Saturday, September 30, 2017

Winning the Mail-Order Bride - Lauri Robinson (HH #1343 - Sept 2017)

Series: Oak Grove (Book 2)

She was promised to another…

When widow Fiona Goldberg and her two adorable sons arrive in Oak Grove, Kansas, proclaimed bachelor Brett Blackwell is instantly captivated. But when he learns she is promised to the mayor, he tries his best to keep his distance…

Out of desperation, Fiona had agreed to become a mail-order bride to the disagreeable, self-important mayor. But something about her neighbor Brett makes her feel safe. She knows she must fight her growing feelings for the forbidden blacksmith, even while longing for him to rescue her and take her as his bride himself!

Good book. Oak Grove, Kansas, is a town with a need for women who are looking for husbands. Many of the men of the town got together and put money into an Oak Grove Betterment Committee, and the mayor wrote to a friend in Ohio advertising for wives. He promised twelve brides, but so far there have only been five arrive, leaving quite a few disappointed men.

Fiona is a recent widow with two young sons who has been living in Ohio. Thanks to the circumstances of her husband's death, she and her sons have been treated as outcasts. It is strongly suggested that she become one of the brides. The mayor personally invites Fiona to become his bride, bypassing the Betterment Committee. When she arrives in Oak Grove, the mayor quickly shuffles Fiona and her boys to a small house, telling them to stay there. The house is empty of everything except one small bed and has no food or provisions of any type. Fiona herself has no money to purchase these things.

Brett lives in the house next door to Fiona's. He is a successful businessman and one of the disappointed bridegrooms. He encounters Fiona's sons, Wyatt and Rhett, on his way back from fishing. Learning of their situation, he invites them and Fiona to eat with him. I loved Brett. He was one of seven boys growing up and immediately connects with both Wyatt and Rhett. He knows just how to talk to them and treat them.

There are so many emotions in this book. There is loneliness. Brett wants what the other men have found - love, friendship, passion, and a family of his own. Fiona has been alone in a way since even before her husband's death, thanks to his drinking and other problems. There is anger. The anger of the men who feel that they have been deceived, Brett's anger at the way Josiah treats Fiona, and Fiona's anger at Josiah over the way he treats her sons. There is also confusion, as Fiona is torn between keeping her word to Josiah and following the heart that increasingly leans toward Brett.

Most of all, there is love. I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Brett and Fiona. There is an attraction from the get-go, though both try to resist it. Both know that Fiona is promised to Josiah. But Brett can't deny that Fiona is everything that he has been looking for, and he quickly feels very protective of her and the boys. I loved how Brett took care of them, both with food and simply caring about their needs and wants. It was really sweet to see how quickly Wyatt and Rhett began to look up to Brett. Fiona quickly discovers that Brett is everything she could wish for in a husband. His kindness, generosity, and caring are a balm to her wounded soul.

But things look pretty bleak for a happy ending for them. Fiona is promised to Josiah and, having been the victim of broken promises, refuses to break her word to Josiah. I ached for her because it was obvious that Josiah is all wrong for her. Brett has a similar problem because, before he met Fiona, he had wired his mother that he was looking for a wife, and she had already found a woman for him. So both Fiona and Brett are honor-bound to other people. A life-threatening injury for Fiona and an unexpected twist in the other woman's arrival bring matters to a head. The solution to Brett's problem is quite clever, while Fiona's required her to put herself first.

The secondary characters were well done. Josiah, the mayor, was a character it was easy to dislike. He was pompous and had a very high opinion of himself. He was also a bit underhanded in his dealings with the men and with Fiona. He had selected Fiona for very selfish reasons, feeling that he needed a wife for his social and political well-being. His treatment of her and the boys showed a man who doesn't think of others before himself. He did redeem himself a little bit at the end, but I still found him to be very unpleasant. Fiona's sons Wyatt and Rhett were terrific. Wyatt was only seven, but he tried so hard to be the man of the house. Rhett, at five, was adorable, especially the way that he hero-worshipped Brett. I loved the various townspeople, especially the ladies that took care of Fiona. It was sweet to see the way that they all pulled Fiona into their lives, offering friendships like she'd never had before.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Summer Bride - Anne Gracie (Berkley - July 2016)

Series: Chance Sisters (Book 4)

Fiercely independent Daisy Chance has a dream -- and it doesn’t involve marriage or babies (or being under any man’s thumb). Raised in poverty, she has a passion -- and a talent -- for making beautiful clothes. Daisy aims to become the finest dressmaker in London.

Dashing Irishman Patrick Flynn is wealthy and ambitious, and has entered society to find an aristocratic bride. Instead, he finds himself growing increasingly attracted to the headstrong, clever and outspoken Daisy. She’s wrong in every way -- except the way she sets his heart racing.

However, when Flynn proposes marriage, Daisy refuses. She won't give up her hard-won independence. Besides, she doesn't want to join the fine ladies of society -- she wants to dress them. She might, however, consider becoming Flynn's secret mistress. . .

But Flynn wants a wife, not a mistress, and when Flynn sets his heart on something, nothing can stand in his way...

A wonderful conclusion to the series. I think Daisy was my favorite of the four "sisters." She is the only one who wasn't born a lady and makes no secret of her background. Rather than dreaming of marriage as her sisters do, Daisy's ambition is to be dressmaker to the stars, or "toffs" as she calls the London elite. It was great fun to see Daisy do her best to resist Lady Bea's attempts to turn her into a lady. She is quite blunt in reminding everyone that she isn't a lady and no amount of polish will turn her into one. She is stubborn to a fault, determined that nothing will derail her plans, especially not one Patrick Flynn, charming Irishman and business partner to her brothers-in-law.

Flynn is a self-made man. Like Daisy, he isn't well-born but has made his fortune through hard work. Now that he has reached that point, he's ready to settle down and start a family. He plans to make an advantageous marriage, and he has settled on the pretty daughter of an impoverished earl. Unfortunately for him, he discovers that it isn't that easy. The lady in question isn't all that enthusiastic, but he's better than her alternative. Flynn is a good man at heart, and I loved how he handled the issue. I also loved how comfortable he is with himself. He doesn't really care what others think of him, and I love how his waistcoats show a bit of that independence.

From the very beginning of the series, Daisy and Flynn have been friends. Because their backgrounds are similar, they find it very easy to talk to each other. Flynn doesn't laugh at her speech or mannerisms or scoff at her dream to own her own dress shop. Daisy doesn't object to his plans for marriage, but she does point out some things he hadn't considered. I loved their banter and the honesty with which they treat each other. It's easy to see how perfect they are for each other, but each suffers from tunnel vision that blinds them to it until a dare causes Flynn to kiss Daisy. Each of them reacts as if hit by lightning but with different results. Flynn realizes that the perfect woman for him has been right under his nose all along. He just needs to convince Daisy of that fact. Unfortunately for him, Daisy sees her reaction to Flynn as the death-knell to her dreams if she were to give in to him.

The development of their relationship was great fun to watch. Flynn is determined, and nothing is going to stand in the way of getting the wife he wants. His attempts at courtship were sweet and romantic. I really loved the flowers that he sent to her. He is incredibly patient and endearingly confused by her adamant resistance to his advances. Thanks to her past, Daisy doesn't trust easily. To her, marriage means the loss of independence and her plans for her future. But Daisy is nothing if not practical, and giving up on marriage doesn't mean giving up on passion. She rather shocks Flynn with her proposition, but he is quick to see the advantages. I loved how he uses that as another method of courtship, continuing to chip away at her defenses. Daisy doesn't go down easily, fighting her feelings to the very end. An unexpected complication creates a dilemma for Daisy, and Flynn's response is romantic and perfect.

As always, Lady Bea is a force to be reckoned with. I loved the battles between her and Daisy over Daisy's resistance to "lady lessons." Sometimes Daisy wins, sometimes Lady Bea wins, but the love between them is never in question. I also liked how Lady Bea treats Flynn the same as the other men and doesn't look down on him. She also is very good at keeping him in line if she wants to. There is a very emotional scene with her, Daisy and Flynn at the end. We don't see a lot of the other sisters in this book, but their appearances always showcase the closeness they all share. I also loved seeing more of Featherby, the butler, and his protectiveness toward all the ladies.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Mighty Quinns: Thom - Kate Hoffmann (HB #901 - July 2016)

Series: Mighty Quinns (Book 33)

To tame the beast…or set him free?

Pro hockey player Thom "The Beast" Quinn is the team's bad boy -- the street kid who hit pay dirt when he learned to shoot a puck. But when his reputation gets a little too naughty for the team's liking, they give him a warning: shape up, or be benched. And the one calling the penalties is none other than sexy Malin Pederson, the boss's daughter.

In her head, Malin knows that if she can reform Thom Quinn, her future with the team will be set. But her body urges her to indulge in the kind of wicked pleasure that only the sexy athlete can provide. And in her heart, Malin realizes that this is a man she can't walk away from, even if it costs her everything…

Very good book. Thom is the bad boy of the hockey team. He's awesome and focused when he's on the ice, but off the ice, he's out of control. When some particularly bad photos surface, team management has had enough. They plan to trade him, and until they do, he'd better mend his ways. Otherwise, the trade won't be one he'll like. Boss's daughter and social media specialist, Malin, is put in charge of making it happen. Malin is determined to prove herself to her father and thinks that if she can reform Thom, she'll finally earn his respect. But she doesn't expect the intense attraction that has her interested in more than just his public reputation.

I loved the development of their relationship. It isn't smooth, and it isn't easy, but it feels real. Both Thom and Malin have some deep-seated issues that make the possibility of a real relationship hard for them to believe. Thom grew up in difficult circumstances, and hockey was his ticket out. His reputation as "The Beast" is how he sees himself, and if he doesn't have that, he isn't sure who he is. He understands Malin's plan for his makeover, but he's not so sure he wants it. Malin starts out seeing Thom as her ticket to her father's respect. She is certain that she can turn him into a man that is respected. But the more she gets to know him, the more she realizes that there is already a good man under that beastly exterior. The attraction between them is hot and strong, and they have to decide if giving into it would be worth the possible consequences.

It starts out a little rough when Malin isn't entirely honest with Thom about the team's plans for him. Between that and his insecurity over his belief of why she wants him to change, Thom feels hurt and angry. An open and honest discussion of means and motivation went a long way toward repairing their growing friendship. There were some terrific scenes of Malin's makeover attempts, from Thom's introduction to Twitter to a "spa day."  Even better was the growing connection between them. I loved seeing Thom's transformation as his feelings for Malin made him want to be a better man. There are still obstacles to overcome, such as Thom's difficulty with sharing when it comes time to make an important decision. Malin also has to face her own insecurities when parts of Thom's past make her realize that she still has some trust issues. I loved the ending as a surprise twist made their patience well worth the effort.

I enjoyed the secondary characters also. Thom's brothers provide some insight into the far-reaching effects of their childhood, while their grandmother shows that they do have an ability to give love. There is a brief appearance by a little boy who showcases Thom's empathy for someone going through the same things he did as a kid. There's also a bit of foreshadowing of Thom's future. Malin's father rubbed me the wrong way for a good part of the book, both because of his hard attitude toward Thom and his apparent lack of respect for Malin and her work. He did redeem himself somewhat at the end. On the other hand, I loved Malin's mom, Lillian. She seemed to have a good handle on how to deal with her husband. I also loved her memories of the early days of her marriage and the effect they had on Malin's relationship with Thom. She also had a pretty sweet scene with Thom at the charity ball.

The Agent's Covert Affair - Karen Anders (HRS #1964 - Oct 2017)

Series: To Protect and Serve (Book 7)


Private detective Emma St. John doesn't care about military jurisdiction. Her JAG lawyer sister is critically injured -- and Emma's baby nephew, Matthew, has been abducted by a vicious drug lord. She is determined to navigate through lethal cartel country to rescue the baby, no matter what. But she's stuck with a mysterious NCIS special agent riding shotgun…and Derrick Gunn is proving to be the kind of determined, cool-headed help she can't shake.

Staying strictly mission-oriented keeps Derrick alive -- and alone. But all bets are off as he and beautiful, independent Emma fight to stay steps ahead of their enemies. Her resourcefulness and courage ignite desire he's willing to go through hell to keep. But love and survival are never guaranteed…

A terrific book that had me hooked from the very beginning. The action started with a bang as a young woman is attacked and left for dead, and her infant son kidnapped. The victim's sister, Emma, is a PI and determined to find her nephew and bring him home. She doesn't expect to find a mysterious and sexy NCIS agent already on the case.

The first meeting between Derrick and Emma set the stage for their relationship. Both are accustomed to doing what is necessary without having to consult with someone else. There is also an undeniable zing of attraction between them that promises to complicate matters. Derrick is especially resistant to working with Emma because once before he had gotten involved during a mission and the consequences still haunt him. However, each has a different set of skills vital to the mission, so they have to figure out how to make it work. Their early interactions show Derrick's fear that Emma will be more of a hindrance than a help, and Emma's determination to prove otherwise. I loved the way that Emma quickly proved her worth and made a place for herself at his side. The chemistry between them awakens unexpectedly strong feelings between them.

I ached for Derrick, whose past mistakes still haunt him. Emma's missing nephew brings his pain back to the surface and makes this case more personal than he is comfortable with. His growing feelings for Emma also bring out an unexpected protectiveness in him that causes some conflict between them. I loved that he was honest about his desire for her, but he feared that his past has made him unable to have a permanent relationship. This was especially obvious at the end when he walked away before realizing that he needed to fight for what he wanted.

Emma has her own issues to work through. She has spent her life being very protective of her sister. It goes a little too far at some point, creating a rift between them. Her growing relationship with Derrick opens her eyes to the need for her to control things in her life. I loved her big moment at the end as she followed her heart.

The suspense of the story was intense and nearly non-stop. It was an emotional roller coaster as Derrick and Emma would get close to their objective, only to see it slip away, and have it happen several times. Though the culprit is unknown at the beginning, finding out who it is doesn't make things any easier. As the risks escalate, injury or death is a definite possibility. I was glued to the book as I watched Derrick and Emma survive ambushes, a desert escape, and betrayal. There were several twists at the end that increased the intensity until all was successfully concluded.

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)


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)


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. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Santa's Playbook - Karen Templeton (HSE #2369 - Nov 2014)

Series: Jersey Boys (Book 3)

Wanted: One mom for Christmas!

High school football coach Ethan Noble works wonders with his players. But at home, the handsome widower is just trying to keep four adorably unruly kids in line. He definitely isn't looking for love…or so he thinks. When his oldest insists her drama teacher, Claire Jacobs, is perfect for him, it's all Ethan can do to resist Claire's bright smile and infectious laugh.

Claire privately admits that she wouldn't mind Coach Noble making a pass at her. But his family dynamic is as complicated as Hamlet's! For one, Ethan is still grieving for his late wife. Besides, Claire knows she's not meant to star as a stepmom, although the entire Noble clan warms her heart this holiday season. Will Claire wait in the wings for Mr. Right, or make her curtain call a very Noble happily-ever-after?

Good book about two people with so much love to share, if only they can get past their fears of being hurt. Ethan is a widower with four kids who is just trying to keep his life together. He's none too thrilled when his oldest daughter tries to fix him up with her drama teacher. Claire returned to Maple River to take care of her mother and stayed after her mother's death. She is content with her life the way it is and surprised by Juliette's attempt to hook her up with her father.

I loved the opening of the book, with Juliette and Claire bonding a little over the sales. Then Juliette does her bit, manipulating things so that Claire stays for breakfast. Ethan isn't the most welcoming of guys, as this isn't the first time Juliette has tried to set him up. I liked the direct way that they both address the situation, making it clear that neither is looking for a relationship. However, that doesn't affect the zing of attraction that each of them feels.

I loved the development of their relationship. Ethan is still grieving the loss of his wife while trying to keep his children's lives as normal as possible. He barely has time to sleep, much less think about doing anything for himself. The attraction that he feels for Claire disturbs him. First, that he feels anything for her at all makes him feel disloyal, second, Claire is so different that he doesn't understand the appeal. But he figures that he won't see her all that much so he can ignore it. Claire is also confused by the attraction. She understands the physical appeal; after all, he is a good-looking man. But he's the father of four, and she has never seen herself as the motherly type, preferring her quiet life. Fate seems to have other ideas, and Ethan and Claire find themselves thrown together under varying circumstances. I loved seeing them get to know each other. Against all expectations, they develop a pretty solid friendship. I loved their meeting as they conferred on the best way to help two of his football players and discovered that their methods were more alike than they expected. Claire also ended up stepping in to help when Ethan had to take a trip. It was sweet to see her deal with unexpected challenges and discover that she isn't as hopeless as she thought she'd be. As Christmas nears, their feelings deepen, but both try to deny them. Ethan is in no hurry to risk his heart again or to risk putting his kids through any more upheaval in their lives. Claire saw what her mom went through when Claire's father died, and has maintained an emotional distance ever since. It takes some kind but blunt talk from those who have been through it to open both Ethan's and Claire's eyes to the realization that they are letting fear keep them from something special. I loved their big moment at the end and Claire's comment that "it's not crowded, it's cozy."

The secondary characters were terrific. There was a chance to catch up with the brothers from the earlier stories, The Real Mr. Right and More Than She Expected. I also loved seeing more of their father, Colonel Noble, who had a bigger part in this book. I loved the scene with him, the baby, and Ethan, as he uses his own experience to help Ethan. Claire's landlord, Virgil, was adorable. I especially loved the heart-to-heart over Chinese food. But my favorites were Ethan's kids. Bella was too cute for words. The two boys were so spot-on for their ages that it brought back memories of my own son at that age. Juliette was amazing. A teenage girl who has taken on so much responsibility and dealt with it so well. She's not perfect, but she's real. I especially loved the way that she worried about Ethan. I really enjoyed the way that the epilogue was told from her point of view.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Her Amish Protectors - Janice Kay Johnson (HS #2084 - June 2017)

She had wanted a simpler life in Amish country…

The caring community in her new Missouri small town was a healing salve for Nadia Markovic's wounded spirit…until someone broke into her apartment above her Amish quilt shop and robbed her while she was sleeping. The thief made off with all the funds they'd just raised through the sale of her neighbours' handmade quilts. And police chief Ben Slater can't rule her out as the prime suspect. Only her Amish friends are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. People are angry enough to even target her with violence… But while Ben might not trust her, he's committed to protecting her, confusing her feelings for this man who's pulling her apart!

Fantastic book. I was hooked on it from the very first chapter. Nadia has come to Byrum to escape the memories of what happened to her and get a new start on her life. She has her quilting store, which allows her to indulge her passion, has made some good friends in both the Englischer and Amish communities, and has organized a fundraiser to help her neighbors recover from a devastating tornado. When someone breaks into her apartment and steals the proceeds, Nadia is heartbroken. It's even worse when it appears that the police chief believes that she is the most likely suspect.

Ben is also a relatively new arrival to the small town. He left his big-city cop job when he realized that his loss of objectivity when dealing with particular criminals impacted his ability to do his job. Though his new job isn't as intense, he still harbors a deep cynicism about what his fellow humans are capable of. When he gets the call about the missing money, Nadia is at the top of his suspect list.

The initial meeting between Nadia and Ben is very antagonistic. Nadia still harbors some resentment toward law enforcement thanks to an event in her past and takes it out on Ben. On his side, Ben's experience causes him to be a bit less sympathetic toward Nadia than he could be. Underneath it all is a simmering attraction. Ben fights the attraction, knowing that he has to remain objective to do the investigation properly, but his heart tells him that she is innocent. It takes Nadia longer, as she has to deal with the effects the investigation has on her life and business. I liked how Nadia slowly begins to trust Ben and believe that he is working to prove her innocence. Ben has a couple of instances of foot-in-mouth disease, but his growing feelings for Nadia are obvious. I liked the effect that Ben's support had on Nadia as she came to terms with her past and opened herself up to what she could have with him.

The mystery of the missing money was very well done. Nadia's desire to help the people of her new home was clear from the beginning, and I ached for her when the money was stolen. Not only was she heartbroken that the much-needed money was gone, but she was also hurt by the attitudes of so many of the people she thought were friends. The lack of clues made finding the culprit even more difficult. Ben was also suspicious that there were two unsolved crimes that took place in the same building. Things became even more intense when Nadia was shot. I loved seeing the support she received from the Amish community and how it contrasted with the attitudes of the other townspeople. The scene outside her shop was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. The resolution of the missing money was a complete surprise to me, as I never suspected the person who did it. The final confrontation with the shooter was intense, and the identity of that one was exactly who I thought it was.

I also loved the various secondary characters. Nadia's Amish friends were wonderful. It was sweet to see the older woman and her fierce defense of Nadia and her innocence. I really enjoyed seeing them include her in their quilting frolic. I especially loved Nadia's friend and employee Hannah, and how she insisted on remaining even if Nadia couldn't pay her. I'd love to see her get her own story. I also adored Ben's sister Lucy. I ached for what she had been through and loved that she was ready to start taking back control of her life. Ben's protectiveness of her was understandable, even if he took it a little far sometimes. I loved his shock when she stood up to him over spending time at Nadia's shop. I liked how quickly she and Nadia became friends. I would really like to see her get a story of her own, and wonder if it would involve Jacob or someone else.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mr. Serious - Danica Winters (HI #1741 - Oct 2017)

Series: Mystery Christmas (Book 2)

Duty and danger bring an alpha hero to Mystery, Montana

Waylon Fitzgerald had a life of adventure all planned out -- one that did not include returning to his family's ranch to bring his missing ex-wife into custody for murder. With so much bad blood between them, the sexy military police officer understands why his ex's sister, Christina Bell, hates him. And yet he and Christina spark a sizzling attraction.

What changes everything for Waylon is Winnie, Christina's adorable ward…and the startling revelation that he's her father. When she goes missing -- her mother a killer at large -- Waylon's world is upended. Will he redeploy to follow his passions around the world…or stay where his heart has found an unexpected Christmas present?

Good book. Waylon has taken some time off his job as an army MP to return to Mystery, Montana. He is on a mission to help find and apprehend his ex-wife, who is wanted for murder. Then he will go back to his regular life, away from the monotony of ranch life. The first people he sees when he arrives are the adorable toddler, Winnie, and her guardian, his ex's sister Christina. Christina seems to despise him, but there's also an undercurrent of attraction.

Alli made Christina Winnie's guardian before she disappeared, after allegedly killing two people. Alli has always had her problems, but Christina finds it hard to believe that her sister is capable of murder. Now that Waylon is back at the ranch, Christina begins to question the terrible things that Alli said about him. She also feels guilty about keeping the secret that Waylon is Winnie's father.

I liked the development of the relationship between Waylon and Christina. I was really impressed by Waylon's understanding of Christina's anger with him. He admired her loyalty to Alli and accepted that he was not completely innocent in the breakdown of his marriage. He was surprised by his attraction to her and tried to resist. He would not be staying at the ranch, and he knew Christina had no plans to leave it. As they spent time together trying to find Alli, Christina realized that the things Alli had told her were far from the truth. She was especially surprised by the way that Waylon connected with Winnie, the sight of him playing princess with her melted Christina's heart. Over the next few days their attraction grew, and so did the feelings beneath it. I liked that Christina came to trust Waylon enough to tell him the truth and that once he got over the shock, Waylon realized that no harm had been meant in the keeping of the secret. It gives Waylon and Christina one more tie to bind them closer together. Each of them has to come to terms with their fears and expectations before they can consider a future together. I liked Waylon's big moment at the end as he takes a chance on having it all.

The suspense of the story was good. Even though I haven't read the first book yet, there was enough information provided that I didn't feel lost. The problem at hand is finding Alli, and so far there haven't been any useful leads. Waylon turns up one that leads to local resident William Poe, but it doesn't seem to pan out. I did not get a good feeling about Poe, who seems to have a problem with Waylon and his family. I have a feeling there is more going on with him that we see in this book. An encounter with a truck driver and a robbery at the ranch bring up some frightening possibilities and fear for Winnie. Things get intense really fast when Winnie disappears. An unexpected twist brings a resolution that I did not expect. I'm looking forward to reading the first book for more background, and future books to see what comes next.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Garrett Bravo's Runaway Bride - Christine Rimmer (HSE #2575 - Oct 2017)

Series: Bravos of Justice Creek (Book 8)

Once again, she's running…

When bride-to-be Cami Lockwood finally escapes the clutches of her domineering family, she accidentally stumbles straight into the mountain retreat of the most alluring man she's ever met. Garrett Bravo's never been lucky in love. But that's before a one-of-a-kind heiress rushes headlong onto his doorstep.

But this time, she's running toward something!

Garrett's mother can't resist matchmaking for her relentlessly unavailable son. So what better way to evade her meddling than to pretend that his accidental arrangement with creative, unique Cami is the real thing? Just one catch: he hadn't bargained on falling head over heels for the runaway bride turned woman of his dreams…

I loved this book. Garrett is one of the quiet Bravos. He's co-owner of Bravo Construction and something of a workaholic. With most of his siblings now married, his mother has set her sights on getting him married too. Garrett was married once before, and it didn't work out. As a result, he avoids relationships like the plague. To escape his mother's matchmaking efforts, he has retreated to his mountain cabin for some peace and quiet. He did not expect a vision in white to appear out of the woods.

Cami is on the run. She has left the fiancé forced on her by family expectations at the altar, determined finally to live her life the way she wants to. Run off the road on an isolated mountain road; she tramps through the woods until she stumbles on Garrett and his cabin.

I was hooked from the moment Cami showed up at Garrett's cabin. He is bowled over by her beauty and her irrepressible attitude and utterly bewildered by her refusal to let him get help for her. I loved their conversation as she explained how she got to that point, and he confesses to hiding from his mom. Cami insists on staying with him until it's time for him to go home and he can't tell her no. He's not sure why, but he likes her. She makes him laugh and forget about his problems.

I loved Cami. She's honest about her issues of running away when frustration gets to be too much, and about caving into her family's pressure. I loved her determination to finally be free of it and live the life she wants - as soon as she figures out what it is.

I also loved Garrett. He has some issues of his own, thanks to the weirdness of his childhood and the events of his marriage. He really believes that he sucks at relationships. He still has lingering resentment over his mother's actions when he was a kid, though his relationships with all his siblings are good now. He is also kind and caring.

The development of their relationship was pretty sweet. The attraction between Garrett and Cami was immediate and strong, and so was their connection outside the attraction. During the first couple days, while at the cabin, they talked a lot and found so much in common. Cami falls hard and fast for Garrett but knows that he's nowhere close to feeling the same. All that he knows is that he doesn't like the idea of her leaving, so he talks her into staying with him. He is also very protective of her. I loved the scene where her ex-fiancé comes to see her and Garrett hovers in the background. Cami's time with Garrett and his support of her and her dreams gives her the confidence to stand up to Charles's bullying - and having Garrett there for backup doesn't hurt either. As their attraction builds to its ultimate explosion, Cami's feelings for Garrett continue to grow, and that's just the icing on the cake. But Garrett is a bit freaked out by how right it feels to have her there with him. He doesn't see it ending well because, you know, he sucks at relationships. I loved Cami's attempts to be patient and let him figure out his feelings, but eventually, she has to face the truth. I ached for them both when she sat him down and confessed her feelings, he panicked, and she left. Now he has to find a way to stop hiding from his feelings and overcome his fears, and help comes from an unexpected source. I loved his big moment at the end. It was sweet and romantic.

There are also some interesting family dynamics going on during this book. First and foremost are Cami's issues with her father's expectations and bullying. I ached for her over his unwillingness to let her live the life she wanted. I thought she was amazingly understanding about it, even as she tried to break free. The dinner that she and Garrett went to at her parents' house was incredible. I loved that Garrett's presence gave her the confidence to say what she had to. I wanted to smack her father often, and especially at the end. There was an unexpected twist involving Cami's mother that I really loved. We also get more of the saga of Willow Bravo and the effect she had on all the siblings' lives. There is a fair amount of interaction that involves Cami and her attempts to help Garrett through his issues with his mother. There's one scene near the end with the entire family that upends everything that they thought they knew about Willow. It was interesting to see everyone's reactions.

*copy received in exchange for honest review

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Night Maneuvers - Tawny Weber (HQN - Dec 2016)

Series: Team Poseidon/SEAL Brotherhood (Book .5)

Within the elite brotherhood of Navy SEALs, the Poseidon team are the very best—and the most secretive. Convincing a naive journalist not to write a tell-all PR feature should be a piece of cake for Chief Petty Officer Aaron Ward. Especially once he glimpses Bryanna Radisson's soft, lush curves. His tactic: seduce and destroy…

Bryanna is no pushover. Aaron's hard-muscled body makes her crave much more than a story, and she'll get what she came for. Desire is her weapon of choice, but when this one wild night is over, will Aaron sabotage her plans…or lose his heart in collateral damage?

Good introduction to the men of Team Poseidon. They are all sitting around letting off steam when their commander arrives with some disturbing news. The new Public Affairs Specialist is planning a celebration for the 55th anniversary of the SEALs, and she plans to make Team Poseidon the focus. Worse, she has the backing of the admiral, so they have to cooperate. None of the team members are happy. Their code is to serve their country, preserve anonymity, and avoid recognition. Aaron is selected to be the one to talk to her. His mission is to try to talk her out of it, and if he can't do that, minimize the damage.

Bryanna has her plan, and she isn't going to let anything get in her way. She has done her research on the team and is more than impressed with what she has learned. But that is nothing to her reaction when she meets Aaron. She wasn't expecting someone so irresistibly sexy.

I loved their first meeting. Aaron is charming, flirtatious, and fun. Bryanna is determined to get her questions answered, but no matter what she asks, he manages to dodge the question and change the subject. She gets more and more frustrated but doesn't let it show. What neither can deny is the attraction that is burning between them. What they each get is an encounter that is far beyond what either expected. There is also a rather heated discussion when their motives are revealed, leaving them feeling both betrayed and guilty. In that discussion some rather blunt truths are spoken, giving each of them something to think about after they part ways.

I enjoyed Aaron's return to his quarters, where he encountered his teammates, all of whom had opinions to give. Aaron feels guilty and worried, because he may have revealed more than he intended to. He also learned a bit of information that he hadn't had going into the meeting - that Bryanna is the admiral's niece, which means she has all the backing she needs. Bryanna has her own trouble to face during a meeting with her uncle, who won't let her back out of the project. The question becomes, is there a way to make both sides of the issue happy? I loved what Bryanna's solution.

Beneath all the brouhaha of the article are the feelings that slammed both Aaron and Bryanna. Though the story takes place over only about twenty-four hours, Bryanna and Aaron realize that they want much more from each other. The question is, can the man whose life requires anonymity have a future with a woman whose life is all about publicity? I loved the honesty of their talk with each other in the admiral's office, and that their viewpoints are much closer than either suspected. It's sweet and romantic to see just how deep they are already.

Call to Honor - Tawny Weber (HQN - Feb 2017)

Series: Team Poseidon/SEAL Brotherhood (Book 1)

The Poseidon team are hard-bodied, fiercely competitive navy SEALs. But when a sensitive mission goes disastrously wrong, three of the team's finest will have to trust their hearts and instincts to uncover the truth…

"No man left behind" is inscribed in the DNA of every SEAL and Lieutenant Diego Torres is no exception. But with a team member killed -- and the body missing -- Diego's honor is sorely tested. Now his career and reputation are on the line, and a traitor is hiding among them. Diego wants answers…and only one woman has them.

Single mom Harper Maclean has two priorities -- raising her son Nathan and starting a new life. Her mysterious new neighbor may be impossibly charming, but Diego asks too many questions about her past -- and about the father of her child. Questions she fears will reveal her burning attraction for Diego, and ultimately put them all in danger's path.

Very good book that had me hooked from the beginning. It opens with the SEAL team in their downtime, their natural competitiveness at the forefront of their interactions. I liked Diego right away. He lives for his work as a SEAL, determined to be the best. He doesn't seek the limelight or see himself as a hero. His early years were rough, but he pulled himself out of it.  There are indications that he has a temper, but he also controls it. Other SEALs are introduced at the same time. Lansky, Diego's best friend, who is also known as MacGyver. He's a bit more volatile, also makes up his mind quickly about people and is reluctant to be convinced otherwise. Then there is Ramsey, a new arrival to the team. He is handsome, arrogant, and believes that he is the best of them all. He doesn't take well to losing at anything. He rubbed me the wrong way from the start, with his comments about his ex and his son. There was something about him that came across as creepy. He is also very jealous of Diego's place on the team and his reputation. When the next mission goes wrong, Ramsey is missing and presumed dead - until critical information finds its way to the enemy and the team comes under investigation. Their commander doesn't trust the CIA and NI investigators, so he sends Diego and Lansky to investigate the one person most likely to know anything - Ramsey's ex, Harper.

Harper is a single mother, doing her best to raise her son alone. She fell for the slick Ramsey when she was only seventeen. When she discovered she was pregnant, he told her to get rid of the baby or his parents would take it from her. Then he walked out, and she never saw him again. Harper grew up in a bad part of town and was determined to make a better life for her son. Through sacrifice and hard work, she is now a respected and in-demand interior designer. Nathan is also the only male in her life. She has dated a little bit, but no one has been able to break through her mistrust. Her friend Andi is determined to get Harper to start living again.

I enjoyed seeing the relationship build between Diego and Harper. There is no question about the chemistry between these two; it sparks every time they are together. Diego tries very hard to keep his mind on business, his instructions are to observe and investigate, but not to engage. However, there is something about her that he can't resist. He feels somewhat guilty about using the attraction to get closer, especially once he realizes that there is no way that she is involved in her ex's activities. Harper tries to resist the attraction until she decides that she's let her past affect her life long enough. She knows Diego won't be around long and that makes him perfect for a quick fling. She's no more interested in a long term relationship than he is. It was fun seeing them get to know each other. Diego is so out of his element in "suburbia" but is slowly drawn in by both Harper and Nathan. I loved seeing Diego with Nathan. They connected so quickly, and it was awesome to see Diego fall so hard for the little boy. That connection is one of the things that drew Harper to Diego, other than the intense attraction. I loved seeing Harper decide to go after Diego, fighting through her nervousness. There was no doubt that their physical relationship was explosive, and it didn't take long for each of them to realize that they wanted more. But Diego is still hiding the real reason he is there, and that secret comes out in the worst possible way. I ached for Harper and her feelings of betrayal that just piled up on her fears for Nathan's safety. She didn't want to trust Diego, but she knew deep down that he was the one who could get Nathan back. I ached for Diego, too, because he hated that he had hurt Harper. I loved his determination and seeing his take charge attitude. He was also sensitive to Harper's feelings and found ways to help her deal with what was going on. There's a great scene where they end up facing part of Harper's past, and he doesn't react the way she expects. Both of them have to overcome their pasts before they can believe in a future together. I loved their big moment at the end as they each take a risk on expressing their feelings.

The suspense of the story was just as compelling as the romance. The thought that they were betrayed by one of their own motivates Diego and Lansky to get to the truth. I loved how their commander paired the two up; Diego with his reluctance to believe that it is possible, and Lansky with his absolute conviction that Ramsey, and possibly Harper, are guilty as sin. The conversations between these two give both sides of an extremely volatile situation. It was fascinating to see them work to discover the truth. There were also questions raised by the box Harper received, that the men knew nothing about. It revealed a possible second player in the game, adding to the intensity. Each new piece of information helped put the puzzle together, and Nathan's kidnapping created an undeniable urgency. I loved seeing the members of the team come together to find him. The buildup to the final confrontation was intense. I loved Diego's determination and initiative. There was an interesting twist that I did not expect and left a few questions unanswered. I can't wait for the next book.