Thursday, January 26, 2012

Matthew by Emma Lang

A man learns to hold what is his…

It is a vast spread in the eastern wilds of the newly independent Republic of Texas, the ranch their parents fought for … and died for. To the eight Graham siblings, no matter how much hard work or hard love it takes, life is unthinkable without family…

In the wake of his parents’ murder, Matthew Graham must take the reins at the Circle Eight. He also needs to find a wife in just thirty days, or risk losing it all. Plain but practical, Hannah Foley seems the perfect bride for him . . . until after the wedding night.

Their marriage may make all the sense in the world, but neither one anticipates the jealousies that will result, the treacherous danger they’re walking into, or the wildfire of attraction that will sweep over them, changing their lives forever.


The Graham family has gone through a terrible tragedy. Their parents were murdered and their youngest brother is missing as a result of the same attack. Now Matthew, the oldest, has taken on the responsibility of raising his siblings and becoming the head of the family.

Thus begins the Graham sibling's saga. For Matthew, one of the ways he can honor his parents is to continue on with their wishes – including expanding their farm by taking advantage of a land claim. He travels to Houston to sign the papers and finds out that the land grant is for a family, and he has to have a wife. Flustered, he blurts out that his wife's name is Hannah. The land grant office gives him 30 days to bring her back in to sign the paperwork. Now Matthew must find a wife named Hannah, and do it quickly.

By simple chance, he runs into Hannah Foley in the local mercantile. Literally. When he finds out her name is Hannah, he is dumbfounded. Strangely intrigued. And determined to marry her.

When Matt proposes to Hannah, she knows it's likely the best offer she'll get. She's not a beauty, and has no other offers. But she wants to marry and longs for a family. So she accepts.

I really liked both Hannah and Matt. Like any 25 year old, Matt pulls some bonehead moves. He has in his head how a marriage is supposed to work in 1839. The man makes the decisions, and that is that. Oh, how I loved the conflict that produced. Because Hannah is no wilting flower. She is used to living her life without relying on a man to make decisions for her. I loved that she curses up a storm. That she feels responsible for her grandmother. That she takes on all of Matthew's siblings as her own. Having a big family is what she's always wanted.

I liked the sense of family that pervades the entire book, both Matt's and Hannah's. This family argues, teases, laughs, fights, and loves deeply. And somehow, Hannah becomes as integral to the Graham siblings as they are to each other. Hannah's relationship with her grandmother warmed my heart. Her grandmother is quite a character, and totally calls it like she sees it. She helps Hannah work through many of her issues with common sense and understated love.

The romance between Hannah and Matthew grows slowly, and especially given the times, completely works. Matthew comes to completely appreciate and love Hannah, and she also loves him. They come to rely on each other and really like each other, which only reinforces the very hot attraction between them. That mutual respect and genuine liking of one another made the slow fall into love more complete and lovely.

The one thing that hit me as I was reading that threw me and made me really sad, was the realization that the Graham sibling's children would likely be drawn into the Civil War. The novel takes place in 1839, and Matt is the oldest. So once the youngest has children and they are young adults, they will likely be fighting for the rebel army. I don't want any of them to die!!! Yes, I know I'm crazy, but still.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Emma Lang (and her alter ego Beth Williamson). I love that she writes American western historicals. One of my favorite genres. Her historicals always feel authentic, have strong characters who can have tremendous flaws and who make you root for them to be happy.

Anyhoo… this is a wonderful start to a new series, The Circle Eight. It releases on January 31. I can't wait to find out what happens next in the continuing story arc to discover what actually happened to the Graham's parents and youngest brother. The oldest sister, Olivia gets her story next, with the mysterious Texas Ranger Brody Armstrong as her hero. Mmmmm.

Monday, January 23, 2012

If You See Her by Shiloh Walker

Hope Carson may not look like a survivor, but she has escaped an abusive ex-husband and recovered from a vicious assault. Now she endures the painful memories and suspicious rumors surrounding her involvement in the attack. Her ex is a cop, so the last people she trusts are law enforcement officials—and she certainly doesn’t trust how the local DA makes her feel inside.

Remy Jennings should know better. He has no business falling for a woman who he suspects may have a deeply troubled mind. And even if he did make a move, she’d bolt like a frightened rabbit. But how can he deny a burning desire that threatens to consume him? As Hope’s past catches up with her in the worst way, Remy is determined to break through her defenses, earn her trust, and keep her safe in his arms—before it’s too late.


Thank you to Shiloh Walker for sending me an advance copy of this book. At the end of If You Hear Her, Hope and Law had been attacked and Hope was thought to have done it as an attempted murder-suicide. Remy feels terrible pursuing this, but as the DA, he has to. Once Hope is exonerated, the action truly begins.

I liked Hope and Remy. They were both put in untenable situations. I really wanted to hate Remy at first for simply believing Hope's ex-husband without any corroboration, but he redeemed himself when as soon as evidence appears to clear Hope, he immediately accepts it, clears her, and moves on. He defended her as well, against the townsfolk who wouldn't/couldn't accept her innocence. I liked Remy's protective streak, and that he kept it in check as much as he possibly could, knowing that Hope had to move forward and do some things on her own. Even though it about killed him, LOL.

I liked that while Hope was a battered woman, over the curse of the past two books she learned how to be independent and make decisions that were good for her. The haircut scene was particularly well done. I liked that she pushed herself to stand up for herself, and to try new things on her own. She had an inner strength that she needed to discover for herself, and did.

The suspense. Very well done, as in the previous book. Tight. And I still haven't figured it out, although I have my suspicions.

The emotions. One place where Walker excels, no matter what genre she's writing, is conveying the emotions f her characters. A Walker book is always highly emotional. Though this one did veer toward angsty, I didn't feel that it was overdone. Just strong, heartfelt emotion.

I like that we get to see the previous couple, and that they in no way overshadow the main romance, but are still integral to the story. This is a tight-knit group of friends living in a small town – it stands to reason they would be featured.

And Law. Hmmm… I really can't wait for his story. Watching him try to rationalize to Hope his reaction to Nia, when it simply couldn't be done, was rather amusing. Except when he put Nia above Hope, his best friend. And then I wanted to kick his ass. The next book is his story, and I know he'll get a good come-uppance. The redeeming piece of this was that he was destroyed over hurting his best friend, and the idea that they may not get back to where they were was killing him.

One other note, and that is that Walker conveyed the Kentucky accent of the characters without stereotyping it or making it irritating. She nailed it. As she lives in Kentucky, I would have expected her to, and was gratified to be able to feel the local flavor and not have it detract from the story at all as ocerdone. Accents are my pet peeve, and Walker very subtly lets the dialect come through without hitting the reader over the head with accents.

The one thing I didn't care for, really, was that Hope's ex-husband seemed to be a bit overblown. Although as an abuser, the things he did to Hope seemed in line, and scary to boot, but as he went on, he seemed to get over the top. Perhaps it was because he simply knew there was nothing left to lose, but I was definitely waiting for his character to lose face time. That's for sure.

Anyway, to sum it up, this 2nd in the Ash trilogy was a wonderfully written, tightly drawn suspense thriller. The romance balances out the suspense beautifully, and vice-versa. I really do adore Walker's suspense. Can't wait to read #3, If You Know Her.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

TBR: Because of the List by Amy Knupp

Taylor McCabe likes equations. They make sense. But one buttoned-up computer whiz plus an injured army pilot simply does not add up. It's time to get over her childish crush on Alex Worth, her brother's best friend, and find a husband. Enter The List—Taylor's ten must-have traits for a viable suitor.

But her plan goes awry when Alex insists on vetting each contender. The way he dismisses them feels like the actions of a protective boyfriend. Strangely, his attitude makes her even more attracted to him. Too bad he doesn't meet even one of her requirements…

I do love my SuperRomances. It's always been one of my favorite lines from Harlequin, almost always guaranteed to pack an emotional wallop and at the same time deliver a good, solid love story.  Amy Knupp is one who does this particularly well.

I really, really loved this book. Taylor's brother Quinn and our hero Alex grew up together as best friends, and went off to war together. When Alex's helicopter was shot down, Alex was injured and Quinn died. The story picks up after Alex comes home for some further recuperation.

I could totally relate to Taylor's shyness and her feelings of not fitting in. She is a total brainiac who has completely neglected her social life. She's a compulsive listmaker and socially awkward. She wears sensible clothes and works too many hours. But oh, how I loved her shoe fetish. It made her seem a little more feminine and humanized her that much more. She slowly comes to accept the easy friendship of Alex's sister, Vienna. Vienna and Taylor complement each other - and their friendship was completely believable. I loved that they fed both fun and serious off of each other. And that Vienna slowly brings Taylor out of her awkwardness and discomfort with having meaningful conversations. There's a terrific scene where they go to the park and swing right after a particularly emotional talk, and I absolutely loved the writing there -
You couldn't talk very well when you were swinging. They slipped into an unspoken contest of who could go higher, and Taylor gradually breathed easier, released the emotional tension that had balled up inside her throat. Flying back and forth through the air, stomach dipping at each crest, had a way of changing a girl's perspective, even if only temporarily.

Ten minutes must have passed, the only sound between them a sporadic laugh or holler. Taylor was taken back to another time, a simpler time when a swing in the park was the objective, not an escape. A time when supporting her body weight hadn't made her arm muscles ache or her butt feel like it had been wedged into a too-small harness. Instead of letting herself slow down gradually, she went for the instant dismount and jumped off as she had done when she was six. The landing was harder than she remembered and she ended up on her side, momentarily stunned into silence.

"Are you ok?" Vienna hollered from midair.

Taylor rolled onto her back, soaking up the sun and the smell of the recently cut grass... and started laughing. When Vienna landed with a clumsy thud and an "Oof" nearby, she laughed until her stomach started hurting. She heard Vienna do the same. Tears filled her eyes and Taylor gasped for air. When she finally looked at Vienna, that set them off even more.

At last Vienna let out a long, loud sigh. "The landing isn't quite the same as when you weigh 50 pounds."

"I think I have bruises," Taylor said, cracking up again. "But I haven't laughed so hard in ages. I needed that."

I loved the feeling of freedom and relaxation that scene conveys, and the way it served to bring Taylor and Vienna closer. Plus, I could relate to every single physical sensation and feeling about swinging that Knapp writes there.

Alex was the 'screw-up' brother in his family (in his own mind only). He never went to college - entered the Army at 18. But he learned to fly and that became his great love and his life. He came home to a brother who just lost everything and a sister who is on the verge of the rest of her life.  I liked that the relationships forged between Alex and his brother and sister grew and became strong, healthy bonds between siblings. I loved the dynamics in Alex's family. They deepened his characterization, gave us insight into him and though there were several scenes with his family, they in no way overpowered the main love story between Alex and Taylor.

Out of a sense of obligation to Quinn, he helps Taylor fix up her house to sell, slowly coming to realize what a special person she is. I could sympathize with Alex's feelings of guilt. Both for the Quinn's death in his helicopter and for messing around with his best friend's sister. I loved how he treated Taylor so beautifully, aside from his occasional bonehead stubbornness,which had nothing to do with Taylor and everything to do with him. Alex subtlely suffered from feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and guilt. He tries to do his best by Taylor, and tries to treat her as he always did - as his best friend's little sister, nicknamed Scarlet (for her red hair). I liked that his attraction grew slowly.

I liked that Taylor moved forward with her life, not waiting around for Alex, dating and trying to find that special someone and feel more comfortable in social situations. Once she acknowledged that special person was Alex, she went for it. They are generous with their support of each other, and as a gift to Alex, she gives him Quinn's boat, where Alex and Quinn spent many days together. While out on the boat on his own, in another beautifully written scene full of heartbreak and joy at the same time, Alex comes to terms with Quinn's loss, and with what he really wants out of life, which is Taylor.

A truly shining example of what Harlequin SuperRomance is all about; life, love, heart & home.

ETA: I just decided to do the TBR Challenge, so this counts perfectly for the January book - a category romance! Go me!

Also, just realized I had a typo in the author's name, so have changed the post title accordingly.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bookwatch: Captivated by Lauren Dane

So I just finished a reread of Relentless, possibly my absolute favorite LD book. And I'm dying. Dying to read the latest installment in the mini-inside-the federation-series Phantom Corps.

From the Amazon description: Vincenz Fardelle, exiled son of the Supreme Leader of the Imperialist Universe, has spent much of the last ten years working to stop the threat his father poses. But he's not alone in his quest. Julian Marsters has lost his best friend and countless others in the war and has made vengeance his only goal. In each other, Julian and Vincenz find not only like minds, but kindred spirits.

However unexpected their relationship, everything changes for Vincenz and Julian when Hannah Black comes into their lives. Having been captured and held in near total isolation by imperialist troops, their immediate response is to protect her.

Emotionally shattered but resilient, Hannah rebuilds herself. Because of the warm safety she finds in the arms of Julian--and Vincenz she becomes someone harder, stronger and bent on preventing the Imperialists from harming anyone else.

For the two men, wrestling with their passionate feelings for Hannah is only the beginning. War is about to send all three into harm's way and an equally dangerous secret could tear them apart.

In reading Mesmerized, I could tell that there was a relationship going on between Vincenz and Julian, and I couldn't wait to read more about it, and to see how Hannah fits into the whole thing.

Captivated doesn't release from Berkley Heat until May. Aaaaack!

On another note, I'm actually working on a year-end post. Don't die of shock, ok? Hopefully that will be up soon.
Related Posts with Thumbnails