Friday, October 31, 2014

Boneyard Ridge - Paula Graves (HI #1529 - Nov 2014)

Series: The Gates (Book 3)

Completing his latest assignment could impact investigator Hunter Bragg's future. But only if he can keep Susannah Marsh alive.

All Hunter Bragg wanted in Purgatory, Tennessee, was a little peace of mind. A private investigator plagued by his own guilt, he never imagined his next job would resurrect old demons. Targeted by an anarchistic militia group, events planner Susannah Marsh is his next mission: keep her close…keep her alive. But Susannah has a secret. A secret that will reveal the true motive of her potential assailants. For Hunter, being Susannah's protector soon becomes more than just a job. And in order to succeed, there can be no half measures. With undeniable attraction simmering between them, he's determined not to let the promise of a better future fall into the hands of ruthless predators.

Very good book with plenty of action and romance. Hunter had come back home after being injured in Afghanistan. He was physically recovering but dealing with a lot of anger over not being able to do what he used to do, and guilty feelings over being the only one in his unit to survive. These feelings were exacerbated when he was taken hostage by a local militia group to force his sister to do their dirty work. After his rescue he found himself getting involved in fights as a way to release his anger, until he was recruited by Alexander Quinn to work in his firm of investigators. His mission was to infiltrate that militia group to discover what they were up to, and then to protect Susannah from them.

Susannah had no idea of the danger she was in until she was leaving work one night and someone started shooting at her. She was then all but kidnapped by Hunter, who she only knew as a maintenance worker at her hotel. She didn't trust him at first, and made sure he knew it. Even once she knew about the threat to her and the reason behind it, she was very wary of him. She has good reason not to trust men she doesn't know. She has spent years building a new Susannah to escape the trouble she left behind her, but it doesn't take too long before she realizes that she can trust him.

I loved the initial interactions between Hunter and Susannah. He was determined to protect her no matter what she wanted, and Susannah wasn't about to blindly accept whatever he told her. Hunter's initial impression of her was that she was a citified princess that was going to make his job that much more difficult. He got quite a surprise when he discovered that underneath all the sophistication was a very capable mountain girl. I really enjoyed seeing Susannah stand up to Hunter and show him what she was made of. They developed a mutual respect that also enabled them to open up about their pasts, adding to the growing connection between them. They also tried to fight the attraction they felt to each other, but that was a losing battle. 

The suspense and action in the story had me finishing this book in one sitting. We don't know at the beginning why Susannah is on the militia's hit list, but they are determined to take her out. It is up to her and Hunter to figure out what they are up to. I liked the way that each of them had strengths that when combined made it possible for them to make the connections. But it doesn't all go smoothly even then, as Susannah's past rears its ugly head and adds another layer to the danger she is in. I loved the way that she kept her head and made her rescue possible. I loved seeing how it went down and the part that the operatives of The Gates played.

Crybaby Falls - Paula Graves (HI #1522 - Oct 2014)

Series: The Gates (Book 2)

For twenty years, Cain Dennison has been haunted by the death of a young, pregnant girl found murdered at Crybaby Falls. Determined to finally discover the truth and lay the past to rest, Cain quickly discovers he's not the only one looking for answers. Crossing paths with Sara Lindsey at the very spot that has caused so much pain, Cain is stunned to discover an instant and dangerous attraction flaring between them. Their shared goal of finding answers only fuels their passion -- and enrages a killer. Before long, they stumble across information that could affect everyone in this small Tennessee town…and bring the real culprit right to their doorstep.

Very good book. Cain has come back to his hometown to take a job with The Gates investigation firm. His first assignment is to investigate a murder that has haunted him for twenty years. Renee Lindsey had been a high school friend. He would have liked more, but she was involved with someone else. Cain had been a loner in school, with an abusive father that made his life miserable. Cain had been a suspect in Renee's death, but as there was no evidence, he soon left town to join the army and make a new life for himself. He was surprised to be assigned this case because many people in town still think he's guilty, so he doesn't expect to get much cooperation in his search for clues.

Sara Lindsey's husband was Renee's brother and had been obsessed with finding the truth about her death. Three years earlier he had died in an accident that had left Sara with no memories of the day it had happened, just lots of questions. She has left her job as a detective with the Birmingham police to come home and decide what to do with her life. She is also ready to look for answers of her own. She is surprised to find Cain at Crybaby Falls at the same time she is, and not too pleased to discover that he's asking the same kinds of questions.

I liked both Cain and Sara. Both are intelligent, determined people, intent on finding out the truth. There is an immediate and intense attraction between them that both are determined to resist. First, neither wants the distraction from their main purpose. Secondly, neither sees a relationship as a possibility. Sara hasn't been interested in anyone since her husband's death and really never expected to be. Cain has never allowed himself to get close to anyone, feeling that he's too damaged to make a good bet for anyone. But as they agree to work with each other to find answers to their questions, they discover a sense of rightness together. Not to say that they didn't still have issues to overcome. Sara is afraid to get involved again and it takes a life threatening event to get her past that. Cain has to get over letting his past dictate his future, but Sara's support goes a long way toward that. I enjoyed the epilogue and really hope to see more of them in future books to see the progression of their relationship.

The suspense and mystery of the story was good. With Sara's loss of memory and the age of the murder case, it wasn't going to be an easy fix. I liked the realism of the trouble that Cain would have because of his history with the town, but also that he was determined to succeed. As Cain and Sara worked together, I liked the way that each of them brought different viewpoints. The intensity went up as their investigation brought them closer to the killer. As they closed in on the identity, there was quite an interesting twist. The final confrontation was pretty intense, and I loved Sara's ability to stay calm and in control. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dead Man's Curve - Paula Graves (HI #1517 - Sept 2014)

Series: The Gates (Book 1)

Coming in from the cold is the only choice for Sinclair Solano, once a fiery young radical turned CIA double agent turned fugitive. Not only must he free his kidnapped sister from the rebels he betrayed, but he also must clear his name. And neither will be easy with beautiful FBI agent Ava Trent dogging his trail. Seeing no other option, Sin uneasily joins forces with Ava to plan an ultradaring guerrilla attack and rescue op. But the mission requires trusting Ava, and putting her irresistible body in the line of fire. Being alive has never been so dangerous….

Terrific beginning to the new series. Ava has come to town to investigate the kidnapping of Alicia and Gabe Cooper. While there she catches a glimpse of a man she thought was dead - Sinclair Solano, who just happens to be Alicia's brother. She had known him years earlier, before she became an agent and before he became what appeared to be a terrorist. He was on the most wanted list before his "death" and she's not about to let him get away now.

The action is intense and almost nonstop from the beginning. Ava follows Sin into the woods where she's attacked by one of the people who kidnapped Alicia. Sin saves her, but she's not ready to trust him, even when she finds out why he's there. Sin claims that the terrorist who has Alicia took her to draw him out, wanting revenge for Sin's betrayal. Ava isn't sure she believes him, but either way she isn't going to let Sin out of her sight. They form a reluctant partnership as they look for Alicia and try to come up with a rescue plan.

Ava is determined to do the right thing. She still can't believe that the boy she knew all those years ago became a terrorist. She's followed information about him over the years, calling herself a fool for having fallen for him. That attraction hasn't gone away, and is only getting stronger. As their search for his sister goes on, Ava begins to think that his claims might be true. 

Sin had been young and idealistic when he first met Ava back during their youth. He got involved with the rebels, seeing that changes were needed in his country. But it only took a few months to realize that the group wasn't what he thought it was. It was at that point that an American CIA agent convinced him of the good he could do if he stayed in place and worked for them. A faked death should have had him out safely, but apparently someone knew he was still alive. Sin isn't far away when his sister is kidnapped and he is determined to find her and free her. He didn't count on getting spotted by Ava of all people, or having to rescue her from the people who are after him. He'd love to be able to tell her what really happened, but he knows she won't believe him. Having her so close again is a dream come true, but the danger she's in because of him is a nightmare. The attraction between them is still there, and he sees that she's beginning to trust him, but he doesn't see it going anywhere. He's still a wanted man, plus the guilt he feels for the things he did won't allow him to believe in a possible future for them.

The suspense of the book is great. From Ava and Sin joining forces, trying to evade the bad guys, to the final confrontation, I was on the edge of my seat. I loved seeing Sin try to protect Ava, and Ava insisting on sticking right to him. Things are looking pretty grim at one point, but since the kidnappees are Coopers, you just know that the rest of them will show up at some point. First there is Gabe, who escaped from the kidnappers and met up with Ava and Sin, and then

Who are they?” she whispered as he continued smiling. “Coopers, darling,” Gabe drawled, already moving toward the dark figures gliding through the woods ahead. “Who else?

From there it's a given that everything will turn out, it's just a question of how.  There's a bit of tension between Sin and the others because of his reputation, but the appearance of the former CIA agent Alexander Quinn (also familiar from other books) relieves some of that. The final confrontation has a couple hiccups that put Ava in danger, but all works out in the end.

The aftermath has Sin dealing with the fallout of his reappearance, Ava facing decisions because of her part in the whole thing, and both wondering if they'll see each other again. There's plenty of emotion to go around there, but the final scene is quite satisfying. There's also a memorable line by Alexander Quinn, but I'll leave that for the reader to experience...

The Hunk Next Door - Debra Webb & Regan Black (HI #1528 - Nov 2014)

Series: Specialists: Heroes Next Door (Book 1)

In the season of hope, someone's out for blood. Police Chief Abigail Jensen is determined to protect her town -- and avoid falling too hard for Riley, the new guy next door. But deciding who to trust can be deadly, especially when he has deep secrets….

Agent Riley O'Brien's mission is clear when he joins the CIA's covert Specialist task force: protect a small-town cop from a terrorist, no matter what. Trading his identity for the undercover guise of a handyman is part of the plan…getting close to Abigail on a personal -- and passionate -- level isn't.

Very good book with action and suspense from the very beginning. Abby is a police chief who spearheaded the capture of a drug shipment that was being used to finance a cell of terrorists. After making a public statement that she wouldn't put up with that kind of trouble in her town it comes to the attention of people high up that she's stirred up a hornet's nest. One of those people is the head of the CIA's Specialists group, who assigns Riley to go undercover to protect Abby and the town.

Riley is the first of the operatives to be assigned to a new type of mission. These are long term assignments with no known end date. He goes into this assignment knowing that he will be in Belclare for a very long time. He has a hard time getting close to Abby at the beginning because of all the work she's doing. Once he moves into the house next door it gets a bit easier. He doesn't expect the attraction that he feels for her.

Abby is fighting for the safety of her town. She has to worry about the threats she has been receiving from an unknown source, and also about what may happen during the town's Christmas festival. There are members of the town who are fighting against the safety measures she's trying to implement and others who blame her for all the trouble. One of the construction people who is working on the festival preparations seems to be constantly underfoot and she isn't sure whether she can trust him. She's also attracted to him, and she worries that it is distracting her from what she should be doing.

The suspense is constant from the very beginning. We know who the bad guy is from the start, as some of the story is told from his viewpoint. Even if it hadn't been revealed I would have suspected him, as I just found him kind of creepy and smarmy. The intensity of the attacks on the town and on Abby's peace of mind keeps escalating. I loved seeing how Riley worked to be there when Abby needed him. As the days went on Riley had to figure out how to protect Abby without giving away who he really was. In spite of the secrets, Riley and Abby made a great team. There are two confrontations at the end that are quite intense, and though I knew they would turn out the right way the suspense of how it was going to happen kept me riveted to the pages.

I loved Abby's strength of will when it came to doing her job. She wasn't going to just roll over and let the bad guys win. She has a good brain and the ability to figure things out. She starts out suspicious of Riley, but quickly comes to trust him, even though she doesn't understand why she does. She wavers a bit toward the end, but the trust does win out. I also loved Riley. He had grown up as an orphan but made a place for himself in the Specialist family. When he takes this mission, he finds that he likes the small town life and the sense of family that is there. He's surprised by the intensity of his growing feelings for Abby and feels badly about not being able to tell her the truth. I really liked seeing Abby realize that it was okay to lean on Riley for help and support, that she didn't have to do it all by herself. And I loved seeing Riley get a chance at the love and family he'd never had before.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Wings of Passion - Beth Brookes/Lindsay McKenna (Jove - July 1983)

Series: Second Chance at Love (Book 131)

Fiery journalist Erin Quinlan doesn't want to write the military expose assigned to her. But the job will give her a chance to hurt the Air Force as it hurt her. Revenge will be sweet -- even if it can't bring back her husband.

Captain Ty Phillips obviously doesn't relish playing host to hostile Erin, and their tempers clash like steel on steel. But Ty's cool control in the cockpit earns Erin's deep respect... just as his powerful embrace sends her spinning into the stratosphere. Then their professional commitments force them to separate... and, heartbroken, Erin faces a bleak future without the man she loves.

Good book. Even though it was written thirty years ago, it still felt just as relevant to today's issues. The sparks really flew between Erin and Ty from the minute they met. Erin is a reporter for a national magazine. Her editor has assigned her to write an article on the B52 bomber and its usefulness. Erin has a grudge against the Air Force, as her Army husband was killed in the crash of an Air Force plane. Her editor and the magazine's publisher want her to write an article slanted against the plane and for ending that part of the country's defense strategy. When she is met by Ty upon her arrival for the first part of her research trip, her anti-Air Force attitude is in full swing. She is incredibly hostile and really rude to him. She is also attracted to him, which really messes with her need to keep her focus.

I loved Ty from the very beginning. He hadn't had a choice in being assigned to be Erin's escort, but he was determined to do it right. I really liked his initial meeting with her. I thought he took her rudeness for a long time before he called her on it and I was impressed with his patience. He could tell right away that she came in with a bias against the Air Force and was determined to show her the truth. He was also attracted to her beauty, her spirit, and her intelligence. He's also a bit wary, as he had been married to a woman with a career who couldn't handle the stresses of being married to him.

Though Erin came in with a desire to write the article her editor wanted, it didn't take long for her to realize that she wouldn't be able to do it. The more she learned about the bombers and their mission, the more she was convinced of their necessity. She was also growing closer to Ty himself. The attraction was there and growing stronger each day, but there was also a growing emotional attachment. She has spent so long relying on only herself, that suddenly having a man like Ty at her side, being there for her if she needs him, creates some confusion of feelings for her. She wants him but their lives are so different that she can't see anything coming of it.

I loved seeing Erin and Ty getting to know each other. Ty is very good at seeing behind the tough surface that Erin projects to the woman underneath. He seems to know exactly when she needs to be close and also when she needs some space to work through whatever is on her mind. He sees her strength, but also her vulnerability. I really liked Erin's change of heart toward Ty. She had started out looking at him as the representation of everything she hated, but soon grew to see the man beneath the uniform, His integrity made a huge impression on her, that he didn't try to pressure her about her article. On the personal side, she felt his care and concern in everything he did for her. I really liked the respect that they each had for the other's profession by the end.

When her trip ends, she has to go back to New York to write her article and Ty is sent on a mission with his crew where they will be out of touch. Erin is struggling with what to write, because she knows the truth of what she learned, but she's getting massive pressure to write just the opposite. The final confrontation comes, and I loved seeing Erin stand up for herself and what is right. Her editor starts to get really nasty in his efforts to force Erin to do what he wants, until a surprise visitor causes him to back down. The rest of the book was beautifully done as Ty and Erin continued the exploration of their relationship to the perfect HEA. 

I loved the details shown through Erin's research. From the pressure chamber and Erin's reaction to it, to the flight she took with the crew, I felt like I was there every step of the way. I also loved the camaraderie of the air crew, from the way they teased each other to the way they accepted Erin and made her feel so much a part of them. The Thanksgiving dinner was a perfect example of what life is like with a group like that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Texan's Twins - Pamela Britton (HAR #1514 - Sept 2014)

Series: Texas Rodeo Barons (Book 4)

Definitely Not Daddy Material!

Jasmine Marks is focused and hardworking, and when she took a job as engineer for Baron Energies, she left behind her support network. Now, the burden of caring for her twin girls is all on her, and she doesn't have time for a dilettante playboy like Jet Baron. Besides, she needs her job, and she can't blow it by getting involved with the boss's son.

On the surface, Jet Barron is a dabbler, dropping into work one day and riding rodeo the next. But when he makes his mind up, he goes for it, full-out. He knows a lot more than anyone suspects, about the oil business, about women. And this woman needs someone to count on -- which will be Jet, if he gets his way.

Wonderful story. Jasmine is a hardworking oil engineer, a woman in a man's field. It has taken her awhile to find a job and now that she has it she doesn't want to mess it up. She is also the single mother of twin girls, which adds another layer of stress to her life. Things are going well until she's assigned to work with Jet.

Jet isn't known for commitment to anything. He has a job at the company, but is rarely at the office. He's more known for his rodeo activities and the number of women he has dated. But he's getting more involved with the company, as he's going to have to step up while his sister, who really runs things, is out on maternity leave. On his first day as the new Jet, he is scheduled to meet the new engineer at a prospective site. When he gets there, he sees a beautiful woman that he assumes is a stripper that his friends have sent to prank him. Open mouth, insert foot. The woman is the new engineer and she has no trouble setting him straight. I loved seeing the way that he shows he's much more knowledgeable than she expected, but that he also has some balance in his life. 

From the beginning Jet is drawn to Jasmine in a way he's never been drawn to a woman before, He's always avoided women with kids, but Jasmine and her girls get under his skin and into his heart. While he is definitely attracted to her, Jet realizes that what Jasmine needs more than anything else right now is a friend. I loved seeing him be there as a shoulder for her to lean on or to cry on. It was great to watch as he overcame the confusion of his feelings to realize exactly what he felt for Jasmine and her girls. It was fun seeing him getting into being with the girls, playing with them, but also worrying so hard when Brooke got sick. I loved seeing the changes in him, from the carefree and sometimes careless guy at the beginning to the loving and responsible man at the end.

Jasmine's life has made her very independent and self reliant. She is used to doing everything on her own. She isn't quite sure what to make of Jet when she discovers that he's not the careless and clueless guy she thought he was. His help and support are hard to resist and she finds herself falling for him. But Jasmine is reluctant to believe that anything between them can last as she's had far too much experience with good things coming to an end. She pushes him away, telling herself she's doing it to protect her girls, but in reality she's afraid to believe that that kind of happiness is possible for her. I loved the ending and seeing how Jet's patience and understanding of her fears enabled her to overcome it all and reach for the happiness she wanted.

Night of the Raven - Jenna Ryan (HI #1532 - Nov 2014)

Series: Raven's Cove (Book 4)


Ethan McVey was in Raven's Hollow to fill in for the police chief, not get entangled in a decades-old legend. But one look into Amara Bellam's striking gray eyes -- eyes that had haunted his dreams for fifteen years -- and he was helpless to turn his back on the vulnerable beauty. He vowed to keep her safe from the killer targeting her.

Amara couldn't deny the parallel between the recent murders and her family's local lore…nor could she ignore her undeniable attraction to her dark and mysterious protector. But as the danger to her life increased, Amara questioned if the killer was truly after her for her past, or was seeking to destroy something much closer to home.

Good book, and at times really creepy. Amara is a doctor who witnessed a murder in New Orleans, and now finds herself a target for revenge. When two other witnesses end up dead, Amara is encouraged to find somewhere to hide out for awhile. She goes home to Raven's Hollow, Maine, just in time for the local raven festival. When she lets herself into her grandmother's house, she's forcibly introduced to Ethan, the police chief who is renting the place.

Ethan is filling in as police chief for the Hollow, while the man is on his honeymoon, at the same time he's doing his own job as police chief for Raven's Cove. Life is interesting as he tries to keep the peace between the Bellams and the Blumes. Having a beautiful woman break into his house just seems par for the course, until he gets a good look at the eyes that have been in his dreams for years. Learning why she's there just boosts his protective instincts.

The sparks between Amara and Ethan are hot from the beginning. There's an attraction between them that they can't and don't deny. But their main focus has to be on staying alive and catching the killer who is after her. The action in this book is almost non-stop with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing. There are bodies piling up whose deaths don't match the MO of the hitman who is after Amara, leading them to think that there may be two killers after Amara. The question is who and why? The identity of the hitman had a most interesting twist to it, but made a lot of sense once it was revealed. I didn't figure out the second one until right before it was revealed, as there were a couple possibilities that kept me flipping back and forth.

I liked the heat between Amara and Ethan, but also that there was more to the relationship. Ethan has the whole protective thing going on, but he also respects Amara's strength and intelligence. Amara gets frustrated by that protectiveness at times, but she knows that he's good at what he does. They have great conversations, not just about their own pasts, but also about the towns and the legends that go along with them. The dreams that Ethan has are really spooky, and it's interesting to see how they match up with the history of the area. I loved the wrap up of the last chapter.

Once again there are some wonderfully quirky characters in the book. I think my favorites were Brigham and the other raven tamers. They have their own way of doing things, but are there for Ethan and Amara when they need help. Loved the part the ravens played in the scene at the bridge.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tempted by a Cowboy - Sarah M. Anderson (HD #2333 - Oct 2014)

Series: Beaumont Heirs (Book 2)

How can she resist the cowboy's smile when it promises so much pleasure?

Phillip Beaumont likes his drinks strong and his women easy. So why is he flirting with his new horse trainer, Jo Spears, who challenges him at every turn? Phillip wants nothing but the chase…until the look in Jo's haunted hazel eyes makes him yearn for more….

Sure, Jo's boss is as jaded and stubborn as Sun, the multimillion-dollar stallion she was hired to train. But it isn't long before she starts spending days and nights with the sexy cowboy. Maybe Sun isn't the only male on the Beaumont ranch worth saving!

Good book. In the first book, Not the Boss's Baby, Phillip came across as a totally irresponsible playboy who had just spent seven million dollars for a horse. In this one, we see a different, more responsible side of him, though one with demons to overcome. Phillip's job with the company is to attend events that are serving Beaumont Brewery products. He tends to get too involved in the events, drinking too much and making a spectacle of himself with women, but he justifies it by claiming it's part of the job. 

Jo has been hired as a horse trainer to work with Phillip's new horse. She has been concentrating on her job for the last ten years, having sworn off men entirely after a life changing event. She had accepted the job after reading about Beaumont Farms and wanting a high end client like that for her resume. She had been impressed by the interview with Phillip that she had read, but not by other things she had read about him. Jo is very protective of her reputation as a trainer and is careful not to get involved with the men at her jobs.

There are sparks between Jo and Phillip from the moment they meet, though that meeting and the one the next day have their amusing moments. Jo is determined to resist Phillip's attempts to charm her, and Phillip is equally determined to succeed in his chase. But a funny thing happens on the way to saving a horse. Jo saw a lot of herself, before she turned her life around, in Phillip and his life as it is now. When a visit from Chadwick, threatening Phillip with the loss of the ranch, sends him into a tailspin, Jo opens up to him about what had happened to her. Spending time with Jo while she works with his horse has Phillip yearning for more from her. After the visit from Chadwick, which threatens everything that makes Phillip feel like his life as some meaning, Jo's revelations are eye opening for him. Suddenly Phillip has a desire to make changes in his life that would make him feel more worthy of being with her.

I loved the way that Jo had taken control of her life after she hit bottom. She has seen the value of her new life and refuses to do anything that would drag her back down. This includes getting involved with someone who is living the lifestyle she has escaped. The more we see of Phillip, the more we learn of why he lives the way he does. I loved his determination to make the changes and was rooting for it to go well for him. I appreciated the realism that showed how hard he found it to be. I liked seeing Jo make her stand on their relationship and stick to it.

The ending was both heartbreaking and uplifting as we see Phillip's struggle and fall and have to face the consequences. Jo's own unhappiness sends her home to heal. The ending of this story, with Phillip having faced down his demons was gratifying. I also loved seeing how he proved himself to Chadwick and solved the issue of Beaumont Farms.

Not the Boss's Baby - Sarah M. Anderson (HD #2328 - Sept 2014)

Series: Beaumont Heirs (Book 1)

What the boss wants…

As the oldest son, Chadwick Beaumont has sacrificed everything for the Beaumont's company, but he swore he'd never follow in his father's philandering footsteps. So, for years, he's dutifully kept his distance from the temptation outside his office door -- his beautiful secretary Serena Chase.

But now everything has changed. The family business is in jeopardy. His personal life is in shambles. And his sexy assistant is suddenly single…and flirting. Chadwick is tired of doing what's expected. It's time for him to go after what he wants. And what he wants is Serena -- even if she's expecting another man's child.

Good start to a new series. Chadwick is the CEO of the family business. As the oldest, that is what he was raised to do; he was given no choice. He has worked long hours to make the business a success, while his ten siblings/half-siblings/step-siblings do nothing but find ways to spend money. His wife filed for divorce almost two years ago, but is holding out on finalizing it because she wants more money. A large conglomerate wants to buy his company. The only thing that has made his life bearable is his executive assistant. He's been attracted to her for years, but he's been married, she's been in a relationship, and he refuses to be anything like his philandering late father. So he has kept his distance.

Serena's long term relationship recently ended, then she discovered that she was pregnant. She worries that she could lose her job, which she needs now more than ever. She had a poverty filled childhood and has sworn that she will never allow herself to live like that again. She's always been attracted to her boss, but doing something about it was not an option. She is determined to keep things strictly professional.

I loved Chadwick and Serena. Both of them have high standards for themselves. Chadwick is really a nice guy who has been caught up in a bad situation. His father raised him to be the heir. He wasn't ever shown any love from either parent, and his father was actually abusive. But Chadwick is honorable and responsible and has done his best for the company at the expense of his own happiness. Serena has always been independent and determined to have a better life. Her parents had loved her, but were fiscally irresponsible and she didn't want to live like that again.

I loved Chadwick's ability to see that something was off for Serena, and how he wanted her to know that he would be there for her. It was then that they realized that there was more between them than just business. I loved seeing Chadwick trying to do things for Serena and being completely confused by her attitude about it. It wasn't until their dinner out together that he began to fully understand what her life had been like. I also liked seeing the way that he opened up to her about his childhood and the effect it had on his life. It was her encouragement that had him looking at his future in a different way. Serena was equally sensitive to Chadwick and his problems. She could see that the business troubles were tearing him up and tried to help him work through what it all meant for him. I loved the way she listened to him tell about his childhood and didn't pity him, but admired the man he was in spite of it. 

The heat between them was intense, but so was their determination to do what was right. The night that they shared after the gala showed them what they could have together, but they also knew that they had stepped over the line when it came to working together. What followed was heartbreaking, but also showed Serena standing up for what she thought was right. I loved Chadwick's solution to the problem and how he came after Serena once he had it all worked out.

I'm looking forward to Phillip and Matthew's stories, and wonder if there will be stories for the other siblings. If the others are as good as this one, I sure hope there will be.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Her Secret Husband - Andrea Laurence (HD #2332 - Oct 2014)

Series: Secrets of Eden (Book 4)

Love, honor -- and vow to keep the marriage a secret!

Years ago, Heath Langston eloped with Julianne Eden. Their parents wouldn't have approved. So when the marriage remained unconsummated, they went their separate ways without telling anyone what they'd done.

Now family turmoil forces Heath and Julianne back into the same town -- into the same house. Heath has had enough of living a lie. It's time for Julianne to give him the divorce she's avoided for so long -- or to fulfill the promise in her smoldering glances and finally become his wife in more than name only.

This was a very emotional conclusion to the Secrets of Eden series. In it, everyone has been trying to protect everyone else. Sixteen years earlier one of the transient foster boys had ended up dead. The three permanent foster boys and daughter Julianne had hidden the body and vowed never to speak of it. Then, in the first book of the series, the body turned up and the investigation was on to discover what happened, putting stress on all the members of the family.

In this book we have Heath and Julianne, the youngest of the foster sons and the daughter of the house. They had always been close while growing up, but not like siblings. Right after high school they had eloped, but Julianne had gotten cold feet before they consummated the marriage. She and Heath went their separate ways, never telling anyone what they had done, but never ending the marriage either.

When her dad's heart attack brings both Heath and Julianne back to the farm to help run it during Ken's recovery, Heath decides it is past time to deal with the issue. He gives Julianne an ultimatum - either give him a divorce or follow through on their marriage.

I felt so bad for Heath. He had been so in love with Julianne and marrying her was a dream come true. Her rejection on their wedding night was devastating to him, breaking his heart. He was never able to get a straight answer from her about why. Even now, he swears he doesn't love her anymore, but the attraction is as strong as ever. They give in to the attraction, but Heath can still see that she's hiding something. He still has hope that she will open up to him and they can move on, either together or apart. Though the more they are together, the more Heath wants it to work out between them.

Julianne has loved Heath since she was nine years old. But she's holding on to a sixteen year old secret that ties into the family secret. That's what made her reject Heath that night eleven years earlier, but she's never been able to talk about what happened. She has kept her secret as a way to protect everyone else, even at the cost of her own happiness. She loves Heath, but she's afraid that telling him what happened would make him look at her differently. She's also afraid that he will blame himself and she couldn't stand for that to happen.

The love they have for each other is obvious and heartbreaking, because you just don't know how they're going to overcome the problems. Their trip to Paris was beautiful and I had such high hopes for it. But it's the visit from the sheriff after they return home that brings everything out. There were a lot of things that came out that had o be dealt with, but all ended in a most satisfying way. The epilogue wrapped things up nicely.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hope Flames - Jaci Burton (Berkley - Jan 2014)

Series: Hope (Book 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Recruit - Monica McCarty (Ballantine - Nov 2012)

Series: Highland Guard (Book 6)

Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce is retaking his kingdom from the invading English. To win, he’ll need all the grit and courage of his elite band of warriors, the Highland Guard, men who fight without fear and love without limits.

Fiery, aggressive, and bold, Kenneth Sutherland is a true champion -- skilled with any weapon and driven to win. Now Kenneth is ready for his greatest challenge: joining Robert the Bruce’s secret army to fight among the elite. Kenneth’s best chance to attain that honor is by winning the Highland Games. Focused and prepared for victory, he is caught off guard by a lovely wisp of a woman -- and a stolen moment of wicked seduction. Her innocent arousal and her shameless hunger fire his blood. He will win his place in the guard -- and in Mary of Mar’s bed.

The ruggedly handsome hero-in-the-making stirs a heart that should know better. Mary vows that her surrender will be sport only -- no promises, no heartbreak, just one night of incredible passion. Nothing, she swears, will persuade her to give up her hard-wrought independence and put her fate in the hands of another powerful man. But with every gentle touch and heart-pounding kiss, Kenneth makes her want more. Now Mary wants his heart. But is this determined champion willing to surrender everything for love?

Good book. This is the first of this series I have read, and though reading the others would help with information about the other characters, it's not necessary. I really enjoyed the setting of the book as I haven't read many from this time period. The characters were well done and I liked learning more of this time in Scotland's history.

Mary has had a rough life so far and she's only twenty-six years old. She was married at fourteen to a man older than she was. She idolized him, as a warrior and a hero. But he was a terrible husband. He never stopped seeing her as his child bride, even as she got older. She tries everything she can think of to get him to fall in love with her. Her love for him is destroyed when she discovers that he's far more interested in other women than in her. Then he changes sides in the war, causing the king to take her infant son from her, and eventually ends up hanged for treason. Her sister comes to England to try to take her back to Scotland, with disastrous results, and Mary is stuck in England. She is determined to survive, and also that she will not marry again and put herself in the same position. She is also finally in the same place as her son, who is a squire, and getting to know him again. Then she is sent to Scotland with a delegation working on a truce, and asked to spy on the Bruce who was her brother-in-law. There she meets Kenneth Sutherland, who really shakes up her life. She discovers that he's being put forward as a husband for her. She's not interested, she finds him far too much like her late husband to want him for a husband.

Kenneth is a second son who is tired of coming in second to everyone and everything. He is determined to earn a place in the Highland Guard. He has an excellent chance at it, if he can just keep his temper and his attention on what he's doing. A chance encounter with Mary is a distraction he doesn't need, but he's determined to get her where he wants her. When he succeeds in his seduction, it leaves a greater impression than he expected, and a distraction at just the wrong time. He ends up losing the competition that would secure his place in the Guard. Not only that, he discovers that Mary isn't just some maid, she's the woman that the Bruce wants him to marry. He's not wild about the idea of being married at all.

From there, Kenneth and Mary part ways, never expecting to see each other again. Kenneth gets a second chance at the Guard, undergoing rigorous training, but not able to forget Mary. Meanwhile, she returns to England, with a secret she's not sure what she's going to do about, also unable to forget that incredible encounter with Kenneth. But Fate isn't done with them yet, and Kenneth's first mission for the Guard has him right back in Mary's life.

This is where it gets really interesting. The attraction between Mary and Kenneth is just as hot as ever. When Kenneth discovers the secret she's been keeping, he is determined to marry her. He's got a big secret of his own that he's keeping from her, and as time goes on it begins to weigh on him. He looks at their marriage as a way for him to gain her love and therefore make her willing to do what he needs her to do. He's not used to having to work for a woman's attentions and it was rather sweet to see the lengths that he went to in order to win her. But Mary still has the same trust issues regarding Kenneth's ability to be faithful and to protect her. As the weeks go on, they get closer. Mary tentatively starts to believe in Kenneth and finds that she has lost her heart in spite of all her efforts. Kenneth was only supposed to concentrate on his mission, not get sucked into marriage and love. His overprotectiveness and jealousy get him into some trouble both with Mary and with his team.

There was so much intrigue and secret keeping that I kept wondering what was going to happen next. The initial interactions between Kenneth and Mary, which only seemed to reinforce Mary's opinion of him, were hot enough to scorch the pages, but didn't look promising for a happy outcome. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the training that Kenneth went through and the grief that he got from the Guard members went a long way toward increasing his maturity. When he was in England he had to call on that maturity to stay on task, not an easy thing for him to do, especially as things really started to heat up. Mary also had some growing up to do, as she began to realize that maybe there was more to Kenneth than she had previously believed. She had to face her growing feelings for Kenneth and decide if she was going to trust him or not. And then there were the things that Kenneth was trying to discover for the Bruce while maintaining his cover. This became more difficult with his marriage, because he made an enemy of one of Mary's suitors. The final showdown was heartpounding in its intensity, and the happy ending for Mary and Kenneth perfect for them.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Take My Breath Away - Christie Ridgway (HQN - June 2014)

Series: Cabin Fever (Book 1)

Poppy Walker has a plan to restore the family resort, and she's sticking to it. So when a good-looking guy with plenty of cash rents one of her half-repaired vacation cabins, she figures he's just what the handyman ordered. But when a storm blows through, it takes down some trees, her roof and then…her self-control. Even though she's been burned before by a wealthy passer-through, she can't stay away from the brooding but gorgeous stranger in the bungalow next door.

Former teen idol turned Hollywood exec Ryan Hamilton wants a private place in which to endure his very personal heartbreak. Finally, at this rustic mountain cabin, he has all the seclusion one man could want -- until sparks begin to fly with his sexy, formerly chilly landlady. By the time the weather dies down, they're both hot, bothered and certain they're still wrong for each other. But there's no telling how they'll face the new storm brewing on the horizon….

Very good beginning to a new series. Poppy is a single mother with great plans to renovate the cabins at her family's resort as a way to bring in cash for the family. When Ryan offers extra cash to rent one of the cabins now, she takes him up on it. Ryan is there, running from his memories, but Poppy turns out to be quite a distraction. When a storm traps them together the sparks fly between them.

Poppy grew up in Blue Arrow Lake and is quite familiar with the way the wealthy visitors behave. She was burned several years earlier by a guy who bailed on her when she got pregnant. So she isn't going to let herself fall for Ryan. She's got her hands full raising her son and working on the cabins, Thanks to the storm that traps them together, she finds it harder to stay away from him.

Ryan was a child star who has left acting behind for the production side of the business. For eleven months of the year his life is fine, but March is always bad. In trying to escape from tragic memories, he seems to end up in some kind of trouble each March. He's come to Blue Arrow Lake to find a place to hide out and try to avoid the paparazzi who follow him around. Landing in one of Poppy's cabins is great because she has no idea who he is. The downside is the very inconvenient attraction he has to her.

Poppy is independent to a fault, refusing to ask for help from anyone, but she is also cheerful and optimistic most of the time. In spite of his wealth and fame, Ryan is basically a nice guy. But he is in so much pain from his personal tragedy that he hasn't been able to move on with his life. When a steamy kiss is caught on camera by the paparazzi, Ryan whisks Poppy and her son off to his home by the lake to protect them. It's there that the connection between them becomes more obvious. Poppy sees that Ryan is in pain, and even though it takes a long time before he tells her the cause, she tries to be there for him. Ryan's pain is made stronger with the presence of Poppy's son Mason in the house, because it reminds him of what he has lost. He tries desperately to keep his distance, but finds both Poppy ad Mason creeping into the heart he thought was frozen. Though their physical attraction took off quickly, a deeper relationship was slower to form. I really liked the way that Ryan was so sensitive to Poppy's emotions and could tell when something was bothering her. Even though he refused to believe he could love again, he couldn't help but want to help her. I also loved the way that even though being around Mason brought back painful memories, he didn't take it out on Mason. There were some really wonderful moments between them that gave Poppy hope that there could be something more between she and Ryan. I loved seeing them grow closer, even as both resisted thinking about a future together. There were definitely some trying times before they were both able to overcome their insecurities and look for that future together.

Poppy's son Mason was really adorable. I loved the way he followed Ryan around and how Ryan never pushed him away. The fun they had with the spy maps was great, and I had a feeling they were going to be important. I loved what happened at the end, and how Mason was such a big part of Ryan's healing.

I also enjoyed the secondary romance with Linus and Charlie. She hadn't expected to see him again after their time together the year before, and his reappearance really messed with the way she deals with her summer flings. I really liked his patience in getting her to keep seeing him. It was pretty sweet the way he was the first to realize his feelings for her. Then he had to convince her that there could be more for them both.

There's also a lot going on with family relationships. Poppy is having trouble convincing her brother and sisters that fixing up the cabins is the right thing to do. But even with their disagreements, they are there for her when they think she's in trouble. Linus is Ryan's brother and is worried about him because of Ryan's actions. I loved the way that he came to watch over him, even though Ryan didn't want him there. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these folks in the next book.

Drums of Autumn - Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte - Nov 1997)

Series: Outlander (Book 4)

It began in Scotland, at an ancient stone circle. There, a doorway, open to a select few, leads into the past -- or to the grave. Claire Randall survived the extraordinary passage, not once but twice. Her first trip swept her into the arms of Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scot whose love for her became legend -- a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child. Her second journey, two decades later, brought them together again in frontier America. But Claire had left someone behind in the twentieth century. Their daughter, Brianna ...

Now, Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the stone circle and a terrifying leap into the unknown. In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history ... and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past ... or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong....

The story continues. In Voyager, Claire made the decision to go back through the stones to find Jamie, who had survived Culloden after all. Their adventures brought them to the coast of the colony of Georgia and the chance of a new life in the New World. Their initial plan is to go to North Carolina and find Jamie's aunt Jocasta, who had moved there years ago, and then put young Ian on a ship back to Scotland. While there, they receive a letter from Jenny, asking them to keep Ian with them and therefore giving him a better life than he'd have in Scotland. Their trip isn't without its troubles, as they are robbed, meet a pirate named Stephen Bonnet, and run into slave problems on his aunt's plantation. Jamie longs for land of his own and with the encouragement of the governor of the colony, he and Claire head for the hills and establish their new home on Fraser's Ridge.

Meanwhile, back in modern day Scotland, Brianna desperately misses her mother, but is growing ever closer to Roger MacKenzie Wakefield. Until the day she discovers a newspaper article detailing the deaths of her parents in a house fire. Determined to try to change history, she makes a leap of her own in order to go find them, leaving Roger behind. Not to be outdone, Roger follows behind her. He is able to find her, then they pledge themselves to each other before Roger goes off to find a way for them to get back home after they deliver their message.

While separated trouble finds Brianna before she can find Claire and Jamie, leaving her with consequences that could keep her from going home. Through a terrible misunderstanding, Jamie and Ian intercept Roger before he can catch up with Brianna, and they give him to a far away Indian tribe, hoping to keep him far from Brianna. When the truth is known, Jamie and company must find a way to get Roger back.

Once again the book is rich with historical detail and characters that leap off the page. I loved Brianna's determination to save her parents even though she has no guarantee that she can make the trip. I really liked seeing her make her plans and carry them out. The part that Bonnet plays is multilayered, and affects both Claire and Brianna, though in different ways. I was frustrated by Jamie's actions, as I thought he should have at least listened to what Roger had to say before taking action. I loved Brianna's first meeting with Jamie - so emotional. The description of what happened in the Indian village, both to Roger and Ian made me feel almost as if I was there. I also felt for Roger because of the decision he had to make, even though I was sure he would ultimately make the right choice. I loved seeing Lord John and Willie show up on Fraser's Ridge, and seeing the effect it had on Jamie. I also loved seeing John step in to help Brianna.

I really enjoyed seeing life in the colonies as events are growing closer to war with England. With Claie's knowledge of the future they know what side they should take, but hope to avoid fighting entirely. I loved seeing Bree and Roger get back together and get to be the support that that each other needs. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Breaking Point - Lindsay McKenna (HQN - May 2014)

Series: Shadow Warriors (Book 5)


An ongoing U.S. military experiment to test the integration of trained female military operatives in live combat scenarios…

The Alpha Platoon. A unit of Navy SEALs stationed in the unforgiving dryness of Afghanistan…who just learned that their newest team member is a woman. But Bay Thorn has a spine of steel -- and the chops to prove it. Without a team to back her up, however, she's dead in the water. And her only ally is Gabe Griffin, a lone SEAL who is lethal, dangerous and unbearably attractive….

Between the open hostility from her team and the harsh Al Qaeda territory, Gabe is a lifeline for Bay. But mutual respect quickly grows into mutual attraction. And with each day and every assignment, the longing only deepens.

They mustn't speak of it. Mustn't act on it. Because in this line of work, falling in love can get you killed….

Loved it. Another terrific entry into the series about women moving into combat roles. Bay has been part of the Shadow Warriors for several years. She is a highly trained combat medic and has previously served with another special forces unit. Now she's been assigned to a platoon of SEALs and she has to prove herself all over again. Bay's introduction to the team is pretty rough. There are several of the guys who are outright hostile, but one of them speaks up for her. He's assigned as her mentor, to show her the way they do things. 

I really enjoyed Bay's introduction and first few days with the team. She knew she'd be facing opposition and tried not to let it get her down. She was confident in her abilities, as long as they would give her a chance. It was fun to see the way that she demonstrated those abilities. I really loved the shooting competition and the way that Gabe showed such confidence in her. I liked the way that bits of her background were shown and how they had such a big part in what she could do. 

Gabe's support means a lot to her. She has a great deal of respect and admiration for his abilities and knowing that he has confidence in her helps keep her going. What she doesn't expect to happen is the attraction she feels for him. Bay was engaged to another medic, who died in action in Iraq. She swore she wouldn't get involved with another military man, but her heart wasn't listening to her head.

Gabe had been impressed with Bay from the minute he met her. She had a strength of will he didn't see often in men, much less in women. He's assigned as her mentor/partner and it doesn't take him long to realize that she will be an asset to the team, once the other guys see that she can hold her own. Besides her military skills he is also drawn to the softer side of her. Seeing her use her medical skills on the locals emphasizes her nurturing personality and Gabe finds his attraction to her growing. Gabe had been married before to a woman who couldn't handle his job, and being around Bay shows him what he could have with a woman like her. Both of them know that a relationship between them is impossible under the current conditions. They work very hard at keeping their emotions in check, and are mostly successful. 

I liked the way that their relationship developed slowly, with them getting to know each other without physical intimacy getting in the way. It also showed the respect that they had for each other. I enjoyed seeing them get together at the end, and especially liked Gabe's sensitivity to Bay's need to adjust to noncombat conditions. It helped that he goes through the same things himself. I really liked the realistic look at what their next year would be like, with him doing training and her deploying again.

There were a few things I didn't like as much about this book. I really expected there to be more of a struggle for Bay with becoming part of the team. There wasn't much interaction between her and the other guys, except for the cookie incident. That really made it seem like she ended all the hostility with a few cookies and I would have liked to see more. I loved Bay's strength of will and abilities, but I don't recall her ever showing any truly negative emotions. No gripes about the sand, frustration over the guys' attitudes, not even over not being able to haul off and kiss Gabe now and then. Nobody can be that upbeat all the time, especially under those conditions. And for some reason, even the two major missions didn't seem as intense as they've been in previous books. These things weren't major drawbacks, but they weren't quite what I usually expect. Won't stop me from reading the next one.

Wild Iris Ridge - RaeAnne Thayne (HQN - June 2014)

Series: Hope's Crossing (Book 7)

Lucy Drake and Brendan Caine have only one thing in common… .

And it's likely to tear them apart. Because it was Brendan's late wife, Jessie -- and Lucy's best friend -- who'd brought them together in the first place. And since Jessie's passing, Brendan's been distracted by his two little ones…and the memory of an explosive kiss with Lucy years before his marriage. Still, he'll steer clear of her. She's always been trouble with a capital T

Lucy couldn't wait to shed her small-town roots for the big city. But now that she's back in Hope's Crossing to take care of the Queen Anne home her late aunt has left her, she figures seeing Brendan Caine again is no big deal. After all, she'd managed to resist the handsome fire chief once before, but clearly the embers of their attraction are still smoldering…

Good reunion story. Lucy lost her high powered job and has come back to Hope's Crossing to regroup in the only place that ever felt like home. She spent several years there while growing up, becoming best friends with her cousin Jessie. She couldn't wait to leave, and isn't really looking forward to being back, especially with Jessie gone. She plans to turn her aunt's house into a bed and breakfast while she looks for a new job, and then move on. At the top of her list is avoiding Brendan whenever she can. She had an explosive kiss with him while she was in college, and was stunned when he not only blew her off, but shortly after that met and married her cousin. Ever since then, they've had a rocky relationship.

Brendan loved Jessie and has been pretty overwhelmed with taking care of his two kids in the two years since her death. He could handle Lucy's brief appearances in their lives, but having her back in town is going to be a little tougher. He's never forgotten that kiss, but the intervening years have been spent sniping at each other.

On Lucy's first night in town, she has a chimney fire at Iris House, resulting in a visit from the fire department, including Brendan. There are more sparks than just those in the chimney, but neither is going to admit it. Lucy's not planning to stay and Brendan certainly isn't going to leave. But as the days go on, they spend more time together, getting to know more about each other. Brendan discovers that Lucy is much nicer than he had thought, and her love for his kids is obvious. He begins to see that there's more to her than he had previously thought, and also sees some vulnerability under the shell she shows to the rest of the world. His feelings for her are growing, but he doesn't want to open his heart again only to have to deal with another loss. If her own problems aren't enough, Lucy's father decides to guilt her into taking care of her teenaged half sister, who has gotten herself into trouble at home. 

Lucy and Brendan find their lives changing in ways they never expected. I loved seeing Lucy give her sister the kind of love and support she had never had herself. Not only did it make a difference to Crystal, I loved the way it brought out a whole new side of Lucy. I loved seeing her settle in to life in Hope's Crossing, making friends and getting involved. She'd actually consider staying, but while her feelings for Brendan are growing, she doesn't think he'll ever be ready to move on. I liked seeing her stand up for herself and her needs. Brendan was so determined to keep her away at first, but he just couldn't fight what was growing between them. But those feelings were also scary for him, because he didn't think he could take a chance on losing someone else that he loved, so he kept pushing her away. He had quite a different scare at the end, that showed him what he really needed.

It was great to see so many characters from previous books. I loved seeing Gen and her decorating business helping Lucy with Iris House, so different from what she was like in earlier books. I also had fun seeing Dylan so happy and dispensing love advice to Brendan. His dad, Dermot, has always been a great character and it was especially satisfying to see him get his own happy ending.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Celebration Christmas - Nancy Robards Thompson (HSE #2368 - Nov 2014)

Series: Celebrations Inc (Book 7)


Lily Palmer is in for the Christmas of a lifetime! When the nanny signs up to watch Dr. Cullen Dunlevy's four foster kids, she's got her hands full. The Thomas clan is the most mischievous group of youngsters she's ever had to wrangle, but Lily loves the job. After all, what girl wouldn't adore spending the holidays with a warmhearted new family -- and their irresistibly handsome foster dad?

Cullen doesn't mind Christmas, but his Scrooge-like facade is there for a reason -- to protect himself. His tough childhood caused him to hide behind his work and avoid entanglements at all costs. That includes avoiding falling for the deliciously tempting new nanny that Santa left for him this year…

Good book. Cullen desperately needs a nanny to ride herd on his four foster kids. They are pretty wild and have succeeded in driving away his housekeeper, leaving him with no help. Enter Lily, a second grade teacher looking to pick up some extra income while school is out for the holidays. She has a handle on things immediately, leaving Cullen very impressed and noticing a lot more than Lily's nanny skills.

Lily has noticed Cullen too. She finds him incredibly attractive, but she's not in the market for a man right now. Her engagement had recently come to a rather spectacular end, leaving her unsure of herself when it comes to relationships. But the more time she spends with Cullen and the kids, the more things start to feel like a real family. She's afraid to start believing in a future because Cullen has a reputation for avoiding commitment. She can see him holding back with the kids and wonders if he'll ever be able to open his heart all the way.

Cullen took custody of the four kids when their parents died. Their father had been his best friend and he had promised to be there if he was needed. He doesn't feel qualified to keep them, so he is trying to find a family that will adopt all four of them, not an easy task. He had had a rough childhood and fears being too much like his father to ever be a husband or father. When Lily comes to work for him and take care of the kids, he is immediately drawn to her. She's nothing like the women he usually dates, but he finds it increasingly easy to come home to Lily and the kids. She brings out thoughts of home and family that he's never had before, but he's still not convinced he has it in him to go the distance. 

I really liked seeing the emotional growth that occurred with Cullen. He was so closed off and almost afraid of the kids at the beginning. Lily's influence showed him that he could have a different life if he had the courage to go after it. I loved seeing him loosen up when they went Christmas tree shopping and start to get more involved with the kids and what they were doing. He really stepped up with George after the basketball game, even though he wasn't sure he knew what he was doing. He also had the courage to tell Lily that he loved her, but had to face his fears or risk losing her over their different expectations. I loved his big moment at the end, when he finally learned what was really important.

I really enjoyed the kids in this family. None of them were perfect little angels, but neither were they monsters. I loved the oldest girl's bossiness as she tried to be the mother to her siblings. George was great as the only boy, having to deal both with his losses and being outnumbered. I loved seeing them lose their fears thanks to Lily. I loved their bit with the mistletoe while they were tree shopping.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Untameable Texan - Janice Maynard (HD - Oct 2014)

Series: Texas Cattleman's Club: After the Storm (Book .5)

Texas financier Jed Farrell always gets what he wants -- except when it comes to the one who got away, Kimberly Fanning. Now he's here to settle old scores with his high school sweetheart at their ten-year reunion. But when they end up back between the sheets, the man with a plan soon gets an unplanned baby surprise. Will old doubts and differences scuttle their second shot at a future together? The time for answers is running out as a storm literally brews on the horizon….

Very short prequel to the newest Texas Cattleman's Club series. Jed has come back to Royal for his high school reunion for one reason. He wants to see Kim again and finally find out why she broke things off with him after he left for college. He has realized that he's never forgotten her and feels that he will never have a successful relationship until he deals with his past.

Kim is surprised to see Jed at the reunion, and not very happy when he makes it clear that they will talk before he leaves. She had loved him very much, but felt that the differences between them were too great for them to have a future together. He was wealthy and had a great future ahead of him. She was poor and the only one of her family left to take care of her ailing grandmother. She was afraid he would throw it all away to stay with her, so she broke things off.

A couple dances together and they discovered that the old attraction was still there. Those dances led to a smoking hot night together, but she left in the morning before Jed woke up. Thanks to crises at work, it was six long weeks before Jed could get back to Royal and talk to Kim. All he had been able to think of was her, and he wanted a chance to convince her that they could have it all.

Kim had run because she was scared by the intensity of the feelings she still had for Jed. She still couldn't see a future for them because she was still hung up on their differences. But she turns up pregnant, and Jed is right there, insisting on taking care of her. He wants more than just to share parenting duties, and Kim has to decide if she wants to take a chance on the future she's dreamed of.

Just as they declare their feelings for each other, the sirens go off. In the distance is a monster tornado, heading straight for Royal. They know that things are going to change far more than they had expected.

I loved Jed's determination to show Kim how much he cared. The scenes in the doctor's office were sweet, as was his care for her when she passed out on him. I really wanted Kim to have more confidence in herself and their feelings, and fortunately it did come through in the end. For such a short story I thought it did well at developing the characters and setting up for the series.

Her Desert Knight - Jennifer Lewis (HD #2340 - Nov 2014)

Series: Al Mansur Brothers (Book 3)

Daniyah Hassan paid the price for leaving home and defying her father. Now the divorcée is back in Oman, nursing her wounds and fending off an arranged marriage. Enter maverick investor Quasar Al Mansur: though Dani's sworn off men, she instantly melts in his heat.

Quasar's always had his pick of starlets and socialites, but Dani's beauty and vulnerability tempt him beyond reason. Even after he discovers she's off-limits, Quasar will never let their decades-old family feud stop him from getting what he wants….

Pretty good book. Dani had gone to the United States to go to college and while there had met and married an American. When he became abusive she divorced him and returned to Oman and living at home. But her actions were considered scandalous by local custom and her father is keeping a tight rein on what she does. Visiting her favorite bookstore one day, she met Quasar, another Omani who has spent a lot of time in America. They bond over their American lives versus their Omani lives. 

There is an instant attraction between them, though Dani has sworn off getting involved with another man. She can't resist his advances and starts spending time with him secretly. Quasar had been drawn to Dani's beauty first, but then to the vulnerable woman he gets to know. It wasn't until they'd been seeing each other for awhile that he learned that there was a great deal of enmity between her father and his brothers, over a piece of land. In spite of his brothers' demands that he leave Dani alone, he can't do it.

Overall, I liked Dani. She had had the courage to divorce her husband, even though she knew it would create problems at home. Once she met Quasar, her healing from the hit her self esteem had taken began. He certainly made her feel good about herself, even though she was determined to keep their relationship secret. I also liked the fact that she stood up to her father about the man he was trying to marry her off to. She did know her father and his attitudes well, and tried to explain to Quasar that his desire to meet with her father was not a good idea. Dani finally begins to gain the confidence she needs to move on with her life, thanks to Quasar's attentions, when she runs into a situation that sets her back. 

Quasar is a successful business investor who is not used to having his wishes denied. In spite of what his brothers tell him about their problems with her father, he is determined to keep seeing Dani. He quickly realizes that he wants more than a fling with her and wants to begin a relationship with her in a proper fashion by speaking with her father. He doesn't listen to Dani when she tells him that it would be a very bad idea, and does it anyway. At that point he finally realizes that it's going to take something big for them to be able to be together. I enjoyed the solution he came up with and seeing how various people reacted to it. The epilogue was good.