant, and no, she insists she's not looking for Husband #2. But he knows if she'd give him a chance, he could prove that he's the missing piece needed to complete her new family….

Very good book.  Laurel and Tyler have been neighbors for a couple months when he finds out that his dog has been visiting her on a regular basis, thanks to a hole under the fence.  Replacing the old fence with a new stone wall puts them in each other's company quite a bit, and a friendship starts to develop.  Tyler starts looking for more reasons to stop over and visit whenever he can.  

Laurel has to admit to herself that her neighbor is certainly easy on the eyes, but she's not looking for a relationship.  She is pregnant and on her own, except for her grandmother, and has learned to count on no one except herself.  Besides, Tyler is younger than she is and not looking for anything permanent in his life.

Both Tyler and Laurel have secrets and old hurts that make them reluctant to pursue any kind of relationship. The man that Laurel had been in love with didn't want children. He had been married before and his kids were grown, so he ended their relationship.  She also had some abandonment issues from her own parents, who had married because they had to.  When her mother died, her father turned her care over to her grandmother and pretty much ignored her before he died when she was fifteen.  So she is determined to be the best single mother she can be.  She enjoys Tyler's company, but she has to keep reminding herself that she's not looking for a husband.  

Tyler doesn't realize that Laurel is pregnant when they first start getting to know each other.  He enjoys her company but she's nothing like the women he's dated so he's a little confused about why he's so drawn to her.  When he finds out she's pregnant it brings his own issues to the front of his mind.  His mother had lost custody of him when he was ten because of neglect and he was later adopted by the Noble family.  He still never felt like he fit in and tended to take out his feelings in bad behavior.  Because of the way he was as a kid, he feels that he would never be a good father and is determined that he will never marry. He can't resist doing anything he can to make Laurel's life easier and gets more and more involved in her life.

Laurel's independence issues cause her to push Tyler away once the baby is born and she insists she doesn't need any help.  I liked the fact that Tyler tried to give her the space she wanted, but stepped in when it became obvious she did need that help.  I loved seeing the changes that Tyler went through as Laurel and Jonny worked their way into his heart. I especially loved seeing his reaction to the baby's birth. It wasn't until Tyler was able to confront his memories that he was able to fully admit his feelings for Laurel and go for the family he hadn't wanted to admit he craved.

I really liked the theme of the importance of family.  Laurel was alone except for her grandmother, but was determined to be happy with what she had.  Tyler was part of a big family that, even though he didn't always feel part of it, was always there for each other.  I loved the way that his family made Laurel welcome from the beginning.  I also liked the way that Tyler had begun to repair his relationship with his mother and how much better it got because of Laurel.  

I also liked Laurel's grandmother.  She was a feisty lady and had a terrific way of cutting through some of the nonsense that Laurel would occasionally come up with.  I got a real kick out of her appreciation of Tyler's looks.  I also enjoyed seeing her with her friends at the place she lived and the fun they all had.