My Book Reviews
4 Stars
Missing in the Glades - Lena Diaz (HI #1607 - Dec 2015)
Missing in the Glades (Marshland Justice) - Lena Diaz

Series: Marshland Justice (Book 1)

He was looking for a missing person. What he found was a beautiful stranger.


Looking for a fresh start, detective Jake Young headed south on a case that could help launch his PI business. He knew no amount of work would make him forget his tortured past, but maybe Faye Star could help. Caught up in Jake's missing persons case, the distracting Faye was hiding a secret he was begging to find out. Expertly guiding him through the swamps, Jake's job grew more complicated when someone started taking shots at the free-spirited beauty. As much as she protested she could take care of herself, Jake stepped in, refusing to admit how desperately he needed someone to save. Especially since he'd never be able to save himself…


Good book with lots of action, a bit of romance, and a couple of interesting twists. Jake has left his job as a cop to become a private investigator. His first case involves finding a man who is missing in the Everglades. When he finds the man's car, but not the man, he also encounters beautiful Faye Star, who also appears to be looking for the same man. They join forces, but it's soon apparent that there is more to the story than Jake knew.


I loved the first meeting between Jake and Faye. He is definitely a city guy and really skittish in the swamp areas. His reaction when Faye starts shooting is priceless. He doesn't come out on top in that encounter, but when he realizes that she's looking for the same man he is, he's determined to find her again. I loved the way he did it, and then convinced her to help him. One problem that he didn't foresee was the attraction that flares between the two of them. 


Jake tries hard to resist the attraction because there are things about him and his mission there that she doesn't know. He's sure that once she finds out, she'll be too mad at him to want anything more to do with him. Faye is just as attracted to him and quite willing to pursue it. She senses that he's a good man, and feels a bit guilty about some of the things she hasn't told him. As they join forces for the search the secrets weigh on them, but they can't help getting closer. I loved seeing their differing outlooks adapt and adjust. Jake is a practical and logical man, and tends to look askance at her "woo-woo science", but can't deny its effectiveness when it's needed. Faye is more trusting and emotional, but very happy to have Jake's protection when things start to go bad. When their secrets are exposed, both of them have to decide what it means to their futures. I loved seeing Jake's "aha" moment, and what he did to show Faye how he felt. What she did in return was a great way to circle their relationship back to its beginning.


The suspense of the story was very good and kept me hooked. I had a feeling from the start that there was more to the story than was initially apparent. The search for the missing man was terrific, and I loved all the bits about life in the Everglades. What happened when they found him was partially expected, but other parts were a surprise. I felt a bit better about Faye when she came back for Jake, but there were still a lot of unanswered questions. As Jake pursued those answers, and Faye, a second twist in the story made its presence known. This one wasn't a complete surprise, but it added to the intensity of what Jake and Faye needed to do. Fighting the swamp and the bad guys as they tried to get to safety kept the stress level high. The final confrontation was really intense, especially once the alligators got involved. There were still some loose ends to wrap up, some of them involving Faye. I was a bit disappointed in Jake's actions there, but he made up for it in the end.

5 Stars
Lone Rider - B.J. Daniels (HQN - Aug 2015)
Lone Rider (The Montana Hamiltons) - B.J. Daniels

Series: Montana Hamilton (Book 2)

When danger claims her, rescue comes from the one man she least expects


A cowgirl at heart, Bo Hamilton does her best thinking in wide-open spaces. So when money goes missing from the family foundation she runs -- meaning one of her trusted ragtag employees is a thief -- Bo rides into the Crazy Mountains to figure things out. But a killer hiding among the sawtooth ridges takes her captive…and isn't planning on ever letting her go.


Bo's disappearance gets folks thinking she's the guilty one who's run off with the money, but Jace Calder would bet his ranch that she's innocent. Not that he has any reason to trust the beautiful, spoiled senator's daughter. But she also gave his troubled sister a job when no one else would. For his sibling's sake, Jace is going after Bo and bringing her home to face the truth. But up in the mountains, he finds Bo at the mercy of a suspected murderer. As her only hope, Jace is about to find out what they're both made of.


Fantastic second book in the series. Like the first (Wild Horses), I was hooked from the beginning, anxious to see what was going to happen next. In this one, Bo Hamilton heads off by herself for a couple days in the mountains, trying to clear her head. She heads up the family charitable foundation and has discovered that money is missing. She's called an auditor, but is sick to think that one of her employees is stealing from the company. On the morning she's headed back home, she stumbles across an escaped murderer who takes her captive.


Emily Calder is one of Bo's employees and when Bo doesn't show up for work, and no one has seen her, she goes to her brother for help finding her. Jace is reluctant, as he and Bo have a troubled history, but he feels like he owes the woman for giving his sister a job. He's not sure whether she's innocent or not, but either way, he'll bring her back. But the longer it takes him to find her, the more he gets a feeling that something really bad is going on.


The sections that dealt with Bo's captivity and Jace's search for her were intense. The murderer's swings between threatening rages and plans to keep Bo as a long-term "mate" were really creepy. Bo never knew which one she would be dealing with, or what would set him off. I was impressed with the way she tried to stay calm and alert for a chance to escape. I was a bit disappointed in Jace's initial belief that Bo could be guilty of stealing the money, but that was mostly his lingering bitterness over their breakup. I liked the fact that he didn't give up looking for her. Getting her away from the killer wasn't easy, but he did it. Unfortunately, he also knew that he couldn't count on the man giving up. Their escape was complicated by an approaching storm, that not only slowed them down but also kept a search party from being able to look for them. I liked seeing the way that Jace's protectiveness came out, and how he tried to take care of Bo. While they were holed up waiting out the storm, they had a chance to talk some and realize that the feelings they had for each other were still there. But he was wary of trusting those feelings, fearing that it was only because of the danger they were in. Once the storm had passed, they had hopes of being able to make it out, until an encounter with a grizzly bear created still more complications. Then Bo did something really stupid and nearly got herself killed in the final confrontation with the killer and his father. If it hadn't been for Jace overcoming his own injuries, it could have ended very badly for them both. After their rescue, they had a chance to spend time together and get to know each other again. I loved seeing their love grow stronger as they finally put their past troubles behind them. Jace's big moment at the end was so sweet and romantic, there was no doubt about Bo's reaction.


Interspersed among the sections featuring Bo and Jace, were those dealing with her father, her mother, her mother's protector (Russell), and Jace's sister. In the previous book, Bo's mother who had been believed dead after driving her car into the river and being washed away, suddenly reappeared. However, she is suffering from amnesia and doesn't know where she's been for the last twenty-two years. Bo's father, Buckmaster, is running for president and dealing with her and his current wife is creating untold headaches for him. He still has feelings for her, but his current wife is suspicious of Sarah's untimely reappearance. Sarah is having flashes of memories that have her worried that something is very wrong. Meanwhile, Russell believes that Buck knows far more about Sarah's disappearance than he has said and is determined to prove it, and has some pretty outlandish theories. At the same time, Sheriff Frank Curry is trying to investigate and has come across some rather troubling evidence. He's not sure what it all means, but his gut is telling him that there is something strange going on. Nothing is resolved by the end of the book, so I expect more to be revealed in the next. I also expect that the mystery won't be entirely revealed until the last book in the series.


On a somewhat happier note, Jace's sister finally has something good to look forward to. After troubled teen years where she ended up with jail time and an out-of-wedlock child, she is getting her life back on track. She has a good job working for Bo and a nice home for herself and her daughter. And to make things even better, there is a very nice man who is showing a romantic interest in her. I loved seeing the way that Alex was looking out for her, and wasn't put off by her past. It was great to see how he was there to protect her when that past caused problems. It looks like something is finally going right for her, and I hope to see more of her in the future.


There's also some foreshadowing of the next book in the series with the appearance of a couple of journalists, one of whom ends up dead under suspicious circumstances. I'll be interested to see if my suspicions about those circumstances are correct.

5 Stars
Wild Horses - B.J. Daniels (HQN - Feb 2015)
Wild Horses - B.J. Daniels

Series: Montana Hamiltons (Book 1)

It took only one impulsive moment on an empty two-lane highway to cost her everything.


A man's responsible for his own prosperity -- especially if he's Cooper Barnett, the most determined cowboy in the West. No one knows what he sacrificed to claim a piece of Beartooth, Montana, for himself and his beautiful fiancée, Livie. No one knows what he's willing to do for love…until a stranger's twisted vendetta threatens the happy ending they should've had long ago.


One fateful mistake isn't the only secret Livie Hamilton is keeping from her fiancé. Victimized during a treacherous blizzard by a man she thought she could trust, she's pregnant…but unsure who the father is. With an unknown blackmailer threatening to expose her, she must confess to Cooper and trust he'll still protect her. But when the truth falls into place, she may lose the only man she's ever loved -- or worse.


This was an exciting and complicated book. It starts when Livie, having had an argument with her fiance, Cooper, drives off in a huff into a worsening snowstorm. She ends up driving into a ditch, from which a stranger rescues her. Later we find out that she wakes up naked in bed with no idea how she got there or what happened. Three months later, she's receiving blackmail threats, things are still rocky between her and Cooper, and she's three months pregnant with no idea who the father is. To say that she is in turmoil would be an understatement. She knows she has to tell him, but she's worried about how he'll take it. She loves him and doesn't want to lose him.


Cooper is the head wrangler on Livie's father's ranch. After some rough years as a teenager he pulled his life together and has made something of himself. He's got some land of his own and a few wild mustangs that he's training. He's loved Livie since the first time he met her and sometimes has trouble believing that she loves him too. He knows that people are saying that he's marrying her for her money and is determined to prove them all wrong, to the point where he refuses to accept any of the help that her father offers. It doesn't help that he knows her sisters don't think that he's good enough for her. Ever since their argument back in January, he's had a feeling that there's something wrong, and when she finally tells him he doesn't know what to think.


At this point, both Livie and Cooper are in pain and both are somewhat responsible. Livie should have told him what happened as soon as she got back, instead of pretending everything was fine. She compounded the problem when she didn't tell him about the pregnancy or the blackmail notes, leaving him feeling like she neither loves nor trusts him. On the other hand, if Cooper hadn't been so proud and unwilling to bend even a little, Livie might have felt more comfortable going to him right away. I did like the fact that once he recovered from the shock, Cooper was determined to track down the mysterious man and get to the bottom of the trouble. But it turns out to be more complicated than either expected.


The house she was taken to doesn't belong to the blackmailer, but there may be a connection to the lady of the house. The man turns up in Beartooth, but claims he's not blackmailing her, never slept with her, only drugged her so she could sleep. After the man confronts Livie while she's alone, Cooper goes looking for him. The next day, the man is found dead and Cooper accused of his murder. Adding another layer of stress to the relationship between Cooper and Livie, his former girlfriend wants him back and will do anything to make it happen. One of Livie's rejected suitors also gets in on the action. 


Livie's father, Senator Buckmaster Hamilton, has spoiled his six daughters since the death of their mother twenty-two years earlier, trying to make up for her loss by giving them what they want. He married again, but Angelina wasn't interested in being a mother, just advancing her husband's political career. Now that he's a possible candidate for president, she's worried about how all these problems will affect their plans. Things get even more complicated when his first wife, Sarah, turns up, very much alive, but with amnesia. She claims she just wants a chance to get to know her daughters, but people are skeptical. Angelina is furious, but how far is she willing to go to protect her husband's political career?


The tension and surprises just kept building throughout the book. With the problems they were having, I really wasn't sure at the beginning just how good a chance Cooper and Livie had to make a go of their relationship. It wasn't easy, but they did manage to earn back each other's trust, and belief in their future. As for the blackmailer and the murderer, there were several twists that kept me guessing as to who it might be. I had a feeling about the identity, but I couldn't figure out the why and the how until almost the end. There was also a last bit of a threat to Livie's life, where only her ability to stay calm in a crisis kept her safe until Cooper could come to her rescue. While the mystery of the threat to Livie is solved by the end of the book, the questions of Sarah's return carry over into the next book. 


I also enjoyed the appearances of various characters from the Beartooth, Montana series, especially Sheriff Frank Curry. He is the lawman in charge of the murder investigation and the questions surrounding Sarah's return from the dead. There is a glimpse into his continuing issue with the young woman who tried to kill him. 

5 Stars
A Princess Under the Mistletoe - Leanne Banks (HSE #2446 - Dec 2015)
A Princess Under the Mistletoe (Royal Babies) - Leanne Banks

Series: Royal Babies (Book 5)



Princess Sasha of Sergenia was born to rule, not change dirty diapers. But after threats force her family into exile, Sasha becomes "Sara," a nurturing nanny in Chantaine. Now, rather than having servants wait on her during holiday festivities, Sasha is caring for construction specialist Gavin Sinclair's children for Christmas. Baby Adelaide and five-year-old Sam win her heart, but their father makes her pulse pound…


For Gavin, "Sara" is a holiday miracle. Since his late wife died in childbirth, Gavin has struggled to keep his life afloat and his family together. This unexpected addition has brightened his world -- and made him wonder if love might be on the horizon. He knows the mysterious nanny has secrets aplenty. But is true love enough to create a fairy-tale ending under the mistletoe for the sexy single dad and the lovely royal?


Very good story. Sasha and her sister were forced to flee their country and have taken refuge in Chantaine. In order to maintain their anonymity, both she and Tabitha have taken on fake names and the Chantaine royal family have helped them find jobs. So instead of her career as the princess concert pianist, Sasha has become Sara the nanny. The book opens as she arrives to take her first position as nanny to American construction specialist Gavin's children. She's a bit worried about how she'll do, but is determined to do her best.


I really liked Sara. She's worried about her brother, who is missing, and her sister, who is having a hard time with their exile, but she tries very hard to keep a positive outlook. I loved the way that she wanted to make things better for little Sam, who was struggling so hard with his grief for his mother. She seemed to know just when to push him a little and when to just let him be. I also loved seeing her cuddle with baby Adelaide. As the days went on it was obvious that she was falling for the children. But it was her growing feelings for Gavin that had her in turmoil.


I also liked Gavin. He hasn't had it easy since his wife's death, with trying to take care of his children and keep on top of his construction business. Because of his hours and the children's challenges, he has been through multiple nannies, and doesn't have much confidence that Sara will be any different. It doesn't take long before he realizes that she's making a huge impact on his children's lives, but that's nothing to the impact she's having on his.


I loved the development of their relationship. They are very attracted to each other, but Sara knows that it can go nowhere because of who she is and her need to keep it a secret. But the more time she spends with him, the more she wants to take a chance and just live a little. She didn't expect her heart to get involved so quickly. With Gavin it starts as simple attraction, a desire that he hasn't felt since before his wife died. He's carrying a load of guilt because the marriage had been in trouble and he felt that he was responsible for it. He's not so sure that he deserves any happiness because of it. I loved seeing how Sara's frequent comments on how good a father he is begin to lessen those feelings and open his eyes and heart to the idea that he could love again. I hurt for him when he let her know what he wanted and she refused him. He's hurt and angry that she won't trust him with her secrets. 


There's an interesting twist involving Sara's sister, though what it is wasn't hard to figure out early on. The question becomes one of what effect it is going to have on Sara's future. I loved seeing her face the issue head on, and then finally be able to share the truth with Gavin. What he does with the information and what he says to Sara shows how far he has come. The ending is sweet and romantic, and left me anxious to see what will happen with Sara's sister and brother.


Young Sam was adorable and I loved how Sara's love helped him through his grief for his mother. He was so quiet and sad at the beginning, then his natural mischievousness began to emerge. I loved the scene with him and his sister and the green magic marker. It was so realistic that I could picture it as I read it. I loved his part in the epilogue and how it showed how far he had come.

5 Stars
His Texas Christmas Bride - Nancy Robards Thompson (HSE #2440 - Nov 2015)
His Texas Christmas Bride (Celebrations, Inc.) - Nancy Robards Thompson

Series: Celebrations Inc (Book 9)



Join Becca Flannigan and Nick Ciotti as they promise to love, honor and cherish each other in front of their family and friends…and her baby bump! The blushing bride-to-be is carrying double duty -- twins -- from one passionate night with a mysterious bad boy. When Becca lands in the hospital, who should treat her but Nick? He's the new doc in town, but his bedside manner is all too familiar…


Becca and Nick begin to bond, but can Dr. Delicious leave his painful past behind him to create a family of his own? Add in Becca's worries about her own future, and you've got one apprehensive engagement! With a little Christmas magic for the bride and groom, this may be the happiest-ever-after in Celebration!


Very good book. Nick and Becca met when he was in Celebration interviewing for a job at the hospital and she was there because her nephew had been in an accident. Becca's sister was being rather nasty to Becca and Nick helped her out with some information. They ran into each other again a short time later at a restaurant and the chemistry between them had Becca indulging in an uncharacteristic one night stand. A short time later she discovered she was pregnant and tried unsuccessfully to find Nick to tell him. A couple months later she lands in the hospital with food poisoning and is treated by Nick, who had just started working there.


That meeting is beyond awkward. Becca is not at her best, and it certainly isn't the way she had expected to tell Nick he was going to be a father. To say that Nick is stunned would be putting it mildly. As the hospital ER is not the place for discussion, they make plans for Nick to visit the next day so they can talk.


I liked Becca. She is a strong and independent woman who, once she gets over the shock, is ready to be the best mother she can be, She does have some family issues, with parents who are wealthy but not the warmest of parents, and a sister with whom she has always had a difficult relationship. She's been reluctant to reveal her pregnancy, not wanting to deal with the drama they would create. When she and Nick connect, she makes it clear that she doesn't expect anything from him, though she will welcome his involvement if he wants it.


I also liked Nick. His kindness to Becca at their first meeting showed that he does have a good heart. He is surprised to find out that she's pregnant and it really throws him. He doesn't believe that he has the ability to be a good father or husband. Due to a tragedy when he was a teenager, his family broke apart. He holds himself responsible for what had happened and as a result doesn't let anyone get close to him. He had been married before, but his workaholic tendencies, developed to protect himself, ended the marriage. He tells Becca that he will provide financially, but not to expect anything else from him.


In spite of what he said, he finds himself wanting to get to know Becca better and pursue the connection that they have thanks to her pregnancy. As they start spending time together, Becca wants Nick to see that he can become part of the Celebration community. I loved watching her introduce him to her friends and get him involved in the small town life. Nick has spent so long avoiding involvement with anyone that being around Becca is sometimes overwhelming, but he can't stay away. I really enjoyed seeing him at her friends' house for the Sunday football game and how he fit right in. I also found it pretty funny that he was jealous of the guy who was flirting with her since he had been telling himself that he wasn't going to get emotionally involved.


I loved seeing him insist on going to her doctor's appointment with her, and how he was there when they found out she was having twins. He gets very protective of her and discovers that he really likes being with her. I loved how he insisted on going with her when she told her parents, and how he stood up to them, especially her mother, when they started being obnoxious. I felt bad for him during the Thanksgiving dinner scene, when it seemed like everyone was ganging up on them. That much family, and opinionated at that, was really overwhelming for him. I liked the way that Becca was able to get him to talk about his past, and how she tried to get him to see that it wasn't his fault. I loved the way she encouraged him to mend the rift with his father. It was sweet to see how Becca's way of letting him adjust to all his new realities on his own terms helped him to see that he wanted the chance to be a family with her and the babies. His big moment at the end was sweet and romantic and perfect for the two of them.

4 Stars
The Bull Rider's Son - Cathy McDavid (HAR #1554 - July 2015)
The Bull Rider's Son (Reckless, Arizona) - Cathy McDavid

Series: Reckless Arizona (Book 3)



Cassidy Beckett has a secret she's kept for six years: the identity of her son's father. She can't hide the truth much longer. The Easy Money Arena's new bull manager, Shane Westcott, also happens to be the boy's handsome uncle. But Cassidy will do anything to protect her young son, even if it means steeling her heart against Shane's nearly irresistible charm.


It doesn't take Shane long to figure out two things -- Cassidy's son is his nephew, and his feelings for the boy's beautiful mother go way beyond friendship. As a single dad, Shane knows how important a father is to a child. He also knows the men in Cassidy's life have let her down before. Can Shane convince Cassidy to face the truth without losing her trust…or his heart?


Good conclusion to the Reckless, Arizona series. Cassidy has resisted telling anyone who her son's father is, including the man himself. When her father hires Shane as the ranch's new bull manager, she knows that her time is running out. Shane is her ex's brother and he's sure to figure it out. She's worried about what will happen when he does.


Shane is a former bull rider and single father. He hadn't known about his daughter until he quit the rodeo and her mother decided he was responsible enough to handle it. He has come to terms with having been shut out and is determined to be a good father to her. 


Shane and Cassidy had dated for awhile years earlier, but it hadn't worked out. There is definitely some spark left between them, and Shane is ready to pursue it. When he discovers the truth about Benji he is upset on his brother's behalf. He confronts Cassidy and insists on her doing the right thing and letting Hoyt know about Benji. Cassidy is reluctant, afraid that she could lose Benji.


I really liked Shane. He has a terrific relationship with his daughter, and has mended fences with his ex as they work together for the good of their daughter. He figures out the truth about Benji pretty quickly, and because he's been there wants to make sure that his brother knows about his son. But he's also attracted to Cassidy and wants to pursue a relationship with her. I liked the way that he was direct with her about her need to contact Hoyt. He also let her know that he was there to support her and would help her through it. 


I had a tougher time liking Cassidy. In the previous books she is the one who has been totally against her father's attempts at reconciliation. She remembers the upheaval caused by his drinking, and the actions that finally caused her parents' split. She also carries some guilty feelings about it, which increases her anger over what she sees happening now. I was really irritated by her seemingly constant negative attitude regarding both her father and Hoyt. It seemed like every time something happened, she would envision the worst case scenarios that could result from it. 


I liked the relationship that grew between Shane and Cassidy. He is strong and caring and understands her fears. He's there to support her through his brother and Benji meeting, and tries to help make the transition go smoothly. Cassidy has fallen hard for Shane, but there's a small part of her that still expects the worst to happen. When a conflict over Hoyt's actions with Benji arises and Shane doesn't behave as she thinks he should, Cassidy regards it as the worst kind of betrayal. It takes some blunt talk from a friend and her mother for Cassidy to see how unfair she was being to Shane. Shane also realizes that he could have handled things better. I have to say that I didn't like Hoyt much. I thought he was selfish and manipulative, though he did seem to improve a bit by the end. I liked the ending and seeing how everything came together.

5 Stars
The Trouble with Texas Cowboys - Carolyn Brown (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Jan 2015)
The Trouble with Texas Cowboys (Burnt Boot, Texas) - Carolyn Brown

Series: Burnt Boot Texas (Book 2)

Can a girl ever have too many cowboys?


No sooner does pint-sized spitfire Jill Cleary set foot on Fiddle Creek Ranch than she finds herself in the middle of a hundred-year-old feud. Quaid Brennan and Tyrell Gallagher are both tall, handsome, and rich...and both are courting Jill to within an inch of her life. She's doing her best to give these feuding ranchers equal time-too bad it's dark-eyed Sawyer O'Donnell who makes her blood boil and her hormones hum.


This was a really fun book. Sawyer has been hired as the foreman of Fiddle Creek Ranch and is just moving into the bunkhouse when he's confronted by a woman with a shotgun. Jill Cleary is the niece of the ranch owner and has come to learn the ins and outs of the ranch she will someday inherit. Once their identities are straightened out, a truce is called between them - just in time for them to need each other's help.


Fiddle Creek is located on land in between two feuding families, families that both want that land. Both sides think that the best way to reach their goal is by marriage. Jill finds herself caught in the crosshairs of two good looking cowboys determined to win her hand. She starts out willing to give each of them a chance, but quickly discovers that it's Sawyer that has her attention.


Sawyer finds himself in the middle of his own nightmare. He's got a woman from each of the two feuding families intent on hogtying him and he wants nothing to do with either one of them. Unfortunately, neither one is listening when he tells them no. He's far more interested in Jill, but they have to work together, which makes anything else a bad idea.


The book starts out with both Sawyer and Jill getting blindsided by Brennans and Gallaghers, invited to Sunday meals before they can figure out how to say no. Jill finds it hard to believe that these guys are so intent on wooing her, but has to believe it after Sawyer explains the feud, her ranch, and its place in the scheme of things. The dinner scenes and the feud activities during them were really funny to read. When it was all over, Sawyer and Jill made a pact to support and protect each other from both sides. 


They have just started getting into the swing of things on the ranch when Polly, friend of Jill's Aunt Gladys, breaks her ankle. With Gladys needed to take care of her, that leave Jill and Sawyer also left with the responsibilities of running Gladys's store and Polly's bar. They discover that if they stick together they have a better chance of making it through the crazy actions of the two feuding families. The attraction that started to sizzle as soon as they met continues to grow, and their feelings right along with it. I liked the way that Jill is feisty and straightforward. She's got some hurt in her past that makes her a little wary of getting involved with Sawyer at first. She has some pretty amusing conversations with herself as she's trying to keep her distance, but once she makes the jump, she's all in. Sawyer has his own heartbreak, but once he's gotten to know Jill he realizes that she's the one for him. He's funny and sexy and sweet all wrapped up together. He has a few moments of thinking he's not good enough for her, but those don't last too long. I loved watching their relationship go from friendship and support sliding into love before they realized it. There was no huge conflict or misunderstanding to drive them apart, just the realization that they wanted to be together forever. Sawyer has some really sweet and romantic moments during the buildup to the end.


The antics of the two feuding families keep the story line hopping. The opening salvos of the "pig wars" have Sawyer and Jill shaking their heads in disbelief. The propensity of the two sides to descend into fighting at the drop of a hat makes for some pretty stressful yet hilarious moments. The bar fight between the two women was pretty funny, with the men standing back, not quite sure what to do (other than place bets on the winner). I loved Jill's simple way of stopping it. Things got a little tense when Sawyer and Jill got kidnapped after work one night, then kidnapped from the kidnappers. Sawyer's presence of mind got them out of that predicament, but left both of them ticked at the stupidity of it all. I enjoyed Jill's way of getting a little bit even with them both. I got a giggle over the two kittens that came from the feuding cowboys and the names that Sawyer and Jill gave them. The battles between the two sides continued with more livestock heists, and a refusal of either side to back down. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next book.

5 Stars
A New Hope - Robyn Carr (Mira - July 2015)
A New Hope (Thunder Point) - Robyn Carr

Series: Thunder Point (Book 8)

After losing her child, Ginger Dysart was lost in grief. But since moving to Thunder Point, a small town on the Oregon coast, Ginger is finally moving forward. Her job at the flower shop is peaceful and fulfilling, and she's excited to be assisting with the Lacoumette wedding.


In spite of her lasting heartache, Ginger is swept up in the pleasure of the occasion. But the beauty of the Lacoumette farm and the joy of the gregarious family are ruined by an unfortunate encounter with the bride's brother, Matt. Struggling with painful memories of his own, Matt makes a drunken spectacle of himself when he tries to make a pass at Ginger, forcing her to flee the scene in embarrassment.


But when Matt shows up at the flower shop determined to make amends, what started out as a humiliating first meeting blossoms into something much deeper than either of them expected. Everyone around them worries that Ginger will end up with a broken heart yet again. But if Ginger has the courage to embrace the future, and if Matt can finally learn to let go of the past, there may still be hope for a happy ending.


Very good book. Ginger was introduced in the previous book (One Wish). She came to Thunder Point to get away from the memories of her failed marriage and the child she lost to SIDS. Her Aunt Ray Anne helped Ginger out of her depression and to the point where she was starting to live life again. Ginger got a job helping Grace in her flower shop and has learned to let go of the past. When this book opens, Ginger is helping Grace with the flowers at Peyton and Scott's wedding when she encounters Peyton's brother Matt. Matt is quite drunk and makes a pass at Ginger that results in her shoving him away and him falling and hitting his head and being knocked out cold. 


Matt also has a failed marriage in his past, one that has made him angry and bitter. He copes with the memories raised by his sister's wedding by getting smashed and accosting one of the guests. Once he has sobered up he is ashamed of what he did and determined to apologize to Ginger. He heads to Thunder Point to make his apology in person, and discovers that he'd actually like to get to know her better.


I really enjoyed this encounter. Matt is completely honest with Ginger, telling her that he is truly sorry and that he really has no excuse for how he behaved. Originally he planned to apologize and leave, but he finds himself intrigued by Ginger and asks her to dinner as part of his apology. They are honest with each other, agreeing that neither is ready for a new relationship, but perhaps they can be friends. As friends they find themselves talking on the phone every night, sharing what happened during their day, and getting to know each other on a deeper level.


I loved seeing the way that Ginger and Matt were so much alike. Both had had marriages that fell apart mostly because they had simply married the wrong person for them. Ginger had an idealized vision of her husband, and ignored the parts where he told her that he wasn't what she thought he was. She showed a lot of growth as she came to realize that much of the problem was caused by her unrealistic views. Matt had a similar problem, in that he married a woman he was attracted to, but she hated his life as a farmer. They fought a lot, and then she did something he considered such a betrayal that he could no longer tolerate being married to her. He still harbors a lot of anger toward her. As Ginger and Matt get to know each other better, the relationship starts to change. Matt gets a bit spooked at one point by the strength of what he's feeling and his worry that he might be making another mistake, and he pulls back. This creates a bit of conflict between the two, but they do manage to work it out.  I loved the fact that they are mature enough to actually talk to each other, though sometimes it takes a bit of extra prodding to do so. One of the best things was that they were able to be themselves with each other. Neither one felt the need to try to change themselves or the other person. I loved Ginger's visits to the farm and how she was so different from his ex that he finally stopped trying to compare the two. 


Their relationship progresses quite well, but there are still some lingering issues from their previous marriages that they have to overcome before they can move on together. Ginger's face off with her ex went really well. I loved her logical look at what was going on and how she stood up for her own desires. Mick's complete self-centered attitude made it hard for him to accept that she wanted nothing more to do with him. I had a little bit of a problem with Ginger when she shut Matt out of the anniversary of her baby's death. It said a lot about how his feelings for her that he figured out what was going on and that he was there for her anyway. But if they were going to be able to have a life together, Matt still had to face his feelings for his ex and get rid of the anger. I loved the way that Ginger tried to make him see the importance of it. When he finally did it, the emotional consequences were intense, but he finally saw what Ginger had been trying to tell him. Their final scene shows what is possible for them now that their baggage has been unloaded.


Throughout the book there are also scenes with previous characters. Matt's sister Peyton makes several appearances, especially as Matt is trying to get her to stop interfering in his life. There are a couple pretty amusing scenes when she is called out for the habit. I also loved Matt's family with their support of him, even when his behavior causes trouble. Their acceptance of Ginger was pretty sweet. There is also a fair amount of time spent with Grace and Troy as they get their house built, Grace's mother moved in, and their wedding planned and carried out. Her mother has definitely been mellowing in her attempts to repair her relationship with Grace. Two new characters, the nurse Lin Su and her son Charlie, are introduced. Charlie had health issues as a child though now are mostly under control, but Lin Su is extremely overprotective. I liked seeing Winnie's friendship with him, and how that friendship encourages her to interfere a little bit in their lives. I'm looking forward to seeing what is in store for them.

5 Stars
Holding Strong - Lori Foster (HQN - Apr 2015)
Holding Strong - Lori Foster

Series: Ultimate (Book 2)

Heavyweight fighter Denver Lewis plays real nice, but he doesn't share. That's why he's been avoiding top-notch flirt Cherry Peyton. But a man can only resist those lush curves for so long. Their encounter surpasses all his fantasies, bringing out protective urges that Cherry's about to need more than she knows...


Denver's combination of pure muscle and unexpected tenderness has been driving Cherry wild. Yet no sooner does she get what she's been craving than old troubles show up on her doorstep. And this time, Cherry can't hide behind a carefree facade. Because the man by her side is one who'll fight like hell to keep her safe...if only she'll trust him enough to let him...


Very good book. Cherry is a sweet girl with a difficult past. She makes friends easily, and through her roommate has become a regular at the fights and club that includes Denver. She comes across as a bit of a flirt, thanks to her close friendships with a lot of the fighters. But Denver is the one she is really interested in, and he pretty much ignores her. So she gets a little flirtier with the others in an attempt to convince herself that it doesn't matter.


Denver has definitely noticed Cherry, and is very attracted to her. But her ease with the guys brings back memories of another woman and makes him avoid her. After they've all attended the fight of another member of the club, he finally gives in to the desire. They have a smoking hot night together, but in the morning he discovers she's come down with a bug that's going around. His protectiveness kicks in as he takes care of her, then gets an added boost when he finds out there are three shady characters claiming to be family looking for her.


I liked Denver. He's definitely an alpha guy, protective, strong, and a bit controlling. He's also got a sweet side that shows up in the way he takes care of Cherry while she's sick. He's got a good focus on his growing career as an MMA fighter, as well as his career as an accountant. On the down side, he's definitely a bit of a sexist and some of the things he says can rub the wrong way. He also has a tendency to be jealous and jump to conclusions, at least at the beginning. After that first night together, then the next few days taking care of her, Denver starts to realize that what he's feeling for Cherry is more than just lust and it scares him. He's not so sure he's ready for what that means. He is sure that he isn't going to leave her alone to face whatever it is that's after her.


I liked Cherry a lot. She is a survivor. After the deaths of her drug dealer parents,she ended up in a foster home that was even worse. The three sons of the family were horrible, with the oldest being the worst. The things that he did to torment her, and the things that he attempted, could have left her a mess, but she got away and made a good life for herself. She has been in love with Denver since shortly after she met him, but believing that he didn't like her tried to leave him alone. She was ecstatic when they finally got together, and really bummed when she got sick. Her independence takes a hit when he insists on taking care of her. When she finds out that her "brothers" are looking for her, she is terrified, and not just for herself. She's certain that they will find a way to hurt anyone she cares for and tries to keep Denver from getting involved.


This brings the main conflict between Denver and Cherry to the forefront. Neither of them is good at trusting other people, and opening up to each other is a hard thing to do. Denver continues to insist on Cherry telling him everything, and eventually she does, but she's not happy about it. She's sure that when he knows everything, Denver won't want anything more to do with her. I loved seeing him prove her wrong. He is there to protect her, but he also shows his respect for her by actually listening to what she wants to do about the men after her. Denver has things in his past that he has no intention of telling her, in spite of his insistence on honesty from her. But when a piece of his past shows up, he discovers he's willing to share with her after all. I loved the confrontation at the gym that showed how Cherry had his back and how that changed his feelings. Cherry's love for Denver is strong, but she doesn't know if his care of her is because of his protective nature or if he really does have feelings for her. Until she knows, she's reluctant to speak about her own feelings. When Denver figures his out, he's wary of saying anything until he has a better idea of how she really feels about him. I loved their confessions because of how they came about.


The suspense of the story, with the three guys who were after Cherry was really good. I loved seeing how Denver's support made her stronger and better able to deal with them. The parts that dealt with them showed just how horrible they were and what Cherry was up against. Her reluctance to have anyone else get involved was overcome by Denver's insistence on helping. And because Cherry was considered to be part of the fight "family", the rest of the guys also got involved, including a couple of my favorite cops from the previous series. When the final confrontation came, I loved the way that Cherry stood up to him, giving Denver time to arrive. The takedown was awesome and Denver's actions were totally believable given his feelings for Cherry.


I loved the scene at Cannon's wedding, as each of the fighters and their ladies get some attention. I really enjoyed seeing how Denver is now so confident in Cherry's love that he can handle her dancing with others. I really liked the bit at the end, with Merissa asking Armie to dance. The last chapter of the wedding told from Cannon's point of view, and his realization of their feelings for each other was great. It makes me even more anxious to read their story.


One of my favorite things about this series is the relationships among the various fighters. I love the way they tease each other. They are also always there for each other, whether it's filling in at the gym, moral support at a fight event, or backup when there's trouble. I also like the way these guys give back to the community with programs for kids, teens and adults, and neighborhood patrols to help keep trouble away. It shows what big hearts they have underneath those tough guy exteriors.

4 Stars
Hard Knocks - Lori Foster (HQN - Aug 2014)
Hard Knocks: An Ultimate Novella - Lori Foster

Series: Ultimate (Book .5)

Power. Brute strength. Unforgettable moves. It's no wonder Harper Gates hasn't been able to get her fling with Gage "Savage" Ringer out of her head. Months have passed since she laid eyes—or any other body parts—on him. Months without a word of contact…until, sidelined by injury, he comes back to town.


Staying focused on his training seemed like a smart move to Gage, even if he thought about Harper every day. Seeing her again only makes it clear how much is at stake. He's got one night to earn back her trust. One night to show her that behind his breathtaking skill and ripped body is a man who'll give her everything she needs.


Good quick read to open the new Ultimate series. Before he left to train for the next level of fighting, Gage and Harper had been spending a lot of time together. Things were getting hot and heavy, but before they could take it to the next level, Gage was gone. It has been months since she has seen or heard from him, until he suddenly shows back up.


This was a lot of fun to read. Because it was so short, there isn't a lot of time to develop a conflict. We learn quickly that they got to know each other pretty well. Harper is at home at the gym and gets along well with all the guys. She understands the fight world and knows that Gage has had to concentrate on his training. That doesn't make it any easier for her to handle his absence. When an injury sends him back home, she's at a loss to decide what she wants. Stay away and protect her heart from being broken again? Or jump in and take what she can get?


Gage hadn't realized just how much he was going to miss Harper while he was gone. He concentrated on his training, but she'd creep into his thoughts whenever he'd let his guard down. Not being able to participate in his planned match frustrates him a lot, but not as much as being close to Harper without being able to be with her. He needs to find a way to show her just how much he needs her.


The chemistry between Gage and Harper is smoking hot, and burns bright between them. I loved the way that Harper knew him so well that she could tell he was upset about not being able to fight. It was fun to see that she didn't get all sweet and sympathetic but gave him a hard time instead. I loved her way of distracting him. I loved the way the other fighters could see how much Gage and Harper loved each other and tried to help. Gage's surprise at realizing just what his feelings were was great. It was sweet to see his determination to show her how he felt and how he couldn't wait to tell her. I loved seeing what happened when they finally talked to each other.


The story works well to introduce Gage's friends and fellow fighters. Each one gets a short appearance and the reader gets a sense of that fighter's personality. I loved seeing how they teased each other, but were also there to support each other. I also enjoyed seeing how these big bad fighters are also great with the kids at the gym and terrific role models for the teens. I'm really looking forward to each one's story and their battles with the forces of love. 

4 Stars
Scene of the Crime: The Deputy's Proof - Carla Cassidy (HI #1600 - Nov 2015)
Scene of the Crime: The Deputy's Proof (Harlequin Intrigue) - Carla Cassidy

Series: Scene of the Crime (Book 11)

This deputy was looking for redemption from a mysterious beauty…


Ever since Savannah Sinclair's sister was killed, her ghost has become part of local lore. But deputy Josh Griffin knows the truth behind this charade. And when Savannah is attacked, Josh vows to keep the grieving beauty safe. He soon finds that even though he's protecting Savannah, it's his heart that's under fire…


Savannah only posed as her sister's spirit to keep her sibling alive -- not to put herself in harm's way. But as Josh, her "bodyguard," stirs up feelings she thought long dead, Savannah can't help but wonder: Can her lone protector keep yet another Sinclair sister from being murdered?


Good book. This is a continuation of the mystery started in Scene of the Crime: Killer Cove, with the return of the man originally suspected of killing Shelly Sinclair. The true murderer has not yet been found, but Shelly's "ghost" continues to appear on a regular basis, keeping her name in front of the public.


The ghost is actually Shelly's younger sister Savannah, who has been playing ghost as a way to deal with her grief. Ever since Shelly's murder, Savannah has drawn in more on herself, only working her night job at the Inn, and keeping to her house except when playing ghost. One night she is caught by Deputy Josh Griffin, who tells her that, for her own safety, it's time to give up the act. 


Josh has been attracted to Savannah for several years, but since her sister's death she has been unapproachable. When he figured out that it was Savannah who was playing ghost, he became very worried about her, especially when he found out about the tunnels she was using. He had never known about their existence and wondered who else knew. When Savannah is attacked on her last night as Shelly's ghost, Josh is determined to find out who and why.


There's a definite attraction between Josh and Savannah, but she is afraid to give in to it. Ever since her sister's death, Savannah has kept all her emotions buried so deep that she has been only existing from day to day. I got very frustrated with the way that she hid in her house, resisting Josh's attempts to bring her back into the world of the living. Every time he got a little close and stirred up her emotions, she would push him away and go back to hiding. I thought that Josh had a tremendous amount of patience with the way that he would try to ease her back into being around people. I loved seeing him comfort her when she was scared or sad. There was progress in the relationship, as Josh's patience has Savannah slowly opening up to him and also start reconnecting with other people. Eventually she has to decide if she is willing to risk living and loving again.


The suspense of the story is very good. Shelly's murder is still unsolved, with Josh and his friend and fellow deputy Daniel unhappy about the way the investigation was handled. With the discovery of the tunnels, Josh wonders if the murderer used them in the commission of the crime, and if there might be some clues down there. He reports their existence to the sheriff, who along with the mayor begin mapping them. In the meantime, Josh is watching out for Savannah. She is attacked one night at work by someone who is determined to kill her for "ruining everything". Just when she believes that the danger has passed, she is taken captive by someone who has a lot to lose. The rescue is intense, with Josh and Savannah barely escaping with their lives. I loved Josh's final confrontation with the bad guy and seeing him come out on top. While the mystery of the attacks on Savannah has been solved, the question of Shelly's murder is still unanswered. There's another book coming, and I hope that will finally provide the answers.

5 Stars
Rescue Me - Catherine Mann (Berkley - Feb 2015)
Rescue Me (Second Chance Ranch) - Catherine Mann

Series: Second Chance Ranch (Book 2)

Detective AJ Parker left undercover work in Atlanta to join a small-town Tennessee police force, hoping for an easier workload and the solitude of his cabin. But the scars left by AJ's previous work are more difficult to escape than he thought...


Mary Hannah Gallo works with the Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue to train therapy dogs for traumatized patients. It isn't easy, but her life is under control--until she meets the broodingly sensual AJ, who rattles her composure all the way to her toes.


After an assignment confiscating dogs from a backyard breeder reveals a dangerous drug operation, AJ must work with sexy perfectionist Mary Hannah to train an abused rescue dog--a dog now named Holly. While Holly proves to these two very different people that opposites can, in fact, attract, she also knows more than a few explosive secrets that could heal--or divide--the entire town.


Very emotional story of love and healing, both human and canine. The book starts from the viewpoint of a rescued boxer dog. It begins as she is describing what her life has been like up to that point, and what had kept her from total despair. I loved her take on human television shows, and the way she enjoyed them. The rescue, from her viewpoint, was both wonderful and terrifying. The descriptions of her feelings, from cabin to shelter to ranch to her forever home were so vivid that I almost felt like I was there with her.


AJ is a new addition to the Cooksburg police force. He left his job as an undercover narcotics detective in Atlanta after a really tough assignment where he also got involved with a woman and child. When things went bad he knew he had to get away, so he accepted his cousin's offer to join the force there. He feels like he's settling in well and adjusting to his new life.


Mary Hannah works with the Second Chance rescue group as part of her job as a counselor. She trains therapy dogs as well as working with abused animals. Everything she does is a way for her to atone for the mistakes she made in the past; mistakes that ended her marriage and caused her to miscarry her baby. Mary Hannah keeps pretty tight control over her life, except for one night a few months earlier. After a really bad day, a stop at a bar had her hooking up with a really hot guy for a little comfort, someone she never expected to see again. Imagine her shock and dismay to discover that he's a new cop on the force and her next door neighbor.


They are brought together again by the raid on a dog breeder's house that also turns out to be a meth house. AJ is there to make the arrest, and Mary Hannah is with the rescue group who is taking care of the dogs. Both of them are drawn to the female boxer that is one of the rescues. When AJ is told by his boss that he's still too emotionally close to the edge, he assigns AJ to work with Mary Hannah and Holly to train the dog for therapy work. Though reluctant at first, AJ soon sees it as a chance to get closer to Mary Hannah.


The attraction between them is still very strong. Working with the dog gives them time to really get to know each other and their feelings continue to grow. Then the day comes that Mary Hannah finds out what happened to AJ at his last job and she realizes that she can never be the right person for him. She says that she is the arsonist to his fireman and that there is no future for them. I understood AJ's reaction, though I had hoped for better. Fortunately, they have to continue to work together, with Holly, who seems to see what they need more clearly than they do. I loved seeing how their ability to forgive each other helps them forgive themselves and finally open up their hearts to the risks of love.


There are some sad yet heartwarming moments as Holly bonds with AJ and Mary Hannah. Her initial caution about even getting close made me want to cry. I loved seeing her settle into AJ's house with him, and her slow release of her fears. Her actions with the tv remote that began her real bonding with him was adorable, and I loved his reaction. I really enjoyed Holly's opinions about what was going on between her humans, and her determination to bring them together. Thanks to an unexpected twist, Holly plays a big part in shutting down the drug operation that kept her captive.


There is a secondary story between Lacey McDaniel (Shelter Me), owner of the Second Chance Ranch, and AJ's cousin Wyatt. Lacey and Wyatt have been dating for the past year and Wyatt is beginning to push for more. Lacey isn't sure what she wants, as she is still recovering from her husband's death. She also has a lot going on with the rescue, her teenage son, father-in-law with Alzheimer's, and visiting daughter and son-in-law. There is an added complication that has added stress to her decision, but in the end she listens to her heart.


I can't wait to read the next book and hope that it comes out soon.

5 Stars
Shelter Me - Catherine Mann (Berkley - Aug 2014)
Shelter Me - Catherine Mann

Series: Second Chance Ranch (Book 1)

Nestled in the sunny fields of Tennessee lies the McDaniel family's Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue. Two new arrivals are on their way, but only one is the four-legged kind.


Staff Sergeant Mike Kowalski wants only one thing after he gets home from Iraq: to sleep in a king-sized bed with clean sheets. But first, he has to hand off his fallen commander's dog, Trooper, to his family without handing off his heart to Sierra...


Sierra McDaniel needs a break. Her family life is crazy, and when she's not mucking out kennels, she's slogging through grad school. Sierra certainly doesn't want another dog, especially one that reminds her of her father. And she definitely doesn't want to see Mike with that charming smile of his...


But Trooper has a mission of his own. Before too long Mike is moving to the ranch to lend a hand--and hoping for his own second chance with Sierra.


Wonderful book, with several relationships to focus on. The main one is the one that develops between Mike and Sierra, but there are also family relationships and one potential romance that are included. There are multiple points of view, including my favorite, the sections that are seen through the eyes of the dog, Trooper.


The story begins with how Trooper joined Colonel McDaniel and his men in Iraq, and became an important part of their lives. Then his confusion at the Colonel's disappearance, followed by his journey to America to become part of the Colonel's family, 


It became Mike's mission to get Trooper to the US and deliver him to the family. It wasn't easy, as he had to sneak the dog aboard the plan, putting his career at risk. He's determined to get it done, then take advantage of his leave time to sleep and relax. His biggest worry is seeing the Colonel's daughter, Sierra, again. They had had an intense relationship before his deployment, but he had broken it off before he left. His attraction to her is still strong, but he's not the type of man she needs in her life.


Sierra has an incredibly busy life. She's going to grad school, teaching classes, and helping out with her mother's animal rescue. Since her father's death she has also been dealing with her own grief, her younger brother's increasingly bad attitude, and helping with her grandfather who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. The last thing she wants is another dog to care for, especially one that reminds her so much of what she has lost. Having to see Mike again doesn't help.


Delivering the dog doesn't go quite as smoothly as Mike had hoped and his encounter with Sierra is somewhat awkward. It doesn't help anything that Trooper gets away from the ranch during the night and finds his way back to Mike. When he returns Trooper to the ranch, he notices that there are a lot of things that need attention, even though Sierra tries to deny that they need help. I loved the way that he insisted on sticking around to help while he was on leave.


The attraction between Mike and Sierra is still there and still strong. Both try to resist it because the issues that parted them are still there. Having grown up in the military and seeing what her mother went through with her father's frequent absences, Sierra doesn't want that life for herself. She knows that Mike plans to make his career in the military. Besides the known issue of his career, Mike has never felt that he really deserves someone like Sierra. He was raised by a grandmother who was a con artist, his teen years were troublesome at best, and he feels strongly about the differences in their educations. But he can't deny the protectiveness he feels toward her and her entire family, so he stays. I loved seeing the two grow closer as Mike helps her through the ups and downs of her life as it has become. It was really terrific to see the way that Mike finds a way to help Lacey and Sierra with their fight to preserve the rescue. As his leave time grows closer to the end, both Mike and Sierra have to face the reality of their feelings and decide if they can find a way to be together, or if that will be the end. I loved the realistic look at their options, the potential problems, and the possible benefits. 


The rest of the family and their lives as they are now added more depth and emotion to a story that was already heartbreaking at times. Lacey is dealing with the loss of a husband she loved, but who she rarely saw. She has buried herself in her animal rescue work, hoping to find peace. Instead, there is more frequently a feeling of being overwhelmed, but she's determined to push through. As the story goes on, we see more of what her life had been like, both good and bad, and how it has affected the way she feels now. Her unexpected attraction to the vet, Ray Vega, adds another layer of stress and confusion to what she is going through. At times I wanted to see her give in and take the comfort he offered, but at others I was sure it would be a mistake. I loved her self-awareness and how she eventually decided what she wanted. Lacey is also worried about her father-in-law, who seems to be losing his battle with Alzheimer's, and her son Nathan, who hasn't been handling his father's death well. 


I loved her father-in-law, the General. When he was having a good day, he was wonderful to be around. I ached for him, as he knew that he was having trouble, and it both scared and angered him. It was heartwarming to see the way that Mike was able to help him through his episodes. It was especially hard to see him, Trooper and Mike as they dealt with the combination of the war movie and the fireworks, but the realism of it was incredible. I enjoyed the relationship the General had with Trooper, and how the dog tried to look out for him.


Sierra's brother Nathan was another character that was having trouble coping with the loss of his father. At the beginning he just seemed like another teenager with an attitude problem. It isn't until we get the point of view of Trooper that we see that there is something more going on. I loved Trooper's part in helping the family see that Nathan needs help, and then Mike's involvement also.


I really felt like Trooper was truly the star of the show. His views on what was happening around him were simple and direct. I loved the way that he maneuvered things so that Mike would have to stay at the ranch. I loved his memories of the Colonel and the insight they gave to his relationship with Lacey. And it was Trooper's senses that gave the first indication of the trouble that was coming with Nathan. It was great to have the epilogue done from his point of view. I loved seeing the family a few years down the road.

4 Stars
Marriage Made in Shame - Sophia James (HH #1248 - Sept 2015)
Marriage Made in Shame (The Penniless Lords) - Sophia James

Series: Penniless Lords (Book 2)

Secrets of the marriage bed…


Heiress Adelaide Ashfield lost her trust in men years ago. She spurns the advances of society's most eligible bachelors, but time is running out. Forced to make her choice, Adelaide accepts the hand of Gabriel Hughes, Earl of Wesley.


Despite his debauched reputation, Gabriel shies away from intimacy. But his marriage to Adelaide awakens a desire he never thought he'd feel again. Maybe his beguiling new bride is the key to shaking off the shame which has haunted him for so long…


Good book, with a tortured hero in need of the right woman to bring him out of the darkness. He is dealing with a problem rarely seen in romance novels. For the last several years, he has been working for the government in an attempt to stop those who would help the French. Rather than send him to work undercover in France or Spain, he was asked to use his skills as a ladies man to woo secrets from the wives of those suspected to be traitors. With the end of the war, his job is done except for one last task of identifying the members of a group of English traitors. But the wooing of one woman goes horrifically wrong and she dies in a fire that also injures him. 


Gabriel is haunted by the idea that he is responsible for her death, even though he has no memories of the fire itself. Because of those guilty feelings he can't bring himself to get close to any woman, and fears that he never will. All he can do is continue his search and hope the satisfaction of revenge will be enough. When he meets Adelaide there's a small flame of hope that all is not lost.


Adelaide has grown up in the country, happy in her study of herbs and healing and treating the people on her uncle's estate. After an attack by a suitor years ago, she no longer trusts the intentions of any man. Forced into a London season by her uncle, she has no interest in finding a husband and does her best to discourage those who pursue her. When it becomes obvious she has no choice, she looks to the one man who seems to like her for who she is.


I really liked Adelaide a lot. She has no interest in the shallow pursuits of the other debutantes and just wants to be left alone to do what makes her happy. Thanks to the training she has received from her aunts, she is an excellent observer of human behavior, and when she meets Gabriel she senses that there is more to him than most people see. There is an immediate connection between them.


I liked the development of the relationship between them. Because of his problem, Gabriel doesn't exhibit the lust that she has experienced from other men. This makes her more comfortable in his presence. Adelaide also has no desire to hide her intelligence, and several conversations with Gabriel show her that he is a man that is easy for her to talk to. At the same time, Gabriel enjoys being able to have an actual conversation with a woman. He doesn't expect to feel a certain amount of possessiveness toward her, and is surprised by how much he dislikes the idea of her marrying any of the men pursuing her. I loved the way that he proposed to her himself, trying to convince himself that he was doing it to keep her from being unhappy with those others.


I loved the fact that he was open with her about his work with the government, even though he couldn't bring himself to explain his problem to her. He was still determined to do his best for her. I also liked her sensitivity to his moods, and how she could lighten his cares, at least for awhile. She slowly worked her way past his defenses until he was able to open up completely to her. I loved the way that she fully accepted him just as he was and made it clear that it changed nothing. 


With the slow return of some of his memories it became clear that one of her rejected suitors was also one of the men he was searching for, Gabriel feared for her safety. Realizing his true feelings for her, he was determined to end the threat before she could be placed in danger. When she was taken in spite of his precautions, all he could think about was saving her. The final confrontation brought the rest of his memories flooding back, and with them the realization that his guilt had been misplaced. The release of those fears also ended the problem that had kept him from fully loving Adelaide. Everything was tied up neatly, and perhaps too easily, but it was still satisfying. I hope to see them again in later books of the series.


I loved the relationship between Gabriel and his friends. It was great to see their concern for him and how they tried to be there for him if he wanted to talk. I loved the dinner party where Daniel and Amethyst invited Adelaide, just because Gabriel asked them to. I especially liked seeing the way his friends and their families took to Adelaide and made her part of their group so quickly. That connection came in quite handy when she ended up delivering Amethyst's baby. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

5 Stars
Operation Homecoming - Justine Davis (HRS #1861 - Aug 2015)
Operation Homecoming (Cutter's Code) - Justine Davis

Series: Cutter's Code (Book 6)

In the next Cutter's Code romance, a hero with a secret returns home…and goes into rescuer mode…


AWOL in times of family tragedy, Walker Cole doesn't expect a warm welcome home. Nor does he expect to see Amy­­ Clark -- his sister's nerdy friend who had a mad teen crush on him -- now a smart, sexy woman.


Though Walker knows he's caused Amy pain and hatred, his own pain is worse. He can never tell the truth about his hellish years away. But when Amy's paralegal work endangers her, Walker jumps at the chance to guard her irresistible body and prove himself worthy of trust and forgiveness. Even Cutter, the Foxworth dog with a nose for trouble, has his back when trouble explodes!


"Well, hello again, Cutter."

He gave a short yip, and she bent to pet him. The moment she stroked his dark head she felt an odd sensation of relief, as if suddenly she knew it would all work out, it would all be all right. All the fears seemed to not vanish but at least recede.

In that instant, the welcoming dance stopped. The dog leaned into her, staring up into her face. Something in the intense gaze, or in those gold-flecked dark eyes, was mesmerizing, and she couldn't seem to look away.

And then he moved. He turned, sat down at Amy's feet and looked up at Hayley. And Hayley, oddly, stopped mid-motion as she was putting her own purse in the car. Her eyes flicked from the dog to Amy.

"Uh-oh," Hayley said.


"Are you all right?"

Amy hadn't expected that. At least, not so soon. "Fine," she said. And health-wise, it was true. Otherwise, not so much. But she needed to work up to discussing that. "I may need your help loading this up, though," she said, gesturing at the large blue suitcase.

"Hmm." Hayley sounded doubtful, but she seemed to accept the answer. She looked back at the dog. "I got it, boy. I promise."

Cutter gave a low, soft whuff and a movement of his head that looked startlingly like a nod.
You want to tell me what's really wrong?" Hayley finally asked when they were parked in line for the big ferry that would take them across the sound. "Because Cutter says something is."

Amy blinked. "What?"

"He knows you have a problem. And," Hayley added in a dry tone, "he expects action."

"What are you talking about?"

"That look he gave me, after you petted him. That's his 'fix it' look."

Amy remembered the moment when the dog had sat at her feet and looked at Hayley. Was it possible the dog had sensed her turmoil? From what her friend had told her, the dog was incredibly empathetic.


I love this series and I adore this dog. In this one, Amy has come to Seattle to see her best friend and talk to her about a problem she has at work, one she isn't sure how to deal with. She knows that talking to Hayley will help her see how to proceed. Though she knows that Hayley's dog Cutter is something special, she's never understood just how special before this. Cutter seems to sense her turmoil, and just petting him makes her feel better. But it's his apparent insistence that his "people" at Foxworth can help her that really has her floored. Just as she's about to unburden herself to them, an unexpected visitor throws them all into turmoil.


Walker Cole, Hayley's brother, left home right after graduation. Though he stayed in touch at the very beginning, for the last five years no one has heard from him except for a couple texts. He didn't come home when their mother was diagnosed with cancer, for her funeral, or for Hayley's wedding. All we know, as readers, is that he was involved in something dangerous that he can't talk about. Both Hayley and Amy, who had a crush on him as a teenager, have been incredibly hurt by his actions and harbor a great deal of anger toward him. Walker accepts this, but really wants a chance to mend fences with them both.


There was so much emotional turmoil in this book that it was sometimes painful to read. Walker was hurting so much because of everything he had been through himself, and because of the guilt he felt about what he had done to them. Though he didn't like it, he accepted Quinn's first reaction to seeing him. I ached for him when his sister and Amy were so cold to him. Even Cutter seemed to be withholding acceptance of him. I loved his surprise at the changes in Amy, and how his attraction to her blindsided him. 


The crush that Amy had had on Walker, and how much she had looked up to him, made his actions seem even worse to her. Her protectiveness to her friend really showed in the way she read him the riot act. She also couldn't believe that she still felt an attraction to him. This added to the turmoil she felt around him, and helped to feed her anger.


When she tells Quinn and Hayley about the issue that brought her to them, Walker is at first kept at a distance. No one is sure whether he can be trusted. It was interesting to see who it was that brought him into the loop. Walker finds himself feeling very protective of Amy, and I loved seeing how that protectiveness began to change opinions of him.


As the group returned to LA to continue the investigation into Amy's problem, I really loved how Walker began to began to earn a bit of respect. His insistence on being Amy's guard surprised them all, especially when he demonstrated his capability by taking on Quinn. Forced into spending a lot of time together as they carry out their plans, Amy begins to suspect that Walker isn't as changed from the boy she knew as she had thought. I loved how her feelings for him continued to change and grow. Walker had accepted his own feelings, but was quite certain that they would never be returned thanks to the secrets he's had to keep. 


The investigation of Amy's boss by the people of Foxworth was fantastic. Each step was carefully taken to ensure Amy's safety. As each clue was uncovered the danger continued to increase. I began to suspect that everything wasn't quite as straightforward as it seemed and the final confrontation had a very interesting twist to it. When it was all over, another part of the wonder of Foxworth came out, and that was the sense of them being one big family. The request that Quinn had made of Rafe yielded results that surprised them all. I loved the fact that it only confirmed what they had already begun to understand about Walker. Their final demonstration of their love and trust was fantastic and I loved seeing what it meant to him.


As always, Cutter has a starring role in the book. I really enjoyed the way that he watched Walker before showing him any kind of acceptance. It's always fun to see how the people defer to his judgment. He also seems almost human in the way that he observes Walker and Amy and expresses his feelings over their actions. There were many places that had me laughing out loud over what he was doing. The scene as they left for the office party was especially funny. Of course, his sweet side had nothing on his protective side, and his part in the final confrontation was awesome. It's also fun to see that by the end of the book, his matchmaking skills are still undefeated.


I can't wait to see see who is up next in this series. Both Liam and Rafe are still running free. I'm especially looking forward to Rafe's story, as I suspect who he is going to be paired with. That should be a book with some amazing fireworks.

5 Stars
Clandestine Christmas - Elle James (HI #1601 - Nov 2015)
Clandestine Christmas (Covert Cowboys, Inc.) - Elle James

Series: Covert Cowboys Inc (Book 8)

Sexy cowboy ropes in stunning secret agent!


A wickedly handsome billionaire rancher, Chase Marsden is past his dissolute playboy days. With Covert Cowboys' Kate Rivers posing as his fiancée, he's determined to find the culprits trying to murder an old -- and notorious -- friend many would kill to keep silent.


From the moment Chase eyes Kate -- beautiful, tough, but vulnerable -- he knows she's the one. Kate, a former Texas Ranger, fears nothing but Chase's reckless kisses. As they investigate together, each clue puts their lives further in jeopardy. Will Christmas find them under the mistletoe…or escaping kidnappers and dodging hit men?


Terrific end to the Covert Cowboys series. Chase is a wealthy rancher who used to be quite the playboy. He was rescued from the consequences of that lifestyle by Sadie Lovely, a former madam, who helped him see the error of his ways. When Sadie comes to him, worried about strange accidents that have been happening to her, Chase is determined to protect her and her grandson. He asks for help from Covert Cowboys Inc.


Kate is a former Texas Ranger who came to work at CCI after injuries that forced her to leave the Rangers. She arrives in town just in time to see a car run down Chase and Sadie, leaving Sadie in the hospital, fighting for her life. Posing as Chase's fiancée, they are determined to find out who is trying to kill Sadie and why.


There is an immediate attraction between Kate and Chase. Kate tries hard to ignore it for two reasons. The first is that she is working for him and it would not be appropriate to get involved with him. Second, there are things about her that she feels make her all wrong for a man like Chase. He doesn't agree. He is drawn to her strength and her beauty, and also to the vulnerable woman he senses is under the tough exterior. I loved seeing the way that Kate was able to share her secret with him, and Chase's insistence that it makes no difference to his feelings.


I loved the changes that both went through. Chase's transformation from playboy to rancher was great. His growing appreciation for his legacy also showed him what he was missing in his life. I really liked the way that he saw Kate's place in his life so quickly. Kate had more to work through. The unhappiness and feelings of unworthiness caused by her injuries left her feeling that all her dreams for her future were dead. It hit her especially hard when she first saw Sadie's grandson Jake. I loved seeing the effect that being around him had on her, and how he helped with her healing. I loved the ending with the Christmas wishes coming true.


The suspense part of the story was great. The action started right off with the attack on Chase and Sadie, and continued at a good pace throughout. Each clue that they uncovered seemed to be countered with another attack as they tried to piece together who was behind it all. There were several possible suspects and I loved the way each was dealt with. There was one scene that gave me an idea of who it was, but I wasn't sure until the end. The intensity of the kidnapping scene made the final confrontation a little bit anti-climactic, but satisfying nonetheless.