Genre: Western

Guest Review: Reckless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell

Posted August 5, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Reckless in Texas by Kari Lynn DellReviewer: Whitley
Reckless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell
Series: Texas Rodeo #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Western
Pages: 416
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four-stars

Violet Jacobs is fearless. At least, that's what the cowboys she snatches from under the hooves of bucking horses think. Outside the ring, she's got plenty of worries rattling her bones: her young son, her mess of a love life, and lately, her family's struggling rodeo. When she takes business into her own hands and hires on a hotshot bullfighter, she expects to start a ruckus. She never expected Joe Cassidy. Rough and tumble, cocky and charming, Joe's everything a superstar should be-and it doesn't take a genius to figure out he's way out of Violet's league.

Joe came to Texas to escape a life spiraling out of control. He never planned on sticking around, and he certainly never expected to call this dry and dusty backwater home. But Violet is everything he never knew he was missing, and the deeper he's pulled into her beautiful mess of a family, the more he realizes this fierce rodeo girl may be offering him the one thing he never could find on his own.

The moment I read that the heroine of this was a bullfighter, I knew I had to have it. I had to have it like breathing.  And even though she turned out to be a pickup rider instead of a bullfighter, who cares, hells to the yes for this set up.  I loved so much about the setting for this book: the rodeo minutia, the details about the livestock business, Violet’s job, everyone’s jobs, Violet’s relationship with her family, love for small rodeos while still dreaming of ‘the big time.’  All of it.

But what really killed me was Joe and his High Lonesome.  One of the big draws for me and western romance (or western anything) is how characters can feel so connected to and so in love with a piece of land.  The idea that a place can be part of your history and your heart and your soul and your family.  When that gets written right?  It’s god damn beautiful.  And Joe has that feeling down to a tee, with a dash of aching bittersweetness thrown in.  Is it possible to fall in love with someone else’s love for something?  It should be, because I did.

This book just hit all of my cowboy high notes so perfectly, but what about the romance part?  I’m sorry, I can’t, LET’S TALK ABOUT THE RODEO SOME MORE.  Heh, not really, but that really did overshadow the romance aspect for me because I’m just so into it.  And this book really set the scene perfectly for every one that they went to.  Besides, the romance was nothing to write home about.  Not bad, but…typical?  Felt a bit paint by numbers, with the leads being kept apart for, let’s face it, mostly arbitrary reasons.  I was much more interested in Violet’s relationships with her family members and her son and her platonic baby-daddy than I was in her relationship with Joe.  It doesn’t help that Joe’s personality (outside of the above paragraph) never seemed very settled. He kicked off with some misogynistic comments that seemed thrown in just for the sake of genre convention; they weren’t organic to the rest of his character.  And he kept twisting around to make room for this ‘womanizing’ side that I just didn’t believe. He would have been more cohesive without that particular trope, I think.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Guest Review: Breaking Bailey’s Rules by Brenda Jackson

Posted April 6, 2016 by Judith in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Breaking Bailey’s Rules by Brenda JacksonReviewer: Judith
Breaking Bailey's Rules by Brenda Jackson
Series: Westmoreland series #30
Also in this series: Bane
Published by Harlequin
Publication Date: November 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Western
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four-half-stars

Rule number one for Bailey Westmoreland: Never fall for a man who would take her away from her tight-knit family's Colorado home. So why is she following rancher Walker Rafferty all the way to Alaska? Bailey tells herself she owes the sexy loner an apology, and once she gets there, it's only right to stay and help him when he's injured…isn't it? Before long, Bailey realizes home might be where you make it—if Walker is ready to take all she has to offer.

Any lover of romance who has also come to appreciate interracial stories knows about and appreciates Brenda Jackson.  Her Westmoreland Family series has gone on now for years, and while some reviewers have panned her stories as formulaic and predictable, I still like to read her work.  Ms Jackson is a writer who is unashamedly open about her interest in human relationships and family dynamics.  She has covered the full spectrum of emotion as well as the situations people either cause or in which they find themselves victims.  She is also not subtle about her heroes being alpha males, many of whom are unwilling to settle down to one woman.  Money, opportunity, careers, and a long list of other variable make these men challenges in and of themselves.

However, in this story, the challenge is a young woman who is comfortable in her skin, who wants to be appreciated for who she is, who enjoys her independent ways along with the full involvement in a family that is energetic to say the least.  Her one requirement for anyone looking to become involved with her romantically, long-term partner or permanent significant other, is that she will never leave Colorado.  It is her home in more ways than just geographical.  She is connected to the land, the environment, the mountains’ majestic presence, the sense of “home” she shares with her Westmoreland family.  She believes there is someone who will be the passionate partner she is seeking and who will want to keep her happy in the land she loves above all other.

Now there pops up another possible branch of the Westmoreland clan, and the connection is not a happy one or acceptable in many ways.  To acknowledge this family is to accept that there was hurt and infidelity in the past, and that is so not OK.  Walker Rafferty is a close family friend and one that is sent to investigate the possible connections between previously unknown relatives and it is meeting Bailey that throws a wrench into his life.  His efforts to interest her in some kind of romantic liason are rebuffed—that’s probably too mild a descriptive—and in good conscience Bailey realizes that she has some fences to mend after Walker returns to Alaska, a very long way from Colorado.

As always, Ms Jackson draws her characters with a deft and sure skill, giving readers a full imagination of what these characters look like, how they think, what they yearn for, and how they go about finding ways to reach their personal relational goals.  Bailey is a woman that can be lovely and kind, but she has the ability to be as uncomfortable as a thorn bush.  The slow progress that Bailey and Walker make toward some sort of connection is the core of this story, and while it is certainly a movement toward “happily ever after,” it is not a comfortable story.  I always find a Brenda Jackson a good read.  It is balanced between the need to keep a story line clean and moving forward and the erotic content.  It is not just about their sex life but rather how all the elements of their humanity gradually merge to make it possible for these two to connect on a deeper, more lasting level.

It’s a good book, a fun read in many ways, and a nice way to spend an evening.  Just the kind of experience a lover of good romance enjoys.

I give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: Preacher by Dahlia West

Posted March 15, 2016 by Judith in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Preacher by Dahlia WestReviewer: Judith
Preacher by Dahlia West
Published by Self-Published
Publication Date: November 27, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Western
Pages: 406
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four-stars

Jack "Preacher" Prior is at a crossroads -- literally. Left for dead in the Badlands, he's managed to survive. He's stolen a truck, but where can he go? Body broken, mind reeling from betrayal from his own MC brothers, he knows he won't last a day back in Rapid City in his current condition.  Two roads stretch out in front of him. One leads to the city and one deep into the black hills where no one knows him as the former President of the Badlands Buzzards. Revenge is not a question; it's an absolute. Preacher will get his due soon enough or die trying.

Erin Walker is at a crossroads of her own. Dealt a bad hand by being the daughter of Buck Walker, ex-Rodeo Champ, she's made her own way in the world without his help. She owns Thunder Ridge Ranch outright, and she's carved out a piece of paradise for herself with her own two hands. She's not giving it up without a fight, but she's alone in the world with no one to trust.

In Erin, Preacher finds something that doesn't exist in his own world: a smart, fierce independent woman who sets his blood on fire. For Erin, the mysterious man who threatens her life might very well be the only one who can save it.  Can Preacher put aside his desire for revenge against his old MC and accept what's in front of him: a woman who needs him and a future worth having? Erin knows in her heart that Preacher is a bad, dangerous man, but can she trust him anyway?  Not every choice is theirs to make, though, and in Rapid City the past never stays buried.

I came upon this book quite by accident as I was wandering through the book deals at Amazon.  I hadn’t read a Dahlia West book for a very long time and the title caught my attention so I decided to give it a whirl.  I think it was a freebie or one of the 99 cent sale books.  Anyway, the description was also interesting to me as I am going through my MC phase and on top of that, there was the weaving in of two lives, both of which were trying hard to find a way to survive and keep their lives intact.  For Preacher, simply surviving physically was the initial challenge.  He had been successful in uncovering a conspiracy in his club that would have resulted in his losing his life.  What he didn’t anticipate was the presence of another coup that was forming over simple greed.  That effort to oust him and take his life was successful except somehow he survived, stole a truck, found himself in Erin Walker’s barn, and their stories become interwoven from that time on.

Erin, on the other hand, was a champion barrel racer and a woman who was not only estranged from her father but was permanently angry at his hurtful ways and disregard for integrity that had driven her mother away.  She knows he is doing all he can to undermine her efforts to establish a successful horse rehabilitation center, built on her previous successes with animals that were due to be destroyed and who were brought back to full health.  In fact, the horse on whom she won so many of her rodeo races was just such a horse.  She knows her dad is working against her and wants her land to be part of his already gigantic ranch.  She also knows that now that she had restored her broken down ranch to working order and has begun to gain a good reputation that her land is 10 times as valuable as it was when she first purchased it.  She has her first important client that will mean significant income for her enterprise.  And then Jack “Preacher” Prior shows up in her barn, seemingly endangering her life.

This is an unusual love story as it brings two people into each other’s lives with all the differences and burdens and hurts that have made each of them wary of relationship.  There are lots of MC novels where romance manages to flourish, but this story really begins when Jack has lost his way, is wondering what the future holds besides revenge and probably death, while realizing that there is a minuscule nugget of hope coming to life within him and which continues to grow as long as he is with Erin.  I guess what kept me turning the pages was the unusual aspects of these characters–their need for independence that seemed to bump up against the even deeper need for connection and affirmation from someone else.  Erin knew what it meant to be abandoned by everyone who had ever been important to her.  Jack was a lone soul as he tried to figure out how he was going to function in a world where the only family he had ever known, his own MC that he and his father had built together, had fallen apart and turned on him.  As time went on they became involved and their life became stable and prosperous.

Now we have the crisis:  the old forces that were still pursuing the assets of Jack’s MC even though the club had been taken down by the DEA.  Erin’s dad was still trying to undermine her operation.  Either one of these is sufficient to tear them apart.  Needless to say, this is where the “rubber meets the road” and the heat and conflict in the story become intense.

This novel is, as far as I can gather, an offshoot of a previous series about another MC in Rapid City, SD made up of some old acquaintances and past friends of Jack’s, some of whom are a part of this story.  That series is several books in length but this story seems to cap off the Rapid City grouping.  It is truly a stand alone book.  I found it to be a complicated story, the kind I really enjoy, with characters coming at the reader right and left, tension waxing and waning throughout, with the reader trying to figure out how Erin and Jack are ever going to find their happy ending while all these negative forces keep intruding on their life, just as they seem to get things smoothed out.  It is just the kind of story that keeps dragging me back after I had to put it down because of other obligations.  I found myself thinking about the story and wanting to get back to it as soon as possible.  That’s a really good book as far as I am concerned.  There are some surprises, some intensely emotional passages, times when the lives of both Jack and Erin hang in the balance.  There isn’t a great deal about the Badland Buzzards MC in the book but they are always there in the background.

All in all, it is a well-written novel with a very good balance of relationship and the development of Jack and Erin’s relationship on the one hand, and the tension and push/pull involved in the MC story.  Ms West brings it all together skillfully.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at http://www.drjsbookplace.blogspot.com.

four-stars


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Guest Review: Bane by Brenda Jackson

Posted February 25, 2016 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Bane by Brenda JacksonReviewer: Judith
Bane by Brenda Jackson
Series: Westmoreland series #31
Also in this series: Breaking Bailey's Rules
Published by Harlequin
Publication Date: December 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Western
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five-stars

After five years, navy SEAL Brisbane Westmoreland is back home on his ranch and ready to reclaim the woman he left behind. But when he tracks her to Dallas, he's in for a shock.

Crystal Newsome isn't ready to forgive Bane for saying he loved her then vanishing from her life. Only now the beautiful chemist needs his protection. As their own irresistible chemistry takes over once again, can Bane keep Crystal safe and convince her they can have the second chance they both deserve?

It appears that with this 31st book in the Westmoreland Family Saga, Brenda Jackson is finally leaving this clan behind.  Yet she is bringing that era to a close with a bang.  Those who have read previous books in this long, 13 year series, have met most of the characters in her books many times over.  She is always careful to give sufficient context so that readers can keep track of these various people.  Lovers of this series and of Jackson books in general have been waiting for this book for quite some time.  And it is not a disappointment.  There is love and laughter, dismay and disappointment, deep love and anger, history and yet a future that is in doubt, especially when Chrystal’s own personal safety is on the line.

I doubt that there is a woman alive who would wait patiently for a spouse from whom only one contact was received in five years.  Yet Bane comes home ready to resume his life with Crystal and finds a wife that has no open arms of love spread for him.  Instead he finds anger and upset and becomes quickly aware that he is going to have to work hard to once again find himself accepted in the regard and love of a woman he has loved all his life.  His reasons for seeming to abandon Crystal and her present need for Bane’s protection are all strands in a story that is complicated and convincingly realistic.  The threads of the story weave in and out and form a story that will hook the reader’s imagination from the first.  Bane and Crystal have never lost that chemical magic that sustained their early love.  Finding a new foundation upon which to rebuild is challenging and very much a part of how this all plays out for these two.

Brenda Jackson is, quite simply, one of my favorite authors.  I have read her books for years and whenever I see a new one I am on it like white on rice.  This book was no exception and whether one has read all the books in this series or just a few, the energy level, the consistent skill and evident expertise have never wavered no had Ms Jackson ever disappointed her fans.  She uses the best kind of language, full of descriptive words and  a much appreciated balance between dialogue and monologue.  Her characters are people of deep family loyalty and in spite of how they choose to live their lives, each has a clear inner core of morality and integrity.  This is a fine piece of writing and a credit to its creator.  It is well worth the time and effort to read and enjoy.

I give it a rating of 5 out of 5

five-stars


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Review: I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre

Posted November 18, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: I Want It That Way by Ann AguirreReviewer: Holly
I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre
Series: Apartment 2B #1
Also in this series: As Long As You Love Me, The Shape of My Heart
Published by Harlequin
Publication Date: September 1st 2014
Genres: Fiction, Romance, New Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, General, Western
Pages: 384
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three-half-stars

Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she's determined to make them come true. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, dating's the last thing on her mind. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B…. 
Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can't risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, the last thing he wants is noisy students living in the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia's and Ty's paths cross, and soon they can't stay away from each other. 
The timing is all wrong—but love happens when it happens. And you can't know what you truly need until you stand to lose it.

Nadia is studying to be a special-ed teacher. Her school and work schedules don’t allow for much in the way of personal relationships, especially romance. Her relationship with her best friend is suffering, and she isn’t feeling as close to her other roommates as she’d like. Which makes the connection she feels to man who lives below her an unwelcome surprise. She’s already juggling too many balls; adding a single dad to the mix has ‘bad idea’ written all over it. But she can’t seem to help herself…and neither can he.

Ty is barely keeping his head above water. Between work, school and taking care of his son, he has zero free time. Since his ex ran out on him, he’s reluctant to get involved in even a casual way with someone, and he refuses to even consider opening himself up to more. But like Nadia, he can’t seem to stay away.

I liked Nadia, but I didn’t feel much of a connection to Ty. This is one of those times the first-person POV worked against the story. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book, because I did. I just wish we saw more emotion and personality from Ty.

Nadia was better drawn than he was. We saw her hopes, dreams and fears for the future. Her interpersonal relationships were fleshed out better, which gave us a better sense of her as a whole. She’s described in a later book as a type-A personality, and that’s definitely true. She’s stubborn and anal, but she wasn’t annoying.

There were two things that really bothered me. Both are spoilers, so beware when reading on.

View Spoiler »

Despite those two things, the story was very engaging. Although I didn’t develop strong feelings toward Ty, Nadia and the other secondary characters made for an entertaining, if romance-lite, tale.

3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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