Saturday, May 31, 2014

Special Ops Rendezvous - Karen Anders (HRS #1804 - June 2014)

Series: Adair Legacy (Book 3)

A beautiful P.I. and a damaged warrior race to prevent an assassination

He can't remember what they did to him while he'd been held captive. But the blackouts and memory loss Sam Winston suffers since returning home scare the decorated soldier more than combat. Most of all, he fears placing those he cares about in danger...especially Olivia Owens.

Despite the risks, the gorgeous investigator is determined to help Sam remember the terrible secrets locked inside his head. Olivia is convinced he's the key to a terrifying conspiracy. Working closely together, Olivia hopes that Sam makes progress with uncovering the past, and that the walls around his long-guarded heart fall down....

This series just keeps getting better. I have been waiting for Sam's story since the first book. He is still trying to recover from the torture he was subjected to while a prisoner in Afghanistan. His blackouts and memory loss scare him because of the things he sees in his nightmares. Just as he feels he is starting to make some progress, the therapist he has been working with is brutally murdered. Then he discovers that the doctor had asked his private investigator sister to keep an eye on Sam, fearing that he was in danger. Sam is afraid that what is going on with him will bring harm to those he cares about - his family, and now Olivia.

Sam is the middle son of Kate Winston, former vice president and possible presidential candidate. There is also a great deal of family wealth. Sam wanted to make his way on his own merits, so joined the military and became a Ranger. After his rescue he has come home to try to get his head back together before going back on duty. In the last couple months there have been attempts on his mother's life, including one by a fellow Ranger and friend of Sam's, who had also been captured with him. Sam is worried that he's somehow involved.

Olivia wasn't sure about her brother's request until she saw some suspicious people following Sam and then her brother was murdered. Now she is determined to help Sam unlock the mystery of what had happened to him, and hope that she can also catch whoever killed her brother. She doesn't expect the fiery chemistry and instant connection she feels with Sam.

I loved Sam and Olivia. Sam loves his family and will do anything in his power to protect them. The nightmares and blackouts have him convinced that he is a danger to them so he has withdrawn as much as he can. With the loss of Dr. Owen he fears for his own sanity until Olivia makes her appearance. He is amazed that he is so easily able to open up to her and how much she is able to help him. The connection that he feels for her is unlike anything he's felt for anyone else. Because he plans to go back on duty he doesn't feel right about getting involved with her, but he has zero resistance to what is happening with them. It's also fun to see how much her determination and capabilities sometimes surprise him and turn him on.

One of the things I loved best about Olivia is the way she doesn't back down when Sam tries to intimidate her into doing things his way. She has just the kind of personality he needs. It was so much fun seeing her match him step for step in their actions as they go after the bad guys. I also loved that she was convinced that they could unlock his memories. Olivia was not going to give up on him. The love she had for him gave her so much strength as she helped him work through his terrors of his torture. At the end Sam has to face what's left of the memories and deal with them and Olivia has to have the confidence to let him go until he does. I was incredibly moved by what happened next and loved seeing them deal with their futures.

The mystery itself has been getting more intense. In the previous book Executive Protection, there have been two attacks on Kate. It is discovered that the last attempt appears to be part of a conspiracy. With the identity of that shooter revealed, the idea that Sam's problems could be related become more likely. The partnership of Sam and Olivia in investigating draws some dangerous attention as one of the people behind it tries to take Olivia out of the picture. As Sam gets closer to remembering what happened to him the bad guys are more determined that he doesn't, at least until they are able to carry out their plan. The suspense at that point was incredible and kept me turning the pages to the end. The final confrontations were intense, with both expected and unexpected actions. By the end, they are one step closer to the mastermind. There is a new twist that appears and ties together one of the mysteries of the first book with the heroine of the next. I can't wait to read it!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lone Star Redemption - Colleen Thompson (HRS #1806 - June 2014)

Series: Lone Star (Book 1)


Desperate to find her missing twin, Jessie Layton arrives at the Rayford ranch, the last place her sister was seen. But after meeting Zach Rayford, the reporter is left with only more questions. Like why is the extremely handsome rancher defending his family's obvious lies regarding her sister?

Zach vowed to protect his family, but it's become more complicated…especially with his growing attraction to Jessie…. But even as they spar, a lethal danger pursues Jessie. Together they risk their lives confronting secrets that could destroy Zach's family…if he chooses to do right by the headstrong woman who's corralled him!

Excellent book that kept me intrigued from the first page. Jessie is searching for her sister and all clues lead to the Rayford ranch. When she shows up at the ranch and talks to Zach and his mother all she gets is more questions. It's obvious that Nancy knows more than she's telling and Zach is protecting his mother. When Jessie continues her investigation she is threatened, attacked and her cameraman is murdered.  But she refuses to give up before she finds her sister.

Zach came home to help his mother after the death of his brother. Her health has been fragile and he tries to keep her from being stressed. Jessie's appearance obviously upsets his mother, which has him questioning some of his mother's claims. He is especially suspicious of the identity of the little girl his mother says is his niece, especially once he sees Jessie.

Jessie and Zach are attracted to each other, but they are also wary of trusting. Jessie can tell that Zach is hiding something from her, but she also feels like he is her only chance of finding Haley. Zach has had a really bad experience with reporters which affects the way he looks at Jessie. He believes she really is looking for her sister, but he's still not sure she's not going to do some sleazy report on the events taking place. As they work together to try to find out what happened to Haley their attraction to each other grows. I liked their strong commitments to their families as it showed what they could be like with each other. It wasn't until toward the end that I felt that they were actually getting to know each other, but Jessie's fears were holding her back.

The mystery continues to build as more things happen to Jessie and Zach. Every time a new piece of information is discovered it seems to create more questions rather than provide answers. There were several interesting twists to the story, with a real surprise in the resolution. There was also an extra twist involving Jessie herself that made a future for her and Zach look questionable. I really enjoyed seeing Zach come after Jessie when that problem got fixed..

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The SEAL's Baby - Laura Marie Altom (HAR #1503 - June 2014)

Series: Operation Family (Book 6)

To Save A SEAL...
When navy SEAL Heath Stone's wife died, he thought his heart was closed forever. When he finds Libby Dewitt, eight months pregnant and stranded outside Bent Road, Oregon, he is drawn to her beauty, but also to her sweet and generous nature. But how can he even think about being with someone else? He had love once and lost it--and he's not sure he can take that kind of loss a second time.

Alone and estranged from her family, Libby Dewitt always wondered what it would feel like to truly belong. She feels at home with Heath, but he just won't let her in. Despite her own troubles, her heart aches for everything Heath has been through. To save this SEAL, Libby is ready to fight--for love.

Good book. Both Heath and Libby have had losses in their lives, but each has dealt with them differently.  Heath has emotionally shut down since the death of his wife. When he finds Libby on the side of the road his protective instincts come out enough that he offers her some help. However, when she also awakens some of those shut down emotions, all he can think about is getting her to move on as soon as possible. Libby is eight months pregnant and on her own after finding the man she thought she loved cheating on her. She'd already been kicked out by her parents, so she is pretty much alone. She fights back against her losses by trying to look on the bright side of things. One of those bright sides is the way that the people of Bent Road, especially Heath's mom, have taken her in.

I loved seeing Heath and Libby together. Libby is fiercely independent, but thanks to her circumstances realizes that she has to learn to accept help. Heath can't help but offer her that help - there's something about her that works its way past the walls he has erected around his heart. It seemed that every day she did something that would make him smile or laugh, but then he would feel guilty because he was alive and his wife wasn't. He fought the reawakening of his emotions so hard because he was really afraid to risk his heart again. I loved seeing Libby try to reach Heath. She was so comfortable with him from the very beginning, even when he was being a grouch. I really liked the way that his treatment of her showed her the difference between what she had thought was love and what love really was. She came to love him so much that it hurt her to see him deny himself the chance to love again. It was great to see her have the confidence in herself to stand up to him at the end and tell him what she wanted from him. It was his fears that kept him from accepting what she was offering. Poor Heath turned out to be something of a slow learner, but a conversation with a fellow SEAL's wife gave him a new way of looking at things. I loved seeing him finally get it right. I also loved the little twist at the end.

Operation Unleashed - Justine Davis (HRS #1803 - June 2014)

Series: Cutter's Code (Book 4)

Stepping up to the plate will put him in the line of fire...

For Drew Kiley, married life isn't what he had in mind. Driven to "I do" by a sense of familial responsibility, he assumes the role of husband to his brother's wife, Alyssa...and the role of father to his nephew, Luke. It seems to be the logical solution in light of his brother's abandonment. But Drew doesn't know the whole truth about his brother's past. A rescue from a canine companion sets Drew and Alyssa on a perilous course of extortion, kidnapping and secrets unveiled. United in their determination to protect Luke, Drew and Alyssa learn to depend on each other. But as tensions escalate, so does a deep undercurrent of desire that casts their marriage in a different light.

Another fantastic Cutter story.  Cutter the dog drags his owners, Quinn and Haley, into the life of a little boy named Luke. His parents aren't getting along, and while it's not the kind of case that Foxworth normally gets involved in, Cutter isn't giving them any choice.

Drew and Alyssa had married three years earlier, after the death of her husband who was also Drew's younger brother. He and Alyssa had eloped when she was seventeen, and their life hadn't been a good one. Alyssa had adored Doug, but he died while committing a robbery, leaving her and Luke alone and broke. Drew found them while Alyssa was in the hospital and married her to provide for her and Luke.

Drew was the older brother, serious and responsible. Doug had been the spoiled younger son, skilled at using charm and manipulation to get his way. Drew had resented Doug for years because he was always stuck cleaning up Doug's messes. Even after Doug's death, all he can see is the terrible things Doug did. He was determined to be the best father he could be to his nephew, but dealing with Alyssa's perpetually rosy memories of Doug was driving him nuts. Their marriage had started out as a purely business arrangement, but over the last year Drew's feelings have changed. He is in love with Alyssa, but can't see her ever returning his feelings.

Alyssa is very grateful to Drew for everything he has done for her and Luke. Her life with Doug hadn't been great, but she had loved him and knew that he loved her too. She refuses to believe all the things that Drew says about Doug, preferring the things that Doug had told her. The constant strain of the two opposing viewpoints creates a lot of stress between the two of them, but she tries to let it go. Drew is such a good father to Luke that she can forgive a lot of things. 

Cutter's arrival, leading Luke back home after he ran away, brings a new element into their lives. Quinn and Haley offer to help Drew and Alyssa get the full truth about Doug and his activities so that they can lay their conflict to rest. Just as that process starts, Alyssa receives threats from Doug's former partner in crime, who has just been released from prison. He wants the money from the last robbery which he is sure that Alyssa has. Suddenly Foxworth's involvement goes from research to protection.

I loved seeing the way that Drew and Alyssa are mostly able to put their differences aside when it comes to doing what is best for Luke. The danger that they are now in changes the dynamics of their relationship. Alyssa starts seeing Drew as more than just her partner, but as a man who will do anything to protect them. As more information comes out about Doug, she begins to let go of the idealized vision of him and seeing him for the flawed man that he was. She also begins to discover that her feelings for Drew have changed and she's not sure what to do about it. She doesn't want to make him regret what he has done for them, but she really wants a chance to make it real. I was happy to see Alyssa finally start to move toward a real relationship with Drew. It was easy to see how much he cared for her and she was so blind to it for so long.  It was fun to watch them react to Cutter's attempts to get them together.

I always love Cutter's role in the books. He has his way of doing things and no human is going to interfere with it. In this one he is protector and companion for Luke. I loved the way he could go from playtime to attack dog in the blink of an eye. He also did a great job as marriage counselor for Drew and Alyssa, practically forcing them to talk to each other. It's always fun to see people go from disbelief to acceptance as they get to know him and see him in action.

I really enjoyed the suspense part of the story. It wasn't particularly intense until the very end, but it was a good vehicle to get Drew and Alyssa working together. I always like seeing the Foxworth people do their thing and this was no exception. I liked catching up with people from earlier books and trying to figure out who will be next. I have a feeling that Rafe's will be the next story and have a sneaking suspicion of who will be his love interest.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Mighty Quinns: Malcolm - Kate Hoffmann (HB #794 - Apr 2014)

Series: Mighty Quinns (Book 27)

Her guide to adventure…in and out of the bedroom

New Zealand wilderness guide Malcolm Quinn is stunned to learn that his father's body -- lost near the summit of Everest almost twenty years ago -- has been found. The discovery stirs up painful memories for Mal, and brings eager reporters out in droves. He is ready to resist them all, until he meets the pretty little Yank who turns his blood to liquid lust….

Amy Engalls needs this story to make her career, but Mal refuses to be interviewed. Instead the gorgeous Quinn offers Amy the kind of adventure she'll never forget. She accepts, realizing she may be jeopardizing her future for a short-term fantasy. By breaking the rules, will she lose everything…including her heart?

A new branch of the Quinn family has been discovered. Mal and his brothers and sister run their own wilderness guide business, following in the footsteps of their late father. When Mal returns from his latest trip he discovers that his father's body has been found bringing unwanted attention to the family from a multitude of reporters. Mal and his family would prefer to leave the past alone, so he is set to ignore them all. Then he meets Amy, a reporter from New York. He's not interested in being interviewed, but he is interested in her.

I liked both Mal and Amy. Each of them has some daddy issues that have affected the way they live their lives. Mal spends ten months out of the year out on trips, and refuses to commit to any relationship because he doesn't want to do to a woman what his father did to his mom. Amy's father has never really supported her in what she wants to do, so she figures if she gets this interview he'll have to finally show her some respect. When Mal and Amy met, there was instant chemistry between them, and not just physically. I loved seeing how easily they were able to talk to each other.

Amy really wants the interview, not just for herself but also because she senses it could do some good for Mal and his family. I loved her sensitivity to his feelings, that she didn't keep hammering away at him to get what she wants. I loved the way that she listens to his stories and draws out the good memories that he has. For herself, I really liked the way that she'd had the courage to go after what she wanted, even though it was outside her comfort zone. The glacier trip that Mal talked her into was a great example. I loved seeing her gain confidence in herself and her abilities and the way it showed through when Mal got hurt. I also loved seeing her feelings for him grow and how much she wanted to stay, even though she knew he wasn't looking for anything permanent. 

Mal was ten when his father died and he saw how it affected his mother. He remembers how much his dad was gone and how hard it was on her. With as much time as he is gone and the dangers of the job, he won't do it to a woman of his own. Meeting Amy has put a strain on those intentions. The physical chemistry between them is strong, but she also makes him feel happy when he is with her. He starts out wary of her because of her job, but her sensitivity to his wishes wins him over. I loved seeing him open up to her about his feelings and memories of his father. Some of the things she says to him makes him look at his dad in a different way. I really enjoyed his support of Amy in her attempts to try new things. It was fun seeing him push her a little without trying to force her into things. While it wasn't good that Mal hurt himself, it was kind of amusing to see how it happened. I loved the confidence he showed in her ability to go for help. His insecurities came out when it was time for her to go, which caused heartache for them both. I loved seeing his brother talk sense into him.

The issue of recovering Mal's father's remains and his journal remains unresolved, so I expect that will be part of the future books. There also wasn't any more said about doing the interview, so maybe that will also be part of the future. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Fair Billionaire - Elizabeth Bevarly (HD #2305 - June 2014)

Henry Higgins she's not

Back in school, stuck-up Ava Brenner may have been Peyton Moss's personal mean girl by day, but different kinds of sparks flew at night. Now the tables have turned, and Peyton's about to make his first billion while Ava's living a bit more humbly--to put it mildly. He needs her to teach him how to pass in high society, if they can manage to put old rivalries to bed. Soon, that's exactly where they end up But will Peyton still want her when he learns about the scandal that sent Ava from riches to rags?

Fantastic book - I loved the parallels to My Fair Lady. Ava was stunned to see Peyton back in Chicago. Back when they were in school he had sworn that he would never come back. She rescues him from a sticky situation and finds out why he is back.

I really liked both Ava and Peyton. Ava had been a true mean girl when she and Peyton had attended an exclusive private school. Her parents were rich and Ava had everything given to her. She was snobby and snotty and made life hell for those she saw as not fitting in. Peyton was a scholarship student from a bad part of Chicago. He was the star of the school hockey team, but other than that was not accepted by the other students. They had a short time when they were assigned to work together on a school project and spent time together. At the end of that project the heat that had been building propelled them into one incredible encounter, which they both called a mistake. At the end of the school year Peyton graduated and left town. Shortly after that Ava's circumstances changed and she was suddenly walking in Peyton's shoes.

I loved the changes that Ava had gone through and how she came out the other side. Spending her senior year at a different school in a different state as one of those scholarship students she had despised opened her eyes to a whole new world. Instead of going to an exclusive college, she worked her way through community college, earning a business degree. Then she put that degree to use, opening a store that carries high-end fashions that ordinary women can rent when they have need of them. She had seen the need and filled it. She is also one of her own best customers. She has become a much kinder and more sympathetic person.

Peyton left town and put his ambition to work for him. He is now the owner of a multimillion dollar business. But he is also still very rough around the edges and is ruthless in his business dealings. The members of his board of directors have told him that he needs to come to terms with his past and learn how to handle himself in the world he's now part of. But facing those memories sent him on a drinking binge that brought him together with Ava.

I loved the scene in the bar as she talked him down out of his obnoxious behavior then took him away. His confusion the next morning was fun to see. Seeing Ava reminded him of all his old insecurities and he was pretty obnoxious in his comments to her. He told her why he was there, then left, not expecting to see her again and glad to get away from the memories and the feelings that were still there.

It was fun seeing him show up at her store, basically begging for her help. He needs lessons on how to behave and the "Henry Higgins" he had hired just wasn't working out. I loved seeing their exchange as he tried to talk her into helping and she was trying to resist. Once she said yes and the lessons started it was great. The parallels to My Fair Lady were so much fun. It was funny watching her try to get him to stop cussing, especially since he admitted to himself that half the fun was watching her get all worked up. The scene in the matchmaker's office was hysterical, especially with the input that Ava had. It was also fun to see how much Ava was enjoying being with Peyton, even though she had started out just wanting to make amends for how terrible she'd been to him in the past.

The interactions between the two them during the lessons was wonderful. They really got into challenging each other over everything, but not in a nasty way. I loved seeing how their opinions about each other changed as they really got to know each other. The culminating scene at the ball was absolutely one of the best I have ever read. Ava and Peyton had finally grown into the people they were meant to be. The epilogue was a terrific wrap up.

Monday, May 26, 2014

To Catch a Camden - Victoria Pade (HSE #2338 - June 2014)

Series: Camdens of Colorado (Book 6)

His single days are numbered...
Look up unlucky in love in the dictionary, and you'll see Gia Grant's picture. Still, she takes inspiration from her elderly neighbors--married seventy years --and will do anything to stop foreclosure on their home. That includes running interference with businessman Derek Camden. He says he's here to help, but everyone knows Camdens can't be trusted. So why is it every time she turns around she wants to kiss this lovable lout?

Derek has a knack for falling for the wrong women--over and over Luckily, working with the goody-goody girl next door to make amends to her neighbors doesn't represent a romantic threat. Or so he likes to tell himself--because the beautiful botanist is growing on him Could this be the bachelor's last stand?

The younger Camdens continue their attempts to make amends for the shady business practices of their relatives. Now it is Derek's turn to step up to the plate. It has come to their attention that an elderly couple is about to lose their home. Many years ago Derek's grandfather had caused this couple to lose the hotel business that had been in their family for many years. Now they are having trouble making the payments on their home and keeping it in good repair. A neighbor woman has gotten involved and is spearheading a campaign to help. She's aware of the bad blood and doesn't trust Derek when he claims to want to help.

Besides being aware of the trouble that the Camdens caused, Gia has had her own trouble with a wealthy family. She was married to a rich man for seven years. His family was also known for shady business practices, plus they had never treated people who weren't born into their family like more than second class citizens. So she is very wary around Derek. But the more involved he gets in the activities to help the Bronsons, the more she begins to think that he really is different.

Derek is in the midst of trying to redeem himself with his family. He's never had the best judgment when it comes to women. He tends to get involved with the wild ones who then lead him into doing stupid things. The last one was an embarrassment for the whole family, not just him. He's tried going out with "normal" women, but they just don't hold his interest. But there's something about Gia that has him fascinated with her. 

Neither one is interested in any romantic entanglements. Gia is still recovering from her divorce and certainly doesn't want to get involved with another man she thinks is just like her ex.  Derek is just trying to stay out of trouble.

I really liked seeing Gia and Derek get to know each other. Derek understood Gia's reservations after she told him what her marriage had been like, but he really wanted her to see that the Camdens were different. He knew that for himself, Gia was unlike anyone he'd ever been with before. He really wanted to see where things might go between them. But Gia is afraid to risk her heart again and pushes him away to protect herself. I loved seeing Derek realize what he'd been looking for all this time, and the way he went about getting Gia to listen was great.

Caroselli's Accidental Heir - Michelle Celmer (HD #2302 - May 2014)

Series: Caroselli Inheritance (Book 3)

Stop the wedding -- she's pregnant!

When Lucy Bates caught herself falling too hard for Chicago businessman Tony Caroselli, she ran. How could she measure up to his wealthy family's standards? But now she's pregnant and back to tell the truth…only to see Tony marrying another woman before her very eyes!

Lucy always had impeccable timing -- especially interrupting a wedding Tony never wanted. And if she produces a male heir, Tony stands to inherit a fortune. Plus, the real payoff is having Lucy back where she belongs -- with him. But when she finds out about his inheritance, will she feel like a pawn and run again?

My favorite book of the series. It all started when the Caroselli grandfather, Nonno, was afraid that his grandsons would never marry and have kids. So he decided to motivate them by offering millions to the first one to marry and provide an heir. In the first two books Rob and Nick made their runs for the prize, but end up choosing love over money (of course) after learning what is most important. In this book, Tony and Lucy had been together, sort of, for about a year when Lucy suddenly left with no explanation. She and Tony had had a friends with benefits thing going on but kept it private between the two of them. Tony is sad and misses her but never went after her because she had made it clear that there would never be anything more between them. He had never been much interested in relationships either until his grandfather's challenge. But Tony has plans for his future and that money would be useful, so he enters into a business arrangement with another woman, which is where this book starts.

Lucy had left Chicago because she realized that she had fallen in love with Tony. Because of her horrible childhood she knew that she was not a suitable candidate for a wife and thought it would be better to leave. She knew she was pregnant and that he would insist on marriage and she didn't want to ruin his life. But when she receives a letter telling her of his upcoming marriage she knows she has to tell him of the baby before he marries. She didn't expect to show up just as the wedding began. 

Tony was actually relieved at Lucy's appearance. He had realized almost immediately that marrying that other woman was going to be a huge mistake, but he couldn't figure out how to get out of it. Lucy's arrival took care of the problem for him. He had missed her so much that all he wanted to do was hang on to her. She had been the only person that he ever felt he could talk to about what he really wanted out of his life. He couldn't believe that she was planning to leave again once she told him. I loved seeing him work to get her to agree to stay and let him take care of her. 

I found Tony to be absolutely adorable. He wasn't arrogant or conniving, in fact he was pretty darn clueless. He has a terrible habit of putting his foot in his mouth because he doesn't always think before he speaks. But his heart is definitely in the right place and it shows with everything he tries to do for Lucy. Tony also gets frustrated with his big Italian family because he feels like they are always interfering in his life. I loved seeing first his mother, then his grandfather, take Lucy to their hearts, especially because they and the rest of the family had hated that other woman. Tony was so afraid of driving Lucy away, because of their earlier friendship only pact, that he never told her how much his feelings for her had changed.

Lucy was a young woman with terrible self-esteem issues. Her mother is a self-centered drug and alcohol addict that made Lucy's life miserable. Because of it, Lucy feels that she is nowhere near worthy enough to have any expectation of a life with Tony. She was so in love with him that she couldn't stand the idea of bringing trouble to him, which is why she left. But guilt brought her back so that she could tell him about the baby. She couldn't believe he wasn't angry with her. Those same guilty feelings made her agree to stay in Chicago so he could look after her, but she still cared too much about him to say yes to marrying him. He had made it clear before that he didn't do relationships and she didn't want to be an obligation. 

I loved Tony's family. Lucy was so sure that they would all hate her that she was completely surprised when his mom showed up that first morning and was so nice to her. It was really great to see Sarah tell her about her own experiences as a newlywed. I also liked the way that she fussed at Tony about his own actions. I also adored Nonno and how sweet he was to Lucy. There were some really fun moments during family get togethers.

The conclusion of the story was wonderful. There had been some drama when Lucy found out about the money, but it was pretty quickly resolved. I loved the way that Tony resolved Lucy's fears. There were also a couple of very interesting twists to the end that had me grinning.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Last Chance Knit & Stitch - Hope Ramsay (Forever - Nov 2013)

Series: Last Chance (Book 6)

Molly Canaday wishes she could repair her life as easily as she fixes cars. She was all set to open her own body shop in Last Chance when her mother ran off and left her to manage the family yarn shop instead. Now guided by the unsolicited-though well-intended-advice of the weekly knitting club, Molly works to untangle this mess. But her plan unravels when the new landlord turns out to be difficult-as well as tall, dark, and handsome.

Simon Wolfe returns to quickly settle his father's estate and then leave Last Chance for good. Still wounded by a broken heart, Simon is surprised when the town's charming streets and gentle spirit bring back good memories. Soon the beautiful, strong-willed Molly sparks a powerful attraction that tempts him to break his iron-clad no-commitment rule. Can Simon and Molly find a way to share work space-and build a future together in Last Chance?

Good book. Molly has been pretty content with her life. She enjoys her work as a mechanic and has plans to open her own body shop as soon as she sells the car she's restoring now. Her creative side is satisfied by her knitting. Then everything goes to hell when her mother runs away from home, leaving Molly in charge of the knitting shop and running things at home. The local banker is  holding the car she's restoring hostage, and the building she wanted for her business is suddenly leased to someone else.

Simon has returned to Last Chance to settle his father's estate. He hasn't been home since he argued with his parents about following his own path. The memories he has of Last Chance aren't the best. His parents were always fighting when he was a kid and he got caught in the middle. He was present at the death of his best friend. Now he just wants to settle things and go home to California. He is an artist who has a major commission to finish and it isn't going well. He doesn't expect to feel an attraction to Molly, who was just a child when he left.

Both Molly and Simon have some pretty major parental issues going on. Molly is in her twenties, still living at home, and dealing with her parents' expectations.  When her mom takes off, Molly is expected to step right in and take over. Mom has never approved of Molly's dreams for her car restoration business and constantly tries to change Molly into what she wants. Meanwhile, after several years as a child being treated like a son by her father, when her brothers were born she was suddenly expected to turn into a girly girl. She tries hard to make people understand who she is, but it's an uphill battle. Simon has returned to deal with his father's death. He's dealing with a boatload of guilt because they never mended fences, but he isn't sorry that he stood up for himself. When he arrives home it's to discover that his mother suffers from dementia and most of the time doesn't recognize him. Even when she does, she treats him badly. 

When Molly and Simon first meet, there is some antagonism. But there are also sparks. Simon offers her space in his building where she can work on her car while he works on his painting. They find themselves getting closer and building a friendship that slowly starts to develop into something more. Each of them resists the idea because neither is interested in commitment. They also have to deal with a whole bunch of interference from various members of the town. Everyone is trying to push Molly into a relationship with her friend Les and she doesn't care for him that way. And both of them are getting a boatload of grief from Molly's father, who had also been Simon's football coach. He keeps harping on the age difference between Molly and Simon and refuses to see that it shouldn't make any difference. I got really angry at the way everyone seemed to cave in to Coach's wishes when he was being so obnoxious.

I loved seeing how great Molly and Simon were with and for each other. Simon understood just what made Molly the person she was. He loved the contrasts in her personality, from her ability with cars to her knitting creativity. He also was able to see when she needed the closeness of his touch. I also liked the way he supported her choices by giving her the space to use. The only thing I didn't like was the way he let Coach talk to him. On her side, Molly saw past the shell that Simon showed to everyone else in town. She didn't like the way that they all treated him, especially once she got to know him better. I loved the scene where she talked him into playing hooky, and then he got her to go skinny dipping. Things really started to heat up between them at that point. They had so much going for them if they could just get up the backbone to go after what they wanted. There was a very nice twist to the ending, as both Simon and Molly realized what they wanted and what they had to do.

I loved visiting the town of Last Chance again and seeing old and new friends. Miriam, and now Savannah, are still making their ambiguous matchmaking predictions. The book club is still arguing over its selections. I especially enjoyed the scenes in the knit shop. The Purly Girls knitting group was fun to watch. I could also easily picture the chaos created by the toddler who was running wild. One of my favorite characters was Angel, Simon's assistant. He was so quickly absorbed and accepted by most of the town, despite his differences. I especially loved his involvement in so many things that benefited by his touch. He was such a people person that he was a delight to watch. I also loved the way that he was the one who was able to get through to Simon and get him back where he belonged. I really hope to see more of him in later books.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Baby Truth - Stella Bagwell (HSE #2339 - June 2014)

Series: Men of the West (Book 28)

She couldn't be pregnant...
Except apparently she was Still, Sassy Matthews was a woman on a mission. She'd come to Carson City to find her biological parents--not to faint in the arms of the lawyer who'd met her plane Of course, finding out she was going to be a mommy didn't exactly fit into her plans either. Now what was a girl to do?

Jett Sundell wanted to keep an eye on Sassy--and not just because her new "family" suspected her of being a gold digger. Sassy captured his interest from the second she fainted into his arms, but she was pregnant with another man's child Jett knew he might be able to provide Sassy with the link to her past, but she might just be the key to his future.

Sassy's life is in quite a bit of turmoil. Her boyfriend recently died in a rodeo accident and she's just discovered she's pregnant with his baby. She's also just found out that she was adopted and is in search of information on who she really is. Her boyfriend had noticed her resemblance to a friend of his and now she's been invited to meet his family and see if they can find out if there's a connection. Fainting into the arms of lawyer Jett Sundell is not exactly the start she had in mind. 

Jett expects that Sassy's arrival is going to cause some turmoil of its own, as she is a dead ringer for one of the Calhoun brothers. He has also developed a fierce protectiveness for the beautiful redhead. This is as unwelcome as it is unexpected. Years ago Jett had been married to a woman whose love had turned to obsession and by the end of the marriage he was convinced that love is an illusion. Now he has shut himself off from any emotional entanglements. 

Sassy doesn't want to cause any trouble for the Calhouns, she just wants to see if they know anything about her parents. The Calhoun grandfather's violent reaction to her appearance creates suspicion in Jett and the other Calhouns that he knows something important. As Jett and the others investigate, he convinces Sassy to stick around. This puts the two of them in far more close contact than either is comfortable with.

Both Sassy and Jett are fighting their feelings really hard. Sassy feels that she has far too much going on in her life now to add a relationship to it. Jett is flat out afraid to risk his heart again and keeps reminding Sassy (and himself) that he no longer believes in love. I really enjoyed seeing Sassy get involved in life on Jett's ranch. Everything she does brings her closer to Jett. He likes having her there on his ranch and is happier than he's ever been. When the attraction between them overcomes their reservations, each believes that they can keep their emotions out of it and walk away unscathed when the time comes. When Sassy realizes she's in love with Jett, she has to decide if she's willing to settle for less or stand up for her own needs.

I also enjoyed the mystery of Sassy's connection to the Calhouns. I liked seeing Jett convince Sassy that it was worth pursuing, not because of any gain, but because he knew she would always wonder if she didn't. Sassy really worried about whether her presence would cause trouble among the family members. I liked the encouragement she received from Jett and the younger Calhouns. There was an interesting twist to the solving of the mystery, but it made the ending very satisfying. I loved the epilogue as an update on how things turned out for Sassy and Jett. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the Calhouns.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fortune's Prince - Allison Leigh (HSE #2335 - June 2014)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: Welcome to Horseback Hollow (Book 6)

Once upon a time...
There was a beautiful princess, raised in riches but lonely of heart. When Amelia Fortune Chesterfield discovered her Texas roots, she hurried to Horseback Hollow, eager to find her past.

And there she found her future....
The prince wore spurs and a Stetson and was unlike any man she had ever known. In one magical night, Quinn Drummond transformed the shy, reserved girl into a passionate, feeling woman. But in the morning, the princess had to flee, tearing asunder their happily ever after. The prince, in his anger, retreated. Would a small miracle reunite the gun-shy cowboy with his lady love?

A fantastic, emotional conclusion to this year's Fortune series. Amelia is the youngest of the British branch of the newly discovered Fortunes. When she came to Texas to meet her new cousins she was immediately taken with their neighbor Quinn Drummond. His quiet strength and down to earth attitude really appeal to her. A dance at a wedding leads to a passionate encounter and a whole host of dreams. But when she had to return home she was blindsided by reporters claiming an engagement to a friend of hers and she was soon caught in an impossible situation. Quinn wouldn't take her calls or listen to her explain what was going on, so she had to take drastic measures.

I really liked Amelia. I found her to be a really strong, determined woman who wants to do the right thing. Because of who she is, she didn't just deny things outright to the reporters, but that put her into a situation where the engagement appears to be real. She had briefly considered going through with it, as she and James are friends, but once she discovered her pregnancy she knew it couldn't happen. She also wanted to tell Quinn face to face, hoping that they would be able to work things out. I loved her ingenuity in getting away from the reporters and making her way undetected to Quinn's ranch. She was devastated to find out just how angry he is and how unwilling to listen to anything she has to say. 

Quinn had thought that what he and Amelia shared meant something to her, but hearing of her engagement when she returned to England brought back terrible memories of his ex-wife. She had left him to go back to her old boyfriend, leaving him doubting his judgment in picking a woman to love. To have Amelia appear to do the same thing just made it worse. When she came back to see him he didn't want to hear what she had to say, not trusting her at all. When he finds out about the baby he wants them to marry, making sure that the baby has his name. Quinn's father had been illegitimate, never acknowledged by his father and he didn't want the same thing to happen to his child. Quinn also has a huge issue with the economic gap between himself and Amelia, again because of his grandfather's treatment of his father. He just couldn't see that Amelia didn't care about it.

Amelia is deeply in love with Quinn and would gladly marry him if she thought that he cared also. His constant anger with her has her convinced he doesn't care for her and she refuses to have a loveless marriage. She is also determined to stay in Texas so that Quinn is fully involved in the baby's life. I loved the strength she had in standing up for herself and her own needs, while at the same time trying to give Quinn what he needed.

Quinn is fighting quite a battle with himself. He wants Amelia with every breath he takes, but he refuses to believe that they have any chance of a future together. He is so hung up on their differences that he can't see how right they are for each other. I loved the way that he is so protective of her, even though he resists admitting the reason. It was great to see how many people tried to get him to see the truth. 

Besides the emotional trials of Quinn and Amelia working their way towards a happy future together, there were also some really fun parts. These usually involved the paparazzi and trying to get away from them. The first one that had me laughing out loud was when Quinn's sister helped Amelia get away at the hardware store. Jess was really getting into the whole thing. The other one was at Quinn's house when he went after them with his shotgun. Amelia was horrified, but Quinn was determined to protect her no matter what.

Destiny's Last Bachelor? - Christyne Butler (HSE #2336 - June 2014)

Series: Welcome to Destiny (Book 7)

When Hollywood royalty meets the Jersey must be destiny
Hollywood princess Priscilla Lennox is running away--from the paparazzi, the gossip...and the humiliation of walking in on her boyfriend with her sister. She runs all the way to Destiny, Wyoming, where gorgeous Dean Zippenella knocks her off her Louboutins...and into the river. Still, Priscilla's spirits aren't dampened. After all, she's here to repair her image, not to mention raise money for charity....

Dean, with his Jersey Shore machismo, is there at every turn. At first it's annoying. Then it's endearing. And when he grants Priscilla her birthday wish of a kiss, it's beginning to look a lot like love For real this time--until her sister turns up in town again. Is she here to make amends? Or steal her man?

Very good book. When Priscilla found her sister and her boyfriend together she had enough. She's been dealing with her sister's messes for years. This time she heads out of town without telling anyone where she's going. She remembers an old friend who has started a camp for kids and heads for Destiny to help him raise funds for the camp. When she stops outside town to walk her dog, she encounters Dean, whereupon he and his dog manage to knock her into the water. Gorgeous as he might be, Priscilla has sworn off men for awhile.

I loved Priscilla. She's been the good girl all her life, watching out for her sister and trying to fix things when they get messed up. But she's had enough, and rather than get talked into helping yet again, she decides to take off. I really liked the way that she took charge of what she wanted to do. I enjoyed the bit of attitude in her encounters with Dean. Destiny and the people there are very different than she is used to but she discovers that she loves the friendliness of it. Though she started the fundraising for the camp as a way to escape and repair the damage done by her sister, she quickly gets into the whole spirit of the camp and its mission. I also loved the way she and Dean are thrown together to work on the bachelor auction. 

Dean is quite the flirt and is really attracted to Priscilla. But he had a bad experience with a woman a few years back and it affects the way he looks at Priscilla. First he thinks she's an old girlfriend of Bobby's who has come to make trouble. After he gives up on that idea he's still concerned about her high society background and that it will cause trouble. I loved seeing him get to know Priscilla and start to fall for the woman she really is.

Priscilla has really taken to life in Destiny and is enjoying Dean's attentions. Her growing feelings for him show her that what she had felt before wasn't love. Just as things are starting to take off with him, Priscilla's sister shows up in town. She appears to be full of remorse for what she did, but Priscilla isn't sure if she's really changed. When she brings her own form of chaos to the bachelor auction, Priscilla's fears come to pass. Dean sees the results and his own past comes back to haunt him, causing him to blame Priscilla. It isn't until after she leaves that he finally accepts his feelings for her. I loved the ending with Dean doing just the right amount of groveling. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Stolen Kiss From a Prince - Teresa Carpenter (HR #4421 - Apr 2014)

When royal duty calls…

Charged with the care of the newly orphaned heir to the Kardana throne, nanny Katrina Vicente finds herself faced with an even more formidable task -- working alongside the boy's uncle, the devastatingly handsome Prince Julian, the prince regent.

Desperate to keep the secrets of her past under lock and key, getting involved with a prince is the last thing Katrina needs, particularly with the world watching. But it's hard to ignore their instant chemistry -- especially after one stolen kiss! Could her royal assignment be about to transform into the most magical of fairy tales?

Very emotional book. Katrina is the nanny for her godfather's children and is helping to care for a visiting child. When his parents disappear in a storm, his uncle Julian comes to get him and take him home to Kardana. Young Sammy isn't handling it well and Julian is out of his depth so he asks Katrina to come along and help. Katrina is drawn to Julian but needs to keep her distance. She has things in her past that could come back to haunt her.

I really liked both Katrina and Julian. Katrina is a caring and compassionate young woman. She is fiercely protective of Sammy and has no problem standing up for what she feels is right. She is also protective of others she loves, and tries to stay out of the public eye because of mistakes she made in her past. She is attracted to Julian but afraid of what could happen. 

Julian is trying to cope with his grief and the sudden need to fill his brother's shoes. He uses logic and reasoning to make decisions and the sudden influx of emotions is messing with his usual way of doing things. Katrina's compassion gives him a safe place to escape to. He is attracted to her but feels he has too much going on to have any kind of serious relationship.

The attraction that they feel for each other and act on they each feel will be short lived. Katrina doesn't trust that her past will stay in the past and Julian feels he has too much else going on for a real relationship. When the tabloid press get involved, Katrina feels that her fears have come to pass. Julian tries to convince her to stay, but goes about it in the wrong way. I was happy to see that Katrina had the courage to stand up for what was right for her. Julian was so overwhelmed with running the kingdom that he ignored what was happening to him. And when he finally realized it, he didn't want to admit it because it was just one more thing piled up on him. It wasn't until Katrina was gone that he realized how much he needed her. I loved seeing him go after her and convince her of his feelings.

A Merger by Marriage - Cat Schield (HD #2304 - May 2014)

Series: Las Vegas Nights (Book 2)

It takes two tycoons to tango…

With JT Stone's birthright hanging in the balance, Violet Fontaine comes up with the perfect solution. The Vegas hotel heiress decides to give her sexy business rival a hand -- so he can put a ring on it and seal a business deal. The one condition is that they keep their boardroom marriage out of the bedroom….

Fat chance! JT isn't letting Violet deprive him of one of the sweetest perks of wedlock. But will giving in to passion expose the one thing that's always kept him from commitment? Now JT could lose everything, including the woman he can't live without.

Very good story of family secrets, trust and love. After her like-a-father-to-her mentor died, Violet received an inheritance that could help her rival JT Stone. It came with some conditions that limited her options but she felt like she had come up with the best solution. JT has discovered that the family company that his father runs is in deep trouble. He'd like to take it over but he doesn't have enough shares to vote his father out. 

Violet comes to him with a proposition. Tiberius had acquired eighteen percent of the shares of the company and left them to Violet. She can't sell them, give them away or vote them because she's not family. If she and JT marry, she becomes family and with his thirty percent they are closer to getting control. JT would just need another three percent. She offers JT a business marriage so they can try to make it happen.

JT has been attracted to Violet since he met her. With the bad blood between his father and his uncle Tiberius, JT had never had the chance to get to know him well before his death and had missed out on the chance to get to know Violet through him. Now he spends a lot of time in Violet's casino, watching her and getting what little bit of time with her he can manage. He is surprised by her offer but sees the advantages. One advantage he sees is the opportunity to get her into his bed, if he can just get past her reservations. He also has some reservations of his own. Thanks to a really crummy childhood, JT keeps very tight control over his emotions. He also doesn't let anyone close enough to learn about what his past was truly like. He finds that spending time with Violet is loosening some of that tight grip and that he wants to share some things with her. 

Violet is equally attracted to JT but hides it just as well. Helping him gives her the chance to get closer to him. She likes what she sees, but she is cautious about getting involved with him. She knows that if she lets herself go she is likely to fall in love with him and that could only lead to heartache for her. She has also come across some information that could rock his world completely and she has to decide what to do with it.

I loved Violet and JT together. Violet is a pretty uncomplicated person. She sees a way to help JT and wants to run with it. There is so much heat between them that you know the business only side of the marriage isn't going to last. She also sees how hard he tries to protect himself and really wants to show him that trusting her isn't a bad thing. She knows that she can help him get what he needs and gets very frustrated with the way he shuts her out. I loved seeing her keep trying. JT wants Violet so much he can hardly stand it. He's managed to keep it from her for awhile, but now that they're together so much he's losing the battle. His growing need for her scares him because he's never let anyone get that close and he's afraid of what could happen if he really lets her in. When he discovers that Violet had access to some information about him, he feels betrayed which leads to a heartbreaking confrontation between them.

JT's father is a real piece of work. Violet gets a taste of it when he comes to Las Vegas and confronts her about her marriage to JT. He makes some pretty nasty threats that end up pushing Violet and JT closer together. The information that Violet has about him makes JT question a lot of things about his father, but he's not sure what he should do with it. I loved seeing everything that happened at the shareholders' meeting. There were a couple nice twists that came out of it. Even better was seeing JT finally open himself up to Violet's love.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Falling for Fortune - Nancy Robards Thompson (HSE #2330 - May 2014)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: Welcome to Horseback Hollow (Book 5)

Christopher who?

As far as Christopher Fortune Jones is concerned, when he left Horseback Hollow, he left his past behind. No one needs to know that he grew up on a ranch, or that he never had any money, or that his father considers him a disappointment. Here in Red Rock he can simply be Christopher Fortune. Rich, powerful, successful Christopher Fortune.

Kinsley Aaron has secrets of her own. The biggest one is that she has a crush on her sexy new boss. She thinks maybe he likes her, too. But he never talks about himself, and he never lets her get too close. Is she a fool dreaming of tomorrow with a man who seemingly has no past? Just what is Christopher Fortune hiding?

Good story of a man who finally figures out who he is. Christopher had always felt out of step with the rest of his family while he was growing up. Ranching was never something that he wanted to do and he was constantly at odds with his father over it. When the family connection to the Fortunes came out, he saw it as his chance to escape. He left home, dropped the Jones from his name, and went to work for the Fortune Foundation.

I have to say that throughout the series Christopher has been my least favorite character. He has seemed rather selfish, wanting more than he has but I never saw him actually trying to do something about it. Even moving to Red Rock, he was using the family name rather than making the effort using his own abilities. At the beginning of the book, he is practicing putting in his office and thinking about how boring the job is rather than actually working. He's not putting any effort into it. He's also wallowing in all the material goods he has acquired. Then, to top it all off, when his brother and sister-in-law arrive unexpectedly all he seems to think about is keeping them away from his coworkers so they don't see where he came from. His actions when they went out to lunch were rather immature, as he appeared to rub their noses in how well he is doing. I loved seeing Toby call him out on his behavior and walk out on him.

Christopher has also been enjoying the female companionship that his name has brought. But the one woman he is most interested in doesn't seem to return the interest. No matter how much he tries to flirt with Kinsley, she keeps shooting him down. When she blasts him for not doing his job he starts to realize that she is very different than the women he has been hanging out with. 

Kinsley has worked hard for everything she has. She came from an abusive home, with a father who was also a charmer when he wasn't drunk and abusive to her and her mother. She has a distrust of men who seem to trade on their looks and charm to get what they want. She is attracted to Christopher but doesn't want to give in to it because of what she sees. When they are assigned to work on a project together, she starts to get to know the man behind the flirt. As she got closer to him and he opened up to her about his past, her feelings for him start to change and grow. 

Throughout the book we see Christopher start to grow into his responsibilities thanks to Kinsley's influence. I really enjoyed seeing her keep him on task. She also showed him the importance of learning about the people he worked with, all things he had never been exposed to before. The more time he spent with Kinsley, the more he wanted to be a better man because of her. I loved seeing him start to get really involved in the anti-bullying project they were doing. The more time they spent together the more his feelings for her grew. When he realized just how strong those feelings were it scared him. He had become so used to being in control that being vulnerable like that really freaked him out and he didn't know what to do. 

I loved the ending and seeing just how much Kinsley's love had changed him. His moment of clarity at the party, when everything finally came together for him was fantastic. I loved his speech and the way he really put himself out there. His solution for bringing together all the parts of his life was great. The only thing that would have made the ending better for me would have been seeing him take Kinsley back to Horseback Hollow with him and seeing the family all together.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Brevia Beginning - Michelle Major (HSE #2340 - June 2014)

Series: Brevia North Carolina (Book 3)

The higher your walls…

Lexi Preston has gone from the courtroom to the barroom–as the world's worst waitress at Brevia's hot spot Riley's Bar. Lexi's back in town to right old wrongs, not to fall in love—but she's finding it awfully hard to avoid her impossibly gorgeous new boss.

The harder you fall

Former U.S. marshal Scott Callahan is still grieving his partner's death—and recovering from one drunken night when he bought himself a bar. Scott just can't deal with the way Lexi makes him feel. The ravishing redhead might get his heart racing, but she couldn't take an order if her life depended on it! Will Scott resist Lexi and all she has to offer, or will he find the love he's always craved?

Wonderful second chances story. Lexi first appeared in Her Accidental Engagement as the attorney working against Julia in her custody battle. She was the one digging up dirt on Julia to threaten her with. By the end of that book, she had realized that Julia was the one who deserved custody and provided her with the leverage to win. This got her in big trouble with her father who humiliated her in front of her coworkers and then fired her. She has come back to Brevia to apologize to Julia and beg her help. She wants a chance to stand on her own feet and see who she is. Julia gets her a job as a waitress at the bar and gives her a place to stay while Lexi tries to figure out what happens next.

Scott is in Brevia because that is where his brother and father are, even though they haven't gotten along in years. Scott is on leave from his marshal's job, still grieving the death of his partner. One night he's at the bar, drinking too much, and gets into an argument with the owner. The next think he knows, he owns the place. While he doesn't plan to leave the marshals anytime soon, fixing up the bar and running it for a few weeks will be just the distraction he needs. Another distraction is Lexi, who is probably the worst waitress he's ever seen, but sure gets his motor running. 

Scott and Lexi clash pretty hard at the beginning, but they can't deny the attraction that has flared up between them. He doesn't trust her because of her role in the custody battle. Lexi doesn't think much of his attitude toward his brother and everything else. Scott sees Lexi's need to be out from under her father's control and to live a little, and offers to help her do it. I loved seeing him encourage her independence. I also liked seeing Scott confront Lexi's father. Lexi sees a deep loneliness in Scott that she has plenty of experience with herself. I loved seeing her open up her heart to him in hopes that he would find what he was looking for.

Both Lexi and Scott go through some wonderful changes. Scott's attentions to Lexi give her a self confidence that she's never had before. Her father was always in control of what she wore, who she spent time with, the cases she worked on. Out from under his thumb, Lexi learns how much she still likes what she does as she provides legal advice to various townspeople who come to her. I also loved seeing her overcome some of her fears (the zip line scene was great) and learn to stand up for herself. I loved a couple of scenes where she stood up to her father and stood firm about what she wanted. 

Scott is the kind of guy who always feels responsible when things go wrong. From his mother's death to his partner's, he tends to blame himself. He also feels that he's a bad risk for any relationships. His attraction to Lexi is strong and they start something together knowing it has an end date. Even though he keeps talking about his return to the marshals, Scott gets really involved in his ownership of the bar. I loved seeing him make connections with customers and also with the people who worked for him. He found something in Brevia that he hadn't been looking for and those feelings scared him. He always felt that he couldn't live up to peoples' expectations and would inevitably mess things up. He had to find the courage to stay.

I loved the ending and the faith that Lexi showed in Scott. She believed in him the way that no one else did. I really enjoyed seeing her faith rewarded. What he said to her in front of all those women was really sweet and really showed how much Lexi's love had changed him.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Groomed for Love - Helen R. Myers (HSE #2333 - May 2014)

Series: Sweet Springs Texas (Book 2)

It's a ruff road to happily-ever-after!

Dog groomer Rylie Quinn lights up the local animal clinic with her charming laugh and easygoing demeanor. But there's a dark secret lingering behind the radiant redhead's bright smile. One man seems determined to dig up Rylie's past…and gets under her skin in a way that no one ever has before….

Is she too perfect? Assistant D.A. Noah Prescott can't help but be irked, both by Rylie's secrecy and by his growing attraction to the mystery woman! As his investigation reveals things she'd rather stay under wraps, the heat they generate flares out of control. But when Noah finally learns Rylie's story, he'll have to decide whether his desire for the truth is more important than winning the heart of the woman he's come to love…

Much better book than I thought it would be at the beginning, because Noah really ticked me off. But he redeemed himself quite nicely. Rylie is a sweetheart and has been a bright addition to the vet clinic. She has a soothing way with both animals and people - except for Noah Prescott. Noah has been stuck bringing his mom's dog to Rylie for grooming a couple times and he hasn't been happy about it. There's something about Rylie's perkiness that bugs him.

I loved Rylie. You know right away that her cheerfulness is a way of dealing with something else. She had been a veterinary student who had quit during her last year to become a dog groomer. She moved to Sweet Springs to be near her uncle, one of the old guys who hangs around the vet clinic. She plans to get her vet tech license so that she can be of more help at the clinic when she's not grooming dogs. I loved seeing her deal with the old guys and also the various animals she comes into contact with. I also enjoyed the way that she didn't take Noah too seriously. She could see that he was super serious and tried to lighten things up with him, but he wasn't cooperating. She was also attracted to him but felt that he was way out of her league and was determined to ignore it. 

Noah is a very serious guy. He returned to his hometown after his father's death and mother's injury in an automobile accident. Now he works as an ADA and sees a lot of the worst parts of people. His encounters with Rylie have him feeling very off-center. He's attracted to her and doesn't want to be. He feels that her constant cheerfulness has got to be an act and that she is hiding something. So he takes steps to find out what she is hiding and when he finds something that proves his suspicions he acts on it, hurting and humiliating her. And when he gets "the rest of the story" he is ashamed of himself and admits that he was trying to protect himself from the feelings he is beginning to experience. I loved everyone's reactions and how much they supported Rylie. I also enjoyed seeing their reactions to Noah and what he did, especially that of his mother. 

Now that Noah has admitted to himself that he wants to get to know Rylie better, he has to figure out how to get back in her good graces. I loved seeing his attempts at grovelling and all the help he got from Brooke. Once he gets over himself, he turns out to be a really nice guy. It was great to see him get more involved in Riley's world and start to see things from her perspective. At the same time, Rylie is really enjoying her time with Noah. She knows she's falling for him, and for her part she doesn't care whether he has money or not. But she doesn't feel like she can ever belong in his world, and when she hears his boss putting her down she realizes she doesn't want to be the cause of Noah losing out on his own dreams. So now Noah has to show Rylie that their love can overcome everything. I loved the ending and Noah's "go big" moment.

Cavanaugh Undercover - Marie Ferrarella (HRS #1799 - May 2014)

Series: Cavanaugh Justice (Book 27)

Confronting "Ben Cartwright" in a seedy motel room, Detective Tiana Drummond is more than suspicious. A member of the CSI team, she's sure the handsome hunk is connected to the underground ring holding her sister captive. And like him or not, he's her only lead to finding Janie before it's too late.

But Tiana, always distrustful of men, more than likes him. "Cartwright" makes her feel like she's never felt before -- desired, protected…and totally chagrined when she discovers he's undercover cop Brennan Cavanaugh! Teaming up on a dangerous search, they'll have to risk their lives. But keeping their covers isn't as easy as falling in love!

I love the Cavanaugh series and I was so excited when Andrew found another whole branch of the family. As Brennan put it "I've heard of family trees, but this is damn near a family forest." We met Brennan at the end of Cavanaugh Hero when he broke his undercover role to save Andrew Cavanaugh. Because of that move, his bosses at the DEA put him on desk duty, which he hated. At a family gathering where the new batch of Cavanaughs were getting to know the family, Brennan is offered an undercover job by the Chief of Detectives. So he is now trying to get on the inside of a human trafficking ring that is kidnapping young girls.

Tiana is a CSI detective in San Francisco when her younger sister goes missing. She takes a leave of absence to go looking for Janie. Janie is the only family she has after the death of their abusive father. Their lives with her father have made her very distrustful of men, and the smooth operator she finds sets off all kinds of alarms. She's sure he's connected to the ring, but he's unlike any of the criminals she's come into contact with in the past. He's also being very accommodating to her in her own role as a madam looking for workers. She's thankful, but also somewhat suspicious.

This was so much fun to read. I loved the initial interactions between Tiana and Brennan. Each is suspicious of the other one. Brennan thinks she's too classy to be what she says she is, but he's willing to keep her close and use her to further his attempts to find the missing girls. Tiana finds him a bit too personally appealing to her, and doesn't understand why he seems to be slipping past her barriers. I liked the way that she trusts him enough to take his advice on the meeting she has with the trafficker, but still has reservations about him.

It gets really good when she decides it's in her best interests to turn him over to the cops. He tries to tell her he's undercover, but she doesn't believe him.  I loved the scene where she actually took him to the police station. Once everything is sorted out, I liked the way that they joined forces for real. They have a nearly seamless way of working together that gets them a lot of very useful information. Things are also heating up for them on a personal level. Brennan sees the way she guards herself, and wants to show her that it's possible for her to have much more happiness than she allows herself. She brings out feelings in him that he hadn't expected to feel quite yet. For Tiana, Brennan is unlike any man she's ever known before. He is protective of her but he also respects her abilities. The passion she feels for him she plans to enjoy for as long as it lasts, even though she doesn't expect anything long term.

I loved the culmination as they found "Mr. Big". Both Brennan and Tiana did a great job of thinking on their feet. I really enjoyed Brennan's recruiting of his brother and sister as backup and the fun family dynamics among them, even as they are always available for support of each other. The excitement of their search kept me turning the pages until everything was resolved. Brennan's timely appearance at the crucial moment also gave another little piece of information about him that explained more about the man he is.

Of course, I loved the epilogue as it takes place at another Cavanaugh family event. I always enjoy the reactions of people new to the family, and Tiana is no different. Her reaction to the Cavanaugh track record is great, especially with what Brennan has to say. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rescue at Cardwell Ranch - B.J. Daniels (HI #1497 - June 2014)

Series: Cardwell Cousins (Book 1)

Saving her once was risky. Rescuing her again may be fatal.

When Hayes Cardwell arrived in Big Sky, Montana, for his brother's wedding, the Texas P.I. didn't expect to play hero. But ever since he saved her from a brutal abductor, he can't get McKenzie Sheldon out of his mind and heart. As passion blindsides him, Hayes vows to protect the beautiful business owner from once again becoming the target of a killer intent on finishing the job.

McKenzie was drawn to Hayes from the moment she awoke and saw the tall, dark cowboy who'd rushed to her rescue like some Western fantasy. With his lean, sexy looks and fierce protective instincts, the gun-shy bachelor is already lassoing her heart. But can he protect her from a danger that's much closer than they think...a killer hiding in plain sight who's about to spring a final trap?

I could not put this down. McKenzie is a strong, independent woman who is devoted to her job as a realtor. She works long hours, and found herself doing some grocery shopping late one evening. As she came out of the grocery store she was attacked and nearly abducted by a serial killer. The only thing that saves her is that Hayes came out of the same store right after she did. As a P.I. he is used to quick thinking and action and because of it was able to get her away from her attacker. 

Hayes is in Big Sky for his brother's wedding. He's also there to talk his brother out of trying to open a branch of their family's restaurants in Montana. Discovering that McKenzie is the real estate agent helping his brother reinforces that he hasn't been able to get her off his mind since the attack. When it appears that the killer is planning to finish what he started Hayes is determined to keep her safe. He doesn't have it easy because McKenzie is so independent she doesn't like accepting help from anyone. I liked that he didn't really give her the option of refusing. I also enjoyed seeing him try to understand what he was feeling. There's something about being with her that makes him happy in a way he's never felt before. I loved seeing him get closer to her as he tried to keep her safe at the Cardwell ranch. But he also can't see how anything can come of it with his work in Texas and hers in Montana. 

McKenzie is the youngest of nine kids and has always been very independent and very driven. She is very thankful for Hayes's quick action that saved her life. There is something about him that makes her feel very safe. She is also immensely attracted to him, but with the strain of being in danger doesn't want to make any impulsive decisions. I loved seeing her allow herself to lean on him while still trying to preserve her independence. 

The suspense of the story as McKenzie is being stalked is very intense. From the first chapter where we see him watching her to the final confrontation the danger just keeps building. I enjoyed the glimpses into his thoughts and actions as they added to the clues of trying to figure out who he was. There were several possibilities and it wasn't until just before the big reveal that I thought I had a handle on who it was. I loved the fact that McKenzie wasn't going to make it easy for him, which made it possible for Hayes to be in time. I do wonder if the visitor to McKenzie's hospital room is going to appear in a later book.

I always enjoy seeing previous characters show up in current books. I loved seeing Dana open her ranch and her heart to McKenzie when Hayes brought her there as a safe place to stay. It's easy to see how much her family means to her and how getting to know the cousins is important to her. I also liked seeing Tag from Christmas at Cardwell Ranch showing his brother how important love is. It was great to see the somewhat cynical Latimer is the one who straightens him out. I'm also looking forward to Jackson's story.