Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dark Witch - Nora Roberts (Berkley - Nov 2013)

Series:  Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy (Book 1)

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.


County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations -- and where her destiny awaits.

Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.

When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horsemen, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.

Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself -- and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope -- and love -- alive...

I loved this book.  It had it all - location, family, friends, romance, magick, and a fight against evil.  The story is set up in the first two chapters, where we have Sorcha, the original Dark Witch, and her three children.  Her husband is off fighting and Sorcha is fighting illness.  She is also fighting against an evil sorcerer, Cabhan, who wants her and her powers and is willing to do anything to get them.  As the chapter ends she has split her powers among her three children and sent them away to protect them.  She lies in wait for the sorcerer, to finish him off before she dies.

Moving ahead to the present, we have Connor and Branna who are brother and sister descended from Sorcha.  They sense the coming storm but know it will take three of them to form the bond that will defeat it.  Enter Iona, their American cousin, who makes the circle complete.  She is in search of a place where she feels she belongs, and finds it with her cousins.  She also finds a job doing what she loves - working with horses.  She feels an immediate connection with her boss, Boyle.  But before they can think about a future together, they must deal with the return of the sorcerer.

I loved the way that the idea of family and friends is so important.  Besides Connor, Branna and Iona, there are also their friends Boyle, Fin and Meara.  Each has a distinct personality that is important in the scheme of things.  Branna is the leader, the one doing most of Iona's training.  She is a bit of a loner, keeping a lot to herself.  She has a history with Fin.  They were childhood sweethearts, deeply in love, until they discovered that Fin is a descendent of Cabhan.  Now she has trouble trusting him, even though she knows they need him in the coming troubles.  Fin has never stopped loving Branna.  He knows she doesn't trust him but he'll be there for her just the same.  Connor is the easy going, social one of the group.  He's friends with everyone and loves the ladies.  He's sometimes caught in the middle of all the drama affecting the others.  Meara has also been friends with them all her life.  She and Branna are like sisters and she will be there to help however she is needed also.  She has feelings for Connor, but he's oblivious.

Then we have Iona and Boyle, the focus of this book.  Iona has been searching for her place in the world and finally finds it in Ireland.  In spite of a miserable upbringing with parents who just didn't seem to care, she has a sunny personality.  I loved seeing the effect of that personality on Boyle, who is pretty serious.  Her actions tend to keep him pretty off balance.  There's an intense attraction between the two of them that has him pretty freaked out.  It moves along quickly until it runs up against his fears and causes an emotional slowdown in their relationship.  The whole scene with him, and later her girls' night with Branna and Meara to deal with it was very emotional.  On the other side, I loved the way that Connor and Fin dealt with Boyle and made fun of his idiocy as only guys can do. 

I really enjoyed seeing Iona come into her own as Branna and the others trained her in the magick she needed to know.  She went from very tentative and nervous at the beginning, to a growing confidence in her abilities through the rest of the book.  I loved seeing the way that Boyle was there to support and protect her.  Their connection was a huge part of the final confrontation in this book.

One of my favorite things about this book was the setting.  Nora Roberts always does anything Irish well and this was no exception.  She spent time in this part of Ireland doing research for the books and it shows.  Having visited County Mayo several years ago I was thrilled to recognize the places she described.  Ashford Castle is located next to the village of Cong, just as described.  I loved her mention of the filming of "The Quiet Man" there and the parade for Maureen O'Hara just a few years ago.  I also loved her description of Ballintubber Abbey as it brought back my memories of walking those grounds myself. 

I have read some reviews that complain that this is simply a mashup of several of her previous series.  While I can see the similarities, there is enough of a difference that I have not been disappointed in the book at all.  I can't wait to read the next one.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Big Sky Wedding - Linda Lael Miller (HQN - Sept 2013)

Series: Parable MT (Book 5)

Wedding bells are ringing in Parable, Montana, but Brylee Parrish hasn't enjoyed the sound since being jilted at the altar by Hutch Carmody. She's over Hutch now, and running a multimillion-dollar business is challenging enough for this country gal. So she should avoid falling head over boot heels for A-list actor Zane Sutton. He's come home to his rodeo roots, but Hollywood lured him away once and just might again. Yet everything about him, from his easy charm to his concern for his young half brother, seems too genuine to resist….

Zane didn't come to Parable for love -- but count on a spirited woman to change a jaded cowboy's mind. Problem is, Brylee's not convinced he's here to stay. Good thing he's determined to prove to her, kiss by kiss, that she's meant to be his bride.

Very good book.  I've been waiting for Brylee to get her own story since Hutch left her at the altar in Big Sky Mountain.  Originally she seemed pretty spoiled, but in the books since then she's done some growing up.  She's turned her business into a huge success and continues to be a loving presence in her family's life.  I really liked seeing how great she was with her niece Clare.  There is a wonderfully emotional scene with her brother Walker when she explains to him why Clare wants to go along on a rodeo trip with him and her brother.  She has finally admitted to herself that it's time to get over the past and move on.  She's lonely and wants a family of her own.  It's at this point that Zane Sutton returns to the ranch he and his brother bought a few years earlier.  The attraction between them is immediate and hot, but Brylee is pretty wary around him.  There have been a lot of Hollywood people who have bought land in Montana, visited once in awhile or lived there for a short time, then gotten bored and moved on.  She doesn't want to get involved and then get left again.  She starts out judging him pretty harshly, but as she has the chance to spend time with him realizes that he's not what she had expected.  When the white hot attraction between them gets too hard to resist they give in to it.  Then Brylee panics and starts thinking about leaving town for awhile before she talks herself out of it.  She admits to herself that she's in love with him already, but she's afraid to take the chance.  I loved what he said to her when he came to see her that relieved her fears.

I loved Zane.  He had been a successful rodeo cowboy when he got sucked into acting and became a star.  He's had enough of that lifestyle and has come to his ranch in Montana to start a new life. Shortly after he arrives he meets Brylee in the woods between their properties.  He feels like he's been struck by lightning but she can't get away from him fast enough.  His house is in pretty bad shape and he's just starting to get a handle on what he wants to do with it when his brother Landry calls.  Their father has dumped their 12 year old half brother on him and he's getting ready to leave the country for a meeting.  Can he send Nash to Zane?  It's him or foster care, so Zane says yes.  I liked the way he stepped right up to take care of Nash.  He could see the pain the boy was in at the way he's treated by his father and the pride that won't let him complain.  Zane was terrific at making sure Nash knew that he was wanted and welcome.  Besides dealing with Nash he also had his housekeeper Cleo show up and take over the care of the house and getting the renovations started.  This freed up Zane to try to get closer to Brylee.  I really liked the way that he kept going back to Brylee, trying to win her over.  When they had their big passion filled moment he understood what her reaction was going to be the next day.  I loved the way that he went to her, told her his feelings, and what his intentions were for the future.  It was exactly what she needed to feel secure.  The epilogue was fantastic, especially the dance with Hutch.

There were some really funny moments, especially once Cleo made her appearance.  I loved the way she fussed and fumed at Zane.  There were also some really emotional times, such as when Zane realized just how badly Nash had been treated by their father.  I also loved seeing Clare's teenage melodramatics as she would describe her woes to her Aunt Brylee.  

The Mighty Quinns: Dex - Kate Hoffmann (HB #777 - Dec 2013)

Series: Mighty Quinns (Book 26)

Just the right touch…

With her career on the line, Marlie Jenner is determined to make a top-notch documentary about beloved Irish author Aileen Quinn. Which means she needs a top-notch filmmaker; she needs Dex Kennedy. Dex is talented, well respected and Irish. He's also hotter than hell. And when they meet, he looks as if he wants to eat Marlie right up.

Marlie does look delicious, but after a fatal accident during the shooting of his last documentary, Dex refuses to work on another film. Marlie has some very persuasive techniques, however, and after one seductive, drugging kiss, Dex is hooked -- on the film, on Marlie, on the prospect of living again. But every documentary takes on a life of its own. And this one promises an ending that none of them could ever have anticipated…. 

Very good book and conclusion to this set of the Mighty Quinns series.  I really liked both Marlie and Dex. Marlie has always been different than the rest of her family, a bunch of overachieving doctors.  She is the artistic one and is constantly being put down by them. Marlie is determined to make her mark as a producer and this documentary about Aileen Quinn is her way to do it.  She knows exactly how she wants to do it, but she needs Dex Kennedy's talents to do it.  The problem is that he has stopped working on anything and won't take her phone calls.  So she tracks him down to make her pitch in person.  She wasn't expecting him to be so hot and finds herself incredibly attracted to him.  She doesn't want to mix business and pleasure so she tries to resist her feelings, but with Dex feeling the same way they end up together anyway.  As they work closely together on the film Marlie gets to know Dex and finds that she wants more than an affair that only lasts as long as the filming.  I loved Marlie's determination to make the documentary she envisions and the way she does everything she can to find Dex and convince him.  I loved the way that she stormed away but then came back to wait for him at his cottage.  She wouldn't give up until she had convinced him that he had to help her.  I loved seeing her explain her vision to him and get him as enthusiastic as she was.  I also liked the way she stood up for her ideas but also was able to accept his guidance once she realized that he was right.  Marlie was also able to see the guilt he was feeling about the death of his friend and filming partner and help him overcome those feelings.  The biggest problem she had was a lack of confidence in her own appeal to Dex.  She didn't think he'd want to continue to see her after they were done filming so she didn't tell him about her feelings for him.  I really liked the way that working with Dex and learning so much from him gave her the professional confidence she needed, and that professional confidence spilled over to her personal life.  I loved seeing her stand up to her mother at their lunch and then go after Dex.  

Dex has been existing in a depressed state of mind for eight months, ever since the death of his friend while they were filming in Colombia.  He feels that Matt's death was his fault since he didn't stop him from going back for that one last shot.  Dex has refused to take any calls asking him to do any more films.  He's not sure what he's going to do but he can't face filming without his friend.  When Marlie tracks him down at his grandmother's cottage he doesn't want anything to do with her film, but he is attracted to her.  The strength of his attraction is something he's never felt before.  That attraction and need to be with Marlie has him saying yes to helping her.  Pretty soon he's as enthusiastic about the subject as she is.  I loved the way that he used his experience to make it even better, at the same time teaching Marlie what she needs to know to become a better producer.  He also found that being with Marlie brought a relief from the depression he had been suffering from.  The longer he was with her the more he thought about continuing beyond the end of the filming.  He was stunned to discover that he had fallen in love with her, but was afraid to say anything to her fearing rejection.  Dex also discovered, as they researched more of Aileen's story, that his connection to her was much closer than just a professional one.  It also caused him to put extra distance between him and Marlie until the film was done.  He was so miserable when she had to go back to Boston to report to her bosses that he almost seemed to be slipping back to his old ways.  I loved the ending and seeing how they got together.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Love Overdue - Pamela Morsi (Mira - Sept 2013)

Meet Dorothy Jarrow: devotedly unsexy librarian

Buttoned-up book lover DJ is all sensible shoes, drab skirts and studious glasses. After an ill-advised spring-break-fueled fling left her mortified, she's committed to her prim and proper look. When she's hired by a rural library in middle-of-nowhere Kansas, she finally has the lifestyle to match -- and she can't wait to get her admin on.

But it's clear from day one that the small-town library is more interested in circulating rumors than books. DJ has to organize her unloved library, win over oddball employees and avoid her flamboyant landlady's attempts to set her up with the town pharmacist. Especially that last part -- because it turns out handsome Scott Sanderson is her old vacation fling! She is not sure whether to be relieved or offended when he doesn't seem to recognize her. But with every meeting, DJ finds herself secretly wondering what it would be like to take off her glasses, unpin her bun and reveal the inner vixen she's been hiding from everyone -- including herself.

Overall a good book.  I loved the librarian theme and the chapter headings were great.  Each chapter was given a dewey decimal classification and that became the chapter name.  That heading related very well to the contents of that chapter - very clever!  DJ has come to Verdant to become the head librarian/administrator for the town library.  She has been given a place to live by the head of the library board - the upstairs apartment of her home.  That same lady also has another goal - to hook DJ up with her son the pharmacist.  DJ is horrified to see that that pharmacist is the man she had a one night stand with eight years earlier.  She is relieved (and a little insulted) that he doesn't recognize her.  While her opinion of him isn't good at the beginning, the more she gets to know him, the more she comes to like him.

I liked DJ most of the time.  She has great enthusiasm for her job as the head of the library.  She wants to make the library the best it can be.  The interior is not what she expected, as it is dark, gloomy and underutilized.  Her employees are quite a collection of characters.  There is Amelia, the woman who has been doing the job for the last several years and isn't happy to have DJ there.  She is grumpy, mean and seems to have no interest in making things any better.  There are the two bookmobile drivers, Amos and Suzy.  Amos is a veteran with some PTSD issues, but is overcoming them pretty well.  Suzy is a nice girl who loves to know everything that is going on and to share it with anyone who will listen.  James is the employee who is rarely seen but heard from often.  He is mildly autistic and doesn't like change, but is very good at what he does.  She is not quite sure what to make of her landlady who seems more interested in pushing her toward her son the pharmacist than in what DJ can do for the library.  DJ wants nothing to do with Scott, who turns out to be the man she had a one night stand with back in college.  She does her best to avoid him, but in a small town that isn't possible.  She also believes that he is a player who cheated on his wife, had affairs with married woman, and preyed on women during spring breaks.  But as she gets to know him, that opinion doesn't match the man she is getting to know and care for.  I got rather frustrated with her judgmental attitude toward him when she didn't really have anything to base it on.  I liked seeing the way that her opinion did change.  Their  romance seemed to develop pretty slowly as DJ got to know Scott as he really is.  I loved seeing the way that she opened up to him in the wheat field.  I  kept waiting for her to tell him about their shared past.  I loved seeing her happiness with the surprise Scott had for her when she got out of the hospital.  

Scott turned out to be a real sweetheart.  He had been in that bar eight years ago looking for an experienced woman so he could learn  better techniques in lovemaking.  When he hooked up with DJ he didn't know she was even less experienced than he was, but it didn't seem to matter since they were pretty explosive together.  Eight years later he's in his hometown, divorced from his wife (who turned out to be gay), and taking care of his widowed mother.  There aren't many single women in town so he's not sure he'll ever find someone to love.  When he meets DJ he doesn't understand why she seems to dislike him on sight.  There is something about her that reminds him of the girl from eight years ago that he hasn't been able to forget.  His mom keeps trying to throw them together and as she does he likes what he learns about DJ.  I enjoyed seeing him show her around Verdant and introduce her to people.  I loved the way he took her out in the wheat field and showed her his method of getting away, and later introduced her to what the wheat harvest meant to the whole town.  His patience with her as got physically closer was great as he knew what he wanted and was willing to wait.  I loved his willingness to help her with her library project.  The way he stepped in to finish the project as a surprise to her while she was in the hospital was a wonderful way to show his feelings.  I loved the way that he got so many others involved.

The only real problem I had with the book was the ending.  The last chapter ends with him seeing something that links her to the girl he knew those eight years ago, then it cuts to an epilogue that takes place eight years later.  There is no discussion of that night or why he didn't recognize her.  It was terribly frustrating because I really wanted to know.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Cowboy's Christmas Surprise - Marie Ferrarella (HAR #1478 - Dec 2013)

Series: Forever Texas (Book 9)

The Best Christmas Present

Since the first grade, Holly Johnson has known that Ramon Rodriguez is the only man for her. But the carefree, determinedly single Texas cowboy with the killer smile doesn't have a clue. Until they share a dance and a kiss…and Ray finally sees his best friend for the woman in love she is.

With his brothers racing each other down the aisle, Ray figured he'd be the last bachelor in Forever. That was before the night that changed his life. He can't believe the sexy, beautiful lady who arouses heart-stopping desire is his pal and confidante, and loving aunt to the most adorable little girl. Now that he realizes what he's been missing, Ray plans to make up for lost time…starting with the three little words Holly's waited thirteen years to hear.

And the last Rodriguez man goes down for the count.  Holly and Ray have been friends since first grade.  She has also been in love with him, but he is clueless.  Then his eyes get opened to just what he has been ignoring and he has to figure out how to show Holly just how much he really cares.

I loved Holly.  She is a hard worker, putting in long hours at the diner, taking care of her mother and niece and also studying for her nursing degree by taking classes online.  This doesn't leave her much time for having fun.  Then one night she gets talked into going out with some friends and ends up dancing with Ray.  Suddenly he's looking at her in a whole different way and she's not sure how to deal with it.  She has spent so long being his friend and hearing about his woman troubles that having him look at her like one of those women is disconcerting.  She's not going to complain, she's going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.  She just hopes that their friendship won't be hurt after it's over.  I really enjoyed seeing the way that Miss Joan has been able to see what Holly's feelings for Ray are all this time and takes it upon herself to try to move things along.  I loved seeing Holly start to enjoy Ray's attentions.  I especially loved seeing her go for what she really wanted that night in the diner.  Then it became her turn to be clueless the night of Mike and Sam's wedding when she didn't understand what Ray was trying to tell her, thinking that he was going to break up with her.  I loved her reaction when she finally got it. 

Ray was so much fun to watch.  In previous books he had been very much the good time guy, buzzing from woman to woman.  He's always been friends with Holly, who he can talk to about anything.  She's always just been his good buddy, until the night he rescues her from some unwanted attentions.  Suddenly he's seeing her as a sexy woman and he's a little freaked out about it.  When he finds himself kissing her, the desire gets a little out of control.  I loved seeing him try to reconcile the two Hollys and getting really confused about his feelings.  I also loved the way that his longtime friendship with her has enabled him to know her far better than he thought.  I loved seeing his confidence in her after she delivered Alma's babies at the diner and how much it meant to her.  I really enjoyed his complete confusion about his feelings after he and Holly had made love.  I really enjoyed the way his brother Rafe cornered him about his mood and figured out what the problem was.  Poor Ray was so shook up the night of the wedding that he wasn't making a whole lot of sense when he was talking to Holly.  I loved seeing him finally get it right and his happiness was fantastic.

A Small Town Thanksgiving - Marie Ferrarella (HAR #1475 - Nov 2013)

Series: Forever Texas (Book 8)


Ghostwriter Samantha Monroe has just arrived in Forever, Texas, to turn a remarkable woman's two-hundred-year-old journals into a personal memoir. The Rodriguez clan welcomes her with open arms…and awakens Sam's fierce yearning to be part of a family. But it's the eldest son -- intensely private rancher Mike Rodriguez -- who awakens her passion.

Hiring Sam to preserve his great-great-great-grandmother's story for future generations was Mike's inspiration. He just didn't realize how much he'd want her to be part of his family's continuing saga. Delving into the past has made Sam hungry for a future -- with Mike. The next move is up to him -- if he doesn't make it, the best woman he's ever met just might waltz back out of his life forever!

First, the cover blurb isn't entirely accurate.  It wasn't Mike's idea to hire Sam, it was his father's idea.  Mike started out against it.  He doesn't like having strangers on the ranch and is initially afraid that Sam will be some kind of con artist who will take advantage of his father.  Sam is surprised by how warmly she is welcomed by most of the family.  It's her reaction to Mike that has her wishing for something she's never had.

I really liked Sam.  She had been on her own a lot as a child because, as a single mother, her mom spent a lot of time working to make ends meet.  That made her pretty independent.  When she was eighteen her mother married and left with her husband leaving Sam completely alone.  She later married her high school sweetheart but he died in an accident soon after the wedding, leaving her alone again.  Her ghostwriting job came about as a way for her to deal with the loneliness.  I really liked the way that she had no trouble standing up to Mike and his negative attitude.  I really loved how most of the family made her feel so welcome and how she started to feel a little bit like part of the family.  She wasn't sure how to deal with the attraction she felt for Mike as it was unlike anything she had ever felt before.  As Mike's father found ways to throw them together she began to see a different Mike than the one she first met and her feelings for him began to grow.  She was excited to have the job working on the journals because it was something very different than she had ever done before.  She also began to identify with his ancestor's feelings about her life and choices.  I loved Sam's involvement in the family's Thanksgiving celebration and how much it meant to her.  I loved the change in her relationship with Mike and ached for her lack of confidence that anything would come of it.  I loved the way it ended and what Sam told Mike about her dream for her future.

Mike is sort of the odd one out in his family.  As the oldest he's always felt the responsibility for his family and the ranch.  He doesn't seem to resent it, it "just is what it is".  He's also not as social as his siblings.  He does value his privacy and is frustrated by the way his father is constantly inviting  strangers to stay at the ranch.  He seems to have a more cynical view of life as he is sure that the writer who is coming is some sort of con artist out to take advantage of his father.  Meeting Sam seems to put an end to that viewpoint.  He also is so stunned by her beauty that he has a hard time thinking around her and making sense when he tries to talk to her.  He's a bit frustrated by the way his dad keeps making him take Sam to do things off the ranch.  He'd rather stay away from her and the feelings she's causing, but there's no way to say no to his father.  I loved the way that he got to know her and discover that she's not the kind of person he thought she was.  Just being around her caused changes in him that everyone else noticed but he didn't want to admit to.  It was fun seeing the way it took his brother Eli making him face the truth for him to have the courage to go after what he wanted.  It was so sweet seeing what he offered just so that they could be together.

 I loved seeing more of Miguel and how much love he had for his family.  I really enjoyed the way he got his kids to do what he wanted them to do without threats or yelling.  It's always great seeing more of the previous characters and what they are doing now.  Mike's comments to Cash about getting sleep while he can before Alma's baby arrives were fun to see, as were Alma's suspicions about what Mike was telling him.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Castaway Cove - JoAnn Ross (Signet - Aug 2013)

Series: Shelter Bay (Book 6)

They've never met. But they're destined for each other....

Single dad Mac Culhane has traveled to some of the world's most dangerous war zones, but now he and his young daughter have settled in Shelter Bay, where he's become the late-night DJ for the local radio station. The last thing he expects is to connect over the airwaves with a caller....

After a painful divorce, Annie Shepherd opened up a scrapbook store in town and started volunteering with local senior citizens. Although she loves her work, dreams of the family she longs for keep her up late, listening to Mac Culhane's voice on the radio.

When Mac and Annie finally meet in person, the attraction between them is instantaneous. But Annie isn't ready to lay her heart on the line, and neither is Mac. Fortunately, no one in Shelter Bay is about to let a perfect match escape the magic of true love.... 

Terrific book.  Mac has brought his daughter and returned to Shelter Bay after his divorce in order to have help from his family while raising his daughter.  Annie has also come to Shelter Bay after her divorce, looking for a new start.  Neither is looking for a new relationship until they connect over a late night call to the radio station.  

I loved Mac.  He was a terrific father, moving back to Shelter Bay so he could get the family support he needed.  He was also wonderfully patient with his grandfather, who has Alzheimer's. I loved the way he showed that family was important to him.  He was also a bit insecure about his abilities as a father but determined to do the best he could. I liked the way that he owned up to his part in the failure of his marriage though I'm sure his ex had a share of it too.  I loved the way that he felt his job in Afghanistan had been important enough to keep doing it and how he didn't just stay in the relative safety of the base.  The description of his personality and actions before the war show that he matured a lot during his time overseas and after he returned.  I enjoyed seeing the way he connected with his listeners during the late night show.  I loved seeing the way that he and Annie really related to each other during that first phone call.  His interest in her was immediate. It was fun seeing how he used different songs to get her to call him again.  It was a lot of fun seeing the way he figured out who she was and talked her into going out with him.  It didn't take long for him to be interested in seeing where the relationship could go.  He didn't get impatient with Annie's reluctance but kept up a gentle, but persistent pursuit.  I really liked the way that he was understanding of her fears.  I loved the present he gave her when he proposed.

Annie had a rough life growing up.  She spent her entire childhood in foster homes, some good and some not so good.  All she really wanted was a family of her own.  She married a man older than she was that she thought she loved, but it ended with issues they couldn't agree on, especially her desire for children.  She moved to Shelter Bay, where she had some happy memories from when she was a child, and opened a scrapbooking store.  She quickly settles in, becoming part of the community.  She loves volunteering with the senior citizens where she meets Mac's grandfather.  She still wishes for a family but is now cautious about dating.  One night, feeling particularly lonely, she calls in to Mac's radio show.  The instant connection she feels to him spooks her and she doesn't identify herself.  She is startled when she sees him in her store and feels an intense attraction to him.  She's blown away by the kiss he sneaks and allows herself to be talked into having lunch with him.  She's really drawn to him but there are things about her that she thinks will prevent her from having any kind of future with him.  She keeps trying to push him away, but he won't go.  I loved the way that his patience finally got her to open up with him  and see that he really cares for her.  I also loved seeing how good she was with Mac's daughter.  Her understanding of his grandfather's memory issues and the way she helped him with his scrapbooks was really sweet.  I loved the way it was something that his grandfather said to her that convinced her that she could have that happy ending.

I loved the parts that Emma and Charlie had in the book.  Emma's attitude was a cute mixture of little girl and teenager.  I loved her defense of her grandfather and how she had no problem standing up to the little boy on the playground.  I really liked the way she told off her friend at the sleepover, though her actions afterward sure caused a lot of stress on her poor father.  Charlie was a real sweetheart of a man.  I felt so bad for his frustration in dealing with his Alzheimer's.  He was wonderful with Emma and she seemed to be able to break through his memory problems.  I really loved the parts where he talked about his wife and the memories he had of the war.

Once again the people of Shelter Bay have a big part in the romance between Mac and Annie.  Annie's friends, especially Sedona, are the ones who convinced her to give Mac a chance.  I also enjoyed seeing the various couples and catching up on how they are doing.  There were also some pretty fun situations involving the interest the entire town took in their romance, including the betting pool on their first date.  I really liked Kara's comment to Annie about what his reaction would be to seeing Annie in her red dress - "It's always fun to see a man swallow his tongue."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Protecting His Princess - C. J. Miller (HRS #1777 - Nov 2013)

Series: Truman Brothers (Book 3)

In this kingdom, not even the royals are immune to danger

With a sexy FBI agent posing as her suitor, Princess Laila of Qamsar is home for the wedding of her brother the Emir. In truth, the beautiful royal and Harris Truman are on an undercover mission: to find the infamous terrorist her brother is suspected of aiding.

But once the festivities begin, Laila faces a bigger threat than Al-Adel. Her secret meetings with Harris pose a danger to her safety­ -- and her heart. To gain his love and live in freedom as his equal is her ardent desire. But will she betray her traditions for a man whose kisses are part of a charade?

Very good book.  I liked the suspense of the story with Laila and Harris fighting their feelings as well as trying to investigate without getting caught.   I liked Laila's determination to do whatever she had to in order to protect the people of her country.  She may have led a sheltered life before going to college in America, but she's not as naive or clueless as she could be.  When Harris explains the problem to her she is very willing to help him investigate the claims.  She has been drawn to him during the times he has been to the coffeehouse where she works, so pretending that he is her boyfriend will not be a problem for her.  In fact, it will be all too easy.  Because of the cultural rules of her country being alone with him is impossible so they have to meet in secret.  Those secret meetings bring her growing feelings more to the surface, even though she knows that a future between them is unlikely.  I really enjoyed seeing her develop her own opinions of what she wants in her future as opposed to what is expected of her.  I loved the way that she and Harris worked together after the bombing.  

Harris is assigned to work with Laila in a joint venture with the CIA to find out the truth about her brother's involvement with a terrorist.  He is attracted to Laila, but having been burned by falling for a woman during another operation he is fighting the feelings.  It doesn't take long once they've reached Qamsar for him to realize that he can trust her completely.  He also knows that once the investigation is over it is unlikely he will be allowed to see her again.  I really liked seeing his protectiveness toward Laila.  There were several situations where he had to fight his natural inclinations so that he wouldn't offend their customs. I also enjoyed seeing the way that he stood up for her against the opinions of some of the local men. He also discovered that being around her brought a balance to his life that he hadn't had before. 

I really enjoyed the storyline also.  Tracking down terrorists usually makes for good action, both physical and mental and this had both.  I liked seeing the differences between Laila's two brothers and how those differences affected the action.  There was plenty going on as the search for the bad guy went on.  There was an interesting twist to the conclusion that I started to suspect near the end, but the details were surprising.

The Colton Heir - Colleen Thompson (HRS #1776 - Nov 2013)

Series: Coltons of Wyoming (Book 5)

Wrangler Dylan Frick thought he knew his past -- until a suspicion surfaces that he's the secret Colton heir who vanished from Dead River Ranch as a baby. Now his identity's in question, and his mother's murder is still unsolved. And he's thrown off course by the ranch's mysterious new maid, Hope Woods. The gun-wielding knockout has fear in her eyes and seems desperate to escape her own private danger. Defending Hope -- and keeping her deadly secret -- leaves them both open to unexpected passion. But will protecting her mean walking out of her life for good? 

At the end of the last book The Colton Bride, Dylan asked for help finding out more about his murdered mother's background.  Some things have come out that have caused him to question who he is.  He's having a hard time dealing with the idea that he could be the missing Cole Colton.  There is also a new maid on the ranch that turns out not to be a maid at all.  Dylan is trying to keep her safe from her mob boss ex-husband's killers at the same time he's trying to discover who is the mastermind behind the trouble on the ranch.  As they work together to find answers they are faced with unexpected passion.  All they have to do is figure out a way to be together.

I have liked Dylan throughout the series.  He's a genuinely nice guy who loved his mother, is happy with the work he does, and has no desire to be the missing heir.  He's fighting a lot of anger over his mother's murder and the subsequent questioning of who he is. Even once he knows the truth there are still questions about why his mother brought him to the ranch.  His initial meeting with Hope has him doubting her employment until it is confirmed by Amanda.  When he hears Hope's story he is determined to help keep her safe.  Worrying about her helps keep his mind off his own problems.  I loved seeing how determined he was to protect her even if it meant giving up any chance of being with her.  His love for her made his decision at the end easy for him.  I'll be interested to see if anything changes by the end of the next book.

Hope is hiding out as a maid on her friend Amanda's ranch.  She had been married to a man who turned out to be a mob boss.  After she turned him in and agreed to testify against him she ended up on the run to escape the people trying to kill her.  Just when she thinks she's safe on the ranch, someone tries to kill her there.  She doesn't know if her ex-husband's people have found her or if she has run afoul of the "mastermind" who is causing the trouble on the ranch.  She does know that Dylan has made it his mission to keep her safe, even at the risk of his own life.  I really liked her strength of character that had her doing the right thing at the beginning of the book, and the strength of will she had that enabled her to do what she had to to stay safe.  I loved the way that her own problems gave her the empathy to help Dylan deal with his issues.  I loved the solution that enabled them to be together at the end.

Events on the ranch are getting more intense.  We're seeing more of the mastermind, who we now know is a woman.  I still have no idea who she is for sure, though I have a couple suspects in mind.  I can't wait to find out for sure.  I also want to know the reason for all the trouble.  Trip is still causing problems, especially for the female employees.  I can't decide if he's part of the whole problem or if he's just a creep.  I loved the confrontation between him and Dylan at the end of the book.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Cradle Conspiracy - Robin Perini (HI #1465 - Dec 2013)

CIA agent Daniel Adams, once a prisoner of war, is a loner out of necessity. But rescuing an amnesiac woman left buried alive bonds them in ways neither can resist. All "Raven" knows is that her baby is in danger. All Daniel can focus on is finding the missing child -- and protecting Raven every step of the way.

Her memories are lost and his are scarred from the damages of war. But as they depend on each other for survival in the rugged west Texas mountains, the pieces of their broken pasts start to come together. Now all they have is the risky hope of a future together as they confront the threat that can destroy them both.

Very good book that kept me riveted from the first page. Both Daniel and Raven have issues stemming from their pasts. Daniel is trying to get his life back on track after recovering from two months of captivity and torture.  He still can't stand enclosed spaces so he has been hiking from the east coast to Carder, Texas, where his job is.  Along the way he was adopted by a dog who travels with him.  While near the town of Trouble the dog discovers a woman buried alive in a mine.  When Daniel rescues her he discovers she has no memory except for visions of a baby in danger.  After attempts are made on her life Daniel is determined to protect her and find the missing child. 

Raven is terrified when she regains consciousness trapped in a rolled up carpet in a mine.  Her relief at being rescued by Daniel is tempered by the fact that she can't remember her name or anything else about herself.  When someone attempts to kill her while she's in the local clinic Daniel makes it his mission to keep her safe.  Raven can't remember anything of her past but she's wearing a locket with a picture that she feels is that of her baby, who she feels is in terrible danger.  She feels safe with Daniel, even after they are attacked again.  She is also attracted to him even after he tries to tell her that she can't depend on being safe with him.  She can see the pain he is in and wants to help him through it.  I loved the way that she could see what a good man he really was.  She was also very attracted to him, an attraction that grew deeper the more she learned about him.  I loved the way that she had the inner strength to do whatever had to be done to find her daughter even though it was dangerous.  He feelings for Daniel gave her the ability to trust that he would be able to keep her safe.

Daniel is suffering badly from PTSD because of his captivity and torture.  He doesn't trust himself to be around people, especially his mom and sisters.  His father had also had the same issues and was abusive because of it until he killed himself.  Daniel fears being the same way.  He still has terrible nightmares and flashbacks.  When his dog discovers Raven back in the mine Daniel has to fight those flashbacks to go in and get her.  As messed up as he feels he is, he is determined to keep her safe and help her find her child.  He tries to keep his distance physically and emotionally, but discovers that Raven's presence soothes some of his fears.  I loved his tenderness with her and how much she came to mean to him.  I also liked the way that he was able to call on his friends for their help to protect her and solve the mystery.  They were also determined to help him conquer his own demons.  I loved the ending with the way their lives worked out.

The mystery itself was pretty intense.  The person who had Raven's daughter was pretty creepy in her whole attitude.  She got to be downright scary with the craziness she was showing by the end.  The man who was trying to kill Raven was a real sociopath.  His actions and his connection to the woman made the danger even more intense.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Currant Creek Valley - RaeAnne Thayne (HQN - Apr 2013)

Series:  Hope's Crossing (Book 4)

If you build it, love will Hope's Crossing.

Alexandra McKnight prefers a life of long workdays and short-term relationships, and she's found it in Hope's Crossing. A sous chef at the local ski resort, she's just been offered her dream job at an exclusive new restaurant being built in town. But when it comes to designing the kitchen, Alex finds herself getting up close and personal with construction foreman Sam Delgado....

At first glance, Sam seems perfect for Alex. He's big, tough, gorgeous-and only in town for a few weeks. But when Sam suddenly moves into a house down the road, Alex suspects that the devoted single father of a six-year-old boy wants more from her than she's willing to give. Now it's up to Sam to help Alex see that, no matter what happened in her past, together they can build something more meaningful in Hope's Crossing. 

Good book.  Alex is about to have her dreams come true as the head chef of a new restaurant in town, as long as the construction of the kitchen gets done on time.  Sam has been hired to finish the kitchen.  There's a heat that's obvious between them from the moment they meet.  Alex sees no problem getting involved with Sam.  She doesn't do commitments and he's only in town for a short time.  Then she discovers that he and his son are moving to town permanently and he's interested in more than short term.  

I loved Sam.  He's a great dad who wants a fresh start for himself and his son.  His wife died a couple years ago and then he discovered that his father-in-law was a crooked contractor.  Now he's looking forward to living in a small town where people care for each other and look out for each other.  He isn't really interested in a new relationship since he's going to be busy setting up his business and taking care of his son.  He's attracted to Alex as soon as he meets her and looks forward to getting to know her better.  He likes the way she's direct about what she wants.  He enjoys her sense of humor and discovers that under her brash exterior is a very kindhearted woman.  It's not too long before he's starting to think of Alex in longer terms, but he can't get her to agree.  Every time he thinks he's making some progress she pushes him away.  He senses that there is a deep pain that keeps her from accepting the idea of a future with him.  I really liked the way that he kept trying to get close to Alex.  He knew he was falling for her and he was pretty sure that she felt the same but he was having problems getting past her walls.  Even when he tried to stay away from her he was aware of what she was doing.  I loved his final attempt to get her to open up to him and share her pain.  This expressed his feelings perfectly:  "I love you, Alexandra. Nothing you’ve told me tonight changes that. I love you in spite of all the reasons you think I shouldn’t. In part, maybe, because of the those reasons. You’re the person you are today because of everything that has happened to you.”

Alex is a serial dater.  She doesn't do more than a few dates with any one man, preferring to keep all her relationships light and casual. Part of her fear of commitment comes from the way her father deserted the family when she was a kid.  She doesn't want to open herself up to that kind of pain again. Currently she is way too busy getting the new restaurant up and running to spend time with a man anyway.  When she meets Sam she finds him very appealing and thinks it would be fun to be with him for the short time he'll be in town.  She doesn't expect the intensity of her attraction to him and tries to pull away from him.  She's willing to go for friendship with him, but is afraid what might happen if she goes for more.  When she finds out that he has a son and that they are moving to town permanently she takes it as just one more reason to stay away from him.  I liked the way that her soft heart doesn't let her stay away for long.  She adds him to the people she cooks for, finds herself enjoying being around his son, and occasionally is tempted to let him get closer.  But as much as she comes to care for him she has a secret pain that she hasn't even shared with her family and friends, that makes her feel that she doesn't deserve that kind of happiness.  She doesn't seem to see the same good person that everyone else sees, the one who cooks for shut-ins, takes care of a friend who is dying of cancer, rescues a lost dog and takes it home with her, and is there for any friend who needs her help.  I loved the way that she finally opened up to Sam, expecting him to reject her, and is stunned to find out that he doesn't, that he loves her just the way she is.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Yuletide Protector - Julie Miller (HI #1462 - Dec 2013)

Series: Precinct: Task Force (Book 6)

As the lone surviving victim who can put her attacker away in prison, heiress Bailey Austin becomes the key to the D.A.'s case against a notorious criminal. As lead detective, Spencer Montgomery must prep her for trial. But he becomes her personal protector when she starts receiving terrifying "gifts" meant to scare her away from testifying.

Spencer is a cop on the fast track to making captain one day, if he can keep his emotions in check. But as the stalker's threats escalate, he can't deny that Bailey has thawed his icy heart. Her courage touches him in ways no other woman has, and reminds him that she's more important to him than any investigation.

Fantastic wrap-up to the Task Force miniseries.   We met Bailey in an earlier series where she and Spencer clashed and again in this series as the victim who didn't end up dead.  Now she is the only one who can identify the rapist and testify against him.  There are a lot of people who aren't sure that she's up to it and fear that she will chicken out.  She's determined to do it and makes sure that Spencer knows it.  With the rapist's accomplice still on the loose Spencer's job is to make sure Bailey stays safe.  When she starts receiving threats it's his job to stop them.  There's an attraction between them that he tries to resist, fearing that it will distract him from protecting her.  Can he protect her and his own heart?

I loved Bailey's courage.  In spite of the terrible trauma she had been through she is determined that she will go through with her testimony and put the rapist away for good.  Thanks to counseling and her own will she has become a stronger and more mature woman.  She's no longer satisfied just being a member of her wealthy family and wants to make her own way in the world.  She is frustrated by the way everyone is convinced that she won't go through with her testimony.  She is with Spencer at the police station when she runs into the rapist and he and his lawyer try to intimidate her.  He makes sure she knows what to do to protect herself and also lets her know to call him if she ever feels nervous or that something is wrong.  When she has to take him up on that offer almost immediately she is surprised by her need for the comfort and security he provides.  I loved the way that she accepts the caring he demonstrates and also tries to return the same to him.  She feels the way he fights what is growing between them and senses that there is something behind it.  The support that she offers him also helps her.  The confidence that he has given her helps her fight back at the end.  

Spencer has kept his emotions bottled up ever since the day he allowed his feelings for a witness blind him to what was happening with her.  She ended up dead and he blames himself.  The changes he sees in Bailey since the rape have made him more aware of her as a woman.  He resists the things he feels for her because he is afraid of failing her.  As the threats against her escalate he becomes more determined to protect her.  I loved seeing how he can't stop himself from getting personally involved, to the point where he is even able to tell her about the woman who died.  His fears are somewhat reduced by her support and understanding of those fears.  I also liked the way that Spencer was so sensitive to Bailey's fears and able to help her through them.  I really liked the way his partner, Nick (Tactical Advantage) sees the changes in Spencer and encourages him to pursue them.  The ending was immensely satisfying as both Spencer and Bailey got exactly what they needed.

I loved the wrap-up of the mystery itself.  The increasing tension as the threats escalated kept me riveted as I waited to see the identity of The Cleaner.  The various pawns that she used were fairly obvious, but their methods were not always apparent at the time.  I liked seeing various members of the task force as they made their appearances and we got a chance to catch up with them.  The final showdown was suitably intense and I was glad to see that my suspicion of The Cleaner's identity was correct.  

The Best Man - Kristan Higgins (HQN - Mar 2013)

Series: Blue Heron (Book 1)


Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she's ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family's vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there's some great scenery there….

Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief -- and best friend of her former fiancé. There's a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it's not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she's having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosé, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.

Good book.  Faith has come home after three years away, to help out at the family winery.  In her small town it's hard to get past everyone's memory of her being left at the altar but she's trying.  She also has to face Levi, the man she still holds responsible for ruining her wedding.  There are also the typical dramas she has to deal with in her family.  She needs to decide if she's going to come back home to stay or head back to California as soon as she can.

I liked Faith.  There was a lot more to her than was first apparent.  In high school she seemed to be the slightly spoiled, always perky youngest daughter of one of the rich families.  Her boyfriend is the ultra popular and best looking guy who is also the quarterback.  Everything goes along great for eight years as they date, then get engaged.  Then on the day of the wedding, right at the altar, Levi forces Jeremy to finally come clean with Faith - he's gay. Faith is devastated and flees to San Francisco where she works for three years before being called home.  Her siblings need her to save their father from a gold-digger and use her talents to improve the winery grounds.  I loved the way she was happy to come home.   She was homesick, missed her family and her hometown.  She hasn't quite gotten up the nerve to see her ex-fiance yet, but she's getting there.  She has had a couple encounters with Levi though.  She's still angry with him and is pretty darn snarky around him.  Their encounter at the bar, where he has to rescue her is hilarious.  She still gets the feeling that he doesn't like her whenever they meet.  When she ends up moving into the apartment next door to him there are more encounters that start feeling like they're not so adversarial.  There's also a heat growing between them that she doesn't know what to do about.  I really liked the slow growing of their friendship as they learned more about each other.  Faith gets really frustrated with Levi's unwillingness to talk, especially about emotions.  She is incredibly moved when he takes the time to do the research that ends her  guilty feelings over the death of her mother.  Those feelings have affected the way she feels about her family and the new information gives her the courage to talk to them about her mother.

Levi was definitely the strong silent type.  He had been friends with Jeremy since high school.  He had suspected that Jeremy was gay from the moment they met, but it never made a difference to him.  He was concerned about Jeremy's inability to admit it, especially as things got more serious with Faith.  He finally had to say something before both Jeremy and Faith made a mistake that would be devastating to them both.  However, that put him on Faith's hate list, a difficult place to be since they were both still friends with Jeremy.  Levi also suffers from a bit of inferiority complex because he has grown up on the poor side of town, also causing him to look at Faith rather cynically.  By the time he comes back from the army he has lived down his "trailer park" past and is now the police chief, a job he really enjoys.  He is also the guardian of his younger sister who is giving him fits about staying at college.  When Faith returns to town he's expecting more of the same girl she was when she left.  He soon finds himself pretty amused by the scrapes she gets into and has fun with her about them.  He also discovers that the attraction he first noticed when Faith was Jeremy's girlfriend hasn't gone away.  I loved seeing him fight those feelings because I knew it would be a losing battle.  I really liked seeing the way that he took such good care of her during and after her seizure and how that seemed to be the beginning of their new friendship.  It was obvious that his inability to talk about his emotions frustrated Faith, but he didn't seem to be able to do anything about it.  I loved the way he could show his feelings in the way that he took care of her and did things for her.  The scene at her grandparents anniversary party was pretty sweet of him.  I also liked his friendship with Jeremy and how it never changed.  It was pretty funny that it was Jeremy that finally made Levi face his feelings for Faith.  

Once again the secondary characters add another great layer to the story.  Faith's family was especially fun.  Her dad is pretty clueless about the intentions of the woman he calls a "friend" and his reactions are pretty funny.  Her sisters are older and still treat  her like the baby.  Her one sister has teenage children who argue with each other like normal kids do which is always fun to see.  Then we also get to experience the attempts that Pru's husband Carl makes to spice up their marriage, from sexting to hearing the kids complain about their parents' "activities".  Faith's grandparents have been married for sixty-five years and the way they treat each other is kind of bizarre, but seems to work for them.  I'll be interested to see if Levi's sister Sarah gets her own story, once she gets past her homesickness and attitude toward her brother.  Jeremy's presence throughout the book was great for showing the importance of friendship, but I sure did get frustrated with his guilt complex for awhile.  I'm looking forward to seeing where the next book goes.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Somebody to Love - Kristan Higgins (HQN - Apr 2012)

Series: Gideon's Cove Maine (Book 2)

After her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon's Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns -- a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father's wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she's not thrilled...even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox.

Having to fend for herself financially for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist's assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn't the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn't the only thing that needs a little TLC....

Really fun book with plenty of humor and showing the importance of second chances.  Parker is the single mother of an adorable 5 year old boy.  She has a solid friendship with the boy's father and his wife.  She's had a best selling series of children's picture books.  Her relationship with her father isn't too great and she really doesn't like his personal attorney.  Things get really bad when her father is arrested for insider trading and she finds out that he lost all their money, including her and her son's trust funds.  All she has is a house in Maine that she inherited.  She plans to go up, paint it and sell it to get the funds needed to start over.  Only, the house is in worse condition than she thought, and James has followed her up determined to help.  So while her son is with his father, Parker and James are working together on the house, and learning a little more about themselves and each other while they're at it.

I liked Parker.  She is an excellent mother to her son.  She may be wealthy but she's not really a snob about it (except to James).  I liked the way that she donated the proceeds of her children's books.  I also enjoyed her snarkiness about the sickly sweet angels in those books.  By the time the series ended she really hated those angels and had some really interesting conversations with them throughout the book.  Her excellent relationship with her father went down the tubes when she was ten, after she caught him in bed with her babysitter.  She has an even worse relationship with James, her father's lawyer, who she calls Thing One.  She sees him as a clone of her father.  When dear old dad is arrested for insider trading she discovers they are flat broke, except for a house she inherited in Maine.  She plans to sell it for the money to start over.  Those plans hit a roadbump when she discovers the house is stuffed with junk and falling apart.  I loved the descriptions of what she was seeing and feeling, and the scene with the mouse was hysterical.  James's arrival and offer to help is met with grudging acceptance as she desperately needs him and resents it.  As the days go on they reach a tentative truce and begin to get to know each other.  Parker discovers that there is a lot more to James than she thought and that he's not such a bad guy after all.  There's also a deepening attraction between them that she's reluctant to do anything about.  Her son is the most important thing in her life and with all the changes in their lives she doesn't want to make things worse by introducing a man into it.  Just as things are looking up for the two of them someone from James's past shows up and throws a wrench in the works, followed by a funny and heartbreaking scene in the local bar.  I really enjoyed seeing the way that Parker was able to overcome her obstacles and come out stronger on the other side.  

James was fantastic.  He had gotten a job with Parker's father shortly after finishing law school.  I loved his sense of loyalty and how he always did the best he could.  He saw early on that Parker and her father didn't have a good relationship, but he didn't know why.  He did know that there was something about her that he wanted to protect.  Since he always got dragged along when her dad attended any family event, he saw a lot of Parker.  It was pretty obvious from the beginning that he was in love with her.  I loved the way that he was always doing things for her, trying to make things better.  I loved the fact that he went up to Maine to help her on his own, even though he let her believe that her father had sent him.  I thought he was incredibly patient with her, considering how badly she tended to treat him.  James worries about being around her son.  He has terribly guilty feelings about something that happened when he was a kid and believes that it means he can never trust himself to have a family.  It also caused a rift in his family that has left him feeling pretty isolated except for his friendship with Parker's dad.  Being in Maine with Parker has started to lessen those feelings and he starts to dream of a future with her.  He also has some pretty funny conversations with himself about Ethan, her son's father.  He is quite jealous of Ethan, who he refers to as The Paragon.  He starts to feel really hopeful when a blast from his past drives Parker away.  I loved the ending as he wins her back.  The epilogue was sweet.

I loved the setting of the tiny town of Gideon's Cove and all the fun characters there.  Maggie and Malone from an earlier book made several appearances.  I really liked the old guys from the hardware store who were so helpful to Parker. I loved the dog Beauty.  Seeing Parker fall in love with her after hearing her story just showed how much love Parker had to share.  My favorite character was Parker's Aunt Lavinia.  She was a crusty old broad who smokes too much, talks a lot about her booty calls, and has a heart of gold.  She gives Parker a job working in her flower shop which turns out to be perfect for her.  She has a greenhouse out back where she grows some of her own plants.  The part where Parker sells one of Lavinia's "ferns" to a customer was a riot.  I really liked the way that the entire town became such a special part of Parker's life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas at Cardwell Ranch - B. J. Daniels (HI #1455 - Nov 2013)

Series: Cardwell Ranch (Book 4)


It had been years since Tanner "Tag" Cardwell's boots touched Montana soil. This Christmas he was determined to change that. Until a run-in with local Lily McCabe revealed dark secrets from his past and deep trouble for his future.

Cowboys came and went in these parts. But Tag Cardwell caught Lily off guard in more ways than one when the two became entwined in a murder mystery. What was it about Tag? The dreamy eyes… The rugged physique… The protection she felt in his strong arms…

But before they could lose themselves in each other they had to trace a killer. Or risk finding a crime scene under the Christmas tree.

Good book, though the back cover blurb isn't entirely accurate. It isn't Tag who has the secrets but his dad.  Tag hadn't been back to Montana since his parents divorced and his mom moved he and his siblings to Texas.  Now he wants to reconnect with his father.  Problem is, dad doesn't seem too happy that Tag has shown up right now.  While Tag is at a local bar watching his dad and uncle perform with their band he has a brief run-in with a drunk waitress then is questioned about it by fellow waitress Lily.  When he stumbles across that waitress's body the next day things start getting really interesting.  He ends up with a mysterious computer file that might be in code and Lily attempts to decode it.  Pretty soon they're in danger and have to find out what's going on.  And how are Tag's father and the sheriff involved, and on what side?

I liked Tag.  He wants a chance to reconnect with his father and has come to Montana to do it.  He's a bit disturbed by his father's secretiveness, especially when Tag notices a link between him and the murdered waitress. There are some other things that he notices about his father and also about the sheriff that make him wonder which side of the law they are on. Tag is also intrigued by Lily, especially once they get together over the contents of the computer file.  I liked the way that he isn't bothered by or intimidated by her intelligence.  There are times when he feels he's in over his head, but it doesn't stop him from being involved anyway.  The more they learn the more he worries about Lily's safety.  I loved his resourcefulness at the end as he puts the pieces together.  I also liked his growing feelings for Lily and how those feelings create a need to protect her, even when he isn't sure what her feelings are for him.  

I also liked Lily, though I wanted to smack her a couple times for being so blind.  Lily is a math professor at a local college.  Every year at Christmas she comes to help her brother Ace at the bar he owns.  This year she's especially glad to have gotten away.  Six months earlier she'd been left at the altar by her fiance and she's still feeling down about that.  Tag is nothing like her ex, but he appeals to her in a whole different way.  When they join forces to figure out what is going on she feels incredibly safe with him.  When her ex suddenly shows up wanting to make amends she doesn't know what to do.  They still have so much in common that she can see forgiving him and taking him back, but then again her feelings for Tag are so much more intense.  She does feel okay enough with him to let him help her decode the computer file.  Shortly after that she is kidnapped and held by someone who wants that file.  I liked the way that she stayed calm and used her brain to try to find a way out of her predicament.  Unfortunately she then ended up in trouble again, trouble that she should have seen coming.  It was nice to see her come out of that one stronger than she knew she could be.  Loved the ending with her and her brother included in the Cardwell ranch Christmas celebration and how much fun they had.

A secondary but related storyline involved Hud, Dana and the imposter from Cardwell Ranch Trespasser.  Hud has been battling feelings of inadequacy after his family was nearly murdered in that book.  Now there are more murders and he's not having much success in solving them and he's thinking about giving up his job.  We also see how Camilla, the perp from that book, is plotting revenge from inside prison.  It's interesting to see how the two storylines intertwine.

Holiday by Design - Patricia Kay (HSE #2296 - Nov 2013)

Series: Hunt for Cinderella (Book 9)

Turning thirty? Time for artist Joanna Spinelli to put her life plan into action! Will true love be on her to-do list?

Joanna Spinelli was determined to make her design dreams finally happen. Getting a show at Marcus Barlow's art gallery was key. Sure, the straitlaced businessman might be just a little too sedate for her taste. But just one look and she could feel herself melt like chocolate….

She was like a fresh breeze to his all-work, no-play life. And though Marcus appreciated her carefree lifestyle, he knew Joanna would have to change to fit into his world. Yet by asking her to become someone she was not, would Marcus lose the things he cherished in her the most? Or would he finally learn to loosen his tie -- and open his heart?

Good book, though I did have a hard time with the hero.  Joanna is ready to take the next step to make her dreams come true.  All she needs is a way to get her designs in front of the public.  Scoring a chance to show her work at Marcus's gallery is just what she needs.  She's not sure how well they'll deal together since he's pretty conservative and she's not, but she'll do her best.  She didn't expect the heat between them and was very sure that getting involved with him would be a mistake.  But Marcus doesn't seem to agree.

I really liked Joanna.  She knows what she wants to do with her designs and she is determined to find a way to do it.  I loved her visit to Marcus's gallery and the way she refused to be intimidated by the snotty manager.  Her excitement when she got his call was fantastic and gave her a nice boost in confidence.  That excitement dimmed a little when she met him because she felt that her sense of style was one that he didn't really approve of.  She wasn't too sure about his suggestion that she pair her designs with his sister's jewelry but was willing to keep an open mind.  That open mind paid off when she and Vanessa had a chance to meet and get to know each other and they discovered that they could work well together.  Joanna was a little disturbed by his disapproving attitude toward his sister.  She also found that there was a lot that she and Marcus did agree on and their attraction kept building.  There were some great scenes of them together when everything went well. I liked the charity dinner that they went to and how Marcus made a point of introducing her to so many people. There were also times when Joanna's insecurities caused her to feel that being with Marcus was not going to end well, especially when she had to deal with his snob of a mother.  I felt really bad for her when inviting Marcus and his sister to spend Thanksgiving with her family didn't go well.  I loved the fact that she stood up for herself and let him know that if he didn't like her the way she was that was his problem not hers.

I spent most of the book wanting to push Marcus into a really cold body of water to wake him up to what a jerk he was.  I felt a little sorry for him because he'd given up his own dreams when his father died and he had to take over the family business.  But he spent way too much time worrying about appearances and trying to control what his brother and sister did.  I did like the way that he used his gallery to help various artists get started and the way that he shut down the manager when she was snotty about Joanna.  He had a good eye for possibilities which is why he wanted to pair up Joanna and Vanessa.  I didn't like the way he treated Vanessa like a child when they were at lunch with Joanna.  Or the way he kept putting down his brother.  What really made me mad about him was the way he admitted his attraction to Joanna, but kept thinking about how he would have to get her to change certain things so that she would properly fit into his life.  When he went with her for Thanksgiving his attitude about her family was terrible.  It served him right when he later made a comment about her tattoo and she told him to take a hike.  It was satisfying when he finally realized what an idiot he was, and his "go big" moment was pretty darn good.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Undercover Twin - Lena Diaz (HI #1466 - Dec 2013)

Series: Morgan Brothers (Book 2)

DEA agent Nick Morgan had no choice but to break up with the love of his life, Heather Bannon. He knew that if he was seen anywhere near the gorgeous P.I., he could kiss his career goodbye. But when Heather's twin is abducted, Nick reconsiders his priorities.

As Nick leads Heather on a dangerous undercover mission to rescue her sister and topple an elusive drug lord, he knows he was wrong to end their relationship. Working side by side, Nick realizes his love for her is as strong as ever, and he'll risk his life to prove it. Having Heather pose as her twin -- down to her tattoos -- could be genius…or a fatal mistake.

Good book with plenty of action from the beginning.  Heather has started her own business as a private investigator.  She also has a hunky boyfriend in DEA agent Nick Morgan.  Heather also has a twin sister, Lily, who has been in constant trouble.  At the beginning of the book Heather has gone looking for Lily and finds her sniffing cocaine and with a bunch of it in her backpack.  As Heather is trying to get rid of it, they are caught and arrested in a DEA raid - including Nick.  This ends their relationship, Nick being certain he was fooled.  He knows that being around Heather would kill his career.  When Lily is kidnapped and Heather receives a ransom note, Nick can't stay away.  The only way to get Lily back is to attempt a risky undercover operation, but working together is going to be a challenge.

For the most part I liked Heather.  Her love for her sister is strong, even though Lily has caused nothing but trouble for her.  Getting caught by Nick while flushing Lily's cocaine is just one more thing that Lily has screwed up for her.  Heather is especially hurt and angry that Nick won't even listen to her explanation.  But when Lily is kidnapped Nick is the only one she can think of to go to for help.  When the suggestion is made to use Heather as bait to draw out the drug lord who is the suspected kidnapper Heather is determined to help.  She ignores Nick's reservations and goes along with the operation.  For all that she is supposed to be a private investigator, I thought she was pretty naive to think that it was going to be as easy as she was told it would be.  When the operation goes wrong it is Nick that rescues her and she realizes that he was right all along.  Now she has to agree to his conditions if she wants his help to rescue her sister.  As things get more intense in the search for Lily, Heather also realizes that her heart hasn't given up its love for Nick.  She also knows that there's no future for them because of the conflicts with his job and her problems with her sister.  Those problems get worse when Lily is finally found.  The effects of the revelations on Heather are devastating and create what appears to be an unbridgeable gulf between Heather and Nick.  

Nick is a man who is focused on his career as a DEA agent.  When Heather is caught flushing drugs he feels betrayed and cuts off his relationship with her without even asking for an explanation.  He gets suspended from his investigation because of his involvement with her.  Unfortunately he hasn't been able to kill his feelings for her and gets involved when her sister is kidnapped.  Nick is big on trying to control as much as he can and lays out a bunch of conditions if he's going to be the one to help her.  He's stunned when she refuses his conditions and goes with the plan the other DEA  agent comes up with.  Nick has a bad feeling about it and follows, prepared to rescue her if needed.  His instincts were right and he ends up pulling her out of trouble.  From there he helps set up another attempt, this time insisting on her cooperation.  Once again things go bad but this time they are together.  Nick realizes that his feelings for her are stronger than those for his job and takes risks to keep her safe.  His choice at the end saves Heather but apparently destroys her feelings for him.  It really looked like a happy outcome was not going to happen.  I loved seeing them both finally realize what was most important.  It kind of left hanging what they would be doing career wise - I would have liked to have an epilogue with that information.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Last Chance Beauty Queen - Hope Ramsay (Forever - Feb 2012)

Series: Last Chance (Book 3)

Dear Reader,

Gracious me, my beautiful daughter Rocky sure could use my help. I always knew she wasn't much interested in the local boys - but who'd have thought she'd come home with English royalty?

Trouble is, Hugh wants to buy some of our folks' land. We don't want to sell, but Rocky's job depends on her closing the deal. And though Hugh's obviously smitten, I'm not sure he's right for my Rocky. Oh, he's classy and handsome - and you should've seen the way he judged pies and fixed stock cars at our Watermelon Festival! - but what do we know about him, really? I know I sound like a nervous mother hen, but after forty happy years with my Elbert, all I want is to see my little girl find the same.

Well, time for me to quit chattering and get back to Miss Bray's wet set. Always nice talking to you, and remember: the Cut 'n Curl's got hot rollers, free coffee, and the best gossip in town.

See you real soon,
Ruby Rhodes 

Another fun visit to Last Chance.  Rocky/Caroline shook the dust of Last Chance off her feet when she went to college.  She wants more than getting married to her high school sweetheart and reliving her time as Watermelon Queen.  She has remade her image into a cool businesswoman who is the administrative assistant to a senator.  He has assigned her to take Lord Woolham to Last Chance and convince her father to sell his land to Hugh for his factory.  Rocky knows very well that there is no way her dad will sell that land, but her job depends on making this work.  She doesn't expect to find Hugh so darned sexy.  She also doesn't expect to get sucked back into all the small town dramas that she has tried so hard to escape.

I really liked Rocky.  She knows what she wants from her life and is doing her best to get it.  Her assignment to get Hugh the land he needs is causing her some real problems.  She wants to succeed, thereby ensuring her advancement on the senator's staff.  But she is also very loyal to her family and she knows that there is no way that her dad will give up that land.  She sets out to convince Hugh of that fact, but he is set on his plans.  When she arrives in Last Chance she is dismayed to discover that she is going to have to participate in the town's Watermelon Festival activities - bringing back memories of the disaster of the past.  It was a lot of fun seeing the way that Rocky was battling the two sides of her personality.  The one side is her professional life, with her suits and her ambitions.  The other side is the small town girl that she has never quite been able to leave behind.  Both of those sides find Hugh immensely appealing.  The professional side sees the importance of the business he is trying to bring to her town.  The small town girl sees a kind and charming man who seems to really appreciate all the unique characters of her hometown.  She's falling for him and doesn't see any chance of a fairytale ending for herself.

Hugh was great.  He had depended on a business partner to make the land purchases and when that partner was lost in a plane crash discovered that things weren't quite what he expected.  He may be British nobility but he is poor nobility and if he can't make a go of this factory he's going to have to go home and marry for money.  He puts on quite a show of being an uppity Brit when he isn't like that at all.  However, he is desperate to get that land.  He isn't going to let Caroline talk him out of trying to get her father to sell to him.  It doesn't take long after they arrive for him to realize that it isn't going to be as easy as he thought.  The more time he spends in Last Chance, though, the more he likes the town and the people. I especially liked seeing the way that he compared Last Chance to his own (small) hometown. While he has put on a good show, he really would rather work on cars, have a beer with the guys, and spend some time getting to know Rocky.  I really loved seeing him get so involved with the town, to the point of turning down a good offer to build elsewhere, because he wants to help.  I really enjoyed the way that he started falling for Rocky and tried to find a way to make everything work.  There were some great scenes with him and various people around town as he tried to get his land.  The kiss auction was especially fun.

Things really start to get crazy around town as various factions get involved in the whole land issue.  Everyone has an opinion, but it isn't until the end that someone comes up with a viable solution.  The town meeting was absolutely hilarious.

I really loved seeing more of all the characters in town.  Rocky's brother Stone is still the uptight cop, but there might be a few cracks starting to show up.  I really enjoyed seeing all the church ladies and their ongoing efforts to save the Golfing for God miniature golf course.  They also continue to use their penchant for gossip to try to "guide" various members of the town.  There is more from Haley and her "sorrowful angel".  I have a feeling I know the identity of this angel and I'm looking forward to later books to see if I am right.