Monday, July 31, 2017

Necessary Action - Julie Miller (HI #1709 - May 2017)

Series: Precinct: Bachelors in Blue (Book 3)

Learning to trust could bring them together -- keeping secrets could tear them apart

Going undercover to take down murderous gun smugglers is what Duff Watson lives for. Until he tracks the ring to a Missouri farm…and meets paramedic Melanie Fiske. Now the KCPD detective has another critical task: winning over the curvy redhead who tempts him yet whom he can't let himself trust.

Something about the protective ex-soldier makes Melanie believe he can help her find out the truth about her family. And the desire Duff awakens feels like the real thing. But when Melanie's life is threatened, can she keep trusting -- and loving -- a man who lives a life of dangerous deception?

Another gripping episode in the Bachelors in Blue series. It opens, as did the previous two books, at the wedding of Olivia and Gabe. We see Duff, the oldest, who tends toward the grim and brooding, in a moment of unexpected sentimentality. It doesn't last long as he tries to bring his two brothers back under control from their joking around. When the shooting occurred, it was Duff who went after the shooter, and whose frustration is evident as the man gets away. His grandfather's nearly fatal injury just increases his determination to find the shooter. Thanks to information uncovered in the first two books, Duff is assigned to go undercover to investigate possible weapons trafficking. He meets Mel the day he arrives at the farm.

Mel is the niece of the couple who runs the farm. Her father died when she was eleven, and her aunt and uncle raised her. Other than a year away getting her EMT training, Mel has lived there her entire life. But lately, she has seen and heard things that make her believe that there is something sinister going on. She's doing her best to investigate without getting herself into trouble.

Duff and Mel meet when she treats him for injuries received when he is "welcomed" by his new employer. Something drove Mel to interfere in the fight between Duff and the head of security, though she isn't sure what. I loved the immediate connection that formed between them during that first encounter. Duff is surprised by the attraction he feels to Mel, but is wary, as he had a bad experience during a previous undercover assignment. Mel is also attracted, but wary because he is one of her uncle's men. Duff senses the attraction and plans to use it to get close to her and further his investigation. I loved the banter between them, as Duff teases Mel with his interest in her and she tries to shut him down. But she is also intrigued by him and his effect on her. Over the next couple weeks, they develop that connection into a solid friendship. It was sweet to see how that friendship led to a deeper bond as they shared sorrows and dreams. Duff became very protective of her, stepping in between her and Silas several times.

Mel is also very intelligent and very curious. Something tells her that Duff isn't exactly what he appears to be and she follows him one night. I loved seeing her confront Duff when she discovers him with his contacts. Once all their secrets are exposed, the trust between them is given a chance to grow. There is also the sense that what is between them is more than just chemistry. I loved seeing the gentle side of Duff come out whenever he was around Mel. She is also fiercely protective of him, which leads her to take some risks at the end. I ached for Duff and his fear for her, especially when he remembered what happened to his mom. I loved Mel's bit of humor at the end, which lightened the mood a little as they shared their feelings.

The suspense of the story was great. The story behind the Fiske farm and what it has evolved into shows just how horrible Mel's aunt and uncle are. The more I saw of their manner of controlling the people around them, the creepier I found them. I loved Mel's determination to get to the truth about her father's death, even though the pressure exerted on her to stop grew just as fast. Duff was understandably wary of trusting Mel until he could be sure of her innocence, but once he was their teamwork was fantastic. With each new clue uncovered, the intensity increased. The discovery of what was behind the locked door blew the case wide open but also increased their danger. The final confrontation was really frightening as Mel's life was at risk. It ended rather abruptly, skipping some of the details of the fight, which was a bit disappointing, but overall a satisfying conclusion.

There were a few more revelations about the link between the Fiske farm and the attack at the wedding. While the identity of the shooter was revealed, the man behind it is still a mystery. Once again, the epilogue was from his point of view and is a lead-in to the next book. I can't wait to see how it is finally resolved.

One of the things I loved about this book was the closeness of the Watson family. I loved how they always have each other's backs no matter the situation. I liked the banter at the wedding, and also the concern that both Niall and Keir showed when they met him during the mission. Especially heartwarming was how the entire family showed up at the hospital to support Duff while he waited for Mel to get out of surgery, and how they were all ready to embrace her as part of the family.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kansas City Countdown - Julie Miller (HI #1679 - Dec 2016)

Series: Precinct: Bachelors in Blue (Book 2)

A seventy-two-hour countdown to save her life

They may have battled in the courtroom, but KCPD detective Keir Watson isn't going to let their turbulent past stop him from protecting attorney Kenna Parker. She was attacked, escaping with her life but with no memory of who wanted to end it. And the only person she dares trust is Keir.

With the clock ticking, every second grows more precious, each action more important…their feelings more intense. If Keir is going to discover Kenna's would-be killer, he has to keep his mind on the case. But his attraction to Kenna is making this self-declared bachelor reconsider just what his idea of forever could mean.

Excellent second book in this series. It opens the same way as the previous book, APB: Baby, with the shooting at Gabe and Olivia's wedding. This time we see it through Keir's eyes. It then jumps a few months forward to Keir and his partner, Hud, commiserating over a beer, after losing one of their cases in court. Keir is ticked because the defense attorney shredded his case, implying that Keir's police work was sloppy. He doesn't have very good things to say about "The Terminator" as she is called. After leaving the bar, he's stunned to find her staggering out of an alley, beaten and cut, and all but incoherent. First and foremost a cop, he is determined to protect her and find her assailant.

When Kenna leaves that alley, she has no idea how she got there, or even who she is. All she knows is that she feels she can trust the blue-eyed cop. Somewhere in the gaping hole of her memory is the feeling that she knows who did it and that he'll be back to finish the job. With Keir, she feels safe and protected.

I enjoyed the progression of their relationship. Keir is a bit wary at first, expecting Kenna to be the same shark he has encountered in the courtroom. Instead, he found a woman who, though still stubborn and determined, is also kind, compassionate, and unexpectedly sexy. I loved seeing his professional protectiveness quickly turn more personal. I loved how Kenna trusted Keir so much. Her occasional moments of panic when he was out of her sight were understandable under the circumstances, but once those passed her trust remained. In each other's company 24/7 for several days gave them the opportunity to get to know each other rapidly and deeply. I loved how circumstances had them seeing each other differently than before her attack. It was especially fun to see Keir look at "The Terminator" and her treatment of him in court from a less emotional point of view. I also enjoyed seeing Kenna look at her own life and actions in a new light and start to think about changes to make. Making it through the attack at the end showed them both how much they had already begun to care, and cemented their determination to see where it would go. I hope to see them in the following books.

The suspense of the story was terrific from the beginning. From the moment Keir found Kenna coming out of that alley, the intensity kept building. There were several suspects that were immediately obvious, plus possibilities stemming from cases she had participated in. Her creepy coworker went on my suspect list right away, as I felt he had the means and motive, but then there were others that seemed just as likely. It wasn't until the end that the truth was revealed, in a confrontation that had me on the edge of my seat until I got through it.

Besides the prologue, there was also some attention paid to the search for the wedding shooter. In their hunt for clues about the attack on Kenna, she found something that appears to have a connection to that shooter. In the epilogue, we get more from the point of view of the man behind that attack. I'm really looking forward to getting more of this story.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Keep on Loving You - Christie Ridgway (HQN - Feb 2016)

Series: Cabin Fever (Book 4)

Mackenzie Walker has everything a single girl needs in her California mountain hometown. Family, friends, a thriving business…and memories of Zan Elliott, whose touch -- and betrayal -- she's never forgotten. Now, ten years after he left town, Zan returns to manage his late grandfather's estate…and flip Mac's life upside down.

Documentary filmmaking has taken Zan all over the globe, yet nowhere was far enough away to make him forget Mac. Seeing her reignites their incredible chemistry. Mac's trust won't be easily won, especially when Zan's inheritance jeopardizes her family's hard-earned dreams. But every moment together is challenging Zan to stop living life through a lens and dare to let his guard down for a chance at forever…

A terrific conclusion to the series. Zan has been a background character in all the books, the friend who left town for parts unknown. The only contact has been the occasional postcard sent to Mac, with no message other than the letter Z. After ten years away, Zan has returned to settle his grandfather's estate.

When Zan was a boy, he lost his entire family in an airplane crash. He was sent to live with his grandfather, where he met the Walkers. The lonely boy became a "brother of the heart" to them and as a teen much more to Mac. For two years they were a couple, and then Zan abruptly left town, taking Mac's heart with him.

Mac has spent the last ten years taking care of her family, building her business, and trying to forget Zan. She's very practical, a bit cynical, and very protective of her family. She's happy that her siblings have found love, but a bit sad that she doesn't have someone of her own. Zan's return throws her into a tailspin, as she discovers that the chemistry they had together in the past is stronger than ever. She is determined to keep her distance from him and not risk another heartbreak when he leaves again.

Zan is surprised by how strong his attraction to Mac still is. He would love to pick up where they left off, enjoying the time they have together before he leaves again. He's a bit confused by her chilly attitude.

I really enjoyed the reigniting of their relationship. Both Mac and Zan have been unable to forget each other over the last ten years, but each has some major hurdles to overcome to make a future possible. Mac was devastated by Zan's departure all those years ago and has some huge trust issues now. Zan believes that love always ends in loss because of what happened to him. He pushes people away rather than take a chance on loving and losing. As they work together on Zan's house, the sparks between them burn hotter. Zan wants to give in to them, while Mac is convinced it would be a bad idea. Her brief attempt at believing she can have a fling with him without risking her heart shows her just the opposite, and she pulls away again. Zan wants Mac with every fiber of his being, but he's afraid to believe that it can last. In spite of the fears that each of them has, they can't stay away from each other.

I ached so much for Zan who has spent years running from the ghosts in his heart. His memories of his times with the Walkers are some of the best he has but he's afraid to believe. When he returns to town it takes him a while to adjust to all the changes he finds. He's oblivious to the hurt he's caused by his long absence and lack of communication. It was really sweet to see the way that Shay and Poppy sucked him right back into their lives. The conversation between Zan and Brett, as Brett makes his point that Zan is family brought me to tears. The whole deal with the land made me hurt for him, as he tried to keep his promise to Mac and deal with his guilt at the same time. I wasn't at all surprised at his solution. It was also great to see how many of the people in town were happy to see Zan, and that their pleasure and the memories they shared all began to change the way he looked at the town.

I loved how Mac confronted him at the end, using the postcards to show him how she felt. That scene was really emotional as they started to lay the past to rest. But the best was yet to come at Poppy's wedding. I loved how a chance encounter with an old woman finally showed Zan what he had been doing to himself all those years. His big moment at the end was sweet, romantic and just the type of grand gesture that Mac needed.

I loved the epilogue and the glimpse of the whole family five years later. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

No Getting Over a Cowboy - Delores Fossen (HQN - Apr 2017)

Series: Wrangler's Creek (Book 2)

The golden cowboy of Wrangler's Creek returns home to Texas to discover some old flames never fizzle…

There are plenty of things Garrett Granger hadn't counted on losing -- his child to miscarriage, his wife to another man and the family business thanks to a crooked CFO. He also hadn't counted on moving back to the family ranch, where he's met by another surprise -- former flame Nicky Marlow, who is renting his grandmother's old house.

Nicky's been rebuilding her shattered life since her husband's death two years ago. But Garrett's timely arrival in Wrangler's Creek doesn't automatically make him the missing piece of the puzzle. Even if he does seem to adore her two-year-old daughter… Even if seeing him again stirs up old feelings Nicky would gladly keep buried, forcing her to wonder if moving forward has to mean leaving everything behind…

Good second chance romance. Garrett has come home to the family ranch to heal. He's still grieving for his daughter, who was stillborn and dealing with the fallout of his divorce. There's nothing quite so embarrassing as having your wife's cheating activities becoming a YouTube sensation. Just as he's settling into some serious ranch work, he finds an old flame has invaded the very section he has plans for.

Nicky is rebuilding her life after her husband's death. Her idea is to start a retreat for widows who are trying to deal with their losses, so she has rented an old house on the Granger land. This gives her a purpose for her life and a place to raise her daughter. It also gives her the chance to deal with some issues from her past.

From the moment they see each other again, there are sparks flying between Garrett and Nicky. They are sparks that neither one is happy about. Garrett still feels some guilt about the way he treated Nicky back then, and Nicky doesn't want to risk heartbreak again. Garrett is determined to get the women off his land, but Nicky digs in her heels. Things get more interesting when a skeleton is found in a closet, and the house becomes a crime scene. A temporary move of the women to the main ranch house throws Nicky and Garrett together, and the flames start to burn brighter. But Nicky has some secrets that could derail anything building between them.

I ached for Nicky, who had overcome so much to get where she is. Her home life had been miserable, with an abusive drunk for a father. Her short time as Garrett's girlfriend had been the only happiness she had, and she was heartbroken when he dumped her soon after their one night together. Her marriage had been bad, with a cheating husband who had numerous affairs. I loved seeing her happiness with her daughter and her satisfaction in being able to help the other widows.

I ached a bit for Garrett too. He's tired of being the object of pity because of the end of his marriage and just wants to be able to move on from it. Harder to deal with is the grief he still feels over the loss of his daughter. His pain was clear when he first saw Nicky's daughter Kaylee, who is the same age his daughter would have been. I loved seeing how being around her helped ease his grief and that he grew to love Kaylee for herself. I loved how he saw some of Nicky's vulnerabilities and was sensitive to them as some of her secrets were revealed.

There's plenty of chaos, fun, and mystery as the widows settle into the house and Garrett and Nicky try to deal with it all while fighting their attraction. Each of the widows, and one divorcee, have their own stories and quirks. From Garrett's ex, who claims to be there for counseling over the loss of her baby but is obviously there to try to get Garrett back, to Loretta, the old widow who finds the skeleton, there is never a dull moment. The three sisters are especially amusing with their P-word phobia, and G rated cussing. Garrett's mother, Belle, who gave the lease to Nicky, is obviously trying her hand a matchmaking. There are twists and turns in the search for the identity of the skeleton in the closet, with a surprise revelation at the end of the quest.

There is also a darker mystery involving Nicky and whoever is sending her anonymous roses. Nicky knows who it is and is obviously afraid of what it means. As their relationship progresses, she knows she needs to tell Garrett the truth, but she's afraid of his reaction. When that part of her past arrives in Wrangler's Creek, ready to make trouble, her delay creates some extra complications. I loved how Garrett came through in the end, and all was resolved. I liked seeing both Garrett and Nicky finally able to admit their feelings for each other. The last few lines of the book really summed up their relationship well. I'm really looking forward to Roman's book.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Trouble with Dukes - Grace Burrowes (Forever - Dec 2016)

Series: Windham Brides (Book 1)


The gossips whisper that the new Duke of Murdoch is a brute, a murderer, and even worse--a Scot. They say he should never be trusted alone with a woman. But Megan Windham sees in Hamish something different, someone different.

No one was fiercer at war than Hamish MacHugh, though now the soldier faces a whole new battlefield: a London Season. To make his sisters happy, he'll take on any challenge--even letting their friend Miss Windham teach him to waltz. Megan isn't the least bit intimidated by his dark reputation, but Hamish senses that she's fighting battles of her own. For her, he'll become the warrior once more, and for her, he might just lose his heart.

Very good book. Hamish is a former soldier, Scotsman, and a bit rough around the edges. He's not at all happy to discover that he has inherited a dukedom. All he wants is to retreat back to Scotland, but instead, he's stuck in London, dealing with the paperwork and giving his sisters the London season they want. He's also dealing with the aftereffects of the war, the memories, and the rumors.

Megan is the niece of the Duke of Moreland, in London with her sisters and having her own Season. She's quiet, wears glasses, and does her best to melt into the background whenever she can. She's got some problems of her own, mainly a suitor who she doesn't want but who won't take no for an answer.

I loved how Megan and Hamish met. She is at a bookstore where she is subtly bullied by the man who wants to marry her. Megan is unable to fight back without making a scene, and his threats would prevent that anyway. Hamish overhears and intervenes. He and Fletcher know each other from the war, and there is history between them. There follow some scenes involving Hamish and his less than polished behavior, which incredibly gets him and his sisters invited to tea a the Duchess of Moreland's home. His trials continue and end up with Megan offering to teach him to waltz (another fantastic scene). There are sparks between the two from the beginning. Hamish also senses that Megan is having troubles of her own and succeeds in prying the details from her. He discovers a protective streak when it comes to her, and is determined to fix the problem. Megan is surprised by her willingness to confide in Hamish, and grateful for his intervention.

I loved the two of them together. Hamish may be rough around the edges, but Megan sees below the surface to the man who loves his family and does the right thing no matter what others may say. Hamish doesn't care that Megan is blind as a bat without her glasses. He sees her intelligence, kindness and strength. As they spend time together their initial attraction grows into something deeper. They are incredibly comfortable with each other and find it easy to share their deepest fears and troubles. It was sweet to see the big tough Scotsman get all soft in the middle when he was around Megan. And I loved seeing the quiet Megan get bossy when there was something she felt strongly about. Their romance doesn't go entirely smoothly as Sir Fletcher doesn't give up his goal of acquiring Megan's hand in marriage easily. His blackmail of Megan and bad-mouthing of Hamish show his true nature and it was easy to root for his downfall. I loved Hamish's determination to bring about a resolution and thoroughly enjoyed how he did it. Even more satisfying was that Megan doesn't wait meekly for rescue, but takes a hand in her own salvation. The confrontation at the end was fantastic.

Of course, being a Windham means that Megan has an abundance of male relatives to assist and/or interfere. It was only her pride that kept  her from enlisting their help. Their love and respect for her is obvious throughout the book, but they are Morelands and therefore prone to the same kind of scheming they decried in their father. There are some really funny scenes of their encounters with Hamish, and I laughed out loud at his purposeful mangling of their names. The Duke himself gets into the act in some pretty amusing ways, such as his late night conversation with Hamish in the gardens. But they all come together in a most satisfying way to provide Sir Fletcher with the justice he deserves. I can't wait to read the next one.

Cavanaugh on Call - Marie Ferrarella (HRS #1943 - May 2017)

Series: Cavanaugh Justice (Book 34)

Detective Bryce Cavanaugh already has one tough investigation -- an elusive home-invasion team on a dangerous crime spree. And his enigmatic fellow cop Alexandra "Scottie" Scott keeps throwing him curves. She's relentless at taking charge -- and running down leads. But getting the stunning blonde to reveal her secrets is a challenge Bryce just can't resist.

Scottie prefers to solve cases and save those close to her on her own. Keeping one step ahead of Bryce's hardheaded persistence is difficult enough. But tension-filled nights and high-adrenaline days are only fueling the passion between them and putting an inescapable target on their backs!

Very good book. Scottie transferred from Homicide to Robbery when she became convinced that her missing half-brother is involved in the series of robberies that were happening. Known in the department for preferring to work alone, she's not too happy to be paired with Bryce. Working alone would give her the chance to find Ethan without interference from the sharp-eyed detective, but he won't cooperate. Bryce is intrigued by his new partner. She's beautiful, but she's also the prickliest and most solitary cop he's ever known. He's determined to break down her walls.

I loved both Scottie and Bryce. They were so different, but in the end, so right for each other. Scottie had had a miserable childhood, one that has created a bone deep independence and a wariness of getting too close to anyone. She is also fiercely loyal to her only remaining family member. I loved her faith in Ethan and her certainty that if he's involved in the robberies, it's not by choice. Bryce is a Cavanaugh. His childhood was one of a normal, happy family. He's easygoing and open, secure in the love and support of his family. I loved his humor and patience.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Bryce was intrigued from the moment he met Scottie. Her beauty snagged his attention, but her attitude was a challenge he couldn't resist. I loved his teasing attempts to get her to open up and his realization that there was something deeper driving her determination to solve the case. Scottie was not happy when she realized that Bryce was stirring up feelings in her that she didn't want. She was determined to not to give in, but she really didn't stand a chance. I loved their banter as Bryce pushed and Scottie resisted. It was a bit heartbreaking to see her reaction to the close family ties she saw in the Cavanaughs. I loved her take-charge attitude during the baby episode. I loved her subsequent invitation to one of Andrew's get-togethers and Bryce's determination to keep her from missing it. I always love seeing outsiders' reactions to those events. Bryce's persistence pays off, and I loved the changes in Scottie as she begins to believe in him. There's a little bump in the road when she finally opens up about Ethan, but they get past that pretty quickly and become an even stronger team. Both of them are a bit wary of expressing their feelings until a dangerous situation shows them that life can be short. I loved the ending, with both showing a little vulnerability and their love shining through it.

The suspense of the story was good too. Scottie's worry about her brother and his possible involvement laid the groundwork for the question of did he or didn't he? As the search goes on, it looks more and more like Ethan is involved. Scottie's withholding of information adds some stress to the search, as Bryce senses that there is something more going on. Scottie's intense desire to find the truth helps move the case along, and finally telling Bryce the truth strengthens their teamwork. I loved how the clues started coming together. The final confrontation was intense, and I was on the edge of my seat until it was over. As always, Cavanaughs have each other's' backs.

As always, other Cavanaughs are present in the story in some way. I loved how the family teasing was such an eye opener for Scottie when she was coerced into going to Malone's with Bryce. The baby delivery scene was funny as was the hospital scene afterwards. I always love the nurses' reactions to Cavanaugh invasions. Andrew and his parties are a staple of the books, as is his way of seeing to the heart of those who attend. I always look forward to appearances of previous characters and this was no exception. I can't wait to see who is next.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hard Justice - Lori Foster (HQN - Mar 2017)

Series: Body Armor (Book 2)

Playing it safe has never felt so dangerous…

Justice Wallington knows how to harness his strength and intimidating size -- skills he put to good use first in the MMA cage and now as a bodyguard at the Body Armor agency. But no opponent has ever left him feeling as off balance as his new client, heiress Fallon Wade. Far from a spoiled princess, she's sweet and intriguingly innocent. It's a risk-free assignment until he's required to fake a relationship with her in order to blend in.

Sheltered from the world after a family tragedy, Fallon longs to experience life -- going to bars, dancing, talking to strangers. Not easy with a huge, lethal-looking bodyguard shadowing her every move. Justice seems like her polar opposite, but pretending to be a couple stirs undeniable heat. And when danger strikes again, it's not just her safety in jeopardy, but a passion that's real, raw and absolutely against the rules…

Very good book. Justice is a former fighter who has followed his friend Leese (Under Pressure) to the Body Armor Agency as a bodyguard. His latest job is to protect heiress Fallon Wade whenever she goes out. It seems like it will be a pretty low-key job, without any real stress or danger. He expects to find a woman who is spoiled rotten and expects people to jump when she snaps her fingers. He's surprised to find the exact opposite. Fallon is sweet, innocent and ready to expand her world. She's not all that happy to have a bodyguard, but Justice is different than any other bodyguard she has had.

I loved Justice and Fallon. Justice is a bit more rough around the edges than Leese is, but is just as wonderful. He's honorable, strong, outwardly intimidating but with an unexpectedly soft center. I loved his first encounter with Fallon's parents. He's a little intimidated by their obvious wealth, but he doesn't let it show. He simply behaves the way he always does. He is quite a contrast at times, big, tough, with a death-glare that sends people scurrying out of his way, then talking about planting the flowers that his ma and granny gave him and dropping everything to help them when they need it. Fallon is twenty-four years old and tired of being kept in a gilded cage. Her parents had always been protective, but after her sister's death, they really went overboard. She wants a chance to live her life and experience the same things other do. She's a bit naïve and has some issues that cause her to feel unattractive.

I loved the relationship that developed between Fallon and Justice. There are sparks from the moment they met, though Justice tries desperately to resist them. She's a client; she's rich, she's innocent - all good reasons to keep his hands off. But it doesn't take him long to fall and fall hard for her. I loved seeing him try to balance ways to give her the experiences she wanted while at the same time keeping her safe. There were some really sweet scenes of their excursions as they get to know each other. Fallon is fascinated by Justice. His strength and size are a real turn-on for her, but so are the kindness and humor she sees in him. Fallon doesn't believe in her own appeal to a man like Justice, thanks to events in her past. I loved seeing them realize that there is more between them than bodyguard and client and that Justice isn't afraid to jump in with both feet. I loved his forthright discussion with her parents and Fallon's reaction. It was great to see Fallon coming out of her shell as Justice introduced her to his world. Justice goes through some changes of his own as his love for Fallon makes him look at his life differently. I loved the ending with Justice and Fallon and her parents. Her new found confidence was a testament to his love and support.

The suspense of the story was really good. Though there didn't seem to be any real threat when Justice first started with Fallon, some strange things began to happen. There were some uncomfortable encounters with her ex, vandalism, and a possible physical attack on Fallon. There are several possibilities of who is behind it, and the question of why. Clues lead this way and that, keeping me guessing until the end. There is some great support and involvement by Justice's friends and fellow fighters from the Ultimate series, especially when it came to the final confrontation. That was really intense, and I loved how it all came together.

The secondary characters were all terrific. Fallon's parents grated on my nerves at first, until more of Fallon's story was revealed and their attitudes were more understandable. Her mom really grew on me the further into the book I got. Justice's mom and granny were fantastic. I especially loved his granny and her feisty attitude. The fighter, Tom, had me going back and forth as to whether I liked him or not. He reminds me of Justice as he was in the previous series, so there is hope for him yet. Maybe he will feature in the next series. We saw a little more of Miles, who will be in the next book. There also seems to be some connection between Brand, another fighter, and Sahara, the agency owner. I'm really looking forward to his book.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Under Pressure - Lori Foster (HQN - Jan 2017)

Series: Body Armor (Book 1)

He can protect anything except his heart

Leese Phelps's road hasn't been an easy one, but it's brought him to the perfect job -- working for the elite Body Armor security agency. And what his newest assignment lacks in size, she makes up for in fire and backbone. But being drawn to Catalina Nicholson is a dangerous complication, especially since it could be the very man who hired Leese who's threatening her.

What Catalina knows could get her killed. But who'd believe the sordid truth about her powerful stepfather? Beyond Leese's ripped body and brooding gaze is a man of impeccable honor. He's the last person she expects to trust -- and the first who's ever made her feel safe. And he's the only one who can help her expose a deadly secret, if they can just stay alive long enough…

Great start to the new series. Leese, who first appeared in Holding Strong as a brash, cocky young fighter, has since left the MMA scene. In the earlier book, he made some mistakes that put another person in danger. Though he owned up to his actions and was forgiven for them, he hasn't really forgiven himself. He takes his new job as a bodyguard very seriously. In this book, he is assigned to protect Cat; a rich girl turned teacher who has found herself running for her life.

The book started with a bang, as Leese, who was hired to find and protect Cat, saves her from some thugs. She doesn't know quite what to make of him and his associate, Justice. Having been on the run for a couple of months, she's wary of them, but also has an instinctive feeling that she can trust them. That feeling is quickly confirmed when they protect her from one of her more relentless pursuers. But the danger isn't over, and Leese spirits her away to a safe place while they try to figure out how to end the threat. Attacks aren't the only thing they have to deal with. There is an intense attraction between Leese and Cat from the very beginning. Leese tries very hard to resist it, as getting involved with a client is a bad idea, plus a distraction that could be deadly. On the other hand, Cat wants Leese with a determination that is hard to deny. I loved her attempts to seduce him and his increasingly unsuccessful attempts to resist. He especially worries that she is only attracted to him because he is protecting her. When they finally give it, the heat is explosive. It also quickly becomes more than simply physical attraction. Leese is drawn to her quirkiness, and also her unexpected courage and inner strength. It was fun to see him try to keep her under control when she made up her mind about something. Cat was a fun character. She was quite blunt, saying pretty much whatever came to her mind. She had no problem letting Leese know when she didn't like something. She also had her own protective streak, which led to an occasional bad decision on her part. I loved seeing the two of them get to know each other while they were hiding out, from their differing eating habits to Cat's attempt to work out while watching Leese do his workouts.  As their feelings for each other deepened, there was a hint of vulnerability in each of them as they wondered if their feelings are returned. I loved Leese's big moment at the end.

The suspense and action of the story were fantastic. From the first page to the end, there was no question that Cat was in danger. The various attacks varied from creepy to intense, but always exciting. I ached for Cat and her feelings of betrayal after overhearing her stepfather and his associates. I was really impressed with the way that she was able to evade capture for so long. I was also a bit frustrated with her refusal to tell Leese and the others everything right from the start but also understood her fears. There were also a few scenes from the bad guys' point of view. It was difficult to tell at times just who was behind Cat's pursuit, which added to the suspense. There was also a creep factor added by the other bodyguard. There are some great scenes of Leese's protective abilities combined with his quick wit. The final confrontation was exciting and nerve-wracking, and I loved Cat's quick thinking and courage. The wrap up of the complete mystery was perhaps a little too quick and easy, but still satisfying.

I really enjoyed seeing some of the characters from the Ultimate Fighter series. Besides Justice, whose story I am looking forward to, I especially liked seeing Cannon and Denver again. I loved that Denver has completely forgiven Leese for what happened. The support and friendship of the other fighters were clear. I especially loved their scene at the hospital with Enoch. Another secondary character was the head of the Body Armor agency, Sahara Silver. She was one feisty woman and I can't wait to see more of her. I also wonder if there is more to her brother's death than is currently known, and if that will play a part in a later book.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lock, Stock and McCullen - Rita Herron (HI #1583 - Aug 2015)

Series: Heroes of Horseshoe Creek (Book 1)

Sherriff Maddox McCullen cradled Rose Worthington, every protective fiber of his being firing as she shuddered against him. She told him how she had been brutally attacked and had killed the man -- her fiancé! -- in self-defense. But when Maddox investigates the crime scene, he finds nothing. No bullet casing, no blood, no body.

The deeper Maddox probes, the more questions arise, revealing a mysterious past that shatters all Rose has ever known. Caught in the crosshairs of escalating danger -- and his powerful desire for Rose -- Maddox vows to protect her. He'll risk his life to find a desperate enemy who will stop at nothing to keep the past buried.

Good book with plenty of excitement throughout the book. Rose is a local shop owner who is eloping with her fiancé. She's excited to be starting her own family with a man she loves. Her fiancé has suggested a night together before the wedding, and takes her to an isolated cabin, where she overhears him talking to someone about killing her and leaving the body. Terrified, she fights him off, using his own gun to shoot and kill him. She escapes back to town and calls the sheriff. But when they go to investigate, there's no body, no blood, and nothing to show that anyone had been there.

Maddox has been attracted to Rose for a long time, but she belonged to someone else. Now she's in danger and he is determined to keep her safe. The problem he has is keeping his attraction under control and his mind on his duty. I loved seeing how gentle and kind he was with her every time that something new would happen to them. All Rose knows is that she feels safe when she is with Maddox. As the truth comes out about her fiancé, she realizes that the man she thought she loved didn't exist. Instead she discovers in Maddox an honorable, kind and sexy man who shows her what a man should be. I loved seeing how they connected and the attraction grew between them.

Both of them have led rather lonely lives. Maddox on the ranch with his father and having two brothers that are estranged. His father is dying, which is tearing him apart. He's also trying to get his brothers back to the ranch to mend fences with their father before he dies. Rose's life has been a lonely one also. She was raised by two parents who weren't loving, moved frequently, and discouraged ties with anyone. When she became an adult, she moved out on her own, craving a life with roots, separating herself from her parents. I loved seeing the comfort they brought to each other. I loved how Rose worried about Maddox and his obvious stress about his dad and brothers. There was such a sweet scene at the end where she just wanted to be there for him, and his obvious need for her presence was heartwrenching. I also loved how Maddox was able to be the one that Rose was able to lean on and trust. His sensitivity to her pain was pretty sweet. I loved his big moment at the end, as he took a chance on sharing his feelings.

The suspense was quite a wild ride. The more that Maddox and Rose investigate, the deeper the mystery gets. Someone seems to be determined to kill Rose, and he doesn't care who he takes with her. As Maddox and Rose uncover years of deceit, her past becomes more puzzling. I ached for Rose as she learned each new thing. With every clue seemed to come a new attack, each more brutal than the next. Only sheer determination got them out of each jam, from fires to bombings to near drownings. The final confrontation was a nail-biter, with a very satisfying ending.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What We Find - Robyn Carr (Mira - Jan 2016)

Series: Sullivan's Crossing (Book 1)

Between the urban bustle of Denver and the high-stress environment of a career in neurosurgery, Maggie Sullivan has hit a wall. When an emergency high-risk procedure results in the death of a teenager, Maggie finds herself in the middle of a lawsuit -- and experiencing levels of anxiety she's never faced before. She knows she needs to slow down before she burns out completely, and the best place she can think to do that is Sullivan's Crossing.

Named for Maggie's great-grandfather, the land and charming general store at the crossroads of the Colorado and the Continental Divide Trails have been passed down through the generations and now belong to Maggie's eccentric father, Sully. When she shows up unannounced, he welcomes her with open arms, and she relishes the opportunity to indulge in his simple way of life.

But shortly after arriving, Maggie's world is rocked once again, and she must take on more responsibility than she'd planned. Though she's relieved a quiet and serious-looking hiker, Cal Jones is willing to lend a hand, Maggie is suspicious of this mysterious man's eagerness to help -- until she finds out the true reason for his deliberate isolation.

Though Cal and Maggie each struggle with loss and loneliness, the time they spend together gives Maggie hope for something brighter just on the horizon…if only they can learn to find peace and healing -- and perhaps love -- with each other.

Good book about two people who are looking for answers after their lives undergo massive shake-ups. Maggie is a neurosurgeon in a busy Denver hospital. She has a boyfriend who is just as busy as she is. When her co-workers in her practice are accused of fraud, then she is sued by the parents of a patient she lost, her stress goes through the roof. Add in an unexpected pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage, a boyfriend who is a total jerk about it, and her emotions are all over the place. She finally arrives at the point where she knows she has to get away, so that's what she does. She goes home to Sullivan's Crossing, where her father runs a campground and general store. An absence of judging and the opportunity to share in his simple life gives her the respite she needs. Then Sully is taken ill, and she has to step up and take care of him, plus the campground. She couldn't do it without the help of his friends, including Cal Jones, a mysterious camper who is eager to do whatever is needed.

Cal is an attorney who was very successful. He had it all - great reputation, nice house, and the love of his beautiful wife. Then she came down with a devastating illness, and by the time it was all over his material possessions didn't hold the same meaning any longer. Feeling lost and lonely, he set out to hike some of the trails around the Continental Divide, which brought him to Sullivan's Crossing. While waiting for the trails to warm up, he finds comfort in the people around him.

Maggie is suspicious of Cal at first. First, she thinks he's homeless, and that he certainly has no direction in his life. He seems content to just hang out, read his books, and chat with Sully. She can't deny that he's good looking, and that she feels a certain attraction to him. When he jumps in to help with the campground while Sully is recovering, she gets a chance to get to know him. What she finds is a charming, well-read man with a sense of humor and an amazing sense of calm around him. Their friendship starts with banter and teasing and an attraction that simmers just below the surface. As the weeks go on, that simmer grows stronger, and pretty soon the kisses lead to more.

I loved seeing the relationship develop as each of them shares what has brought them to this point in their lives. Cal gives Maggie a quiet port where she can look at her life and the choices that are open to her. He doesn't push or direct or even suggest, he's just there when she wants to talk or just be together. Maggie gets Cal out of his funk and to start living again. Neither one pushes the other to give more than they are ready for, but instead provides the support needed to deal with their issues. I loved seeing them back each other up when complications would arise. I especially loved seeing Maggie dealing with Cal's parents in such a kind, yet matter-of-fact way. It was just what Cal needed to realize that, though his parents are part of him, they don't define him. I really enjoyed seeing that their relationship grew with mature discussions and understanding of what's important, without any major arguments or drama. The ending was sweet and romantic and just right for them.

I loved the setting of Sullivan's Crossing. The people are fun, diverse and interesting.  The stories of the various campers who came through the crossing were varied and fun.  I loved Sully and his unquestioning love for Maggie. They had their issues at the beginning, but her extended time with him gave them a chance to resolve them. I enjoyed how everyone around him helped with his recovery. His friend Tom was great, as a single father of four and a busy life that wasn't too busy for his friends. His ex-wife's problems gave Cal a chance to dip his toes back into the world of lawyering. Tom's son also provided tension at the end with a search and rescue mission that had an unexpected twist for Maggie. I am looking forward to the next book and seeing what's in store for the people at Sullivan's Crossing.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

It Started with a Diamond - Teri Wilson (HSE #2561 - July 2017)

Series: Drake Diamonds (Book 3)

Heiress Nabs Polo Star

A Page Six Exclusive Report

Stunning world-class equestrian Diana Drake's stayed out of the family business for decades. But now Diana has the inside track on a coveted diamond…not to mention a polo-playing partner in crime in Franco Andrade. And after mere weeks, the city's most eligible bachelor is engaged to the jewelry heiress! Still, this whirlwind romance may not be as glittering as the jewels in Drake's. After all, we hear that Franco's first love has always been the polo team that unceremoniously sacked him. And Diana's still recovering from the loss of the sport she's always cherished. Can the handsome Argentine help his new fiancée capture the diamond of the century…and in the process repair her shattered heart?

Good conclusion to the trilogy. Diana is working for the family business, still not ready to go back to her promising equestrian career. The loss of her beloved horse, Diamond, still haunts her. Instead, she is stuck working the Engagements section of the store, which she absolutely hates. She is there when the new "face" of the store arrives for a publicity shoot - one Franco Andrade, Argentinian polo player. She and Franco have a history and it isn't a pleasant memory. She's horrified when she gets roped into participating in the shoot.

Franco is well known as a player, both on and off the field. His off-field antics have resulted in being kicked off his polo team. Working for Drake Diamonds is an attempt to repair his image. He's surprised to see Diana working at the store and not out pursuing her Olympic dreams. He's even more surprised by the attraction he still feels for her.

Both Diana and Franco are shocked when one of the pictures of the two of them together becomes an overnight sensation. Because Drake Diamonds is in the running to be the company to cut a newly discovered large diamond, Diana's brother and CEO, asks them to pretend to be a couple for the next three weeks. This will keep Drake's in the headlines and increase their chances. Diana is reluctant, but agrees to do so in exchange for being made co-CEO of the company. Franco agrees because it will help him prove to his team management that he has changed. Diana is determined to keep Franco at arm's length and the relationship for public consumption only. She doesn't count on being even more attracted to Franco now.

I loved the development of their relationship. Franco is attracted and intrigued from the start. He remembers their one night from three years earlier, and regrets how it ended. He sees this as a chance to make amends. As he spends time with her, he also notices pain and sadness in her eyes and wants to help her. Diana has closed herself off from her feelings. Not just the loss of her horse, but also her mother's death and everything that led up to it, have left her convinced she's better off alone. However, the chemistry between Franco and Diana continues to build and begins to break down the walls around her heart. I loved how he just knew that she needed a puppy to help her start caring again. When the sparks between them burst into flame, the connection between them is amazing. That connection takes a hit when Franco announces their engagement - without telling Diana about it first. He needs her help, just as she needed his, but she's justifiably angry at the way he went about it. She gets a bit of an eye opener about Franco during a night out at the Polo Club, when she has a chance to meet his best friend. She realizes that there is more to him that she thought, and begins to look at him differently. But all her fears come rushing back when Franco is injured during a match, and she pushes him away. Both of them needed to come to terms with their pasts before they could move on to a future together. I loved the assistance they both had from those that cared about them. Franco's big moment at the end was awesome. The epilogue was great and was the perfect ending for the story.

The Princess Problem - Teri Wilson (HSE #2544 - Apr 2017)

Series: Drake Diamonds (Book 2)

A Diamond in the Rough

Always-proper princess Aurélie Marchand never flouts the wishes of her father. But when she's set to marry a man she doesn't love, Aurélie finally escapes -- to glittering New York City. And she's got a surprise for her hosts at Drake Diamonds: a magnificent secret treasure that can guide their fortunes forever. But it's the dour but dashing Dalton Drake who is the true surprise…

Despite a store built on finding true love, after one tragic try at marriage Dalton's wed only to his family's business. When the feisty princess appears on his doorstep, though, she immediately tries his patience…and charms her way into his fiercely padlocked heart. But can the secret-filled runaway royal become his forever bride?

Good book. Aurélie is a princess on the run. She desperately wants a chance to live a little before undergoing an arranged marriage to a much older man. She disguised herself as a courier and accompanied a collection of jeweled eggs to New York, where they will go display at Drake Diamonds. She also brought another treasure to use as the incentive to gain Dalton's cooperation. Dalton's world has revolved around Drake Diamonds for most of his life, even affecting his one attempt at marriage. Aurélie's arrival throws his well-ordered life into complete turmoil.

I really liked Aurélie. She suffered a blow to her outlook on life when she learned the truth about her parents' so-called fairy tale marriage. I liked how she took matters into her own hands and seized the chance to do what she wanted while she still could. I thought her methods were creative. I really liked when she came face-to-face with Dalton and stated her requirements, and didn't back down when he tried to intimidate her. It was sweet to see her enjoyment of the little things like eating a hot dog and shopping for vintage clothes.

I liked Dalton, too. He's a workaholic who has always put the company first, even though it cost him his fiancée, but he unbent enough in the first book, His Ballerina Bride, to help Artem win Ophelia. He's surprised when he is confronted by Aurélie, and hesitant to put his arrangement with her father at risk. It was fun to see him try to keep her under control and failing miserably.

I enjoyed the development of their romance. There are sparks flying between them from the start, but both have good reason to resist. Aurélie because she knows she will have to go home and marry, and Dalton because he swore never to put another woman at risk because of his behavior.  I loved how helping Aurélie with her wishes began to pull Dalton out of the shell he had built around himself. He stunned everyone around him by actually ditching work to be with her. Aurélie was able to forget what was waiting for her when she was with him, and discovered that she was happier than she had ever been. The attraction continued to build until neither could resist it any longer. I loved how Aurélie seized her chance with such enthusiasm. The connection scared Dalton a bit and he started to pull away. A family crisis intensified his need to avoid more loss in his life and he continued to push. I loved that Aurélie stepped up to help in a different crisis, which brought the two of them back together in an intense encounter. But an unexpected arrival the next morning brought everything crashing down and sending Aurélie back home. I ached for Dalton and his misery at her absence and loved seeing his sister point out the obvious. I loved Dalton's solution once he made his decision. There was still an expected twist waiting for him before he could carry out his plans and I loved what it was. The ending was great and I loved how Aurélie proved to have more courage than she expected. I'd love to see more of her and her new future.

Friday, July 14, 2017

His Ballerina Bride - Teri Wilson (HSE #2526 - Jan 2017)

Series: Drake Diamonds (Book 1)

The Ultimate Pas de Deux

A Page Six Exclusive Report

Debonair Artem Drake has had tongues wagging all over New York since he became surprise CEO of Drake Diamonds. This playboy hopes to bring new life to the storied old business before those rumored bad investments sink the family ship. He's even plucked an ambitious salesgirl out of the shadows to become the store's new star designer. But Ophelia Rose isn't the ingenue she seems. The swanlike beauty's hiding a past that glimmers as bright as a Drake diamond -- she once graced the stage as a professional ballerina…until she was forced to take her final curtsy and hide from the limelight. Now can Artem bring her back to center stage? Or will their glittering future together wither under the secrets of the past?

Fantastic book. Ophelia is a former ballerina who lost her career thanks to a devastating medical diagnosis. Now she works on the sales floor of Drake Diamonds and dreams of becoming one of their jewelry designers. A chance encounter with Artem Drake, CEO of the company, gives her the opportunity to show her designs. Artem inherited the position of CEO, but he doesn't want it. He's never felt part of the tradition. On his way to his brother's office to submit his resignation, he sees Ophelia and is immediately drawn to her. In the course of that meeting, Artem offers to look at her designs.

The chemistry between Ophelia and Artem is intense from the very beginning. Every encounter sees the sparks flying between them. Ophelia is determined to resist because of her fears about her future. Artem is attracted so much that he can't get her off his mind. I loved the night at the ballet, meant to be publicity for the company and how it turned out to be so much more. I ached for Ophelia and her sense of loss at not being able to dance, and wept at her reaction to the shoes. I loved how she seized on the chance to take one night for herself to make memories to last her in her self-imposed exile. What she and Artem experienced was incredible, both physical and emotional. But the dream came to an end the next morning, with a public exposure of her past. I ached for them both as Ophelia dealt with the consequences of the stress and Artem with the effects the news of her illness had on his feelings. I loved the way that he stood up for her against his brother and tried to protect her. The ending was awesome with Artem's determination to do whatever he had to in order to win her, and Ophelia finally willing to believe she could have a life worth living. Artem's big moment was awesome and the perfect way to bring the story full circle.

There was so much I loved about this book. At the top of the list is the realism of Ophelia and her illness. The devastation of the major changes in her life and her fears for her future are what so many experience. I loved seeing her making the best of her new reality and trying to stay as positive as she can. I ached for her and the effect her former fiancé's rejection had on her. Artem also had his demons to overcome. The stigma of his birth and his fear of being like his father had a huge impact on his life. His relationship with his brother was strained until they found a way past the issues that kept them apart. I also loved how the Drake Diamond had a connection to both Artem and Ophelia, and that Ophelia finds a way to show Artem that it is just as important to him as it is to her. I wasn't surprised by Artem's gift to Ophelia, but it was so very sweet and romantic.

The Cowboy's Twin Surprise - Cathy McDavid (HWR #1649 - July 2017)

Series: Mustang Valley (Book 10)


Frankie Hartman never thought she'd see Spence Bohanan again. Not after he broke her heart and walked away before she could tell the wandering cowboy about his twin daughters. Now that he's back in Mustang Valley, Frankie has to reveal the truth. At least about his kids -- Spence can never find out that she still secretly aches for him.

Spence finally has his life together and he's ready to prove himself to the only woman he's ever loved, but her revelation shakes everything up. It doesn't take long for him to fall in love with his little girls, but repairing the trust between him and Frankie won't happen quite so quickly. Spence is ready to be a family man -- will Frankie give him a chance?

Good second chance story. Frankie is the single mother of twin girls. She has raised them on her own, after the man she loved left town before she could tell him she was pregnant. She never wanted to trap him into marriage, so she hadn't made any effort to find him. Now he is back in town and she has to tell him the truth. Spence spent years hopping from job to job, looking for something he couldn't name. He finally found it and has come home to Mustang Valley to win back the woman he's always loved. What he finds shakes him to the core.

I really liked Spence. He owned up to his mistakes of the past and has made big changes in his life. He shows up at the café where Frankie works, ready to pick up where they left off. He knows he has to make amends for his past actions, but he's a little shaken by the depth of animosity that she exhibits. When she breaks the news that he's a father, he is stunned and angry, but determined to step up and be the best father he can be. His anger is understandable, but he does get over it pretty quickly. I loved how quickly he connected with his little girls. There are some really sweet scenes between them as they get to know each other. He is also determined to show Frankie that he is back to stay and that she can depend on him.

I liked Frankie too, but she also frustrated me. I loved that her girls were her main priority in her life, and everything she did was with their benefit in mind. I ached for her when her hopes at the café were dashed and thought that she handled it well. Spence's return threw her into turmoil as she knew she had to tell him about the girls. She was afraid of what his reaction would be. She was also wary of letting him into their lives, afraid of what would happen if he left again.

The more that Spence got involved in their lives, the more that he wanted. His feelings for Frankie had never died and now he wants it all. He tries so hard to show Frankie that he has changed, but often feels that he is fighting an uphill battle. Frankie wants to believe in the new Spence, but she'd been hurt too many times before. I loved seeing Spence helping with the girls, assisting with her catering business, and making commitments to the community. Everything he does shows his new maturity. He makes a few mistakes along the way, but his intentions are always good, and he admits when he screws up. Frankie frustrated me in places because she would let Spence get closer, then freak out and push him away. She seemed to be constantly watching him for indications that he was going to leave again and totally ignore the things that showed he was going to stay. The attraction that had always been there between them continues to grow and is part of what brings them closer. Everything looks promising until a combination of bad luck and bad decisions causes Spence to let Frankie down. Though he tries to fix it, Frankie's reaction is extreme, and harsh words are exchanged. I ached for Spence because he had tried so hard, and I wanted to shake Frankie for being so hard on him. I loved seeing her finally take a long and honest look at her own behavior and realize what she had been doing. I loved her big moment at the end.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness - Deb Marlowe (Deb Marlowe - Apr 2014)

Series: Half Moon House (Book 1.5)

It's warring nations, dueling philosophies and the battle of the sexes as American-born Miss Liberty Baylis takes on Simon Lansing, Viscount Brodham, in the fight for her friend's happiness. Brodham wants only to retire to the peace and quiet of his country estate, but he'll take on the cheeky American chit if that's what it takes to keep his nephew safe and happy. The war is on . . . but when banter and flirtation become weapons and kisses disrupt strategies, will Brodham and Liberty ever wish for the battles to end?

Good quick read. Liberty is an American heiress visiting London with her parents. Accustomed to more activity and freedom, she is bored and frustrated by the lack of both. A series of advertisements in the newspaper intrigues her and leads her to a new friend. Felicity is a young lady who is trying to find the gentleman who came to her rescue a few weeks earlier. Liberty decides that helping her new friend is a perfect project for her. She runs into some trouble when the gentleman's uncle tries to keep the two apart.

Lord Brodham has spent a good deal of his adult life rescuing other people from their scandals or trying to prevent them in the first place. He's tired of seeing the worst of people and ready for some peace and quiet on his estate. But first, he has to untangle his nephew, Peter, from potential disaster.

There are sparks between Brodham and Liberty from the moment they meet. She is determined to do everything possible to help the young couple, while Brodham seems determined to keep them apart. They carry on a lighthearted battle, each trying to make their point. Underneath the battle is a simmering attraction to each other. Brodham is especially wary, as Liberty is definitely not the quiet and safe kind of woman he had been envisioning his life. Liberty had certainly not been looking for a stuffy Englishman. Their encounters are mostly fun and flirty as they try to top each other in their efforts. When one encounter turns more emotional than Brodham is comfortable with, he withdraws back to his safe and quiet life. He discovers that quiet and comfortable isn't all it's cracked up to be, and wonders if it's too late to make Liberty part of his life. I loved the ending, as Peter and Felicity return the favor and bring Brodham and Liberty back together. I loved seeing his walls come tumbling down as he opens his heart completely to Liberty.

A Cowboy's Wish Upon a Star - Caro Carson (HSE #2918 - Dec 2016)

Series: Texas Rescue (Book 5)

From Hollywood…

A cattle ranch is the perfect place for movie star Sophia Jackson to escape her scandalous past and the paparazzi hot on her trail. But foreman Travis Chalmers makes it clear who's running the ranch. When their constant clashing ignites unexpected attraction, Sophia takes on her greatest acting role: pretending she isn't falling for the sexy, domineering cowboy.

…to Motherhood

Once Travis sweeps her into his arms at her sister's wedding, she knows the feeling's mutual. But a precious secret followed Sophia to Texas. And now a Hollywood hurricane is about to blow through Travis's peaceful Texas town. Is the mother-to-be ready to fight for her future and see her most passionate Christmas wish granted -- she and Travis vowing to love each other forever?

Good book. Sophia is a movie star whose recent bad decisions have put her in the paparazzi's crosshairs. Her sister and future brother-in-law have arranged for her to hide out on a local ranch. She's not thrilled with the idea, but she doesn't have any other options. Travis is the foreman of the ranch and not very happy to have to deal with the diva, but he'll do what he has to.

The sparks flew between these two from the moment they met. At first, they were very confrontational. Sophia behaves like a spoiled brat, expecting Travis to do whatever she wants him to do. Travis isn't having any of it and lets her know that he has more important things to do. But underneath the antagonism is a simmering attraction that neither wants to admit.

I liked the development of their relationship. Travis is practical, level-headed and unexpectedly fascinated by Sophia. It was fun to see him fight his fascination as thoughts of her invaded his mind at all hours of the day and night.  I really enjoyed how he calmly stood up against her brattiness and began to see the vulnerability that her attitude hid. There are some really sweet scenes as he begins to break down the walls she has built around her heart. Sophia was hard to like at the beginning, but it soon became obvious that she used that attitude to hide her fears. All she wanted was to be loved, and with the betrayal of her ex and her sister getting married, she felt very alone. I also ached for her because her ability to trust those around her had been destroyed by those who just wanted to use her. As she settles into life on the ranch, her softer side emerges. I loved the scene with the kitten and her determination to take care of it. She is just as attracted to Travis as he is to her. There are some funny scenes as she tries to use her acting skills to come on to him, but he sees through them. As they really get to know each other, the heat between continues to build. This just adds to the connection between them. I loved the changes in Sophia brought about by Travis's care for her. But she is hiding the secret of her pregnancy from him, and it hits him hard when it comes out. I ached for them both as Travis worked his way through his feelings of betrayal. But his realization of his love comes just in time to deal with her obnoxious ex. I loved that scene, as well as its aftermath. The epilogue was fantastic, as Travis's calm continues to be the perfect balance for Sophia's occasional freak outs.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Texas Rescue Christmas - Caro Carson (HSE #2376 - Dec 2014)

Series: Texas Rescue (Book 2)

Home for Christmas

Trey Waterston has been on the outside looking in for so long he nearly forgot where home is. But when he has to go back to the ranch that is his Texas birthright, he expects it to be as difficult to navigate as everything else in his life. He does not expect to find a halfhearted search afoot for a missing heiress. Beautiful and innocent Rebecca Cargill has disappeared, and nightfall -- and a snowstorm -- is coming. If they don't find her, she could die.

Not on my watch. Instinctively, and directed only by a photograph, Trey knows he is the only one who can help her. Maybe he can finally claim his legacy. But why is he suddenly so sure Rebecca is a part of it?

I loved this book. Trey is part owner of the James Hill Ranch, but hasn't been home in ten years. After a promising college football career ended with him flunking out of school, he has spent his time working out of state and trying to hide what is happening to him. After one too many blows during football games, Trey suffers from memory problems, ones that make him feel stupid and useless. When he receives an invitation to his brother's wedding, he knows it's time to go home, but he dreads it. He arrives home in the middle of a search for a missing wedding guest.

Rebecca has spent her entire life under the thumb of her social-climbing, money-grubbing mother. She has had no life of her own. When her mother announces that it's time for Rebecca to start pulling her weight by accompanying her and a gentleman friend on a trip, Rebecca has had enough. She flees to her former stepsister, Patricia, who just happens to be marrying Trey's brother. She arrives in the middle of a storm to find that Patricia isn't there. A disturbing call from her mother sends Rebecca fleeing across the ranch on a borrowed ATV, unprepared for what she encounters.

I loved that Trey immediately takes charge of the rescue. Being back on the ranch seems to give him a boost of confidence, and his own experiences give him some insight into Rebecca just from her photograph. His quick action gets him to Rebecca before it's too late, and they hole up in a cabin to wait out the storm. Trey's attempts to behave like a gentleman while he works to warm Rebecca inside the sleeping bag were so sweet. Rebecca is innocent but much stronger than she believes. She shares her life story with Trey, who is impressed by her willingness to take a chance on her future. I loved their connection. Trey's care of Rebecca gives him a purpose and a focus that keeps his issues mostly in the background. Rebecca feels a sense of safety with Trey that gives her the courage to explore her own feelings and desires.

After their rescue, which has some of its own challenges, Trey welcomes Rebecca back to the ranch. He invites her to stay as long as she wants to. Over the next few days, they explore that which is growing between them. I ached for Trey, whose self-worth took a beating every time he had a problem with his memory. He was falling so hard for Rebecca but believed that there was no way for them to be together. At the same time, Rebecca fell in love with Trey, but because of her mother's example is suspicious of the truth of her feelings. Of course, Rebecca's mother eventually catches up with her, but things don't go quite as she expected. I loved that scene, with her going up against Rebecca and Trey together. Trey still believes that he doesn't deserve Rebecca, but he's losing the battle thanks to her love and understanding. I loved his big moment at the end, with his "you are imprinted on my heart." I adored how Rebecca took over the planning of their honeymoon and what she came up with.

I loved the realism of Trey's issues with his memory. His fears and frustrations are understandable and believable. I hurt for him every time he forgot something or said something unexpected, and how it made him feel. It was great to see that there was no miracle fix at the end of the book, but the honest truth that there would always be challenges. There was also hope given for some improvement. I hope they make appearances in later books so I can see how they are doing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Detective Defender - Marilyn Pappano (HRS #1957 - Aug 2017)

"Someone knows, Martine. And they're coming after us."

Martine Broussard has never forgotten the terrible night years ago that drove her and her best friends apart. Now a vengeful someone is brutally killing each woman involved. Martine has one chance at survival -- and that's the one person she distrusts most! And the passion flaring between them is anything but safe…

Rule-breaking New Orleans detective Jimmy DiBiase wastes no time putting Martine under his 24/7 personal protection. His bad-boy ways caused them to fall out years ago; now all he wants is to guard her and end this nightmare. With every lead they follow, every secret they can't hide sparks a hunger neither can resist -- even as a killer's vicious end game turns desire into a devastating trap.

Good second chance romance mixed with some pretty intense suspense. Martine is surprised when she gets a phone call from an old friend she hasn't seen in twenty-four years. Pauline wants to see her and tells her that someone is killing their group over a teenage prank. Martine is reluctant to believe it until Pauline ends up dead also. Jimmy is the lead detective on the case. He and Martine have a history together, one that he regrets and would like to change.

I enjoyed the development of their relationship. Martine is still angry at Jimmy over the fact that he had still been married when he made a pass at her. She's made her feelings known every time they encountered each other over the year, which was fairly often, as Jimmy's partner is her best friend's husband. But she can't deny her relief at his presence now. Jimmy has had a bad boy reputation for a long time, especially with the ladies, but now he's ready for something different. He just has to convince her that he has changed. Martine remembers how attracted she was to him before she found out he was married and discovers that she still is. She's wary of trusting him again. I loved their conversations as Martine begins to see and accept that Jimmy has changed for the better. His protectiveness and sensitivity showed her a side of him she had never seen before. Their attraction simmers away as Jimmy sticks close to her until it finally comes to a boil. One of the things that I loved about them is that both are mature enough to talk about the things that caused their problems and work through them. I loved seeing how their coming together made him realize how deep his feelings for her really were. Martine also accepted her feelings for him but wasn't ready to risk telling him. Nearly losing each other in the final confrontation opened their eyes to what was important. I loved their big moment in the end, especially Martine's final line.

The suspense of the story was very good. Martine's first contact with Pauline brought back the memories of the event that had driven them apart. Martine could see Pauline's fear and wanted to help, but Pauline ran before she could. The discovery of Pauline's body and what was done to it gave a good indication of just how creepy and evil this killer was. I wanted to shake Martine the first time she talked to Jack and Jimmy for not telling them everything and loved that they both knew she wasn't. She wasn't fully convinced she was in danger until her first contact from the killer. Several people became possible suspects, and just as I would settle on one, something else would make me lean towards another. As the tension built, I kept waiting for the killer to find a way to get to Martine in spite of Jimmy's efforts to keep her safe. The final confrontation provided a couple of surprising twists, including who ended up taking down the killer.