Series: Brides and Belles (Book 3)
What happens when a fake wedding date gets all too real?
Pretend to be famous bachelor Julian Cooper's girlfriend? Some women might be thrilled with the request -- not Gretchen McAlister. Her job is planning weddings, not being the best man's date. But after Julian's latest celebrity breakup, "ordinary" Gretchen is the perfect PR ploy.
Julian is against the whole plan…until he meets Gretchen. Honest and beautiful -- even beneath her fancy makeover -- his new "girlfriend" makes him want something more, something real…
Fun book. The wedding planning service that Gretchen and her friends own is hosting the wedding of a music superstar. The groom's best friend, Hollywood star Julian Cooper, just broke up with his girlfriend, so his agent hires Gretchen to be Julian's "girlfriend" during the wedding events. Gretchen is wary, but the money offered will allow her to fulfill her dream of visiting Italy, so she says yes.
Gretchen is not very comfortable around men. She has spent her life feeling unattractive just because she is short and curvy instead of tall and thin. She doesn't think Julian will be at all interested in her as his date, but she goes through the planned makeover anyway. I loved the way that it gave her a new view of herself, even though she didn't think it would make her any more appealing to Julian.
The first meeting between them is a bit awkward, as Julian isn't sure it's necessary and Gretchen is sure that he won't be interested. But there's something about Gretchen that draws Julian in, and he's suddenly more than willing to give the scheme a chance. I liked how he tried to put her at ease and his insistence on "practicing" so that their relationship looks real. Julian realized how much he liked being with a woman who seemed to be unaffected by his stardom and he really started to enjoy their time together. I loved the way that he told Gretchen about how fake Hollywood women are in order to help her see that she has nothing to be afraid of.
I really liked seeing the way that Julian's attention helps Gretchen gain confidence in herself. The attraction between them is there from the beginning, though it takes a little while for her to accept that he just as attracted to her. There's a little hiccup in their growing relationship when Gretchen reveals the basis for her discomfort, but once Julian recovers he is everything she could hope for. Gretchen also has an effect on Julian. Her joy in her work is a positive influence on him, as he struggles with his need to continue filming hits and his desire to portray something with more substance. As they grow closer he opens up about the secret he has kept from the rest of the world, happy to have her support during a crisis.
When that secret is revealed, he reacts badly. He's hurt to think that she's like all the rest and says some terrible things to her. Gretchen is devastated to think that he believes she would do such a thing. When the true culprit is revealed (and I didn't see that one coming) he realizes just how stupid he was. I liked that he knew he had some serious grovelling to do, and how he went about doing it. I did feel that Gretchen could have made him work just a little bit harder before she forgave him. Overall, the ending was very satisfying.
Reclaimed by the Rancher by Janice Maynard
Series: Texas Cattleman's Club: Lies and Lullabies (Book .5)
Only the fiancé she left in the dust can help her!
To fend off a mysterious oil company's aggressive buyout offer and save her family land, Lucy Peyton can only turn to one man for help. Yes, she'd practically left Jeff Hartley at the altar, but she'd had her reasons. Such as catching the rich rancher kissing her best friend before the wedding! But now, face-to-face with Jeff on his doorstep, she realizes the chemistry between them is as strong as ever and panics.
If Lucy wants his help, she'll have it—on his terms. She'll also receive a lesson in what she missed when she ran. Because in the end, Jeff Hartley always gets what he wants…no matter how long he has to wait.
Short story/prequel to the series, found on the Harlequin website and in the back of the November Desire books. It begins with Lucy showing up at Jeff's for the first time in two years, ever since she cancelled their wedding the day before it was to happen. Jeff is stunned, and none too happy to see her, remembering what her desertion felt like.
Lucy is desperate to keep her cousin from selling their family land to an oil company, she goes to Jeff for help. She's still hurt by the way he betrayed her, but believes that he'll be willing to do what's needed to protect the land. She doesn't think that the man she's worked so hard to forget can still attract her but he does.
Jeff can't believe that Lucy had the guts to come to him for help, but has to admit she knows which buttons to push to get him to agree. He's not going to make it easy for her, though, and lays down some conditions. He's determined to either get her out of his heart forever, or take the future they should have had from the start.
I liked the way that Lucy wanted to protect the family land. She seemed to have a realistic view of her cousin, though he insists that this time will be different. I'll be interested to see if there's any followup in future books. When she confronts Jeff about what happened at the rehearsal dinner, I could see the problem from both sides. Lucy felt betrayed that Jeff was kissing her maid of honor, and Jeff was furious that she never gave him a chance to tell her what happened. She simply reacted, without showing enough faith in him to want the truth. Jeff made his own mistakes by giving in to wounded pride and not insisting.
The heat between them when they met for dinner to discuss the deal was intense. Jeff was determined to show her what she had missed. Though his method was a bit underhanded, if she hadn't been willing I'm sure he wouldn't have done it.
The confrontation with Kristin went just the way I expected to and I didn't feel badly for her at all. I did feel for Lucy, whose feelings of betrayal were brought back to the surface, but with a different focus. The ending was good, especially with Jeff insisting on not waiting to get on with their future.