Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Real Thing - Brenda Jackson (HD #2287 - Mar 2014)

Series: Westomrelands (Book 28)

No red-blooded man turns down the chance to escort gorgeous Trinity Matthews -- and Adrian Westmoreland is definitely red-blooded. For her, he'll pretend to be her man. But keeping his hands to himself? That is impossible. A Westmoreland always keeps his word, but how long before Adrian turns this fake affair into something real?

Very good book. Trinity is having problems at work, where a fellow doctor and supervisor is making unwelcome advances. He is also threatening her with ruining her career if she doesn't cooperate. Trinity is the sister-in-law of one of Adrian's cousins, so he offers to play the part of her boyfriend to discourage this guy. It's no hardship for him, as Trinity is a gorgeous woman.

Adrian has been told by various family members to behave himself with Trinity. They all know he is a bit of a ladies' man, but she is family. The problem is, he's been attracted to her for a long time. He really does try, but the mutual attraction they have is too strong. Trinity knows Adrian's reputation, and she also knows that she has no plans to stay in Denver after her residency is finished. The attraction is just as strong on her part and she is quite willing to pursue it, even though it has no future.

I loved Adrian's protectiveness. He is determined that the doctor in question will no succeed and is willing to do what's necessary. Of course, he's thoroughly enjoying being around Trinity. Adrian has no plans to settle down any time soon, but it isn't long before his thinking starts to change. Trinity is different than his usual girlfriend and he discovers that those differences have him picturing a different future. He just has to figure out how to deal with the conflict between her plans and his.

Trinity likes Adrian a lot, and discovers they have much more in common that she thought they did. Their initial playacting takes a turn for the real thing. Trinity plans to go back to Florida to practice which leaves no room for a future with Adrian, but that doesn't stop her from thinking about it.

I loved Trinity's independence, even though she occasionally took it to extremes. She spent a long time trying to cope with that other doctor on her own before accepting help. I was glad to see her accept the help offered. As she and Adrian got closer she was torn between her two desires -  to be with him and to go home to practice medicine. If they had just sat down and talked to each other they might have figured out things a little quicker.

I enjoyed the whole harassment story line. That doctor was a real piece of work and it was a joy to see him get what was coming to him. There were a couple scenes with him and Adrian that were great. The threats that were made against Trinity were terrible, and I loved seeing the way that she decided to make a stand. The final showdown was fantastic.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Taste of Temptation - Cat Schield (HD #2314 - July 2014)

Series: Las Vegas Nights (Book 3)

Is lasting love on the menu?

Hotelier Harper Fontaine only wants one thing in life: to take over her family's business empire. And she won't let celebrity chef Ashton Croft screw up the new restaurant in her Vegas showcase. Getting the adventurer to meet deadlines is hard enough, but turning down the flame on their uncontrollable chemistry soon proves impossible.

Ashton has traveled the world but has never encountered a delicacy as delicious as Harper. Sure, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but will Ashton stay for Harper...especially when the chips are down and she suddenly stands to lose it all?

Excellent conclusion to the series. Harper is the intense one of the three sisters, and the one who wants the CEO job the most. One of the show pieces of her Las Vegas hotel is the new restaurant that is due to open soon. Her problem is getting her celebrity chef to stick around long enough to get the job done. Ashton has a lot on his plate, but getting closer to Harper is getting more appealing every day.

I loved Harper and Ashton. The chemistry between them was hot and their encounters even hotter. Harper has had something of a crush on Ashton for a long time. She is a huge fan of his show The Culinary Wanderer (reminds me of Tony Bourdain's No Reservations) and could think of no one better for her restaurant. But she has been extremely frustrated by his apparent inability to commit any time to getting things done. When he is around nothing pleases him and he makes constant changes. She has also discovered that the charisma he shows on television is nothing to what it is like in person, and her attraction to him keeps growing.

Ashton had an interesting childhood as the son of missionaries, but by the time he was a teen he hated the life. He ran away when he was fifteen and after some early missteps found his calling in cooking. As much as he enjoys what he does, he is always looking for ways to step up his game. At the time of the book he has several things going on and none of them are going the way he wants them to. His attraction to Harper is also interfering with his concentration when he needs it most. 

Things start going a bit out of control for Harper when she finds out her mother is being blackmailed, but won't tell her why, her sisters reveal a secret that could explain it, but that also makes her question who she is, and then she and Ashton act on their attraction.  Being around Ashton makes her think of some of the things she wishes she could do, but can't because of her hotel work. When her life takes an unexpected turn, she takes what she finds out and spontaneously sets out to discover the truth. 

Once they stop butting heads, Harper and Ashton discover that there is more than just attraction between them. Ashton finds that there is a lot he likes about Harper. He also sees that there is a bit of an adventurer buried under all her organization and control and he wants to see her take advantage of it. Harper looks past the fame and charisma and finds a man who is searching for something, even though he doesn't realize it. I loved seeing her try to open his eyes to what he was struggling over.

I loved seeing their connection as they grew closer. I could see their love growing stronger, even though neither realized at first how they felt. It was great to see Ashton's support of Harper during her trip to Africa, and how determined he was to be there for her whatever she needed. He wanted more with her, but wasn't sure he could ever be what she needed. He had to take a hard look at what he wanted and decide what was most important to him. Harper also had to look at her future and decide some things herself. I really enjoyed the ending and seeing how both of them finally accepted who they were meant to be and what they did with it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Sheikh's Son - Kristi Gold (HD #2313 - July 2014)

Series: Bajul (Book 3)
          Billionaires and Babies (Book 47)

Her sheikh, her prince...her pretend husband?

Prince Adan Mehdi isn't normally one to back off from a beautiful woman, but there's something so pure about American heiress Piper McAdams that it seems like the honorable thing to do. Piper believes in his good intentions until his supermodel ex shows up with their baby Still, Piper agrees to show Adan the parenting ropes and pretend to be his wife until custody with his ex is settled. But playing royal house tests the prince's resolve, and soon things get steamier than either of them imagined. Could a real white wedding be in their future?

I have been looking forward to Adan's story since reading his brothers' and this did not disappoint.  He has been very good at playing the playboy jet jockey, but in this book he is trying to repair his reputation and show his brothers a more responsible side. When he meets Piper he is immediately attracted to her, but he's trying to behave himself. After finding out that she is on her way to his country he invites her to spend time with him. Adan is used to people knowing who he is, so when Piper doesn't he decides not to tell her right away. He really enjoys be treated as a normal person and waits as long as he can before telling her.

Piper noticed Adan as soon as she saw him, but didn't expect a man like him to be interested in her. She was surprised by his advances and very attracted to him. She's ready to pursue that attraction, but Adan seems a bit reluctant. When she finds out who he is she wonders if she can trust him, but the attraction is still pulling at her.

Just as they get to Bajul and arrive at Adan's home, he gets quite a surprise. His ex girlfriend shows up with a baby she says is his and turns it over to him. Adan quickly accepts the baby as his, but is a bit out of his depth in caring for him, so Piper offers to help. When they are spotted by reporters, they claim the baby is Piper's and that they are married in order to keep the truth quiet until Adan works out custody. 

Adan comes to care for Piper very quickly, but believes that he is unable to sustain a long term relationship with anyone. He has spent most of his life believing that he is the product of an affair his mother had, and that his father didn't want him around because of that. It has affected the way that he looks at relationships and love. He dreams about a future with her, but his fears cause him to push her away. And when she gets involved in the revelation of a long term secret he doesn't take it well. It takes some straight talk from his former nanny for him to see the truth.

Piper falls for Adan even though he has made it clear that he doesn't do long term relationships. As he talks about his past, she sees the hurt he still carries from his childhood. When she discovers a long held secret she knows that he has to be told, even though it may cause her some problems. She is motivated by some issues with her mother. Those same issues also affect the way she looks at baby Sam and his situation. She feels that she and Adan could have a great life together if only he would believe it too. I loved  the way that she took the risk and told him how she felt. 

One of my favorite things about this book was seeing Adan with baby Sam. Even though he is nervous, he jumps right in to take care of Sam himself. I especially loved the image of the two of them asleep. Adan's determination to be a better father than his had been just leaps off the page and makes him that much more lovable to me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dating a Single Dad - Kris Fletcher (HS #1937 - July 2014)

Series: Comeback Cove (Book 3)

A family worth staying for...
Brynn Catalano is in Comeback Cove to help her cousin with a relationship crisis and plan a major anniversary celebration for the local dairy. Sure, her new landlord, Hank North, is worth a second look...or three But she's here only for a short time, and definitely not for romance, especially with a single dad.

Still, she can't resist Hank's daughter, Millie. The girl is almost as charming as her gorgeous daddy, and Brynn is surprised at how easily their twosome accommodates her...and how much she likes that. Yet when the job and the crisis are over there's nothing to keep Brynn here. Or is there?

Brynn has come to Comeback Cove to help out her cousin Taylor. She is living in a vacation cabin owned by Hank. Brynn does a lot of temporary jobs as she likes the variety and doesn't like to stay in one place too long. She is also devoted to her family and feels compelled to assist when any of them are having a problem. 

Brynn is a fixer. She hates to see someone struggling if she can help. With her cousin claiming to have fallen out of love with her fiance and into love with his brother, Brynn's idea is for Taylor to immerse herself in all things Ian to remind her of why she loved him to start with. Meanwhile, Brynn is getting settled into her event planning job. Living in one of Hank's cabins, she frequently finds herself entertaining Hank's daughter Millie. Millie is adorable and Brynn really enjoys being around her. Hank is a single father who sometimes seems overwhelmed, so Brynn offers to help out whenever she can.

Hank is the youngest of the brothers and is often frustrated by his family's frequent interference in his life. It has caused him to pull away from them somewhat and try to assert his independence. It also means that he resists asking for help from anyone, even when he really needs it. He finds it easier to accept help from Brynn. He is attracted to her, but doesn't want to get involved with someone who won't be staying. He really doesn't want to risk Millie getting attached, only to be left behind.

It was hard to see Brynn trying to "fix" Taylor's relationship with Ian. It was so obvious that she didn't have a clue about the depth of Taylor's feelings. I just wanted to shake her and tell her that you can't force it. I could see the potential for disaster as the book went on. Brynn also had her developing relationship with Hank to deal with. I could see how much she was really starting to care for him and Millie, but her fears were holding her back. She has to learn to trust herself and others. I loved seeing her go from ready to run when things got intense, to wanting to stay because her love for Hank and Millie made all the risks worth it.

Hank also had some growing to do. He had to learn that sometimes it's better to face your fears than to hide away from them. I loved his relationship with his daughter and how everything he did was to try to make things better for her. It was great to see him think back on his marriage and the aftermath and realize that he has the ability to move on thanks to the feelings he has for Brynn. I loved how her influence has him opening up more to his family than he has in years. The dance scene at the end was fantastic and showed just how much of an effect Brynn had had on all of them.

One of the best things about the book was how real the emotions and actions felt.  From Taylor's misery over what was happening to her love life, to the mess that happened at the end, it was easy to feel that it could really happen that way. The interactions among all the family members also felt real. There was obviously plenty of love, but there were also frustrations and the occasional hurt feelings. I loved the grandmother, Moxie, and the ways she used to get people to do what she wanted. I also really had fun at the beginning, when Taylor was explaining how good Brynn is at getting things done, especially in regards to her brother and his hockey team.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Last Cowboy Standing - Barbara Dunlop (HD #2303 - May 2014)

Series: Colorado Cattle Barons (Book 6)

Rope 'em. Ride 'em. Wed 'em?

With his family pressuring him to settle down, Travis Jacobs hightails it to the rodeo for a no-strings fling. But the bull rider never expected to bump into Danielle Marin. The pretty lawyer once rebuffed his flirtations. Now, however, she looks ready for a little fun.

Danielle knows getting involved with a rogue like Travis will only lead to heartache. Her career in question, she should be thinking with her head, not the heat of their kisses. But when all roads lead back to Colorado -- and Travis -- resistance is futile. Will she finally manage to lasso the last cowboy standing?

Good book. Travis and Danielle have known each other for a couple years and strike sparks every time they meet. Danielle thinks he's rude and stuck on himself, and Travis thinks she's a bit of a snob, but he's attracted to her anyway. Travis is in Las Vegas for a rodeo at the same time Danielle is there for a lawyer's conference and they run into each other. This time the sparks burn brighter and they decide to see what happens. 

Danielle is a focused and independent woman. She has always been told to look out for her interests because any man she gets involved with will have his own interests in mind no matter what he says. She has an excellent job in Chicago, with some trips to Colorado to work with one of her clients, Caleb, who is friends and neighbors with Travis. Danielle has been offered an excellent job with another firm in DC and is trying to decide what to do. One of the lawyers at that firm is an old boyfriend who is pressuring her to accept the job. Danielle doesn't take well to someone trying to tell her what to do, plus she now has Travis on the other side telling her not to take the job because the other guy is just trying to get her there for him. Danielle wants to be able to make up her own mind. She's trying to think logically about the offer, but thoughts of Travis keep interfering. 

Travis was in Las Vegas to blow off some steam. He is the last unmarried member of his family and is feeling a bit of pressure. He is also the one who is now in charge of running the family ranch, as all of his siblings have married and taken other paths. He feels that he wasn't really given the option about what he wanted to do and occasionally feels trapped. Escaping for a few days of rodeo and perhaps a chance to spend some time with a woman gives him an outlet for the frustration. Seeing Danielle perks him right up because he really does enjoy their encounters. He's dismayed to find out about her possible move because he realizes how much he would miss her. He also discovers that he is very possessive, and the old boyfriend really bugs him. It's kind of fun watching the things his jealousy gets him into, especially since he doesn't really realize that jealousy is what he's feeling. When Travis sees something he wants or thinks something should be a certain way, he does whatever he has to to make it happen. In this case he has an idea of a way to keep Danielle in Colorado and pursues it, not realizing that it can appear that he is trying to manipulate her. 

In the end, Travis had to suck it up and admit what he did, but he had also realized by that time just why he did it. I loved the vulnerability that showed as he told Danielle how he felt. On her part, Danielle had to trust her feelings and believe that what she and Travis had would last. I really loved that last scene in the hotel room and the way that Danielle totally surprised Travis.

Secret Service Rescue - Elle James (HRS #1808 - July 2014)

Series: Adair Legacy (Book 4)

Kidnapped and held captive for weeks, Shelby O'Hara is grateful to be rescued by handsome secret service agent Daniel Henderson. But the rebellious beauty balks at his 24/7 protection until she learns the shocking secret of why she was abducted: she's the granddaughter of the former U.S. vice president, a woman with lethal opponents in a deadly political game.

To elude those enemies, Daniel and Shelby go on the run, although they are constantly at each others' throats...until the fighting stops with a torrid kiss. Suddenly, Shelby doesn't feel so safe. From the bad guys, maybe, but from Daniel? He's a clear and present danger to her heart.

Fantastic conclusion to the series. It begins with Shelby's grandfather arriving at Kate Winston's home to ask her for help locating Shelby - after all, she's Kate's granddaughter too. Kate and her entire family are stunned by this news. Kate had been told that her baby died and had no idea that it was a lie. The rest of the family was just surprised to find out that their mom had had another child. As one of Kate's Secret Service agents, Daniel takes charge as they rush to interrogate another agent who had been arrested for being one of the bad guys. They manage to get the information they need just before the man dies of suspicious causes. 

Shelby had been held captive for two weeks, but had not given up hope. She is an independent and determined young woman and has been working to escape her bonds. Just as she is about to escape her abductors set the house on fire and run, leaving her unconscious. She is, of course, rescued just in time by Daniel. She is surprised to learn of her grandmother, but doesn't agree that it should have any effect on the way she lives her life.

The sparks between Daniel and Shelby are instant and strong, but not very welcome. Daniel recognizes right away that he is attracted to Shelby, but his job is protection not seduction. He doesn't want to be a glorified babysitter, but he can't deny Kate when she asks for his help. Shelby is just plain irritated by Daniel. She is stubbornly independent and hates the idea of someone following her around everywhere. She doesn't believe she's really in any danger anyway. Daniel's attitude just makes her mad, and being around him makes her twitchy and she doesn't know why. She finally gives in to her grandfather's pleas that she cooperate, but she isn't happy about it.  I have to say that I got quite a chuckle out of the fun that Daniel had with getting Shelby ticked at him. It also made it a little easier for him to keep her at a distance when she was angry at him.

The action was almost constant as Daniel tried to keep Shelby safe from the frequent attacks. He was determined to keep her safe, and Shelby was just as determined to keep her life normal. I got really irritated with her as she tried ditching him at the university and almost got taken again, and then the next day went off jogging alone and was attacked again. I was surprised that Daniel didn't either lock her in her room or spank her like the brat she was acting like. At least she finally realized that she was truly in danger and Daniel was her only protection.

The attraction between them really starts to heat up, fueled by the danger they are in. Daniel tries hard to resist because getting involved with the person he is trying to protect is a really bad idea. But when Shelby decides that she wants him too, his resistance is futile and the chemistry is explosive. They both think that whatever they have together can't last, but they're going to enjoy it while they can. Shelby soon realizes that she wants more than just short term, but has no idea if Daniel is interested in anything more. Being with Shelby makes Daniel realize that there is more to life than devotion to his career, but he does have a few issues with what he sees are the differences between them. I loved seeing Shelby fight him on those. 

I enjoyed getting to know Daniel better. In previous books he was always the dedicated, serious agent. In this book he takes Shelby to his parents' home in Maine in an attempt to keep her safe. There we get to see him interacting with his brothers and parents, showing a loving and fun side to his personality. It was great to see him laughing and teasing his brothers, and the sweet way he treats his mom. I also loved the way they embraced Shelby, and how she enjoyed being part of a family unlike her own.

The constant fight that Daniel and Shelby had to stay ahead of the bad guys showed Daniel that there was something going on that allowed them to get so close. I thought that particular culprit was pretty obvious. There was more to the story than just him, and the efforts made by Daniel and the others to uncover the whole mess kept me going. The final confrontation was great as Daniel came riding to the rescue again. 

There were a couple really nice twists at the end besides Daniel and Shelby getting their HEA. I loved seeing Kate make her announcements, and was really pleased with her own personal announcement.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Chance - Robyn Carr (Mira - Feb 2014)

Series: Thunder Point (Book 4)

With its breathtaking vistas and down-to-earth people, Thunder Point is the perfect place for FBI agent Laine Carrington to recuperate from a gunshot wound and contemplate her future. The locals embraced Laine as one of their own after she risked her life to save a young girl from a dangerous cult. Knowing her wounds go beyond the physical, Laine hopes she'll fit in for a while and find her true self in a town that feels safe. She may even learn to open her heart to others, something an undercover agent has little time to indulge.

Eric Gentry is also new to Thunder Point. Although he's a man with a dark past, he's determined to put down roots and get to know the daughter he only recently discovered. When Laine and Eric meet, their attraction is obvious to everyone. But while the law enforcement agent and the reformed criminal want to make things work, their differences may run too deep…unless they take a chance on each other and find that deep and mysterious bond that belongs to those who choose love over fear.

Really good book. Laine first appeared in the previous book, The Hero, as the undercover FBI agent who helped Devon and others escape from the commune. She was shot during the operation and has returned to Thunder Point to recover. She had been put on desk duty which she hated, so she has taken a year's leave of absence to finish her recovery and decide what she wants to do now. Eric sold his business in Eugene and has moved to Thunder Point to be closer to his daughter. Neither is looking for a relationship, but the chemistry between them is too strong to ignore.

I loved both Laine and Eric. Laine is trying to figure out what she wants to do next. The undercover operation took a lot out of her besides the injury she sustained and she isn't sure that she wants to continue as an agent. She liked what she saw of Thunder Point and has gone there for her recovery time. It also gets her away from her father, who has always given her grief about her profession. She is drawn to Eric from the first time she met him, and she can see that he's interested too. I loved the way that she asked him out when he didn't move fast enough for her. 

Eric is a pretty laid back kind of guy. After a less than stellar youth that earned him a stint in prison he has turned his life around. He spends most of his time building his new business and trying to spend time with his teenage daughter. He encounters Laine several times and is more attracted each time. He doesn't consider himself a good bet relationship wise, so he tries to keep his distance from Laine. That doesn't work, and they are soon deeply involved with each other.

I really liked to developing romance between them. They are honest with each other about their expectations, which reduces their chances of conflict. Those that they do have they are able to resolve fairly easily by talking things out. She is surprised by his prison record, but she doesn't let it stop her from getting to know Eric better. Laine's job as an FBI agent surprises Eric, and he has a hard time at first accepting that she constantly puts herself into dangerous situations. I loved her demonstration of how well she can take care of herself and Eric's reaction to it. It was a great illustration of how well the two of them suit each other. Though they started out as simply two adults enjoying each other's company, they soon found themselves in a much deeper relationship than they expected. I loved Eric's support of Laine as she dealt with her issues with her father. Laine's difficult relationship with her father takes an interesting turn when he shows up in Thunder Point. When those issues pulled them apart, their unhappiness at being separated was obvious. Eric worries that Laine won't be able to return to Thunder Point and he can't leave as he gets to spend time with his daughter. I was really rooting for them to get their HEA, and loved the way it worked out at the end.

I loved seeing Laine's relationships with various members of her family. As her relationship with Eric changes her, her relationships with her family change also. I loved seeing the discussions she had with her sister-in-law as they finally got to know each other. The changes she went through also affected the way she looked at her father and their relationship. Her pain as she deals with him is heartbreaking but also makes the resolution of that story line very satisfying.

There are also two wonderful side stories. An old friend and employee of Eric's shows up to work with him and takes a liking to Ray Anne. She has always been an interesting character with her flamboyant clothing and direct attitude. She and Al hit it off in an unexpected way, and I really enjoyed seeing the way she changes around him. Al is an interesting guy who has some issues that cause him some insecurity around her. Al also takes an interest in helping a teenage employee of Eric's who is dealing with some major family issues. He does what he feels he can, but those same issues make him feel that he can't do more. I loved seeing him finally get the courage to reach out for a second chance.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Bride Says No - Cathy Maxwell (Avon - Feb 2014)

Series: Brides of Wishmore (Book 1)

What happens when a bride says no?

He is the bastard son of a duke, arrogant, handsome, a little bit dangerous, and, of course, one of the most sought-after bachelors in London. He is also about to be publically jilted by some chit of a girl Blake Stephens' pride isn't about to let him be humiliated, so he charges after his bride to the wilds of Scotland, determined to bring her to the altar.

What happens when the heart says yes?

He is promised to one woman, but discovers his soul stirred by . . . the chit's sister Lady Aileen Davidson's reputation was ruined ages ago, which is why she's buried herself in the country, but her fiery spirit and bold beauty threaten to bring Blake to his knees, making him wonder if he has proposed to the wrong lass.

And now he must make a choice: marry for honor . . . or marry for love?

Very complicated relationships in this story. Aileen left home with high hopes of finding a man to love and who would love her. Instead, her father married her to a man who turned out to be cruel and abusive. She faked an affair in order to obtain a divorce, and is now back in Scotland living a quiet life. She has no intention of ever getting involved with a man again. Meanwhile, her younger half sister went to London and is engaged to the wealthy bastard son of a duke. Three days before the wedding, Tara shows up in Scotland, having fled in order to take back up with the horse trainer she had rejected three years earlier. But Ruary has moved on and is engaged to another woman. The next day, their father and her fiance show up, claiming that the marriage is still on. Blake isn't about to let himself be humiliated by Tara. But he soon finds himself far more interested in Aileen than in Tara. 

So we have two love triangles going on here. There is the one involving Tara, Ruary and his fiancee Jane. There is also a conflict with Tara, Blake and Aileen. The common denominator of course, is Tara. She shows up expecting that the man she had rejected will be ready to take her back, and is surprised to find out that he isn't. She's not at all happy to find there is a rival to her getting what she wants. Ruary is surprised to see her, but not willing to give up Jane. He does seem to waffle a bit at a couple points, but his intentions stay true, even when Tara succeeds at making trouble. Tara doesn't really want to marry Blake, but she's not going to give up the bird she has in her hand until she can catch the one in the bush. 

Blake has spent a long time trying to get the approval of his father, and marrying Tara seems to be doing the job. As a bastard, he's always felt a lot like he was on the outside looking in, but his marriage could open doors for him. He doesn't love Tara, but figures they'll do okay together. He is surprised by his reaction to Tara's sister, who challenges the way that things are done. The sparks between them are instant, but neither is willing to be dishonorable to Tara. Spending time together brings them closer until they can't help but react to their feelings. They want to be together, but Tara won't give up her claim on Blake, even though they've agreed they're not in love, and Blake can't honorably call it off himself.

Aileen is the type of person who takes care of everyone else before seeing to her own needs. She had done what her father wanted and ended up in a miserable marriage. She's not happy about the reputation she now has, but is willing to live with it. When Tara shows up, Aileen is determined that she won't be forced into marriage the way she was. Though she does not approve of what Tara has done and what her plans are, she will stand up for her right to choose. She puts up a great argument to her father and Blake, but is floored when Tara suddenly announces she will go through with the wedding. Aileen tries to talk to Blake, but he is uncooperative. She also discovers that she is attracted to him, but as he is engaged to her sister, she won't do anything about it. That's hard to maintain as she and Blake discover how much they have in common and the attraction starts to heat up. By the time that they realize they are in love the wedding is only days away and Tara isn't budging.

Tara's selfishness is about to ruin the lives of several people. The way she chases Ruary has caused problems between him and Jane. Ruary is slightly tempted by Tara, but realizes that the one he really wants is Jane. But by that time Tara's antics have sent Jane running and Ruary has to decide if he is going to fight for her. I enjoyed seeing what he did and how his story turned out. Once Tara discovers that Ruary is no longer an option she is even more determined to hang on to Blake. I really wanted to shake her and then lock her in her room till she grows up. I loved seeing her cousin Sabrina tell her just what a selfish brat she is. It begins to open her eyes a bit as she takes a good look at her life. As her wedding day dawns, Tara has to decide what she's going to do.

While I understood Aileen and Blake's decisions to do the honorable thing,  I really wanted to smack them both. Doing the honorable thing isn't necessarily the right thing and three lives would be wrecked by it. They really needed to take charge of their own destinies. I did enjoy the ending and loved seeing what Tara did at the church. I'm looking forward to her story and seeing what changes she goes through.

Woodrose Mountain - RaeAnne Thayne (HQN - Apr 2012)

Series: Hope's Crossing (Book 2)

Evie Blanchard was at the top of her field in the city of angels. But when an emotional year forces her to walk away from her job as a physical therapist, she moves from Los Angeles to Hope's Crossing seeking a quieter life. So the last thing she needs is to get involved with the handsome, arrogant Brodie Thorne and his injured daughter, Taryn.

A self-made man and single dad, Brodie will do anything to get Taryn the rehabilitation she needs...even if it means convincing Evie to move in with them. And despite her vow to keep an emotional distance, Evie can't help but be moved by Taryn's spirit, or Brodie's determination to win her help -- and her heart. With laughter, courage and more than a little help from the kindhearted people of Hope's Crossing, Taryn may get the healing she deserves -- and Evie and Brodie might just find a love they never knew could exist.

Very emotional book. Evie left Los Angeles and her job as a physical therapist when the emotions involved in one of her cases got too hard to handle. She came to Hope's Crossing at the urging of a friend and has found a sense of peace while she works at the local bead store. She has put her life as a physical therapist behind her until Brodie comes to her asking for help with his daughter. Taryn was in a terrible accident that left her unable to move or speak easily, and has been refusing to cooperate in therapy. Brodie is desperate and will do anything he can to convince Evie to help.

Evie tries hard to refuse to help. She knows that she can't handle getting emotionally involved with Tayn or Brodie. But something about Taryn compels her to help, though she tries to protect herself. It isn't long before she is as emotionally invested as she'd feared. To top it off, Brodie isn't as much of an arrogant jerk as she had thought he was, and she sees past the attitude to the worried father. Evie is determined to do whatever is necessary for Taryn and this sometimes puts her at odds with Brodie. She stands up for her methods and things start to look up for Taryn.

Brodie is a man with a mission. He wants Evie's help and he will do whatever he has to in order to get it. It doesn't help that he doesn't like her much, her free spirit knocking up against his need for control and order in his life. Being around her as much as he is, he starts to see a different side to her. Soon he is fighting an unwilling attraction to her, and finding that being with her brings him a sense of calm that he hasn't experienced with anyone else. 

Things don't always go very smoothly between them as they find themselves on opposite sides of one particular therapy issue. Evie has discovered that Taryn's therapy is more successful when assisted by friends. One of those friends is the young man who caused the accident that injured Taryn. Brodie is furious at his presence, but Evie stands up for what she feels is best for Taryn. The romance itself is slow building as they get to know each other and open up about their own issues. Brodie comes to the realization of his feelings before Evie does, and tries to get her to agree to pursue them. Evie has to find the courage to risk her heart again.

Taryn's story is emotional in itself. She has gone from a vivacious teenager to a girl who needs help with the most basic of needs. She wants to get better, but she also feels that she may deserve everything she is going through. Throughout the book there are indications there may have been more to the accident than everyone believes. Taryn's emotional ups and downs seem to be tied to the blame everyone places on Charlie. There's an extremely emotional scene at the end when Taryn attends Charlie's hearing and speaks in his defense.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Against the Odds - Kat Martin (Mira - Dec 2012)

Series: Raines of Wind Canyon (Book 7)

This case may prove to be too hot to handle.

There's silver out there: Sabrina Eckhart is sure of it. And when she finds the hidden mine on that big piece of West Texas desert, all of her financial problems are solved. That is, if she can find it. The man with the skills she needs is private investigator Alex Justice -- a former navy fighter pilot and a current pain in the neck.

When mysterious "accidents" start to plague their search, it seems Rina's multi-acre inheritance might be more a curse than a blessing. And yet, there's still something sensual about the heat…his arrogance…her stubbornness…being thrust into each other's arms by danger… But the vultures are circling, and if they don't watch their backs, the relentless desert sun could be the last thing Rina and Alex ever see.

Good book. Rina's life as a stockbroker has taken a bit of a downturn, but she feels that she can turn it around if she can find the silver mine on the property her uncle left her. She needs a pilot who can fly her over the land to look for it, and the best man for the job is Alex. She hires him to do the job, and ends up grateful for his skills, as the helicopter they use is sabotaged and they end up stranded in the desert for a couple days.

Rina thinks Alex is pretty sexy, but that he's also an arrogant, egotistical jerk. Alex doesn't have a very high opinion of Rina either, though he's certainly attracted to her. Those two days in the desert make them see each other very differently. After their rescue and some recovery time, Rina is ready to resume her investigation when she's involved in a suspicious car accident. Alex suspects that someone wants her dead, and that it has to do with the mine. He is determined to keep her safe and if that gives him a chance to get her into his bed, so much the better.

The chemistry between Alex and Rina is hot and they can't keep their hands off each other. Neither one is looking for a relationship and agree to just enjoy each other. But Rina worries that it will be far too easy to fall in love with Alex and she doesn't want that. She sees Alex's past, with his playboy ways and avoidance of any kind of commitment and knows there's no future with him. Alex avoids commitment like the plague. He feels that his life is too unsettled to be able to add a wife to it, so he sticks with the light and fluffy affairs. He is a bit of a control freak and feels that he has to be able to be sure of all parts of his future before committing. But his time with Rina is changing him. He feels things for her he hasn't felt for anyone else and it confuses him. I wanted to smack him for his reaction when Rina told him she loved him.  It took one of his coworkers to point out that some things just can't be controlled for him to realize what an idiot he had been.

I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book. I loved Rina's confidence in her uncle's claim about the mine. She is determined to follow up on it and find the silver. The attacks on her get more intense as the culprit gets more desperate to obtain the mine. I really liked the way all the guys work together to figure out what is going on. I also enjoyed seeing Rina insist on being involved every step of the way. She wasn't going to allow herself to be left out of the loop. I did understand Alex's frustration sometimes when she would interfere with what he wanted to do. There were a couple interesting twists to the final reveal that I didn't see coming. 

I also enjoyed the secondary story involving Alex's sister. I loved seeing the relationship the two had, as it showed a different side to Alex. I got very frustrated with Becca when she was trying to force her daughter into the same kind of mold her mother had forced on her. She also had kind of a snobby attitude toward Joe until she finally saw that she was still trying to please her mother. Once she saw her mistakes, things really improved for her. The addition of the murderer/molester to the mix gave Joe an extra chance to show his love for Becca and her daughter. The rescue operation was really intense with some question as to how it would all turn out.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Against the Storm - Kat Martin (Mira - Oct 2011)

Series:  Raines of Wind Canyon (Book 4)

Some women find trouble wherever they go. And some men are their only protection against it.

Redheads like Maggie O'Connell are nothing but trouble. But Trace Rawlins, a former army ranger turned private investigator, takes the case anyway. After all, he knows a thing or two about women.

Trace can sense that something is wrong -- Maggie isn't telling him everything. If these menacing calls and messages are real, why won't the police help her? And if they aren't real, what is she hiding?

As Trace digs deeper to find the source of Maggie's threats, he discovers a secret that no one was meant to uncover. And the only puzzle left to be solved is whether the danger comes from an unknown stalker...or from the woman he's trying his hardest not to fall for.

Good book that kept me intrigued from the beginning. Maggie has been getting creepy notes and calls, but the police are no help at all. When a friend suggests she hire a private investigator, she calls on Trace. He takes the case against his better judgment. He has a weakness for redheads and he senses that this one isn't being completely honest with him.

Both Maggie and Trace had their issues. Trace has a bad marriage, to a redhead, in his past. In spite of that, he still has a weakness for a redheaded woman, he's just made the decision to avoid anything that looks like commitment. Maggie has commitment problems of her own, thanks to a mother that never stuck with a marriage once things stopped being easy. 

Maggie is a successful photographer who is having problems with a stalker. She goes to Trace for help because she gets no satisfaction from the cops. She had made a false accusation while she was in high school and as a result they don't take her seriously. Trace is willing to take her case (that redhead thing, y'know) as long as she listens to him and is honest with him. Right there is where they start running into problems, because when he asks her about certain people in her past, she leaves things out because she doesn't think they're important. Trace is rightfully angry when he finds out because some of that information could be important. She also has a tendency to go off on her own, even though he's told her not to, because she feels she has to be free to do her work. It takes several times of these idiotic moves for her to get it into her head just how dumb she's being. Another thing contributing to her issues is that she is really attracted to him. She doesn't want to be because she can see herself falling for him, which would be bad all around. Even once she gives into the attraction she really doesn't expect it to last past the solving of the mystery.

Trace runs a successful security company. He is at heart a true Texas gentleman who is very protective of women who find themselves in trouble. His weakness for redheads has gotten him in trouble before, especially when he married one of them. She is a plague to him that he still hasn't quite managed to shake loose. He feels that getting involved with Maggie is a bad idea from the beginning, but he does feel that she is telling the truth about the notes and calls she is receiving. He is intent on finding out who is terrorizing her, but is continually frustrated by her lack of cooperation. He's glad when she finally starts taking him seriously, and then their attraction adds a new layer to their relationship. 

Neither Trace nor Maggie was looking for any kind of long term relationship. As a matter of fact, they fought the idea of it every step of the way, thanks to their individual issues with trust. But the more time they spent together, the more their hearts started to over rule their heads. Even so, their fears still managed to nearly drive them permanently apart, except for the danger that had them looking at what was really important.

The suspense part of the book was well done. The stalker's actions show a steady escalation that emphasizes the danger that Maggie is in. I enjoyed seeing the way that Trace and Maggie worked together to try to uncover the culprit. I have to say that the stalker was not who I thought it was, which was kind of nice because I don't like it when I figure things out too soon. There was a secondary problem that we knew the who, but not the why. That also was brought out at the end and made a satisfying finish to that puzzle. 

I also enjoyed the secondary storyline that involved Maggie's sister and another client of Trace's. It was great to see Maggie connect with her sister, giving her a healthy relationship with a member of her family. Her sister was pretty sweet, and as independent as Maggie. I loved seeing her get involved with a nice guy like Jason. I liked the respect that Jason had for her, and the way he actually listened to what she really wanted.

The Daddy Secret - Judy Duarte (HSE #2318 - Mar 2014)

Series: Return to Brighton Valley (Book 1)

When Mallory Dickinson comes home with the son she gave up for adoption at seventeen, she knows she has to face her past. Ten years ago, she fell hard for Rick Martinez. The irresistible Brighton Valley troublemaker with a capital T is now the town's beloved vet. But is he ready to be a father?

When Rick finds out Mallory's planning to raise their child -- the son he never met -- he knows this is their second chance. But how long can he keep his true identity a secret from his son…when every day brings him closer to Mallory and the boy who looks just like him? It's time for this rebel with a cause to prove he's got what it takes to become the family man he's always wanted to be.

Good book. Mallory has come back to town after ten years away in order to take care of her grandfather. With her is her nine year old son, who she gave up for adoption but is now back with her. She doesn't expect to see Lucas's father almost as soon as she arrives. They had been in love when they were teens, but parted when she got pregnant. She moved away to have the baby and stay near his adoptive parents, while Rick stayed in Brighton Valley. Now he has a chance to get to know his son and rekindle his romance with Mallory. 

I liked both Rick and Mallory. Despite their breakup all those years ago they weren't mean or nasty to each other when they were reunited. When Rick sees their son for the first time and figures out who he is, Mallory knows she has to come clean with him. The story behind how Lucas ended up back with her is complicated but still believable. She's nervous about it because she's still getting used to being a parent and doesn't want to make things harder for Lucas. She also discovers that Rick has changed a lot from the rather wild rebel he used to be, though her feelings haven't. 

Rick is stunned to see Mallory back in Brighton Valley. Besides being deeply in love with her back when they were teens, she had been the only one who seemed to think he was a worthwhile person. When she left Brighton Valley he went down a wrong road for awhile before finding his way back. Now he's a respected veterinarian and community member. Finding out about Lucas causes him some heartache because of all the years he has missed. But he also worries about whether he would be a good father because he didn't have a good role model for it. I loved seeing how good he was with Lucas right from the beginning. Rick also realizes very quickly that he still cares for Mallory, but has no idea if there's any chance for them to have a future.

I really liked the way that Rick and Mallory worked together to make sure that they were doing what Lucas needed. Even if they were having issues themselves, he came first. Working together for Lucas also gave them a chance to get to know each other again and deal with their pasts. Rick also had to overcome some of those old feelings of inferiority in order to fight for Mallory. 

I had a lot of fun reading about Buddy the dog and Lucas. Buddy reminded me of the dogs I've had and how adorable they can be even when you're mad at them. I also liked seeing Lucas's attempts to bring his parents together. The part with the email he sent was pretty funny.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Shadow Spell - Nora Roberts (Berkley - Mar 2014)

Series: Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy (Book 2)

With the legends and lore of Ireland running through his blood, falconer Connor O’Dwyer is proud to call County Mayo home. It’s where his sister, Branna, lives and works, where his cousin, Iona, has found true love, and where his childhood friends form a circle that can’t be broken...

A circle that is about to be stretched out of shape -- by a long-awaited kiss.

Meara Quinn is Branna’s best friend, a sister in all but blood. Her and Connor’s paths cross almost daily, as Connor takes tourists on hawk walks and Meara guides them on horseback across the lush countryside. She has the eyes of a gypsy and the body of a goddess...things Connor has always taken for granted -- until his brush with death propels them into a quick, hot tangle.

Plenty of women have found their way to Connor’s bed, but none to his heart until now. Frustratingly, Meara is okay with just the heat, afraid to lose herself -- and their friendship -- to something more. But soon, Connor will see the full force and fury of what runs in his blood. And he will need his family and friends around him when his past rolls in like the fog, threatening an end to all he loves...

Fantastic story of friends to lovers as well as good versus evil.  Connor and Meara have been friends all their lives, but that's about to change. There have been hints of the possibility, but neither has taken that step. 

The book starts out with a couple of chapters about the original three siblings who were involved in the fight with the evil Cabhan. The main focus is Eamon, the brother and ancestor to Connor. Like Connor, his affinity is to the hawk. Both are protective of their family and friends. Throughout the book, their stories are interwoven in a fascinating way, as they seek a way to destroy the evil that stalks their families.

The relationship between Connor and Meara starts as that of a deep friendship. They accept each other for who they are. As the danger for the group increases, things start to change. When Connor is attacked and nearly dies, it brings the simmering chemistry between the two to the surface. Connor is quick to realize that what he feels is love, but Meara resists the idea. 

I loved Connor. He is a generally happy man, content in his work with the birds, comfortable in his identity as one of the O'Dwyer witches. He is loyal to and protective of his friends and the current crisis has those instincts working overtime. Besides fighting Cabhan for her safety, Connor also has to fight Meara's fear of commitment. I thought he had an amazing amount of patience as he waited for her accept the realiity of their feelings.

Meara was a strong and independent woman, seemingly fearless, until she has to face her growing feelings for Connor. They've always been friends, but since the troubles with Cabhan began she's felt like something is changing. She's been feeling stirrings of attraction and she doesn't want to. She's afraid of what something like that could do to their friendship. Meara only sees the misery that romantic love can bring, as she has seen what her father's desertion did to her mother. She doesn't want to risk that for herself. 

When an attack by Cabhan nearly kills Connor, suddenly Meara is ready to acknowledge and act on the attraction between them. But she refuses to accept that it is more, and really freaks out when he tells her he loves her. This causes her to do something really stupid and puts her in grave danger. Though it eventually brings them closer, they are in for a tough time until then.

The buildup of the trouble with Cabhan is intense. Because they hurt him at the end of the last book (Dark Witch), he isn't up to taking on the whole group. So the focus of his attacks is on trying to hurt them individually. Meara is his target most of the time and we see her strength and that of the others as they come to the rescue. We also see how he takes advantage of her vulnerabilities. I loved seeing how the group of six work with and support each other. Even though Meara and Boyle have no magick of their own, they are still integral parts of the plan. With each new encounter the intensity builds, until they are driven to take action at the end. Of course, as there is still another book to go, they are not completely successful, but the entire event had me in suspense as to how far it would go and if our people would come out safely.

One of the best things about the series so far is the relationships among the six friends. There is respect for who and what they are. Even with Fin having the blood relationship to Cabhan, they all know what side of the battle he is on. I love the fact that they don't judge one another, even when mistakes are made. The problem is discussed and then they move on. I loved seeing the teasing that went on and how they could have fun even in the midst of all that stress. I am really looking forward to the next book with Branna and Fin. I can see that there is something in their history that has them wanting each other but is keeping them apart. I expect that they will have to deal with that before they are able to defeat Cabhan. It should be a wild ride.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Baby for Keeps - Janice Maynard (HD #2307 - June 2014)

Series: Kavanaughs of Silver Glen (Book 2)
           Billionaires and Babies (Book 46)

A woman and baby walk into a bar...

It might sound like a joke, but saloon owner Dylan Kavanagh knows it's all too serious. Struggling single mom Mia Larin needs him. She helped him when they were young, and the bachelor means to do everything in his power to protect Mia and her child. Giving her a job, a room under his own roof, is easy. Keeping it all about business isn't....

Dylan is a successful, eligible catch, but are Mia's feelings just a case of hero worship? Or will she still need him, still want him, once her circumstances change?

Terrific story. I really liked both Dylan and Mia. There's great chemistry between them, but there's also the ability to see past their issues to the real person. Both had insecurities that kept them from feeling that they were worth loving. Dylan was surprised to see Mia and her infant daughter in his bar. He hadn't expected to ever see her again. Mia had been his tutor their senior year in high school. She was super intelligent and he had dyslexia, but they had connected. Dylan is the second oldest Kavanaugh son after Liam (A Not-So-Innocent Seduction). Liam had always done well in school with no apparent effort, which made Dylan feel like a failure with his inability to do well. So he cultivated a bad boy image, giving the impression he didn't care. Years later he has used his people skills to build a very successful business for himself. Seeing Mia again brings back some of those high school memories, including the crush he had on her and the less than pleasant way he had treated her. Finding out that she's jobless, he offers her the job of doing the books for his business while she searches for a job in her own field. He also invites her and her baby to stay with him. Dylan discovers that his attraction to her now is far stronger than it was then. He starts to think about what it would be like to have them permanently in his life. But he still has insecurities about his learning problems that had made him swear he would never have kids, because he didn't want a child of his to suffer like he had. Plus he still feels the gulf between his and Mia's abilities and doesn't feel like he is worthy of someone that smart.

Mia had had a huge crush on Dylan when they were in school. She never minded helping him with his work, and did her best to try to show him that he wasn't stupid the way he claimed. Though they were in the same grade, Mia was younger because she had skipped grades. She never felt like she fit in and suffered from a lot of teasing/bullying. After leaving Silver Glen for college, she ended up as a medical researcher. She still never felt comfortable in social situations and relationships never really worked out. She got tired of waiting for Mr Right and decided to have a baby on her own, starting the family that she craved for herself. When she lost her job she took the time to go to Silver Glen to see how Dylan was doing and was happy to see how well things were going for him. When he offered her a job to do while she looked for work she was happy to take it. She didn't expect to end up sharing his house with him and finding that the old attraction was still there. She takes a chance and lets him know of that attraction, even though she has low confidence in her appeal. Even though there's nothing for her career wise in Silver Glen, the more time she spends with Dylan the more she wants to stay.

Dylan and Mia do a fantastic job of showing each other how wrong their self doubts are, but neither has an easy time actually believing it. Dylan is still fighting those demons from school, to the point that he pushes Mia away, believing she is better off away from him. Mia has trouble believing that he could really want someone like her for very long, but loves him anyway and is devastated by his actions. It takes awhile for Dylan to realize what an idiot he was, but I loved seeing him finally get it. There was a pretty sweet twist at the end that just added to the story.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Defender - Adrienne Giordano (HI #1502 - June 2014)

By all accounts Penny Hennings was the sort of woman FBI special agent Russell Voight went for. Smart, sexy and with just enough sass to keep him honest. Then she went sticking her nose in undercover FBI business. He knew her legal reputation would skyrocket if she won this case. But every move she makes undoes all the work Russell's put into taking down the city's biggest crooks. And the criminals they're after will do anything to avoid the witness stand--including kill. So it's time to pool their resources and collaborate. Even if working together every day takes them late into the night...and into the line of fire.

I can't say enough about how much I loved this book. We first met Penny in her brother's book, The Prosecutor, when she was trying to clear someone that he was trying to keep in prison. I knew then that I wanted to read her story. This book starts out with a bang, quite literally, and the action never stopped.

Penny is a top notch defender. When one of her clients comes to her because of threats against her life and that of her son, Penny also finds herself in the line of fire. Russ is on the spot to save her and her father, because he had been waiting to meet with her. He needs help from her and her client to put a particularly nasty criminal away. This man is also connected to the death of her client's husband and she has information that will help Russell nail him.

I loved Russell and Penny and the relationship between them. As an agent, Russell really doesn't like defense attorneys, because they work to free the same people he wants behind bars. Five months earlier Penny had decimated Russell and one of his cases on the witness stand. She is petite and beautiful and aggressive in the courtroom, which has earned her the nickname of "Killer Cupcake".  As much as he knows he shouldn't like her, he does. There's just something about her attitude that really speaks to him. He is also very attracted to her, which he acknowledges to himself and to her, though he knows that doing anything about it until the current crisis is over would be a bad idea. I loved just how well he understands her and is able to deal with her in all her moods. He really endeared himself to me when he stood up for her against her horrible oldest brother.

Penny is a real firecracker. She is intense, strong and independent. She will do whatever it takes to win her clients' cases, including going head to head with a certain FBI agent. He's sparked some interesting fantasies in her mind ever since their first encounter five months ago. One of the things she likes best about him is that he can give as good as he gets in an argument with her. When they discover that she and her client are the targets, she has to rely on Russell for his protection, a point that is both good and bad. It's good, because he is definitely motivated to protect his investigation. It's also bad because she discovers just how much Russell gets her, an occurrence that hasn't happened with anyone else. It also means that she has a hard time getting away with anything around him. I loved the fact that she respected him enough to follow his directions, but that all falls apart toward the end when Zac is endangered and she does something really stupid. Fortunately she realizes her mistake before it's too late and things turn out okay. The last chapter shows just how well he understands her and brings them together in a most satisfying way.

The action and suspense throughout the book is nonstop. The bad guy is definitely into mind games as well as his criminal activities and Russell and Penny are kept on their toes. His phone calls to Penny are downright creepy and his ability to know just what they are doing was frustrating to them. The final showdown was really intense and there were moments when I wondered if someone was going to end up really hurt. I really enjoyed seeing the way that Penny dealt with all the restrictions, even when it put her in danger. I loved her interactions with the marshal Brent, and really hope to see him get a story of his own.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Christmas On Main Street - Joann Ross, Susan Donovan, Luann McLane, Alexis Morgan (Signet - Nov 2013)

‘Tis the season to fall in love in these four small towns. —   —

Christmas in Shelter Bay by JoAnn Ross
Series: Shelter Bay (Book .5)  

Kelli has long tried to keep her feelings for her friend Cole a secret. But when the local matchmakers conspire to send them to a secluded lakeside cabin, the two friends soon discover that a little love will keep them warm.

Loved finally getting to read Kelli and Cole's story. Kelli is Cole's best friend's little sister and was told long ago that she was off limits, but they have been friends. Kelli has been in love with Cole for years. Last Christmas when he was home on leave he showed her an engagement ring - and then proposed to someone else, breaking her heart. This year he is back home, the engagement long over, and realizing that it's Kelli he really wants. Not sure how to go about winning her, his grandmother sends him off to the family cabin to "plan his mission". Unknown to him, she has also suggested to Kelli that she go to the cabin to get away from the stress of being around Cole. When she arrives, they realize that they've been set up, but decide to go for it as a chance to repair their friendship. Of course, Cole also intends to lay siege to Kelli's heart. 

I really enjoyed seeing the two of them together. Now that Cole has admitted his feelings to himself he just has to convince Kelli. The sparks between them are quite hot, and it was fun to see Cole use that heat. He's determined to be patient, so he works hard to keep it to just kisses at first, which drives Kelli nuts. Once they take that first step to be together things really take off between them.

Cole has also reached the point of having to decide if he's going to stay in the Marines or get out. Kelli senses that he has things that he is dealing with and has the love and patience to wait for him to open up to her about it. I really enjoyed the ending and their pranking of the matchmakers.

A Seaside Christmas by Susan Donovan
Series: Bayberry Island (Book .5)

TV producer Nathaniel Ravelle knows the Bayberry Island mermaid legend is a joke— how could a statue grant a wish for true love? But when a Christmas Nor-easter lands him in close quarters with local Annie Parker, they see magic at work in matters of the heart .

Fun story. Nat has been sent to Bayberry Island to scope out locations for an episode of the show Truly Weird, focusing on the mermaid legend of the island. He arrives in the middle of a storm and ends up slipping on the ice right in front of Annie's house and store. She gets him into the house - the description of that process is very funny - where she helps him recover from the fall.

I liked both Nat and Annie. Nat is pretty level headed and also jaded about all the so-called supernatural things he has encountered during his job. Ending up flat on his back, surrounded by old mermaids, is pretty confusing for him until he fully regains consciousness. At that point he is fascinated by Annie and very attracted to her.

Annie has been burned by love, so each summer she picks a good looking tourist to have a summer fling with, then sends him on his way at the end of the season, thus preserving her heart. The rest of the time she concentrates on her job of baking naughty mermaid treats and writing erotic mermaid romances. When Nat falls in front of her house, she takes him in. There's something about him that really appeals to her and that makes her very nervous.

I really enjoyed the banter between the two of them. And while the chemistry is explosive, I also enjoyed the fact that they actually spent a lot of time just talking to each other. They discovered that they had a lot in common, which made their mutual attraction even stronger. I loved seeing Annie read him some of her stories and also tell him the legend of the mermaid. The ending was very good.

What neither of them knows is that the mermaid ladies had done one of their ceremonies, asking the mermaid's help in finding a man for Annie. They didn't expect it to work so quickly and they promised each other they would never tell what they had done. These ladies were a hoot and I look forward to seeing more of them in later books.

Mistletoe on Main Street by LuAnn McLane
Series: Cricket Creek (Book 5.5)

Clint isn't sure how to rekindle his romance with high school sweetheart Ava—until his father bows out of playing Santa at the annual Cricket Creek holiday parade and Clint gets the chance to make this Christmas one to remember.

I liked this second chance story. Clint is back in town after fifteen years away and realizes that his feelings for Ava have never gone away. Ava is reluctant to trust her heart to him again. I really liked Clint, he was a sweetheart of a guy. He came back to town to help his dad who is having health issues. He isn't really sure how long he's going to stay until he sees Ava again and realizes just how much he's missed her. I loved their first meeting as they're playing Santa and Mrs Claus. Ava isn't ready to forgive him for never contacting her again. She still has feelings for him, but doesn't want to go through that pain again. Clint isn't going to give up, and his attempts to woo her are really sweet. It was great to see Ava take her friend's advice and not push away the chance to be happy. The ending was terrific. This is the first thing I've read by LuAnn, but it won't be the last.

The Christmas Gift by Alexis Morgan
Series: Snowberry Creek (Book 1.5)

Business is booming at Bridey Roke's pastry shop. Everyone in town stops in to sample her holiday treats.  But in her spare moments, she's perfecting a special recipe to charm the handsome new neighbor—who has his own surprise gift for her come Christmas Eve!  

Very sweet story.  Bridey is very busy at her pastry shop, but it doesn't stop her from noticing the new customer who is spending a lot of time there. He doesn't say much but he makes a very definite impression on her. Seth has come to Snowberry Creek in search of some peace. He's a talented wood sculptor who has been suffering from a lack of inspiration. Being around Bridey gives him a different kind of feeling.

I loved both Bridey and Seth. Both of them sort of dance around each other at first, being cautious about getting involved with someone. Bridey has a bad marriage behind her, one that sucked the joy out of her until she got out of it and came home. Her ex also did a number on her self confidence. Seth has had problems with women who are more interested in what he is rather than who he is. He is also rather insecure around people because he occasionally has problems with stuttering. 

Their romance is slow building as they take the time to get to know each other. I loved seeing Seth's happiness at having the chance to build Bridey's shelves for her. Having the time alone with her as he builds those shelves before the store opens gives them both the chance to get really comfortable with each other. I loved seeing Seth's inner sexiness start to come out as his feelings for Bridey grew. I also enjoyed seeing the way that Bridey used her baking as a way to reach out to Seth. She starts out a little hesitant, but the more she gets to know him the stronger her feelings get. I loved seeing her get her confidence back as Seth's attentions get more intense.

I loved seeing Seth come to her defense against her ex-husband's nastiness, even though it blew his secret before he had a chance to explain. I was happy to see that there wasn't too much heartache before Seth and Bridey were able to resolve their differences. The ending was really sweet.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Somebody to Love - Lori Wilde (Avon - Jan 2014)

Series: Cupid Texas (Book 3)

Sexy cowboy-scholar Jericho Chance always knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. And after sauntering back home to Cupid, he’s shocked to discover that he wants Zoe McCleary. After years from home, he takes one new look at his bubbly best friend, with her lightning smarts and luscious body, and it hits him like a bolt: she’s his somebody to love and he’s not leaving town again without her.

Settling down always seemed like a time waster to Zoe, a man magnet with a trail of broken hearts behind her. She’s not meant to settle down -- but how can she resist someone as persuasive as Jericho? There’s no way they can ignore the explosive chemistry seething between them . . . even if it means risking their friendship . . .

Very good book. Jericho has returned to Cupid to apply for his dream job at a local university. He ran into some trouble during his last job and he needs this one to help repair his reputation. He's happy to see his best friend Zoe, but something has changed in the way he looks at her. Zoe has always been a free spirit, bouncing from thing to thing and man to man, and Jericho has been the one constant in her life. Her feelings for him have been changing, but she's not sure she wants to risk their friendship.

I loved both Zoe and Jericho. Zoe is the youngest in the extended family and ever since her parents' deaths when she was little has been a bit spoiled. She is known for not sticking to anything because if she doesn't like it, she quits and moves on rather than waste time on something that doesn't fit. But she gets a hard time from her family members, who consider her flaky and immature. There's a scene where she overhears people talking about her and even her sister is negative about her. I felt so bad for her because it really hurt her to hear what they said. She has finally settled on what she wants to do, but no one seems to believe she'll stick to it. Even the relative in control of her trust fund has told her that if she quits this time, he's cutting her off from her funds completely. She's determined to show everyone that she has changed.

Jericho is back in town hoping to land a job at the local university. He needs this job to help repair his reputation after some problems at the last one. He's looking forward to spending time with his best friend Zoe again. They've stayed in touch, but emails and phone calls aren't the same. He doesn't expect to take one look at her and see her as much more than his longtime buddy. He'd like nothing more than to pursue these new feelings, but with her as one of his students on a local dig, he has to keep some distance between them. That proves to be impossible, and suddenly he's risking his job, and Zoe her trust fund.

I loved the interactions between Zoe and Jericho. Jericho is a pretty serious and sober guy, but being around Zoe lightens him up a lot. He never seems to have trouble following her thought processes and he really understands her. He can get frustrated at her impulsiveness, but he gets what she's doing when it happens. He's falling hard for her, but he's also running a bit scared. He's afraid that he won't be enough to keep her from flitting away again. While Zoe brings fun to Jericho, he brings a steadiness to her. Knowing that he's always there gives her a sense of security that she doesn't feel with anyone else. Her feelings for him have been changing for some time, but she thinks that she doesn't have the ability to settle down. The deep friendship that they've always had is a great foundation for their feelings, but the chemistry between them has them both feeling out of control. Both of them have to face their fears before they can find their future together.

The other big thing that is going on is the archaeological dig that Jericho is in charge of. The land is part of a nature preserve that Zoe's family owns, and where some of Jericho's ancestors used to live.  When artifacts are found that show that a legend may in fact be truth, things start to get a little weird around the site. Strange things start to happen, and one of the artifacts disappears. Zoe's propensity for solving puzzles and finding trouble has her suspecting that there's a secret in her family that's about to be exposed. I really enjoyed the buildup of this storyline, from the recounting of the legend by Jercho's great-grandmother to the final showdown. I especially loved the bits of Native American culture and information on dig procedures that were woven in.