Monday, December 11, 2017

Mine Till Midnight - Lisa Kleypas (St Martin's - Oct 2007)

Series: Hathaways (Book 1)

When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother was easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton. Even more challenging: the attraction she feels for the tall, dark, and dangerously handsome Cam Rohan.

Wealthy beyond most men's dreams, Cam has tired of society's petty restrictions and longs to return to his "uncivilized" Gypsy roots. When the delectable Amelia appeals to him for help, he intends to offer only friendship--but intentions are no match for the desire that blindsides them both. But can a man who spurns tradition be tempted into that most time-honored arrangement: marriage? Life in London society is about to get a whole lot hotter....

Fantastic story. The Hathaway family is a bit different than the usual HR. They are of noble birth but without the usual type of society background. There is Leo, the oldest, who recently inherited a title, followed by our heroine, Amelia, and her sisters Win, Poppy, and Beatrix. There is also a not quite family, not quite servant Gypsy man named Merripen who is an integral part of the group. Life has been difficult for the Hathaway family recently. A scarlet fever epidemic killed their parents, Leo and Win nearly died, Leo's fiancée did die. Leo has been so devastated by Laura's death that he is doing his best to kill himself with dissipation. The man that Amelia loved threw her over for another woman. As Leo has no interest in anything but his own misery, Amelia has taken over the running of the family.

As the story opens, Amelia is searching for Leo, who has disappeared once again. She is determined to take the family to their estate in Hampshire, away from the memories and pitfalls of the city, where they can begin again. Amelia is stubborn, independent, and convinced that she is the only one standing between her family and disaster. In her search for Leo, she encounters Cam Rohan, the half-Gypsy/half-Irish manager of a gambling establishment. Though he has no intention of interfering in their family issues, Cam finds himself unable to refuse to help Amelia find Leo. Once he does, he thinks that the end of it. Fate has other plans, and they meet again in Hampshire in a most unusual manner.

Amelia was impressive and frustrating. I loved her determination and her protectiveness toward her family. She will do anything for them. However, she is a bit overprotective and controlling, especially when it comes to Win and Leo. She tends to take charge, steamrollering over any objections. She also exhibits a very human side. I loved that she wasn't always cheerful and unflappable, but shows the effects of bad days, frustration with her siblings and others, and the occasional loss of her temper. There was also a hysterical scene involving a lizard and a dinner party where her behavior was not what I expected.

Cam was wonderful. We get a little bit of his background, and I have high hopes of learning more in later books. He was taken from his Gypsy family at the age of ten and went to work for the gambling house. As an adult, he is the right-hand man to the club owner and extremely (and unwillingly) wealthy. He has a bit of an internal battle going on between his Gypsy and Irish sides, which has made him rather restless. One of my favorite things about him is that he is comfortable with who he is. He has accepted that he is considered an outsider by both Gypsy and non-Gypsy folks, that he has the respect and friendship of those who mean the most to him and doesn't care about anyone else's opinion of him. He thinks about walking away from it all and returning to the Gypsy way of life until he meets Amelia.

I enjoyed the development of Cam and Amelia's relationship. There were sparks between them from the start, though they initially try to resist. Cam quickly became very protective of Amelia. Once he realized that she was the perfect woman for him, Cam was pretty relentless in his pursuit of her. I loved his way with words as he would tell her of his intentions. He also did not suffer from "I'm not good enough for her," that society could deal with them or not. Amelia was a little harder to convince. She did not doubt the power of their attraction, as shown by the flames that erupted between them whenever he touched her. But she was afraid that a half-Gypsy man would never be content in a traditional marriage, and would begin to resent her instead. I loved that Cam didn't give up on making her see that they were meant to be together.

There were also some secondary stories going on. First was the whole issue with Leo and his dissolute attitude. I was very frustrated with his whole "poor me" attitude. Losing his fiancée sucked, but he still had four sisters that he was responsible for. He redeemed himself a little at one point where he supported Amelia during her encounter with her ex, but that was a very small moment. I ached for him at the end, when Cam made him face his past and make a decision.

There was also something going on between Win and Merripen. Merripen's background is very mysterious, and there appears to be some connection with Cam, outside of them both being Gypsies. He is also very protective of Win and sensitive to her moods. I loved the whole cleaning scene and the solution he came up with that satisfied both her and Amelia. It is quite obvious that Merripen is in love with Win, but he does feel unworthy of her. It is hard to tell at first if Win feels the same way about him. Things get very interesting after the fire in which Merripen is injured, and I loved how the fragile Win comes out on top. I am looking forward to their story.

A Child Under His Tree - Allison Leigh (HSE #2509 - Nov 2016)

Series Return to the Double C (Book 12)

'Tis the season for second chances…and secrets!

Forget the mistletoe maneuvers. Kelly Rasmussen isn't planning on having that reunion kiss with Dr. Caleb Buchanan any time soon. Things had long ago gone south for these former high school sweethearts. Except for that one night six years ago -- which resulted in an explosive secret Kelly's kept till this very day.

Now career and family have brought them both back to Weaver, Wyoming. Their unavoidable clashes -- and instant chemistry -- make them realize this town isn't big enough for the two of them. Or three of them -- counting Kelly's son. Because there's something about that little boy… For one thing, he has Caleb's eyes…

Good second chance story. Kelly and Caleb had been high school sweethearts, but when Caleb went away to college he ended his relationship with Kelly in favor of another pre-med student, breaking Kelly's heart.  The book opens several years later. Kelly and Caleb had a brief encounter that didn't end well, and Kelly is pregnant. Her mother, a real piece of work and doesn't know about the encounter, wants Kelly to try to pass the baby off as Caleb's because "those people take care of their own" (meaning her). Kelly isn't about to force a marriage of obligation on Caleb, having suffered her mother's resentment all her life. So she packs up and leaves home, swearing to give her baby a better life.

Six years later she has come home to settle her mother's estate, bringing her son Tyler with her. An unexpected trip to the clinic brings Kelly and Tyler face to face with Caleb, who she did not know was back in Weaver. She is very nervous because she never told him about Tyler. Caleb is pretty oblivious because Kelly's mom put out the story that Kelly had eloped and had a baby after leaving Weaver. However, there are definitely some sparks flying between them, and it isn't all anger.

Kelly and Caleb have a lot to overcome before they can have a future together. Kelly still holds a lot of anger and hurt over the way that Caleb had dumped her all those years ago. She had been waiting at home for Caleb and he had been with another girl. It didn't help that Kelly's mother was always down on her, telling her that she wasn't good enough for him. Now she also feels guilty that she didn't tell him about Tyler. Caleb has  his own guilt that he has to deal with. Now that he's older, he realizes what a jerk he had been and how badly he had behaved. His reaction after their truck encounter also left him with another reason to feel guilty.

I did enjoy seeing Kelly and Caleb get to know each other again. Kelly's fears had her trying to keep Caleb at a distance, but Weaver is a small town and they see each other frequently. I loved seeing the connection between Caleb and Tyler (right down to their mutual dislike of carrots), which made it more difficult for Kelly to avoid him. There were some really sweet scenes between Caleb and Tyler. Every time he and Kelly meet, the attraction burns a little hotter. Caleb, especially, remembers the things that drew him to Kelly to begin with, and her new confidence and maturity make her even more attractive to him. I liked those times when Kelly could forget the past and allow herself to enjoy Caleb's company. However, the secret of Tyler's birth began to wear on her and she finally blurted out the truth.

This is where Caleb lost me a bit. I understood his initial shock and anger. That was logical and believable. But then he turned controlling and threatening, not even attempting to look for a compromise. I so wanted to grab him and shake him, especially during the confrontation at the hospital. It was so sweet seeing Tyler stick up for his mommy. I ached for Kelly with the solution that Caleb finally arrived at, because she never wanted to be an obligation, and that's all she could see. But she wanted what she thought was best for Tyler, so she put her own needs aside. There were some sweet scenes with Caleb and Tyler, but I continued to want to pound both of Caleb and Kelly because they constantly believed the worst of each other. I liked Caleb's big moment at the end, when he finally figured out his feelings and what he had to do to make things right with Kelly. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Vegas Wedding, Weaver Bride - Allison Leigh (HSE #2563 - Aug 2017)

Series: Return to the Double C (Book 13)

"I do. Wait…did I?"

Hometown girl Penny Garner is having a Vegas moment: waking up in bed with her teenage crush, a ring on her finger. Then there's the matter of the marriage certificate. How did that happen? The jury's out on whether it's Penny's dream come true or worst nightmare.

Quinn Templeton has to wonder what they actually did that night, too. And when they get back to Weaver, Wyoming, the air force pararescueman can't just ignore the real feelings for his fake bride -- especially if Penny's pregnant. Will they remember what brought them to the altar in the first place…and maybe sign up for a repeat performance?

Good book. Penny and Quinn were confused when they woke up in bed together. Neither could remember how they got there nor could they remember the circumstances leading up to the marriage certificate they also discovered. Penny desperately wants to believe that it is fake, a joke played on them by someone. Quinn is pretty sure it's real. Penny is desperate to keep the marriage quiet until they can arrange a divorce, but Quinn doesn't seem to be all that worried, as they head back home to Wyoming.

I liked Quinn. He's home on leave, recovering from injuries received during one of his PJ missions and trying to get back into fighting condition. He doesn't want to think about what will happen if he isn't able to go back to the job he loves. Quinn is also getting to know his grandmother, Vivian, a very wealthy and very eccentric woman. I really liked the way that he was so calm compared to Penny's drama. I loved his calm in a crisis personality and his sensitivity to Penny and her issues.

I had a harder time liking Penny. I understood her initial panic, but her constant refusal to acknowledge their marriage began to irritate me. Penny had a lot of issues that influenced her. Her childhood in and out of foster homes, thanks to her mother's alcoholism, made her superconscious of being the subject of gossip. She fell in love with a man who had also been a foster child with her. Unfortunately, he was killed in the war just a week before their wedding, causing her to lock down her emotions. She also had self-esteem issues, believing that it was easy for people to walk away from her.

I liked the development of Penny and Quinn's relationship. They had a history together, though not one that Penny liked to remember. She'd had a crush on him when she was fifteen, and he shot her down when she tried to make advances to him. She didn't know that he had noticed her even back then, but he was an adult, and she was just a kid, so he kept himself under control. Thanks to their unexpected marriage, those old feelings have been stirred back up again. Penny panics because Quinn makes her feel things she hasn't felt since Andy's death. She's afraid to get involved with Quinn because, especially with his job, she can't handle the idea of losing again, so she keeps pushing him away. I liked how Quinn realizes that he'd like to keep Penny in his life. I ached for him the morning after her birthday when her fears got the best of her. I liked his big moment at the end as he made another attempt to show Penny how he felt. His words are so heartfelt and emotional. I loved her surprise and shock when she finally accepted the truth.

Penny's boss and Quinn's grandmother, Vivian, was quite a character. She is blunt and outrageous with some of the things she does, but deep down, I think she just wants to be accepted by her family. I enjoyed her run at politics and attempts to get the incumbent to debate her. I also loved the part with her sons and the paintings - clever! I get the feeling that she has a lot of love to give, she just doesn't know how.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Last Single Garrett - Brenda Harlen (HSE #2549 - May 2017)

Series: Those Engaging Garretts (Book 12)


For twelve years Tristyn Garrett ignored the near kiss with family friend and current boss Josh Slater…until the confirmed bachelor shows up with three adorable little girls in his arms. Making him simply irresistible…


But resist she must, especially when she's trapped for the summer in an RV on the car-racing circuit with the girls and the one man she can't allow herself to have. Because he broke her heart once -- she won't let him do it again!

Caring for his nieces on the road, Josh needs Tristyn. But the kiss that got away looms large in the small space…till Josh devises a plan: kiss her again and get it out of his system. With three little chaperones, what can possibly happen?

Fun story and terrific conclusion to the series. Tristyn and Josh have known each other for twenty years. He is her cousin's best friend, and also her boss. Josh is also the subject of her girlhood crush. He stepped in and took her to her senior prom when her date came down with the flu. It was a magical evening for her until the end, when he broke her heart by backing away from her kiss. Josh has never forgotten the kiss that almost happened. But Tristyn was his best friend's cousin and just a kid. Since then he's done his best to keep his distance.

I loved the opening of the book, as Tristyn became more irritated with Josh's disappearing act, leaving her to deal with the results. However, her irritation turned to worry as she continued to be unable to reach him. I loved seeing her show up at his house and her determination to find out what was wrong. It was fun to see Josh try to deflect her with his innuendos only to be exposed by one of his nieces. I loved how Tristyn jumped in to help the obviously overwhelmed Josh. That whole scene was fun, from the cellphone to the explanation of the number of dirty dishes.

Over the next few days there are several more encounters, including July Fourth celebrations with her family. I loved how Josh and Tristyn's attraction is obvious to everyone else, but they try to ignore it. Because it's the height of the racing season, Josh's need to care for his nieces presents some interesting challenges. But the biggest challenge comes when Daniel suggests that Josh use an RV to travel the racing circuit with his nieces and Josh insists that Tristyn come along to help. Tristyn is reluctant because she knows that protecting her heart will be hard if they're together that much.

I loved watching the development of their relationship. They had to work together to care for the girls, and underneath it all was that simmering attraction for each other. Eventually that attraction comes to a boil and they have to decide what to do with it. Wanting to protect themselves, both Tristyn and Josh insist that they aren't up for anything permanent, but giving in and "getting it out of their systems" is possible. Of course, each is lying through their teeth, because their feelings are already involved, though neither will admit it to the other. I especially enjoyed seeing Josh realize that what he had was more than just physical, that he also craved the closeness of talking about anything and nothing and just being together. Tristyn knows that she loves Josh, but is afraid risking rejection once again.

When Josh's sister returns earlier than expected and their road trip comes to an end, Josh and Tristyn have to decide what to do. I ached for Tristyn as she allowed her fears to push Josh away. I also hurt for Josh, who really wanted to see where the relationship might go, though he still isn't quite ready to admit his feelings. Josh's big moment at the end was so sweet and romantic and perfect for the two of them. The epilogue was great, and I loved Ren and his checkered flag.

Besides the fun of seeing Josh and Tristyn together, I loved the three little girls. It was so sweet to see "Uncle Josh" turn into a puddle of goo around them. I loved his patience with their food foibles and seeing him cope with car sickness and potty emergencies (oh, that shower scene!). The one that melted my heart was when Hanna had her nightmare. Each of the girls had their own realistic personalities and behavior for their ages. I especially loved Charlotte and her "it's in the book."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Texan Takes a Wife - Charlene Sands (HD #2551 - Nov 2017)

Series: Texas Cattleman's Club: Blackmail (Book 11)

A temporary tryst with a sexy Texan…no problem, right?

All it takes is a daring out-of-character ride on a mechanical bull to send Erin Sinclair straight into the arms of one fine-looking cowboy. With Royal, Texas, on edge over the criminal targeting their secrets, she needs to blow off steam.

Dan Hunt is happy to give the ex-nanny the time of her life, but the rich rancher insists he doesn't do relationships. With Erin leaving Royal in a matter of weeks, why not have a no-strings affair? Even if it feels like it could be the commitment of a lifetime…

Good book. Erin came to Royal from Seattle to work as a nanny. That job ended when her employer fell in love, so Erin is at loose ends until she returns to Seattle at the end of the year.  After a night out with friends at a local bar, Erin decides to try a ride on the mechanical bull. She quickly finds herself flat on her back, staring into the eyes of a big, hunky cowboy.

Dan was more than happy to be the one to pick Erin up. He'd noticed her earlier and been drawn to her. As he walked her to her car, they witnessed a dog get hit by a car. As they work together to care for the dog, attraction simmers between them. They fall into bed together for a night of passion, but reality hits the next morning. Dan makes it clear that he doesn't do relationships and since Erin is leaving soon, they leave it at that.

But neither can forget the other. When Erin agrees to help her friend Chelsea in her investigation into the person blackmailing members of the Texas Cattleman's Club, she discovers that Dan is Chelsea's brother. As the two work together to help Chelsea, they find themselves combining investigation with passion as the attraction burns between them.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Dan and Erin. Besides the obvious physical attraction, it was clear that they liked each other. I loved their time together riding, taking care of Dan's many rescued animals, and just being together. As time goes on, Erin realizes that her feelings are more than a fling and that she wants more from Dan. A pregnancy scare brings home just how far apart they are. Dan likes being with Erin, and he's happier than he's been in a long time. But he doesn't believe in happy-ever-afters thanks to his mom's abandonment of the family. I ached for them both on Thanksgiving Day, as Dan witnesses Erin's joy at her friends' engagement and her happiness holding baby Faye, and realizes that he can't give her what she needs. As his guilty feelings over hurting Erin begin to build, he distances himself emotionally. I liked Erin's strength as she left early for her new job as a way to end things with Dan quickly and cleanly. I hurt for them both as their unhappiness at being apart was obvious. I loved Chelsea's sneaky way of getting Dan to face his fears and realize the truth of his feelings. His big moment at the end was awesome, especially considering his strong and silent personality.

There is more progress on the search for the blackmailer known as Maverick. Though a couple of leads didn't work out, at the end there is one that looks quite promising. I am looking forward to the next and final book in this series and the resolution of the mystery.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Expecting a Lone Star Heir - Sara Orwig (HD #2554 - Nov 2017)

Series: Texas Promises (Book 1)

Former army ranger Mike Moretti is finding it hard to remember that Vivian Warner is forbidden. She's his late buddy's widow and his new boss. Mike hired on at the Warner ranch to help Vivian, not to seduce her.

But playing the role of pretend suitor leads to irresistible temptation…and an unexpected pregnancy. This cowboy's code of honor demands he do the right thing, but Vivian won't say, "I do," for anything less than love.

Good book. In the midst of battle, Mike promises his dying buddy Thane that he will take the job of ranch foreman and look after Thane's wife Vivian for at least three months. He already regretted the promise as he arrived at the ranch six months later, not happy about working for someone who knew nothing about ranching. But a promise is a promise. He's surprised by Vivian's beauty when he meets her and jolted by the zing of attraction he feels when they shake hands. For him, being attracted to his late friend's wife is a definite no-no.

Vivian loved Thane and deeply mourns his loss. She is an artist with no knowledge of ranching, so she is happy to have Mike take over as ranch foreman. She isn't as happy about the flare of awareness she feels with him. However, that doesn't stop her from asking for his help in discouraging the attentions of a neighbor.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Mike and Vivian, though there were several times I really wanted to shake Mike or bash him on the head with something. From the moment they met there was a connection between them. Though they had never met, they knew each other a bit through Thane and the way he talked about each of them. I liked the way that Vivian felt she could trust Mike as soon as she met him, which made it easier for her to ask his help with the Clint problem. I liked Mike's protectiveness and how he stepped up to help her. The scene at the art gallery was especially good. With each "date" they went on, the attraction between them built until they could no longer resist, though it was fun to see them try.

But both are resistant to the idea of something permanent, at least at first. Vivian is still reeling from Thane's death and is afraid of losing again if she allows her heart to get involved. Mike has made it clear that he is unlikely to stay past the three months that he promised Thane he'd stay. On Mike's side, he can't get past the idea that Vivian is the heir to billions and has already inherited Thane's millions. He is adamant that a real man doesn't take money from a woman. He went on and on about this so much, and all I could think was that he was going to miss out on what could be a wonderful future because of it.

When Vivian ends up pregnant, she realizes that she has fallen in love with Mike, even though she never intended to. She also knows that Mike's code of honor means that he will want them to marry, and she can't bear the idea of marriage without love. I liked Vivian's confidence in her ability to be the kind of mother she wants her baby to have. I also liked that she was willing to stand up to Mike's attempts to convince her that love could come later. It took almost losing her for Mike to realize just what she meant to him and what was truly important. I enjoyed his big moment at the end and seeing how they worked out their issues. There's a little bit of a lead-in for the next book, and I can't wait to see what is in store for Noah.

Charming the Firefighter - Beth Andrews (HS #1962 - Dec 2014)

Series: In Shady Grove (Book 5)

Look who she attracted!

One glance at the hot firefighter who responds to a misguided 911 call and Penelope Denning knows she's out of her depth. Leo Montesano is a charmer with an exciting career. She's an accountant focused on getting her son through his teenage years. Yet Leo is definitely pursuing her. How can she possibly resist?

As the attraction between them ignites, Penelope discovers a wild side she never knew. The passion makes her think about a future beyond this affair…until her real life interrupts. And when she's convinced she must choose her son over romance, Leo does something she never expects!

Good book. Penelope is the single mother of a teenage boy. They moved to Shady Grove from California to start over after her divorce. Her son, Andrew, isn't happy about the move and leaving his friends behind and has been a royal pain in the behind. One day, after another exchange of words with Andrew before he storms off, Penelope indulged in a little too much wine, then attempted to use the gas grill. Leo is one of the firefighters who responded to the neighbor's 911 call.

Once he realized that she was alright, Leo was pretty amused by Penelope. Her precise speech and habit of talking with her hands fascinated him, especially once he realized she was drunk, not injured. He was also attracted to her. I enjoyed seeing him make excuses to stick around a little bit longer to make sure she was okay.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Penelope was shocked when Leo showed up at her work to ask her out. He's younger than she is and very good-looking, but she doesn't see any point in their going out. It was a rather painful scene, especially for Leo. He's not used to be turned down flat when he asks a woman out, and Penelope was pretty blunt. I also thought she was a bit obnoxious in her response to him; it seemed like she had no interest in even being polite. It got even worse when Penelope discovered that Andrew had lied his way onto the school football team, for which Leo is the coach. That confrontation among the three of them was loud and antagonistic, at least from Penelope and Andrew. I had a lot of respect for Leo because he kept his cool. It was interesting to see the deal that they ended up working out among the three of them. It also gave Leo his chance to get to know Penelope. It was pretty sweet to see how much they did have in common and how the attraction and feelings between them grew.

But Penelope has a major stumbling block to anything serious with Leo, and that is Andrew. Because of his serious illness as a child, Penelope has become extremely overprotective. Andrew is the be-all and end-all of her life, and she lets him walk all over her. There was a horrible scene when Andrew realized what was going on between his mom and Leo. I liked the way that Leo dealt with Andrew and his attitude. He also had some blunt words for Penelope about her attitude. I wanted to shake her until she saw the truth, and ached for Leo when she walked away. I loved the event that opened her eyes and her reaction when she did. It was great to see her finally stand up for herself. It was nice to see that it was the woman having to admit to being an idiot, and Penelope's big moment at the end was great.

Now, for Andrew. No doubt about it, he was a brat for most of the book. His crappy attitude toward his mom was really obnoxious, especially considering how she had cared for him when he was sick. Yes, she was overprotective and a bit controlling, but a better attitude might have been able to change some of that. He was also manipulative, and I loved seeing Leo call him on that instance of it. At first, I thought his friendship with Gracie was going to have a good effect on him, but he even managed to screw that up. I loved seeing her confront him over his actions. He got a real wakeup call from his mom at the end, and it was encouraging to see the effect on him.