Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Thank you for following my book reviews for 2013.  I will be posting my reviews for 2014 here.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The SEAL's Christmas Twins - Laura Marie Altom (HAR #1480 - Dec 2013)

Series: Operation: Family (Book 5)

His Toughest Mission Yet

Navy SEAL Mason Brown left Conifer, Alaska, and his broken marriage behind long ago. Until one call changed everything. His ex-wife has died in a tragic accident, and given custody of her twin baby girls to Mason and her sister Hattie.

Hattie Beaumont always dreamed of having a family -- and Mason -- but never like this. Now those old longings seem like betrayal, especially since playing house with Mason comes naturally. She can tell he feels it, too, so why is he determined to leave?

Mason knows Hattie and the girls are the greatest Christmas gift he'll ever get. But even though he's risked his life countless times, risking his heart again feels so much more dangerous.

Very good book.  Mason hasn't been back to Alaska since the end of his marriage, until the death of his ex-wife sends him back to take joint custody of her twin girls.  The other half of the agreement is his ex's sister Hattie who had once been a good friend to him.  Mason's feelings of betrayal still run deep and he has no interest in keeping to the custody agreement.  But until he can relinquish his rights he's stuck caring for them.  Spending time with Hattie creates feelings in him even stronger than those he had felt for his ex-wife, but he's not sure he can open himself up to that kind of risk again.

I really liked both Hattie and Mason.  Hattie always felt like second best around her sister, who was thin and beautiful and popular.  Except around Mason who was always nice to her.  Hattie developed a mad crush on him that lasted even after their marriage and divorce.  Now she's suffering from terrible guilt because she has her sister's children and her sister's husband.  Having Mason around helping her with the babies makes her feel like she's part of a real family.  It's making that old crush grow into real love, but it's tearing her apart.  Hattie also has terrible self esteem because she sees herself as fat and doesn't believe anyone would ever see her as beautiful.  I loved seeing the way that she went from terrified to fantastic with the girls.  Mason's presence gave her confidence the boost it needed for her to feel that she can take care of them.  They had terrific teamwork and Hattie could see how wonderful it could be if they were able to be together.  I also thought she had wonderful inner strength to be able to do everything she did and still cope with the nasty attitudes of her parents.  I often wondered how she could keep her temper when her mom said all those terrible things. It was hard to see her allow her guilt to keep her from what she really wanted. I really liked the way that Hattie took charge of her life at the end.

Mason still feels the betrayal of his ex-wife and best friend.  He is stunned to find out he has joint custody of their girls with Hattie.   He doesn't want it and can't wait to turn it all over to Hattie.  Because there will be a delay, he ends up sharing the house and child care duties with Hattie.  He is surprised by what a beautiful woman she has become and shocked by the attraction he feels for her.  He knows nothing can come of it because he can't wait to leave and there's no way Hattie will leave.  I really liked the way that he saw her beauty, inside and out, and tried to get her to see what he saw.  I also loved seeing him learn to care for the babies.  He had always been one of the ones  who didn't understand his teammates who got married and had kids and now he's starting to fall also.  There were some great scenes with him learning what to do and treating it like a military mission.  He had some great moments where he was trying to come to grips with his growing feelings for his "friend" and trying to reconcile them with what he still felt about his ex.  When he finally admitted his feelings he was stunned by her response.  I didn't blame him for running to escape his pain again.  I really liked his reaction at the end.

Matched by Moonlight - Gina Wilkins (HSE #2306 - Jan 2014)

Series: Bride Mountain (Book 1)

A workaholic wedding planner meets a travel writer, and soon love is in the air at Bride Mountain, Virginia's most exciting venue for destination weddings

Kinley Carmichael is on her way to transforming her family's historic B and B into Virginia's most exciting vacation venue. Romance is the last thing on the once-burned wedding planner's mind...until footloose travel writer Dan Phelan shows up, throwing her schedule--and Kinley's guarded heart--into chaos. 

Dan is just passing through and has no intention of making Bride Mountain Inn his honeymoon destination. So why is Kinley suddenly making him long to take that fateful walk down the aisle? It will take a local legend and a passionate kiss under a bridal moon for two total opposites to realize they could be meant for each other....

Good story of two people who seem like total opposites as they discover that they have more in common than they thought and that a little bit of compromise can make anything possible.  Kinley and her brother and sister have turned their B and B into a sought after wedding destination.  It has drawn the attention of travel writer Dan Phelan, who arrives to do a story on it.   Kinley is very focused on the business and the upcoming wedding taking place.  Dan's early arrival has thrown off her schedule, and the attraction she feels to him isn't helping her peace of mind.  Having been hurt in a marriage that didn't work out she now keeps tight control over her emotions, putting all her effort into the business.  She can't seem to stay away from Dan even though she knows he's not the type to stay around. She sees him as someone who cannot settle down.  I loved seeing the way that being with him showed her feelings that she had given up on long ago.  She also began to wonder if her need for control was turning her into an unlikable person.  I loved the way that Dan reassured her on that point.  I also liked the way that she was able to see Dan's issues that were driving him.

Dan was an only child of parents who had problems letting him live his own life.  They didn't understand his desire to write and showed their disapproval that he didn't follow them into medicine or law. So he has spent the last several years going from place to place writing his travel articles.  When he arrives at Bride Mountain to write his article about the B and B, he is impressed by what he sees.  He is rather amused by Kinley's attempts to keep all their interactions business related.  He would like to pursue the attraction between them as long as she understands that it would be a no strings thing.  I really enjoyed seeing the fun he had getting her all flustered.  I also liked the way that he stepped in to help her with the bride's mother during the wedding festivities.  He was very good at seeing Kinley for who she is and why she is the way she is.  His growing feelings for him scared him off for awhile as he doubted his ability to be what she needed.  I loved what he said at the end and how they decided to make things work.

I also enjoyed the setting of the book.  Southwestern Virginia is a beautiful place and I loved the descriptions.  I also loved the whole wedding scenario.  There were some pretty funny moments with Kinley and the others dealing with the obnoxious mother of the bride.  Many of the situations showed both Kinley and Dan doing what they do best and gave great insight into who they are.  I liked the hints of the subject of the next book in the series.

Monday, December 30, 2013

'Twas the Week Before Christmas - Olivia Miles (HSE #2304 - Dec 2013)

Series: Maple Woods (Book 1)

Dear Holly,

As I look around the inn, I see garland and mistletoe, colored lights and ornaments--everything I have always professed to despise. You were right to wonder why I would choose to visit The White Barn Inn. You were right about a lot of things.

Since I met you, though, everything has changed. I've changed. And that's why I can't go on any longer without telling you the whole story. I don't know if you will ever be able to forgive me. But they say Christmas is a time for miracles. And you do believe in them, don't you? The question is, can you still believe in me?


Very good book, slightly reminding me of A Christmas Carol.  We have Holly, the innkeeper, who loves Christmas.  She has decorated the inn, participates in all the Christmas activities, and just generally seems a pretty happy person.  Then you have grumpy Max.  He is a self-made successful real estate developer.  He doesn't like Christmas at all.  He's in town to try to buy some land for a shopping mall, land her inn just happens to occupy.  

I liked Holly.  She has made a life for herself at the inn.  She left Boston after being disappointed in love, losing her parents and then her grandmother.  The inn and its guests have become her life.  I loved the way that she throws herself into all the Christmas preparations and activities.  When Max shows up she is very attracted to him.  He has a great smile and seems very interested in her.  She doesn't understand his dislike of Christmas and gets him involved in the activities.   Her disappointment when a snowstorm keeps guests away is obvious and she's grateful that Max is staying around.  Everything is going great between them until she finds out why he's in town.  

Max had had a miserable childhood with a drunk, abusive father and a mother who abandoned them when he was eleven, right after Christmas.  He has disliked the holiday ever since.  He has worked hard to build a successful real estate development company.  His latest project is a shopping mall in Maple Woods.  He has come to town to buy the land and get the project approved by the city council.  He doesn't expect the instant attraction to Holly.  He can't seem to stay away from her and the more he gets to know her the guiltier he feels about his plans.  I felt really bad for Max.  He was so torn about what he should do.  On the one hand, his business  really needs the mall property and it's important to him to continue with his business successes.  On the other hand, his growing feelings for Holly make him want to leave it all behind for her.  He went through so much turmoil before he finally found his way back to her.

The story showed Max his past as he told Holly about it, with the unhappy things that happened to him that made him the man he is today.  We also saw Max in the present, as he spends time with Holly and her friends, seeing the happiness she has as she takes care of her guests.  Max also envisions the future as it might be after the mall is built and the effects it would have on the town.  

I really enjoyed the descriptions of the town and the inn.  The various secondary characters felt real to me and brought both the town and the inn to life.  I'm looking forward to the next book and a return to Maple Woods.

An Early Christmas Gift - Susan Crosby (HSE #2303 - Dec 2013)

Series: Red Valley Ranchers (Book 3)

The Capulets and the Montagues had nothing on the Ryders and the Morgans! But despite the fact that each one was from one of the rival ranching families, Jenny Ryder and Win Morgan had a passionate summer affair four years ago -- one that resulted in pregnancy. They got married and promptly lost the baby. Heartbroken, Jenny let herself be talked into divorcing Win…without ever having revealed the marriage to her family -- or his.

Now Jenny's back, and one impulsive night means that Jenny and Win are about to be parents again! This time, they have to fess up. Their future happiness and child depend on it. But Win is keeping his own secret -- that "divorce" he and Jenny supposedly got might not be worth the paper it (wasn't!) printed on….

Good book about second chances and trust.  I really liked both Jenny and Win.  Their brief summer affair had affected them both.  Because of her pregnancy they had married in secret, but  split right after she lost the baby.  Jenny has finished college and has plans for her future.  When she sees Win for the first time in four years, their reunion turns physical in a flash.  With their families still not getting along, having any kind of relationship will be difficult, but the pull is still there.  Then history repeats itself and Jenny is pregnant again.  Finding out that Win never filed the divorce papers is a shock to her, but even more so to their families.  Now that Jen and Win are planning to make a go of their marriage they have to take the time to get to know each other and see if this marriage has a chance.

Jenny has come home with big plans to have a lavender farm.  She's very independent and doesn't want to rely on her family for financing so tries to get a bank loan.  When she's turned down she is upset and manages to drive off the road on her way home to her parents' house.  Win finds her and they speak for the first time in four years.  Their attraction is still there and they have a hot and heavy reunion before calling for help to get her car out of the ditch.  Because of their family feud Jenny sends Win off before her father and brothers arrive.  She realizes that she has never gotten over her love for Win.  With her plans in limbo, she works with her sister-in-law (The Cowboy's Return) on her organic farm.  Over the next several weeks she and Win find ways to be together a bit.  When she discovers she's pregnant she's also stunned to find out that Win had never filed the divorce papers and they are still married.  She worries that Win is only staying married to her because of the baby, while she is very much in love with him.  I liked the fact that Jen really wanted their marriage to work.  She loved Win and was trying to do everything she could to show him how much. There are some great scenes with Jenny trying to make her point. She couldn't bring herself to tell him that because she feared that he would reject her, the way she felt rejected four years earlier.  I also liked the way that she held on to her dreams of the lavender farm, but also realized that the dreams needed to be adapted to her new reality.  I also loved the way that she stood up to Win's father about his attitude.  She did a bit of growing up by the end of the book as she and Win were finally able to be completely open with each other.

Win has been in love with Jenny from the beginning though he didn't realize that it was love he was feeling.  He just knew that he wanted and needed her.  He couldn't bring himself to divorce her four years earlier and now has to find a way to tell her.  Their reunion makes him realize that there are still feelings between them and he starts finding ways to spend time with her.  When Jenny becomes pregnant he tells her about the non-divorce and insists that they tell both families about their marriage.  I loved the way he insisted on full disclosure to her family.  His nervousness was understandable considering their family histories, but he stood up anyway.  I loved his confusion around all the Ryders, since he had never seen a family interact the way they did, with obvious love for each other. He was also surprised at their offers of help on his ranch considering the feud. His own relationship with his father was rocky at best.  I liked seeing Win standing up to his father and trying to make him understand.  I loved the way he got his chance to show his dad what could be done. I loved the way that Win tried so hard to take care of Jenny.  He was so afraid of causing her harm that he tried to resist her efforts to get him into bed with her. Win was also trying to show Jenny how much he cared by trying to find a way to make her lavender farm dream come true.  I loved seeing the way that they worked things out at the end.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Nanny's Secret - Elizabeth Lane (HD #2277 - Jan 2014)

Series: Billionaires and Babies (Book 41)

Haughty and handsome, resort owner Wyatt Richardson has never met a problem he couldn't buy his way out of. Facing custody of his teenage daughter and her newborn son, he hires a nanny to handle them both. His attraction to Leigh Foster is an unexpected perk. He's confident the feeling is mutual.

But Leigh knows she's on shaky ground. Falling for her new boss could prove devastating -- especially if Wyatt finds out her true connection to baby Mikey. But when the billionaire's arms beckon, will she be powerless to refuse?

Very good book.  Wyatt has a lot to learn about parenting and Leigh turns out to be just the one to help him.

Wyatt is desperate to find a nanny for his new grandson.  His pregnant teenage daughter had been dumped with him by her mother and Wyatt is at a total loss what to do.  When he hires Leigh he suspects she's not the expert she says she is, but he's willing to take the chance.  His attraction to her is just the icing on the cake.  At first I didn't find him very likable.  He seemed more interested in getting Chloe to give up the baby and go back to being a teenager than in doing the right thing for the baby.  It quickly became obvious that his real problem was simple fear.  He had not had a good childhood and had built his business from the ground up.  He had spent all his time building his business, thinking that being able to provide for his family was enough.  He had never learned how to show love in any way other than buying things.  Hiring Leigh was his way of throwing money at that problem.  He was not particularly happy to find that she was intent on making sure that Mikey was a full part of the family, not just an inconvenience.  I loved seeing the way that Leigh's instruction and efforts had him feeling more for the baby than he had ever felt before.  He also wanted to give in to his attraction to Leigh, but wanted to do it without involving emotions.  But he found that the more time he spent with Leigh the more he wanted to keep her with him.  His growing feelings for her also showed him how better to relate to his daughter.  I loved seeing him open up to all the feelings he had by the end of the book.

Leigh wanted the nanny job for one reason.  The baby's father is her younger brother and she wants to make sure that the baby gets a good start in life.  She knows that she can't tell Wyatt who she really is.  He doesn't know the identity of Mikey's father and she fears that if he did he would ruin Kevin's life.  Her intent is to be there for Mikey no matter what else happens.  She doesn't expect to be attracted to Wyatt and tries to resist it.  I loved watching her stand up to him and not let him ignore his grandson.  There were some pretty fun scenes as she taught him everything from feeding to diapering.  She also found that spending so much time with him started changing her feelings from attraction to love.  She was also sure that once he found out about her deception any feelings he might have for her would die in the face of his anger.  She came to love Mikey and Chloe so much that she wanted to stay with them all.  I loved the ending and how it was Chloe that came up with the perfect solution.

The High Price of Secrets - Yvonne Lindsay (HD #2272 - Dec 2013)

Series: The Master Vintners (Book 4)

Protecting his foster parents means everything to Finn Gallagher. So when stunning Tamsyn Masters appears on his doorstep, looking for her mother, he does what he has to do -- he lies to her. It's not as if Tamsyn hasn't done worse. And if a harmless seduction will keep her where he wants her, why not?

Now Finn has another secret…he's falling for Tamsyn. She's not what he thought, and time is running out. The choice is clear -- Tamsyn or the truth. Because he can't have both.

Very good book.  Both Tamsyn and Finn have to deal with both finding love that will define their futures and also be able to let go of their pasts.  There was so much emotion between the two of them that I went through several tissues while reading it.

Tamsyn has had to deal with too many lies.  Between her entire family lying to her about her mother and then her fiance cheating on her, she needs to get away.  Tamsyn is now determined to find her mother.  Her search has led her to the vineyard of Finn Gallagher.  He claims that he doesn't know her mother, but offers to show her around the area while she searches.  Their initial meeting had not gone well, but he seems to be more cooperative now.   The attraction she feels for him is doing pretty good things for her confidence also.  While she occasionally gets the feeling he's hiding something, she's really starting to fall for him.  I really liked Tamsyn.  While she seemed pretty impulsive, running off to New Zealand like she did, overall she is a smart and independent woman.  I liked the way that she wasn't going to give up her search even though she hit a roadblock with Finn.  Her determination led her to take a job working with local seniors and finding a place to live.  When she discovers his deception she is devastated and even more so when she finds out the truth about her mother.  I thought she was terrific all through the final stages of the book and really showed what a great person she was.  

Finn's actions at the beginning showed how intent he was on protecting his foster parents.  He was so sure that he was doing the right thing by deceiving Tamsyn.  Everything he thought he knew about her made him think that she was selfish and spoiled.  He was attracted to her, though, and thought that having a fling with her would satisfy him and keep her out of trouble too.  But the more he got to know her, the more he realized that she was not the brat he had believed her to be.  I felt a little bit bad for Finn because he had messed up so badly.  I liked his protectiveness toward Ellen, but he probably should have made greater efforts to convince his foster father of the truth.  I enjoyed the way that he got to know Tamsyn and realized that he was falling for her.  He really understood her and it was killing him that he couldn't tell her the truth.  I really enjoyed seeing the things they did together and how much alike they really were.  I loved seeing the decision they made about Tamsyn's legacy from her mother.