Monday, September 25, 2017

Navy SEAL Protector - Bonnie Vanak (HRS #1966 - Oct 2017)

Series: SOS Agency (Book 3)

A sexy hometown hero returns to rescue the one who got away

Ten years ago, bad boy Nick Anderson left home -- and a brokenhearted Shelby Stillwater in his wake. Now the retired navy SEAL has inherited the family ranch Shelby calls home. Almost in foreclosure, the property is being sabotaged to force a sale…and Shelby is in mortal danger.

As Nick and Shelby work together to stop the vandals, old passions and new threats arise. The ranch carries painful memories, and Nick's not sure if he's willing to work to save the land. But as he finds new purpose and a new home, he remains determined to keep Shelby from harm…even if it means risking everything he holds dear in the process.

Good second chance story with a romance complicated by past hurts and present danger. Nick has returned to the family ranch just in time to attend his father's funeral. He had left ten years earlier, tired of trying to earn his father's approval and become a decorated SEAL. Injured in the same attack that killed two friends, Nick is haunted by the feeling he should have been able to save them. Now he has inherited a failing ranch and beyond-the-grave instructions to keep the ranch in the family. He didn't expect to find Shelby still living and working at the ranch.

The ranch is the only home Shelby has really known, and Nick's father more caring than her own parents. Shelby worked hard to overcome her parents' reputations and is the bookkeeper for the ranch. Even she doesn't know the extent of the trouble the ranch is in until after the funeral. Nick's arrival reminds her of her girlhood crush on him and how it broke her heart when he left.

I enjoyed the rekindling of the feelings between Nick and Shelby. Nick felt a bit guilty for the way he had left years ago but believed it had been the right thing to do. He is still just as attracted to her, and is determined to pursue that attraction. But he also believes that he is too broken for anything permanent. Shelby is just as determined to resist the attraction. Nick broke her heart once, and she refuses to take a chance on it happening again. I liked her strength of will as she let him know that she wants more than he seems willing to give. As they work together to solve the mystery of who is behind the ranch's troubles they slowly begin to share their fears. I really liked how Shelby saw the insecurity beneath Nick's cocky attitude and was determined to show him the man she sees. The scene at the pond was just the kind of reminder he needed. I also liked how Nick saw that Shelby put everyone else's needs before her own and tried to make her see that it was okay to think of herself sometimes. I ached for them both as they fought their feelings, allowing their fears to keep them apart. Even once they give in to the attraction, the strength of the connection increases their fears of being hurt. It isn't until he nearly loses Shelby that Nick realizes how much he needs her. I liked his big moment at the end, which had an interesting twist for him as well as a surprise for Shelby.

The suspense of the story was good. Besides the vandalism going on at the ranch, Shelby also experiences personal attacks that seem intent on driving her away from Belle Creek. Nick's arrival and the information revealed at the reading of the will show that things are even worse than expected. The vandalism seems to be intended to motivate the sale of the ranch, and Nick's refusal to do so causes an escalation in the threats. There are several possible suspects, all of whom have reasons to push for the sale. The danger intensifies when a fire nearly becomes deadly. I ached for Nick and Shelby as every time they seemed to be on the path to saving the ranch, something else would happen to stop it. The final confrontation was intense as an unexpected twist put Shelby's life in danger. I loved the ending as the bad guys got what was coming to them and Nick found a way to save the ranch.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Plain Retribution - Dana R. Lynn (LIS #622 - Aug 2017)

Series: Amish Country Justice (Book 2)

AMISH ABDUCTION

Ten years ago while on rumspringa, Rebecca Miller and her friends were kidnapped and held captive…and now, living in the English world, she's nearly abducted again. One by one her friends who once helped send their abductor to jail are targeted, and she is next…unless police officer Miles Olsen can stop a killer. Deaf since birth, the only person on the force that Rebecca can communicate with is Miles, and he needs this case to redeem himself of past mistakes. When the relentless killer tracks them deep into the heart of Amish country, protecting Rebecca must be Miles's sole focus. Because a mistake this time will cost something worth more to him than his job -- the woman he's falling for.

Good book with a sweet romance and gripping suspense. It starts with a rush as Rebecca is attacked while leaving work one night. The attack brings back memories from ten years ago when she and several friends were kidnapped and held captive. After the girls' rescue, their testimony helped send the kidnapper to prison. This time she can break free and is rescued by Miles. To their dismay, Rebecca and Miles discover that those victims have been targeted and that she appears to be the next in line.

I loved Rebecca from her first appearance as Jess's friend in Plain Target. She is a woman of amazing inner strength. Deaf since birth, she dared to leave her Amish family to seek out deaf community "Englischers." She has made an excellent life for herself with a job she likes and good friends among both the hearing and the deaf. I loved the descriptions of the challenges she faces and the effects they have on her life and her hopes for the future.

I also loved Miles. He is still trying to make up for past actions (see Presumed Guilty) and solving this case will go a long way toward that redemption. As the only officer who is proficient in sign language, he is put in charge of protecting Rebecca and finding the culprit. He is intense and determined not to fail.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Miles and Rebecca. There are sparks of attraction from the beginning though both try to ignore it. Miles doesn't want to let his emotions interfere with his job, and is afraid that giving in will be too much of a distraction. Rebecca believes that allowing herself to feel something for Miles will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak. I loved how sweet and caring Miles was each time he needed to explain something that was going on to Rebecca. He was amazingly sensitive to her feelings of isolation even when there were people around her. His protectiveness warred with his desire to keep his emotions out of the mix. It was fun to see Miles try to deny his growing feelings for Rebecca, though everyone around him could easily see it. Rebecca also could not deny the effect that Miles had on her. The way that he understood her and made her feel included only deepened her feelings for him, even though she didn't think her feelings were returned. It wasn't until he nearly lost her that Miles could admit the way he felt. The epilogue was sweet and romantic, and I loved how it included Rebecca's family.

The suspense was really good. The danger to Rebecca was obvious and intense from the very start. Each attack brought more questions about who was behind them. My heart was in my throat several times as it seemed the attacker appeared out of nowhere. It was easy to see how frustration at his failures increased the attacker's frenzied attempts against Rebecca. The final confrontation had me on the edge of my seat until everyone was safe.

*Copy received in exchange for honest review

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Her Lieutenant Protector - Lara Lacombe (HRS #1952 - July 2017)

Series: Doctors in Danger (Book 3)

A mysterious outbreak propels a doctor and a wounded warrior into escalating danger

After a traumatic incident years before, Mallory Watkins, ship's doctor aboard the Abigail Adams, doesn't trust easily. On her latest cruise, she's wary of sexy security chief Everest LeBeau, but when passengers suddenly fall sick and a dead body is uncovered, Mallory must turn to the handsome veteran for help.

Wary of intimacy since suffering a life-changing injury, veteran Everest recognizes a kindred spirit in Mallory. His beautiful coworker stirs tender feelings in him he'd long forgotten. While Everest and Mallory close in on a lethal saboteur, trust is at a premium as their hearts -- and their lives -- are in peril.

Excellent book with a terrific blend of romance and suspense. Mallory is the ship's doctor for the maiden voyage of a brand new cruise ship. This is a great thing for her career and one more step to getting her life back on track after the trauma she experienced several years earlier. This same trauma has made her wary of men and pretty much put an end to her dating life. Everest is the head of security on the ship. He is fighting his own demons after surviving an IED attack while in the military but losing part of his leg. His fiancée's inability to handle his injuries dealt a blow to his confidence with the opposite sex and he has avoided getting close to a woman ever since then.

I loved the initial meeting between the two of them. Everest was definitely intrigued by Mallory, both by her beauty and by the flare of emotion he saw in her eyes. He suspected there was a story there, but between his issues and the fact that they were coworkers, he knew he shouldn't pursue it. However, that knowledge didn't stop him from wanting to know more. Mallory was surprised by her reaction to Everest. Though she had initially been wary, there was something about him that put her at ease, and that surprised her. Their next encounter cemented their interest in each other, as Everest is impressed by Mallory's handling of two drugged out passengers, and Mallory realizes that she is relieved by Everest's presence. We also get our first indication that this cruise is not going to be uneventful.

The tension increases for Mallory when passengers begin falling ill with what appears to be a highly contagious illness. Things get stranger when a crewmember begins to exhibit signs of something much more disturbing. I loved how Mallory and Everest worked together to discover the cause, and in doing so grew closer. Though Mallory had already decided to stop letting her past control her, putting it into practice still wasn't easy. It took a great deal of courage and faith to open up to Everest about what happened to her. I loved the sensitivity that had already made him suspect what had happened, and his understanding and support were not what she expected. I also loved how Everest's growing feelings for Mallory enabled him to share what had happened to him. Mallory's easy acceptance of his injuries surprised him. There was a very sweet and humorous scene involving her getting distracted by specifics that made me both sigh and laugh. I really liked the way that they took the time to get to know each other before taking the next step. The ending was great as both were able to let go of their fears and truly open their hearts to each other.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. The premise of how the terrorists recruited locals, and their plan to use the ship was all too believable in today's society. It added an extra layer of intensity to the whole story. I felt the fear, right along with Mallory and then Everest, as they uncovered just how insidious the preparations were. I ached for Everest as he discovered the involvement of a trusted colleague. The attacks on Mallory were scary, and I loved Everest's increasing need to protect her. As the tension built to its climax, I couldn't put the book down until I knew how it turned out. The final confrontation was intense, and I loved how it played out.

I also enjoyed seeing Olivia and Logan (Enticed by the Operative) and Avery and Grant (Dr. Do-or-Die) as they joined Mallory on the cruise. I loved the surprise that Olivia and Avery showed as they witnessed Mallory's growing relationship with Everest and their happiness for her. I also loved how both couples provided backup to protect Mallory when she needed it. I loved seeing all three couples together in the epilogue.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Seized by Seduction - Brenda Jackson (HQN - Apr 2017)

Series: Protectors (Book 2)

One glance is all it takes

From the moment his eyes meet hers across the crime-scene tape, ex-con turned bodyguard Quasar Patterson knows he has to see the mysterious Dr. Randi Fuller again. She's a renowned psychic investigator who can foresee danger for others, but not for herself. That makes Quasar doubly determined to watch over her -- the closer, the better -- as she's drawn into a dangerous gang rivalry.

Both her psychic gift and their blinding chemistry tell Randi that she and Quasar are fated to be entwined. Even as they surrender to the heat between them, there's no guarantee of a happily-ever-after now that an enemy has her in his sights. And claiming a future will take more than Quasar's strength and skill. If he can't risk the heart he's always held in check, they'll both lose for good…

Very good book with an excellent blend of romance and suspense. Quasar is one of the ex-con bodyguards introduced in the first book, Forged in Desire. Randi is a psychic investigator who also had a big part in the conclusion of that book. She and Quasar had seen each other during that part of the book, with a definite surge of attraction and connection bursting forth. That shared look consumed them both until they were finally able to meet a few months later. By this time, Randi's psychic gift has told her that Quasar is going to be someone very important to her life, but that they will both have to work at earning a future together. She also has to be patient and wait for him to make the first move. I loved the scene when he took that first step.

Both Quasar and Randi have events in their pasts that make them wary of relationships. Randi's difficulty is that her psychic abilities either freak out the men she dates, or they want something from her. This makes her cautious about trusting a man with her heart. Quasar was wounded deeply by the actions of the woman he loved. When he went to prison for something his brother did, his girl promised to wait for him, then turned around and married his brother. Quasar has sworn never to give his heart to another woman. Neither can deny the attraction that burns hot between them. Quasar is determined to get Randi into his bed, while she is looking further into the future.

Their relationship starts with that first day that they spend together, getting to know each other. One of the things that I liked best about Quasar is that he accepts and believes in Randi's abilities without question. This is a big step in her willingness to trust him. Just as they make plans to see each other again, she is called to Los Angeles to help in solving a case that threatens to start a gang war. Worried about her safety, Quasar follows Randi to LA, determined to watch out for her. His timing is perfect, as an attempt is made on her life that very first night. That scene is fantastic, as it turns out that Randi is even more capable that Quasar suspected. I loved seeing his protectiveness come out in full force. Though Randi is his main purpose for being in LA, Quasar has also decided that it is time for him to confront his past in the form of his father and brother. I ached for Quasar and the misery he endured with a father who blatantly favored his older brother, and said brother who was a bully of the worst sort. I loved the way that Randi wanted to help him and wanted to shake him for pushing her away. Quasar's confrontation with his father was painful, and the effects spilled over onto his growing relationship with Randi and sent him fleeing the feelings he didn't want to admit. Enlightenment came from an unexpected source, and just in the nick of time. I loved his big moment at the end as he was finally ready to open his heart completely.

The suspense of the story was great also. Randi's abilities are amazing, as is her determination to use them for good. The case in LA began with a phone call from the FBI office there, and what she "saw" just from that call was incredible. Her arrival in LA and initial meetings with law enforcement emphasized the attitudes she had to deal with. I loved how she countered the negative with calm and professional courtesy, yet giving as good as she gets. Her meeting with the first of the gang leaders was incredible, and I loved seeing her get to him. We also get a look at the man behind the trouble and see what drives him. The suspense intensifies with each attack on Randi and the feeling that time is running out. There is an additional player who comes in later in the book and brings increased danger to Randi. Though not identified until the end, I wasn't surprised at who it turned out to be. Karma strikes again, and I loved its widespread reach.

One of the other enjoyable things about the book was learning more about the relationships between Quasar, Striker, and Stonewall. There is more revealed about the effect that Shep Granger had on their lives and the difference it has made to the men they are now. I also enjoyed the teasing among the three, especially when it came to their romantic escapades. I am really looking forward to reading Stonewall's story.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wind Chime Point - Sherryl Woods (Mira - May 2013)

Series: Ocean Breeze (Book 2)

Facing a personal crisis, ambitious and driven Gabriella Castle retreats to the welcoming arms of her family. Everything she's worked for has been yanked out from under her, and she seeks the serenity of her grandmother's home on the North Carolina coast. With difficult decisions to make about her future, the last thing she wants is an unexpected love.

Wade Johnson fell for Gabi the first time he saw her. It's not the only time he's found himself in the role of knight in shining armor, but Gabi isn't looking for a rescuer. To get her to stay, Wade will need a whole lot of patience and gentle persuasion…and maybe the soothing sound of wind chimes on a summer breeze.

I loved this book just as much as I loved the first one in the series, Sand Castle Bay. Here we have Gabi, the driven one in the family, who is facing the total upending of her life. Instead of looking at a possible vice-presidency in her company and a successful relationship with her boyfriend, she is pregnant, her boyfriend has rejected her and the baby, and her conservative company doesn't want anything to do with an unwed mother. Uncertain of what to do, Gabi goes home to Sand Castle Bay and the loving support of her grandmother and sisters.

One of the first people she sees is Wade, the carpenter who had helped with storm repairs in the previous book. There had been some sparks between them that Gabi ignored because she was content with her life. Wade didn't push because he could see that she wasn't interested. But Wade is completely smitten by Gabi and had spent a lot of time just watching her and paying attention. Now he sees his chance and quickly talks her into dinner and a movie as friends - at least for now.

I loved the development of their relationship. Wade is incredibly patient, apparently content to be Gabi's friend for as long as it takes for her to return his feelings. He is an awesome friend, willing to listen without judging, helping her move through her doubts and uncertainty. While he makes it clear that he is her friend, he also lets her know that friendship isn't the only thing on his mind. I loved seeing how well he understood her and offered support without trying to tell her what she should do. Gabi is wary of Wade at the beginning. She has enough on her plate without trying to add a new relationship into the mix. I loved seeing how quickly she became comfortable with him, willing to share thoughts and fears that she doesn't tell anyone else. She isn't quite sure what to do about the attraction between them. She's not sure that she trusts her own feelings, with everything that is going on with her. And she also isn't sure if she can trust that what he feels is real and not just his need to care for the people around him. I enjoyed the slow buildup of her feelings until she finally realized the truth. Her "ah-ha" moment was pretty funny. The ending was sweet and romantic.

I also enjoyed the other assorted relationships. We get more of Emily and Boone as they plan their wedding. The relationships among the three sisters aren't perfect, as each has their own quirks and foibles that sometimes create stress. But the love and support for each other are unmistakable. I also liked the growing relationship between the sisters and their father. He had been distant and hard to please for most of their lives and is now making an effort to be more involved. I loved the scene between him and Wade at the end. I also loved Cora Jane, the girls' meddling grandmother. She is determined to see them all happily married and interferes any way she sees fit. I enjoyed the growing relationship between her and Jerry and laughed at his attempts to keep her from going too far. Wade's relationship with his sister was great. She is older and protective of Wade, which caused a little strain between them when she was less than supportive about his relationship with Gabi. I loved his relationship with his nieces and nephews, which showed his dad-like potential. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Ballerina's Stand - Angel Smits (HS #2043 - July 2016)

Series: A Chair at the Hawkins Table (Book 4)

Love reaches far beyond words

When she was growing up, a deaf child in foster care, dancing gave Lauren Ramsey a sense of belonging. Now she's a prima ballerina with her own dance studio; everything's finally going right. And then lawyer Jason Hawkins turns up and drops a bombshell: Lauren's unknown father has left her a fortune. Well, Jason can take that money and shove it. Except…he can't. Once he sees Lauren dancing, he can't stay away…

Terrific book. Jason is approached by a family enemy while at home in Texas on a visit. The man wants his assistance making sure his daughter, who lives in LA, gets her inheritance. Jason is enchanted when he sees her dance and astounded when he discovers that she is deaf. He also isn't sure how he is going to communicate with her.

Lauren has been deaf all her life. Her mother died when Lauren was five, sending Lauren into foster care. It was a hard life, with Lauren usually feeling like an outsider. Things changed when she discovered music and dance and was taken in by a famous ballerina. She has become quite famous and uses her talent to help others. She is stunned to hear that her unknown father has left her a fortune.

I really liked Lauren, most of the time. She is determined, loyal to those she cares for, and enthusiastic about sharing her love of dance. She is also extremely independent, reluctant to accept help from anyone. This frequently puts her at odds with Jason.

I thought Jason was great. Like the rest of his family, he needs to take care of people. His choice was to do it using the law, and away from the influence of his family. He has made a name for himself in LA. I loved his determination to do the best he can for Lauren, from helping with her protégé, Dylan, to learning sign language so he can communicate with her.

The development of their relationship was pretty sweet. The biggest thing that got to me was Jason's desire to be able to talk to her. I loved his need to learn to sign and his frustration when he felt he wasn't learning fast enough. He was surprised by how hard it was to get Lauren off his mind as he tried to remind himself that she was a client. Lauren is a woman who finds it very difficult to trust others. After years in foster care, changing homes and losing friends, she has cut herself off emotionally from most people, trying to protect her heart. I loved seeing the two get to know each other as Jason inserts himself into her life. He slowly breaks down her barriers just by being the nice guy that he is. When she is injured in a fire at her studio, Jason refuses to leave her side. All the time there is an undeniable attraction that simmers between them. When they finally give into it, neither can deny that it is more than just physical nor is either ready to ignore their fears and confess their feelings. I ached for Lauren as she pushed him away, and for Jason as he tried to find a way past her independent streak. I loved Lauren's "ah ha" moment as she finally understood his protectiveness. Jason's big moment at the end was very sweet and romantic as he laid his heart in front of her.

There was also a lot of turmoil in Lauren's life that she had to deal with. There was the inheritance that she had and the emotions regarding her father that she had to face. I ached for her as she learned more about the man he was and confronted the few memories she had of him. There was a terrific scene where she faced her brother and nephew as they contested the will. I adored the judge in that case, as he provided some excellent relief to some otherwise difficult moments. There was also some trouble involving Dylan and his sister. I loved Lauren's support of them both, but it was Jason who really stepped up for them. The relationship between Lauren and Maxine was a complicated one. Both are very strong women and butt heads on a regular basis, but Maxine is there when Lauren needs her.

One of the best things about this book was a look at the life of someone who is deaf. The frustration of being unable to communicate with someone and the feeling of isolation because you are "different" were beautifully portrayed. I felt Lauren's terror after the studio fire when she couldn't see and the relief when Jason was there to be her anchor. I also liked seeing Jason's point of view as a hearing person falling in love with a deaf person. His fears about having a true relationship were real and easily understood. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Meant-to-Be Mom - Karen Templeton (HSE #2397 - Apr 2015)

Series: Jersey Boys (Book 4)

LIFE, LOVE AND THE PURSUIT OF FAMILY

Sabrina Noble's Journal

Dear Diary,

You'll never believe who I spotted on my first day back in Maple River -- the one who got away, Cole Rayburn. He's definitely not the same kid I swung on the monkey bars with. In fact, Cole is more handsome than ever and has two adorable tweens.

There's definitely still something between Cole and myself…but I get the sense that his ex burned him and his kids pretty badly. Now that I'm back in New Jersey, I'm spending more and more time with the Rayburn clan, and I'm honestly loving it. But can I be the bonus mom these kids deserve and have the husband I've always dreamed of? Or is it true that you can't go home again?

Lovely conclusion to the series. Sabrina has arrived back in Maple River a week earlier than expected for her brother's wedding. She has just ended her own engagement and feels a bit lost. The last person she expects to see at her father's house is Cole, her former best friend.

Cole has brought his two kids to Maple River to house sit for his parents and to get used to them being a family. He was a weekend dad until his kids decided they were done being low man on their mother's totem pole. Now Cole has custody, and they are all feeling their way through their new dynamics. He wasn't quite ready to run into Bree so quickly after arriving in town.

Best friends from the age of thirteen until they were seniors in high school, their relationship came to a crashing end, leaving guilt and hurt feelings behind. They manage that first meeting pretty well, only brushing lightly against the past, but each is determined not to relive it. However, small towns being what they are, it is impossible to avoid each other completely. They are thrown into each other's company frequently and discover that rebuilding their friendship is easier than they expected.

The development of their relationship was interesting. They are determined to avoid each other at first, thanks to the way their childhood friendship ended. Along with that, Cole has his two kids to worry about, and they don't need another woman in their life who isn't going to stick around. Bree has been burned badly by her previous relationship and is in no hurry to get involved with another man who has kids. But life being what it is, the more time they spend with each other, the more the good memories begin to overcome the bad ones. I loved the scenes in the church kitchen and at the ice cream shop, where those memories bring them closer together. I also liked seeing the switch in their roles from when they were kids. Back then, Bree was the strong one who helped Cole through the rough times of his life. Now Cole is the one who sees past Bree's armor to the insecurities that she hides from everyone else. As their renewed friendship grows into something more, both of them have to fight their fears. I ached for Bree, who ran from what she believed was impossible. Cole had to face a few of his own entrenched ideas, and help came from an unexpected source. I loved his big moment at the end and the solution he came up with. The epilogue was great, too.

I loved the parts that Wes and Brooke played in the book. They are Cole's life and his reason for being in Maple River. Though there were certainly times I wanted to shake Wes, his attitude and fears were realistic. I loved his protectiveness toward his sister, paired with the typical sibling antics. Brooke was sweet, and I ached for the effect her mother's treatment had on her. It was awesome to see the way that she bloomed under Bree's attention.