27 September 2014

He's No Prince Charming


Synopsis from Goodreads: At sixteen, Dakota Dunn was America's Pop Princess. Now twenty-five, she's all grown up-and definitely washed up. She decides to head to her parents' lakefront retreat in Tennessee, fixing to write songs and transform her image from squeaky clean to kickin' country.

Turns out her folks have handed things over to sexy, if cranky, cowboy Trace Coleman-a former bull riding champion benched by injuries. He's none too happy about Dakota's arrival-and makes no secret of it. But though Trace is rough around the edges, Dakota feels a pull of attraction she can't quite shake. For all his brooding, Trace has an animal magnetism that may just lead Dakota to dig in her heels and hold on tight...

Stats for my copy: Signet Eclipse mass market paperback, published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts: Dakota is a former pop star, who at the height of her fame bought a marina in her home town, which her parents ran. After her father’s health declined, he turned over the running to Trace. Now Dakota has come back to the marina to take up temporary residence in her old cabin while she tries to write some new songs and reinvent her image.

I really liked Trace. A former bull-riding champion who had to give up his career – along with fame, adulation and money - after being injured, he’s the wounded, scarred, reserved, tough as nails, push everyone away type of hero that I love. Dakota, on the other hand, got on my nerves. She was constantly tripping, stumbling, falling, and doing other clumsy things that caused her to constantly scream, shriek or squeal.

While this is their story, the sidekicks get plenty of page time also, and as much as I loved Trace, I was more interested in the romance developing between Grady, who runs fishing tours and does other odd jobs around the marina, and Sierra, the camp cook. Grady has been a love and leave ‘em type, and Sierra has always just been one of the guys while nursing a crush on Grady. She and Dakota make a pact between them – Sierra will help Dakota become a redneck country girl, and Dakota will help Sierra bring out her feminine side. Which gets Grady’s attention. Their relationship developed a bit quicker than I would have liked, but was still more fun than Dakota’s mishaps.

Fortunately, the last three chapters put Dakota in a better light and everything was resolved quite satisfactorily.

23 September 2014

Lines I Love

Sierra laughed and looked so happy that it touched his heart. It didn't dawn on him until now that she always looked a little sad. And perhaps lost. Well, if she were lost, he had just found her, and he wasn't about to let her go. 


21 September 2014

When Calls the Heart (Canadian West, Book 1)


Synopsis from back of book: Nothing in her cultured East Coast upbringing prepared Elizabeth for a teaching position on the Canadian frontier. Yet, despite the constant hardships, she loves the children in her care. Determined to the do the best job she can and fighting to surviv the harsh land, Elizabeth is surprised to find her heart softening towards a certain member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Bethany Hose, 1983.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: It came as a surprise to me.

My thoughts: I think this is the first book I've read by Janette Oke, and I was a little surprised initially by the writing style, which almost seems aimed at a young adult audience. Nothing wrong with YA of course, I just wasn't expecting it. And I obviously read too many romance novels, because I kept waiting and waiting for the hero to make his appearance. While our heroine sees him once at a distance, talking to her brother, earlier in the book, she doesn't actually meet him until page 143 – literally halfway through the 284 page book.

Elizabeth has grown up in a well to do family, enjoying the comforts of big city living. Being a very independent sort of girl, she has pursued a teaching career, and has no thoughts of or desire to marry and settle into the life of a housewife. When her oldest brother, living in the rugged untamed west, writes to their mother about the opportunities available for women and the need for schoolteachers, and asking if Elizabeth would like to come out, she at first is horrified at the prospect, but eventually agrees.

Upon her arrival, after being reintroduced to her brother, whom she hasn't seen in years, and meeting his wife, she quickly lets them know that she is here to teach only:
...Had I been interested in matrimony, I could have stayed in the East and found an acceptable spouse. Julie, who by the way is our family expert on the subject, assures me that the men of the West are adventurers – undependable, rough, and rowdy. I don't know if her research is totally reliable, but I have no intention of finding out...”

Unfortunately, the school superintendent, Mr. Higgins, who will decide at what school to place her, takes an immediate liking to her and seems to assume that she would be more than happy to forgo teaching and marry him instead. She politely sets him straight, and he gets his revenge by placing her at a school 100 miles away from her family, in a rugged small town that has been unable to attract a teacher, ever. And thus her real adventures begin.

The story is in first person POV, with Elizabeth being a sweet and reliable narrator. She loves teaching, loves getting to know the children and their family, along with other members of the community. Wynn Delaney holds a fascination for her that she finds unexpected and disconcerting. She's not perfect, she makes some mistakes and jumps to some conclusions, though she hurts herself more than anyone else in the process. Her battle with the mice who inhabit the little house she is provided was particularly amusing.

Overall a very engaging and enjoyable read. Knowing this is the first book in a series, I was left worrying and guessing practically up to the last few pages as to how it would end, but was more than satisfied. 

18 September 2014

Shut Up and Kiss Me

Synopsis from Goodreads: Photojournalist Shala Winters already had her hands full bringing tourism to this backward, podunk town, but her job just got tougher. Pictures can say a thousand words, and one of Shala's is screaming bloody murder. Now she has to entrust a macho, infuriating lawman with her life -- but she'll never trust him with her heart.

Trust or not, Sky Gomez isn't about to let a killer get his hands on Shala's Nikon -- or any of her more comely assets, for that matter. Her mouth might move faster than a Piney Woods roadrunner, but all he can think about is how good it must taste...and how she'll never escape true love.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.

How acquired: Received from a BookCrossing member.

First line: “Is that war paint or love paint he's wearing?” a female voice rang out from behind Shala Winters.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Christie Craig, and the problem with discovering new to me authors is suddenly having a bunch of books to add to my wish list. Because I very much enjoyed SHUT UP AND KISS ME, and am now excited to look through my TBR books and realize that I already do have four of her other books waiting.

While in the small town of Precious, Texas, where she has been hired to come up with ways to promote tourism, Shala attends a powwow. Becoming disgusted by the raucous and disrespectful comments of the women sitting around her (see that first line above), and a little disconcerted by the dancing man who keeps staring intently at her, she gets up to leave. The mayor had warned her there was some members of the community who didn't want the town promoted and didn't want her here, and she thinks this guy must be one of them. As she turns in the bleachers to escape, her bag slides off her shoulder and her camera falls out. She hastily retrieves it, only to have the man suddenly appear in front of her, snatch it out of her hands, and dash away.

Sky Gomez sees a camera flash, and then sees Shala with a camera in her hands, so he jumps to the assumption that she took a picture, and per the sign posted at the gate, stating that cameras are strictly prohibited and will be confiscated, he quickly takes possession of it.

And that's Shala and Sky's meet cute. Although, they don't actually meet until after Shala has run all over town trying to track Sky down. Humor abounds here, from cover to cover, and there were many times I laughed out loud. Sky and Shala are both fun characters, both leery of love for their own reasons. Sky especially. His foster father, Redfoot, claims that the spirits told him in a dream that Shala is his soul mate, but while Sky is respectful of the old ways and participates in the powwows, he doesn't really believe in all that spirit stuff, and he certainly doesn't believe in soul mates. So before even meeting Shala he is already determined to keep his distance from her. Fortunately, he doesn't succeed. Someone is stalking Shala, and getting more and more violent, which throws Shala and Sky together as they try to figure out who, and why.

There are plenty of other characters with side plots keeping the book very busy. Maria, Sky's foster sister, has been in love with their foster brother, Jose, who is Redfoot's son, since she was a teenager, but just when she thought he might be returning her feelings he had taken off for a job in New York. Now she's dating Matt, a white boy, and while she thinks she's in love with him, she still can't stop obsessing over Jose. Plus she thinks Matt is cheating on her with his constant weekend trips to Dallas.

Jose couldn't wait to get out of Precious, but when Redfoot is injured, he rushes back home. Jose's arrival, and his first couple of days in town, played like a farce, as one thing after another happens to him. The string of events was almost over the top, but the author kept me laughing and engaged enough that I didn't mind. I wasn't sure at first if I liked Jose, but he grew on me.

Another character I particularly liked was Sky's friend, Lucas, a loner with a military past, law enforcement connections and a secret government job. Compared to the other characters above I guess he was a more minor character, but he seemed to open up and evolve a little in his brief time on the page, and I would have loved to see more of him.

After I finished the book, I went to the author's website, hoping there were or would be more books about this quirky little town (ok, hoping there was or would be one about Lucas), but alas, no. I did find an Epilogue to the story. However, after only reading about a third of it I navigated away as I didn't feel it really added to the story and was superfluous.

A light, sometimes silly, bordering on slapstick, romantic comedy, with a mystery at it's core, and a fun cast of characters. 

14 September 2014

Through His Touch (Mind's Eye, Book 2)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Sexy, suspenseful #2 novel of the Mind's Eye Series by Deborah Camp. Psychic detectives Levi Wolfe and Trudy Tucker face an unknown foe who is determined to destroy everything beautiful in Levi's life -- including Trudy. Will Levi's love claim her or kill her?

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, published by Amazon, 2014.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts: If you've read the first book, THROUGH HIS EYES, you know it ended on a WTF cliffhanger that just came totally out of left field. Fortunately, the author resolves that cliffhanger in the first few pages here, and I was able to let out the breath I'd been holding since last February.

Levi Wolfe and Trudy Tucker are psychics who fell in love while working together on a serial murder case in the first book. Trudy has, not visions necessarily, but episodes where in her mind she is looking through the killer's eyes, seeing what he sees, and experiencing his emotions. Levi can channel the victim, seeing and experiencing the murder through her eyes.

The first book had quite a bit of action as they teamed up to catch the killer. In this follow up, there isn't as much of that. Levi is home in Atlanta, dealing with a stalker, catching up on his office work, dealing with his busy schedule, and missing Trudy, the first woman he's ever pledged himself to be faithful to. Trudy and her little dog Mouse have gone back to her home in Tulsa, where I'm not really sure what she gets up to, other than missing Levi.

In the first book, I connected with both Levi and Trudy quickly, and the author did a wonderful job of detailing their characters, making them realistic and taking us inside their minds. She continues that here, particularly with Levi. Learning to be in a relationship, to trust in love, to open himself up...it's a journey of self-discovery for him. There is a lot of angst in this book, and it's mostly coming from Levi. They don't stay apart for too long, and Trudy has her own insecurities of course, but she is more secure in her own feelings than Levi is with his. I definitely felt this story was much more Levi's than hers.

There is a new murder case for them to help solve, which leads to a very intense scene. And there's Levi's stalker to contend with as well. But more than that, the story is a very good character study of a man who knows he's broken and isn't sure if he's fixable. And I especially enjoyed some of the scenes with Gonzo, the head of Levi's security team, and with Wes, his cook/housekeeper, both of whom were interesting and charismatic in their own right.

And while the ending wasn't quite as cliffhangery as the first book, the words “The End” came rather abruptly, and I'm glad that the wait for the third book, due in January, isn't quite as long as the wait between books one and two was,* because I'm ready for book three. Now.

*Technically, the wait is about the same, as the first book was published in April, but I read an early advance copy graciously given to me by the author in February, so I had to wait an extra two months for this one.  

08 September 2014

One Fine Cowboy


Nate Shawcross is perfectly content to spend his days training wild horses. So when a beautiful greenhorn unexpectedly shows up for a seminar from the famous "Horse Whisperer" of Wyoming, all Nate wants to do is send her packing...


Graduate student Charlie Banks came to the ranch to learn about horse communication, but when she meets the ruggedly handsome cowboy, she starts to fantasize about another connection entirely...

Nate needs to stay focused if he's going to save his ranch from foreclosure, but he can't help being distracted by the brainy and breathtakingly sexy Charlie. Could it be that after all this time Nate has finally found the one woman who can tame his wild heart?

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2010.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: The cowboy boot was the most pathetic piece of footwear Charlie had ever seen.

My thoughts: I wasn't sure I would like Charlie at first. She's a Jersey girl who refers to cowboys as “stupid cowboys”. She's a vegetarian animal rights activist, who doesn't believe in riding horses - “It's morally wrong, forcing animals to serve us.” She's a grad student, and has been sent to this ranch in the wilds of Wyoming to attend a clinic for the purpose of “assessing the parallels between the training techniques of Western livestock managers and the nonverbal cues with which humans communicate their wants and needs.” Or as Charlie sums it up, “harassing innocent animals with a bunch of cowboys”. I love animals, and I'm all for animal rights, but I don't support PETA and their over the top, at times bullying methods of grabbing headlines. And Charlie sounded like a card carrying member. She's even participated in PETA protests.

Nate doesn't quite know what to make of her either. Especially when she tells him she's here to attend one of his clinics. Because he has no idea what she's talking about. Seems his ex-girlfriend flew the coop recently, cleaning out his bank account, but not before printing up a bunch of brochures and collecting four deposits for his non-existent clinic services. But Charlie's car has broken down, and she has no way to leave. Plus her boss would expect her to bring that deposit back with her, which neither she nor Nate have. So the shy, quiet cowboy is forced to come up with a lesson plan and carry on with the promises made in the brochure.

Once Nate introduces Charlie to a couple of horses, and she sees his training techniques in action, she chills out with the abuse accusations and becomes quite enamored with one stallion in particular, and of course, despite her disdain for cowboys, with Nate himself. And I did like her quite well after all. The other three students trickle in one by one, and each individual was quite a character in their own right, though not necessarily who or what they seemed to be upon first meeting them.

When the ex-girlfriend puts in an appearance, things get tense and skewered. Nate is the strong sensitive type. He gets tongue tied very easily and struggles to form a coherent sentence, though the smoldering looks he aims Charlie's way speak loud and clear. With the horses he's much more confident of himself, hence his reputation as a “horse whisperer”. I got a little frustrated with him when the ex came back and began taking over his life again, and he let her bully him without standing up to her. But he's a good guy, coming to realize what a crappy relationship they've had, and seeing through Charlie what a real relationship could be like.

My only real beef were some inconsistencies that pulled me out of the story. In one scene, Nate is having trouble sleeping, tossing and turning as he tries to get comfortable on the sofa. “All he could think about was that morning he'd woken up on this same sofa with Charlie in his arms, tucked against him.” Yet on the next page: “He swung his feet to the floor and levered himself out of bed...He shuffled quietly across the bedroom...” When did he get from the sofa to the bedroom? And then later, he and Charlie are riding together on a horse, him sitting in front of her: “Nate leaned back against her, his broad back warm against her chest.” But a few paragraphs later, while they are still riding: “He kissed the back of her neck.” How the hell did he kiss the back of her neck from in front of her?

There's a bit of humor, some nice descriptions of the Wyoming countryside, a locked attic hiding secrets, some twists and turns in the storyline, and a lot of heart as Nate and Charlie dance around each other, fighting, then being friends, getting closer, then blowing up at each other. Not quite as good as COWBOY TROUBLE, the only other Kennedy book I've read so far, but very enjoyable. 

05 September 2014

Lines I Love

"But we need to set some ground rules."

He nodded, swallowing. 

"First of all, no kissing," she said. "No touching either. And no looking at me like you're thinking about me naked."

Shoot. She'd noticed that after all. 

ONE FINE COWBOY, by Joanne Kennedy. 

The Black Sheep and the English Rose (Unholy Trinity, Book 3)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Finn Dalton is the black sheep of his privileged family--because he's always trying to do the right thing. But do good guys let bad girls go free? Ask British heiress Felicity Trent. Finn should have called the cops when he caught Felicity with a fortune in stolen jewels. But after the hot night they'd shared, betraying her meant he'd never have her again. Two years later, he discovers Felicity scantily clad and handcuffed to a bed in a posh Manhattan hotel room. Finn has three choices. Turn Felicity in. Turn her loose. Or turn her on...

Finn Dalton is bad boy personified. Felicity Trent should know; she's a bad girl herself. But for Felicity, life as a jewel thief is almost as seductive as Finn is--and that's dangerous. Because for a girl like her one night is all she needs to get what she wants, anything more means trouble. Now, with both of them after the same thing--the rarest of treasures--who gets there first might be the last thing they want.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Kensington Publishing Corp., 2008.

How acquired: Won from the author in a giveaway on her Facebook page.

First line: Someone else had gotten to her first.

My thoughts: This third book in the Unholy Trinity trilogy is about Finn Dalton, the partner who was off on a job during the first two books and not involved in those stories. He's trying to track down a jewel and return it to it's rightful owner. His path quickly crosses that of Felicity Trent, an English heiress who is also after the jewel. Finn and Felicity have crossed paths before, two years prior, when they had some hot sex and then parted company. He can't quite figure her out. He thinks she's a thief, in it for the thrills maybe, but his gut tells him she's not a bad person.

Finn and Felicity team up, him eagerly as he realizes he wants to know more about her and get to know her better, her grudgingly.

Neither Finn nor Felicity ever really stood out as an appealing character, and their banter didn't seem nearly as witty or entertaining as that of Kate and Mac in the first book, or Rafe and Elena in the second book. But I think it was mainly because the whole plot with the jewel just wasn't my cup of tea and it bored me. It wasn't until the last hundred pages or so that I finally became captivated and didn't want to put the book down.

So for me, not a very high rating on this book, but I think fans of the author and her writing will probably like it, and readers who enjoyed the first two books will probably enjoy this one as well. And while she seems to be a little hit or miss for me, I do like the author's writing style and her humor and will continue to read her.

03 September 2014

Lines I Love

It would take a lifetime to know everything about her, and he just happened to have one handy and available.