Tag: Westerns

Guest Review: Deacon’s Touch by Callie Croix

Posted February 12, 2012 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s review of Deacon’s Touch (Dumen Ranch #1) by Callie Croix.

After her own engagement goes to hell, workaholic Jessica Talbot dreads her friend’s bachelorette party at a dude ranch in Nowheresville, Texas. But the outlook for the weekend brightens when Deacon Dumen picks her up at the airport. The sexy cowboy awakens every dormant sexual fantasy with nothing more than a friendly smile and a handshake.

Ex-Air Force Pararescueman Deke Dumen doesn’t know what to make of the sexy yet reserved brunette who breaks through the walls he built after an injury ended his career and a divorce soured him on relationships. As a guest at his family’s ranch Jessie is off limits, but the Dom in him rebels at the restriction, even as he realizes his penchant for control in the bedroom would likely scare the holy hell out of her. When Jessie shocks Deke by asking for exactly what he’s been craving, he’s ready to break the rules and introduce her to his own brand of dominance. Her willing surrender rocks them both to the core. But once the weekend’s over, they must decide if it was just a wild fling or the start of something more.

OK, so I really like cowboys–didn’t used to read much of the Western cowboy stuff, but in the last year or so I have discovered that they are what they always were reported to be: strong and silent type men. They seem to personify the belief that many have in the United States of what it means to be male, alpha, dominant. That doesn’t work for some folks, but it sure does make interesting and, to be honest, sexy reading. This particular author is new to me, but I enjoyed this book a lot and felt that both the story itself and the writing were well crafted.

This story is about two hurting people. One–the heroine–is recovering from deep betrayal by a man she has known and dated for quite some time and who has now abandoned her emotionally, broken their engagement with his bad behavior. She is less than enthusiastic about coming to this bachelorette party at a ranch in Texas–in the middle of the boonies–but she wants to be a loyal friend so she takes some time away from her life and her job in Washington State. Deacon Dumen has come home to be at his family ranch while recovering–on the one hand he has some physical recovery from his military service; on the other hand he, too, is scalded by the disrespect and infidelity of his wife and the divorce still is making him bitter toward committed relationships in general. Both Jessica and Deacon have positive reactions when they meet at the airport where Deacon has gone to “collect” Jessica. But his internal struggles with the changes in his life as well as with his own dominant nature make him back away. Jessica is not quite so reticent and takes the “bull by the horns.” Ultimately, things really heat up between these two. But what does this mean for them long term and does their short-term affair really solve any of the issues that impact their respective futures?

There is lots of fun in this book, some very colorful background characters, lots of hot loving, as well as some deep emotion that this author has brought to the surface and which will be felt by any reader. I know that I really wanted to see these two unhappy people find a way to resolve their hurts and heal each others wounds. I was impressed how this author managed to end the story–I wasn’t really prepared for it but enjoyed it tremendously. Readers will also encounter the power of a cohesive family, the rockem sockem interaction between the brothers, some gals who really like to party, a bride who truly loves her bridegroom but isn’t hesitant to kick up her heels one last time, and so much more. It is love, Texas style. It is a very engaging read and one that will fill some time in a quality way. I think lovers of cowboy romance will find it to be a very satisfying experience.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place

This book is available from Wild Rose Press. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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Guest Review: Heartbreak Creek by Kaki Warner

Posted November 21, 2011 by Tracy in Reviews | 2 Comments

Published by Berkley, Penguin

Tracy’s review of Heartbreak Creek (Runaway Brides #1) by Kaki Warner

Edwina Ladoux hoped becoming a mail-order bride would be her way out of the war- torn South and into a better life, but as soon as she arrives in Heartbreak Creek, Colorado, and meets her hulking, taciturn groom, she realizes she’s made a terrible mistake.

Declan Brodie already had one flighty wife who ran off with a gambler before being killed by Indians. He’s hoping this new one will be a practical, sturdy farm woman who can help with chores and corral his four rambunctious children. Instead, he gets a skinny Southern princess who doesn’t even know how to cook.

Luckily, Edwina and Declan agreed on a three-month courtship period, which should give them time to get the proxy marriage annulled. Except that as the weeks pass, thoughts of annulment turn into hopes for a real marriage-until Declan’s first wife returns after being held captive for the last four years. Now an honorable man must choose between duty and desire, and a woman who’s never had to fight for anything must do battle for the family she’s grown to love…

Edwina’s life in Louisiana has come to an end. The war and her father’s death has forced her to sign her childhood home over to the bank and she has answered an ad. She is now officially a mail-order bride. Her half-sister, Prudence, is shocked but goes along with Edwina to Colorado. Along the way the sisters meet two other women, Lucinda and Maddie who end up in Heartbreak Creek as well.

Edwina starts having doubts about the marriage but doesn’t have a choice but to head off with the man to meet his four children. They don’t get along at all at first with him thinking she’s just a prissy southern miss and her thinking he’s a big bump on a log with not a brain in his head…but soon they realize there’s more to each than meets the eye.

It’s a struggle to keep house and children going with Edwina’s rules but she is helped considerably by her sister. There are problems though. The kids don’t like her, she can’t seem to get along with her husband, Declan, there’s a renegade Indian warrior after Declan and all he holds dear and that’s all a worry before Edwina has to find out that she’s not really married to Declan!

There are struggles and problems aplenty but Edwina makes the best of it and soon becomes a good mother and loving wife. What will happen with Ed and Declan’s future when someone unexpected shows up?

This is my first read by Warner and I don’t think it will be my last. I was sucked in by her writing, her characterizations and wonderful descriptions of the countryside (although not enough to be thought overly descriptive). I really liked the family and town aspect that the book portrayed and realistic view of life in the old west. It wasn’t easy and the book shows us that fact in many different ways.

Warner doesn’t write sex scenes I’ve found. She gives us enough to make it somewhat sexual and definitely sensual and that seemed to be enough for the story (although if she chose to write a smoking hot sex scene I’m sure it would rock).

Overall a very good book that I enjoyed reading. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

You can read more from Tracy at Tracy’s Place

This book is available from Berkley Trade. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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Guest Review: Texas Blue by Jodi Thomas

Posted July 28, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 1 Comment

Judith’s review of Texas Blue (Whispering Mountain #5) by Jodi Thomas

Gambling man Lewton Paterson wants to marry into a respectable family. After fleecing a train ticket, Lewt makes his way to Whispering Mountain. But seducing a well-bred woman is hard, and Lewt realizes that to entice a McMurray sister, he’ll need to learn a thing or two about ranching-and love.

Folks who have been raised in relatively normal families with a modicum of parental love and support often find it difficult to understand the hunger that eats away at the insides of people who have received little if any love from a parent or caregiver.  More often than not, that kind of hunger becomes a driving force that shapes not only the childhood and teen years but moves on to become a central goal during adult living.  Such is the case with Lewton Paterson, a career gambler living in Colorado and a man who has hankered after a home, family, respectability, and the love of a good woman most of his life.  One of his best friends is a Texas Ranger and a man who is deeply concerned about the long-term well-being of his three unmarried cousins in Texas, the McMurray sisters.  As was the socially acceptable norm in that day, especially in the tough and wild outlying areas of the West, this Ranger is looking for husbands for his cousins and arranges for three financially stable men who are in the market for wives, to travel to the sisters’ ranch, stay a week, get to know the women, and perhaps out of that will come a marriage for one or all of them.

Lewton knows that his friend would never choose him.  Who would want a professional gambler with no family and a very checkered past as a member of the family?  Yet Lewt sees this as a prime opportunity to find a place for himself in a well-established family.  His friend does not know that Lewt has been saving his money, that he is very successful at what he does, have been building up a considerable personal amount of wealth, and can easily support a wife and family.  So he manages to engage one of the men in a poker game–an Easterner who has a very low opinion of women as functioning, thinking, valuable human beings, and who openly expresses the opinion that any woman who marries him is getting a prize.  Lewt easily picks him clean, as they say, including his train ticket.  Getting him royally drunk and sending him off in the opposite direction, Lewt boards the train for Texas and begins his adventure.  

The oldest McMurray sister, Emma, has some secrets.  First, she really doesn’t like men and she doesn’t want a husband.  So she gets her best friend to impersonate her for a week while she portrays herself as the ranch foreman.  She also has some secret from the past that is a big reason why men are just not on her personal radar screen.  Lewt begins to disarm her–he doesn’t want to sit around the ranch house drinking tea, gossiping, or exchanging what he calls “parlor talk” with the ladies.  No, he wants to learn something about ranching and thus, he talks Em — really Emma McMurray–to put him on a horse, let him follow her around, and put him to work on the ranch.  This she finally agrees to do.

This historical romance right out of the pages of the history books is really a slice out of ranch life in the 19th century evolving territory of Texas, when law and order was spotty at best, when the Texas Rangers were most active in this post-Civil War era, and when living on the wide open spaces may sound romantic but it was a hard and dangerous life.  There are a number of issues both with the sisters and their responses to the men, and with their cousin who is on a ride with the Rangers as they follow smugglers into Mexico.  The reader is always waiting for “the other shoe to drop” in relation to Lewt’s presence and the fact that his friend, the Ranger, really wouldn’t be very happy to see him courting one of his cousins.  Yet you can’t help liking this man as he proactively works to fill in some missing pieces in his life and to find a way to have the kind of home he never had.  Emma is gritty, sassy, often unpleasant and never less that direct, a woman who knows what she loves–and that’s the ranch–and she knows what she doesn’t want–that’s a husband.  She is one of those quintessential Western women who had to be independent, often had to be their own vet, human nurse or doctor, midwife, cook, housekeeper, mother, ranch hand, and on and on.  In other words, they had to do it all, far more than women have to do today.  No wonder they looked like 90 miles of bad road by the time they were 30.

Jodi Thomas is one of those authors that can make American history shine bright, filled with colorful characters, stories that grab the mind and emotions, and woven through it all are the facts of what really happened.  She is one of a small group of women authors who have this kind of historical romance writing down to a science.  Ms Thomas and her writing colleagues are the main reason I have taken a renewed interest in historical fiction that is rooted in the American history books.  It’s not all shoot’em ups, or cattle rustlers, or vagrant gangs, or corrupt small town sheriffs.  It is about individuals and families and those who wanted to build a longevity for themselves and those who guarded the future.  Into that context she has placed this story and woven its fictional parts seamlessly into the facts of history.  

This book was a joy to read and I confess I did it in one sitting.  It certainly held my interest almost from the first.  That’s one of the reasons I think readers will appreciate this new addition to Ms Thomas’ bookshelf of publications.  

I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.



The Series


Texas Rain (Whispering Mts)Texas Princess (Whispering Mts)Tall, Dark, and Texan (Whispering Mountain)The Lone TexanTexas Blue
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Berkley. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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Guest Review: One Night, Two Heirs by Maureen Child

Posted July 14, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments


Judith’s review of One Night, Two Heirs by Maureen Child.

Texas Cattleman’s Club Rule #1: Always Act Honorably

Duty is his world. And upon seeing Sadie Price with twin girls, marine Rick Pruitt realizes he has some proposing to do. He never would have left Royal, Texas, if he’d known Sadie was carrying his babies.

Yet the feisty single mom has no intention of agreeing to a loveless marriage. True, she and Rick share a bond, as well as undeniable passion. But Sadie believes vows should last a lifetime, not be declared out of obligation. Making it Rick’s new mission to change her mind.

This is another fun and lightweight read for which Harlequin is famous. So many of us were raised on these simple but fun short novels and this story follows right along with the tried and true format.

Rick Pruitt has returned to Royal, Texas, carefully considering whether he will re-enlist for another tour or retire from the U. S. Marines. When Sadie introduces him to his twin daughters, children of whom he was completely unaware, the stakes go up. Now Rick wants Sadie–who he is not sure he “loves” but for whom he has a deep and persistent attraction–and his daughters to move to his ranch, the spread he has inherited from his parents and which has been maintained by his foreman and staff during his years away overseas. Sadie will have none of it, and the story revolves around Rick’s efforts to persuade Sadie to accept his suit and her resistance to marrying just for the sake of their children. That he has won the hearts of his girls doesn’t help Sadie’s position any, so it is a story that sort of rolls along from one adversarial encounter to the next.

There really isn’t a whole lot of plot here and the story is certainly not new in its basic dynamic, nor is it complicated. But that doesn’t mean that this can’t be a fun way to spend some time. I know in years past I would take a “reading day” as my monthly respite from my four kids–four kids in five years–and it was a stack of Harlequin fun reads that filled the hours and helped me relax and feel restored. All that being said, the story is well told and testifies to Ms Child’s skill to flesh out a very simple plot. Add in the ongoing tussle at the local Texas Cattlemen’s Club–a push/pull kind of upset that runs throughout this series of short novels involving a men’s club that now admits women and the inevitable changes being wrought by the feminine presence–changes that are being seriously resisted by a number of men in Royal. It is the old tug-of-war between the traditionalists and the progressives. It adds fun and spice to the story and is a very nice seque to upcoming stories in this series.

I just flat out enjoyed this book–it is relaxing and certainly not taxing. If you want a complicated, substantive novel this is will not be your choice. But if you want something to read that will hold your interest and be very entertaining, that you will like this novel.

I give it a rating of 3.75 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Harlequin. You can buy it here in e-format.


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Guest Review: The Bull Rider’s Secret by Marin Thomas

Posted July 13, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s review of The Bull Rider’s Secret by Marin Thomas


Brody Murphy lives one day—one ride—at a time. No home, no responsibility, no one depending on him. As long as the bull rider keeps moving, he can keep it that way. But when Brody meets Ricky Sovo and his mother, rancher Katarina, he finds himself lingering in one place for the first time in years.
  
Kat’s unlike any woman he’s ever known—feisty, stubborn and determined to make it on her own. But that independent streak has gotten her in trouble with a couple of local ranch hands. She needs Brody’s help. Only, helping means sticking around, and that’s not something Brody can do. For Kat makes him want more from life, more than he feels he deserves. She may be his only chance at accepting his past…but he’s not sure he can ever stop running from it.

Harlequin has been providing fun reading for lovers of romance fiction for years.  As the decades have passed, their lineup of authors has expanded and their various areas of interest have expanded as well.  Here we have a classic “cowboy” novel that is set in contemporary times, involving a rodeo bull rider, a man who is tall and hunky, good looking and who fits the physical qualifications of being a man’s man.  But Brody Murphy is a hollow shell of a man, one who has decided that he doesn’t now or never will deserve happiness.  As long as he keeps moving he doesn’t have to face the deep and debilitating sense of loss or failure from his past.  He’s not any good at bull riding, but that appears to be relatively unimportant.  He works as a ranch hand long enough to earn his entry fees, put gas in his car and food in his stomach, and then he moves on.  It would also appear that he is not really aware that he is self-destructing and that’s OK.

Enter Ricky Sovo, a 13 year old kid who is hanging around the rodeo scene when Brody is looking for a partner in one of the events.  Together they win and begin becoming acquaintances.  Brody provides some transportation home for Ricky and it is there that Brody encounters not only Katarina, Ricky’s mother, but two ranch hands who are giving her considerable grief.  Because he gets involved in the war of words, Brody feels obligated to stick around and work at the ranch until Kat can secure some additional ranch hands or the owners return from the European vacation.  What he didn’t plan on is getting attached to Ricky who is really struggling with an absentee dad, or becoming overwhelmingly attracted to Kat, a woman of strength and purpose, whose entire life is built around her goal of providing a good life for her son, and who is now in a very precarious position as foreman of the ranch without anyone to do the tough work.  Because Brody is an experienced ranch hand, he is able to pull Kat’s bad situation  away from the brink of disaster, but all the while his own personal inner war is escalating.

This is not a simplistic boy-meets-girl-and-they-live-happily-ever-after kind of romance novel.  Rather, it is about deep hurt, the power of fear and guilt and self-recrimination to eat away at the inner core of a person, and the deep and ongoing disappointment that comes from failed relationships.  Ricky’s growing pains figure prominently in the story as does Kat’s increasing concerns that her “little boy” is growing up, is in serious need of some counseling about girls, and her almost continuous worry over whether she can prove her worth as a ranch foreman and do what needs to be done.  She so wants to make her job there permanent for her son’s sake.  Ultimately, at the core of this story is the power of authentic loving to redeem–literally “buy back” the sense of worth everyone needs to be a productive and caring person.  It is about the power of relationship to give each person a sense of “place” and to keep human beings balanced between their caring for others as well as caring for themselves.

I have not encountered this author previously but felt that her style of writing was very readable and she demonstrated a skill in telling the story that made the characters come alive and real–not sappy and overstated as is the case in some romance fiction. Brody as the main character was certainly at the opposite end of the “hero” spectrum but he was a character that came across as real, flawed, an emotional black hole that needing filling.  There were times, however, that I wanted to say:  “Get over yourself!”  But that is a remark that grows out of my own experience which is markedly different than his.  What would any of us feel if we were to be living his tragedy?

So I recommend this as a book that has some meat as a story, one that delves into the hurts that life can bring and the damage that people can bring on themselves and those they love.  It is a story that also offers “light at the end of the tunnel” and conveys some valuable insights on what relationships can and should be.

I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Harlequin. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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