Quick summary Events planner Tess Casari packs up all of her belongings and heads out west to California (from Queens) to start anew following the pain...moreQuick summary Events planner Tess Casari packs up all of her belongings and heads out west to California (from Queens) to start anew following the painful demise of her marriage and later, her husband's death. She ends up at the Silver Creek Ranch (sort of an eeny-meeny-miney-mo action with a map). Ward Knowles, the oldest son of the family owning the guest ranch, is the first person she meets and it definitely wasn't insta-love.
The heart of the story Tess is hired on by Ward's mother as her personal assistant and later the events planner for the ranch. She thinks he's arrogant (he is a bit) and he thinks she's too much the city girl (she is). Publicly they trade barbs but privately they acknowledge their attraction. Both think they want a casual relationship (he was seriously burned) with no strings attached.
What works about this story Everyone on that ranch works very hard and Ward is a true cowboy...wrangling cattle, working horses and delivering baby lambs. He always planned to work on Tess and was pretty honest about it. It took time and the development of the relationship is expertly woven into every aspect of the story. I loved both of these characters and their romance. The conflicts they faced related to their pasts, including a nasty ex-fiancée who added some real spice. Part of the charm was experienced through Tess's indoctrination to ranch life, capped off when she transitions from high heels to her first fancy cowboy boots!
The bottom line Despite its slow start, this story was pretty wonderful. Ward is delicious, representing cowboys really well. Tess is no slouch either and shows her skills in adapting with ease from life in the city to that on a ranch. The romance develops nicely without a lot of angst or silly conflicts and when it ramps up...oh, my. You'll learn a lot about how a guest ranch works, too. (less)
Hutch Carmody had a lot of growing up to do and after his father's death about a year ago that's just what he's done. He's come to terms with his ille...moreHutch Carmody had a lot of growing up to do and after his father's death about a year ago that's just what he's done. He's come to terms with his illegitimate half brother, settling with him on his share of the family inheritance. Hutch has also matured in recognizing that Kendra Shephard is the one he foolishly let get away and is determined to win her back, out to prove he's not the man he was back in the day. Kendra is fresh off a painful divorce and has adopted a four-year old little girl. She's not ready to take any more risks for herself or her daughter.
I really enjoyed this second book in the series, even though Kendra's reluctance to engage with Hutch became tiresome after awhile. However, there were so many funny and heartwarming moments it was easy to settle back and hang on for the ride. Madison (Kendra's daughter)was an absolute scene stealer and even the pets (everyone in this town has a dog) brought quite a few laughs. The characters from the first book are also critical to the story, as the friendships play a major role in getting Hutch and Kendra to finally connect. There is a strong sense of family that continues to develop, making the romance that much more poignant as Hutch establishes a relationship with Madison along the way.
I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, which will focus on Boone and Tara. It should prove to be a bit more serious as decisions he made in this story will be awfully tough to reverse. No matter the tone, I'm committed to the end.(less)
Slade Barlow, the divorced Sheriff of Parable Montana, grew up as the illegitimate son of wealthy rancher, John Carmody, who never acknowledged him as...moreSlade Barlow, the divorced Sheriff of Parable Montana, grew up as the illegitimate son of wealthy rancher, John Carmody, who never acknowledged him as his son. Now that he is dead, Carmody decides he's going to come clean with the town's worst-kept secret by including Slade in his will. Slade now shares half of his estate with his half brother, Hutch, who was raised by Carmody with all of the rights and perks of that legacy. Joslyn Kirk returns to Parable following the shame of her stepfather's crooked actions that cheated many of the town's residents in an investment scheme. While she had nothing to do with his activities, Joslyn makes it her mission to atone for his actions in a town hostile to her return.
This was an entertaining story of small town western life in the big sky state of Montana. Slade's conflict over his father's bequest, having his teenage stepdaughter live with him for the summer and his struggles with his obvious attraction to Joslyn were the central issues. I never quite understood why he and Joslyn tried to deny their attraction and it became irritating. The secondary characters have potential in making the series very interesting but their roles seem to drift and they ended up pretty one-dimensional, never really taking life. For example, Kendra Shepard, Joslyn's best friend who took her in and has her helping out in her business,inexplicably left town for a few months, leaving her real estate company unattended and then suddenly returns months later when Slade and Hutch decide to do something risky.
While I enjoyed the story, I never really engaged with any of the characters (except Jasper the dog!!) and the plot seemed to meander. I'm hoping the next book in the series is more interesting.
Carlin Reed is on the run from a stalker ex-boyfriend who is obsessed and out to kill her. She lands in Battle Ridge, Wyoming, far from her home in Te...moreCarlin Reed is on the run from a stalker ex-boyfriend who is obsessed and out to kill her. She lands in Battle Ridge, Wyoming, far from her home in Texas and completely off the grid. Zeke Decker is so desperate for a cook and housekeeper, he agrees to Carlin's strange terms and ultra privacy about her background. They're all business...well, for a little while.
I started this book completely unaware that it is a romantic suspense, a really very pleasant surprise. Combined with a western setting, it has just about everything I love in a romance and it delivered.
Carlin was just an ordinary young woman trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life when she went out with the wrong man and had her life turned upside down. She slowly transforms from the naive, frightened woman on the run to a more confident, self-assured one who begins to take control of her life. Zeke is ruggedly sexy and a man of few words who recognized from the start that Carlin was going to be a challenge. He's got a ranch to run and men to manage and Carlin is definitely a distraction.
I loved how their romance developed. Both wanted to ignore their attraction to each other, Carlin because at any moment she might need to move on and Zeke because he needed her to first run his household. There was no "all of a sudden" moment, just the gradual growth of affection and lust. I admired both of them, especially Carlin for figuring out how to take control of her life and stay alive. Zeke had a role in this but it was driven by Carlin. They were really well designed characters with a meaty story to accompany the romance.
The tension builds throughout the story because the threat of Carlin being found is always there, not in an overt way but the ex-boyfriend is clever, calculating and obsessed. We get his point of view from time to time, just enough to give you chills. The climax was all that I imagined and more. It was scary, exciting and unpredictable in the end.
Lastly, I'm always concerned with co-authored novels as there's a tendency for the "voice" to become convoluted. Not the case with this story as the characters and tone were consistent to the end.
This is a great start to the series and I'm already looking for the next book. There was also a fair amount of humor as Carlin didn't really know how to cook at first and there were some failed experiments. The Wyoming setting is perfect and the secondary characters introduced here will be interesting leads going forward. It struck the right balance between the action, romance, suspense and humor. Well done. 4 1/2 stars.
Boone Taylor, the sheriff of Parable County, is still mourning his wife who died a few years ago and still hasn't brought his two young boys home. Eve...moreBoone Taylor, the sheriff of Parable County, is still mourning his wife who died a few years ago and still hasn't brought his two young boys home. Even though he's moved on with his life, he's still stuck in time with his property in decay and his sons still living with his sisters in another town. Meanwhile, his prickly neighbor, Tara Kendall who has been very critical of how he's not maintained his property, is reinventing herself after moving to Parable from New York. Her painful marriage behind her, she's making the best of her new life in spite of her stubborn but handsome neighbor.
This series just gets better with each book. I knew Boone's book would be more complicated given his personal circumstances and my instincts were on target. His friends had gently urged him in the past to bring his sons back home but he was reluctant to disrupt their lives. It took a crisis in his sister's life to get him to take action. Boone's initial struggles were so realistic, facing those issues most single parents encounter with the added complication of them not really knowing him that well and the shock of a different standard of living.
When Tara's twin stepdaughters, who she raised from toddlers and adores, come to visit, it gives her and Boone opportunities to see each other differently. Their romance was heartwarming as it developed around their families and friends. I'm a sucker for kids in these stories as they tend to bring out the best in the adults as it did here. Friends from the previous books in the series also play a role and we get nice updates on their lives. The only criticism I have is that the ending felt a little rushed, satisfying, but culminating a bit faster than I thought it should have.
Boone and Tara's story took its time to develop with the layers of their lives, past and present, unfolding richly. I loved their story and it's my favorite of the series to date. I'm looking forward to the next book as it will be about Casey Elder and she's got some secrets yet to be revealed.
Isabel Falcon and Micah Wild were teenaged lovers 12 years ago when she became pregnant. Their families were feuding for several generations and came...moreIsabel Falcon and Micah Wild were teenaged lovers 12 years ago when she became pregnant. Their families were feuding for several generations and came between them when they tried to marry and since that time they've led separate lives. Now they are being thrown back together because their 11-year old daughter is missing and they must reunite to find her, all the while struggling with emotions that haven't subsided in all the time they've been apart.
It was chilling to think about this young girl being abducted without a trace and you couldn't help but feel Isabel and Micah's agony. It was obvious that they loved each other as they loved their child. The issues that originally separated their families weren't really clear though it didn't really matter as emotions still ran pretty deeply. The resurgence of the romance between Isabel and Micah was overshadowed by their daughter Lucy's continued absence. It was interesting to track their progress as they followed up on clues to find out who took her and where she was being hidden. What was very puzzling, however, was the lackluster involvement of the police and the community in searching for Lucy. It seemed as if Micah, Isabel and their families were the only ones looking for her and this didn't seem plausible.
I liked the story, even though I didn't really connect so much with the romance. Their reasons for staying apart for 12 years didn't really make sense, especially when they remained connected through their daughter. However, the suspense surrounding Lucy's abduction kept me connected to the book and it had a good climax. It also seems like there may be a follow up story, which I would definitely read.
I really like this series and like it a lot. It centers around a few men and women in the town of Parable, Montana who individually landed here throug...moreI really like this series and like it a lot. It centers around a few men and women in the town of Parable, Montana who individually landed here through one circumstance or another. Each has had issues from their past resurface to create obstacles for romance in the present. There is one constant, however...some of the most delectable cowboys west of the Mississippi River.
The Set Up In this fourth book, Casey Elders, a red-haired, feisty Country & Western singer recently bought a home in Parable. The plan was to give her children, 14-year old Clare and 13-year old Shane, a place to call home after being on the road touring all their lives. She chose this city because it's where Walker Parrish's ranch is located. He's their father but no one knows that, including her children, and Walker is fed up agreeing to keep a secret he never wanted a part of.
The Issues How do you explain to your children that the family friend they've adored is really their father? Especially since having a father and a family has always been their dream. Walker and Casey have a turbulent history but the weight is on Casey for creating the obstacles in their romance and the lie.
What Worked Casey and Walker's relationship was complex, steamy (never had issues between the sheets) and uneasy. She was all about maintaining her independence and Walker was such the confident cowboy he reduced her to a puddle with just a smile. Their kids were pretty interesting, too, and their differing reactions to the news complicated the story even more. The downside of celebrity is also presented, shining a light on issues that never occurred to me and the impact on their daily lives. The couples from the earlier stories appear here with updates on their situations and, although they really don't have substantive roles to speak of, it added to the enjoyment.
What Didn't Work Quite So Well Casey frustrated me quite a bit. While her rationale for hiding the children's paternity was logical, it didn't fit the man Walker was defined to be and she was stubborn to a fault. And, his passivity was annoying at times and seemed out of character.
Bottom Line Loved the story, Casey and Walker as a couple and parents, their children and the conflicts. Everyone involved paid a price for the decisions Casey made and no one gets off easy. When they come together as a family, it's messy, heartwarming and romantic. The bonds between the friends make this series special, along with the Western scene and culture as a foundation. Loving it. I’m ready for Brylee!
I've wanted to read Brylee Parrish's story since she was left at the altar by Hutch Carmody in the second book of...moreOriginally posted at The Book Nympho
I've wanted to read Brylee Parrish's story since she was left at the altar by Hutch Carmody in the second book of this series (Big Sky Mountain). She's now a businesswoman to be reckoned with as she's the head of a highly successful gift distribution company. But, she's still very much alone and in a small town, it's hard to redefine yourself when everyone remembers your wedding day that didn't happen.
Zane Sutton seemed on the surface to be an unlikely match for Brylee. He's a famous Hollywood western actor though his roots were in the rodeo circuit. What no one seems to understand is the Hollywood lifestyle doesn't fit him well and his heart is in Montana at the property he purchased years ago. When he first lays eyes on Brylee, he sees her at a vulnerable moment and gets that she's not the packaged perfection she projects to the rest of the world.
What's most interesting about this story is the romance is more in the background and the issues in Brylee and Zane's worlds are at the forefront. Surprisingly it works because we get a completely finished canvas for both of them by the time they come together. The secondary characters support them rather than distract, making this a much more interesting story.
If there was one shortcoming it would be Brylee's curious behavior near the end of the book. Her actions seemed out of character and I'm still puzzling over what it all meant. Fortunately, it was a small interlude and I quickly moved on.
I enjoyed the story and the romance as Zane is a really great guy, perfect for the wounded but proud Brylee. She makes him work for it and he rises to the occasion admirably. This is probably my most favorite of the series to date.
If you're a fan of the TV show, The Batchelor, this story will probably be a fun read for you.
Ainsley Fairfax comes from a wealthy South Carolina fam...moreIf you're a fan of the TV show, The Batchelor, this story will probably be a fun read for you.
Ainsley Fairfax comes from a wealthy South Carolina family with a matriarch from hell. Her mother is adamant that she's going on a cruise with Edward, the man of her choosing, and work on their nuptials when they return (her command was that they get engaged). Ainsley schemes with her black sheep sister to switch places and take her trip to a cowgirls weekend in Wyoming.
It's two weeks of competition with seven other women for the attentions of Riley Pommer, eldest of the four siblings owning the ranch. Of course, some of the women show their catty and nasty sides once it's apparent Riley only has eyes for Ainsley.
There were aspects of the story I really enjoyed, primarily Ainsley's efforts to get a spine and get out from under her mother's outrageous control. She had relapses but her attempts were gutsy and it was satisfying to follow her self discovery. Meagan, her Wyoming roommate, was also refreshing, even though her romance was more satisfying than the main characters' relationship.
Where I fell off the rails was with the competition itself and Riley. Not being a fan of The Batchelor, the whole concept just offended my sensibilities. Riley was a reluctant participant (his sisters concocted the idea to raise much needed money) but often allowed himself to be played by the women trying to undermine Ainsley. It got tiresome and it baffled me when he would take their word over Ainsley's. His rants just made him come off as a jerk. And, the whole Edward storyline was a bit too much for me to swallow. There were too many trust issues that never found a foundation to build from.
It's a well written story that I would have enjoyed more if it didn't involve that 8-women competition. It just turned me off to the hero, Riley and lose interest in the HEA because I can't stand the idea of a group of women jockeying like this for one man's attention, willing or not. But, it was worth it to see Ainsley develop and mature. She never intended to compete and didn't. (less)
In this second book of the series, we find Kade McKettrick attempting to follow in his brother's footsteps and has requested a "few" mail order brides...moreIn this second book of the series, we find Kade McKettrick attempting to follow in his brother's footsteps and has requested a "few" mail order brides. He has also become suspicious of the Sister Amanda Rose, the nun working at the Arizona Hotel. Something tells him that she may not be a member of the religious order.
I finally get that the McKettrick men are all pretty stubborn and pigheaded but their hearts seem to be in the right place. Kade is the more learned of the family, which makes him a bit more thoughtful and measured in his actions, which he needed with someone like Mandy. She's a real spitfire and they had an immediate connection. Unlike Rafe, Kade was more willing to move forward with expressing his feelings and I liked him a lot more.
There was also quite a bit of action in this story with outside forces trying to leverage the tension between Holt and the McKettrick brothers. With the Triple M ranch at risk, the brothers move forward at least a step towards a more harmonious relationship.
I enjoyed this book, full of humor, sadness and intrigue. Miller seems to have captured the tone and spirit of the territory and era, so much so that I felt immersed in the story. I'm looking forward to the next book.(less)
I'm going to sound like I can't decide if I like this book or not. Well, that's because there were parts I liked a lot and others that had me raising...moreI'm going to sound like I can't decide if I like this book or not. Well, that's because there were parts I liked a lot and others that had me raising my eyebrows.
First, what I liked. It's romantic suspense involving cowboys on a ranch and a heroine on the run from a truly diabolical ex-husband. Jenna's fear was well earned and one of the most chilling aspects of the book is when we experience the attacks from her point of view. It was horrific, awful and scary. When she lands at Jack's ranch, I breathed a sigh of relief on her behalf. He and his family were just good people and even though it could be sappy at times, they were a wonderful respite, embracing the battered Jenna and nursing her back to health. If you're in the mood for a sweet romance and small town friendly, this story really works...a great dog, cute 3-year old and a cranky horse all add to the "feel good."
Now, what made me roll my eyes at times. This is truly an "insta-love" that just developed too quickly and it didn't have to. There was a clear and natural path that could have been taken to more slowly evolve the romance but...for some reason it was necessary to have Jenna and Jack speed things up. It was annoying. Then, there was one instance where Jenna's ex got access to her that really stretched credulity. I just rejected the entire scene it was so far off base. Lastly, the number of errors in the book was unacceptable. It was poorly edited by a major publisher. I'm used to reading uncorrected proofs with fewer errors.
The bottom line, though, is I was completely hooked by the story because when it was good, it was very, very good. When it was bad, it wasn't terrible. I liked the story, characters, ranch setting, suspense and the set up for the next books in the series, which I will definitely be continuing. They sound even better. (less)
Quick summary Jane Middlebourne needs a way out of New York City. As the ward of a distant cousin, she's destined f...moreOriginally posted at The Book Nympho
Quick summary Jane Middlebourne needs a way out of New York City. As the ward of a distant cousin, she's destined for a lonely life of servitude. Morgan Longstreet recently bought a ranch in Bitter Springs and needs a wife to help him manage Morning Star. When Jane answers his ad for a bride, he believed he'd found the perfect solution for both of them.
The conflict When Morgan sees Jane in person, he doesn't mask his disappointment because he thinks she's not going to be tough enough to withstand the rugged life on a ranch in Wyoming. Jane's discouraged as she'd hoped to find a willing partner in Morgan, in time developing affection for one another.
The heart of the story I love western historicals and this was one of the most authentic stories I've read in the genre for quite some time. There was no instant love here and ranch life is tough. Morgan's not an easy man and he doesn't mask his feelings around Jane. She's well educated and forthright, which made them surprisingly a good match. He's not educated but extremely bright and savvy, though very reticent. Both had complicated pasts and Morgan's resurfaced to wreak havoc in a major way.
Narration Unfortunately, this was the weakest part of my reading experience. The narrator didn't seem to have a sense of the tone of the story or understand the characters. I couldn't tell when Morgan was being clever or caustic because no distinctions were made. Most of the performance sounded rote, almost as if it was computer generated. It just didn't work for me and I had to go back and read the prologue from the sample to understand what turned out to be a critical passage.
The bottom line I enjoyed the story in spite of my issues with the narration. I just had to work harder to figure out the nuances provided by the author. I loved how Morgan and Jane's relationship developed and it's the strength of the story. And, the ending was exciting with a strong climax. I'll definitely go back and read the first two books in the series (this one stands alone very well as I didn't discover it was part of a series until I'd finished) and I'll continue it but not with this narrator.
(I received an audio ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review) (less)