Saturday, July 8, 2017

Colton Undercover - Marie Ferrarella (HRS #1939 - Apr 2017)

Series: Coltons of Shadow Creek (Book 2)

On the hunt for escaped criminal mastermind Livia Colton, FBI agent Josh Howard knows just where to start: the fugitive's family. Namely, Livia's eldest daughter, Leonor Colton, who was very close to her criminal mother. Could the alluring museum curator be hiding the Colton matriarch? Maybe.

Undercover as a billionaire art collector, Josh is invited into Leonor's life. He's surprised to find that the heiress, betrayed by an ex and at odds with her siblings, needs a strong shoulder, and there Josh is all ears. But when an attempt is made on Leonor's life, Josh finds his cover is about to be blown along with his unexpected true feelings for his Colton connection.

Very good book. Leonor first appeared in the previous book, Colton's Secret Son, when she showed up at her stepfather's ranch, looking for a place to stay for a little while. At the beginning of this one, we learn that she is trying to get her life back together after being betrayed by the man she thought she loved. Instead, he took her confidences about her family and plastered them across the internet, then helped himself to her bank account. Her siblings are mad at her for spilling family secrets. I loved her stepfather, Mac, who is awesome in not judging and just being there for her. He also finally tells her to stop hiding and get out of the house for a while. As she prepares to eat lunch at a restaurant, she is accosted by another lone diner, who asks if they can eat together. Leonor is wary, still reeling from her ex's betrayal.

Josh is an FBI agent who has been assigned to get close to Leonor. He and his boss believe that Leonor is the one who helped her mother escape from prison, and Josh is determined to find the proof. He is posing as a billionaire art collector who was to display some of his art at the museum where she is a curator. He senses that she needs someone to talk to and he is more than willing.

I loved the development of their relationship. It starts out slow, with Leonor very wary of Josh. She's been burned by her ex and trusting another man isn't going to be easy. Josh is also suspicious of her because of who she is and his belief in her complicity with her mother. But the more time they spend together, the more Josh comes to believe that she is innocent. He sees a woman who is protective of her family and hurting from the things that have happened. At the same time, Leonor starts to lose her wariness and believe that Josh is just what he seems - a nice guy with the same interest in art that she has, though she still gets the occasional twinge of doubt. But as the attraction between them builds, Josh starts to feel really guilty about his deception.

Then two attempts are made on Leonor's life, and Josh is suddenly much more interested in keeping her safe. But can he do that and still keep his cover? I ached for them both when the truth comes out, because Leonor had finally started to believe in herself again and the betrayal really hit her hard. I loved that Josh 'fessed up properly, and still insisted that he was going to protect her whether she wanted him to or not. I loved the whole "Go to hell" and his response that after she's safe he'll "look into hotter accommodations". I really enjoyed his protectiveness and refusal to back off. Leonor does her best to resist him, but her heart won't let her hold on to her anger. I loved Josh's big moment at the end and his combination of confidence and vulnerability.

The suspense was great as Josh and Leonor try to figure out who has it in for her. The logical assumption is that her mother, Livia, is trying to get even for Leonor not helping her. An attack at the museum's fundraising gala nearly succeeds, leaving Leonor fighting for her life and Josh fighting for her. An unexpected visitor to Leonor's hospital room shines a different light on what happened, and stuns Josh when he finds out about it. The identity of the attacker isn't a complete surprise, but it wraps up this book quite well. 

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