Friday, February 28, 2014

To Tempt a Viking - Michelle Willingham (HH #1173 - Feb 2014)

Series: Forbidden Vikings (Book 2)


Warrior Viking Ragnar Olafsson stood by as his best friend claimed the woman he desired the most. There was only one way to quench the deep darkness within him -- become merciless in battle.

When Elena is taken captive, fearless Ragnar risks everything to save her. Now they are stranded with only each other for company. Suddenly every longing, every look, every touch is forbidden. Elena could tempt a saint -- and sinner Ragnar knows he won't be able to hold out for long!

Very good book with several unusual issues for a historical romance - biggest is that not all arranged marriages work out and the way it has affected four people. Also a large part is the effect that child abuse has on the adult's life, infertility, and a child with special needs. I loved the depth of emotion as both Elena and Ragnar have to deal with the twists and turns of their lives. This is the sequel to To Sin With a Viking, in which Elena's husband Styr was captured by an Irish woman and fell in love with her even though he was not free to do so.  Now we get the story of Elena and Ragnar, Styr's best friend and the man who has always loved her.  The first part of the book runs parallel to Sin, as we find out what happened to Ragnar and Elena when they were taken.  Ragnar had promised Styr he would protect Elena, which he would have anyway.  When he found a way for them to escape, he took it, getting injured in the process.  With the two of them alone together the strain on Ragnar's honor is greater than it's ever been before.  

I really liked Ragnar.  He has been in love with Elena since they were young, but always knew that he wasn't good enough for her.  His father was a drunk and abusive and Elena's father is the leader of their band.  He is also Styr's best friend and Styr is the one who marries her.  Over the years of their marriage, Ragnar has always behaved honorably.  He has also continued his friendship with Elena, hurting for her because of her unhappiness in her marriage.  When he is the one to save her after they are captured it puts a terrible strain him.  After they are rescued by Styr, he has to watch as they attempt to save their marriage, even though Styr is in love with another woman.  He is relieved for her sake when Elena and Styr split, but he still feels that he is not good enough for her.  Because of his size, his background and his training he feels that fighting is all he is good for and that he would be dangerous for her to be around.  Even when Elena shows him that she wants him, he thinks its only a reaction to the end of her marriage.  I loved his fierce protectiveness, but I also liked the way that he was always a good friend to her.  He was always happy to listen to anything she wanted to tell him and liked her just as she was.  I loved his support of her when she adopted the young boy (likely autistic).  It took a great deal of effort for Elena to finally break down his walls, but when she does it opens a whole new world for him.

Elena had been friends with Ragnar most of her life.  She was aware of what his home life was like and often tried to help.  She also found it very easy to talk to him and share her hopes and dreams.  She knew she was supposed to marry Styr and that was okay with her, she loved him.  Once they were married things weren't all that great.  She never got any of those feelings that other women talked about and felt that it was something lacking in her.  As the months and years went on, things got more strained between them.  She was sure a baby would help, but that didn't happen either until it got to the point that she didn't even want to try any more.  She felt her marriage falling apart and she didn't know what to do.  She even tried changing her whole personality to try to be what she thought Styr would want.  When she and Ragnar were captured while in Ireland, she feared that Styr was dead but held out hope that he would escape his captors and find them.  I loved her strength when she and Ragnar escaped and she had to take care of him after he was wounded.  She had a great deal of ingenuity that she used to build their shelter and heal him.  She was also quick witted enough to find a way to save them from some raiders - loved the whole curse idea!  While she was worrying about her husband, she also noticed that she was feeling things around Ragnar that she had never felt before.  This disturbed her quite a bit.  When they were found by Styr she was happy because she thought she was finally pregnant, but then found out that he had fallen in love with someone else.  She was hurt but still tried to make their marriage work, even though she could tell he didn't care anymore.  When she realized there was no baby, she cared enough about him to set him free, but that left her with no one.  She wanted to continue her friendship with Ragnar but quickly discovered that even that was changing.  Over the next few weeks she came to realize that she had never felt for Styr was she was now feeling for Ragnar, but she didn't know how to show him that.  I really liked the way that she had always seen the good in him and didn't treat him the way that others had.  I also loved her compassionate nature.  Because she had wanted a child for so long, she noticed the orphaned children in the streets.  Her rescue of the little boy who was probably autistic was just what she needed at that time.  It also brought her and Ragnar a little closer together and did some great things for her own self confidence.  I loved where that confidence took her when she finally decided to go after Ragnar.  Her method of getting him to listen was fantastic!

What Happens in Scotland - Jennifer McQuiston (Avon - Mar 2013)

Series: What Happens in Scotland (Book 1)

She Woke Up Married

When Lady Georgette Thorold awoke she saw . . . her corset hanging from the armoire . . . a very handsome, very naked Scotsman lying beside her . . . and a wedding ring on her finger!

Before the attractive stranger can tell her his name, Georgette does the only sensible thing -- she runs for it.

Little does she know, James MacKenzie isn't clear on what happened the night before either. All he knows is that his money is missing and the stunning woman who just ran from the room is either his wife or a thief . . . or possibly both.

What happens in Scotland when two complete strangers fall madly, deeply in love?

Very fun book.  Georgette has been a widow for two years.  Her marriage was an unhappy one and she has no intention of marrying again.  She plans to enjoy her freedom and has come to Scotland to visit her cousin.  Unfortunately, he is trying to coerce her into marrying him and she runs from him.  The next morning she wakes up naked, in bed with a man she doesn't know, with a ring on her finger and no idea how she got there.  Horrified, she runs away before getting the man's name.  Then she realizes that she needs to find out who he is so they can annul the marriage.  In the first part of the book she and her new prostitute turned lady's maid, try to track him down.  At first Georgette fears she married some crazy rake, but as the day goes on learns more about him, discovering that he's a local solicitor and son of an earl.  This makes her feel a little better, until she finds him and discovers he thinks she's a thief.  

Meanwhile, James had been having dinner at the tavern when Georgette appeared, obviously drunk, and in need of assistance to escape a forced marriage.  He had been doing some drinking himself and now has only vague memories of the night before, especially after she hit him in the head with a chamber pot.  He does know that his money is missing and can only assume that she took it.  As he tries to find her he is also trying desperately to remember what happened the night before.  What he does remember doesn't agree with his belief that she's a thief, but he needs to find her. He does have a few pleasant memories and when he finds her at his office he has to decide what he believes.  

Once the two meet up things really start to heat up.  There is a definite attraction between them, but neither is sure they want the marriage to continue.  The fun is seeing them fight the feelings that are growing fast.  Georgette has some self esteem issues thanks to the emotional abuse from her late husband.  She doesn't believe that James would ever really want to stay married to her.  James is estranged from his family, especially his father, because of some things that happened ten years earlier.  He certainly doesn't think he deserves to have someone like her in his life.  Georgette has two sides to her personality - the prim widow acting under the influence of her late husband, and the passionate woman that came out when she was intoxicated.  Never knowing which one was going to show up at any given moment keeps James intrigued and amused.  

I loved the way that James and Georgette uncovered the mystery of what had happened the night before.  Each thing they learned sent them on a quest for the next bit of information, meeting up with many different people.  Each character brought something different to the story, exposing either a clue or a facet of the hero's/heroine's personality.  There were so many fun moments, from the moment of waking, to Georgette's instructions to her "maid" and James's frequent injuries, to her refusal to stay and be protected, that I couldn't put the book down.  I'm looking forward to reading the other two stories in the series.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Blackberry Summer - RaeAnne Thayne (HQN - May 2011)

Series: Hope's Crossing (Book 1)

Claire Bradford needed a wake-up call.

What she didn't need was a tragic car accident. As a single mom and the owner of a successful bead shop, Claire leads a predictable life in Hope's Crossing, Colorado. So what if she has no time for romance? At least, that's what she tells herself, especially when her best friend's sexy younger brother comes back to town as the new chief of police.

But when the accident forces Claire to slow down and lean on others -- especially Riley McKnight -- she realizes, for the first time, that things need to change. And not just in her own life. The accident -- and the string of robberies committed by teenagers that led up to it -- is a wake-up call to the people of Hope's Crossing. The sense of community and togetherness had been lost during those tough years. But with a mysterious "Angel of Hope" working to inspire the town. Riley and Claire will find themselves opening up to love and other possibilities by the end of an extraordinary summer....

Fantastic book.  I love small town stories and this is one of the best.  All the characters are very realistic with hopes and dreams and problems that any one of us could experience.   When tragedy strikes the town it's the way they deal with it that will make or break the ones living it.

Claire is a divorced mother of two.  She owns a bead store that is doing pretty well but will never make her rich.  She lives in the same town as her ex and his new wife so that her kids can see their father on a regular basis.  She is also the person who takes care of her mother, a woman who turned very needy after her husband's scandalous death.  The investigation of a burglary at her store brings her back into contact with Riley McKnight, the younger brother of her best friend and the new chief of police.  The bad boy teen has grown up to be a handsome and responsible man and too darn tempting for her peace of mind.  When a car accident puts her in need of depending on other people, Riley is one of those who is there.  I liked Claire's sense of independence but she also had trouble accepting help.  After her father's death, Claire's mom fell apart leaving teenage Claire to take care of her younger brother, the house and her mother.  Ever since then Claire has been taking care of everyone but ignoring her own needs.  Seeing Riley again stirs feelings in her that have been quiet for a long time, but she's not too happy about having the hots for him.  After the accident that injured her and another girl and killed Riley's niece, Claire has to give up some of the control of her life in order to accept the help she needs.  She finds herself spending more time with Riley and is quite impressed with the man he has become.  She has trouble believing him when he tells her about the crush he had on her when they were younger, but she can't deny the feelings that are growing now.  I loved the way that she can separate the troubled boy he was from the man he is now and that she has no trouble standing up for him to other people.  It was terrific to see his care for her give her the desire to look after her own needs for a change.

Riley had been a bit of a hell-raiser as a teen.  He is the youngest of six kids and the only boy.  He had a lot of anger to deal with when his father left the family and it came out in destructive ways.  As soon as he graduated from high school he left home and ended up becoming an undercover cop in California.  After years of doing that work he is feeling burned out when he is offered the job of police chief in his hometown.  He takes it on a probationary basis, not sure if it will be a good fit.  He begins to think he was right as so many in town don't seem to be able to forget his teenage mistakes.  A bright spot in his return is seeing Claire again.  He has never forgotten her and meeting again as adults shows him that the feelings are still there.  As much as he'd like to pursue them, he feels that he's too damaged to be good for her, because of his cynicism from his former job and his fears that he'd be like his own father.  But he also finds that he can't stay away from her.  He's first on the scene after the car accidents and is desperate to make sure that she and her kids are safe.  Finding out about the occupants of the other car, and the death of his niece, Riley feels like the whole mess is his fault.  He spends a lot of time helping Claire and growing closer to her, but afraid to take it further.  I liked the way that he owns up to his stupidity from when he was younger, and I got really frustrated with the townspeople who refused to see the man he had become.  Even his own family seemed to be blind to who he was.  He did have a couple instances of idiocy, especially the one where he was so cynical about the "Day of Hope" that Claire and her friends were planning.  I'm glad he saw the errors of his ways.  His oh-so-romantic actions at the auction were the perfect ending to the book.

One of the things I like best about small town stories is the complicated and interwoven relationships.  As the first book in the series we learn at least a little about quite a few characters.  Claire's ex isn't a bad man, but he's pretty oblivious to the pain he causes Claire with some of his actions even after their divorce.  Claire's mother really irritated me.  I hated the way she leaned on Claire for everything and still managed to put her down about so much.  Her attitude about Riley really made me mad.  She was slightly redeemed at the end, but I think she still has a ways to go.  I loved the "Angel of Hope" and the way he/she has been doing things to help out various people.  Those things and the way that small towns have of coming together in times of tragedy go a long way toward improving the atmosphere of the town.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Last Chance Book Club - Hope Ramsay (Forever - Apr 2013)

Series: Last Chance (Book 5)

After a painful divorce, Savannah White wants nothing more than to find her happy place. So when she gets the chance to pack up her life -and her son - and move to the idyllic town where she spent childhood summers, she jumps at the opportunity. Last Chance is just as charming as she remembered. She's even invited to join the local book club, where talk soon turns to Savannah's plan to bring the ramshackle downtown movie theater back to life. A new challenge is just what Savannah needs to move forward.. . .

Dash Randall wants to put his fortune to good use, but he remembers Savannah as the bratty "princess" who descended upon him each June, causing no end of trouble. But the teenager he remembered has grown into a gorgeous and generous woman, and it isn't long before Dash finds himself wanting to make brand new memories with Savannah. But first, Dash and Savannah will need to make peace with their pasts to find a new chance for love.

This was a lovely return to the town of Last Chance, South Carolina.  Savannah really wanted to get herself  and her son out of Baltimore, so when her uncle died she and Todd left to go to his funeral.  What she didn't tell anyone was that they were going to move there permanently.  Both Savannah's mother and ex-mother-in-law were very controlling and she has had enough.  She also wants to get Todd into a healthier atmosphere. Savannah is planning to renovate the old theater that she inherited. She doesn't expect to run into her old childhood nemesis Dash.  The two of them had never gotten along, but now he's living with her aunt also.  They start out with sparks still flying between them, but now there's a different kind of heat in those sparks.  Savannah is very independent and very stubborn.  When Dash offers to help her out with the theater she resists.  One thing she can't resist is the interest he takes in her son.  Dash becomes just the role model and father figure that Todd needs.  I really enjoyed seeing Savannah take more control of her life once she got to Last Chance.  She had really let her mom and ex-in-law get to her before, but she develops a good amount of self-confidence once on her own. I liked the slow building of the romantic relationship between Savannah and Dash. The more time she spends with Dash the more she starts to feel for him.  Just as their relationship starts to take off her new life in Last Chance is threatened.

Dash came back to Last Chance after his baseball career ended.  He had partied too hard, gotten drunk too often, and messed up his knee in an accident.  He has finally gotten sober and is now heavily involved in life in Last Chance, owning a business and doing a lot of volunteer work.  Ever since he was a teenager he has been in love with Hettie, who had a brief teenage thing with him then moved on.  Now he has a tendency to moon over her and do things he thinks she'd like.  He's really not happy to see Savannah move back to Last Chance.  He remembers her as a spoiled brat who was constantly getting him into trouble.  It doesn't take too long for him to realize that she has changed and for attraction to start him taking a new look at his life.  At first he doesn't really want to help Savannah with the theater but he eventually wants to give her a chance to follow her dream.  He also realizes, being a few years older now, that his problem with her had been plain old jealousy of having to share his aunt and uncle with her.  I loved seeing him let go of his obsession with Hettie and pursue his attraction to Savannah.  It was interesting seeing him compare her to an addiction and try to fight it.  Another thing I liked was seeing the changes he goes through as he helps Todd settle in at Last Chance.  I loved seeing the way that his feelings for Savannah change and grow.  His desire to help her is something new for him and I loved the way it made him feel.  His feelings for her really came out at the end when he was there for her and Todd.

I loved seeing more of the characters from previous Last Chance books.  Savannah's aunt is the matchmaker that has been so important in earlier books.  In this one we get to see more of her and learn about her methods.  She also has quite an interesting plan for Savannah.  Hettie, "The Queen Bee" has an important role in this book and has an interesting twist come her way at the end.  

As usual there are some pretty funny moments in this book that can shed some light on various characters.  In this one, the dinner that included the minister, Aunt Miriam, Dash, Savannah and Todd turned out to be pretty funny.  Todd was great as the rebellious teenager and gave Dash one of his early chances to influence Todd's behavior.  I loved seeing Dash be semi-parental, but he also showed his fun and empathetic side.  

The havoc created by Todd's dog at the frog jumping contest was great too.  Besides the confusion we also got a more up close look at Savannah's mom and ex-in-law who showed up unexpectedly.  This gave Savannah a chance to show her newly developed backbone.  I loved seeing her tell them off, though there was also some indication that there could be trouble ahead.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Her Callahan Family Man - Tina Leonard (HAR #1481 - Jan 2014)

Series: Callahan Cowboys (Book 14)

A Callahan And A Cash -- Forever?

Sawyer Cash pregnant? With twins? The fiery-haired bodyguard who had secretly shared Jace Callahan's bed just rocked his world. The only solution is a quickie Vegas wedding. Then it's back to Rancho Diablo, where Jace can keep an eagle eye on his bride and babies-to-be while waging war against the Callahan nemesis hell-bent on stealing his land.

Jace knows Sawyer thinks she's only brought him trouble. She wanted to catch a Callahan and now she and their baby boy and girl are right in the line of fire. But doesn't Sawyer know she's the only woman for him, even if her family might be in the enemy camp? With things reaching a boiling point, Jace vows to fight for his family's future as only a Callahan can!

Jace and Sawyer had carried on a secret affair for a long time as she worked as a bodyguard on the ranch.  Then Sawyer quit her job and disappeared, leaving Jace wondering what had happened.  A few months later she bought him at the bachelor auction and stunned him with the news that she's pregnant with his twins.  Nothing is more important to him than getting his ring on her finger and his name on his children, then getting them home where he can protect them.  But there are things that she's done that have caused her no end of guilty feelings and she doesn't think there's any way for them to have a happy ending.

I loved Jace.  He really cared for Sawyer and was unhappy when she disappeared.  When she showed up again, having bought a date with him at the auction, he was thrilled.  I loved his reaction to her pregnancy and how happy he was to become a father.  Being a Callahan, he also wants to make sure that those babies have his name.  It was fun seeing him just roll right over all Sawyer's objections with his lighthearted banter, but also get shut down in some ways by her own methods.  The trip to Vegas and the wedding itself were fun.  Jace isn't so happy when he discovers that Sawyer had also been providing some information to her uncle, with whom the Callahans had been feuding for awhile.  It causes him to have some doubts about trusting her, but his love overcomes those pretty quickly.  From there he just needs to convince Sawyer that they belong together.

Sawyer has been in love with Jace from the beginning, but with her family and his on opposite sides of the conflict she doesn't see any hope of a happy future for them.  She's content with their affair until she decides that what she really wants is his love and that she can't have it.  It isn't until after she's left that she discovers she's pregnant.  She knows she has to tell him, but she doesn't want him to marry her out of obligation.  She tries really hard to convince him that she can take care of herself and the babies, but doesn't succeed.  She is also carrying a boatload of guilt.  She had originally taken the job as bodyguard as a way to watch the Callahan family for her uncle.  She soon cared more for them than doing the spying, but then got tricked into another round of spying that was far worse.  She feels that she brings worse trouble to the ranch and rather than distract Jace from his job of guarding the ranch she would be better living apart from him.  Once the babies arrive Sawyer makes it her mission to show the Callahans that her loyalty lies with them and not the Cash side.

There are a couple interesting twists to the ongoing battle with Wolf.  I loved Sawyer's self reliance, even when stuck on bedrest for the latter part of her pregnancy.  That really came into play when Wolf came bursting into her house being his obnoxious self.  Zapping him with her pink tazer really made him mad and put both her and Jace into his crosshairs.  There's a face to face confrontation between Wolf and Jace that also doesn't go Wolf's way.  We also get more insight into just how off Wolf is from the way he was raised.  The Callahans are really feeling the heat from Wolf and the cartel and wondering if there's any way they can win.  I loved Sawyer's final show of loyalty and what she uncovered.  I can't wait for Ash's story.

Second Chance Christmas - Tanya Michaels (HAR #1479 - Dec 2013)

Series: Colorado Cades (Book 2)

A Christmas To Remember…

Ski-lodge manager Elisabeth is the quiet Donnelly twin -- sedate, mature, responsible. It wasn't like her to fall in love with ski patroller Justin Cade, famous for his killer smile, blue eyes and way with women. But it was just like him to dump her when things began to get serious.

Now he's suddenly back in her life, and the timing couldn't be worse. Elisabeth has plans to marry a successful businessman, and with Christmas around the corner, she wants to make the holidays special for her adopted young goddaughter. Falling for Justin all over again would definitely not be the sensible thing to do. But maybe, for once in her life, Elisabeth should follow her heart instead of her head.

Elisabeth has had a rough year.  The man she had been dating, and fallen in love with, dumped her when she got too serious for him.  Then her best friend died from cancer, leaving Elisabeth to raise her daughter.  Just as she's making plans to marry a nice, stable man Justin slides back into her life, making her wonder if she's made a mistake. I liked Elisabeth.  Even though she knew that Justin had commitment issues, she had been willing to take a chance.  After getting her heart broken, she's ready to move on, but this time she's going to protect herself.  I thought the man she found was pretty bland, more interested in his work than in her.  When Justin started popping up again, she soon realized that what she felt for Steven wasn't enough for a marriage.  With Steven out of the picture she decides that this time she'll just live for the moment with Justin and not let herself fall for him again.  This time around she spends more time getting to know the Justin underneath the ladies man, and discovers a man whose past has made him afraid to risk his heart.  I really loved seeing her get him to talk about his past and how much better she understood him because of it.  I enjoyed seeing them together at her parents' house on Christmas, even if it did scare her away from him this time, fearing what another breakup could do to her and Kaylee.  I also loved her relationship with Kaylee.  She obviously loves being a mother in spite of her frequent fears about whether she can do a good job.  There are several terrific scenes showing both the good and bad sides of motherhood.

Justin is known as quite a ladies man.  He's fun, charming and terrified of anything that reeks of commitment.  His mom died of cancer when he was young, then he watched his dad just fade away from a broken heart.  Then his older brother lost his wife and son in an accident and he has seen Colin close everybody out.  Justin figures that if he refuses to fall in love he will never have to deal with that kind of loss.  He had been really enjoying his time with Elisabeth until she said she loved him.  That scared him so much he broke things off, quit his job at her family's lodge, and set out to avoid her.  Then Elisabeth's sister tried to talk him into contacting her again because Elisabeth is going to marry a man and move to California - a big mistake in her opinion.  Justin isn't crazy about the idea because he's never quite gotten over his time with her.  I loved the way he teases her and it's obvious that he really does care.  Opening up to her about his feelings about his mother and her loss isn't easy for him.  Getting included in her family's Christmas celebration only emphasizes what's missing in his life, but he still fights the truth.  I loved his conversation with Colin and how he was told that love was worth the risk "You were just too chicken to hold on to the one you loved."  I also enjoyed the scenes that Justin had with Kaylee.  She loved him so much and he loved her just as much right back.

There are some fun scenes involving Elisabeth's sister, the self-proclaimed "evil twin" and her efforts to make sure Elisabeth gets her happy ending.  I'd like to see her get her own book.

Her Rancher Rescuer - Donna Alward (HAR #1485 - Feb 2014)

Series: Cadence Creek Cowboys (Book 6)

Small-Town Girl, Big-Time Crush

Amy Wilson longs to escape the pointed barbs and knowing looks that come with having a certain reputation in a small town. A temp job with CEO and rancher Jack Shepard seems to offer a way out, if only she can stay focused on her goal.

Former world-class athlete Jack is as relationship-phobic as they come, so he's not worried that the soul-shattering kiss he and Amy shared will affect their working partnership. She's a girl who's going places, but Jack starts to wish that maybe he could tag along for the ride….

Lovely conclusion to the Cadence Creek series.  Amy is tired of being the focus of everyone's scorn and gossip and just wants to get away.  When she finds out that Jack needs a temporary assistant at his guest ranch, she offers her services.  She's attracted to him but she has plans for her future and he's not part of them.  Meanwhile, Jack is just as attracted but he doesn't do relationships so he's going to try to keep his distance.

I liked Amy and Jack, though each of them irritated me at different times.  Amy has the reputation of being a flirt, flighty and fast.  Her father left them when Amy was small and her mother has been depressed and withdrawn ever since.  Amy seems to be desperate to find someone who will love her and has dated almost every man in town.  While at a wedding she hears yet another person make an unkind comment about her and runs away in tears.  Jack comes to her rescue, taking the time to tell her that she is a better person than they give her credit for.  A couple weeks later she has taken his words to heart and made the decision to change her life by going to school.  When she finds out he is in a bind and needs some help at his ranch, she offers to help out.  She knows she can do a good job for him if she can just keep her mind on the job and off her attraction to him.  I loved seeing her really get into the job.  It was obvious that she was really good at it and once she got over her fear of making mistakes she enjoyed it.  She also discovered that the millionaire CEO was a whole different person when they were there, and that he was very hard to resist.  Spending time with him and getting to know him, she begins to fall for him, even though he's made it very clear that he isn't relationship material.  I loved the growth she showed as she finally began to trust herself and stop letting the past rule her.  I really liked seeing her stand up for her own needs and believe that she deserved someone who wanted her and needed her for herself.  There was one place that had me in tears as she made the decision to move on and then again as they finally found their HEA.

Jack is in Cadence Creek for his brother's wedding when he comes to Amy's rescue.  Because he doesn't know her he isn't aware of her reputation until he hears the comment that upsets her.  Jack takes the time to talk to her, find out a little bit about her and show her that she's more than what they think she is.  When he comes back to town a couple weeks later he shares his dilemma with her and is surprised by her offer to help.  Having noted their attraction to each other, he makes sure she knows that he doesn't do relationships, but that he is happy to have her help.  Once they've arrived in Montana he is amazed by how different she is and seriously impressed by her abilities.  He begins to regret his insistence that they not get involved, especially when he has such a good time showing her how to have fun.  Jack was terribly hurt years earlier when he fell in love with a woman who then broke his heart.  He's been afraid ever since then to trust another woman with his heart.  Being around Amy makes him think of things that he hasn't considered in a long time, but he just can't let go of his fears.  By the end of two weeks I just wanted to kick him in the butt and tell him to suck it up.  After the night they had together he treated her so badly I thought he was lucky she didn't run him over with a large vehicle.  Even after she left he couldn't bring himself to admit how he felt about her, and made things even worse later on.  I completely loved seeing his brother tell him what a complete idiot he had been.  I loved it when he said "Get out of here.  Your romantic woes are annoying my cows."

I loved the depth of emotion throughout the book.  I could feel Amy's hurt at the wedding, her embarrassment when she got lost in Montana, her happiness and then disappointment after New Year's Eve, and then her steely determination to get on with her life.  Each one was appropriate to the scene, and fully believable.  Meanwhile, I could appreciate Jack's encouragement of Amy at the wedding, and his attraction to her at the time was obvious but controlled.  It wasn't until they got to Montana that his vulnerability became more obvious.  He was desperately fighting his growing feelings for Amy.  His deep seated hurt over the tragedy of his past was truly heartbreaking, and his bone deep fear was paralyzing for him.  It definitely made the ending that much more satisfying.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Big Sky Secrets - Linda Lael Miller (HQN - Jan 2014)

Series: Parable MT (Book 6)

Self-made tycoon Landry Sutton heads to Hangman Bend's Ranch to sell his land to his brother Zane. Though he's got cowboy in his blood, Landry plans to return to city life before the dust even settles on his boots. Of course, he didn't count on falling for Big Sky Country…or Ria Manning.

Ria's starting to settle into country life herself…until she has a close encounter of the terrifying kind with a buffalo. Turns out the peeping monster belongs to the cowboy next door -- and he has her running even more scared than his bison. She wants a home where the buffalo don't roam, and the men don't either. Could Landry's homecoming be her heart's undoing?

I loved this last book in the Parable series.  It was a really fun wrap up.  When Landry came to Parable he wasn't planning to stay, but life seemed to have other plans for him.  Ria had come to Parable on a whim, looking for a new beginning after the death of her husband.  The two of them struck sparks off each other from the beginning.

The introduction to Ria sets the tone for the book.  She is relatively new to Parable, having bought her farm sight unseen and started a flower growing business.  She's made some good friends, but still keeps pretty much to herself.  One person who is NOT her friend is next door neighbor and buffalo rancher Landry Sutton.  For the last year his buffalo herd (all two of them) have been escaping his land and coming to feast on her flowers.  Once again they are back and she's had enough.  When he arrives to get his animals she lets him have it, getting more frustrated as he just stands there grinning at her.  When he tells her that all that passion has a better use and kisses her, it rocks her world.  She's been emotionally numb since the death of her husband and the last person she wants to feel anything for is Landry.  He's too handsome, has the women falling all over him, and she just doesn't like him - or so she keeps trying to tell herself.  She doesn't want to admit that what she's feeling is far stronger than what she felt for her husband, especially at the end.  He had cheated on her, destroying her trust in him, and making it hard for her to trust another man.  But Landry won't let it go and tricks her into agreeing to go on a date with him to the local saloon.  Between the events of the date and his refusal to let her hide any longer, Ria finds herself letting go of her fears. 

I loved Landry in this book.  In the previous book, as Zane's younger city-slicker brother, he comes across as pretty snobby.  He came to Parable to sell his land to his brother and head back to the city.  By the time this one begins, he has begun to settle in on his property.  He still hasn't fully decided to stay, but he's a lot happier than he had been.  This book starts out with Landry going head to head with a bucking bronc as he's trying to prepare for his first rodeo.  It isn't going well.  Things look up when he gets called to Ria's farm to retrieve his animals - again.  He has enjoyed their spats and realizes that the woman really appeals to him.  He would like to see where the attraction might go, but she won't give him a chance.  I loved seeing him confront her with his belief that her dislike is really because she's afraid of the way he makes her feel.  I loved their date and seeing Landry show himself to be a gentleman really sealed the deal for me.  He had decided that she was definitely the woman for him and his gentle yet relentless pursuit of her is so romantic.

I always enjoy the humor that LLM uses in her books.  The events are described so well that I feel like I'm right there and I usually find myself laughing out loud.  Two prime examples are when Ria finds the buffalo in her yard and the date at the saloon.  Just the description of what she saw out the window that morning made her problem with Landry seem perfectly logical.  Even better was the narrative of the date.  From her niece's commentary on her clothing to the events of the next morning, I was laughing all the way.  I loved the description of Ria's beer consumption and her disbelief of the effect that Landry could see that it was having - until it was too late.  The trip back to her house and what happened when they got there was a riot.  Then Landry's care for her later was the sweetest thing and really showed that he cares.  I also loved Landry's butler, Highbridge.  He is such a proper British fellow that seeing him rag on Landry in that slightly snooty way is hysterical.  Highbridge is quite fond of Ria and I love his combination of protectiveness and matchmaking.  His antics for the rodeo were fun to see.

LLM also makes family of central importance in her books.  Landry and Zane had grown apart during their adult years, but with his arrival in Parable they start to repair that relationship.  Zane can be a bit of a pain as a know it all older brother, but it's obvious that he cares.  We also learn more about their early lives with their mother.  Even the rocky relationship with their father undergoes some changes.  Ria has some family issues of her own to deal with.  Her older half sister, who comes across as a real witch at the beginning, has always made Ria feel like an outsider.  The only good part of that relationship has been Ria's niece Quinn, who runs away from home and comes to Parable, rescuing a dog along the way.  They talk her mother into letting her stay for the summer and we see Quinn grow and change during the time she is there.  There are also brief appearances by earlier couples as we see how their families are doing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Snowed In - Cassie Miles (HI #1481 - Mar 2014)

A small-town innkeeper's life is transformed by a sexy army ranger

Rescuing a beautiful woman from four armed men wasn't how Blake Randall planned to spend his army leave. But as chief security detail at his best friend's wedding, the ranger's mission is just beginning. A blizzard has cut off Sarah Bentley's Colorado B and B from the outside world, trapping them with a killer.

Snowed in with the rugged stranger who already saved her life once, Sarah has no choice but to trust Blake. As passion ignites, she realizes he's more than a strong shoulder to lean on. With danger escalating, it's time to listen to what her heart's telling her: with Blake by her side, they can survive anything….

This was a fun book.  Sarah is hosting her friend Emily's wedding at her B and B.  Things get off to a rough start when they are attacked by four armed men.  Fortunately they are rescued by Blake, the groom's best friend, who is also in charge of security for the wedding.  As the rest of the wedding guests arrive the danger increases, especially with the arrival of a blizzard that cuts them off.  Blake and Sarah have to work together to stop the threat, while getting to know each other at the same time.

I really liked both Sarah and Blake.  Sarah has been running Bentley's on her own for years.  She is very independent, but she is also alone.  She has a strong personality that tends to make her friends with men but not the type to have a relationship with.  Her initial impression of Blake is that they have nothing in common, but she does feel a certain amount of attraction to him.  When he rescues her and Emily from the gunmen she gets the chance to know him a little better.  I really liked the way that she kept her head throughout the crisis.  She also made it clear to Blake that she needed to know what was happening.  As she learned more about the threat facing them she spent more time with Blake and discovered that they were much more alike than she thought.  With the intensity of the danger her feelings for Blake were growing fast also.  This caused some stress between them as she was afraid it was too fast to be real.  Sarah also has to learn how to accept help and to compromise if she really wants to have a future with Blake.

Blake is nearing the end of his military career.  He is ready to start a new phase of his life and maybe even settle down.  He is impressed with Sarah's ability to stay calm in a crisis.  He has arrived at the B and B already aware of some threats against the groom's father, who is a general, and the bride's father, who is a senator.  The attempt to kidnap the bride just adds another layer to his stress.  Once he accepted Sarah's requirement to keep her informed it gives him the chance to get to know her.  It didn't take long for him to realize how much he liked her.  I loved the romantic side of him that came out the night she tried on her bridesmaid dress.  I really enjoyed seeing him adjust to her strong personality and come to truly appreciate it, while at the same time not losing himself.  He is willing to compromise his own desires to be with her, but insists on the same from her.

The suspense story itself was good but not particularly intense until near the end.  With both the fathers being important men, the threat could have been aimed at either one.  The identity of the person behind the threats was well hidden, with several interesting twists on the way to the showdown.  Each time someone new was added to the mix the questions just got harder.  Having them all confined because of the blizzard made things very interesting.

There were some pretty amusing scenes throughout the book.  The whole idea of the father of the groom being an army general and the father of the bride being a liberal Senator made for some terrific tension.  Both men had pretty big egos and I enjoyed seeing Sarah try to keep them under control.  The very best part was seeing Sarah, Blake, and a couple others taking bets on what would happen when the two met, and then seeing the sweet little bride take them both on.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Secret of Cherokee Cove - Paula Graves (HI #1479 - Mar 2014)

Series: Bitterwood P.D. (Book 5)

A near-fatal accident unearths old family secrets

Detective Walker Nix knew there was more to the Bitterwood police chief's "accident" and that someone wanted his boss dead. But when the victim's sister, U.S. marshal Dana Massey, insisted on becoming involved, Nix had a hunch his case -- and his heart -- was in for a heap of trouble.

With decades-old secrets -- including a missing secret baby -- being uncovered, it soon became apparent that Dana's family was at the center of the mystery. As Nix helped Dana solve this cold case, he found himself opening up more than he'd ever dared. Yet when it was over, she'd be leaving. Unless Detective Tall, Dark and Handsome took the scariest step of all…

Excellent book.  Dana has come to Bitterwood for a couple weeks to see her brother and meet his fiancee.  When Doyle is involved in an accident that turns out to have been deliberate she is determined to help find the culprit.  To do that she's going to have to work with Walker Nix, a man she finds incredibly attractive.  Nix is just as taken with her, but getting involved with his boss's sister isn't a good idea, especially since she'll be leaving soon anyway.  

I really liked both Dana and Nix.  Dana is a US marshal and very good at what she does.  She is also a workaholic, using her job as a way to fill her life.  As the oldest in her family, after her parents were killed in an accident she took responsibility for her two younger brothers.  She blames herself for the death of her youngest brother and has never been able to open herself up to emotional commitment to another person.  Dana's first day in Bitterwood has her accompanying Nix as they look for her brother.  She is attracted to him, but resists because she won't be there for long.  Investigating the accident with Nix shows them both that there is something going on that involves her family.  The deeper they delve into her mother's past the more it becomes obvious that someone is hiding something big and they'll stop at nothing to keep it that way.  Dana is determined to get at the truth and working with Nix is the best way to do it.  I loved seeing Dana start to open up to Nix and share her feelings with him.  Her guilt has been overwhelming until Nix shows her that she couldn't have changed what happened.  Her feelings for Nix are growing too, but she is afraid of loving and losing.  

Nix has spent his whole life in Bitterwood except for a short time spent in the Marines.  He loves his hometown and the mountains.  Working as a detective gives him a bit of excitement in his life while keeping him close to home.  He hasn't been happy about the problems in the police department and is fully on board with weeding out the corruption.  I like the fact that he has respect and liking for his boss.  He's the one who takes the initiative to go look for Doyle when he doesn't show up where he should be.  I also enjoyed his reaction to Dana and how he realized early on that she was going to be very important to him.  I loved his protectiveness toward her, even though he knew she was capable of taking care of herself.  Working with Dana gave him the chance to get to know her even better and realize that he wanted her in his life permanently.  And that meant he was actually going to have to talk about his feelings too.  I loved the ending and what he offered to do and how it all worked out.

I loved the mystery of Dana and Doyle's mother.  Doyle had first gotten an idea that there was something going on during the last book and his investigation is what got him hurt at the beginning of this one.  As Dana and Nix discovered more about what had happened the danger she was in increased.  I loved the whole investigation and seeing Tallie come to life for Dana.  The person behind the attacks wasn't a total surprise but there were some surprises leading up to it.  I'm looking forward to the next book and seeing how it all comes together.

There wasn't much about the missing crime boss in this book, as it concentrated mostly on the mystery of Dana's mother.  There were a few mentions of the ongoing search and investigation.  I expect the next one will wrap it all up.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Blood on Copperhead Trail - Paula Graves (HI #1473 - Feb 2014)

Series: Bitterwood P.D. (Book 4)

A raging storm and a ticking clock could mean the difference between life and death.

Bitterwood's new department chief, Doyle Massey, had a lot to prove to investigator Laney Harvey. Her take-no-prisoners attitude and his devil-may-care personality were destined to clash. Yet when three girls go missing in the Smokies, including Laney's sister, their priorities have to change. With lives in the balance, the two suddenly find themselves on the same side against a ticking clock.

Their biggest obstacles? The weather and one snow-covered mountain. Not to mention an attraction that's proving difficult to ignore. It isn't the time for creating any kind of lasting relationship. But with danger lurking around every jagged turn, taking such a chance might be a case of now or never.

Another terrific story from the Bitterwood P.D.  Doyle is the new police chief and is trying to get settled into his new job.  That isn't being helped by Laney, who is there to investigate the department because of the corruption uncovered in the previous book Smoky Ridge Curse.  Her intensity and his laid back attitude strike definite sparks off each other.  When three girls go missing their priorities change quickly to working together.

I loved Doyle and Laney.  Laney is intense and very focused on her family also. She is intensely protective of her sister as is shown several times in the book. Her job is to investigate the police department and unearth any more corruption that might be there, with the possibility that the department would be dissolved and absorbed by the county sheriff's department.  Obviously, Doyle isn't happy about that idea.  Laney doesn't know much about him, just that he's a transplant from Alabama and seems rather devil may care.  She gets to see a bit of what he's capable of when a call about a body leads to one of the girls who was with her sister.  The two of them then find Laney's sister, who was shot and left for dead, and find themselves working together to find the missing girl.  In spite of the slightly antagonistic attitude of their initial meeting, Laney finds herself very attracted to Doyle.  

Doyle had only been on the job a few days when he met Laney.  He appreciates her intensity and apparent honesty, but he's not going to let his department go under.  He may give the impression that's he's laid back but he's just as determined as she is.  With the discovery of the murdered girl and the wounded Janelle, all efforts are being put into finding the missing girl.  With many of the locals unsure about him, Doyle finds himself paired with Laney during the search.  He's very attracted to her but tries not to let it be a distraction.  I really liked the way that he was determined to protect both Janelle and Laney.  I also liked his sense of humor and how he told Laney how important laughter is to staying sane when dealing with so much bad stuff.

I loved the chemistry between Doyle and Laney.  The attraction is strong but they don't let it distract them from the job at hand.  I loved the various get-to-know-you things that went on, with Laney being surprised by the "flatlander's" abilities and Doyle accepting that Laney isn't just a desk jockey lawyer.  There are some pretty amusing conversations between the two of them.  They also learn how to work together and lean on each other in times of stress.

The mystery itself is really good.  Though the crime boss from the earlier books is gone, it seems that there is another trying to take his place.  That man has certain things he needs from Bitterwood and the girls are the way he is going to get it.  The help he gets to carry out those plans is both surprising and not, and leads to quite a showdown at the end.  Part of the mystery is solved, but part is ongoing.  I think that there is also another mystery going on that, by a couple mentions of Doyle's parents, may involve his family.  Can't wait to read the next one.

The Major's Wife - Lauri Robinson (HH #1171 - Feb 2014)

Major Seth Parker knows his wife, and the woman standing before him isn't her. The manipulative vixen who tricked his hand in marriage could never possess such innocence--nor get his heart racing like this.

Millie St. Clair has traveled halfway across the country to pull off one of the greatest deceptions ever. But with everything at stake it soon becomes clear that the hardest part might be walking away from the Major when it's all over....

Excellent book with a complicated storyline and some wonderfully portrayed characters.  Seth was tricked into marriage and left his wife immediately after the wedding five years earlier.  He has been attempting to get her to sign divorce papers ever since.  He is then surprised to receive a telegram telling him that she is on her way to Ft. Sill to see him.  He's even more surprised when he sees her, because the woman he's looking at isn't his wife, but her younger sister.  Though he tells her he knows at the beginning, he stops when she works so hard to convince him.  There's something about Millie that fills a hole he didn't know he had.  For years Seth has been determined that he would not fall in love or marry.  He remembers the pain his mother went through when his father and two uncles were killed during the war.  He doesn't want to put any woman through that kind of misery.  But being around Millie starts to change him and soon he's wishing she really was his wife.  He has to keep reminding himself that he's married, and not to her, though it wasn't like that at first.  I loved the war of wills between them as he tried to force her to tell the truth, especially the battle of the scents.  As time went on he knew he had to tell her that he knew the truth but he didn't want to ruin what was growing between them. Seth is an honorable man and his inner turmoil was nearly unbearable the longer it went, until everything came out.  Things appeared even worse than he expected and he had to decide if he wanted to fight for Millie or not.  I loved his confrontation with Rosemary and how he dealt with her.

Millie has spent her life cleaning up her sister's messes.  Rosemary has always been emotionally manipulative and knows just how to get Millie to do what she wanted.  What she wants this time is for Millie to go west and delay Seth from asking for a divorce until after Rosemary has given birth to her lover's baby.  She threatens to kill herself and the baby if Millie doesn't do it.  As Millie is a much softer, gentler person than Rosemary, it's going to take incredible acting skills to pull it off.  It's not really a surprise that Millie just can't do it.  I really enjoyed seeing how much Millie liked living at the fort and how easy it was for her to fit in.  She had a terrible time remembering to act like her sister which created some interesting situations.  I really liked seeing her interact with the Indians and how she came to like them.  Her admiration for Seth quickly turned to love, but the guilt of her deception was tearing her up.  She was heartbroken when the truth came out and he wouldn't even listen to her explanation.  I loved seeing her stand up to her sister and then go after her heart's desire.

I loved the setting of the old west's Ft. Sill and the Indian troubles.  I enjoyed seeing Millie learn about army life, both the pleasures and the challenges.  I also loved how well the various characters were portrayed, with both good and bad qualities, making them very easy to relate to.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Undercover Memories - Alice Sharpe (HI #1385 - Nov 2012)

Series: The Legacy (Book 1)


Reeling after being left at the altar, Paige Graham seeks comfort in her secluded cabin. But there's someone sleeping in her bed-a sharp-eyed, sexy stranger who claims to have no memory. While a little digging reveals John's true identity, Paige knows there's more to his past...and more to her feelings.

He may have been told who he is, but bodyguard John Cinca isn't satisfied with the answers, especially when they place Paige in danger. With his protective instinct in high gear, John vows to uncover his true identity while keeping her safe. But what if recovering his memory means he is the one Paige should be afraid of?

Good book with plenty of action to keep me hooked.  Paige is hiding out at the cabin as she recovers from being left at the altar.  She didn't expect to find an injured man there, one who claims he doesn't know who he is.  They quickly find out who he is, but not how and why he was attacked.  With a killer on their heels, John needs to find out who he is and keep Paige safe.

Paige had a lucky escape from a man who has never forgotten his first wife.  She went to the cabin where they were going to honeymoon just to get away from the pity for awhile.  John's arrival spooks her, especially when he's on the news as a person of interest in an attempted murder case.  But something tells her that she can trust him and that trust appears to be justified when he saves her from a man who attacks and kidnaps her.  I really liked the way that Paige keeps her head when all these things start happening.  She also trusts her instincts, which tell her that John isn't dangerous to her.  I liked seeing her help him figure out who he is and how she is determined to stick with him until they do.  There's some good chemistry between them also. I liked her sensitivity about his fears and how she's there for him as he tries to deal with them. There's one spot near the end where she seems to lose faith in him, but she gets it together in time.  

John is understandably upset over his inability to remember anything.  I liked the way that he tries to keep Paige out of his troubles, but is there to protect her when the bad guy shows up.  He is very determined to find out who he is and why this person is trying to kill him.  He has a recurring nightmare that involves owls and kids screaming and is afraid that he did something really bad.  He wants to believe Paige when she says he couldn't do anything like that, but it is very hard for him.  I really enjoyed his protectiveness as he tried to keep Paige safe.  He could tell that he was falling for her but didn't trust his own character.  I really liked his deductive abilities as he and Paige tracked down people who know him and tried to piece together his life.  I enjoyed the final showdown and the explanation of John's story.  

The mystery itself was pretty good, with the big question of why someone was trying to kill John.  I'm not sure we ever found out why, but at least there was some resolution.  The bad guy was definitely creepy and scary and very, very determined.  There were a lot of bodies piling up by the end.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reilly's Promise - Christyne Butler (Samhain - May 2008)

She stands for everything he despises. Only, the minute they meet, she becomes everything he desires. Former US Marine turned private investigator, Reilly Murdock is no stranger to high society. Thanks to his malevolent millionaire stepfather, he turned his back on that elite world years ago. But when a friend calls in a favor he's honor bound to repay Reilly finds himself stuck as glorified babysitter to a spoiled heiress with secrets of her own. 

Since her father's sudden death six months ago, Cassandra Van Winter has been trying to conceal her family's millions of dollars of debt. She can't afford to let anyone near enough to discover the charade she's maintaining. At first, the discovery of a multi-million-dollar necklace seemed like the answer to her prayers, but that was before the "accidents" started. Now, she takes one look at the six feet of muscle her mother's hired to protect her, and curses her body for coming back to life. As the "accidents" increase and danger comes closer, Reilly gets closer too. Before long it's not just her life in danger, but her heart.

I loved this book.  Reilly is wallowing in his misery when his friend and mentor "Digger" calls him.  The daughter of a friend has been having unexplained "accidents" and her mother is worried.  Would Reilly go act as bodyguard and see if he can find out what is going on?  Reilly isn't thrilled with the idea of babysitting a rich girl, but he owes his friend so he goes.  

I loved Reilly.  He is going through his own personal hell, having been injured during the war and been given a medical discharge.  He hadn't expected to end his career as a Marine just yet.  Now he's working as a private investigator and drowning his sorrows when he isn't working.  Digger's request for assistance can't be refused, but Reilly really doesn't want to be around high society people again.  He'd spent years in that world, putting up with his stepfather's nastiness and he doesn't have any desire to be there again.  His first sight of Cassandra knocks him for a loop, as her beauty awakens long buried feelings.  It isn't going to be easy though, because she wants nothing to do with him as a bodyguard.  He has to convince her that those accidents aren't really accidents, keep her safe and try to resist the attraction he feels for her.  I loved the chemistry between Reilly and Cassandra.  There's a fair amount of snarkiness between  them as Reilly uses sarcasm to try to keep distance between them, but he's fighting a losing battle.  He also discovers that Cassandra isn't the spoiled brat that he expected and that there's a lot they have in common.  He suspects that she's keeping some kind of secret that might have bearing on what is happening, but she's not telling.  I loved seeing him blow away her expectations about him as he fits so well in her world.  I got quite a laugh out of seeing her first sight of him in his tux and then as he handles things at the party they went to.  I also enjoyed his surprise about his own circumstances when he talked to his half brother and what he did with that information.  He had some pretty intense memories that he had to deal with but being with Cassandra ended up giving him a different outlook and helped him accept some of the things that had happened.  He had a couple instances where he fell down on his job as bodyguard because of his personal reactions to Cassandra, but they worked out okay.  

Cassandra is hiding a pretty big secret from the world.  Her father's death six months earlier exposed the fact that he was deeply in debt.  Cassandra is doing her best to keep that information quiet as she works desperately to find a way to recover.  In her work as the owner of an antique store she acquired a necklace that is worth millions.  As she prepares to sell that necklace strange things begin to happen.  She refuses to think she's being targeted until her mother hires a bodyguard for her.  She tries to convince Reilly that he's not needed until he saves her from yet another "accident".  She is also fighting him because he's making her feel things that she's avoided for years.  She's had enough trouble with men over the years that she really doesn't trust them, but Reilly is making her rethink that distrust.  I loved her strength and independence as she tries to secure a decent life for herself and her mother after her father's death.  Her resistance to Reilly at first is mainly because she doesn't really believe there's a threat, but once she is convinced she is very glad to have him around.  I loved her growing appreciation for his abilities, and also for the way he makes her feel.  There are times she came across as a bit snobby, such as her resistance to him coming to the party with her.  But overall she was a good person caught in a bad situation.  Her feelings of betrayal were deep when she learned of his background and it only emphasized how much she had come to care for him.  I was very impressed with the way she kept her head at the end when she was in danger.  I loved the ending and the way she surprised Reilly.

The mystery of the accidents and the stalker was very good.  I was definitely invested in finding out what was going on and who was behind it.  I did have the who figured out pretty early, but the exact why was still in question up to the end.  There was also a very interesting twist that I didn't see coming before it was all wrapped up.  I would like to see a story involving Reilly's brother as he seemed to be a pretty interesting guy in the few times he was included.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Doctor's Former Fiancee - Caro Carson (HSE #2316 - Feb 2014)

Series: Doctors MacDowell (Book 2)

When Braden MacDowell is reunited with Lana Donnoli, will their rivalry douse the last spark of their youthful infatuation--or ignite embers that never stopped smoldering?

She didn't want to imagine that the Braden MacDowell she had once loved could have turned so cold and calculating. But the billionaire CEO was taking away Dr. Lana Donnoli's funding. Just what was going on beneath her ex-fiance's icy facade? And just what could she do to get him to change his stubborn mind?

The last place Braden wanted to be was back in his family's hospital, close to the woman who had owned his heart. His business was all about the bottom line, a fact Lana just couldn't comprehend. But their passion for each other was still just as intense, still impossible to resist. Would those old feelings be enough to get them to a place where love was the best medicine?

Very good reunion story with feelings of guilt, expectations, forgiveness and healing.  Lana had called off their engagement six years earlier when she saw their lives going in drastically different directions and she hasn't seen Braden since then.  Then, on her first day as head of research at West Central, Braden arrives to cancel the funding on one of her research projects.  She can't believe that he would put money ahead of the good of the patients.  What she needs is to find a way to change his mind.  She's not happy to discover that the attraction between them is just as strong as it ever was, because she doesn't see any way to reconcile their two completely different mindsets.  I felt so bad for Lana.  She and Braden had met and fallen in love during medical school.  Their dream was to open a practice together and build a life together.  During their final year she saw him suddenly start to pull away from medicine and start talking about getting a business degree.  She felt betrayed by him and abandoned when he left Texas for Harvard.  To top it off, she felt guilty about miscarrying their baby, blaming her workaholic habits for it.  Now that he's back, she's fighting that attraction because she still doesn't see a future for them.  She thinks that Braden would blame her for what happened.  But as they work together to find a way to keep her research going, she discovers that after six years apart perhaps both of them have learned a little about the art of compromise and communication.  I loved seeing Lana finally tell him what had driven them apart and the effect it was still having on her life and her fears of their future.  

Braden had realized quickly during medical school that being a doctor was not going to make him happy, in spite of the family tradition.  He was much more interested in the business side of the profession.  Unfortunately he was never able to convince Lana and he was heartbroken when she ended their engagement.  Six years later he is dating another woman and considering marriage to her, but feels that he has to lay the ghosts of his past to rest.  He uses the research funding as an excuse to come to West Central and confront his memories of Lana, not expecting to see her in person.  He is stunned to realize that he never stopped loving her.  Now he wants to find out what went wrong before, and see if there is a way to be together again.  I loved Braden's determination to win Lana back.  His idea of the camping trip, where there were no distractions, was a real winner and it was great to see them finally begin to get to the bottom of their problems.  It was nice to see him admit to his own role in their issues.  The real challenge came when he had to go back to work and they had to deal with separations.  I loved the ending and how they worked everything out.  I have to say that I suspected that Braden would end up doing what he did and found it to be the perfect solution.

I really enjoyed seeing both Lana and Braden show their individual strengths.  Her abilities as a doctor are outstanding, as is shown during the accident scene that they help at.  I really liked Braden's obvious appreciation of her skills.  Braden was a little harder to like at the beginning because his financial abilities seemed to have made him uncaring of the results of his actions.  But he did end up willing to help her find a way to continue the program.  I liked that he had they courage to go after his own dreams rather than just do what was expected of him.

Monday, February 17, 2014

For the Sake of Their Son - Catherine Mann (HD #2275 - Jan 2014)

Series: Alpha Brotherhood (Book 5)

Friendship turns to passion...with consequences.

No one knows Elliot Starc better than Lucy Ann Joyner. Yet after one reckless night of passion, their friendship is in tatters. And though women line up for the race-car driver's attention, none of them help him forget Lucy Ann.

Except now he and Lucy Ann have a baby, and Elliot wants a second chance. The chance to become the father he never had. The chance for best friends to become something more. But can Lucy Ann forgive the mistakes he's made and trust that he wants more than a marriage for the sake of their son?

Very good book with fun, drama and intense emotions.  Elliot and Lucy Ann have been friends all their lives.  When he became a famous race car driver she took a job as his personal assistant, a job that worked for years.  Then they indulge in one night of passion that changes their lives.

I loved the way the book started out.  Elliot was at his friend's bachelor party when he was knocked out and kidnapped.  It turns out to be a friendly sort of kidnapping, because it's his friends doing it.  They dump him off at his childhood home where he sees Lucy Ann, who he hasn't seen in eleven months - since their night together.  But she isn't alone, she is holding a baby.  Stunned to discover he's a father, especially since he never planned to have kids, he is now determined to be a far better father than his own had been.  Elliot started out planning to get Lucy back in his bed also, but trying to do so without truly involving his emotions.  He freely admits his stupidity in letting Lucy Ann go in the first place, and not following her when she left. The things he had started feeling for her scared him, so he pushed her away. He's really nervous about being a father because his own had been abusive, but he's determined to do it right.  I loved seeing him with baby Eli and how sweet he really could be.  I also enjoyed the way his initial plans for Lucy Ann changed as he realized how much he needed her in his life.  Thanks to them being friends for so long he had a good idea of how to do that.  I really enjoyed his use of fairy tale themes, especially during their time in Spain.  

Lucy Ann had grown up with a mother who was always looking for a man to take care of her.  Some of her choices were pretty bad, and the effect on Lucy Ann was to make her very wary of what people called "love".  She and Elliot had always been friends, looking out for each other when their home lives got bad.  When he left home she felt somewhat abandoned even though she understood his reasons.  When she worked for him later their friendship continued to grow.  Then one night a celebration got out of hand and they slept together.  The next morning his girlfriend showed up and Lucy Ann realized that he had essentially cheated on Gianna with her which made her furious.  It brought back too many bad memories from her childhood.  So she left him and went home to her aunt.  She didn't want to tell him of her pregnancy when she saw he was engaged, but then kept putting it off until it was too late.  She wasn't very happy when his friends dumped him there and tried to get him to go away.  She was rather surprised by his determination to be a father to Eli.  She also wasn't happy about her continued attraction to Elliot.  Her guilt made her agree to stay with him for several weeks so he could get to know Eli, but she wasn't sure she could resist him.  It didn't take long for her to realize that she was deeply in love with him, but she wasn't sure she could trust him to make and keep a commitment.  I loved seeing her get won over by his love for Eli and the care he showed to her.  I loved her reactions to their time in Spain.  She also realized that she had to let go of her fears if she wanted a chance for them to have a happy ending to their own fairy tale.

I'm sad that this is the last of the Alpha Brotherhood stories as it has been a wonderful series.  I loved seeing each of these scarred and lonely men find the woman who complements him perfectly.  Each story has had characters who have believable flaws and issues.  I loved the epilogue of this book and seeing them all together with their families.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Promises in the Dark - Stephanie Tyler (Dell - Nov 2010)

Series: Shadow Force (Book 2)

On the run, in each other’s arms, with one last chance to survive.

A rugged Navy SEAL, Zane Scott was part of a failed mission to rescue Dr. Olivia Strohm from abduction by the terrorist group Dead Man’s Hand (DMH) -- and her anguished screams have haunted him ever since. So when he gets word that the beautiful physician has escaped from her captors in Africa, he’s got personal reasons to storm the continent and save her.

Like her would-be liberator, Olivia carries the burden of a dark secret from her past. Ruthless and relentless, the DMH has threatened to hunt her down -- and to systematically hurt anyone she’s close to. The last thing she wants is to be rescued -- even by someone as shockingly handsome as Zane. Yet the hot-headed special ops hero has come for her, and together she and Zane just might have a shot at not only stopping DMH’s reign of terror, but also saving what’s left of their souls.

This book begins six months after the end of Lie With Me.  Zane has been haunted by the fact that they weren't able to rescue Olivia from DMH.  When he hears that she's escaped and is on the run in Africa, he is determined to rescue her.  What he doesn't expect is her refusal to be rescued.  She knows the people at DMH want her back and will stop at nothing to get her.  She doesn't want anyone else to get hurt because of her.  

I liked Zane and Olivia.  Both have some serious baggage that keeps them from getting close to other people, but from the beginning they connect with each other.  Zane had been a street kid in Africa after his missionary parents were killed.  He had been taken and sold, but escaped soon after.  Several years later he was found and adopted but has always had trouble trusting anyone but his brothers.  Throughout the story we see just how close that relationship is.  He's not sure why he is so obsessed with finding Olivia, but he goes with it.  Meanwhile, Olivia has managed to escape her captors after having been forced to do black market organ transplants.  She feels tremendous guilt over it and would rather stay there and do some good rather than go back to the US.  As they work to evade those who are chasing them they also find themselves sharing things they've never talked about with anyone else.  The chemistry between them is also strong and they wonder if there's a chance  for a future together. I really enjoyed seeing the way that their developing relationship helped both of them deal with some of the traumas of their pasts.  

There are two secondary stories also.  Zane's brother Caleb has been tasked with capturing Vivienne, a computer guru who is suspected of selling a program to DMH.  It doesn't take long for him to figure out that she's innocent of those charges.  Now he has to protect her while she figures out a way to safeguard the program and make it useless to the terrorists.  I liked Caleb a lot.  He has a protective streak a mile wide, as shown in his interactions with his two brothers.  That protectiveness adds another layer with Vivi because he is so attracted to her that he just can't fight it.  He had some tough choices to make while trying to find out if she was one of the good guys or not.  Vivi is one of those supersmart people who has never had good luck with relationships.  She's not quite sure whether she can trust Caleb or not but her instincts say yes.  She has to decide if she can also trust him with her heart.

There is a third storyline involving a medical mission in Africa.  This is one of the places that Zane and Olivia end up during their escape.  Rowan is a former military medic who goes there to help and as a way to find some inner peace after years of war.  She lost her husband on 9/11 and has felt empty ever since.  There she meets Tristan, a man who works closely with the clinic, training people who provide security there and at other clinics.  I liked Rowan's strength as she deals with the dangers surrounding the clinic and directly affecting one of her patients.  She's also stunned by the immediate attraction she feels for Tristan.  Tristan is experiencing the same attraction, stronger than he's felt for anyone else.  He's hoping that she can stick it out and give them a chance at a future together.  

The suspense part of the story, with DMH's pursuit of both Olivia and Vivi was very good.  The action is good as they have to evade capture.  We also get periods of having the story told by DMH's point of view and see that everything is not going smoothly there.  Internal conflict is shown and it's interesting to see how this conflict affects the pursuit of our two ladies.  The conclusion is pretty good, with some things still left unresolved to lead into the next book.