Review: The Christmas Cowboy Hero

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Christmas Cowboy Hero
Author: Donna Grant
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Heart of Texas #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

’Tis the season for ex-Navy SEAL Clayton East to come home for the holidays―even if the mood at home is anything but festive. His father is ill. The East Ranch is in financial trouble. And now it’s on Clayton, the prodigal son, to make sure his family doesn’t lose everything.

Headstrong Abby Harper is like a mother to her younger brothers, who she’s helped raise since she was a teenager. Keeping them in line is no small task while she’s also working toward her college degree. And now that one of her brothers has been arrested for stealing cattle at the East Ranch, Abby is at her wit’s end. But there is a silver lining: Clayton East. He believes in second chances, and is willing to give one to her brother this Christmas. Letting beautiful Abby―and the inescapable longing in his heart―off the hook, however, is a whole ’nother story. Could it be that the woman of this local hero’s dreams has been back at home all along?

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my review

My Thoughts 

The Christmas Cowboy Hero is the first book in the new Heart of Texas series. Set in Clearview, Texas, this book focuses on the cattle and ranching industry, a staple of Texas with some long-running, large family ranches.

Clayton East is an ex-Navy SEAL now working in Africa protecting big game from poachers. After separating from the military, he purposefully did not return home to the East Ranch. Being there brings back reminders and is too painful. Shortly before Christmas, he gets a call he can’t keep ignoring: his dad isn’t doing well and the ranch is in trouble.

Upon arriving home, Clayton discovers the East Ranch is a mess. Their accountant has disappeared with essentially all of the ranch’s money. Additionally, someone has stolen a hundred head of cattle, most of which are cows ready to calve. Their prize bull was also stolen.  The total of the theft alone comes to $275,000.

One of the rustlers, a 16-year-old kid, is arrested. Going to the station, Clayton meets Brice Harper, who won’t talk and is obviously scared of something. He also meets Brice’s sister, Abby Harper, whom he instantly is drawn toward. After being informed Brice has never been in trouble before, Clayton has a moment of self-motivated kindness. Believing in second chances and hatching a plan to gain Brice’s trust, Clayton offers Brice a job working at the ranch to work off his debt in lieu of going to jail. Hoping Brice will eventually open up and talk about the theft, it also gives Clayton opportunities to see Abby Harper again.

Abby was only 18 when her mother abandoned her, leaving the guardianship of her two young brothers to her. It’s been eight years and she’s never come back, leaving Abby struggling just to manage and raise her 16 and 14 year old brothers. She works at an accounting firm being paid in the drudges. When she can scrape together enough funds, she attends school part-time to continue toward her accounting degree. They’ve only known hardship and struggle, but there is a lot of love in the Harper family.

After Brice begins at the East Ranch, he is enamored of the work and the people and the animals. Soon, his younger brother Caleb is also tagging along to work at the ranch. While still paying off his debt, Brice is openly welcomed and supported and encouraged to be the best version of himself he can be. With her brothers being at the ranch so long, Abby also ends up spending time there and is introduced to the ranch’s accounting books. After digging through them, she discovers many things about the AWOL accountant and the status of the ranch. Their mutual attraction slowly blossoms into a budding Christmas romance.

Both boys show great improvement under Clayton’s direction. Abby also sees some reprieve in her future with the potential to work at the East ranch with a significant pay raise. Carrying all the burdens of the world on her shoulders, she has been the heart and soul of her family. The mother, father, and sister. Being shown she doesn’t have to do it alone, that she can share her burden, is a glimpse of a life that appeals and frightens Abby. What if she is abandoned again?

The suspense over the missing cattle is an angle Clayton still can’t seem to work out. Brice won’t budge. Abby begins digging around at her office and unearths a possible connection. The disappearance of the accountant is no longer such a mystery, but there is a growing danger as Abby tries to puzzle things out.

For the first time in his life, Clayton opens up about the loss and pain and guilt he feels. This is why he never wanted to return to the East Ranch. That moment of vulnerability changes things between Abby and Clayton.

The characters and down-home feel are what made the story for me. Clayton and Abby both have their flaws, and both come from families you can depend upon in a time of need. Even the cast of East Ranch characters were ones I could connect with. The Easts are the quintessential family. It seems the perfect place to be. Friendly and welcoming, the Texas way.

The setting was familiar and the East family is heartwarming. The characters brought the story to life and kept the pace moving. This was one of my favorite holiday reads and I couldn’t put it down. I definitely want to continue reading the Heart of Texas series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born and raised in Texas, Donna has ties across the border in Louisiana. Growing up with two such vibrant cultures, her Cajun side of the family taught her the “spicy” side of life while her Texas roots gave her two-steppin’ and bareback riding. She is never far from her faithful 80 pound dog, Sisko, or her three cats. She can often be found at the movies or bookstore with her children. Or buying makeup. And shoes.

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Review: The Duke and Miss Christmas

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Duke and Miss Christmas
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2015
Length: 65 pages
Series?: The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels #2.5
Genre: Historical, Romance

Crispin, the Duke of Hurst, has never met a woman he couldn’t handle—until he’s hit over the head with a basketful of mistletoe by a young lady who mistakes his intentions. When he gets into a tussle with her—and she can hold her own—Crispin knows he has finally met his match.

Miss Gwen Prim is mortified that she attacked a duke, but even more concerning is the way her resolve melts when she’s near him. She’s never felt this way about a London gentleman in her life. And with the magic of Christmas in the air, she may end up with a proposal she didn’t expect.

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my review

My Thoughts 

Crispin is the seventh Duke of Hurst and and a member of the Heirs’ Club, a group of young men who become embroiled in scandal. Waiting for the gossip to die down, he join his mother and siblings in America before returning to England and accepting an invitation to the Christmas Ball hosted by his friend, the Duke of Drakestone. While riding to Drakestone, Crispin stumbles upon a young girl named Sybil sitting in the snow. Cutting greenery in a tree, she fell and injured her leg. Crispin arranges Sybil on his horse. In the process, her leg is pressed upon, causing her to cry out. Crispin is suddenly attacked from behind. It is another woman with a basket, who wields it like a madman. Crispin tries to calm the woman and explain he was assisting young Sybil. Refusing to give her name, he calls her Miss Christmas.

Gwen Prim has returned to Drakestone following her season. Heartbroken by her journey into the ton, she flies into action when she discovers her sister being attacked by a strange man. Being the sister-in-law to the Duke of Drakestone, Gwen and her siblings are well-cared for. At dinner, she is shocked to learn Crispin is also a duke and staying at Drakestone. Her utter embarrassment is palpable and she silently cowers in her seat in mortal fear that it will be revealed that she struck a duke.

I liked the characters, both of whom come from large families with several siblings. Gwen is a fiesty redhead who protects her family. Crispin has a humorous, good nature for a duke.

The insta-love reaction to one another rankled. The one issue I had was with the steamy scene. I don’t buy it as a reader. Gwen was just giving narration about the potentials of pregnancy after a single encounter. Knowing the ramifications, the fact that she gives into a single encounter – in the snow – at the end of an outing with her sisters – seemed against Gwen’s morals and out of place.

This was one of the shortest novellas I’ve read. It was constantly moving along and was a funny Christmas read that can be read as a standalone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.

Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.

Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.

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Review: Christmas at Seashell Cottage

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Christmas at Seashell Cottage
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2014
Length: 198 pages
Series?: Jewell Cove #1.5
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

It’s Christmas in Jewell Cove, and local doctor Charlie Yang finds her quiet, steady life disrupted by both an abandoned baby in the nativity manger and a real-life mystery man. Sure, she’s always wanted a family of her own, but she didn’t imagine it coming from a baby that wasn’t hers and a man who was more interested in living day by day than making long-term plans…

Ex-SEAL Dave Ricker hadn’t planned on making Jewell Cove his forever home, but the talented and tender-hearted Charlie has him reconsidering his position on settling down. Can a beautiful woman, adorable baby, and a small town full of holiday spirit change his mind for good?

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my review

My Thoughts 

Charlie Yang is relatively new to town. She defied her parents and accepted a small town doctor position. Growing up an only child and brushed off by her parents, she wants more from life than the living to climb the career ladder. With hopes of joining in the community and being accepted in an insular small town where everyone knows everyone, Charlie is struggling to be seen as anything but the town doctor.

Dave Ricker also recently moved to town after putting his Navy SEALs life to rest. Stuck in the in between and wanting to be near his young daughter, he’s taken a job working at the boat docks. Unbeknownst to him, Charlie spends many of her lunch breaks watching the new guy at the docks. She dreams of having the life she didn’t growing up: an adoring husband and family. Love.

In an effort to fit in more with the townspeople, Charlie and Dave both volunteer to help decorate the town for Christmas. They decide to meet for the annual tree lighting ceremony. Being the two outsiders in the town, they decide to band together at this town event. Despite Dave’s fear of commitment, they agree to a no-strings attached arrangement. With a plan to meet up with Charlie’s boss and some other townies, their night is thrown off-course after walking past the manger scene in front of the church. The plastic baby doll Jesus Charlie placed there just days before is gone. In it’s place is a real baby.

To fill her own void, Charlie agrees to foster the baby for a few weeks until the investigation is concluded. Trying to care for a newborn while maintaining her full-time doctor status eventually takes its toll.  In the meantime, the newcomer’s romance slowly starts to unfold. Together, Charlie and Dave care for this little Christmas miracle. But Charlie is not a no-strings, no connection girl. She pushes for more. Being relationshipaphobic, Dave retreats. Alternately, the two continue this strange mating dance of freaking out on one another and changing their minds. The continual cycle felt childish and manufactured to create a dramatic upheaval.

Being a short novella, the pacing was fairly quick and consistent. Charlie’s character was flushed out fairly well and developed. Her childhood has played a major role in her life and her emotions. On the other hand, Dave’s character is glossed over and lacking in that character background. His story and his personality were underdeveloped and a disservice to his character and the storyline.

There was a resolution to the mystery of where the mystery baby came from. Named Daniel by Charlie and Dave, Charlie is able to help the young mother set up and get on the right track.

I fell in love with the town of Jewell Cove and I was falling in love with the story and the characters until the manufactured drama turned up. It was like watching a high school couple fight about being together and then break up, and then fight about not being together and get back together, and then fight about not being together and break up again. I feel like something got lost a little somewhere in there and wished it had only happened once. It dampened my enjoyment of the book overall.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

marti-corn-photography-donna-alward-h-r-1600While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

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