Thursday, July 31, 2014

The First Love Cookie Club - Lori Wilde (Avon - Nov 2010)

Series: Twilight TX (Book 3)

“On Christmas Eve, if you sleep with kismet cookies under your pillow and dream of your one true love, he will be your destiny.”

The townsfolk of Twilight, Texas, believe the legend, but not Sarah Collier -- not since she was a pudgy teenager, running down the church aisle on Christmas Day in a jingle bell sweater and reindeer antlers, trying to stop Travis Walker from marrying someone else. She may be grown up, slimmed down, bestselling children’s book author “Sadie Cool” now, but Sarah will never forget that day. And she’ll never fall foolishly in love again!

But when a letter from a sick fan brings Sarah back to Twilight, she’s shocked to discover that Travis is the little girl’s father -- unattached and hotter than ever. His movie-star smile still makes her melt, but Sarah knows that ship has sailed. Travis, however, might have different ideas.

Just because you don’t believe in fairy tales doesn’t mean they won’t come true…

I really enjoyed this book. I felt like the problems and emotions were ones that were realistic. While both Travis and Sarah have issues, none of them seem to overwhelm the story. It starts with Sarah as an awkward teenager discovering that the guy she's been dreaming of is about to marry someone else. After humiliating herself by trying to stop the wedding she swears she will never risk her heart again. Fast forward nine years, and Sarah has become a successful children's author. When she receives a letter from a sick fan, she reluctantly returns to Twilight, only to discover that the little girl is Travis's daughter.

I had a little trouble connecting with Sarah at first. She was so resistant about going to Twilight that she came across as a bit selfish. Even once she was there she seemed rather standoffish. Some could be blamed on her memories of that day, but other things about her life are slowly revealed and begin to explain her problem. Her initial meeting with Travis shows her that she has never really forgotten those feelings for him. She also knows that she won't stay in Twilight so there's no sense in starting anything with him, tempting though it may be. She doesn't count on the ladies of the cookie club doing their best to push them together, or that Travis seems equally drawn to her. As the week goes on Travis and Jazzy start to break down the walls that Sarah has built up to keep people out. She starts to connect with them and others, but still doesn't see herself as able to have that happy ending.

Travis was a wonderful hero. From his kind attitude toward Sarah on his wedding day to the amazing father he is today he is awesome. He may have made a mistake by getting his girlfriend pregnant when he was twenty, but he was determined to do the honorable thing and take care of them both. He was an involved father from the beginning, and even more so when Jazzy got so sick. He took on the role of both parents when his wife left them, making Jazzy the center of his world. When Sarah came back to Twilight he was surprised by the strength of his attraction to her. He would be very happy to see where it goes, but he has some of his own baggage to overcome. Between watching his dad fall apart after his mom's death and then his disastrous marriage, Travis resists the idea of soulmates, fearing that his life would fall apart too if he were to lose someone he cared about that much. I really liked the way that he saw Sarah's pain and fears and gave her the space she needed to process what they were beginning to feel for each other.

Even as they began to acknowledge their feelings for each other, there were still some obstacles to overcome. Jazzy's mother comes back to town, causing Sarah to question her own place in their lives. Sarah has some professional problems that also interfere with her decision making process. Then there is a health crisis with Jazzy that brings a whole host of feelings to the surface, causing both Sarah and Travis to take a good look at what they really want from life.

The town itself is another character in the book. I enjoyed seeing the various Christmas traditions and how they worked with what Travis and Sarah were going through. The people had the usual small town nosiness and tendency to interfere, but mostly in a positive manner. There was a secondary storyline that was left hanging, but it is addressed in a later series of novellas. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Maid for the Millionaire - Susan Meier (HR #4179 - July 2010)

Series: Housekeepers Say I Do (Book 1)

Liz Harper's to-do list as boss of Happy Maids:

Drive to new client's palatial Miami beach house, armed with housekeeping kit

Try to stay upright when discovering he is none other than Cain Nestor -- reclusive millionaire and infuriatingly distant ex-husband...

Keep tight-lipped about the secret that made you walk out on your marriage

Let him see the new you -- successful business owner. Don't let on that he's making your heart beat twice as fast as normal!

Above all, remember to be professional -- you're not here for romance!

Good second chance story. Liz was surprised to see Cain was her new client. She hadn't seen him in the three years since their divorce and isn't happy to discover that she still has feelings for him. In the time since, Cain has realized how much he missed Liz and that he was responsible for end of their marriage. Now he has a chance to change that.

I loved seeing Liz and Cain get to know each other properly. Cain had married Liz because he wanted her and thought she'd do well as his wife. But he was a workaholic and spent little time at home with her. It got worse when his brother died and he closed himself off emotionally. Seeing her again reminded him of how he'd felt. He takes the chance he's been given and uses it as a way to spend time with her. Cain has always felt that he can't relate to people and keeps himself separate. Working with Liz he finds himself changing in unexpected ways. It was great to see him open up to Liz in ways he hadn't when they were married. He also discovered that he enjoyed helping people with Liz which made him feel better about himself. He also ended up in a great mentoring relationship with a teenaged boy, thanks to his work with Liz. His feelings for Liz kept growing but so did his fears that he had messed things up so badly she wouldn't want to try again.

Liz had still loved Cain when she left him, but she couldn't live with things the way they were. His distance and the fact that he was never home also made it harder for her to deal with her insecurities. She had grown up very poor and being thrown into Cain's wealthy lifestyle made her very uncomfortable. By the time she sees him again, Liz is the owner of a successful cleaning business. She has become much more confident in her abilities. She has also gotten involved in a charity that helps abused women start new lives. When he decides to get involved in the charity Liz worries about how to protect her heart from falling for him again. It is a losing battle as she witnesses the changes he goes through. She slowly realizes that it might be possible to have a happy future with the new Cain. All she has to do is be willing to open her heart again.

I liked seeing the way that both Cain and Liz realized that they had made mistakes in their marriage. They were also able to see that, thanks to the changes each of them had gone through, they were in a far better place to take a chance on each other again. Both learned the value of expressing their feelings and communicating with each other. 

I also enjoyed seeing the work that Cain and Liz did for the charity. It was a good look at what goes on behind the scenes. I loved seeing Cain connect with the young man he was helping, and what a difference it made in both their lives.

Read in this edition.

It Happened One Week - JoAnn Ross (SYT #15 - Mar 1996)


First Love: Ten years ago, Amanda fell madly in love with Dane, the most handsome man she'd ever seen. They kissed till dawn, whispered sweet nothings about forever. Then suddenly it was over....

Present Love: In the middle of the worst week of her life, guess who she comes face-to-face with? Dane -- looking more gorgeous than ever....

Forever Love: Now Amanda has only seven days -- and nights -- for a second chance to say, "I do!"

Good reunion/second chance romance.  Amanda and Dane had had a summer romance as teenagers. At the end of the summer they planned to stay in touch, but outside interference prevented it. Neither one forgot the other, even through the hurt they felt over what they thought was betrayal. Ten years later, Amanda is a high powered advertising executive looking for a place to hold a team building session and ends up back at Smuggler's Inn. There she meets Dane again and they discover that the feelings they'd had are still there, but don't know if they have any better chance of a future together.

I loved Amanda's determination to do the best job she can with the retreat. She has a horrible boss, but if he moves up she has a good chance to get his job. She doesn't need the distraction of seeing Dane again, but her feelings for him are as strong as ever. I did think she was awfully quick to judge him when she thought he had never followed through on his plans. As she got to know him all over again she realized that he was much happier with his choices than she was with hers. Her growing feelings for Dane had her questioning what her goals had been and her motivations for them. I liked seeing her make the decision to take what time she could with him, even though she couldn't see a future for them. She ended up with some interesting choices to make.

Dane had returned to Satan's Cove after ten years away. He had learned a lot about the hotel business, but discovered that he missed home much more than he had ever expected. Though his days are just as long as before, he is much happier bringing Smuggler's Inn back to life. He is stunned to find Amanda and her team booked into the hotel, and not happy about it at first. It doesn't take long for them to discover that neither was to blame for the past. I liked the way that Dane moved on quickly after that discovery and admitted that his feelings for her were still there. He can also see the same signs of stress in her that he had gone through and would like to help her, but knows that she has to see it for herself. I loved seeing everything he did to try to make things easier for her. He really wants her to stay with him, but also feels that he can't stand in the way of her dreams. Dane and Amanda had to look at their feelings, their dreams and where they were now in order to find a way to achieve what they wanted. Both had to be willing to make changes.  

One of the things I enjoyed was seeing the way that Amanda used her abilities to bring her coworkers together. The teamwork exercises were well done and went a long way toward showing her strengths. I really enjoyed her interactions with her various coworkers, and loved seeing her deal with her obnoxious boss. There were a couple of interesting twists at the end that made the conclusion even more satisfying.

Edition read:

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Countess Confessions - Jillian Hunter (Signet - Feb 2014)

Series: Boscastle (Book 13)

All Emily Selwick wanted was to convince the man she had adored for years that she was the woman he ought to marry. She never expected that her ill-fated deception at a party would uncover a scheme against the Crown and ensnare her in the sensual trap of an enigmatic stranger.

Damien Boscastle, the Earl of Shalcross, knows he must marry Emily to defend her honor and keep his mission secret. But, by saving her reputation, he will draw her into his arms as well as a dangerous intrigue.

After a whirlwind courtship that leaves her breathless, Emily finds herself wed to a husband who vows not only to protect her from his menacing world -- but to train his wife in the pleasures of passion.

Good romance with a touch of suspense added to liven things up. Emily had disguised herself as a fortune-telling gypsy in an attempt to catch the interest of a man she was interested in. Instead, she found herself entangled with Damien, who was undercover trying to discover and shut down a group of anarchists. She ends up compromised and in the crosshairs of the conspirators, who worry what she might have heard. 

Damien is intent on his mission, with no plans to marry in the near future, but he won't let Emily suffer because of him. He steps up to marry her, in spite of the kink it puts in his plans. He finds it distressingly easy to play the part of the besotted fiance, and worries that his fascination will distract him from what he has to do. He is determined to stop the anarchists and keep Emily safe. I really liked the fact that Damien showed no resentment about having to marry Emily. In fact, he was quite comfortable with the idea and expected that they would have a real marriage right from the start. He may be a dangerous, confident operative but he is also astounded by Emily's ability to take everything in stride. I really liked the fact that he didn't treat her like an idiot but showed a lot of respect for her intelligence.

Emily has been a magnet for trouble most of her life. She has a tendency to get herself into awkward situations, but this time she's in real trouble. At first she's angry that Damien has spoiled her plans, but the effect he has on her soon drives those plans right out of her mind. She's smart enough to know that Damien is her best bet at staying alive, but thinking about the danger she's in is difficult when all she can think of is her upcoming marriage. She realized pretty quickly that what she felt for the other man was nothing when compared to what she feels for Damien. I liked the fact that she started the marriage with the full intention of making it work. I really enjoyed seeing her fully embrace everything that Damien was exposing her to.

The suspense itself started out strong, with Damien's undercover attempt to ferret out who the leader of the anarchists was. His fears for Emily and Iris seemed well-founded when the conspirators were so determined to track them down and kill them. I enjoyed the efforts that Damien and Emily, as well as Iris and Winthrop made to investigate at the house party, but they seemed pretty laid back for the importance of the mission. The final confrontation felt almost anti-climactic with its lack of intensity. I will admit that the leader was someone I did not suspect, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Against the Night - Kat Martin (Mira - Mar 2012)

Series: Raines of Wind Canyon (Book 5)

He knows what goes on in the dark.

She's got the face of an angel and the body of…well, isn't that what he'd expect from an exotic dancer? But there's something about this girl that Johnnie Riggs can't shake. The former army ranger is hot on the trail of an elusive drug lord -- and suddenly very hot under the collar, as well.

Amy's got her own agenda to pursue: her sister is missing and Amy seems to be the only one who cares. She'll enlist Johnnie's help and do her best to ignore her growing attraction to finally get some answers. But when the two trails begin to converge and reveal something even more sinister than they imagined, their mutual desire is the least of their problems. They'll bring the truth to light…or die trying.

Good story. Amy is a kindergarten teacher masquerading as an exotic dancer in an attempt to find her missing sister. Johnnie is a PI who has come to the club to catch a bail jumper. He notices her right away and can't get her out of his mind. When he meets her he quickly realizes that she is not what she appears to be and is further fascinated. Amy has noticed him also, and when she finds out what he does is determined to ask him to help her find her sister.

I loved the two of them together. Johnnie is an ex-Ranger who is very good at what he does. He takes on Amy's case because of his fascination with her, but quickly gets invested in truly finding out what happened. He is very much the protective, alpha kind of guy who ends up at a loss at how to deal with Amy. He can't get her out of his mind, even though he avoids getting emotionally close to any woman. He has lost people he cared for, and done things that haunt him, so feels that he is better off alone. He tries very hard to keep Amy's involvement in the case to a minimum, but can't deny her when she insists on being involved every step of the way.

Amy feels pretty overwhelmed by what she is doing, but she is determined to find her sister. Exotic dancing is something that is way out of her experience, but the longer she does it the more comfortable she is. When she first sees Johnnie she is attracted to him, but is very wary because of who and what he is. She really wants his help in finding her sister and asks him anyway. I loved the way that she refused to be sidelined in the investigation and made sure that Johnnie kept her involved. There were times she took some risks that could have turned out badly, but her own strengths saved her. Her attraction to Johnnie quickly turns to stronger feelings, but she sees no future in it. She knows he won't/can't commit and she'll be going back to teaching at the end of the summer anyway. 

The romance between Johnnie and Amy is hard fought. Johnnie sees both the sweet and innocent Amy and the sexy Angel. He really wants her and finds that his feelings for her are more than he's ever felt for anyone before. He's convinced he's not good enough for her and resists thinking about a future with her. He doesn't see how well suited she is for him, with her ability to stand up for herself. I loved seeing the way that he was frequently confused by the fact that she so easily got her way.  Amy falls hard for Johnnie, but doesn't see how her life can mesh with his. She spends a lot of time thinking about what it will be like to have to go back home when this is done. I loved seeing her insist on taking an active part in the investigation, not just sitting back and waiting for Johnnie to do the work. I really loved the scene where she showed him she could defend herself. I loved how she blew away some of his preconceived ideas. I liked the way that she had the courage to tell Johnnie how she felt. There was awhile when I wondered just how long it would take for them to realize that they could be together.

The suspense part of the story kept me intrigued. There were so many threads that had to come together before the whole picture was revealed. There were some villains that were clear from the beginning, but there were a couple that I never saw coming. I really enjoyed the appearances of characters from previous books and their involvement in helping Johnnie. The resolution of Rachael's disappearance didn't wait until the end, but there was more to the story after she was found which made a nice change.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Matched to a Billionaire - Kat Cantrell (HD #2315 - July 2014)

Series: Happily Ever After Inc. (Book 1)

Wanted: one convenient wife
Venture capitalist Leo Reynolds is married to his work, but now he needs a wife. Someone to run his home, host his parties--and accept a marriage that's strictly business. His one rule: love will play no part in their union. At least that's the lie he tells himself, until he meets his match....

Enter Daniella White--handpicked by the matchmaker as the perfect wife. Marriage to Leo means security, and she's willing to give up passion for friendship. But the moment they meet, sparks fly. And now temptation--and Leo's own heart--have the billionaire ready to change all the rules.

Good book. Leo is a workaholic but needs a wife to help him with the social aspects of his job. He doesn't have the time or inclination to date, so goes to a matchmaker to help him find the right woman. He wants a wife who is willing to have a strictly business relationship. Daniella matches all the requirements. She is looking for security so that she can take care of her sick mother. She had dreams of the perfect marriage but was willing to give them up for a friendly partnership instead.

Neither of them expected the intense attraction that flared as soon as they met. Leo especially fights it as hard as he can. Long ago he realized that he has a rather obsessive personality. He fears getting so lost in his feelings for Daniella that he would ignore his business and lose everything. He had grown up poor and has worked hard for the success that he has achieved so far, even though he feels it still isn't enough. Leo has some deep seated insecurities that cause him to feel that he isn't good enough. It doesn't take long for Daniella to work her way under his walls and it scares him to realize just how much he wants her. He's convinced that he can't have a successful company and a real marriage at the same time. 

Daniella accepts the terms of the marriage because she needs to take care of her mother. She also grew up poor. Signing up with the matchmaker seemed to be her best option after losing several jobs because of frequent absences. Leo has made his preferences clear - she isn't to expect any romance from him, his focus is on work. Her job is to take care of the other parts of his life. Her first sight of him blows her belief in that possibility away. She wants him in all ways in her life, but she knows that it won't be easy to convince him. She had worked hard to become the kind of person she thought he wanted, but found that her real self kept popping out. She can see that Leo has the potential to be a marvelous husband if she can just convince him of it. 

I really loved seeing the two of them as they tried to reconcile their intentions with what was really happening. I loved Daniella's determination to show Leo that he could have it all. She had all kinds of little things that she would do to try to get her point across. She had quickly discovered that she wanted more than he was offering and she wasn't going to give up.  Meanwhile, Leo was doing his best to block her from his mind and wasn't succeeding at all. This conversation said it best:

"You're driving me bananas. No. Worse than that." He squeezed the top of his head but his brain still felt as though she twirled it with a spaghetti fork. "What's worse than bananas?"

"Pomegranates," she said decisively. "They're harder to eat and don't taste as good."

He bit back a laugh. Yes, exactly. His incredibly perceptive wife drove him pomegranates. "That about covers it."

As the book progressed, Daniella started to gain confidence in herself and her abilities. I loved seeing her work with the matchmaker to help others the way that she had been helped. It also made her realize that she deserved more than she had been getting. Leo also had some changes to go through. From the rather cold, aloof man, determined to keep Daniella at a distance to the relaxed and happy husband was not an easy journey for him. He got a less than pleasant look at himself when his friend Dax made some obnoxious comments about Daniella. He also had to learn about how to have balance in his life. That was a lesson learned from a young man that Leo was mentoring, and was another fun scene in his transformation. Leo's fears were easy to understand as more was learned about him, and I loved seeing the way that Daniella loved and supported him.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

All of Me - Lori Wilde (Forever - Apr 2009)

Series: Wedding Veil Wishes (Book 4)

Can two broken hearts become one?

Attorney Jillian Samuels doesn't believe in true love and never, ever wished for happily ever after. But when a searing betrayal leaves her jobless and heartbroken, a newly inherited cottage in Salvation, Colorado, seems to offer a fresh start. What she finds when she arrives shocks her: the most gorgeous and infuriating man she's ever met is living in her home!

Tuck Manning was a gifted architect who left a skyrocketing career to care for his dying wife. But the life he's made for himself in this quiet town is turned upside down when Jillian appears on his doorstep. Tuck won't go without a fight, and the two resolve to live as roommates until they can untangle who owns the cottage. Yet as Tuck and Jillian's days--and nights--heat up, they realize more than property rights are at stake...and that sometimes, salvation comes when you least expect it.

This is the final book in the series. I liked Jillian and Tuck and enjoyed seeing their emotional growth as the book progressed. Jillian was the last recipient of the magic wedding veil, but she doesn't believe in magic or true love. After the emotional blow of losing the mentor who was like a father to her and quitting her job to escape a sleazy new boss, she puts the veil on and has an incredible dream of a really hot guy. When she inherits a cottage from her mentor she packs up and moves there, only to find that same guy living in her new house.

Tuck has been merely existing since the death of his wife. He no longer feels the magic he used to feel when designing the buildings he used to love and is working as a simple carpenter. He's not at all happy to have Jillian appear and lay claim to his home, especially since she's the same woman who showed up in a sexy dream he had. 

I enjoyed their initial clash and the sparks that flew. The attraction was there, but neither one wanted anything to do with it. Neither is willing to give up their claim to the house so they agree to share it until they can figure out who really owns it. Living together as they are brings their attraction into sharper focus, but they fight it all the way. They agree to be friends and that actually works out pretty well. I liked the way that they really got to know each other without letting anything else get in the way. While the friendship grew stronger, so did their attraction. 

Both Jillian and Tuck had major issues that were keeping them from seeing that they belonged together. Tuck was still grieving for his wife and believed that she was the only one he'd ever love. Every time he even thought about being with Jillian he felt guilty. His feelings for her kept getting stronger but he couldn't give up the idea that having a future with her wasn't possible. I had high hopes when they got snowed in together, but he really screwed up. Jillian has spent so long protecting herself that she's not sure she's able to trust herself when it comes to her feelings. She has been abandoned or betrayed by so many people that she cared for that she has stopped expecting anything good to happen to her. She starts to feel some hope for her future as she and Tuck become closer friends. When she decides to kick things up during the blizzard, her hopes take off, then come crashing down. I was actually pretty impressed that she didn't physically maim Tuck after he pulled that stunt. I really liked seeing how she had changed and gotten enough confidence in herself to move on after that.

The ending was pretty good. I really liked the way that Jillian made Tuck work for her forgiveness when he came back. The whole confusion about who owned the house was settled just the way I thought it would be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Heir of the Castle - Scarlet Wilson (HR #4425 - May 2014)

The surprise inheritance: a castle!

When the closest person tycoon Callan McGregor has to a father dies, it's down to him to organize the inheritance of Annick Castle. And the most suitable candidate seems to be stunning lawyer Laurie Jenkins.

Even though she makes the usually brooding Callan's pulse race, this is business -- he cannot afford a distraction. But she's a bubbly breath of fresh air who shakes the castle and Callan to its foundations. This time, he's not going to walk away -- from either his home or from Laurie….

Sweet romance with a twist. Callan's friend and mentor has died and the only real home Callan has known is to be inherited to someone Callan has never heard of. Laurie is one of twelve potential heirs to the castle. As a lawyer she can't believe the terms of the will, but she is fascinated by the castle.

The twelve potential heirs to the castle must participate in a murder mystery weekend. The winner will inherit the castle. Callan is disgusted by most of those who have arrived. They are all more interested in what everything is worth than in the castle itself and its history. The exception is Laurie, who spends most of her time asking about what Angus was like and about the history of the castle.

Callan is fighting the hurt he feels that Angus never told him about his family in all the years they knew each other. Angus had been far more a father to Callan than his own had been, always encouraging Callan to go after what he wanted. When Callan met Laurie he was immediately drawn to her, but has a hard time trusting her at first, because of the actions of the others. He soon discovers that she is different. His connection to her grows, but the uncertainty of the situation keeps him quiet about a future. He had a rather narrow view of the castle and its future but Laurie opened his eyes to other things about it.

Laurie is more interested in learning about her family than in what happens to the castle. The thought of having family means a lot to her. She doesn't understand how Angus could have had six children and yet never contacted them. She is drawn to Callan from the first, but can't figure out why he seems so grouchy. As they connect over the castle she learns more about his life with Angus. Being at the castle and away from her job as a lawyer makes her realize just how much she hates what she does and the stress it has created in her life. With Callan's example she starts to reevaluate her future. I especially liked the positive way she viewed the castle and everything about it. I enjoyed seeing her ideas of what it could be.

The identity of the "murderer" was both a surprise and expected. I loved seeing Laurie's reasoning as to her guess. There was, of course, no other winner possible for the story to work, but I enjoyed the process. I loved the ending and the epilogue was fantastic.

I really loved the Scottish setting. Having just returned from a visit there, I had no trouble picturing the castle and its grounds. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Relentless - HelenKay Dimon (HI #1488 - Apr 2014)

Series: Corcoran Team (Book 3)

Branded a traitor for exposing high-level corruption, former NCIS agent Ben Tanner needs to redeem himself. When the hot new operative saves nurse Jocelyn Raine from a brutal attacker, he embarks on his most challenging mission yet: discovering who's after the strong, sexy woman--and trying his best not to fall for her. She has, he learns, something in her past she wants to remain hidden.

But when the attacks on Jocelyn continue, Ben takes her on the run to protect her. Sparks ignite and tension is high as their options dwindle. It's possible Jocelyn's secret has endangered them both. Now it's Ben's job to see they survive the fallout….

Fast paced and intense story. Ben is trying to get his life back on track. After exposing the corruption of his former boss, many people considered him a traitor. He left NCIS to go work for the Corcoran Team instead. During an early mission he met Jocelyn and was drawn to her. After several tries he finally got her to say yes to a date with him. At the end of the date he rescued her from an attack, and another one the next day. He is determined to keep her safe and find out who is behind it and why.

I really liked both Ben and Jocelyn. Ben has been punished for doing the right thing and is still trying to come to terms with what it means for his life. He has found acceptance and a career worth having with the team. But he is still dealing with the emotional wounds of peoples' attitudes toward him. It causes some insecurities in him, though I found it only made him more appealing to me. A hint of vulnerability in a guy like him makes him irresistible. I loved his persistence in trying to get Jocelyn to go out with him. One of the things I liked best about Ben was his support of Jocelyn and his understanding of her own issues. I loved that he always had words of support and encouragement for her. He falls hard for her, but is afraid of bringing more danger to her because of what he does.

Jocelyn had come to Annapolis to escape the memories of her previous life. She keeps a pretty low profile, especially when it comes to men. It takes her a long time to say yes to dating Ben because she has some major trust issues. When he rescues her from her attackers and continues to protect her, she begins to see the differences in him. I really liked the way that she can show Ben that the people who have punished him are wrong and that she sees him for the good man that he really is. She is a strong-willed and independent woman, and while this keeps her from falling apart during the attacks, she also does a couple really stupid things that put people in danger. By the end she knows how she feels about Ben and isn't gong to let him push her away.

The suspense and action throughout the book is great. There is always something going on as things flow quickly from one event to the next. The bad guys are believable and the scenario is something that could happen. There were a couple interesting twists at the end that made the final showdown even more intense. I loved seeing how the team worked together. The respect for each other and their abilities is always there, but you can also see the friendship. I loved some of the teasing that went on among them. I'm really looking forward to Joel and Connor's stories.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Highlander's Curse - Melissa Mayhue (Pocket - Apr 2011)

Series: Daughters of the Glen (Book 8)

When COLIN MACALISTER is cursed by the Faerie Queen and ends up in the bed of a twenty-first-century woman -- who also happens to be the most beautiful creature he's ever laid eyes on -- he's torn between anger and lust. Colin is determined to see Scotland free of English control and must return to the fourteenth century, yet he cannot forget the woman who haunts his dreams and stirs him with scorching desire.

ABIGAIL PORTER can't believe her luck. After making a wish to find her soul mate, she wakes up to find a gorgeous man in her bed! Can he really be a medieval Highlander summoned by her Faerie Magic, however? It seems crazy, but when Abby discovers someone wants to enslave her because of her Faerie heritage, she agrees to flee with Colin to 1306 Scotland to avoid capture. Thwarting danger at every turn, Abby and Colin surrender to an irresistible passion. But is the magic of true love powerful enough to save them?

Good book. Colin is a fourteenth century Scot, caught up in the war to free Scotland from the English. When he goes to a seer for advice on how to win, he runs afoul of the Faerie Queen, who curses him with being able to hear the pain of all who have no Soulmates. Ten years later he is sucked into the future and ends up in Abby's bed. As beautiful as she is, he feels the need to get back home. He has a cousin who also lives in the future and goes to her for help. He hasn't been able to forget Abby, who haunts his dreams.

Abby is an archaeologist who has a magical talent for finding things. It turns out she has Faerie blood and that is her gift. A late night wish for The One brings Colin to her bed, but she doesn't believe his story. She gladly hands him off to his cousin, a former professor of hers, but is unable to forget him. She is involved in a dig in Scotland, but is unaware that the man in charge has more in mind for her. He is an evil Fae who wants her for her Faerie blood.

Both Colin and Abby are strong minded people with definite ideas about their futures. Colin is determined to get back home and save king and country from the disaster he discovered by reading a history book in the future. He refuses to listen to anyone who tells him that he cannot go back and change history without causing devastating results. When he finds out that he is in the future because of Abby he is determined that she send him back. His connection to her also makes him aware of the evil that is stalking her, and he is compelled to protect her. 

Abby is thrilled to be included in the dig in Scotland, but the man is charge is really starting to creep her out. The attention he pays to her makes her very uncomfortable. Colin's reappearance in her life is timely, as she hopes that pretending he is her boyfriend will keep Jonathan away from her. However, she has a very hard time believing Colin's story of who he is, how he got there, and what he needs her to do. But when the only way to escape is to wish themselves back to 1306, suddenly she has to believe.

I loved the connection between Colin and Abby, which was very strong. Their interactions, especially at the beginning when Abby didn't believe him, were pretty fun. The more time they spent together, the deeper their connection got. Things really got good when they admitted their feelings for each other, but they had to deal with what was keeping them apart. Colin does not want to give up his plans to save king and country, even though it goes against everyone's advice. And Abby is not at all happy with the idea of staying in 1306. She is a modern woman who likes her life just as it is. Ultimately, they have to decide which is more important - their plans or their love.

Their conflict with the evil Fae was very well done. His thoughts and motivations were believably portrayed. Colin had spent a long time fighting against his own Faerie heritage, seeing only the trouble it had caused. That same heritage made it possible for him to be the one to save Abby. Her reactions to Jonathan before she knew what he was showed good instincts on her part, even though she was reluctant to believe the truth at the beginning. I loved the journey to the past and seeing Abby's reactions to everything. Abby had great instincts about Colin, and some of the things she had to do to stay with him were fun to see, and his reactions were priceless. The ending was great and I loved how they worked things out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Manhattan Encounter - Addison Fox (HRS #1810 - July 2014)

Series: House of Steele (Book 4)

Will the mighty Steele fall?
He'd faced down madmen with guns, hunted thieves and jumped off buildings for fun. So why is Liam Steele at his wit's end when Dr. Isabella Magnini needs his protection? The brilliant and beautiful scientist's work is revolutionary, and someone wants to keep her insights secret--no matter what it costs.

When the House of Steele comes together to protect Isabella, Liam realizes just how isolated he's truly become. And as he and Isabella dodge bullets, fires and even an invasion, he knows he's in more danger than ever. Because how will he ever let her go?

Fantastic conclusion to the series. Liam is assigned to protect Isabella by his grandfather. She has done some ground-breaking research and someone is trying to stop her from going public with it. It started lightly with someone searching her home and office, but the threats have become more physical. 

Liam has never had trouble concentrating on his job before, but Isabella has really thrown him off his game. As the oldest in the family, after his parents' deaths Liam considered himself responsible for his siblings, even though they had their grandparents. He has also kept himself apart from everyone else, preferring to to get too close to anyone, which even bled over into staying away from his family as much as he could. The case with Isabella, however, requires that they all work together, and Liam begins to realize just how much he has missed his family. He has also become more emotionally invested in keeping Isabella safe.

Isabella has always had a brilliant mind. She has no family and has devoted all her time to her research, causing her to be isolated from other people too. Her mentor had left her a lot of money which she uses to continue her research into ways to cure disease using DNA manipulation. When the attacks begin, she realizes that her research can also be abused, and goes to the Steeles for help. She is surprised by her attraction to and fascination with Liam. She had never experienced feelings like that before. One of the things I liked best about her was her fantastic skills of observation. She saw beyond Liam's surface coolness to the man underneath. I loved the way she could call him out on his attempts to keep her at a distance and make him talk to her. I occasionally got frustrated with the way she felt responsible for all the bad things that happened, but that was the type of person she was.

I loved the way that they were open with each other. Though it started with Isabella, she dragged Liam into it also. She had no trouble speaking her mind, and if she didn't like something she said so. She also didn't let Liam hold back from her. Liam was often surprised by the things she said, but soon came to appreciated her bluntness.

The suspense part of the story was excellent and very well done. Isabella's research felt like it was something that could exist now, and the threats against her felt very realistic. It was interesting to see how the person(s) responsible carried out their actions and to hear their motivations. Just goes to show how selfish and warped people can be.

I also loved having the entire Steele family involved in the case, including the new members. The interactions among them were fascinating to see. I also loved Isabella's clear view of them all and their roles in the family.

The Paris Assignment - Addison Fox (HRS #1762 - July 2013)

Series: House of Steele (Book 1)


It was obviously an inside job -- and security expert Campbell Steele figured he'd have to get very close to his new client, CEO Abigail McBane, to uncover the traitor. But when an electronic blip led to a bullet, he had to move fast….

Suddenly the commitment-shy expert is posing as Abby's lover and jetting off to a conference in Paris. The city of lovers should be the perfect cover to trap the enemy. As the stakes keep rising, they soon realize it isn't just her company the traitor wants, but Abby herself. And Campbell isn't about to lose what he's claimed as his own….

Very good start to the series. Abby is the CEO of a large telecommunications company. When someone breaches their security, she goes to her college friend Kenzie Steele for help. Kenzie puts her brother Campbell on the case. Campbell is a computer geek who is fantastic at what he does. He isn't thrilled about babysitting Abby, but the computer issues make it more interesting. But when the security problems escalate into physical danger to Abby, Campbell moves from geek to bodyguard.

I really liked both Campbell and Abby. Their common interest and expertise with computers helps them bond quickly, even as they try to resist the growing attraction between them. I loved some of the conversations between them as they dip into geek speak.  I loved the way that Campbell and Abby clashed at the beginning, but got closer as their respect for each others' abilities grew.

Abby has been at the head of her company for a long time and trusts her employees. She isn't happy when Campbell suggests that her problems are an inside job. But as time goes on she can't deny that he may be right. In order to disguise his real purpose for being around, they put out that he is her boyfriend, which adds another layer to their interactions. She can't deny that she wants him, but she isn't very happy about it, until the threats escalate. Then Abby finds herself leaning on him in ways she hadn't with anyone else. She also discovers a previously unknown desire to have a permanent connection with someone, and her heart has decided on Campbell. He has made no secret of his resistance to any kind of commitment, so she thinks that it will go nowhere.

Campbell has always been more into computers than people, especially after losing a good friend when he was a teenager. He holds himself back as a way to protect himself. He's not happy about being assigned to take care of Abby, especially when his attraction to her starts to interfere with his concentration. When the threats against Abby escalate into the physical, he realizes that she has begun to mean more to him than just a job. He accepts his feelings for her pretty quickly, but has to convince Abby that they have a future together.

The suspense in the story was very well done and kept me hooked from the beginning. We meet the bad guy fairly early, but identity and motivations are revealed a little at a time. Campbell's assertion that it is an inside job is shown early, and that identity is pretty obvious. I really enjoyed the cat and mouse tactics as Campbell and Abby worked to find the culprit without tipping their hand as they got close.The final showdown was intense as Campbell tried to get to Abby in time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Seduced by His Target - Gail Barrett (HRS #1781 - Dec 2013)

Series: Buried Secrets (Book 3)

For victims of violence, Nadine Seymour -- formerly Nadira al Kahtani -- is a savior in surgeon's clothing. But this time it's Nadira who must be saved…from her own corrupt family. Rasheed Davar -- a rebellious CIA agent seeking to avenge his wife's murder -- could risk his undercover mission to save her. But will he?

As a dangerous plot heats up in the nation's capital, Rasheed can't deny the mounting tension -- or his desperate need to tamp down his attraction. Nadira is beautiful. She is brave. And she's just the kind of high-stakes hostage who could awaken his own battered heart -- and lure them both into the terrorists' crosshairs….

Really good book. After escaping from her abusive home and living on the streets for awhile, Nadine went on to become a plastic surgeon. She specializes in helping battered women and children. When the book starts she is on a medical mission in Peru. There she is kidnapped by terrorists who are working for her father and brother. One of those terrorists is Rasheed, who is actually an undercover CIA agent. Rasheed is horrified by what Nadine expects to happen to her and tries to figure out how to save her without jeopardizing his mission.

Nadine was an incredibly strong woman. Her early life had created a sense of independence and ability to take care of herself. When she was taken she fought to escape, and kept her head when initially escape was impossible. She was also determined to save the other doctor who was taken at the same time. When Rasheed tells her who he is and why he's there, Nadine makes the decision to help him.

Rasheed had taken on this mission as a way to avenge his wife. He carries a great deal of guilt because he feels that she was killed because of what he was investigating at the time. The thought of another woman being in danger creates another layer of worry for him. Rasheed also cannot deny his growing attraction for Nadine. Her beauty and bravery have worked their way through the numbness he has felt since his wife's death. He tries to deny his feelings because he feels that the things he has had to do make it impossible to have a future with her.

The intensity of the emotion that grows between them matches the intensity of the danger they are in. Both know that they could be killed at any time, which makes their stolen moments even more potent. As much as they come to care for each other, both have heavy emotional baggage that needs to be dealt with before they can find a life together.

The action and suspense are nearly nonstop. All of the players are intent on their goals which creates some conflict between Nadine and Rasheed, as well as among the other characters. I was completely caught up in what was happening and found much of it felt very believable. The final confrontation was complicated and I was anxious to see how it would work out. The anticipation was worth every minute.

I loved the epilogue as the three couples got together to celebrate the New Year and new beginnings.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hot on the Hunt - Melissa Cutler (HRS #1809 - July 2014)

Series: ICE: Black Ops Defenders (Book 3)

This ex-agent has one last chance to mend a broken relationship--if he can protect her long enough

Burned black-ops agent Alicia Troy spent years plotting the perfect revenge on the man who left her for dead...until her plan is foiled by her ex-teammate--and ex-lover--who taught her the meaning of betrayal. She can't trust John why can't she stop wanting him?

For John, it's a race to keep Alicia's intended victim safe long enough for the man to prove John's innocence, and it's a struggle to steer clear of the woman who believes he deceived her. But when their former agency turns on them, labeling them "armed and dangerous," John has a new mission: keep his woman alive.

Excellent conclusion to the trilogy. Almost two years earlier during a mission, Alicia was shot by another team member and nearly died. He was caught and imprisoned, but not before implicating another team member in the attack. Though his guilt was not proven, John lost his job with ICE and was told to leave the country. He and Alicia had also been lovers, but she believed in his betrayal and John has spent the last months trying to forget his broken heart.

When Rory escapes from prison, John goes after him, hoping to force him to confirm John's innocence. Alicia is also after Rory, with revenge on her mind. When the two meet, the old sparks start to fly but the trust necessary for a relationship just isn't there. Alicia still believes that John betrayed her, and John is still furious that she had no faith in his innocence.

The two of them begin an uneasy partnership as they try to locate Rory. Things are complicated by an approaching hurricane and agents from their former agency who are trying to capture or kill them. The action is nonstop from the beginning as John and Alicia try to get to Rory before he can disappear. There are times when it was hard to tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, even between John and Alicia. The final confrontation was incredible as the odds were stacked so high against Alicia and John. I loved the way it all worked out, with some help from a surprising quarter.

The rekindling of the romance between John and Alicia was hard won. Alicia had been recruited into the CIA and then ICE right out of high school. As a result, she had learned to never trust anyone. This made it easy for her to believe that John had betrayed her. Once she and John are working together again she slowly starts to realize that she had been wrong. She also realizes that she had never stopped loving him. But there are some things that she has done that are going to cause that love to be questioned and she's going to have to deal with the consequences.

John was a different kind of hero. Even though he has been a member of the ICE team, he was never the alpha guy that the others were. Thanks to Rory's lies, John has lost his sense of who he is. Finding out about Rory's escape gives him a new purpose and he is determined to get him to confess to his lies. It also puts him at cross purposes with Alicia, who just wants Rory dead. John still feels the hurt and sense of betrayal because of Alicia's refusal to believe in his innocence, but he also knows that he is still in love with her. He hopes that convincing her of it will enable them to start over. But that becomes harder when her actions are called into question and he has to decide if he can trust her.

Lone Wolf Standing - Carla Cassidy (HRS #1807 - July 2014)

Series: Men of Wolf Creek (Book 3)

Maybe it's just her imagination, but Sheri Marcoli's convinced she's being watched. With the disappearance of her aunt still unsolved, Detective Jimmy Carmani's not taking any chances. But sticking close to the vulnerable beauty isn't just a job. For the first time in his life, Jimmy's discovering feelings he thought himself incapable of.

But the powerful attraction Sheri feels toward Jimmy is scaring her almost as much as her stalker. The swarthy, dark-eyed detective is nothing like the golden-haired prince she's waited for all her life. But as Sheri struggles to resist her overpowering desire, an evil madman is closing in...on both of them.

Good conclusion to the series.  Sheri's aunt is still missing and everyone is starting to lose hope that they will find her. When Sheri gets the feeling that she's being watched and then is attacked, Jimmy makes it his job to be sure she's safe. He doesn't mind staying close to her as he's been drawn to her for several months. 

I liked Jimmy a lot. He had a rough childhood growing up in foster care and always longing for love and a family of his own. He has come to the conclusion that he will never have it and devotes himself to his work instead. Working on the case of the missing aunt brings him into frequent contact with Sheri. Feeling that he's not really cut out for a relationship he offers her his friendship but soon discovers that he really wants more. By this time, though, he's heard all about her dream of the blond haired and blue eyed prince that she is looking for. I really felt bad for him with the way that he was falling so hard for Sheri and yet had to listen to her go on about the dream prince of hers. I thought he was a real sweetheart of a guy. He is there for her when she's scared. When she's attacked he takes care of her, sensing what she needs almost before she knows herself. I loved that he had the courage to tell her his feelings, and felt so bad for him when she rejected his claims of love.

Sheri irritated me through most of the book. She was so fixated on her childhood dream of her blue eyed blond prince who would simply show up out of the blue and sweep her off her feet. When she started having problems she had no trouble accepting help from Jimmy. She accepted his offer of friendship and enjoyed being with him, but couldn't see past her dream to the terrific man that he was. She was attracted to him but fought it because he didn't fit her ideal. I really hated the way that every time they gave in to their attraction she reiterated that he was all wrong for her. I really wanted to smack her when she rejected his profession of love. It took several people telling her what an unrealistic jerk she was being, then nearly dying for her to accept what her feelings really were. 

I enjoyed the suspense part of the book quite a lot. In the previous books we'd get brief glimpses of what Liz was going through and the occasional glimpse into her captor's mind. As things started to escalate, the danger that both Liz and Sheri were in got worse. I could feel the detectives' frustration over the lack of clues and their worry as time went on with no progress. There were several possibilities of who it could be and I never got a sense of who it was until the end.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon (Dell - Nov 1993)

Series: Outlander (Book 2)

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland's majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones about a love that transcends the boundaries of time ...and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his ....

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire's spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising ...and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves ....

Fantastic second book in the series. It starts with Claire back in the future, telling her daughter about what happened to her and the truth about her parentage. She has also come to Scotland to see if she can find out what happened to the people she knew, if they survived the Rising and its aftermath. In the process, Claire tells of what happened to her and Jamie after they left Scotland up until the beginning of the Battle of Culloden.

Jamie and Claire have settled into their marriage, with their love as strong as ever. Each of them has strengths and vulnerabilities that become part of their stories. Jamie has an honorable streak a mile wide that makes him want to save his family and countrymen from the looming disaster. It's hard for him to walk the fine line between honor and treason and it wears on him. Claire is deeply in love with Jamie, but still suffers from the guilt of feeling like she is betraying Frank. Trying to reconcile her love for Jamie with protecting Jack Randall so that it doesn't screw up her future with Frank is not easy. 

With Claire's knowledge of the future, they go to France to try to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie from trying to take back the throne. The details of the political intrigue are fascinating and made me feel as if I was there. Claire also uses her healer abilities to work in a local charity hospital, giving more insight into the realities of life in the mid 1700s. I loved seeing Claire's strength of will and determination to make as much difference as she can. As they feel they are making progress and take a trip back to Scotland, fate intervenes and they end up on the wrong side after all.  With Jamie's certainty that he won't survive Culloden, in order to protect Claire, he sends her back to Frank.

I love the rich historical details that are shown throughout the book. There are also some fun things that get worked into the story, such as Claire's explanation of what a "commando" is and what Jamie does with that knowledge. There is also a hilarious description of Jamie's venture into a brothel, a sausage, and a young French lad who becomes a big part of the story.

The depth of emotion throughout the book is amazing. Jamie's love for his family and his country is deep and his desire to save them influences everything he does. There is a feeling of fear throughout as he and Claire worry that they won't be able to stop the Rising. Claire's unhappiness and depression after the loss of her baby are deep, and the effect on her marriage was heartbreaking. But the deepest, most emotional event was as Jamie accepts what he sees as his fate, and begs Claire to return to the future so that he can be sure that she is safe.

I loved the sections in the present, as Claire tells her story. Her determination to discover the fates of her friends is intense. I loved Roger's fascination with her quest, and the lengths he goes to find out the answers. There is an intense twist to the story at the end that leads into the next book.

Full Throttle - Erin McCarthy (Berkley - Dec 2013)

Series: Fast Track (Book 7)

Easing into the turns...
As one of only two girls on the tween racing circuit, Shawn Hamby has always run with a fast crowd. But now at thirty-two, she doesn't need to prove anything to anyone. And she definitely doesn't need a man bossing her around off of the track...

Putting the pedal to the metal...
But after a silly girls' night at a fetish club, Shawn can't get Rhett Ford out of her mind. He's younger than her, and he's her best friend's brother-in-law, which should be red flags. Rhett is looking for someone to lead in bed, but he can't imagine that Shawn would ever submit to him. Boldly surrendering is more her style. And with Rhett behind the wheel, it's going to be one wild ride...

Not my favorite of the series, but still good. Shawn meets Rhett during a night out with her friends, not knowing he's her best friend's brother-in-law. There is an instant attraction, but he's seven years younger than she is and that bothers her a little at first. But when she needs a husband fast, Rhett is the one she goes to. He agrees to marry her, but refuses the idea of a marriage of convenience. He wants Shawn and this is the perfect chance to have her.

Shawn is a business woman and independent. She needs Rhett in order to keep the race track, but isn't interested in anything more until her attraction to him takes off. She discovers that Rhett likes to be the boss in the bedroom and finds that she's okay with that. And while they started out putting a time limit on the marriage, Shawn starts thinking about what it would be like to stay married to him.

Rhett is the youngest of his family and spent a lot of time being bossed around by his sisters. As a result, he likes to have control where he can. He's an intense guy, not known for being light and charming, and finding a woman who can handle that intensity has been difficult. Shawn is mature enough to do so and Rhett realizes that she is perfect for him. He just has to convince her.

I really liked the way that Rhett realized his feelings so quickly and wanted to find a way to make the relationship permanent. He does seem to be something of a steamroller and doesn't pick up on the clues that, while she cares just as much as her does, Shawn is much warier about believing in a happy ending. I liked their honesty with each other and that they make the effort to really communicate. Rhett's youth does influence things at the end, when he seems to have an all or nothing attitude, without seeming to be willing to compromise. Fortunately, wiser heads have an influence and they are able to work things out.

The bedroom scenes are pretty intense and not really my cup of tea, but they worked for the story. I was happy to see Rhett not be a total ass. He did have a quick, emotional connection with Shawn that made their relationship more believable. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Guardian - Catherine Mann (Berkley - Sept 2012)

Series: Dark Ops (Book 5)



After a dark ops malfunction, Major David Berg finds himself dead center in a military trial. It’s a race against time to root out the truth, and Major Sophie Campbell isn't making that any easier. The hot JAG wants to bring down David’s unit and fast. His testimony is crucial to winning a case that will make her career. All Sophie has to do is ignore this witness’s unflappable charm, his unnerving good looks, and a strong, solid presence that commands her attention.

It’s not easy for David, either. His attraction to this take-charge beauty is turning him inside out. But these adversaries have more in common than secret, mutual desire. There’s a traitor somewhere in the dark ops and now, to find him, David and Sophie must work together -- relentlessly, tirelessly, and so intimately it could be damn near fatal.

Good book. David and Sophie are on opposite sides of a case involving a military test that went wrong and injured a child. David knows that his man didn't make any mistakes and Sophie is equally convinced that he did. Sophie also discovers that she is becoming distracted by the attraction she feels for David. 

Booth David and Sophie try to fight their feelings. David prefers to concentrate on raising his daughter and protecting her feelings. His wife had left them both and has no real interest in being a mother. As a single father in the military, David has many challenges to keep a stable home life for his daughter. He has been attracted to Sophie for more than a year, but at first she was still married so he buried those feelings. Now that she's a widow it is much harder. Sophie is trying to help her son through the loss of his father. Her husband had been an adrenaline junkie and died doing a stupid stunt with his plane. Now she does her best to avoid any kind of risk that could worry her son, and she also avoids risking her own heart on someone else who takes risks. Her sudden attraction to David is as unwelcome as it is hard to resist.

As David and Sophie butt heads over the case strange accidents start to happen to Sophie.  David goes into protector mode to try to keep her safe. This puts the two of them into much closer contact and the attraction between them starts to escalate. At first they plan on just a short fling with each other, but their feelings become too intense for that to satisfy them for long. David is the first to admit to himself that he wants more, but getting Sophie on board proves to be a challenge. David knows that life can change quickly and wants to grab the good stuff while it lasts. Sophie is also falling for David, but she fears what could happen to her and her son if they were to lose another person that they loved. It takes almost losing him for her to realize that the risk is worth it.

I loved the portrayal of what life is like for military parents and the challenges they face. It wasn't overdone, nor was it fixed in a simplistic manner. Both David and Sophie were shown having to work at making a successful family life. I also enjoyed the interactions between the two of them as they started to mesh their lives. With two very different ways of looking at things, compromises had to be explored.

The suspense part of the story was very good. The viewpoint of the bad guy was shown from the start, even if we didn't know who he was. His increasing desperation to stop the investigation showed the escalation of the danger to Sophie. I loved seeing David and Sophie start working together to find the truth. The final confrontation was nerve wracking as I waited to see if David would be able to keep Sophie from being hurt. The identity of the bad guy was a surprise to me, which made the conclusion even better.

I also enjoyed seeing various characters from earlier books. They were included in a logical manner, not just thrown in willy-nilly. The secondary romance between David's sister Madison and the much younger Captain Tate was also good. They also had issues to overcome. The confrontation between Tate and David was good - I enjoyed the protective brother vs. boyfriend scenario.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Bridegroom Wore Plaid - Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Dec 2012)

Series: MacGregor Trilogy (Book 1)

His Family or His Heart -- One of Them Will Be Betrayed...

Ian MacGregor is wooing a woman who's wrong for him in every way. As the new Earl of Balfour, though, he must marry an English heiress to repair the family fortunes.

But in his intended's penniless chaperon, Augusta, Ian is finding everything he's ever wanted in a wife.

Good start to a new series. Ian needs to marry a woman with money. As head of his family and clan, he feels responsible for their welfare. The estate is barely making ends meet, and one crisis could spell disaster for them. The only thing helping right now is that they host paying guests during the summer. When an English baron contacts Ian about making a match between Ian and his daughter, Ian feels like he has no choice.

When the Daniels family arrives, Ian discovers that his potential bride is very unwilling, but her father is forcing the issue because he wants a title in the family. Ian tries very hard to connect with Genie, but it just isn't happening. However, he does connect with Genie's cousin/chaperon Augusta Merrick. Augusta is the typical poor relation, dependent on the charity of her uncle. She starts out appearing to be rather uptight and forgettable, but it soon becomes obvious there's much more to her.

I loved Ian's care for his family even though I was sometimes frustrated by his human sacrifice attitude. He will do anything for them even if it means he will be miserably unhappy. While it's like pulling teeth to get any time with Genie, spending time with Augusta is easy. He finds it very easy to talk to her, to share his thoughts and feelings, and to ask for her help. It is also very easy to give in to his attraction to her, even though he knows it's wrong and that nothing can come of it. The more time he spends with her, the more he comes to care for her. He also gets the feeling that there is something not right about her circumstances, and puts his lawyer brains and instincts to work figuring it out.

Augusta has been on her own since her parents' deaths. Her uncle told her that her father had left massive debts and that she had nothing left. He sent her to live in isolation on a small property and cut her off from everyone else, except when he needed her to act as a chaperon. She is very happy to have the visit to Scotland, but not so happy to discover that she is drawn to Ian. She is very understanding of his problems and wants to do everything she can to help him. It's not long before she and Ian are spending a lot of time together and their feelings start to grow. Being around Ian starts to change her and she begins to be suspicious of what her uncle has told her all these years. But she is more interested in helping Ian get what he needs. 

I really enjoyed the developing relationship between Ian and Augusta. Even though they know nothing can come of it, their feelings for each other can't be denied. I loved seeing how much they both wanted to help the other one, even though it went against what they really wanted for themselves. As the book went on it became obvious that the original plan wasn't going to work, and they needed to find alternatives that would work for everyone.

I loved the secondary romances and how they were all interwoven in such a way that everyone ended up with their heart's desires. They also added depth to the reasons that Ian and Genie weren't going to work out. The support that Ian's siblings gave him emphasized just how much family means to them all. They all tried to convince Ian that he didn't have to sacrifice his own happiness for their security. I loved seeing how they all started working together to find another way.

The character of Genie's father was well drawn as the villain. There were plenty of sections told from his point of view, detailing what he was doing and why. It also became obvious that he was missing things that showed why they wouldn't work out, because he had no clue about what motivated Ian and his family. His treatment of Augusta since her parents' deaths made him feel that he was able to get away with his plans and he couldn't imagine not succeeding in his final attempts. I loved seeing the way they all thwarted his plans for Genie, and loved that it was Augusta who discovered how to do it. 

The ending was very satisfying. I liked seeing Augusta stand up to her uncle and fight back when he tried to carry out his final plan. She also had to pin Ian down and make him listen to what she wanted out of her life. Getting him to do something for his own desires wasn't easy, and I loved seeing her do it.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Just in Time - Addison Fox (Signet - Aug 2013)

Series: Alaskan Nights (Book 3)

Sometimes your past is the only link to your future.

After a rejuvenating trip to Ireland, Avery Marks can't help her frustration with the pace of her life in Alaska. Back in the small town of Indigo--where everyone knows everyone else's business--Avery dreams of a bigger life. But with her ex-boyfriend back in town, it's hard to get the past out of her head.

Drafted by the NHL right out of high school, Roman Forsyth left behind the love of his life to follow his pro career. With an injury sidelining him, Roman isn't sure how much longer he'll be at the top of his game. He is sure that he wants Avery just as much as he ever did.

While Roman wants a chance to make things right, Avery isn't sure she can just forgive and forget. But when their long-buried passion sizzles back to life, they need to escape the watchful eyes of the rest of the town long enough to figure out if it's any harder to stay together than it's been to stay apart ...

Good book.  After fourteen years Roman has come back to Indigo as he deals with an injury. This puts him back in the same town with his high school sweetheart, Avery. He had left her behind when he followed his dream, but has never forgotten her or their love. Avery has stayed mostly in their hometown, working at the hotel, and dreaming of more. She's never gotten over Roman, but isn't so sure that she wants to risk that much misery by getting involved with him again.

Roman and Avery had a complicated relationship. He hadn't asked her to go with him because he didn't want her to have to choose between him and her mother at that time, though he never told her that. Instead he left, just sending gifts back home. Now he's had a possibly career ending injury and has to decide what to do. He doesn't know who he is without being a hockey player, so he's going though some major confusion. It doesn't help that he hasn't told anyone about the injury and so has no one to talk to about it. He would like to pick back up with Avery, but her career is starting to take off and he can't see how they have any chance to be together.

Avery has spent years still loving Roman. She's just about at the point of trying to move on when he comes home and she realizes that she will always love him. But after seeing some more of the world, sh'es ready to spread her wings and see what else is out there. She'd like to see if she and Roman could be together, but he isn't showing any signs of wanting more than short term while he's home. She decides to take what she can get and see what happens from there.

I completely understood Avery's initial reluctance to get involved with Roman. She had so much to lose emotionally. I liked seeing her get to know the grown up Roman and how well they really got along. She could sense that there was something bothering him, but she couldn't get him to open up to her. I loved the confidence she had to go after her own dreams instead of waiting on him to say something. I liked how she stopped blaming him for what had happened and accepted that she made her own choices, and that she was making her own choices now.

Roman also has to accept that he made the choices he did for himself and stop pretending that he had done things that were best for her. Once he accepts that responsibility he can look at making other changes in his life. His insecurities about who he is outside of hockey are pretty sad. He can't see what a terrific person he really is, even when Avery tries to tell him. Keeping his injury secret from her is just one more thing that works against him. 

I really wanted to smack them both and tell them to actually talk to each other. It was the only way for them to be able to find a future together. Fortunately, they figured it out before it was too late.

I loved being back in Indigo and seeing all the fantastic friendships. Avery and her friends were hilarious when they got together, as were Roman and his two buddies. It was fun seeing Roman's reactions to Walker's and Mick's new worlds. It was also fun to see his grandmother fall in love. Roman's attitude and reactions were hysterical and I loved seeing his grandmother call he out on them. I also enjoyed all the other wacky residents of the town.