29 December 2013

Love Letters (Silhouette Desire No. 207)

Synopsis: DEAR MAUDIE, What should I do about my philandering husband? My daughter’s flirty boyfriend? My boring love life? Emmy Bakersfield, aka “Maudie”, dealt with such questions every day. Her most intriguing correspondent wanted to know how to woo the woman he'd loved since college, even thought she thought of him only as a friend.

Emmy tried to help. “Send roses,” she said – but she had her own problems. The publicity for her first book was being handled by her old college buddy Whit Hayes, but she felt differently about Whit now. If only he'd stop deluging her with roses!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Silhouette Books, 1985; 186 pages; given to me by a BookCrossing member.

My thoughts: Maude Edith Bakersfield, known as “Maudie” to the readers of her popular advice column, and Emmy to her friends, is about to embark on a publicity tour for her new book. The company that syndicates her column has hired a PR firm to represent her, and to Emmy's dismay one of the firm's partners is Whit Hayes. Whit was friends with Emmy's husband, Jerry, in college, and while Emmy and Whit worked together on the yearbook, after college she only saw him on occasion, such as when he and Jerry would golf together. Jerry nearly managed Emmy's career into the ground, and even now that they are divorced he is still a huge thorn in her side, trying to prevent her from selling her home unless he gets a cut of the profits. Emmy doesn’t dislike Whit, but she doesn't want Jerry learning about her business through his friend. She knows how men gossip!

Whit on the other hand is eager to get close to Emmy, having been enamored of her since college. He is determined to show Emmy that she can trust him, and to win her heart, even though he hasn't the first clue how to go about doing so.

Meanwhile, Emmy's newest letter writer, “Torch Carrier”, has asked her for advice on how to woo a woman he had a crush on in college. Emmy is so intrigued with T.C., as she and her assistant refer to him, that she quickly answers each letter and marks it “urgent' so it will be published asap. But each response from her elicits a new letter from T.C., as her advice keeps failing or backfiring (especially the advice involving roses!)

This was a fun and enjoyable read. Each chapter opens with a new letter from Torch Carrier, and I was eager to find out what advice Emmy would unknowingly give Whit through her column. And I don't think that's a spoiler, because I knew right off the bat that Whit was T.C., even though it took Emmy much longer to figure it out. I'd not read this author before, but I like her writing – flowing, descriptive, crisp and amusing dialogue, distinctive characters. And a hero who loves his cat and worries and fusses over her when she becomes a mama!

Favorite passage:
She opened her eyes wide. “And the way he looked at you!”
What look?”
Right before he left,” she explained breathlessly. “He gave you a look you could have poured over a waffle.” (pg. 43)

21 December 2013

Her Valentine Sheriff (Serendipity Sweethearts, Book 2; Love Inspired Large Print #833)

Synopsis: Rugged and tough deputy sheriff Eli Bishop isn't scared of anything. Except dogs. When he’s assigned a K-9 partner, he thinks things can't get any worse. Then he learns who'll be training him. Local vet Mary Travis is sweet as sugar...but she's also Eli's ex-fiancee's sister. Revealing his humiliating phobia to her is not an option. Neither is developing feelings for Mary – who's built her career around the dogs Eli fears. When a terrible storm hits their town, Mary and Eli must find the courage to work together and save lives – and fall in love.

First line: Serendipity, Texas, had gone to the dogs.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Love Inspired Books, releases in January 2014; 215 pages; purchased through Harlequin Reader Service subscription.

My thoughts: The Serendipity police force is getting it's first K-9 officer, and Eli Bishop is horrified to learn that he has been chosen to partner with the dog. A frightening encounter with a wild dog when he was very young left him with physical and emotional scars, and the thought of being around a dog still scares him. But he isn’t about to turn down a promotion, not to mention allow himself to become the butt of his fellow officers' jokes and teasing. He's still smarting from the jokes and teasing that followed his ex-fiancee jilting him, and he's not pleased that her sister will be training him. But he keeps his misgivings to himself and stoically accepts the new position.

Mary Bishop is excited about starting a K-9 training program, and if her first pupil and his partner do well, she hopes to get contracts from other local police forces. She's nervous about working with Eli, whom she had a crush on in high school, and she's still angry at her sister for the way she walked out on Eli and their engagement to be with another man.

Eli doesn’t tell Mary about his dog phobia, leaving her to ponder and wonder why he's so reserved and resistant to interacting with Bullet. She needs Eli and Bullet to become a cohesive unit in order to get the new training program off the ground. I'm fascinated by police dogs (well, by any dogs!), and Deb Kastner appears to have done some research into what makes them tick, and I enjoyed this brief glimpse into how the canine officers – and their human partners – are trained. And Eli's first training session with Mary and Bullet had me laughing page after page.

Mary quickly realizes her teenage crush on Eli is still going strong, but she doesn't think he would ever possibly be interested in someone like her. In fact, she spends a majority of the book convinced that he's fallen for her friend Alexis, and determined to be happy for them. Meanwhile, Alexis and Samantha, the other member of the Little Chicks, as the three girls are known around town, plot and scheme to get Mary and Eli together.

The storm scenes were descriptive and realistic, and I got a little tense but very immersed in the story. Thinking back, this is the first book I've read that featured any tornadic activity since my own city was devastated by a tornado back in May, and Mary and Eli heading out with their dogs for Search and Rescue made me emotional. But not in a bad way – with the happy ending it was also cathartic.

Overall an enjoyable and engaging read. I gather from Harlequin’s website that this is the second book in the “Serendipity Sweetheart” series, the first book having been Samantha's story, THE SOLDIER'S SWEETHEART, which thanks to my excessive subscriptions to Harlequin's Reader Service I already have in my massive TBR pile. But scrolling through synopses of Ms. Kastner's other books it looks like many of them are set in the same little town, such as MEETING Mr. RIGHT, which is the fourth book in the “Email Order Brides” series and is about Eli's sister, and which I'm pleased to realize is also in my TBR pile, along two more of her books. So, you know, just what I need. Another bunch of books to move to my “to be read next” bookcase, which is almost overflowing as it is. 

16 December 2013


Synopsis: Dawson Scott is a well-respected journalist recently returned from Afghanistan. Haunted by everything he experienced, he's privately suffering from battle fatigue, which is a threat to every aspect of his life. But then he gets a call from a source within the FBI. A new development has come to light in a story that began forty years ago. It could be the BIG story of Dawson's career.

Soon, Dawson is covering the disappearance and presumed murder of former marine Jeremy Wesson, the biological son of a pair of terrorists who remain on the FBI's Most Wanted list. As Dawson delves into the story, he finds himself developing feelings for Wesson's ex-wife, Amelia, and her two young sons. But when Amelia's nanny turns up dead, the case takes a stunning new turn, with Dawson himself becoming a suspect. Haunted by his own demons, Dawson takes up the chase for the notorious outlaws...and discovers the startling secret behind their story.

First line: The first hail of bullets was fired from the house shortly after daybreak at six fifty-seven.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, 2013; 410 pages; bought at Wal-Mart.

My thoughts: This is a brand new hardback, for which I paid $18.20, plus tax. That's how much I love Sandra Brown's mystery/thrillers.

Dawson Scott is a reporter who's been covering the war in Afghanistan from as close to the front lines as he can get. He's renowned and respected in his field for his straight-to-the-heart stories. But he's come home a broken man who wakes up screaming from nightmares. He may not have actually fought in the war, but he's definitely suffering post traumatic stress. There's a new boss at work, and she wants him to go cover what he considers an idiotic fluff piece. But his godfather, a retired FBI agent, talks him into going to Atlanta to cover a murder trial. The man on trial has been accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and her current lover, former marine Jeremy Wesson, in his kennel. Jeremy's body was never found, but a piece of his scalp was taken from the stomach of one of the dogs, so it's believed that he was eaten. This part I found a little out there. Even if the dogs did eat the body, surely there would still be something left, right? Too gross.

Dawson's godfather has particular interest in the trial because he spent the majority of his career trying to track down and capture Carl Wingert, the leader of a militant group, and his girlfriend, Flora Stimel. But Carl eludes him, leaving behind a vicious trail of murder and thieving. What isn't known to the public is that the notorious couple had a son – Jeremy Wesson.

Dawson isn't particularly excited about covering this trial, but it beats the assignment his boss has given him, so he blows her off and goes to Georgia. While sitting in the courtroom, thinking he should blow off this trial also, his attention is suddenly riveted when Wesson's ex-wife takes the witness stand.

Amelia just wants the trial to be over so she can try to create some semblance of a normal life for her two young sons. Jeremy has been dead for a year, and they were divorced before that, and she's done her grieving and wants to move on. When court breaks for the Labor Day weekend, she takes her sons and their nanny to her beach house. But she can't shake the feeling that someone is watching her. And then she meets Dawson. And then her nanny is murdered.

The plot remained unpredictable throughout, with an especially shocking twist towards the end that made me sit up and go “WHAT?!”. The attraction between Dawson and Amelia is there from their first meeting, but the buildup to anything actually happening between them is slow and realistic. Sandra Brown's characters are never cookie-cutter, and they all have their own distinct personalities and their own role to play, whether they are leading characters or secondary, including the children.

Sandra Brown never disappoints.