Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sweet Stuff - Donna Kauffman (Brava - Feb 2012)

Series: Cupcake Club (Book 2)

Double Fudge...Toasted Coconut...Key Lime...Strawberry Cream...
Every bite is a mouthful of heaven.
And the women of the Cupcake Club are bringing their appetites ...

Riley Brown never imagined she would find her bliss on Georgia's quiet Sugarberry Island after years of Chicago's city life. With a new career and fantastic new friends, she's got it all -- except for eligible men. But a gig staging a renovated beach house delivers a delicious treat -- six feet of blue-eyed, gorgeous writer as delectable and Southern as pecan pie. Quinn Brannigan has come to Sugarberry to finish his latest novel in peace, and suddenly Riley has a taste for the bad boy author that no amount of mocha latte buttercream or lemon mousse will satisfy ...

Riley's friends are rooting for her to give in to her cravings and spice up her life, but it's Quinn who needs to learn that life's menu just might include love, in all its decadent, irresistible flavors...

I didn't realize when I started the book that it was the second in the series, but it didn't affect my enjoyment at all.  I thought it was a good book, a sweet romance with just enough heat to make it interesting.  Riley came to Sugarberry Island to recover from a romance gone bad.  What she found there was a group of good friends, a new career, and a community that cares. She is enjoying her new job staging houses, which is how she meets Quinn.  She is a bit of a klutz and always seems to have scrapes and bruises.  She was staging a house a managed to hurt herself as Quinn arrived.  She was immediately attracted to him, but since he's a famous author she figures he'll have no interest in her.  

Quinn had spent summers on Sugarberry Island with his grandparents when he was younger.  When he ran into problems writing his latest book, he came to the island looking for the peace and quiet he needed.  He definitely wasn't looking for a distraction like Riley, but he couldn't stay away from her.

I really liked both Riley and Quinn.  Riley's lack of self esteem bugged me but it was totally understandable.  Her ex-fiance had done a real number on her and she was still recovering from it.  Her immediate attraction to Quinn really worried her because she wasn't sure that she was ready to take and chance and risk her heart again.  I really liked her outlook on life and how cheerful she usually was.  I also liked the way that she was able to talk so openly with Quinn without the usual guy/girl games that go on in relationships.  She had a lot of inner turmoil as she had to decide if she was willing to pursue what she and Quinn could have together.  

I thought Quinn was a really nice guy.  He wasn't one of those celebrities that had to be the center of attention.  He was dealing with trying to figure out if he wanted to take his writing in a new direction.  He knew that he could write what his readers expected, but the characters were calling for something else.  He had to make a decision soon and Riley was a distraction he didn't need, but couldn't resist.  I loved the way that he saw the real Riley and liked her, klutziness and all.  I also liked the way he didn't push her, but was honest about his feelings and gave her the space to decide.  I loved the way he told her about the problem with his book and how her point of view helped him so much.  

The interactions between the two of them were fantastic.  Whether they were deep conversations about their feelings or lives or just fun times with Riley's dog, it was obvious that they really understood each other.  The sexual tension was there also, but it didn't overwhelm the rest of the story.

I also really liked the other characters in the book.  It was obvious that they were all good friends and I loved the way that they looked out for each other.  Some of the things Alva said were not expected from an elderly Southern lady which made them so much more fun.  I also loved the dog, Brutus, and how his antics added to the fun between Riley and Quinn.  I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Christmas Conspiracy - Robin Perini (HI #1381 - Oct 2012)


Four years ago, girl-next-door Kat Nelson had gone from being a tempting assignment to the fling P.I. Logan Carmichael never forgot. Now he'd been hired to find her by a king claiming Kat was heir to the throne. Locating her wasn't difficult. Learning he was the father of her toddler twins, however, made him ache. But his job was to protect her from a madman who wanted her dead, and keep her away from the king who needed her alive. And yet one look at his children made the steely CIA vet yearn to be more than just a bodyguard. Defusing bombs and taking out terrorists wasn't as scary as being a father -- and didn't get his heart racing as much as the thought of spending every night by Kat's side.…

Good book with non-stop action.  I really liked both Kat and Logan.  Kat was a single mother struggling to raise her twins.   She had met Logan and fallen for him but got scared by the intensity of her emotions so she ran.  Now he's back in her life, protecting her and their children from someone who wants to kill them and the father she never knew who wants her to be a queen.  Because of her poor childhood she never felt like she was good enough for Logan.  She was intimidated by his wealth and education.  But once they met again she couldn't deny that the feelings were still there.  She also couldn't deny that he was turning out to be a fantastic father.  For all of her self esteem issues, Kat was an incredibly strong person.  She had no problem standing up to anyone when it came to protecting her kids.  She was also able to keep her head in tense situations.  I liked the way that she started to open herself up to Logan and see the possibilities of a future together.  

Logan had met Kat when he was hired to find her by her father.  He didn't expect to fall in love with her and when she ran he was devastated.  Now he's back and must protect her and the kids he never knew about.  I loved seeing the way he was so nervous around them, but he was also so good with them.  He seemed to take to being a father very quickly.  He was very worried about keeping them safe, even when he got them to his ranch.  I loved his strength, but he also had a vulnerable side.  His mother had left them when he was a kid and he was abused by his father.  After having lost her once, he was a little hesitant to trust his heart to Kat again, but he couldn't help it.  He also had his feelings of not being good enough because of her royal heritage.

There was a lot going on in this book.  There were so many characters and threads that it was sometimes hard to keep track of who was who and who they were working for.  But it certainly made for an exciting book.

The Ugly Duchess - Eloisa James (Avon - Sept 2012)

Series: Happily Ever Afters (Book 4)

How can she dare to imagine he loves her . . . when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke's passion.

Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime . . . until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry.

Society was shocked by their wedding . . . and is scandalized by their separation.

Now James faces the battle of his life, convincing Theo that he loves the duckling who blossomed into the swan.

And Theo will quickly find that, for a man with the soul of a pirate, All's Fair in Love -- and War.

I loved this book. It is written in two parts, with the first being up through the beginning of their marriage and the second after their separation and reuniting.  Theo and James had grown up together as James's father is Theo's guardian.  They were friends first and foremost.  James has always cared for Theo but when he is ordered to marry her by his father, who has embezzled her dowry, he fears that it will destroy their friendship.  Theo doesn't realize that what she feels for him is love until he kisses her for the first time, and then is so happy that they will marry.   Everything goes along great until she finds out why James married her.  At that point she throws him out of the house and tells him she never wants to see him again.  Theo has always had some self esteem problems because she is not pretty.  This gets worse when she is called "The Ugly Duchess" by the tabloids.  James was in love with Theo from the time he was a teenager but didn't expect to do anything about it quite yet.  He was furious with his father who had nearly bankrupted them with his idiotic investments and then his theft of Theo's inheritance.  At only twenty years old, he doesn't have the ability to stand up to his father and goes through with the marriage.  When it all blows up he is devastated, does as Theo asks and leaves England completely.  I loved the way that they were so obviously in love with each other.  James never agreed with the opinion that Theo was ugly, he always saw her as beautiful, though he could not convince her of that fact.  They also made a perfect pair to plan how to make the estate profitable again.  Theo is incredibly intelligent and frightfully organized.  James has trouble concentrating on indoor things like accounts and so on (ADD?), but has an incredible ability to relate to people and see what needs to be done on the land.

The second half of the book deals with their separation and reuniting.  I won't say too much, so I don't give things away.  Theo copes with her heartbreak by becoming even more organized and rather rigid.  I wanted to shake her at times to wake her up.  She has had to grow up rather quickly to deal with the fallout.  James's departure also caused some real maturing on his part.  He has had to learn to control his own temper and also to be able to do things he avoided before.  He finally realizes that he still loves Theo and wants to win her back.  The second half deals with his efforts, some of which are funny and some of which are romantic.  I loved the man he became and how he won his duchess back.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Trap So Tender - Jennifer Lewis (HD #2220 - Mar 2013)

Series: The Drummond Vow (Book 3)

A Wager Most Wild

With businesses to conquer in Singapore and a centuries-old family heirloom to find in Scotland, investor James Drummond is no stranger to a challenge. But making the mysterious Fiona Lam his represents his riskiest power play yet. When he offers her the moon and stars, Fiona counters with a proposal of her own-a bet, to be exact.

Winning a high-stakes horse race against James is Fiona's best chance at reclaiming her family's factory...and her father's honor. Seducing James is just a means to that end...until they end up in bed together! Then all bets are off....

Very good book with lots of things going on behind the scenes or under the surface.  I liked both Fiona and James and watching them both succumb to emotion over business was pretty interesting.  Fiona's parents had divorced when she was young and she was raised by her mom and stepfather, but always felt a lack of connection to her dad.  Just when she had made a success of her business she found out that he had lost his and decided to try to get it back.  Her plans to get close to James took off a lot faster than she expected thanks to an intense attraction that they both felt.  When she accompanied him to Scotland to search for the missing family artifact she didn't expect to grow close to him so fast.  When he proposed marriage to her she said yes, knowing that she didn't intend to go through with it, and feeling dreadfully guilty.  I really loved seeing her inner conflict as she tried to reconcile her growing feelings for James and her need to get her father's land back.

James was incredibly attracted to Fiona and impressed by how much they had in common.  He saw her as the perfect match that he needed to make his life complete and his business even more successful.  He had found that the established business owners of Singapore were reluctant to deal with an unsettled bachelor.  He saw their compatibility as just what he needed and their attraction as a bonus.  He didn't plan on allowing out of control emotion into the picture at all, but found that control was hard to come by whenever he was with her.  I loved seeing the way that his love for her grew even before he would admit to his feelings even to himself.

I loved the way that both of them had to let go of their pride before they could reach their hearts' desire.  I also really enjoyed the search for the final piece of the chalice and how James discovered it.  The epilogue was a nice wrap up for the trilogy.  

The Cowboy's Pregnant Bride - Crystal Green (HSE #2241 - Feb 2013)

Series: St. Valentine Texas (Book 3)


Minutes before saying "I do," Annette Olsen realized her mistake and bolted-a wedding gown in her trunk and a baby in her belly In St. Valentine, she found the perfect place to start over...until a handsome drifter blew into her diner, setting the town abuzz with gossip and her heart aflutter with impossible dreams.

Jared Colton wanted only to find his ties to the town's legendary founder and move on through. But something about Annette got to him. Maybe it was the secrets she kept, or her tender touch, or how much she needed him. Or maybe it was the spark of longing her tender kiss awakened in his soul. Either way, Jared found himself wishing for what had eluded him-a family, with Annette and a baby he'd claim as his own.... 

Good book.  I liked both Annette and Jared.  Annette had come to St Valentine to start a new life.  After finding her fiance having sex with a bridesmaid right before the wedding and watching him almost hit her, she got out fast.  Now she's working as a waitress and keeping a low profile hoping he won't find her.  She is determined to make it on her own and not be dependent on anyone else.  When Jared first started coming to the diner she was as curious as everyone else about his resemblance to the town's founder but she also sensed his need for privacy.  When she found a journal that belonged to Tony I liked the way that she gave it to Jared rather than the local reporters.  It also gave her the chance to spend more time with him as he tried to see if there were more things where it came from.  I loved the way that she could see that there was loneliness in his eyes and how she was able to reach him.  Annette was still trying to protect herself but I loved the way she was able to open up to Jared and show that she trusted him.  I also loved the way she was able to show him that what happens in the past doesn't have to define your future.

Jared was a great dark and brooding hero.  He had come to town looking for answers about his family.  For all that he gave the appearance of being withdrawn and uncaring, his visits with his grandmother showed that he did have a great capacity for love.  But he had been a drifter for so long that he didn't think he was capable of being more for someone.  He had been drawn to Annette for a long time, but was able to bury those feelings until he started spending time with her.  I really liked seeing the way that she got to him and he couldn't stop thinking about her.  I loved the way that he stepped in to help her with things but with no expectation of getting anything back.  His surprise at the way she seemed to understand him was a bit heartbreaking at times.  He had had so little love in his life that he didn't know what to do with it when his feelings for Annette grew.  He also worried that his search for the truth about his connection to Tony would unearth things that would tarnish his reputation as the founder.  When he was finally able to open up completely to Annette he was stunned by what a difference it made to dispelling the dark void he felt inside.  I loved his rescue of Annette at the end and how it cemented their feelings for each other.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tammy and the Doctor - Judy Duarte (HAR #2249 - Mar 2013)

Series: Byrds of a Feather (Book 1)


No one can run, rope or ride a horse like Tammy Byrd. But catching the attention of the town's dreamy new doctor is beyond the Texas tomboy's talents. Tammy came to Buckshot Hills to meet the extended Byrd clan. Now she's smack in the middle of a long-simmering family feud...and trying to lasso one hard-to-get big-city healer.

Mike Sanchez can't believe the sweet cowgirl he met at her grandfather's bedside has transformed into this stunning brunette. The Philadelphia physician isn't ready for a new romance, but Tammy's quickly changing his mind. Amid explosive secrets and a certain legendary feather bed, Mike is tempted to have and to hold Tammy in his arms forever-true Texas style! 

Good book.  Tammy, her father and two brothers have come to see her dying grandfather.  Also there are her father's twin brother and her two female cousins.  Tammy is curious about the cause of the feud after she overhears some things.  She also meets her grandfather's doctor who is young and handsome.  Tammy is immediately attracted to him and wants to get to know him better.

I liked both Tammy and Mike.  Having grown up with just her father and two older brothers she had no female role models so she is at a disadvantage when it comes to acting on the attraction she feels for Mike.  When she meets her two cousins she is thrilled to have other women she can talk to and get advice from.  I really enjoyed the shopping trip she did with her cousin Jenna.  That did a lot for her self confidence when it came to trying to connect with Mike.  I really liked the way that she worked at getting to know her grandfather a bit before he passed and how her curiosity led her to the cabin with the supposedly magical feather bed.  I liked her way of cooking for Mike which gave them a chance to get to know each other. 

Mike had come to Buckshot Hills to fill in for the local doctor who was sick.  He had grown up with a single mother who struggled to make ends meet until she found a job with a wealthy man.  He took an interest in Mike and paid for his schooling.  Once he is done doing this favor for his benefactor he plans to return to Philadelphia and set up a good practice.  He will also take advantage of all the city has to offer and try to improve his social station while providing his mom with the retirement he feels she deserves.  He has no plans to stick around Buckshot Hills.  He is surprised by the attraction he feels for Tammy and tries hard to resist it.  Pretty soon he is enjoying the dinners she cooks for him and getting to know her.  He still plans to keep it light and return to Philadelphia, but things start to change for him.  I really enjoyed seeing his relationship with his patients and how good he really was at being a country doctor.  I loved seeing how events caused him to reassess his dreams and goals.  

I'm really looking forward to the next book and seeing how the feud and mystery progress.  I have a suspicion about one of the currently minor characters and can't wait to see if I am right. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Daddy Says, "I Do!" - Stacy Connelly (HSE #2250 - Mar 2013)

Series: Pirelli Brothers (Book 2)


Sam Pirelli likes his women the way he likes his cars: fast and fun. He likes his life of carefree detachment. He likes driving the open road with the wind in his hair. He likes never knowing what is around the next curve-such as the gorgeous blonde with the flat tire-a perfect opportunity to show off his "shining armor"!

Practically speaking, straitlaced, responsible Kara Starling is no damsel in distress. She'd come to Clearville to introduce an unwitting Sam to his son-the product of a past romance. Stunned by her intense attraction to him, Kara is both intrigued-and a little concerned. Would she be consigning a child to life with a playboy daddy? Or is Sam's good-time exterior hiding the perfect father-and the man of her dreams?

Very good book.  Kara has come to Clearville to introduce Sam to his son, a son that her sister kept a secret from Sam.  But Kara is a cautious sort and wants to be sure that Sam is capable of caring for a little boy before she'll willingly give him up.  

Both Kara and Sam have some issues they will have to deal with before they reach their happy ending.  Kara is a woman who has spent her entire life trying to live up to her parents' expectations.  They were rather emotionless, self-centered people in my opinion, and nothing Kara did ever seemed quite good enough.  They couldn't even be bothered to support her during a personal tragedy she suffered.  She also had a problem relaxing and having fun because of her parents and their attitudes.  She was also down on what she considered "good time guys" because the boyfriend she had in college was like that and then didn't stand by her when she needed him.  All of this contributed to her worry about whether Sam could be a good father.  I liked the way that she was determined to give him a chance and that she helped him connect with Timmy.  The more time she spent away from her parents the easier she found it to consider a different life than the one she had been leading.  I also really liked the fact that Sam's lack of a college education didn't make any difference to her, that she could see his worth just as he was.  

Sam had some self worth issues he needed to come to terms with.  He suffered from an undiagnosed learning disability as a kid (I suspect ADD) and eventually found it easier to give up trying scholastically rather than to keep coming up short.  So he stuck with what he knew he was good at (car repair and restoration) and enjoying a carefree life.  He always kept his relationships light and superficial rather than risk failing there also.  It irritated me that his older brothers were always ragging on him about his lifestyle, not really paying attention to the fact that he ran a successful business.  When he found out about Timmy he was stunned and worried that he couldn't be as good a parent as Kara has been.  I really liked the way that he started to bond with Timmy pretty quickly even though he continued to worry.  I loved seeing him playing with Timmy and easily doing dad type things.  

The developing relationship between Sam and Kara was wonderful.  I liked the way that each one seemed to be very sensitive to the other's moods and was able to help.  I loved the way that Kara seemed to be able to sense when Sam needed support and when she should back away.  Sam's ability to help Kara have fun was just what she needed, but he was also able to provide what she needed when she opened up to him about her past.  I hope that Drew gets a story also, not just for him but I'd also like a glimpse into what the future holds for Sam, Kara and Timmy.

Her Cowboy Dilemma - C. J. Carmichael (HAR #1446 - Apr 2013)

Series: Coffee Creek Montana (Book 2) 

Going Home Shouldn't Be This Hard...

Cassidy Lambert traded in Montana's big sky country for the big-city lights-forever. Until a potentially devastating equine illness threatens her family's ranch, and Cassidy is needed at home to help. She thinks she knows what she wants from life, but the more she's around sexy veterinarian Dan Farley, the more confused she gets.

When Cassidy comes back to the open Western landscape Dan loves, she's nothing but a beautiful burr under his saddle. She stomped on his heart once before, and he's not eager for another go-around. But he just can't keep himself away from those green eyes and sweet curves. It's a good thing she'll soon be gone again. Because he can't trust her-or himself-when she's around! 

Very good book.  Cassidy has finally finished her schooling and is ready to get an accounting job in the city.  When she comes home for a visit she ends up in the middle of an emergency with the horses and ends up taking care of them.  This puts her in frequent contact with veterinarian Dan Farley.  She had had a crush on him as a teenager, then did something stupid that made him angry.  They've been adversaries ever since.

I really liked both Cassidy and Dan.  Cassidy had had a crush on Dan when she was younger.  He was best friends with her brothers and she spent a lot of time tagging after them.  When she was twenty one he asked her out to a dance.  While there she got scared of the intensity of her feelings for him and treated him badly.  Since then he has been very cold to her whenever they met.  When she arrives at the ranch she ends up having to deal with him as the vet for the sick horses.  With four more years of maturity she is able to offer Dan the apology he deserves and they come to a truce. Once they did and spent some time together I could see how a much better relationship was developing.  She is really enjoying her time back on the ranch, being with the animals again and enjoying the open spaces.  I really loved seeing how happy she was being back on the ranch.  But  Cassidy is still determined to get a job in the city and away from her controlling mother.  Olive is doing everything she can to push Cassidy and Dan together and to get Cassidy to stay on the ranch. She is so obvious about it that it embarrasses Cassidy and also makes her angry.   Meanwhile Cassidy knows that her feelings for Dan are growing stronger but she refuses to consider a future for them that involves her staying in Coffee Creek.  If it hadn't been for Olive's manipulative ways Cassidy probably would have made her decisions much sooner, but instead they caused Cassidy to dig in her heels.  I did like the decisions she made at the end and how she was able to start standing up for herself.

Dan was a great guy.  He was best friends with Cassidy's brothers and remembered her from when she was a little kid.  When she was seventeen he suddenly realized that he didn't think of her as a sister anymore, but also that she was way too young for those feelings.  He did his best to avoid her until he finally get the courage to ask her out when she was twenty one.  He was crushed by her behavior that night and chalked it up to her being a spoiled brat.  Now he has to deal with her again and all he can see to start with is her determination to get away from the ranch.  He is still attracted to her which makes him angry because he doesn't want to fall for her again, thinking that she is still the selfish girl he remembered.  But as they spend time together caring for the horses and then her dog, he sees that the caring woman is still there, just buried beneath the surface she shows to others.  Dan had a great capacity for love that showed in the way he took care of the animals he treated and also in the way that he dealt with the people who were attached to those animals.  It became clear that Dan had transferred all those feelings he had for Cassidy to the animals.  He had also realized that no one ever made him feel the way he did about her.  He had amazing strength of will to resist being with her for a short term fling knowing that he wanted her in his life permanently.  I loved the way that he went after her at the end.

There is also still a good amount of tension in the family as they are still dealing with Brock's death.  The truth about Winnie and the baby comes out and the family has to decide how to handle that also.  I liked the way that everyone is watching Olive to make sure she behaves.  There is also some minor setting up for the next book.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

In the Rancher's Arms - Kathie DeNosky (HD #2223 - Apr 2013)

Series: Rich Rugged Ranchers (Book 4)

Email-Order Bride

It's obvious to Eli Laughlin that Victoria Anderson has misrepresented herself. But the hardheaded rancher doesn't care. When he advertised for a wife with ranching experience, he never expected to land anyone as intoxicatingly lovely as Tori. Now he's having fun watching her try to bluff her way through ranch work.

The prenup has given them a month to get acquainted before finalizing their marriage. But Eli's having a hell of a time reining in his desire. And whatever Tori's hiding seems inconsequential when every cell of his body aches to make Tori his wife for the long-term. 

Very good book.  Tori had been desperate to leave Charlotte and start over when she found Eli's ad for a bride.  Even though she knew nothing about ranching she applied anyway.  The one thing she didn't do was to tell Eli all about her past right away, deciding to wait until she knew if she was going to stay.  

I really liked Tori and Eli.  Tori was making the best of a bad situation by getting away from her father's scandal in Charlotte.  Even though she had lied about her experience she was determined to do the best she could.  I loved seeing the way she threw herself into everything she tried.  Even when she messed up she retained a great sense of humor about it.  That went a long way toward her acceptance by Eli's dad and by Eli himself. She envied Eli's relationship with Buck considering she'd had a miserable time with her own father.  There was one place where she told them both off which stunned them both. The attraction she felt for Eli was very intense and I could feel the heat between them.  That attraction also contributed to her growing feelings for him and she really worried about what would happen when he found out about her past.  Their confrontation at the end had me in tears, which for me is the sign of a great book. I really loved seeing Tori fall in love, not just with Eli, but with the ranch also. 

Eli had been burned by a woman he thought he loved when he was younger.  She had used him to try to get partial control of his ranch and he was distrustful of the emotion of love ever since.  When he decided that he needed a wife he did it in a logical way instead, never expecting anyone quite like Tori.  Even when he was interviewing her he had a feeling she was hiding something but nothing stopped him from choosing her.  He tried to fight his intense attraction to her, wanting to wait until they knew each other better but it was a losing battle.  I enjoyed seeing the way that he didn't seem mad about her inexperience but was amused by seeing her try to do things without giving herself away.  He was also surprised by her obvious love for the ranch and the way that the isolation didn't bother her.  He really tried to control his emotions but he just couldn't resist how she made him feel.  I wanted to smack him at the end when he was being so stubborn.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Lieutenant By Her Side - Jean Thomas (HRS #1742 - Feb 2013)

Her lies thrust them together. His suspicions keep them apart.

For Clare Fuller, the stakes are rising. Her sister has been framed for murder and a mysterious amulet is the only ransom for her acquittal. Clare must retrieve it at any cost, even if it means stealing it from a sexy, wounded war hero.

Lieutenant Mark Griggs doesn't trust the alluring schoolteacher who's stolen his lucky pendant. All he knows is that the only woman who's ever broken down his defenses needs his help. Now, to find the truth and elude a killer, Mark and Clare will have to work together-and risk being burned by the growing heat consuming them both.

Very good book.  Clare was desperate to help her sister when she agreed to steal Mark's amulet.  When she gets caught she fully expects to be arrested not that Mark would offer to help her find the proof she needed to clear her sister.  She also didn't expect how much the good looking ranger would attract her.  When they find that someone is still after Mark's amulet and has already killed twice they decide that their best bet is to stick together.

I really liked both Clare and Mark.  Clare is very close to her sister and knows that Terry did not kill her husband.  When she and Mark discover that the man who had wanted and Mark's amulet has been murdered for a similar piece they try going to the police.  They get no satisfaction there and decide to investigate on their own.  I really liked seeing the way that Clare's mind worked and how she reasoned out some possible scenarios.  I also really enjoyed the way that she was so proud of New Orleans and was constantly telling Mark little things about the city and its history.  One thing that Clare tried very hard to do was resist her attraction to Mark.  She found everything about him appealing, from his looks to his protectiveness, but she had been engaged to a soldier who died in the war and didn't want to go through that again.  I liked the way that in spite of trying to talk herself out of it she just couldn't help the feelings that just kept getting stronger.

Mark was pretty amazing.  He had been attracted to Clare from the minute he saw her which is how he ended up in the predicament of getting robbed.  I thought it was pretty sweet of him to actually listen to Clare's story and want to help.  It didn't hurt that he was really bored on his medical leave and this was a challenge he could get into.  He started out not wanting to trust Clare too much but soon learned that she had been telling the truth.   I really liked his protectiveness and how determined he was that Clare would be safe.  He was also trying to resist the attraction he felt for her.  He could tell that she was a woman who didn't do casual relationships and didn't feel he could offer anything else.  The army was his life as well as his career and he knew how hard it was on those left behind.  He also didn't think he was able to have that kind of relationship because of how bad his parents had been.  

I loved the culmination of the mystery and how intense the suspense of it was.  I also really liked the way that Mark was able to work out a way for them to have the happy ending they both wanted.  

Soldier Under Siege - Elle Kennedy (HRS #1741 - Feb 2013)

"You want this as badly as I do."

Eva Dolce would stop at nothing to save her son-even murdering Hector Cruz, the most fearsome man in San Marquez. But she couldn't do it alone. Enter special ops captain Robert Tate, a man who had seen too much. Ruthless and taciturn, Tate couldn't be more different from Eva. But they had one thing in common: revenge.

Tate had seen his brother die by Cruz's hand. And if Eva was his only way to Hector, then so be it. But the combustible chemistry sizzling between them was even more dangerous than their formidable enemies. And Eva's face, beautiful as it was, masked the truth about her past and her child. Could Tate forgive her lies...or would her secrets leave them both dead?

Good book.  Eva has gone looking for Tate, needing his help to find and kill Hector Cruz.  She knows that he is also looking for Cruz who killed his brother.  He doesn't trust her, fearing a trap, but is willing to take a chance.  Parts of her story ring true but he feels that she is hiding something.

I liked both Eva and Tate.  She is tired of running from Hector and knows the only way he'll stop is if he is dead.  What she learns about Tate convinces her that he is the only one who can help her.  When she does meet with him he is reluctant but finally agrees.  She is wary of him but insists on going along, wanting to be sure that Hector dies.  I liked the way that she was all in on the mission.  She didn't complain, she kept up and she stayed calm in tense situations.  She wasn't real happy about the strong attraction that she felt for him.  I liked the way that she took control of that attraction.  I liked the way that she felt bad about keeping her secret but was sure it was the only way, even though it really caused problems when it came out.  

Tate is very distrustful of Eva.  He'll take her up on her offer to show him where Hector is hiding but he is going to watch her all the time.  Besides this search for Hector, Tate and his men are being hunted by their own government.  They were part of a botched mission and apparently saw things that they shouldn't have even though they don't know it.  Eva has offered to help them find out who is after them and why when this is done.  Tate does his best to resist the attraction he feels for Eva, but when she admits hers also they can't resist.  As they begin to share parts of their backgrounds they form a connection that both try to ignore.  

I was really rooting for things to turn out well for Eva.  All she really wants is to be able to give her son a normal life.  She is willing to give up any kind of happiness of her own to do that.  Tate's background affects everything he does.  He doesn't allow himself to get close to anyone, always expecting it to turn out badly.  I felt so sad about his lack of expectation of any kind of happiness and really wanted to see him open up with Eva.  I loved Sebastian's plain talking to him at the end and the way it opened Tate's eyes.  

The suspense in the story was very good, with enough action to keep me turning the pages as quick as I could read.  I also loved the descriptiveness of the setting, which gave a really clear picture of what they were dealing with from Mother Nature as well as the man made dangers.  There was great dialogue between Eva and Tate, both intense and humorous.  I also enjoyed the scenes with Sebastian and Nick and really look forward to their stories.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Haunted by the Earl's Touch - Ann Lethbridge (HH #1126 - Feb 2013)

No man has ever wanted her for herself

When she arrives at Beresford Abbey, orphan Mary Wilding's hopes of finding a place to belong are dashed when she meets Bane Beresford, the enigmatic earl. He is as remote as the ghosts that supposedly haunt the Abbey…and, like its crumbling walls, her dreams fall apart.

Occasionally she sees a different, more caring man behind the facade, so is she foolish to long for a happy home…and a family? His proposal is for a marriage of convenience, but his touch has awakened within her a fervent and forbidden longing….

Good book.  Bane has returned to the Abbey upon the death of his grandfather to inherit the title.  He learns that while he has inherited the property the unknown Mary Wilding has inherited the money provided she marries within a year.  If she doesn't the money goes to the Crown and if she dies he gets it.  When strange accidents start happening to her Mary is sure that the Earl is behind them.

I really liked both Mary and Bane.  Mary had been summoned to the Abbey to see the old Earl and be present for the reading of the will.  He had paid for her schooling and she hoped that meant that she was a member of his family, having no one left of her own.  She was stunned by the terms of the will.  When she met Bane she was attracted to him but he was also someone her head said she should be frightened of.  She was an independent, intelligent woman and wanted only to get on with her life.  As she was stuck at the Abbey she saw more of Bane.  There were times their attraction took over and other times that he seemed distrustful and angry at her.  Throughout it all she suspected him of trying to kill her.  There are times that she sees a caring man behind the walls, and glimpses hints of pain in his eyes.  Those are things that make her think there is more to him than most people see.  When he proposes marriage she can't believe he really wants it for anything other than the money.  She has always felt like an outsider wherever she was and can't believe anyone would want her for herself.  Throughout the book there is a definite war going on between Mary's head and her heart.

Bane has also felt like an outsider.  His mother was accused of passing him off as a Beresford when most of the family believe she was having an affair.  As a result he never received any caring attention from that side of the family.  He was raised by his mother's family of coal miners and had to work hard to achieve his reputation.  He feels things deeply but works hard to control his emotions as they have gotten him into trouble in the past.  He is glad to inherit and thumb his nose at his so-called family, but not happy with the terms of the will.  He doesn't understand Mary's role and therefore doesn't trust her.  He is also strongly attracted to her but doesn't want to cave in to his grandfather's manipulations and marry her.  As he is the hero I was quite sure he wasn't the one trying to kill her, but the evidence sure pointed that way.  I really liked the way that he watched out for her even if he wasn't very good at showing her how he cared.  His distrust caused him to make some wrong assumptions but he was able to admit it when he found out the truth.  My biggest problem with the story was that we really didn't get much of Bane's point of view.  I would have liked to know what he was thinking sometimes when he was dealing with her stubbornness or with his cousins and aunt.  

The suspense of the attempts on Mary's life were well done and kept me turning the pages.  I figured out the culprit pretty quickly, but still enjoyed the culmination of the story.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Still the One - Michelle Major (HSE #2244 - Feb 2013)


Only a distress call could summon Lainey Morgan back to the small hometown she had run from, leaving her family-and the man she adored standing at the altar. Yet even fame as a globe-trotting photojournalist couldn't erase the pain of losing the baby Ethan Daniels had been marrying her for. Still, he always had been the best veterinarian around-and the stray dog that had attached herself to her needed attention. Almost as badly as she did...

As for Ethan, Lainey was driving him crazy all over again, and ten years away had only made him want her more. She had done the unforgivable, true, but he was beginning to discover that she had suffered more losses than even he knew about. Both of them had done some growing in the past ten years. Maybe a second chance at forever could be theirs after all.... 

Excellent book. Kept me turning pages and had several spots where the tissues were definitely needed.  Lainey came back to her small town to help out her mom who had had a stroke.  She didn't want to be in contact with Ethan again, but he was the vet and she had a sick dog.  She was also the one that would be planning the big pet adoption event that he is involved in also.  Ethan is surprised at her return and even more so by the feelings he still has for her.

I really liked both Lainey and Ethan.  Lainey reluctantly came home because she knew that the people in her small town still felt strongly about the way she left.  She had loved him from the time she was a teen, but with the loss of the baby she didn't feel right keeping Ethan tied to her.  She still felt guilty about the way she left and the trouble she had caused her family.  These issues had kept her running and avoiding commitments.  I loved seeing her face her past and reconnect with Ethan.  There was a lot of tension between them that slowly got resolved as they spent more time together.  I also loved seeing Lainey's growing relationship with the stray dog she had acquired and how it demonstrated her growing ability to open her heart back up to love.  Her relationships with her mom and sister were also very well done and I loved the way that both sides of the issues were shown.  

Ethan had stayed in his home town but had never formed any close relationships since Laney left.  His mother had left when he was young and Lainey's departure only made him feel that he was never meant to have that kind of family.  He had wanted it very much and had come to love Lainey but never told her so.  He put everything he had into his work as a vet.  When Lainey returned he realized that he had never stopped loving her.  As they worked together he began to see that there was more to her than he had realized when they were young and he came to love her even more.  There was a twist at the end that made things even more emotional for him.

I loved how well all these characters were done.  Every one of them felt real to me with believable actions and emotions.  The small town was great and the people were portrayed so well with their actions and attitudes.  I loved the scene after the fire.  I also loved the dog Pita who did exactly what was expected - wormed her way into hearts and opened them up.

Some Like to Shock - Carole Mortimer (HH #1120 - Jan 2013)

Series: Daring Duchesses (Book 3)


Genevieve Forster, widowed Duchess of Woollerton, knows only too well the need for bravado. After a miserable marriage she's wary, but deep down yearns to pursue temptation....

With his air of danger and elusiveness it's little wonder that Lord Benedict Lucas is known to his close friends and enemies alike simply as Lucifer. Shocking the straitlaced Ton holds no fear for him. And the pleasure will be all his as he skillfully uncovers Genevieve's outrageous side.

Very good book - I read it in one sitting, staying up way too late to finish it.  Finally free of her abusive marriage, Genevieve is ready to have some fun.  But she is still wary on the inside and not quite sure what to make of Benedict's interest in her.  She is definitely attracted to him and decides to go with her instincts and take him up on his offer to assist her.  Benedict initially just wants to use Genevieve as a cover for his agent duties, but soon finds that he is attracted to her.  He also senses that there is more to her than appears and is intrigued.

I really liked both Genevieve and Benedict.  Genevieve had been kept a virtual prisoner by her late husband and his son and was now determined to have the fun she had been denied.   I loved the way she had the ability to survive the incredible abuse she suffered but still had a happy outlook of the world.  Because of her lack of experience she finds herself in a risky situation from which she is rescued by Benedict.  I loved the way that she used his rescue to get him to help her experience some of the things she wanted to do.  I also liked the way that she was able to see past the brooding rake to the man underneath.  I also loved the way she refused to be intimidated by her stepson and continued with her plans.  I also loved her forthright way of talking to Benedict and the way she was able to be honest with him about what she wanted.  I also loved it when she was able to open up and tell him everything about her marriage, it was a real indication of their relationship.

Benedict was fantastic.  Other than a few close friendships he had been very much a loner since the murder of his parents ten years earlier.  One of the things he wants to do is find out who was responsible for their deaths.  He has also been working as an agent for the Crown keeping track of what the French are up to.  While he started out just wanting to use Genevieve as a cover he soon found that he couldn't get her out of his mind.  I loved the way that he kept trying to pull back from her but just couldn't do it.  He also found that the more time he spent with her the happier he was, an emotion he hadn't felt since his parents' deaths.  I really enjoyed seeing the way that she was also able to cure his bad moods just by being herself.  He was also very sensitive to her moods and was able to tell when something was bothering her.  I loved the way that he was there for her when she finally opened up about her past and how he was so gentle with her.  I really liked the protectiveness that came out.

The mystery did not overwhelm the romance but was well done.  The culprit was not who I expected and I loved how he was dealt with.  I loved Genevieve's actions there.  My only problem with the book wasn't with the story but with the cover.  Her hair was described several times as being red, but the cover has dark hair.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hitched! - Jessica Hart (HK #4 - Feb 2013)

Planning the most talked about wedding of the year is enough to make engineer Frith Taylor break out in a cold sweat. She's used to construction sites, not wedding fairs! But estate manager George Challoner's offer of help is one that's too good to resist.

George may be the rebel of the prestigious Challoner family, but his insanely good looks are giving Frith wedding fever! Charm personified, he's making her feel things she hasn't dared feel before. Maybe her little sister's wedding won't be the only one Frith's planning…?

Good book.  I really liked both Frith and George.  Frith is an engineer working on a project in Yorkshire.  She has a life plan for the next five years and no intention of straying from it. She is organized to an insane degree and as a result doesn't have much fun. George is the estate manager who is constantly in her way. He is interested in her but she rebuffs him constantly.  When her sister shows up needing her help to plan her wedding George steps in to help.   

Frith was an interesting character. She is a workaholic and something of a stick in the mud. She was so determined that she not end up like her mother she was rigidly stuck to following her plan.  Every time George asked her out she shut him down.  His constant cheerfulness and day to day attitude drove her nuts.  When her celebrity sister shows up and talks Frith into helping plan her hen party George steps in to help.  This creates a need for them to spend a lot of time together.  Frith discovers that she enjoys spending time with George and there is definitely an attraction between them.  Because of her lack of self esteem from comparing herself to her sister she doesn't think that George could be interested in her for long.  So she keeps reminding herself and him that she will be leaving for an overseas job soon.  Even when she realizes that she loves George she still sticks to her plan instead of seeing if there is a way for things to work out.  I did like the way she stood up for him to his family.

George is great.  He's cheerful, happy in his job and really good looking.  He has made a new life for himself after breaking with his family over some ethical problems.  I love the way that he keeps trying with Frith until he finally finds a way to spend more time with her.  He is great at getting her to loosen up.  He has a terrific attitude and I really like the way that he shows her you can work hard and still have fun.  I loved the banter between them and his playing with her ringtones is so much fun.  I also loved the way that he was there for her when she really needed him.  I liked seeing how good he was with his nephews and got a chuckle when they were playing pooh sticks.  I also liked the way he was there for his grandmother even though it was difficult being around his family.

I also liked the secondary characters of Saffron and Roly.  Saffron was a great foil for Frith.  Though she seemed pretty selfish and flighty at the beginning I did see some good changes in her.  Roly was a nice guy and I thought he was pretty cool to help the way he did.  I liked the way he helped Saffron at the end, though I did see it coming.  

The only real problem I had with the book was that it was written in first person.  This meant that I didn't get anything from George's perspective which I really missed.  It doesn't seem like a complete story without it.

A Wedding in Apple Grove - C. H. Admirand (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Nov 2012)

Series: Apple Grove (Book 1)

He's not so sure about small town life. She can't imagine living anywhere else.

Welcome to Apple Grove, Ohio (population 597), where everyone has your best interests at heart, even if they can't agree on the best way to meddle. When the townsfolk of Apple Grove need handiwork done, there's no job too small for the Mulcahy sisters: Megan, Caitlin, and Grace.

Specializing in hard work and family loyalty, tomboy Meg Mulcahy has left behind any girlhood dreams of romance. Enter newcomer Daniel Eagan, looking to bury his own broken heart and make a new start. He's surprised -- and delighted -- by the winsome girl with the mighty tool belt who shows up to fix his wiring.

But Dan's got a lot to learn about life in a small town, and when Meg's past collides with her future, it may take all 595 other residents of Apple Grove to keep this romance from short-circuiting.

Good book.  I really enjoyed the small town story and all the fun characters.  Meg is the oldest of three sisters and the head handyman of the family business.  She is something of a tomboy and has given up on the idea of romance for herself.  She's had sort of a long distance relationship with her high school sweetheart who has no intention of returning to Apple Grove to live and Meg won't live anywhere else.  Her mother died when Meg was nineteen and she took over caring for her dad and sisters.  When Dan arrived in town there was an instant attraction that was nothing like she had ever felt before. When they quickly act on their attraction she was ready to jump right in and get to know him better really fast. But Dan wasn't ready to move quite that fast and Meg had to decide if he was worth waiting for or if she'd be stuck in another dead end relationship.  I liked the way that she decided to give him a chance and that they worked at their relationship.  I also liked seeing how her time with Dan inspired her to make some changes in her own life.

Dan was a great hero.  Good looking, a real gentleman, and with a loving nature he had come to Apple Grove for a new start.  He had been betrayed by his fiancee and best friend so his great aunt Trudi had encouraged him to apply for a teaching position in Apple Grove.  He didn't expect his instant attraction to Meg and he certainly hadn't planned on acting on it.  Once he had, he was worried about rushing things with Meg the way he had with his ex, so he tried to pull back and slow things down.  This caused some problems with Meg until he was able to explain it to her.  He also had some adjusting to do to small town life.  I loved seeing him try to get used to the way everyone knew everyone else's business, but he adjusted pretty well.  I also liked the way he was so interested in his students, even outside of school.  

I thought that Dan and Meg were well matched, balancing out each other's strengths and weaknesses.  Once they got past their initial misunderstanding I thought they did a good job of communicating.  I also enjoyed all the small town residents and their quirkiness.  I liked the way the residents all looked out for each other and pitched in during emergencies.  There were some great friendships, like the one between Meg and Honey.  They had some wonderful scenes together when they were commiserating over the cluelessness of their men.  I really liked the way that they could say anything to each other.  The secondary romance between Honey and the sheriff was so much fun and I loved the scheme that they came up with to get him to face his feelings.  I also loved the surprise appearance of a character from Admirand's cowboy series, and hope to see more of him.

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Secret Night - Yvonne Lindsay (HD #2217 - Mar 2013)

Series: Master Vintners (Book 3)

They'd Had One Night. He Wanted More.

When Ethan Masters learns his family's explosive secret, it sends him reeling...straight into an uncharacteristic one-night stand. Too bad he'll never see Isobel Fyfe again....

Until she shows up as his winery's newest hire. Now Ethan's in trouble. Isobel is everything he's not-a free spirit with no commitments-and she won't be controlled. How can he trust her to keep his secret? How can he keep his distance? With his family at stake, Ethan's playing with fire...but he wants Isobel. And he'll do anything to keep her quiet...and in his bed.

Very good book.  Upon the death of his father, Ethan has become the head of the family business.  While going through some paperwork he discovered that the mother he thought was dead is still alive and that his father and other relatives had kept that a secret for twenty-five years.  This news has upset his normally calm and well controlled life and when he meets an attractive woman he gives in to his attraction and sleeps with her, never expecting to see her again.  When she shows up at the winery as the photographer his sister has hired he is not at all happy and is worried about what she will do.

I liked both Ethan and Isobel.  Ethan has always been very responsible and controlled, taking after his father who pretty much shut down his emotions after the loss of his wife.  Ethan was determined that no woman would ever have that kind of control of him.  He has never been as drawn to a woman like he is to Isobel, and is glad that they'll only have that one night.  When she appears at the winery he knows he is in trouble.  He is still attracted to her and now he can't get her out of his mind.  I liked his sense of responsibility and how hard he worked at making the winery the best it could be.  It was obvious that he really liked what he did.  His biggest problem was that he always wanted to be in control and Isobel threatened that sense of control.  He was willing to have a fling with her but he couldn't see her fitting in to his life as he saw it.  He fought his feelings for her so hard, to the point of looking at a friend as the perfect wife because of certain compatibilities rather than the love that is necessary for a good marriage.  I loved the way it practically took his sister hitting him with a baseball bat for him to finally admit his feelings.  I loved his rescue of Isobel and his demonstration of his love at the end.

Isobel has been traveling since she was a teenager.  After the death of her mother her dad didn't stay in one place for long and that was what she got used to.  It also gave her the ability to avoid commitments since she didn't want to suffer the way she saw her father suffer.  She was surprised at how strongly she and Ethan connected but knew there was no future in it because they were so different.  I loved seeing the way that she brightened his life and that she made him happy even though he didn't want to admit it. Because of her photography she also had a way of seeing past the surfaces of people.  Although it caused problems at first I loved the way that she made sure Ethan understood that he was not helping his sister by keeping the truth about their mother from her.  I also really liked her commitment to using her photography to bring attention to world problems.   I admired her determination to return to Africa and finish what she had started before.  I also liked the way that she finally confronted her own past and was able to open herself up to the possibility of a future with Ethan.

I also liked Ethan's sister Tamsyn. I will be very interested to see if she gets her own story.  I see great possibilities in her search for her mother.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mission: Soldier to Daddy - Soraya Lane (HR #4369 - Mar 2013)

Series: Heroes Come Home (Book 5)

Luke's toughest fight yet is for his family

In the special forces, Luke Brown trained for the harshest of war situations; pity there's no training for being a husband and father. After two years away, he wasn't expecting his wife to welcome him open-armed, but he wasn't anticipating divorce papers either.

When she sees him standing on her doorstep in his immaculate uniform, Olivia longs to feel her handsome husband's strong arms around her. But raising their son has been tough, and watching little Charlie fall in love with a dad who might leave again is terrifying.

Luke doesn't want to walk away again-and he's determined to win back his wife and child!

Very good book that also deals with some tough issues.  Luke has been gone for two years without any contact with his wife and son.  Now he's back and he wants to get to know his son and reconnect with his wife.  He knows he screwed up by leaving again when he had promised he wouldn't but now he wants to make it up to her.  Olivia doesn't want to risk her heart again and she really wants to protect Charlie from the pain of having his dad walk away from them again. 

I liked both Olivia and Luke.  I could see where she was coming from, with her fear of Luke leaving them again.  They had fallen in love quickly and then married when she got pregnant.  They hadn't done a very good job of communicating with each other about expectations and what would happen in their futures.  When Charlie was born it added a lot of stress that neither of them dealt well with.  Olivia found herself constantly picking fights with Luke to the point where he escaped into his work and then accepted orders to deploy just to get away.  This left her alone to raise Charlie with no support at home to give her any relief.  This built on her resentment and hurt which was only increased by the lack of contact from him while he was gone.  I liked the fact that she didn't try to keep him away from Charlie when he returned and that she tried to make things easier for him that way.  She tried to protect herself from falling for him again but soon realized that she had never stopped loving him.  She did start doing a better job of listening to him and came to realize that their problems were not all his fault.  She did backslide at the end by refusing to listen to him when he wanted to talk about his future but did finally hear him out.

Luke had lost his parents when he was young and ended up in foster care.  He hadn't planned on ever having children because he didn't want to risk causing the same kind of problem for another child.  He never expected to fall in love with Olivia and then end up as a father anyway.  Having not had any example of how to be a good father he didn't know how to deal with all the problems of a fussy infant and a stressed out mama, so he ran.  He knew what he was dealing with in the army and it felt like family to him.  When he ended up in Special Forces he really felt like he was making a difference and he allowed himself to push his real family into the background thinking they were better off without him.  Then came the day when he realized how important they were.  When he went back he didn't know how to make amends to Olivia.  I loved seeing how hard he worked at it and how determined he was to make it work this time.  His biggest issue was that he had to learn to talk to her about his feelings.  He was awkward about it at first but the more he did it the easier it became.  He still wasn't great at it which contributed to their problem at the end of the book but motivated him to find a way to make a future that would work for both of them.  I also loved seeing how good he was with Charlie once he got over his fear of doing something wrong.  

Behind Palace Doors - Jules Bennett (HD #2219 - Mar 2013)

"I have a proposition for you."

Their marriage has all the makings of a great romantic movie: a beautiful Mediterranean setting, a handsome prince and fantastic sex. Too bad it's not real. When Prince Stefan Alexander weds Victoria Dane, the agreement between friends is supposed to be in name only to secure his crown. But it doesn't take long for buried passion to erupt....

Victoria gave up a lot for this seemingly fairy-tale life with Stefan, but all too soon she discovers she's fallen in love with the "Playboy Prince." Now Victoria must fight for what really matters. Because the one thing she can't give up is him.

Very good book.  I really liked both Victoria and Stefan.  They have been friends since they were teenagers.  When Stefan found out that he had to be married in order to retain the crown for his small country he went to Victoria for help.  They felt that they could handle six months of a marriage of convenience and still maintain their friendship.  

Victoria was a really strong heroine.  She had recently broken off her engagement to a man who had betrayed her on several levels.  She was tired of being looked at with pity by people and treated as if she were going to break by her family.  When Stefan called and asked her to come to Galini Isle she was happy to do so.  She was stunned by his proposition and afraid that it would ruin their friendship if she went along with it.  But she allowed herself to be convinced and said yes.  She had always had a bit of a crush on Stefan and wondered what it would be like to kiss him.  She was floored by the intense reaction when she did kiss him and soon their physical relationship had taken off.  I loved the way that their close friendship and given them a degree of intimacy that you don't often see.  It also didn't take long for Victoria to see that she had fallen in love with Stefan.  She was sure he loved her too but just didn't know how to admit it and had decided to stay in the marriage.  Then she found out he'd been keeping secrets and her feelings of betrayal went very deep.

Stefan was a pretty good hero.  I liked the way that he had kept up his friendship with Victoria for so long.  He had also been attracted to her for a long time but had never acted on it because the time had never seemed right.  She was the first person he thought of when the marriage requirement came up because she was a friend. It didn't take long for him to convince her that they could handle the deception.  I liked the way that he was so happy and relaxed with her.  He knew that there was something different about their relationship after they took it up a notch, but he would never admit that it was love.  He tried very hard to convince himself that it was still friendship with a side of lust.  He had no familiarity with romantic love and wasn't able to recognize it.  When his secrets came out he realized what he had done and had to try to figure out how to fix it and finally admit his feelings.  I loved the way that he finally showed her how he felt.

I also liked seeing her brothers from the other books.  The epilogue was great for seeing the final bit with the whole family together.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

True Love at Silver Creek Ranch - Emma Cane (Avon - Jan 2013)

Series: Valentine Valley (Book 2)

Welcome to Valentine Valley, where tongues are wagging now that the town bad boy is back--and rumor has it the lean, mean former Marine is about to lose his heart But like it or not, in a town like Valentine, love happens . . .

Adam Desantis is back--bruised, battle-weary and sexier than ever. Not that Brooke Thalberg is in the market. The beautiful cowgirl of Silver Creek Ranch needs a cowboy for hire, not a boyfriend--though the gaggle of grandmas at the Widows' Boardinghouse thinks otherwise. But from the moment she finds herself in Adam's arms, she's shocked to discover she may just want more.

Adam knows it's crazy to tangle with Brooke, especially with the memories that still haunt him, and the warm welcome her family has given him. But he finds himself in a fix, because tender-loving Brooke is so much more woman than he ever imagined. Can a soldier battling demons give her the love she clearly deserves?

Just about everybody in Valentine thinks so!

Good book.   I really liked both Brooke and Adam.  Brooke is happy working her family's ranch and is very good at what she does.  Working with her two brothers she has to be strong and pretty forceful to hold her own with them.  When Adam shows up just in time to help her rescue some horses from a burning barn she is happy to see him, but not expecting the shot of attraction she feels.  She remembers him from high school when he was pretty full of himself and doesn't expect him to have changed.  When her father hires Adam to help out on the ranch Brooke finds that working with him isn't so bad.  He's a lot quieter than he used to be and willing to do whatever is needed.  She finds that the more time she spends with him the more she likes him and the hotter the attraction burns.  She doesn't feel right starting something with a man who is an employee of the ranch, but it becomes too hard to resist. She tried to convince herself that they were just having a nice quiet fling, but her feelings grew stronger. I thought she was a little too worried about appearances but it did add a bit of intrigue to the story.

Adam had come back to Valentine Valley to check up on his grandmother who appeared to be having some health issues.  He is still dealing with the memories from his last tour in Afghanistan and the guilt he still feels.  Now that he is back he has become something of a loner because he doesn't want to talk about his time overseas.  He is happy to have the job as a ranch hand as it gets him away from his grandmother's meddling, but he is having a hard time resisting Brooke.  The more time he spends with her the more content he is to be back in Valentine Valley.  Pretty soon he is even able to open up to her about his memories and feelings about his friends.  He finally realized that his feelings for Brooke had gone past simple lust and friendship.  Now he just had to get over his feelings that he wasn't good enough for her.  I also enjoyed the bits of his past that worked their way into the story through reminiscences of other people in the small town.

Besides the romance between Adam and Brooke, I really enjoyed the antics of the widows.  They have set their sights on getting a new woman owned business approved for the town.  It is a women's clothing/lingerie store called Leather and Lace and has a lot of support, but there is a contingent that is trying to ban it on moral grounds.  I loved the way that the widows organized a demonstration in support of the store.  I also liked the way that Adam's grandmother was working to keep Adam in town.

I also liked the way that Adam and Brooke got involved with the teenagers of Valentine Valley.  Adam remembered what it was like to be the bad boy and what a difference it made to have an adult take a real interest in him.  He did a great job at relating to Tyler and helping him over come his problems.  Brooke discovered that she has a talent for teaching and looks at expanding her duties at the ranch to include those abilities.   I really enjoyed the way that she worked with Steph to help her adjust to the appearance of a half sister and also assist her in helping her friend Tyler.  The small town may be good a nosiness but they are also good at helping out where they are needed.  I'm really looking forward to the next book.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Downfall of a Good Girl - Kimberly Lang (HK #2 - Feb 2013)

Series: LaBlanc Sisters (Book 1)

"Why would you decide to seduce me? And why now after all these years?"

Southern debutante Vivienne LaBlanc can't believe bad-boy rock star Connor Mansfield is back in town for the New Orleans annual Saints and Sinners pageant. He has a reputation as wicked as his devilish smile, and Vivi has no intention of becoming one of his latest groupies!

He once crushed her high school heart, so playing the saint to Connor's sinner should be easy. But how can Vivi get those less than angelic thoughts out of her head -- especially when Connor's so good at tempting her to be bad?

Good book.  Vivienne is a former beauty queen who now owns an art gallery and spends her time working with a lot of charities doing good all around New Orleans.  She is always very conscious of her actions and how they could be perceived.  She is very proud of the fact that she has been asked to participate in the annual Saints and Sinners pageant.  She is not at all happy to find that Connor has also been asked to participate.  She and Connor have known each other all their lives and have disliked each other the entire time - except for one brief period in high school.  Now they are going to have to work together to raise money for charity.  

It took me awhile to warm up to Vivi.  She came across at the beginning as very snooty and as feeling that she's better than everyone else.  Her attitude when Connor made his appearance was rude and definitely not in the spirit of the competition.  And while competitiveness can be a good thing I felt like she was losing sight of the reason for it.  I also felt it was rather childish of her to have held her grudge against Connor for so long.  I had to laugh when she realized she was attracted to a man she didn't even like.  It was pretty obvious that all that heat between them had to come from somewhere and the passion of their dislike easily morphed into something very different.  I did like the way that once they decided to call a truce Vivi actually started to see the real Connor.  Besides the physical attraction that they gave in to, I loved seeing how Vivi finally realized how much they had in common.  I also liked the fact that she didn't pull back when she found out that being seen together in public in a personal way was going to change her life.  While there were parts of it she didn't like I found that he ability to deal with it all went a long way to redeeming her in my book.  She did have a relapse when she allowed his publicist to undermine her confidence in what she and Connor had together.

I liked Connor better.  He came home to New Orleans to recover from a rough tour and some undeserved scandal.  He started out thinking that the Saints and Sinners gig would be good publicity and hanging with Vivi, even though he found her a sanctimonious prig, would go a long way to repairing his reputation.  He couldn't figure out why he was attracted to someone he couldn't stand to be around.  When he found out why she still held a grudge against him after all this time he couldn't believe it.  I liked the way he did the big thing and apologized for being an idiot as a teenager and suggested that they try to move on like adults.  I liked the way that he was honest about his intentions that they just have some fun together.  I also liked the ideas he had for spending more time in New Orleans, bringing some business back to the city and also helping out some young people.  Thanks to his celebrity status he had some issues with being able to trust peoples' motives, and his publicist used this to try to drive a wedge between him and Vivi.  There was a big blowup between the two that saw them both saying some pretty nasty things to each other.  Seeing them recover from this was very emotional and made the story more satisfying than I thought it would be at the beginning.  I'm looking forward to reading Vivi's sister's story.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dangerous Memories - Angi Morgan (HI #1406 - Feb 2013)

After witnessing her mother's murder as a child, Jolene Atkins had forced the memories from her mind. Now the killer had resurfaced, but this time Jo had Levi Cooper to protect her. Even if he was disobeying direct orders from the U.S. Marshal service to do so....

Levi had vowed years ago to always keep the innocent beauty safe. So when Jo insisted on finally getting some answers, Levi had no choice but to help her. But watching as the pain of the past threatened to crush a spirited Jo, Levi ignored every professional instinct and pulled her into his arms. After one night together, Levi was more determined than ever to close this case. Because that one night would never be enough.... 

Very good book.  Besides the physical danger Jolene is in from the person who wants her dead, there is also the psychological suspense of Jo's returning memories.  I really liked both Jo and Levi.  She started out not wanting to believe that her nightmares were actually returning memories.  When her father was killed in a suspicious accident she became the next one in danger.  She hadn't known until then that Levi was also her father's contact with WITSEC not just his friend.  She had started developing feelings for him and then felt deeply betrayed when she thought that she and her father were just part of Levi's job.  I liked the way that she decided that she really wanted to get some answers and began to trust that Levi would keep her safe.  She was also a lot stronger emotionally that she thought she was and was able to stop fighting the memories.  She also stopped fighting her feelings for Levi.  I also liked the way she started to take an active role in their plans rather than just going along with Levi even when it got her into trouble.  I thought her plans at the end were pretty good and that she did a decent job of trying to anticipate any problems that might come up.

Levi had gone above and beyond his job as a marshal.  He was not supposed to get personally involved with the people he protects, but he was strongly drawn to Jo and her father.  His friendship with Jo's dad led him to do some things on his own to keep an eye on Jo and try to protect her.  After her father's death he went against orders in order to watch over her. He had a lot of inner conflict regarding his feelings for her and also feeling that he wasn't doing a good enough job protecting her.  I loved seeing him try to fight his feelings knowing that once she went into WITSEC he would never see her again.  But he also could not bear to desert her when he knew she needed him.  I loved the way that he was able to help her with her memories but also was able to comfort her when she needed it.  I thought he was a little too trusting of his contacts but it did all work out for him in the end.