Review: Rogue Most Wanted

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Rogue Most Wanted
Author: Janna MacGregor
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: June 2019
Length: 371 pages
Series?: The Cavensham Heirresses #5
Genre: Historical Romance

There’s one creed all Cavensham men subscribe to: they fall in love completely and decidedly. But what happens when the woman you fall in love with swears she’ll only marry you as a last resort? 

SHE NEEDS TO MARRY SOMEONE

Lady Theodora Worth needs to marry fast in order to keep her estate. It’s been her heart and home for years, and she’ll not lose it to anyone. There’s just one problem—as a woman who was raised in isolation by her grandfather, she’s completely incapable of pouring a cup of tea, never mind wooing a man. She’ll need a little matchmaking help from her sprightly next-door neighbor in order to find a convenient husband…

IT’S JUST NOT GOING TO BE HIM

Lord William Cavensham’s heart was broken years ago, and since that day he vowed to never love again. But his spirited Great Aunt Stella is determined he’ll marry or not inherit a single penny from her. And she’s got just the woman in mind—her beautiful and completely hapless next-door neighbor, Thea…

Thea and Will agree there’s no sense in marrying each other. Will wholeheartedly believes he’s incapable of love, and Thea refuses to marry the first man she’s practically met. But Will may be the rogue Thea wants the most after all.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

Thea Worth is an endearing, kind, heartfelt character. I loved her as a person. It pained me to see her making a faux pas and realizing it. How hard it was on her due to the embarrassment. She has not had the proper upbringing her peers did.

She has struggled through hard times, hard situations, and hard choices. Things no young lady should have had to endure and shoulder alone. She has run the vast estate for years as her grandfather’s mental health continued to decline to such a state he could not attend functions or leave the property. She has had no social opportunities whatsoever – not even friends. She is intelligent and independent, and lacks the social graces, but is a prize in some eyes with the Scottish estate and her inheritance.

If she can find a man to marry her before everything is swiped away from her by her vile, manipulative cousin. He is convinced – out of his own selfish motivations – in his accusation that Thea killed their grandfather and he intends to challenge the title. The fact that she’s just lost the one person most important in her life has no bearing on him. He will toss Thea out without hesitation or a backward glance. She knows the tenants and cares about them. He is only interested in the value of the land and doesn’t care one iota about the people who reside there. Thea has to protect her people and her home.

By grace, the neighboring property is owned by Stella Cavensham, a well-connected woman. She acts as Thea’s godmother and offers her assistance to the cause. The obvious order of business is obtaining a husband. The first thing on the list is her magnificent nephew, who is needing to settle down. Unfortunately, Lord William Cavensham has no intention of marrying. Ever. But if his aunt Stella asks…his arm just might be crooked correctly for a crusade down the aisle for his cherished aunt.

William carries the title of a rogue, but he is anything but. I’m not sure why that’s even part of the title. At a young age, he had his heartbroken completely. He’s carried this pain with him. He stays away from women and invests all his time running the family estates. He is integral to the family workings as the younger son, but he is Stella’s favorite, and so she plans to disinherit him if he doesn’t marry Stella.

Upon meeting, William realizes Theodora Worth is more than just a fluff of tulle on the marriage mart. She’s engaging and different. The more time he spends in Thea’s presence, his opposition to love is minutely chiseled away. Perhaps it’s worth the risk?

While intelligent, Thea’s lack of social training and the ways of the ton make her feel like she isn’t a solid marriage prospect. It doesn’t help matters that rumors are spreading about her. In the vein of support and her own selfish desires, Stella teaches Thea how to become a desirable bride.

One of my struggles reading this book was the continued angst of pitting Thea and William against one another about actually marrying. Both strangle the idea that “I can’t marry you”. Nothing stands in their way except themselves, and too much time and plot was dedicated to rehashing the same broken record with no forward momentum.

I was surprised by Thea’s choices to disregard her virtue. She seemed unconcerned with the fact of being a virgin on her wedding night. At first, it shocked me, but she didn’t have really any upbringing in societal norms. She wouldn’t have placed the same value – and fear – in being unvirtuous as another peer with proper education would.

Review: The Vintage Summer Wedding

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Vintage Summer Wedding
Author: Jenny Oliver
Publisher: Carina
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 352 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction

A Vera Wang dress, the reception at a sophisticated London venue, and a guest list that reads like a society gossip column are all the ingredients of Anna Whitehall’s perfect wedding that never was…

Spending the summer uncovering hidden treasures in a vintage shop, Anna can still vividly remember both her childhood dreams; the first was that she’d become a Prima Ballerina, and dance on stage resplendent in a jewel-encrusted tutu. The second was that at her wedding she would walk down the aisle wearing a collective-gasp-from-the-congregation dress.

Years ago Anna pirouetted out of her cosy hometown village in a whirl of ambition…but when both of those fairy-tale dreams came crashing down around her ballet shoes, she and fiancée Seb find themselves back in Nettleton, their wedding and careers postponed indefinitely…

Don’t they say that you can never go home again? Sometimes they don’t get it right… This one summer is showing Anna that your dreams have to grow up with you. And sometimes what you think you wanted is just the opposite of what makes you happy…

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

This book was hard for me to get into for quite a while. The suspenseful crumbs, in the beginning, did not work for me because they simply confounded everything for me. I finally ascertained that Anna and Seb, engaged and flat broke, return to their hometown after they’ve spent everything on the wedding of the millennium. That’s obviously not happening now!

All of her plans, carefully crafted since a teen, where to get out of her hometown and be a big star. She was never coming back. She wasn’t very kind when she left, either, making returning even harder for her. No one is giving her a pass for being a mean, nasty teen – not her dad, her classmates, or others in town.

She was so high on her own pedestal, the fall was hard. Bone-jarring. She lost her job after her clients were stolen from her by her newly hired administrator. From the beginning, Anna had nothing going for her to make her a likable character. She was spoiled and condescending, with a huge ego. Seb, on the other hand, was enthusiastic about this change and their new life and lifestyle and coming back to where they as a couple started.

Being back at home, Anna encounters other characters, situations, challenges – and even a couple enemies – that bring out life from what seemed to be a cold, black heart. Slowly, she tried making the right choices and her history brings some clarity to some of the stone-cold block she was in the beginning. It is easy to understand how she became that individual. Anna’s constant strive to prove herself was one of those side-effects of her childhood. It took so much from her.

I thoroughly enjoyed the cast of characters that rounded out the book. With their new connections, Anna began to evolve. From her work in the antique shop she spent time in as a child to her hard work with the town’s rag-tag ensemble of kid dancers, she begins to come into her own element and shine.

Anna took her hand of cards – crappy as they were – and started making things work for her. Excelling where she had strengths. Despite talking about going back to London and pursuing a different life equivalent to her old one, step by step she begins to earn respect from others that then blossoms into some great friendships.

Review: Ain’t He Precious?

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Ain’t He Precious?
Author: Juliette Poe
Publisher: Big Dog Books
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 120 pages
Series?: Sex and Sweet Tea #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Novella

Welcome to Whynot, North Carolina, population 3,872. It has one stoplight, one bar, and the one-and-only Trixie Mancinkus.

Eleven years ago, Trixie graduated Harvard Law, turned down a job offer from one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston, and headed home to Whynot to open her own firm. Not only did she leave behind the big city, but she also left her boyfriend of three years. And just so we’re clear… that would be me.

So what am I doing in Whynot at this very moment? It seems Trixie needs help with a legal case and for some insane reason, she called on me for assistance. I’ve been in town for five minutes, and I’m every bit as out of place as I feel. Trixie is all sweet, southern curves to my tailored suits and high-priced haircuts. It’s a culture clash of north versus south and about the only thing we have in common is our physical attraction to each other.

But I have a new motto since coming to Whynot: When life hands you lemons, all you need is a little sex and sweet tea to make things better.

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my review

Written under a pen name, Sawyer Bennett’s first novella is sweet and endearing. A much appreciated southern romance!

Trixie Mancinkus left Boston 11 years ago, giving up *the* dream job of her career – one of Boston’s most prestigious and respected law firms. And with that also went Ry Powers, the love of her life, after only three short years growing together professionally and romantically. She traverses back home to her roots in Whynot, North Carolina – a reality Ry cannot fathom. With the birth of their young careers and their differences, there is no reconciliation or compromise. Trixie returns home to be a small-town lawyer while Ry follows his pursuits in Boston.

Now Trixie reaches out for Ry’s assistance with a high-profile lawsuit. But it’s never a good thing to tempt fate – or is it? Ry jumps at this chance. No one has compared to Trixie over the years. That spark from a decade ago is still there, but how do they move forward wanting two different futures?

I enjoyed Trixie and Ry’s interactions – the good and the bad – and their time spent with the other characters in Trixie’s life: Trixie’s meddlesome grandfather, her precious mother, and disconnected father, and a mix of siblings with just the right rambunctiousness and embarrassing questions. I would love to be a part of this family! There was a strong mesh weaving these characters into the plot without it feeling forced or out of place. It just worked wonderfully in continuing to build Trixie and Ry’s story.

Review: Girl Meets Class

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Girl Meets Class
Author: Karin Gillespie
Publisher: Henery Press
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 232 pages
Series?: Girl Meets Class #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Humor

The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.

Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.
Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.

What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This book intrigued me because I am an educator in a public school. While it was interesting how often so many of Toni Lee’s struggles are real in schools across America, one thing was solidly not: a person without a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate and a special ed certificate would not be hired at any campus to work with SPED students. This element of the storyline REALLY bugged me.

This book is humorous, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. The author eloquently establishes the playing field for Toni Lee and her coworkers. Clearly, from the beginning readers are supposed to root for and support her and Harriet Hall.

Toni Lee is a washed-up tennis player. After a wrist injury that changes the trajectory of her life, Toni takes full advantage of her trust fund spoiled brat status. When she is arrested, her Aunt Cordelia (who runs the family food company, which is the source of their wealth), has had enough. She stamps out this churlish, embarrassing behavior. There’s an ultimatum: keep a job that is actually challenging for a year, walk away with five million.

To Toni, that’s the easiest thing ever. Until she realizes she gets cut off while doing so. No more lush condo. No allowance. When the Harriet Hall SPED position pops up, Toni jumps at it and quickly finds herself in an unknown part of her own city she never knew existed. As much as she doesn’t want to be there, she finds her kids don’t want to be there even more. Through building relationships with these kids and the addition of a new student to the mix changes everything for Toni.

She struggles to hide her newfound reality from her friends, and her true self with her new coworkers. In the end, Toni finds a new woman beneath the layers she’s piled on and what I liked most about this new Toni was that she moved forward in life with integrity.

The book also has a focus on the naive perspective an individual can have walking into public education – and the realities Toni faced are not just at inner-city schools. I face these challenges at my school, which is too property wealthy (yet portables at every campus) that we fall under the “Robin Hood” legislation and must pay out several hundred thousand dollars to poorer districts. There are not desks from this century, and any minute you one of the crappily welded legs can go flying and drop a person (this happened to me this year) or it can bend and become a shank to any unsuspecting passerby. No air conditioning except in the office until students arrive. And that’s not even in a portable! Broken faucets. How are we supposed to promote good hygiene? Behavior students who seem to magically be placed in the exact same classes and prohibit learning from happening. Admin turning the other cheeck or pretending they don’t hear the most vital complaints and needs of teachers to make our primary job role (TEACHING!) possible. Referrals for repeat offenders deleted. Admin admitting they should have sent students to the alternative campus due to behavior, and yet continuing to do the same things and not addressing misbehavior and disruptions as serious classroom issues. Admin that are fearful of parents, so they must have a 1000% customer service role. This is education today, and Toni wasn’t making up anything in her teaching experience.

Toni encounters corruption and political agendas individuals have in public education. She finds that there are some straight jackass people who teach students. This is true. I have encountered this too, and I’m like “Why? Why are you here?”

I enjoyed seeing Toni become strong. A strong woman, a strong employee, a strong individual within her family unit. She got some class. Overall, a great ultimate feel-good read that takes some turns and requires some strong backbone.

Review: Spring in Sweetwater County

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Spring in Sweetwater County
Author: Ciara Knight
Publisher: Defy the Dark Publishing
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 198 pages
Series?: Sweetwater County #2
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Forty years after the death of her true love, Judy Gaylord discovers he’s alive. With the guilt of her falling into the arms of his cousin to console her grief, she now must face the man she betrayed.

Dr. James Benjamin has dedicated his life to helping people deal with their post-traumatic stress disorder in hopes of forgetting about his own trauma. Not wanting to risk the safety of others, he’s spent decades alone, but when he sees the woman he never forgot from before the war, his heart awakens.

When circumstances force Judy and James to work together, they soon discover old feelings never faded. Judy must forgive herself and James will have to face his fear or they will miss their second chance.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This seemed like a novella and not a full-length novel. The beginning is a convulted. I tried to work out all these ominous statements about characters and figure out what happened “all those years ago.” Obviously, despite what many individuals say about this being able to be a standalone, it is not. I have seen a couple mention that Winter in Sweetwater County is a must read prior to Spring in Sweetwater County. 

This is Judy’s story, Eric’s mother. As a young woman, she was in love with James Benjamin, whom she has believed all these years was killed in action in Vietnam. Her high school friend Cathy knows otherwise and has kept that a secret for decades. This information fuels Judy’s hatred for Cathy and a lot of plot is dedicated to Judy’s hot/cold blowing classification of friendship with Cathy and betrayal by Cathy. A couple of these blow-ups seemed inappropriate and childish for a grown woman later in life.

Dr. James Benjamin has been living in Miami all this time. He spends his life dedicated to saving others while he also struggles with his PTSD demons. This was painted eloquently and realistically for soldiers returning home with PTSD. This is the reason he chose not to return to Sweetwater County all those years ago.

However, he does find himself back there – facing Judy’s wrath and receiving support from Cathy. While the town is a cesspool for gossip, they truly care about their townspeople. There is no comfort for them in mean or spiteful behavior; they rally to support others in their town and that was heartfelt. The town comes together to aid James in restoring his childhood home and give James and Judy space and support and love and encouragement they need to choose one another.

I enjoyed most of the secondary characters in the town – Eric and Lisa, and especially Cathy. She was a stand-up friend for James and did everything she did for her love and care for Judy. I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing in her position. A town I can definitely get behind and one I’d love to move to just for the great people.

Review: Should’ve Been You

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Should’ve Been You
Author: Nicole McLaughlin
Publisher: Swerve
Release Date: January 2018
Length: 250 pages
Series?: Man Enough #3
Genre: Novella, Contemporary, Romance 

Childhood neighbors get a chance at love in Should’ve Been You, an achingly romantic novella in Nicole McLaughlin’s Man Enough series!

National Guardsman Jase Beckford wants to live a quiet life raising cattle and taking care of his mother. His childhood friend and neighbor Hannah is still his best friend, but when he walks into the Walters house one morning and sees her twin sister Becca for the first time in five years, he wonders if he missed out on something special.

Becca Walters has nursed a secret crush on Jase since childhood, but he always preferred Hannah, so she buried her feelings assuming her sister and Jase would one day turn their flirtation into a real relationship. And this Christmas, she is anticipating a proposal of her own, so Jase’s reappearance in her life doesn’t mean anything. Much. Okay, maybe more than Becca would like to admit.

However, when Becca’s sister gets engaged to someone who’s not Jase, Becca and Jase find themselves spending more together. And when secrets are revealed, suddenly those dormant feelings come back to life; but is the possibility of something between them worth risking the happiness of everyone they love?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I was surprised this was also a novella. I thought it was a full-length novel, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. However, it is part of a series but can be read as a standalone. The series is composed of novellas that focus on a different couple, so they don’t have to be read in order.

Twin sisters Hannah and Becca grew up with Jase, a very cute neighbor. Becca has crushed on him since almost the beginning. Hannah and Jase were best friends and Becca was almost always left out.

Growing up, Hannah and Becca’s parents kept an eye on Jase once it was known that his father was abusive. He became a part of their lives and household. Due to manipulations, Jase always thought Becca didn’t like him, and was crushing on her in silence, too.

This was definitely a second chance romance. The plotline was clear and their pasts were easily established although you could see the writing on the wall from way back then. That backstory was important to the characters’ development, feelings over the years, and the current situation.

Becca comes home for the holidays and discovers that Hannah is engaged. But not to the only person everyone thought would be the man for her. Not Jase. Not knowing how he fits into Hannah’s life anymore, Jase pulls hard on the reins and refuses to be Hannah’s first lifeline. With an almost empty life now, Jase has the opportunity to spend quality time with Becca, who discovers she’s not getting engaged as she thought would happen and also has time to spend. When the two pair up and reminisce, things become crystal clear to them both.


Review: First

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: First
Author: M.A. Grant
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: January 2016
Length: 165 pages
Series?: no
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Maya and Cat have been there for each other through thick and thin, the good and the bad, the laughter and the heartache. But with college graduation on the horizon and real life looming, they find themselves facing an uncertain future: one where not even friendship can save them from confusing choices, bad decisions, and the risks of falling in love.

Maya knows that love only leads to pain, and the best relationships are short—one night short. But after waking up with Jake, her best friend’s older brother, in her bed, suddenly things aren’t as cut and dry. Cat and Jake are close, a tight unit since their parents’ death, and Cat will never forgive her if Jake gets hurt. Jake is a firefighter, and is used to running into flames—not away from them, and Maya can’t seem to resist. But she’s already decided her future, and it’s far away from here. The only way to get what she’s always wanted is to burn every bridge behind her, and destroy the possibility of a future with the one man she may be willing to love.

When Cat Jacobs’s parents died while she was in high school, her brother’s best friend Dallas Miller was there to help pick up the pieces. Several years and a looming college graduation later, Cat’s motorcycle-riding, tattooed knight is about to ride off into the sunset—and leave her in his dust. She only has six days to convince him to fulfil her secret fantasy of having him for her first before he’s gone forever. She’s stubborn and he’s tempted, but this is a battle for more than just some time in the bedroom—it’s a fight for both their futures.

Find the book: Goodreads 

my review

My Thoughts 

Two novellas tied together with the same characters. I loved both stories, but I wish Grant had taken both storylines and developed them into their own full-length novels.

Book 1: Maya and Jake

Jake is Maya’s BFF’s brother. She has always acted condescending and snide toward him. Meanwhile, he’s had a crush on her since forever and continues trying to be nice to her and chalks it up to the fact that she just hates him. One night they get drunk at a bar and wind up arguing about their one-night stand. Maya swears it won’t happen again.

Jake had to grow up too soon. His parents died, he was 19 and had to grow up and be his sister Cat’s guardian. He chose to become a firefighter and put everything in his life on the backburner to be a parent to Cat.

I didn’t particularly like Maya’s character. She was real bitchy and just an overall jerk. It was hard to see how Jake kept trying to be nice to her.

Book 2: Cat and Dallas

Dallas (nickname Dally) is Jake’s BFF. Cat is Jake’s baby sister. Their story made more sense to me. When Cat’s parents died, Dallas moved back home. And he’s been in love with Cat ever since. Cat is now of the age where she’s done with being a virgin and sets her sights on Dallas to teach her what she needs to know. She is relentless on the warpath. Dallas refuses at every turn, even though he would like nothing more, because Jake would straight kill him. Plus, he’s moving back to Arizona now that Cat is grown and Jake doesn’t need as much support any longer.

Dallas finally gives in and agrees. But things do not go according to plan, and the one person who needs to not know nothing discovers everything.

Cat and Dally had a playful, close relationship that I enjoyed seeing bloom from their individual sides to growing together. An endearing, cute couple that made for a great read.

Review: Holes

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Holes
Author: Louis Sachar
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: September 2000
Length: 233 pages
Series?: Holes #1
Genre: YA, Middle Grades

Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten- pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

My kids have come up with so many predictions as we read through the book. Some of them were pretty wild (but still valid) and some were pretty great connections based on things we knew.

  • Stanley’s dad played a part in his crime (as in he was to blame for it).
  • How was Stanley’s GG Grandfather wasn’t killed by Kissin’ Kate??
  • Mr. Sir has something to do with the yellow-spotted lizards. He trains them or can call them or keeps them as pets somehow with his sunflower seeds.
  • Zero is a spy for the Warden, which is why he doesn’t talk.
  • Zero is the Warden’s son, which is why nothing is known about him and he doesn’t have an education. He’s grown up at Camp Green Lake as a nobody.
  • There is no Warden. Stanley hasn’t seen him at all.
  • The Warden is Madame Zeroni.
  • The Warden is Kissin’ Kate’s descendant.
  • They are looking for Stanley’s GG Grandfather’s lost treasure.
  • The Warden does have cameras set up, and when Stanley is brought to her about the sunflower seed theft, she turned off the TV (cameras) real fast.
  • The line order is like the mafia and the order is how X-Ray views their loyalty to him.

This was my first time reading Holes, which many of my kids didn’t believe. The story of Kate and Sam was so touching and heartbreaking. The intertwined plot lines were done wonderfully. A MG book I definitely recommend!

Review: To the Duke, With Love

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: To the Duke, With Love
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: December 2017
Length: 352 pages
Series?: The Rakes of St. James #2
Genre: Historical, Romance

Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn is guardian for his sweet, younger sister. Due to his misguided past as one of the infamous Rakes of St James, Hawk is hoping to avoid the Season by securing a match for her before it begins. He has the perfect gentleman in mind, but for one infuriating―and unexpectedly intoxicating―obstacle: the intended groom’s own sister, Miss Loretta Quick.

Having narrowly avoided her own arranged marriage to an unacceptable nobleman, Loretta is determined that her dear brother―a gentle, good-natured soul―should marry for love. Matching wits with Hawk may be her greatest challenge yet. . .until she realizes it may also be her greatest pleasure. For the young duke’s irresistible charm has not only begun to crumble her stubborn resolve, it has claimed her heart in true love as well.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This is the second book in the Rakes of St. James series. I read the first book and enjoyed it quite a bit, so I was expecting so much from this next book. It fell flat for me. The obvious insta-lust was so strong, it didn’t even read right in this historical romance setting. I did not get the feeling that the primary couple actually fell in love with one another. “I want you” is not the same as “I love you.” Additionally, there was a great imbalance of financials, which rubs me the wrong way with that type of power play.

Sloane Knox, Duke of Hawksthorn, is one of the three Rakes of St. James who played a prank on a dozen debutantes a decade ago. Following last year’s season and a possible threat to the younger sister of one of the other Rakes of St. James, Sloane wants to bar any such threat happening to his younger sister, Adele, as she makes her debut. Arranging a secret engagement before the start of the season will ensure that Adele comes out successful with a suitor and free of any retribution. In efforts to arrange what Hawk believes is the perfect match, he travels to Mammoth House, set far in the countryside, remote and isolated. Eager to make arrangements with Paxton Quick, a handsome and kind man, Hawk is harshly surprised to find not Paxton, but his sister Loretta at Mammoth House. A confusing confrontation ensues, with lines drawn in the sand and Loretta firmly making her stance that she will do everything in her power to keep her brother from this marriage.

Despite being a drastic act, Loretta was once set up in an arranged marriage herself. It was a business transaction more than a love match. In fact, she didn’t feel anything for the man…and left him at the altar. Following her uncle’s severe embarrassment and ensuing rage, Loretta has been banished to live at the remote Mammoth House, not even allowed to visit the village. She is required to remain at Mammoth House and not allowed to leave and sees her uncle but once a year at Christmastime. Having suffered the repercussions, Loretta only wants her brother to marry for love.

Going against all etiquette, Hawk dines alone with Loretta that night as a massive storm blows in. Midway through, a young urchin is found at the backdoor. Hawk follows him into the storm and brings him back, while Loretta and the other staff nurse him back from the brink of death. Once he revives a little, he is feisty and foul-mouthed.

Hawk is bent on ensuring the match between Adele and Paxton, inviting them to London for a meeting. Going to the lengths to visit the Earl of Switchingham and fatten him up to the idea, Hawk also persuades him to allow Loretta to make the journey. Considering the earl will not be out one penny for any of the travel and it will only be acceptable for both siblings to make the journey, the earl agrees. Getting the responsibility of his nephew off his shoulders will be a welcome change.

Embarking to London, Loretta makes the last-minute decision to bring Farley with them. He needs to be seen by a doctor, but Hawk is cold to the idea and cold to Farley. He sees him as a street rat who will pilfer anything. The two males almost have a burning hatred in their eyes for one another. The boy is quick witted for sure and brings comedic relief and drama to the unfolding story.

The insta-lust is palpable even from the immediate start of the book, and continues on throughout the book. There are a few close calls where they are almost caught, and Hawk makes some pre-arranged tasks for others so that he and Loretta can be alone. Ironically, Adele and Paxton hit it off extremely well and their match seems inevitable.

There were a couple of inaccuracies (dollars in England?) that showed the lesser planning for this second installment. I was looking forward to this second book in the Rakes of St. James series and the insta-love and some of the awkward wording dropped the book significantly from the momentum established with the first book. I’m not sure what to expect with the next in the series.

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: 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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