Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hope Flames - Jaci Burton (Berkley - Jan 2014)

Series: Hope (Book 1)

When it comes to love, they already know the heart.

Thirty-two and finally setting up her veterinary practice in the town she once called home, Emma Burnett is on her own and loving it. Independent and driven, she’s not letting any man get in the way of her dreams. Not again.

That’s fine with Luke McCormack. Divorced and hardly lacking in female company when he needs it, he’s devoted to the only faithful companion in his life -- his police dog. Still, there’s something about Emma he can’t shake.

When a series of local break-ins leaves Emma vulnerable, she seeks help from the first man to spark her desire in years. And now they’re giving each other something they thought they’d lost forever...hope.

Good, moderately steamy romance between two people who really weren't looking for any kind of relationship. Emma has come back to her hometown, setting up her vet practice. She had a relationship in college and after that derailed her plans, then turned abusive before she escaped it. She's determined that she will run her own life the way that she wants it and no man is going to distract her. Then Luke brings his dog Boomer into her clinic and she and Luke hit it off.

Luke, like Emma, isn't in the market for a relationship. He was married once and it didn't work out, so he's dealing with it by avoiding any kind of commitment. As a hot cop he has plenty of female company when he's in the mood for it. The only steady in his life is his police dog Boomer, and that's just the way he likes it. But Emma is something entirely different than the women he's used to and he can't stay away from her.

The chemistry between them is hot from the very beginning, but both of them are very wary of getting involved. They begin by trying the "just friends" approach, hanging out together with each other and their dogs. But the attraction is too much to resist, and the flames between them burn pretty hot. It's not just physical between them, though. Their friendship allows them to open up to each other about their pasts and what makes them reluctant to risk their hearts again. That same friendship moves ever closer to love, though neither s willing to say it out loud.

I loved seeing the relationship between them grow and change. Luke is constantly surprised by how different Emma is from his ex-wife. She thinks his family ranch is great, where the ex hated it. Emma is very understanding about Luke's erratic hours, having the same kind of hours herself. He sees that her determined independence is the reaction to what happened to her before and is fully supportive of it. Emma spends a lot of time watching Luke carefully, worried that he'll turn out to be just like her ex. She slowly begins to trust him, seeing that he isn't trying to control her. I liked seeing her support of his career, and the way she was there for him to talk to and just unwind with. When her past rears its ugly head, she pushes Luke away, fearing that she's made the same mistake she made before. I loved seeing Luke give her the space she wanted, while still watching out for her the way he feels he must. The ending was sweet and sexy and I can't wait to read the others.

I also loved the secondary characters. The most important were the three dogs. I loved seeing Boomer do his police dog thing, and then be the playful pooch when he was off duty. Emma's dog Daisy was as big a part of her vet practice as anyone else, and the little rescue pup Annie was just adorable. I also liked seeing Emma and Luke with their friends. Emma's two girlfriends were terrific with the way they teased each other and yet were there in a crisis. The support they gave Emma when she opened up to them about her ex was just what she needed to help rebuild her confidence. Luke's relationship with his brother was fun to see. They had their whole unspoken language thing going on during Luke and Emma's visit to the ranch, which gave Logan a wide open field to really give Luke a hard time. I also loved seeing Luke with his friend Carter and watching them work on Luke's truck. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Carter in his book.

The mystery of the drug thefts was good without taking over the story. It gave a good look at what being a small town cop was like, and the frustration they had over how long it was taking to solve. I liked the part it played in moving Luke and Emma closer together. The resolution was good, just the right amount of intensity for the type of book this was. There was quite an interesting twist to the danger that Emma was in, that really brought out the changes that she had gone through. 

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