Category: Reviews

High Country Bride by Linda Lael Miller

Posted October 15, 2007 by Casee in Reviews | 3 Comments

Book description:

One ranch. Three sons. Only one will inherit…and on one condition. Tired of waiting for his sons to settle down, Arizona-territory rancher Angus McKettrick announces a competition: the first son to marry and produce a grandchild will inherit Triple M ranch. Now, three distinctly different, equally determined cowboys are searching high and low for brides.

If Emmeline Harding knows one thing, it’s that she can’t hold her liquor. And though she’s not sure how she came to wake up next to a stack of gold coins in a brothel, she fears the worst. Fleeing town as a mail-order bride, she wonders: how will she ever confess her past to her handsome new husband?

Freedom-loving Rafe McKettrick is a man of strong beliefs and stronger passions and he’ll do anything to win the Triple M — even marry a stranger. To his surprise, Emmeline’s charms beguile him even as the secrets he senses she’s hiding ignite jealousy and suspicion. But when a visitor from the past enters the high country, the newlyweds have no choice but to give up on a marriage in name only and seek a union that satisfies them body and soul.

When I first started reading romance, I read a lot of Linda Lael Miller. I soon learned that I really don’t like her heroines. They are too bossy, too spinster-ish, too obnoxious. I could see almost every one of them organizing feminist rallies and turning their husbands into cute little lapdogs. So why did I read High Country Bride? Because it’s a Western. I also read the trilogy with the contemporary McKettrick brothers and was curious about the historical ones.

After Angus McKettrick tells his three sons that he will leave everything to the son who marries and has children first, Rafe knows exactly how he’ll get ahead of his brothers. He’ll send away for a bride. The problem with that is that it takes longer than he hopes for his bride to actually arrive. By the time she does arrive, he’s forgotten all about sending for her.

Emmeline Harding left Kansas City in shame. Growing up in a boarding house (read: brothel) and being raised by her aunt was unconventional to say the least. Her aunt was always determined to raise Emmeline to be respectable, sheltering her as much as possible. That all changes on the night that Emma decides to pretend to be one of her aunts “girls”. After drinking too much while talking to a stranger, the last thing Emmeline remembers is kissing him in the hallway. The next morning, she finds herself almost naked in bed with a stack of coins on the table beside the bed. She is horrified, but that is nothing compared to what her aunt feels after seeing what Emmeline has done. So Emmeline decides to register with Happy Home Matrimonial and soon finds herself married by proxy to Rafe McKettrick.

After meeting her husband, Emmeline has hopes that her marriage will be more that a marriage of convenience. As she finds herself falling for her husband, she struggles with her secret, not knowing how much longer she can keep it to herself. That choice is soon taken out of her hands when the man from the brothel arrives at the ranch, looking for work. Any hope Emmeline has that she won’t be recognized is put to rest the very day he arrives. It’s clear that he remembers exactly who Emmeline is and that night that she’s trying to forget.

This book wasn’t exactly bad, there were just some things I didn’t like about it. I don’t like when men are portrayed as “manly-men” and then when they speak, the are “shy”. That bugs me. Every time Rafe said something to Emmeline “shyly”, I was like WTF??? Emmeline herself kind of grated on my nerves, too. I understood her internal struggle to keep a secret that could ruin her marriage and the new life she was trying to make, but geez. Make a decision already.

When she finally did tell Rafe, I was really disappointed with Rafe’s response. “You were a whore?” is what he asked her. Pul-lease. Talk about double standard. And it wasn’t like she actually meant to do it. What makes it worse for Rafe (and this is totally understandable) is the man that Emmeline was “with” that night, is actually his half-brother. So I could understand his anger there. When he found out what really happened that night, he couldn’t swallow his pride enough to go to his wife.

The shit really hits the fan when they find out that something was wrong with the proxy and they’re actually not married. Fun times after that.

There are three more books in the series. I picked them up at the ubs and will read them…eventually.

3.5 out of 5.

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To Find You Again by Maureen McKade

Posted October 12, 2007 by Casee in Reviews | 5 Comments

Book description:

It has been seven years since Emma Hartwell’s capture by a tribe of the Lakota Sioux. But her recent rescue by the US Cavalry feels like anything but salvation. She has been forced to leave behind her beloved child, and return to the family who can’t accept her, only to be shunned by the townspeople as an outcast. Emma is haunted by her life with the Elk tribe. She sets off on a dangerous journey, fueled by a fierce love of her son and fears for his safety, in an effort to find the tribe and reclaim him.

Only Ridge Madoc stands in her way. A former army scout with a keen tracking sense and a keener sense of justice, Ridge has been sent by Emma’s father to bring her back–a task that will give him the chance of reclaiming some of the land that was rightfully his. But, he never expected a woman as determined and courageous as Emma. Now, Emma must appeal to Ridge to help her with her desperate quest, and Ridge must struggle with his desire for a woman who no longer has a place in his world…

I really hate getting in reading ruts. It really effects me in unpleasant ways. When nothing sounds good, what do you do? I start going through my different piles of TBR books (they’re semi-organized). I look at different books and remember when and where I bought them, but for the life of me can’t remember why I bought them. Since I’m in a (sort of) rut, I decided to try to get back into historicals. I have so many good historicals, but I just haven’t been in the mood for them. I’m really glad I picked up this book by Maureen McKade b/c it was a very good read.

When Emma Hartwell was “rescued” from the Lakota tribe she had lived with for 7 years, she was gravely wounded and had a vague feeling that something was missing. It wasn’t until she was recovering from a life threatening saber wound that she realized what she was missing…her son, Chayton. Not daring to breathe a word of her son’s existence to anyone, Emma quietly went through her days trying to remain unobtrusive. That was hard b/c even though the town believed that Emma was in the Lakota camp against her will, they still referred to her as a “Squaw woman”. They looked at her as a fallen and soiled woman. They didn’t even know the full truth, that she had willingly married and had a child with one of the Lakota warriors.

Though her mother and father decide to send her to her Aunt Alice’s back east, Emma knows that they mean well. After vivid nightmares that make her believe that harm will come to her son, she also knows that she won’t leave without him. The day before she’s to leave, she sneaks out and begins the long process of following the tribe.

When John Hartwell comes to Ridge Madoc trying to hire him to find Emma, Ridge is dubious. This is the same man that basically stole land that had been in Ridge’s family for generations. It didn’t matter that he obtained it legally…buying it from his drunken stepfather was the same as taking it for free as far as Ridge was concerned. Hartwell also refused to hire him as a ranch hand when Ridge went looking for work. Nonetheless, Ridge can’t pass up the opportunity to make the kind of money that Hartwell is offering.

Ridge soon learns that there is more to Emma that anyone realizes. Finding first her trail, then Emma herself, Ridge is satisfied that he can have Emma back in 2-3 days. He didn’t plan on having his tea drugged and getting his horse stolen. Now it’s a matter of pride and Ridge doggedly follows Emma’s trail. When he once again finds her, they strike a deal. Ridge will accompany Emma to the Lakota camp in return for doubling the money her father is offering. Ridge accepts.

I really found this book fascinating. Emma was a woman caught in two separate worlds during a time that you had to be in one or the other. Though she lived with the Lakota’s for 7 years, she was no longer fully accepted in their midst. In the white world, she was looked upon as an Indian. The only person that didn’t look upon her with disdain was Ridge. Even then, she knew that they had no future. Not only did she think he couldn’t accept that she married a Lakota (incorrectly, I might add), but she also knew how hard it would be for him when she brought her son back.

As a mother, I could completely understand Emma’s dilemma. On one hand, she wanted her son. She wanted the baby she she carried all those months. But she also knew that he would be better being raised by people that accepted him. The scene where her and Ridge rode away from the Lakota camp, leaving Chayton behind was heart breaking.

It was a mother’s instinct that made her go back to the camp. It was there they saw the carnage brought upon the tribe by the Confederate Army. Though she feared she was too late, Emma found Chayton scared, but unharmed. It was then she vowed that she would not be separated with him again. Taking him back to her parents house laid the grown work for the next section and the ending of this book.

Though this is a time long past, I felt Emma’s heartbreak that people wouldn’t accept an innocent three year old boy without slurring him or his mother. When Emma’s mom and sister embraced Chayton as part of the family, I rejoiced with Emma. When Ridge offered to marry Emma and happiness was within her grasp, a bitter enemy from the tribe comes to take Chayton away from her forever.

This is not a book that will give you the warm fuzzies. This is a book that will engage your emotions and maybe even make you a little teary.

4 out of 5.

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Big Girls Don’t Cry by Cathie Linz

Posted October 12, 2007 by Casee in Reviews | 6 Comments

Book description:

Leena Riley has returned to her hometown of Rock Creek with her tail between her legs. Her fabulous plus-size modeling career in Chicago never took off, and now the only job she can land is as a receptionist in a veterinarian’s office. She has to be desperate to work for Cole Flannigan…

Being two years older than Cole never spared her from his taunts in school. Now all grown up, Cole is still the golden boy, a sexy charmer with commitment issues and a short attention span—until Leena and her curves strut into his life. And though she turns his office upside-down, he can’t resist the animal attraction that makes him look at Leena in a whole new light…

This is my first book by this author and I loved it!! I was in the mood for something exactly like this. While reading at work, I found myself laughing out loud more than once.

Leena Riley never intended to return Rock Creek. Having left years earlier, Leena enjoyed her success as a plus-size model and secretly stuck it to every kid that made fun of her weight while she was in school. One of those kids that made fun of her was Cole Flannigan, who is now the town vet. Though he only made fun of her once, Leena made it a time he wouldn’t forget when she socked him in the face. She never thought she would actually be working for Cole, much less be attracted to him.

Cole had no idea that letting Leena talk him into hiring her would be one of the smartest things he’d ever done. In no time at all, she brings order to his office and his life. Organizing his files and even his patients, Cole wonders what he ever did without her. He also can’t help but be attracted to her. Cole has always been a man that appreciates a curvy woman and Leena is nothing if not curvy.

What I liked about this book is that it was a straight romance. Sure, there was conflict. Leena had major self-esteem issues, even being a plus-size model. She also thought that every compliment Cole gave her was a joke on his part. She ate full bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. Honestly, when she did that, I got full with her. She had a major problem with stress eating. She really did have issues, but they didn’t take away from the romance.

The secondary characters were great. Sue Ellen at first seemed a little ditzy. We soon find out that while she is a little looney, it’s in a way that is totally loveable. She will do anything to protect her sister and make her happy. She also had her own little secondary romance going on on the side. Wanting to finally be respectable, she had high hopes for her relationship with the high school football coach, Coach Russ. She didn’t want it to matter that she had dancing Elvis’s on her walls, that she loved pink, or that she used her oven as storage for her scrapbook.

The sense of family and friendships in Rock Creek made the book what it was. I loved reading about Cole’s best friend, Nathan, giving him a hard time about falling for Leena. I loved reading about Cole’s aunt, who happens to be a nun, counseling Leena without her even realizing it. I loved reading about Leena finally being comfortable in her body and helping a teenager realize that she’s fine the way she is.

It was also scenes like this that made me really enjoy this book.

Leena was helping Sue Ellen, her sister, out for an ad for the Mobile Home Park she manages:
Leena yanked open the bathroom door. “What do you think?”
“Wow.” Sue Ellen was clearly impressed. “Did you get new boobs?”
“No, I just can’t get them to stay in this dress” Leena tugged the bodice up.
“You look great. Sex sells,” Sue Ellen said. “Come on. The photographer is legally blind in one eye so he won’t notice if one of your boobs slips out. Just pull the dress up again. I’ll let you know if too much is showing.”

Or this (while conversing with Cole):

Suddenly Leena couldn’t breathe. She felt as if she’d swallowed an Altoid!

Wait–she had just swallowed an Altoid!

She didn’t dare cough, for fear he’d pound her on the back and her breasts would launch themselves at hom, fleeing the confines of her Jane Austen Does Dallas dress.

I really could go on and on. I just really enoyed the book and am looking forward to picking up more of Cathie Linz’s work.

4 out of 5.

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Email Mystery: Suzanne by Michael Betcherman

Posted October 11, 2007 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Email Mystery: Suzanne by Michael BetchermanReviewer: Holly
Suzanne by Michael Betcherman
Published by Self-Published
Publication Date: November 20, 2015
Genres: Romance, Romantic Comedy
Pages: 204 pages
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Suzanne Braun had it all - beauty, status and money. Then her husband died - but unfortunately not before making a series of foolish investments that squandered her inheritance. When a promising relationship with a wealthy and aging suitor founders during prenuptial negotiations, Suzanne finds herself a social pariah, universally regarded as an unscrupulous golddigger.
Her prospects look bleak until her late husband's brother, Douglas, invites her to spend the summer at Inglewood, the family cottage on Lake Joseph, a playground for Toronto’s uber-rich. Suzanne heads north with one goal in mind: to return home with a wealthy fiancé in tow.

Douglas’ wife Catherine dreads Suzanne’s arrival. She fears that the sexy widow will set her sights on her brother, Mark, a successful businessman who is returning to Canada after 14 years in Japan. The prospect that this social climbing opportunist might penetrate the family circle is too horrible to contemplate, and Catherine will stop at nothing to prevent it.

An irresistible force is about to meet an immovable object.

Ag recently reviewed this and I was intrigued by the concept. Basically this story is told in the form of emails. But unlike some other books that have recently been published with a similar theme, the reader in this case actually receives the story in the form of 3-5 emails per day. At first I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about that, but surprisingly, I enjoyed the story…I think even more than I would have had I’d bought it in print.

Suzanne Braun is down on her luck. Her recently deceased husband left her completely destitute and an ill-advised romance turned sour with an extremely wealthy – but also extremely old – businessman has left her reputation shattered.

Determined to find a rich fiance quick, she ships her out of control 16-year-old daughter off to summer camp and accepts an invitation from her brother-in-law, Douglas, to spend the summer with he and his wife, Catherine, at their country cottage in an extremely upper crust area of Canada. Catherine is horrified when she learns her husband has invited Suzanne. For years, she’s resented Suzanne for stealing the better brother away from her and now she’s determined to do everything possible to keep Suzanne away from her brother, Mark, who just returned from Japan where he spent the last 12 years.

Mark is on the market for a woman who can give him children, since the woman he was with before claimed to not want any, though he suspicions she only used that as an excuse to not marry him and go against her family’s wishes. He’s just dissolved his business in Japan and finds himself extremely wealthy, but also out of work and in need of a family to complete him.

What ensues when you put this delightfully dysfunctional group together is something worthy of a daytime drama. Suzanne sets her sights on a wealthy corporate lawyer who just happens to be more boring than watching grass grow, and just happens to be vertically challenged (read: short. Mark refers to him as a gnome). Mark and Suzanne engage in some mild flirting that causes Catherine to resort to blackmail and the hiring of private investigators to keep them apart. Mark meets a lovely woman named Laura who’s still in love with her ex-husband and overly indulges her young daughter, who does her best to cause friction between Mark and Laura. Catherine, her mother and a friend of theirs scheme and snipe and cause more trouble than their worth.

But through it all, the witty banter and mild sarcasm save the story from being bogged down. We watch Suzanne’s relationship with the lawyer sour, her attempts to win Mark to her side and her feelings of failure as a mother when things with her overly rebellious teenage daughter come to a head.

I was convinced I would hate Suzanne after her first few emails, especially when it becomes clear she’s a complete and utter gold digger. But as I read on, I found myself rooting for her. The twists and turns of the plot were fun and faced paced, and kept me reading for over an hour straight when I should have been working.

The cast of characters was hilarious. I think Patrick, Mark’s best friend, was my favorite. Although all the dialogue was witty and sarcastic, Patrick took it to a new level. And he was so the perfectly quintessential male! For example, Mark emails Patrick about his break-up with his long time girlfriend in Japan.

To: “Mark Rogers”
From: “Patrick Stoughton”


Damien Rice said it best, dude, in the last line of The Blower’s Daughter.

“I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off you
‘Til I find somebody new”

Although unconventional, having the story emailed was similar to accidentally being BCC’d on private emails, which was fascinating. I think my biggest gripe with the story is that it lacks the emotional depth of a regular novel, since there are no internal monologues. What I mean is, we don’t get a good feel for exactly what the characters are feeling. Especially Mark. It’s hard to know exactly what his motives and true feelings where Suzanne are concerned, as we only see snippets from him. The bulk of the emails are ones exchanged between Suzanne and her sister Lisa, who lives in Argentina, and Catherine and her mother, who are scheming to ruin Suzanne and keep her and Mark apart.

Despite that, however, I truly enjoyed this story and would highly recommend it to others. I breezed right through it and found myself anxious for more. I’ve often said men can’t write romance as well as women, but Michael Betcherman certainly did a fantastic job of changing my mind.

4.5 out of 5

You can preview it here and buy it here.


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Traceless by Debra Webb

Posted October 10, 2007 by Casee in Reviews | 6 Comments

Genres: Romantic Suspense

Book description:

She’s in search of JUSTICE.

Emily Wallace has no doubt about who killed her best friend ten years ago: Clint Austin, her then boyfriend. The key witness in his trial, Emily put Clint behind bars with her tearful testimony. But when Emily learns that Clint has been released on parole, she returns to her Alabama hometown to confront him—and make sure he never forgets the damage he has done.

He is dead-set on revenge…

After serving ten years for a crime he didn’t commit, Clint knows only the truth can set him free. Ignoring warnings from his old friend, now the chief of police, Clint will let no one stand in his way as he tries to prove his innocence—including Emily, the girl he once loved who ruined his life. Prison has made him a hard man, yet he yearns for Emily…and he can see in her eyes that, in spite of herself, she feels the same. But even if he can convince Emily to trust him, it might be too late to clear his name—before the real killer strikes again.

The town of Pine Bluff, Alabama is like Mayberry on crack. Good Gawd. The end of this book read like a soap opera.

Clint Austin has spent 10 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The only crime he committed on that night was breaking into Emily Wallace’s house after hearing screaming. While he was trying to stop the blood flowing out of Heather Baker’s neck, Emily Wallace climbed back through her bedroom window. Things did not go well after that. Believing that Clint actually mean to kill her b/c she refused to go out with him (a little full of yourself?), Emily has blamed herself for years. Though Clint professed his innocence, Emily’s testimony sent him to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Now he’s back. And he is pissed. Going to prison for something you didn’t do will do that to a guy. When you add in that his mama died while he was in there, that makes it worse. Don’t mess w/ a man and his mama.

With the help of Police Chief Ray Hale, Clint moves back into his mother’s home and gets a job at the local auto garage where he’s not exactly met with open arms. Having been convicted of murdering a high school cheerleader and one of the town’s sweethearts, Clint is met with outright hostility and rage. Keeping a low profile isn’t in Clint’s plan. He wants to stir things up b/c he knows that Heather’s real killer is someone that lives in Pine Bluff and he is determined to clear his name. Though he hates himself for it, the 1st person he wants to prove his innocence to is Emily Wallace. He wants to find the truth and rub it in her face. A lot. Hey, the guy deserves to want a little revenge, right?

When Emily found out that Clint was paroled, she went a little loony. Coming back home to Pine Bluff is the last thing she wants, but she’s determined to get Clint sent back to jail? How you ask? Well, she’s going to follow him 24/7 so that when he does something that violates his parole, she’ll be there to turn him in. She refuses to entertain the possibility that she was mistaken about what she saw that night. Even when people start dying, she doesn’t want to believe that Clint is innocent. Of course by now, it’s more about her than about him b/c really, what kind of person is she? She sent an innocent man to jail and her best friend’s murderer is still out there. Heavy burden to bear.

This is where it gets really interesting.

It’s soon revealed that Emily’s father could have given Clint his alibi for the night of the murder. You see, Clint worked for the town loan shark. He was getting instructions for his “assignment” for the night while Emily’s dad was there getting a loan from sharky. For some reason, the loan shark didn’t want Em’s dad to give Clint his alibi and he threatened to kill his whole family if he talked. This is what didn’t work for me: Emily’s parents were “worried” about her involvement with Clint. Why? They knew he wasn’t a murderer. You’d think that they’d be, if not proud, at least supportive of Emily’s mission to find out the truth about who murdered Heather.

There is a whole slew of secondary characters. There is Troy Baker, Heather’s brother who is at first determined to run Clint out of town, then he decides he might as well kill him. There’s Keith something-or-other whose dad owns the factory in town and who was Heather’s boyfriend at the time of the murder. There’s Marv, Troy’s friend and Heather’s sometime date before she died. There’s Justine, Emily’s former Cheerleading coach. There’s Misty, Justine’s good friend and science teacher at the school. There’s Violet, Emily’s former friend and now-wife to Keith. Oh yes, there are plenty of people here to make this book have non-stop action. Almost too much action.

Someone starts to get nervous and tries to kill Clint by setting his house of fire. While staking out his house, Emily fell asleep. She awoke when she smelled smoke and rushed in and saved Clint’s life, convincing herself she would have done it for anyone. Then someone tries to kill Emily by dousing her with gas and setting her car on fire (not a very original killer). Next to get offed is Keith, former boyfriend of Heather and wife to Violet. He’s killed in a quarry where he was meeting w/ his best friend Troy. Misty, the science teacher is skulking around and following Keith for some reason. Next up is Ray Hale, the Police Chief. He gets brained with something while he’s meeting a woman at his cabin. Of course this woman is referred to as she. Of course Clint is brought in for questioning, but he has an alibi.

Here’s the soap opera part…Justine (Cheerleading Coach) liked sleeping with teenage boys. Eventually these teenage boys turned into men. After that, she liked taking pictures of them (without their knowledge of course). She also liked to slip them GHB and have them perform on each other. Good blackmail material. Oh and did I mention that Justine and Misty are lesbian lovers? Justine is also determined to be “respectable” by marrying Keith’s father, Granville, who owns the factory and is the richest man in Pine Bluff.

Eventually it comes out who the killer is and Clint is exonerated. The ending was so-so. I didn’t like that the Police Department basically got away with misconduct and putting an innocent man in jail.

This is my first book by Debra Webb. I’m planning on picking up another book by her sometime in the future.

3.5 out of 5.

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