Monday, September 30, 2013

Single Dad's Christmas Miracle - Susan Meier (HR #4395 - Oct 2013)

Clark Beaumont desperately needs a helping hand…

Having recently lost his wife, Clark Beaumont is trying to make it through the holidays for the sake of his kids. But with his son failing at school and his little girl talking only in whispers, he needs nothing short of a miracle….

…and then one arrives on his doorstep!

Althea Johnson is only meant to tutor Clark's son. Not to form any emotional bonds -- especially with her boss. But with her help the Beaumont family begins to come alive again, and against the odds Althea hopes that when Christmas morning arrives there will be four stockings hanging over the fireplace….

This was a sweet holiday romance.   Clark is having a rough time with his kids right now.  His twelve year old son is having problems with school and his three year old daughter won't talk above a whisper.  Since his wife's death three years earlier he is getting by as best he can.  He hires Althea to tutor his son and get him back on track.  He is surprised to feel a tug of attraction to her and tries to ignore it.  Althea, looking as an outsider, can see what the trouble is right away.  She makes it her goal to help the family heal, and maybe she'll find some healing of her own.

I really liked Althea.  The story started out with her getting knocked over by the family dog and it didn't seem to bother her at all.  She's a little unsure about the job at first, but as soon as she meets the kids she knows she is meant to be there.  I really enjoyed seeing her connect with the kids.  I loved the way that she stayed so calm when Clark panicked over her taking the kids to town to shop.  That same calmness helped him tell her what was behind the panic.  Once she knew what the problem was Althea had a plan for helping Clark and the kids get their lives back on track.  As she comes up with ideas for Clark and the children to do together she falls more and more for Clark.  Althea really loved being part of the holiday with them.  Her childhood had been pretty bad with a drunk, abusive father.  She has only recently been in contact with her sister Missy again (A Father for Her Triplets).  Life with Clark and his kids exposes her to a family life she had only been able to dream of.  She fantasizes about becoming part of their family until she has a run in with her father.  That makes her fear that she would bring her troubles to them and she couldn't bear that.  Her fears send her running away.  I loved the ending and how it all worked out.

Clark lost his wife in an accident three years earlier.  At the funeral he discovered that she had been unfaithful to him, causing him to question the paternity of the daughter he loves.  Fearing how the gossip from that day would affect his kids, he keeps them at home.  They don't go much of anywhere and even his twelve year old son is taught at home.  Jack is failing his classes which leads Clark to hire a teacher to live with them and tutor Jack until he catches up.  He's in for a surprise when he meets Althea because he's attracted to her even though he'd vowed he wouldn't risk himself again that way.  When he heads to work that first day he doesn't tell Althea that the kids don't go to town, so when he doesn't find them at home he panics and calls the cops.  He's rightfully embarrassed when they are safe.  After they get home he explains things to Althea, thinking that will be the end of it.  It isn't long before she lets him know just what effect his overprotectiveness is having on his family.  I loved the way that she came up with things to do that required his participation.  This exposed him even more to her cheerfulness.  I loved the way that he was first dismayed by being attracted to her and then "Oh no. He liked her too."  It didn't take long for him to accept his growing feelings but he was having some trouble getting her to accept them.  I loved the gentleness of the way he treated her at first, not wanting to push her, and then the way that he went after her at the end.

A Cowboy's Temptation - Barbara Dunlop (HD #2261 - Oct 2013)

Series: Colorado Cattle Barons (Book 5)

Mayor Seth Jacobs has plans, and he won't let do-gooder Darby Carroll ruin them. Her need for peace and quiet is standing in the way of a crucial railroad project. Now he must put his cowboy charms to good use and persuade Darby to see things his way. But seduction is a two-way street, and Seth soon realizes he underestimated his opponent. Now that he's caught in his own trap, his desire for this woman could be his downfall….

I really enjoyed this one.  Seth is trying to get a railroad built through his town.  It would help the ranchers, create jobs for the people and eventually bring more business in.  Darby is running a retreat for women in stressful jobs, such as military and law enforcement.  She needs the atmosphere to be peaceful and not broken by loud noises such as train whistles.  As the two of them face off in a fight to win their issues, on a personal side fighting is the last thing on their minds.

I really liked Darby.  After several years as a military psychologist she left to start a project where she felt she could make a bigger impact.  After inheriting a nice piece of land in Colorado she has started the Sierra Hotel, a place where women can come to relax, away from their stressful occupations.  She gets a lot of military and law enforcement women and other government types who treasure the peace and quiet she has to offer.  Because of the identities of some of her guests, Darby doesn't advertise just who the hotel caters to, just calls it a women's retreat.  When Seth, as mayor, brings the railway project to the town, Darby knows she has to fight it.  If she can't provide what is needed her business will have to close and the women will lose out.  Darby and her coworker do everything they can to get the railroad project up for a vote, including fudging a petition drive just a little bit.  When Seth confronts her about that they discover a simmering attraction between them.  Darby fights the attraction for awhile, knowing that starting a relationship while they are on two sides of a contentious issue is not a good idea.  I loved Darby's project and how determined she was to make it work.  She had the intelligence to run a great campaign against the railroad and it was making a difference.  Unfortunately it was a volatile enough issue that both sides got pretty heated and started going too far.  I loved Darby's speech to one of the teens who participated in the noise attack on her hotel.  Her psychology degree really showed in that.  With Seth, neither of them was able to resist their attraction for long.  Darby also realized that, outside of the railroad project, she and Seth have a lot in common and her feelings for him start to change.  When the end came and she was feeling betrayed by him, I loved her display of pride - she wasn't going to let him see her crumble.  The end was pretty emotional.

Seth was a guy who really wanted to do what was best for his town.  He was convinced that the railway project was crucial to its economic health.  He wasn't going to let Darby and her ladies' hotel stand in his way.  He knows he has the ability to charm her into seeing things his way.  He didn't expect to feel a real attraction to her.  He also discovered that she had just as much of a chance of distracting him.  I loved seeing them try to convince each other of the rightness of their own positions and how they would get sidetracked.  Seth worried about her as the issue got heated between the two sides and people resorted to physical acts of violence.  He tried to keep their relationship separate from their conflict but there were things he did that seemed pretty underhanded.  The final battle put an end to the issue but left Seth feeling that he had really screwed up, especially when he learned just what kind of hotel Darby was running.  When he discovered what Darby's plans for the future were he knew that he couldn't let her go.  I really liked his final solution and the way he went about showing her.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Runaway Countess - Amanda McCabe (HH #1154 - Sept 2013)

Series: Bancrofts of Barton Park (Book 1)

Wed to wickedness

In Society's eyes, Hayden Fitzwalter, Earl of Ramsay and Jane Bancroft have the perfect marriage. But what can't be seen are the secrets hidden behind closed doors. Believing Hayden will never renounce his dissolute ways, Jane flees to her family's dilapidated estate in the country.

Years later, Hayden now longs to win back the only woman who has ever touched his heart. But first he has to convince her that this rogue is ready to be tamed…. 

Pretty good book.  Hayden and Jane had married very young.  Once they were in London they got caught up in London society and the problems started.  After awhile they grew apart and Jane became more and more unhappy.  Unable to get Hayden to listen to her concerns she packed up and moved to her childhood home.  Three years later Jane has written to Hayden, offering him a divorce if he wants one, so that he can move on with his life.  He realizes that all he wants is Jane back and decides to convince her.

Jane had fallen hard for Hayden when she first met him.  He was young and handsome and fun.  Even after they married everything was great, until they returned to London after their honeymoon.  Then Jane realized that she was a countess and there were things that were expected of her, things she had no idea of how to do.  She had grown up in the country and had no experience with this kind of lifestyle and she felt completely overwhelmed.  And once they were back, Hayden was rarely with her, even when they attended things together.  When she became pregnant and miscarried three times the gulf between them got even worse, with Jane feeling like a failure.  Finally she told him that she needed to get away for awhile and returned to her childhood home.  Three years later, having had no contact with him at all, she wrote to him offering a divorce so he could remarry and get an heir.  She didn't expect him to show up at her home a few days later, to let her know there would be no divorce.  She realizes that her attraction to him is still there and that she never stopped loving him.  She also doesn't want to risk getting caught up in that life again.  She doesn't trust that he won't disappear and go back to being the same old Hayden.  But the longer he stays the more he becomes like the man she fell in love with.  I realize that she has a great deal of trouble trusting him again, but I thought she spent a bit too much time remembering the way he had been and not enough time looking at the ways he had changed.  I did like the fact that she had had the strength of will to get out of the bad situation to start with, but I thought she could have been a little more open to seeing the possibilities.  I thought for sure she was going to fade back into the background when his friends showed up unexpectedly, and was thrilled when she finally showed the backbone she had developed over the last three years.  It took a near disaster for her to realize that not all of the fault had been his.

Hayden had been drawn to Jane the first time he saw her.  He was accustomed to getting pretty much anything he wanted and he pursued her as hard as he could.  Being with her made him feel things he had never felt before.  His parents had been quite cold to him, with his father having unrealistic expectations and his mother being a party animal.  He had never been exposed to what a loving marriage was like.  While it was just the two of them everything was fine, but when they returned to London he ended up caving in to peer pressure.  He could see that things were going badly but he had no idea how to fix it.  He was devastated when she left, but not knowing what to do he simply buried himself in activity.  When he got Jane's letter he got angry that she would ask for a divorce and rode off to see her.  After getting tossed from his horse in a storm and getting hurt, he had to stay with Jane until he was healed.  This gave him the opportunity to try to convince her to come back to him.  He realized immediately that she was much happier now that she had been before she left him.  He was confused as to why since he had only wanted to make her happy before and had given her everything he thought she might like.  It took a hard look at what she had in her life now for him to realize that she had never been interested in the things he could give her, that she had wanted him.  Now he had to try to show her that he could change.  He was doing very well until his friends showed up, and then he started to backslide.  Fortunately he had begun to see what he was doing but it was almost too late.  He did come through when Jane's sister needed him.  My biggest problem with Hayden was how much time he spent beating himself up about how he had treated Jane.  It seemed like every single chapter had some variant on that theme.  I was glad they both realized they had been at fault and had matured enough to know that they had to work at it to make their marriage work.

Mountain Heiress - Cassie Miles (HI #1454 - Oct 2013)

Since quitting the rodeo circuit, Zach Sheffield hadn't much time for people, never mind city folk. A stranger had inherited a famous ranch in their Colorado town, and worse than not knowing one end of a horse from the other, he pegged Gabby Rousseau as a mustang, for sure.

Local legend said that Gabby's estate hid the Frenchman's treasure, making it a frequent target for thieves. After the first break-in, Zach knew Gabby would need protection, but the beauty from the big city was putting up a fight. He knew he was better off tending to his horses than praying for a breakthrough…but then again, Zach had never met a mustang he couldn't tame. 

Good book.  Gabby has inherited a ranch and isn't quite sure what to do about it.  She's a city girl who grew up in Brooklyn, but with her business gone she heads west.  After a wild beginning she settles in and plans to make the ranch her home.  But somebody wants her gone and has no problem making sure of it.  Zach is her closest neighbor and has made it his goal to make sure she is safe.  He knows he should stay away from her, but he just can't do it.

I loved Gabby.  She was so far out of her comfort zone when she arrived but she was determined to make it work.  She had a rough start when the girl who had been staying with Gabby's aunt started shooting at her, thinking she was a thief, and then running out into the rain to escape.  She was found by Zach who took her back to his house until things got straightened out.  Gabby was attracted to him right away.  Once she found out the terms of the will Gabby knew that she'd stay for the required three years, but someone was trying to chase her off.  She and Zach teamed up to find out who was behind the attacks.  I loved the chemistry that the two had and the influence they had on each other.  Gabby was getting more involved in the Western life style and Zach was becoming less of a loner.  I loved the way that Gabby decided to put her fashion training to use doing custom shirts.  I also enjoyed seeing the difference she made to Charlotte.

Zach wasn't sure what to make of Gabby at first.  He hadn't been looking forward to having a city girl moving in next door.  He also assumed that she was just there for the inheritance, that she hadn't actually cared about her aunt.  He soon learned otherwise and was impressed by her determination.  He was also attracted to her but fighting it. I liked the way that he came to trust her enough to tell her about his past.  When the attacks on her escalated Zach made sure that she was safe.  I liked his protectiveness when they were out doing their investigating.  He had a good eye for seeing when something wasn't right.  I loved the way that he came to her rescue at the end and also how they found the right compromise for the ranch.

The suspense itself was pretty mild.  It was pretty obvious from the beginning who was behind the trouble and why.  The only holdup was getting the proof.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Trap, Secure - Carol Ericson (HI #1450 - Oct 2013)

Series:  Brothers in Arms: Fully Engaged (Book 3)

The last thing Miranda Lewis remembers is being shot…then tumbling over the balcony. When a sexy, blue-eyed stranger finds her, she has no memory of who she is or what she's doing in the jungles of Colombia.

Gage Booker risked his life in the raid on the compound, only to discover his quarry gone and an injured woman left for dead, a woman the covert operative would be a fool to trust. But her amnesia seems real -- and so does the passion exploding between them. 

Good book with some intense action.  Gage is part of a team that has raided the compound looking for an arms dealer.  What he finds is Randi, injured and with no memory of who she is or why she's there.  He's sure that she's Zendaris's mistress and wants to make sure that they get every bit of information possible from her.  But first he has to get her home alive.

Both Randi and Gage were pretty awesome.  In spite of her memory loss Randi kept a pretty good grip on herself.  She's not sure at first if she should trust Gage but he's her only option.  It doesn't take long before he wins her trust.  I really liked her confidence that Gage would find a way to save her from the crazy CIA people in Panama.  As the intensity of their danger continued Randi also felt a growing attraction to him.  They tried to convince themselves that it was just because she was dependent on him but she was sure that it was more than that, at least on her side.  She is still fighting his belief that she was Zendaris's mistress even though she is sure she was not.  I liked Randi's confidence in her own morality that she could be so sure.

Gage was not happy that his target was gone when he got to the compound.  His group has been after Zendaris for a long time.  When he finds Randi he's sure he's bagged Zendaris's mistress, thanks to a blurry photo of Zendaris with a similar woman.  He thinks she's lying about her amnesia at first and does whatever he can to try to trip her up.  By the time they reach the CIA base he's pretty sure she's telling the truth - just in time for them to be drugged and separated.  I really liked seeing everything he did to get her away safely.  He also feels a strong attraction to her, something that isn't welcome with his certainty of who she is.  He really doesn't like to think of her in that position.  Thanks to the run-in with the CIA Gage isn't sure who he can trust so avoids contacting anyone in authority to help.  As their attempts continue to restore Randi's memory Gage becomes more convinced that he was wrong.  I loved the final confrontation, though I did feel like Randi's memory return was glossed over.

The Maverick's Christmas Homecoming - Teresa Southwick (HSE #2230 - Dec 2012)

Series:  Montana Mavericks: Back in the Saddle (Book 6)

Guess who's coming for Christmas dinner?

The fine citizens of Thunder Canyon have always gone out of their way to make the holidays special. But Christmas this year promises to be one no one will ever forget. You know that handsome celebrity chef everyone's been talking about, Shane Roarke? Don't tell anyone, but it turns out he has a remarkable-and shocking!-connection to our town. And not everyone is going to be happy about it....

Gianna Garrison has been looking downright radiant, however. Is it true that the Gallatin Room waitress has been sneaking under the mistletoe with the mysterious maverick? Hang on to your spurs, merry readers, because the surprises are just beginning. Wait till Gianna finds out who her sexy boss really is! 

Very good book.  Gianna's had a crush on Shane ever since he arrived in Thunder Canyon.  She doesn't expect anything to come of it since she's just a waitress.  But after sharing a meal in the restaurant kitchen one night things are heating up between them.  As they get closer Shane tells Gianna what brought him to Thunder Canyon.  Shane is looking for answers but those answers are going to shock him to his bones.  He's not sure if they will bring Gianna closer or drive her away.

I really liked both Gianna and Shane.  Gianna had come home to Thunder Canyon feeling pretty low.  The business she started in New York went bust, none of her romantic relationships worked out, and she was homesick.  She has come to enjoy her job at the Gallatin Room and the scenery isn't so bad either.  Besides his looks, Gianna is impressed with his abilities as a chef and his down to earth attitude.  When they share a late night meal there are definite sparks between them, and Shane follows up with an invitation to dinner at his place the next night.  It goes very well and Gianna feels the attraction between them intensify before Shane suddenly pulls back and pretty much ignores her for several days.  Gianna is hurt and first and then gets angry and confronts him.  When he apologizes and explains what happened and why she is surprised.  I loved her support for Shane and how she makes sure she is there for him through all the steps of his search.  She's the one who encourages him to talk to his potential half-brother and is there for him when it doesn't go well.  The more time they are together the stronger her feelings for Shane grow.  She is fighting a bit of an inferiority complex comparing her own problems to Shane's success so she sometimes wonders where they are headed.  I loved her poise when his family suddenly showed up at an awkward time and how well she got along with them.  

Shane came to Thunder Canyon looking for his birth parents. He has felt a deep connection to Thunder Canyon ever since he arrived.  Finding out that his father is the most hated man in town and is in prison is devastating for him.  He has heard the rumors regarding him and a woman who could be his mother but that news would bring pain to the woman's family.  He is attracted to Gianna and nearly kisses her the night he cooked for her but is worried bout what her reaction would be to the identity of his father.  So he pulls away, but can't get her out of his mind.  When she calls him on it he apologizes and they start over.  Telling her his secret is hard and he's surprised when she doesn't pull away.  Shane is determined to find out who his mother is and appreciates Gianna's unwavering support.  When they figure it out Shane is really hesitant to talk to his siblings because he knows it's going to rock their world.  I loved the way he faced up to it anyway and didn't back down, but his unhappiness over the result was obvious.  It made him think that perhaps he wouldn't be staying in Thunder Canyon after all but he didn't want to leave her.  I loved his invitation for her to visit his parents with him on Christmas Day and her counteroffer for him to come to her family on Christmas Eve.  I loved seeing him fit in so well with her family, especially with the children.  I loved the meeting with his new brothers on Christmas evening and the difference it made to Shane's whole outlook on his life.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Stranger in a Small Town - Kerry Connor (HI #1207 - May 2010)

Series: Shivers

The mysterious blue-eyed stranger who showed up in the middle of the night wasn't just looking for work. No, when "John Samuels" signed on with Maggie Harper to restore the decrepit old house, he was hoping for answers and a chance to face the demons of his past. But then strange happenings started threatening his beautiful new boss -- and disrupting the passion that sparked between them. Someone didn't want them in that house. Someone who knew the truth about what had happened there thirty years before, about the brutal murder that destroyed John's family.

John never expected redemption. But danger waited in the old house, haunting them both....

Maggie is trying to restore the old house her grandfather left her.  The problem is that a double murder occurred there thirty years ago and no one can forget it.  The people of the town don't want it restored and they all let her know it.  She can't even get anyone to help her with the work until a stranger shows up in town.  She senses a deep sadness in him but she's happy to have the help.  She's even happier to have him there when strange things started happening. 

Maggie had come to renovate the house as a way to cope with the end of her marriage.  Her husband had walked away with no explanation.  She knew about the murders but thought after that long there should be no trouble.  She is surprised by the level of anger that people have for her plans.  She is desperate for help when Sam shows up.  She is wary of him as she senses that there are things he isn't telling her but he can do the work.  When he comes to her rescue after someone attacks her in the house, they decide that the only way to stop the attacks is to solve the murder.  Maggie is a very stubborn, determined woman.  If she has to team up with the mysterious and sexy Sam to do it, that's what she'll do.  She definitely feels an attraction to him but she's cautious because of the secrets she senses.  When she discovers who he really is it's just one more betrayal that she feels.  But the closer that they get to the killer the more her heart starts to overrule her head. 

Sam has come back to face his demons.  He blames himself for the deaths of his parents and the breakup of his family.  He feels that only by solving the mystery can he begin to move on with his life.  Discovering that Maggie needed help with the house was the perfect cover for his plans.  He didn't expect to be attracted to Maggie and that just added to the guilt that he felt over his deception.  That attraction also became part protectiveness as the attacks on them started to escalate.  Sam has always felt that he didn't deserve any happiness in his life because of what happened, but being around Maggie makes him wish that things could be different.  I really liked the way that he told her everything once she figured out who he was.  He'd never done that with anyone else and it relieved some of the stress he felt.  I really enjoyed the intensity of the suspense as they got closer to identifying the killer.  I have to say that I was kept guessing until the end. 

Stern - Brenda Jackson (HD #2251 - Sept 2013)

Stern by Brenda JacksonSeries: Westmorelands (Book 27)

Stern Westmoreland never makes mistakes -- until he helps his best friend Jovonnie "JoJo" Jones with a makeover…for another man. Now Stern wants JoJo for himself. Their attraction is undeniable and there's only one way to test it: one long, steamy night together as much more than friends!

Very good friends to lovers story.  Stern and JoJo have been friends since they were kids.  They hang out together a lot, including going up to his hunting lodge.  They can talk to each other about almost anything.  Lately JoJo has realized that she's tired of being friends with all the guys and wants some romance.  Being a tomboy who is great at karate, hunting and as a mechanic, she lost when it comes to feminine pursuits.  So she goes to her best friend Stern, a definite ladies man, for advice on what to do.

I loved both JoJo and Stern.  JoJo is an independent woman who knows what she likes and is capable of.  She and Stern have been friends for a long time, but recently she has noticed that her feelings for him are changing.  She doesn't want to lose his friendship by putting the moves on him so she decides to try to fall for another man instead.  But she has no idea how to go about it, so she asks his advice.  She talks him into giving her kissing lessons which sets off even more fireworks.  I loved her absolute trust in Stern and his actions.  She had no idea what she was doing to him.  Having been friends with Stern for so long she's also friends with the rest of the family, so has a great time when the ladies help her with her makeover.  I thought she was a little naive going to that bar chasing after the guy with "possibilities".  I loved the way that Stern was there but didn't interfere when she asked him not to.  That's when she finally admitted to herself that there was no way another man would be able to replace what she felt for Stern, and decided that she would go after what she had wanted in the first place.  I really liked the deepening of the relationship even though she still avoided telling Stern her true feelings.  I completely loved the scene at the garage at the end, though I did see it coming.  

Stern was great.  He's a bit of a ladies man since he has no plans to settle down until he's thirty-five.  But he's seeing more of his family members falling to the love bug and wonders if he should be looking too.  I love his friendship with JoJo and the way he doesn't get mad when she beats him out at one of their activities.  He is taken by surprise when she asks him what she should do to attract a man.  He's her friend so he answers and offers to help, but finds that he's not really happy with the idea of another man being with her.  When she asks him to kiss her and teach her how it's done he is stunned by the strength of the desire he suddenly feels for her.  It really freaks him out because he's never thought of her as anything other than a friend.  Now he can't get her out of his mind or his dreams.  He resists as hard as he can.  I loved the way that he keeps going to other guys in the family for advice and  they all look at him like he's nuts and tell him  that he's in love with her.  It takes awhile for him to admit to himself that they are right, and then he has to decide what to do about it.  I loved the scene at the bar when he made sure he was there as backup but let her deal with things herself.  He accepted her request for "friends with benefits" but knew he wanted more.  He just didn't know how to tell her.  I loved the ending.

Canyon - Brenda Jackson (HD #2245 - Aug 2013)

Series: Westmorelands (Book 26)

Years ago, Canyon Westmoreland wasn't ready to settle down. But when Keisha Ashford returns to town with a two-year-old son, everything changes -- except for the blazing attraction he still feels for Keisha. This time around, nothing will stop Canyon from claiming what is his -- his woman and his child!

Three years ago Canyon and Keisha broke up over a misunderstanding.  Canyon was hurt and furious that she hadn't trusted him enough to hear his side of the story, and Keisha felt betrayed by him.  She moved away, taking a very important secret with her.  Now she's back and she still won't have anything to do with him.  Canyon is determined to confront her and follows her one day - only to discover what that secret is.

I loved Canyon.  He isn't one of the men who resists the idea of commitment.  He had been ready to propose to Keisha when all the trouble started.  Since she left he had dated some, but nothing serious.  Now that she's back in town he really wants a chance to clear the air, but she is still avoiding him.  I loved the scene where he is basically stalking her and his brother is trying to convince him that he's going to get in trouble.  He is stunned when he finds out she had his son, and furious that she never told him.  I loved the fact that he had no trouble with the idea that he was a father and that he was going to be fully involved from then on.  Seeing him with Beau was just so sweet.  There are some great scenes between the two of them that show what a great dad he is going to be.  When Keisha's house was broken into he insisted that they stay with him - perfect for getting a chance to straighten things out between them.  He's not happy that she still doesn't believe the truth but hopes to convince her.  Being together so much shows him that his love for her never died and their chemistry is still off the charts.  I liked the realism of his character.  He isn't perfect.  He gets frustrated, he loses his temper sometimes, and he has to be shown that he probably would have made the same mistake in her place.  He also has a great love of family, as is shown in the closeness of the Westmoreland clan.  I loved the effort he put into getting Keisha to finally accept the truth, and his frustration when she then wouldn't forgive herself.

Keisha frustrated me a lot of the time.  She was so sure about what she saw that she refused to listen to what Canyon tried to tell her.  Then she left town, taking the news of her pregnancy with her.  She held on to her feelings of betrayal, refusing to tell Canyon that he was a father, even after she returned to Denver.  At least when he confronted her she didn't try to lie about it, but she wasn't pleased with the idea of him being involved.  I loved the way that her surprise at his rapid acceptance and obvious happiness at being a father made her begin to realize that she had been wrong not to tell him.  She still wasn't ready to believe that he hadn't been unfaithful to her.  She had serious trust issues when it comes to men because of the way her father had treated her mother and it affected the way she treated Canyon.  When her house was broken into Canyon insisted that they move in with him until the person was caught.  This made her very nervous because she was still attracted to him and didn't trust herself around him.  I loved the way that he started breaking down her walls and showing her that his feelings for her hadn't changed.  I also loved her reaction to meeting the whole family and the fact that they didn't treat her badly because of what she had done.  She really didn't know how to deal with that.  I was glad to see that she finally accepted the truth, but then the subsequent refusal to forgive herself and move on with him was a bit much.  It took facing some real danger for her to realize what she was doing.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Doctor, Soldier, Daddy - Caro Carson (HSE #2286 - Sept 2013)

Series: Doctors MacDowell (Book 1)

Dashing soldier Jamie MacDowell needs a mother for his infant son, stat! And while the handsome M.D. has no shortage of candidates, he lets his baby boy help with the selection. Little Sam falls for quiet Kendry Harrison -- a surprising choice, maybe. But Jamie quickly realizes that the orderly's sweet veneer hides a multitude of attractions -- and if he's not careful, he could wind up wrecking their carefully set-up "arrangement."

Kendry knows her marriage to Jamie is strictly business, but that doesn't stop her from dreaming of a more permanent place in the healer's heart. If only he'd stop resisting the passion simmering between them. Then maybe he'd realize they were made for each other…and meant to be married in every sense of the word…

Jamie had fallen for an Afghani woman while deployed.  When she died in childbirth he knew he needed to get the baby to the US in a hurry.  He fudged some of the paperwork and knew there could be problems later.  He wanted to make sure he had a wife so that he could show a stable home life if needed.  Since he was still mourning Amina he wasn't looking for love, just the best he could find as a mother for Sam.  He finds that in Kendry, a hospital orderly who has a real connection with Sam.  So he proposes a marriage of convenience, not expecting to start wishing that he could change the rules.

Kendry is working as an orderly at the hospital trying to earn enough money for school.  Thanks to some bad luck she has barely enough money to live on.  One of her favorite jobs at the hospital is working with the children and Sam is her favorite.  When Jamie starts paying particular attention to her she doesn't know what to think.  His proposal that they marry for Sam's sake surprises her.  She has come to care for Jamie and would rather marry for love, but will take what she can get.  I loved Kendry's determination to make the best of her life.  She is very proud and knows that her current financial difficulties are mostly her fault.  She is doing whatever she must to survive.  It was heartbreaking to see how bad things really were for her.  Marrying Jamie was like a dream for her, but she also didn't want to feel like she was taking advantage of him.  I loved seeing the way that Jamie tried to take care of her even though she resisted.  The more time that they spent together the more her love for him grew.  I really enjoyed seeing how compatible they were when working together and even more so after they were married.  I loved the way that she tried to take care of him.  The way that she got him to the football game was great and I loved seeing her enjoyment of it.  Her support of him when she found out the full story behind Sam's birth was very emotional.  I loved the way that she stood up for her own needs at the end and won it all.

Jamie is a tortured man at the beginning of the book.  He had loved Amina and had wanted her to marry him and go back to the US where she and the baby would be safe.  When she refused so that she could continue her work and then died in childbirth, he was devastated.  All he could think of was taking care of Sam.  All he does is work and take care of him, making Sam the center of his life.  He remembers his father as not being around much and doesn't want that kind of memory for Sam.  He also worries that Sam could be taken away because of his irregular arrival in the US.  Jamie is convinced that having a wife would make that unlikely.  Since he has no intention of falling in love again, he sets out on a logical search for a wife.  Seeing Kendry's care for Sam when he's in the hospital playroom puts her at the front of his search.  I loved seeing him start to get to know her.  Their cafeteria lunches are something he starts to really look forward to and when they have an intense night working together in the emergency room he realizes that she is just what he needs.  He seems somewhat oblivious to the challenges she is under until she can no longer hide them.  He is ashamed of himself for his blindness and kind of goes overboard trying to make it up to her.  I loved seeing the way that his feelings for her are growing even though he doesn't realize that he's coming to love her.  His protectiveness is so sweet.  I really enjoyed the way that his eyes were opened at the football game and he admitted his feelings to himself.  When he finally confesses to her about the difficulties he could be facing with Sam he is surprised by her unquestioning support.  I loved his final confession at the end - so wonderful!

The only issue I had with the book wasn't anything with the story at all, it was the cover.  Jamie is an army doctor.  The man on the front is wearing a Marine Corps uniform (collar emblems are the eagle, globe and anchor).  To top it all off, the medals are on the wrong side of the uniform.  If you're going to put a man in uniform on the cover, the publisher needs to take the time and effort to do it right!  There are a lot of us that notice such things and it is very frustrating!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Flirting With Destiny - Christyne Butler (HSE #2289 - Oct 2013)

Series: Welcome to Destiny (Book 6)

It's a tough road to recovery for Devlin Murphy after a helicopter accident leaves scars that are more than skin-deep. But there's a new girl in Destiny, Wyoming, who's got the healing touch. Sure, Tanya Reeves's approach -- acupuncture, anyone? -- makes Dev's eyes roll. The woman also makes his heart rev up like no other.

For her part, Tanya can't believe it when she first runs into this fling from her past. Dev doesn't even recognize her! Even crazier -- history is repeating itself with this irresistible man. And Tanya has to ask herself: Who's healing whom?

A moving book, but also a fun one.  Dev is still recovering from his injuries in a helicopter crash.  He has reached the point where he doesn't feel he is progressing and has just about given up hope that things will get any better.  Then he meets his friend Mac's granddaughter who is skilled with therapy, massage, and even acupuncture.  But more than that, she appeals to him on a much more basic level.  He doesn't recognize her from a brief encounter ten years earlier.  Tanya is willing to help Dev, but she doesn't want to get involved with him.  She has plans that don't include staying in Destiny.

Tanya is a woman who has a plan and doesn't want to risk derailing that plan.  She has come to Destiny to help her grandfather with his arthritis before she leaves for London.  She doesn't expect to run into Dev, who she had a one night stand with ten years ago.  She also didn't expect that he wouldn't recognize her.  When her grandfather asks her to help Dev, neither one is thrilled with the idea at first.  Tanya doesn't want to deal with the attraction she still feels for him, but she also can't stand to see him hurting.  I loved their first session of water therapy and how the old ladies kicked his butt.  Tanya is very good at deflecting his flirtations for a long time, but eventually loses her resistance.  I did like the fact that they kept it to frequent dating and some pretty heavy makeout sessions, but nothing further until near the end.  It was nice to see them getting to know each other and become friends.  Tanya also saw the guilt that Dev still carries about the accident and tries to help him past it.  Tanya also has healing of her own to do after leaving a relationship that hurt her self esteem and cost her her job.  She feels the need to make sure she doesn't repeat past mistakes by relying on someone else.  I loved the final scene at the airport.

Dev is a man who is in pain both physically and emotionally.  He has hit a wall in his physical therapy and is afraid that he will never be free of the constant pain he is in.  When he meets Tanya he is first attracted to her before he finds out that she is Mac's granddaughter.  When Mac suggests that she use her therapies on him Dev refuses flat out.  He doesn't believe in all that alternative stuff, plus he's deathly afraid of needles.  The scene where he observes Mac's treatment for his arthritis is really funny.  He really wants to get to know Tanya better, but she won't get involved with someone she's working with.  He convinces her to help him as a friend, and begins a not-so-subtle campaign to win her over.  When he finds out that they had met before he apologizes for not remembering.  He admits to her that that had been when he was still drinking and that whole time was pretty fuzzy.  I liked his strength in telling her about his problem and how well he is doing in remaining sober.  I liked the realism of showing that it isn't easy and that the temptation is still there.  I really liked the way that he paid attention to her wishes and didn't push her for more than she was willing to give.  Dev was also dealing with the apparent loss of his volunteer firefighting job, even though the fire chief isn't letting him resign.  There's a great scene with him at the end where he puts his skills to use which shows him that he isn't done yet.  I loved the part where he overcomes his fears to follow Tanya and tell her how he feels.

My Spy - Dana Marton (HI #1453 - Oct 2013)

Series: HQ: Texas (Book 2)

A mission gone wrong forced injured soldier Jamie Cassidy to start anew…and run right into the path of deputy sheriff Bree Tridle. The sassy, sexy Texan was as determined to uncover a local money-laundering scheme as Jamie was to keep her safe from the stalker hot on her trail. But Jamie, now an undercover operative, was also on a covert mission of his own: track smugglers threatening to bring terrorists into the U.S. Could Jamie's and Bree's cases be related? When a deadly attack on Bree's home escalates the danger and their attraction, Jamie and Bree must face their enemies together to save not only their country, but their one chance at love. 

Good book.  Jamie is working undercover trying to find the smugglers who are planning to bring terrorists into the country.  Unfortunately, he inadvertently ends up trying to use a counterfeit bill which brings him to the attention of deputy sheriff Bree.  She is determined to stop the counterfeiters and Jamie's story isn't adding up.  When they are ordered to work together Jamie also discovers that Bree is being threatened by a stalker.  As they worked together to see if their cases are connected they discover a much more personal connection.

I loved Jamie and Bree together.  Their initial meeting is a lot of fun as she is there when his money is discovered to be counterfeit.  Jamie is surprised that she is a deputy and not inclined to cooperate with her.  I loved the way that she uses her appearance and a sweet attitude to encourage him to do as she wants.  He's following along before he realizes what he's doing.  I loved her actions at the station and the way she surprises him with how good she is.  She is surprised at the orders she receives to let him go and is curious about his real reasons for being there.  I really liked the way that his injuries don't faze her at all.  She accepts him just the way he is.  She feels she doesn't need his help when she starts getting things from a stalker as she is quite independent and used to doing things on her own.  She is also guardian of her autistic sister.  When the actions of the stalker affect her sister she accepts Jamie's help.  She is impressed with his treatment of her sister.  She is attracted to Jamie, but has had some bad experiences with men who want her to choose between them and her sister so she has sworn off any relationships.  Jamie's acceptance of and kindness to Katie make her think that maybe she has a chance at love after all.

Jamie is working undercover when he gets caught with a counterfeit bill.  I loved his first reaction to Bree, noticing her beauty and "cheerleader perkiness".  His surprise at her being a deputy was great.  Because of his past and his injuries he tends to be a brooding and short-tempered man.  When he turns that attitude on Bree she does what she is good at which is using that cheerful attitude to get people to do what she wants.  He is surprised and not happy when he realizes that it is working on him.  His attempts to retain his undercover identity with her don't work, as she is a lot smarter at her job than he realized.  The initial scene at the police station between them is great and shows just how perfect they are for each other.  He is impressed with her abilities and surprised when she doesn't react in the usual way to the discovery of his injuries.  His attraction to her is strong but his feelings about his past cause him to reject the idea of a permanent relationship with anyone. I loved the scene in the bank when he opens up his feelings to try to connect with the shooter.  The emotions were strong and real. His connection with her causes him to step in to protect Bree and her sister from the stalker.  I also loved the way that he treated Katie, showing Bree that not all men were afraid of being with someone like her. I really enjoyed seeing the way she got under his skin.  He had to deal with his growing feelings and her work.  I loved the ending with their give and take and compromises.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Most Eligible Spy - Dana Marton (HI #1448 - Sept 2013)

Series: HQ: Texas (Book 1)

Moses Mann didn't need to be in an interrogation room to be intimidating. Molly Rogers found that out the hard way. Her brother had been accused of smuggling and murder, and now Moses considered her a suspect, as well. But what type of dirty little secrets did he expect to find in a single mother's life?

Moses was no ordinary agent poking around Texas border country. And he kept finding new reasons to bring his investigation to Molly's farm. Yet trusting him -- especially around her son -- came so easily. She finally had someone who would speak up for her. Even if he was an undercover agent with secrets buried deep in his soul….

Very good book that picked up where last year's The Spy Wore Spurs left off.  The SDDU team is working along the border to stop terrorists from coming across the border with Mexico.  Molly's brother Dylan was killed in a shootout and has been accused of kidnapping, murder and drug running.  Molly is being questioned about anything she may have seen or known.  Mo is the one doing the interrogating and he is very good at being intimidating.  Nothing he does causes her to change her story and he has to admit to himself that she is probably innocent of any wrongdoing.  When Molly begins getting intruders at her farm during the nights Mo steps in to protect her and her son.  

Molly doesn't understand how her brother can be accused of these terrible things.  He was always there for her when she needed him and was a terrific uncle to her little boy.  She is sure that there has been some mistake.  She is angry that Mo is accusing her of being involved also.  She can't wait to be done and get away from him.  She doesn't expect him to suddenly start watching out for her and Logan when she starts having problems with intruders.  Now that he's no longer treating her like a suspect she's feeling an unwelcome attraction to him.  That attraction becomes something more when Mo starts taking an interest in her son, teaching him how to protect himself against the bullies that are bothering him at school and playing video games with him.  Molly doesn't trust her own judgement because of the mistake she made with Logan's father and tries to keep her feelings under control.  I really liked her loyalty to her brother, misguided though it might have been.  She is also very independent and doesn't like to depend on anyone else.  After several problems with intruders she begins to trust that Mo will protect them.  When he suggests that she and Logan stay at his apartment where they will be safer, she accepts for Logan's sake, but feels intimidated by the differences she feels between them.  When Logan is taken hostage to force her cooperation in the recovery of the missing drugs she does the stupid thing and doesn't go to Mo for help.  The final confrontation with one of the bad guys was pretty hair-raising.

Mo is very focused on his work.  He has his life plan and nothing is going to distract him from it.  He is pretty sure that Molly must know something about her brother's activities and has no trouble with the idea of using intimidation to get the answers he wants.  What he doesn't expect is the distraction of feeling attracted to her.  I loved seeing the way that he had to keep forcing his attention back to what he was doing.  He eventually had to admit that she was most likely innocent of knowing anything about what her brother had been up to.  When she started having problems with intruders he stepped in to watch out for her and Logan, not understanding why he felt so protective but helpless to stop it.  I also liked the way that he went to Logan's school with her and stood up for Logan to the principal accusing them of not doing enough to stop the bullying.  It took him awhile to realize what it was about Molly that appealed to him so much because he had been raised without any female influence in his life.  I really liked the way that he trusted his instincts when something felt off with her and he was able to rescue her and Logan.  I also enjoyed seeing the way that the rest of the team backed him up without question and the way that it made him feel.  I loved the epilogue and Mo's solution to their living arrangements.

I really enjoyed the action in the book and the way things built toward the conclusion.  The immediate mystery of who was behind the trouble on her farm was solved by the end of the book.  The culprit wasn't too much of a surprise.  There is still the ongoing mystery of who is behind the terrorist threat and how they are going to stop them.  

For the Love of Magic - Janet Chapman (Jove - Sept 2013)

Series: Spellbound Falls (Book 5)

After forty years of marriage, Rana Oceanus has done the unthinkable and run away from her mighty, magical husband. Not that she ran very far, having purchased a house in Spellbound Falls right on the shore of the Bottomless Sea, where she intends to prepare for the scariest battle of her life. The only flaw in her plan, however, is that she is still very much in love with Titus... 

Shocked and deeply shaken that his wife really has left him--though he still can't fathom why--Titus sets out to win her back. But when grand gestures of his esteem don't seem to further his cause, he conjures up some of his original courtship magic. 

But his plan backfires when Titus discovers that dealing with demons is far less threatening than the little secret his very mortal wife has been keeping from him...

This was another fun trip to Spellbound Falls.  I have loved Titus and Rana since their first appearance.  Titus is the usual alpha male in god form, always certain that he is doing the right thing and determined that things go his way.  Rana is his mortal wife of forty years, strong in her own right and very good at guiding Titus in the direction she feels is right for the situation.  But now there's trouble in paradise as she has moved out of their home into one of her own, claiming she needs "a breath of fresh air".  

Rana fell in love with Titus and married him when she was fifteen.  She went from being protected and cared for by her father to being protected and cared for by Titus.  She has decided that she needs some time on her own to see what she can do and experience without his help.  She doesn't go far, just to a small cottage on the shore of the Bottomless Sea.  She wants to stay close to her family and friends.  Rana has come to love the community of Spellbound Falls and has gotten involved in several local projects.  I loved seeing her hanging out with the ladies, being just another one of the group.  In her current status with Titus she has let him know that she still loves him but that she feels he needs to start paying more attention to the little things in life not just mankind's big picture.  Until he does that she's going to concentrate on her own wishes.  I really loved seeing the two of them together.  She obviously knows Titus very well and does a fantastic job of making him toe the line where her wishes are concerned.  When he ignores her requests she shuts him down, leaving him wondering how he's going to get her to come home.  There are several great scenes with her learning how to do things an ordinary woman of the time would do.  Her driving lesson with Peg was fun, but also gave a glimpse of some trouble that is brewing in Spellbound Falls.  I also loved the scene where she lends a hand as a waitress, taking orders and dealing with an obnoxious customer.  Throughout the book her interactions with Titus show that her love for him is just as strong as it ever was but that she needs more from him than she has been getting lately.  When Titus starts giving her the type of attention she has been craving from him she starts to have hope that things will be okay.  When their boat race encounters supernatural problems the secret she's been keeping from him comes out and she has to deal with the consequences.  I loved their trip through the woods and the rekindling of their closeness.

Titus is a man who is used to things going his way.  He is stunned when Rana moves out and can't figure out why she has done it.  He is determined to win her back and the story is full of his attempts to do so.  He knows her very well after forty years together and makes some pretty bold attempts to show his feelings.  When those attempts backfire on him he thinks back to when he was first courting her and changes the way he's doing things..  I loved that peek into their past and how it showed so much about who they are.  There are also memories of their early marriage and the way that they supported each other as Titus cemented his position as a god and created the world of Atlantis.  I really loved the way it showed how much Titus appreciated Rana and the perspective that she brought to their lives.  Although he didn't understand why Rana had left I loved the way that he supported her in her desire to try new things and the ways he tried to make things easier for her.  I loved her trip up the mountain in her new car and the reason for it (I sense this will be important in a future book) and the way that he helped her get back down the mountain without making a big deal about it.  I loved the way he teased her into the boat race and his tactics during the race were fun to see.  When the race came to an abrupt end I loved his protectiveness and the way he cared for her.  I was really amused by the way he decided to imitate the highlanders he so often grumbles about as they walk their way back to civilization.  It is during that trip that he opens up to Rana about the secret he has been keeping from her and his plans for their future.  His love and regard for her is shown by this passage:
"I'm explaining that the transfer began that day.  It won't be complete until I decide it is."
"And...and you've decided?"
She glared up at him. "What do you mean almost?"
"I'm waiting to hear the opinion of my most valued adviser and confident."
She went back to scowling at the ground.  "Who?" she whispered.
He pulled her to a stop and gathered her in his arms again.  "That would be my stubborn, opinionated, irreverent, lusty, terrible wife."

Also part of the book is the presence of a group of people who are attempting to bring a new god into existence.  The magical people of Spellbound Falls are waiting to see if the new entity will be one of good or evil.  I see this being a large part of a future book.  There are also some new arrivals to the area - a doctor to work in the new women's clinic, a twelfth century highlander who will be the new police chief (that should be a trip!) and a female escapee from those people trying to raise a new god.  There's a funny scene where Carolina goes into labor and the men deal with the idea of being in the labor room.  I also love the concurrent scene where Titus lets Mac and the others in on his plans and their reaction to it.  I'm really looking forward to the next book.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Doctor Returns - Stella MacLean (HS #1877 - Sept 2013)

Series: Life in Eden Harbor (Book 1)

Secrets and second chances

Sherri Lawson seems to be the only person not welcoming Dr. Neill Brandon back to Eden Harbor, Maine. She has moved on from their shared past. Yet a part of her has never quite gotten over Neill -- or the baby she lost. The baby he didn't even know about….

She can't imagine a new relationship with Neill, much as she might want it. But it turns out that Neill wants it, too, and he believes they can make it happen. And to Sherri's surprise, so does his daughter, Morgan!

First of all, this was a bad blurb.  Neill DID know about the baby and his daughter Morgan DID NOT want them together until the very end.

I had a hard time connecting with Neill and Sherri.  Both of them seemed to be rather immature and selfish at the beginning, though they did change somewhat.  They had dated through their senior year in high school, when Neill went off to Boston to med school.  He wanted Sherri to go with him, even though he had no way to support her and he was going to school.  Meanwhile, she had been accepted to nursing school in Maine.  When she discovered she was pregnant she called and told him right away.  He was shocked, distracted and made a half-hearted invitation for her to come to Boston.  She refused and then refused to take his calls when he tried to reach her after that.  She married another man who offered to take care of her and the baby.  The baby died shortly after birth and her husband awhile after that.  Meanwhile Neill went on with his life, becoming a doctor, marrying and divorcing another doctor and having a daughter with her.  Now he's back in Eden Harbor.

Sherri has never really recovered from her relationship with Neill.  All those feelings come out when he moves back to town with his daughter.  When they meet to talk of the past she blames him for not coming to see her after her phone call.  She doesn't accept any responsibility herself for the fact that she refused any contact with him after that, to give him a chance to make things right.  She starts out still holding that all against him and not wanting anything to do with him.  When she is diagnosed with diabetes and has an episode that puts her in the emergency room, suddenly she's willing to give him another chance.  I can sort of understand the "life changing event" that makes her want to try again, but claiming love so suddenly seems a bit much.  She and Neill want to be together, but she also has to deal with his nine year old daughter who doesn't want Sherri anywhere around her father.  I liked the fact that Sherri realized that her plans to move to Portsmouth were a form of running away and that she changed those plans when she realized it.  As her relationship with Neill took off she also has to deal with his daughter's hostility.  She lets him know that she doesn't want to be caught in a battle with her and that until he can stand up to his daughter she won't be seeing him.  I did think that the conclusion was well done.

Neill had been upset back when he left for med school and Sherri didn't drop everything to follow him.  He had only been thinking about himself and how much he needed her.  When she called to tell him about the baby  he didn't react well and when he tried to reach hr multiple times later she wouldn't answer the phone.  He finally gave up and let it all slide.  He later married another doctor and then divorced her after realizing how self-centered she was and how she neglected their daughter.  Now he has moved them back to Eden Falls.  After seeing her again, he wants to rekindle his relationship with Sherri.  He is surprised by her anger, then remorseful when he finds out everything she went through.  She didn't like the way that he tried to blame her for their breakup because she wouldn't come to him in Boston.  He did admit that he'd been a panicked idiot.  He doesn't seem to understand that because of his actions she doesn't trust him and doesn't want to get involved with him again.  His fear when she has her diabetic episode seems to get the strength of his feelings through to her.  He finally gets her to start seeing him again and tries to take things slowly with her.  Besides trying to revive a relationship with Sherri he also has to deal with his daughter and the way she wants her parents back together.  He doesn't seem to be able to see that she has become quite good at manipulating both of them to get her way.  He did some halfhearted explanations to her but it wasn't until he was thorough and blunt with her at the end that she started to accept Sherri's place in their lives.  

Her Wyoming Hero - Rebecca Winters (HAR #1471 - Oct 2013)

Series: Daddy Dude Ranch (Book 3)

Rancher To The Rescue
At the magnificent Wyoming dude ranch run by Ross Livingston and two fellow ex-Marines, families of fallen soldiers find hope and healing. When lovely widow Kit Wentworth and her son arrive, Ross immediately finds himself drawn to them. Soon he's able to bring young Andy out of his shell--and touch Kit's heart as no other man has. 

But this isn't just a vacation for Kit. She is running from her domineering father-in-law--a situation Ross understands all too well. After Kit reveals her terrible secret, Ross realizes his love alone won't be enough. Charles Wentworth is a man who will stop at nothing to control his family. Can Ross convince Kit to stand her ground--and help her fend off the forces that threaten to tear them apart?

Fantastic book.  Kit is a woman in need  of a hero.  Kit married young to a man who turned out to be pretty spineless when it came to standing up to his father.  When he died overseas her life became even more difficult.  Receiving the invitation to the ranch was just what Kit needed to escape from her father-in-law.  The ranch also gave her son a chance to be a normal little boy.  Ross found that Kit was very different than what he had expected.  He is drawn to Kit in a way he'd never felt before.  He doesn't know if he can get Kit to accept his help to get away and be able to stand on her own.

Kit had married her husband when she was very young.  At the time she knew nothing of his background.  When his parents found out that he had married a "nobody" they were angry and he was constantly trying to compensate for disappointing them.  They lived with his parents in their mansion and they pretty much forced Kit to conform to their wishes.  She had no ability to stand up to them.  Her husband joined the Marines and used that as a way to escape his domineering father, leaving Kit and their son behind.  After his death, Kit's father-in-law became even more controlling.  Kit was thrilled to receive the invitation to the ranch and made plans to escape when their week was done.  She was worried about the effects that lifestyle was having on her nine year old son Andy.  When she arrived at the ranch she was amazed at the beauty of it.  She was also thrilled at the way Ross was able to connect with Andy.  The changes in her son began almost immediately under the attention of Ross.  She didn't expect the attraction she felt to him.  When her father-in-law started creating problems for her almost immediately she was afraid for Ross and his friends, knowing just how ruthless he could be.  I really loved the inner strength that Kit showed.  She was determined to escape and give her son the loving environment he needed.  She was thrilled with the changes the ranch made in him and the difference in his attitude just from being around Ross.  I liked the way that she told Ross what her life had been like for ten years. Her attraction to Ross was strong and seeing how great he was with Andy and the other kids just made her feelings grow stronger.  But she was afraid of giving control of her life to another man and kept pushing him away as anything more than their host.  I loved the way she stood up to her father-in-law at the end and how she then made changes in her own plans before going to Ross.  I loved the conclusion.

Ross was the only one of the three left unmarried.  He is somewhat envious of his friends and hopes to find someone of his own.  In the meantime he is assigned to be the host for Kit and her son Andy.  He doesn't know what to expect from Kit because of her wealthy background.  It doesn't take long for him to realize that she's nothing like what he thought she'd be.  He's impressed with her apparent joy at being on the ranch and her determination to give Andy a week to remember.  I loved the way that he connected with Andy right away.  He did a wonderful job of being able to relate to Andy and his attitude because he saw so much of himself in the boy.  I really liked how he got Kit to open up and tell him what her life had been like.  His need to help and protect her was strong and he had a bit of a hard time accepting that she wanted to do things herself.  I really enjoyed seeing him tell her what his background was and how it helped him relate to Andy.  I also loved the way he had made the decisions to live his own life and walk away from his old life.  He was struggling now with feeling like he belonged, though he did finally find a way to make his own mark on the ranch.  I liked the way that he was upfront about his feelings with Kit.  He also respected her wishes even when they went against what he wanted.  He gave her the support she needed without taking over and in the end got everything he could wish for.

The only issue I had with the book wasn't with the story or the author but with the publisher/editors.  As is the case in most of their books, Harlequin refuses to properly capitalize the word Marine when referring to members of the United States Marine Corps.  It is wrong and tends to pull me out of the story when I see it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Big Sky Christmas - C.J. Carmichael (HAR #1470 - Oct 2013)

Series: Coffee Creek Montana (Book 4)

A Holiday For Healing
Jackson Stone will always be grateful to the Lamberts, who took him in when he was just a kid. But since the accident that killed his foster brother, Brock, he stays away from the family at Coffee Creek Ranch. Especially now that Brock's former fiancee, Winnie Hays, is back in town with her little boy. 

The simmering attraction between them may surprise Winnie, but Jackson fell for her at first sight years ago. Loyalty and guilt require he keep his distance...even as their feelings blossom into love. In the end, it's his own conscience Jackson must master. But with the help of the Lamberts, can this Christmas be a time of healing and a new beginning?

Very good book with some intense emotional issues.  Winnie has finally come back to Coffee Creek after the death of her fiance on their wedding day and the later birth of their son.  She arrives on the day of a family wedding and is having a hard time dealing with the memories and emotions.  Jackson helps her through it with his humor and understanding.  Jackson knows he should stay away from Winnie.  He's been in love with her for years but the guilt he feels over Brock's death is nearly overwhelming. 

I loved Winnie and Jackson.  Now that she is back in Coffee Creek she feels it's time to get on with her life.  She is trying to maintain her independence despite the efforts of her late fiance's mother.  Jackson has been a big help with that.  Being around him stirs up feelings she didn't expect to have.  At first she felt guilty about being attracted to another man, especially Brock's foster brother.  It really didn't take her long to realize that she deserves a chance to be happy.  I really liked seeing her open up herself to the possibilities with Jackson.  I also liked the way that she worked so hard, right from the beginning, to let Jackson know that he has no reason to feel guilty over Brock's death.  As their love grows she is willing to look at the future but she has to feel that Jackson is able to give his whole heart.

Jackson came to Coffee Creek Ranch as a foster brother to the others.  He felt welcomed and accepted by everyone except Olive who always treated him differently.  Brock had been his best friend.  Jackson still feels guilty over Brock's death, thinking that he should have been able to avoid the moose that they hit.  Now that Winnie is back he is suffering even more.  Not just about the accident but also the fact that he has been in love with her for years.  His guilt tells him to avoid her but his heart won't let him stay away.  I loved the way that he came to her rescue when Olive tried to guilt her into moving onto the ranch.  I really enjoyed the way that Jackson gave in to his heart and started spending time with Winnie and her son.  He still had issues with his guilt causing him to not open up completely to the idea of a happy future with Winnie.  He really panics when Winnie's son calls him daddy.  I also liked the care he was taking of Maddie.  It really showed what a caring man he can be.  It was great to see the way that the other Lambert kids helped Jackson deal with his guilt.  There was also a surprising twist at the end about why Maddie plans to leave her ranch to Jackson and also the identity of Jackson's father.

There is also more about the feud between Maddie and Olive.  I enjoyed seeing the efforts that everyone made to get it resolved.  Olive became a more sympathetic character by the end of the book.

Promise From a Cowboy - C. J. Carmichael (HAR #1460 - July 2013)

Series:  Coffee Creek Montana (Book 3)

A Cowboy With Something To Hide…

On the rodeo circuit, B. J. Lambert had plenty of chances to forget about his first love. Back in Coffee Creek, it's impossible. Savannah Moody is as irresistible to B.J. as when they were teens. He'd still do anything for her -- except give up the secret he promised to keep.

Sheriff Savannah Moody knows B.J. is hiding something. Not his feelings for her -- it's obvious to both of them that the attraction is as strong as ever. But she simply can't afford to give in. She has her sister to care for, and the family land, and B.J. might be gone tomorrow. She also has a job to do: to pursue the truth and discover what really happened eighteen years ago when a barn burned and a man died. Even if it costs her dearly….

Very good book.  B. J. has been on the rodeo circuit for eighteen years, ever since shortly after his high school graduation, when he runs into Savannah Moody, his former girlfriend.  She is now the sheriff back home and looking for answers to an old mystery.  Seeing her again makes B. J. realize that he's getting tired of being on the road all the time and is ready to go home.  Once there he discovers that his feelings for Savannah are just as strong as ever.  Savannah feels the same but she has a lot more reasons to resist.  Besides her family responsibilities her instinct as sheriff tells her that B. J. is hiding something important.

B. J. has spent his years on the rodeo circuit basically running from his memories.  He and Savannah had dated for two years in high school, until shortly after the fire.  Because he cared for her so much, he had promised her twin brother Hunter that he wouldn't tell anyone what had really happened the night of the barn fire.  Savannah blamed B. J. for getting Hunter involved in whatever had happened which had put an end to their relationship.  Now that he's back B.J. wants to rekindle their relationship.  He has seen the heavy load of responsibility she carries and wants to do anything he can to make her life easier, but he is still unwilling to share what had really happened that night.  I really liked the way that B.J. has come home to stay.  He tells her right away that he has never forgotten her and would like to see if they can make a relationship work.  I loved the way that he tries to do things for her to make her life easier when he sees that no one is looking out for her.  He has been keeping his secret out of love for her knowing that the truth would be painful for her.  As more information about that night comes out he knows that the truth will have to be told but doesn't want to be the one to do it. The whole issue is still causing stress between B.J. and Savannah because she doesn't want to believe that he had a part in the man's death but she doesn't want it to be her brother either.  B.J. is also ready to take on more responsibility with the family ranch and steps in to take over the horse breeding side when his foster brother Jackson wants to leave.  It takes him a couple weeks to settle in and he butts heads with his brother Corbin a couple times but he's happy to be home. I liked the way that he finally accepted that running from his memories and problems doesn't work, though he still had to learn that trying to protect Savannah caused many of those problems.

Savannah has been the sheriff for three years and loves what she does.  It fits right in with her need to take care of people.  When she was younger she took over caring for her brother and sister because her mother was pretty much useless.  She is still doing the same thing with them eighteen years later.  But her brother only contacts her when he needs something and her sister is ready to be on her own.  Now that B.J. is back in town she is fighting her feelings for him.  She knows she still loves him but because he isn't telling her the truth about what happened she feels that she can't trust him.  With the investigation about to be reopened she is torn over who to believe.  I liked the way that her heart told her that B.J. was innocent of any wrongdoing.  Savannah also looks at her job as a way to show people that she is nothing like her father and brother who both had reputations for trouble when she was growing up.  She always went the other way and followed all the rules and kept herself on a straight path.  As more information about the fire came out she felt that the people of the town were judging her because of it and began to feel like she couldn't stay.  I liked the way that B.J. solved that particular problem.  The entire resolution of the mystery was well done.  It had a couple surprises in it but nothing too startling.  I was glad to see that Savannah finally saw how unfair she had been to B.J. all that time.

Also running through the book are a couple themes from the series.  One is the feud that has been going on between B.J.'s mother Olive and her sister Maddie.  A little more information comes out about the possible cause as B.J. makes the decision to get to know his aunt before it is too late.  There is also some kind of connection between Maddie and Jackson, who has left the Lambert ranch to go work for Maddie, who plans to leave her land to Jackson.  We also see more of Olive, who I still don't like at all.  She is way too controlling and makes it known that she doesn't approve of the women her sons have chosen.  I like the way that B.J. stood up to her, even though he went and apologized for being rude to her.  I would really like for her to wake up and realize that she is ruining her chances for a good relationship with her children's families.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Beauty Uncovered - Andrea Laurence (HD #2259 - Oct 2013)

Series: Secrets of Eden (Book 2)

CEO Brody Eden is a loner. The brooding billionaire has secrets that he refuses to unveil to anyone…until he meets his new assistant, Samantha Davis. She's temptation personified, and she's sitting right outside his door.

Samantha's never met a man as guarded -- and gorgeous -- as Brody. She doesn't want to fall for her boss, but there's something about Brody…. Beneath his gruff manner, Sam senses tenderness -- and an intense passion waiting to be unleashed. And she'll make it her mission to enter his lair…and his bed.

Excellent book, a real beauty and the beast story.  I really liked both Sam and Brody. Sam takes the job as Brody's assistant while her godmother is on vacation.  Because of terrible scarring Brody never goes out in public.  Brody doesn't expect the beautiful Sam to be oblivious to his scars.  He is very attracted to her but still cautious.  Sam is just as attracted to him but wary of getting involved as she just left a bad relationship with her former boss.  As they get to know each other their feelings deepen, but will Sam be able to get the beast out of his cave?

Sam was great.  She takes the job as temporary assistant to Brody because it's the only job she can find right now. She only gets it because she is filling in for her godmother while she is on vacation. She got let go from her last job after a bad relationship with her boss there.  She is told that Brody can be prickly but as long as she does her job it will be fine.  She is also told that he  has terrible scarring and the best thing she can do is not react to it.  Brody doesn't even come out of his office the first few days and Sam loses her temper with him. When he finally makes an appearance she doesn't react to the scars, she is too fascinated by his eyes.  Now she wants nothing more than to really get to know this fascinating man.  I loved the way that she didn't put up with his rudeness at the beginning and stood her ground when he confronted her.  After that everything she did went further toward breaking down the walls that Brody has erected around himself.  The more they were together the more she saw a caring and sensitive man.  I loved the way that she drew him further and further out of his shell.  Her love for him grew stronger every day.  But with that love came the realization that being with him meant living in the shadows and she had a hard time with that.  Her wish to help him created a huge misunderstanding that tore them apart.

Brody is incredibly smart and has become extremely wealthy.  As a child he was horribly scarred when his father threw battery acid on him.  He had it better when he was with his foster family, but his scarring has changed his life.  He avoids being around people, not wanting to deal with their reactions.  His few relationships with women have soured him on the idea of love because they have all been more interested in his money than in him.  He is drawn to Sam right away.  He can't believe someone so beautiful is not affected by his scars.  I loved his sweet and romantic side.  When she visited his home she got to see his more relaxed side as he played with his dog, and his vulnerability as he tried to make a special dinner for her.  The secret he shared with her later made him all the more a sympathetic character to me.  I loved seeing him open up even more with her when they went on their trip.  It made their breakup scene even more heartbreaking as each said terrible things to the other.  I loved the scene when Agnes came back and had a long talk with him.  What Brody did after that was really among the best of romantic gestures by a hero.