Review: Her First Christmas Cowboy

Review: Her First Christmas CowboyHer First Christmas Cowboy (Four Corners Ranch #0.5) by Maisey Yates
Series: Four Corners Ranch #0.5
Published by HQN Books on October 1, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 55

FINAL DECISION: Pleasant short story/novella. The characters are decent people and although things are tied up quickly and neatly, I enjoyed the sweet story.

THE STORY: Tala Nelson’s evening grading papers is interrupted by rodeo cowboy Clayton Everett coming to her home with a gunshot. Tala knows that she should stay away from this man who comes from a bad background, but she can’t help but like and care for Clayton. As Christmas approaches, two people who have unhappy pasts find something for the future in one another.

OPINION: This was a pleasant, pretty straightforward romance. Both Tala and Clayton have family problems (in really different ways) which builds understanding between them. Because of the novella’s length, there isn’t a lot of character development here. I liked the characters and thought that the story was heartwarming and sweet. Everything is tied up too neatly, but it worked as a quick read for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a very short novella (about 55 pages).

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER FIRST CHRISTMAS COWBOY is book 0.5 in the Four Corners Ranch series. This is a novella prequel. The Four Corners Ranch series is a spinoff of the Copper Ridge series, but it is not necessary to read those books (I haven’t) to read this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: The True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge

Review: The True Cowboy of Sunset RidgeThe True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge (Gold Valley, #14) by Maisey Yates
Series: Gold Valley #14
Published by HQN Books on December 28, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384


“There were so many layers to him, and she had no idea how to dig down and get through them. Maybe there was no way. But there were these moments. Unguarded and beautiful, when she could see bits of the depth of him. And she had a feeling that not even he really wanted to see it. That he was in denial of all the things he was. And she could understand it in a way, because she didn’t particularly like to examine pieces of herself either.”

FINAL DECISION: Exactly what I needed. This is a serious emotional book about two adults who have experienced a crisis in their lives and are rebuilding. From the beginning “one-night stand” to Mallory and Colt spending time together getting to know one another’s story, I really was engrossed in the story of these two people.

THE STORY: Mallory Chance has just ended a 15-year relationship and to mark a new beginning, she goes to a bar to see if she can find the man she hasn’t forgotten about in six months. There she meets her fantasy man and they spend a single night together never expecting to meet again. Of course, he ends up being her new landlord. Colt Daniels has come to town after a tragedy had him leaving his job as a rodeo cowboy. The two are determined to keep their distance until the infant daughter of a deceased friend is left in Colt’s care and he needs Mallory’s help.

OPINION: This was an immensely satisfying book for the soul. Two good people who are making their way through life, trying to do the right thing. Failing, getting up, and moving forward. I was thoroughly engrossed in the story as I wanted to know how things worked out between Mallory and Colt.

The book starts out hot as Mallory and Colt have a one-night stand. The heat between these two carries the book through a lot of quiet moments as Mallory and Colt struggle through figuring out what this new phase of their life is and what the purpose and meaning in this life should be.

The book is emotional in a real and human way — not overwrought or unnecessarily dramatic. Instead, two humans work through their past baggage to find out how they can move forward in a productive way.

I really liked that both of these characters are strong and independent. They have needs for one another and others in their lives but they are not clingy or dependent — just human seeking connection.

This is a feel-good book that was very enjoyable and made me happy as I finished the last page.

WORTH MENTIONING: I had never read this author before but as soon as I finished this book, I purchased the rest of the books in this series to find out the supporting characters’ backstories.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE TRUE COWBOY OF SUNSET RIDGE is the fourteenth book in the Gold Valley series. The book can be read as a standalone. This is my first book by this author, and while there are other characters that appear from prior books (obviously), I didn’t feel like I had to know anything about those stories to like this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Out of the Storm

Review: Out of the StormOut of the Storm (Buckhorn, Montana, #1) by B.J. Daniels
Series: Buckhorn Montana #1
Published by HQN Books on December 29, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 245

FINAL DECISION: Romantic suspense with many twists, but not enough character for me.

THE STORY: Kate Jackson is newly engaged but is still having a hard time giving up on her feelings for her husband who has been dead for twenty years. Kate travels on an engagement trip with her new fiance and sees a man who she is convinced is her dead husband — although he says he is not and now calls himself Jon Harper. Jon knows he is not Kate’s husband Danny, yet he has a connection with her that keeps drawing him back to her.

OPINION: This book just wasn’t for me. It was well-written, but I didn’t feel any connection with the heroine. I really didn’t care about her journey. There were plenty of twists here but they felt very artificial rather than developing out of the story. The story is romantic suspense and the focus is on the plot rather than the relationship between the characters. That is something that bothered me in the book because I never felt connected to the romance. I think another person might feel different about the book. It wasn’t terrible, just not my thing.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces a lot of characters that will probably be picked up in future novels, but it was information overload and bogged down the beginning.

CONNECTED BOOKS: OUT OF THE STORM is the first book in the Buckhorn, Montana series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.



Review: Taking the Heat

Review: Taking the HeatTaking the Heat (Jackson: Girls' Night Out, #3) by Victoria Dahl
Series: Jackson: Girls' Night Out #3
Published by HQN Books on July 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION: Supersexy male librarian — I don’t think there is anything else to say.

THE STORY: Veronica Chandler feels like she is a pretender is her own life. She is seen as a sophisticated city girl when she knows that she has come to Jackson because she couldn’t make it in New York. She writes an advice column but knows that people think her more experienced and knowledgeable than she really is. She ends up meeting the new librarian, Gabe MacKenzie, and a ill advised number of margaritas ends up with her confessing her darkest secrets to him. The irony, he is more interested in the real her than her fake facade.

OPINION: I really liked Veronica in this one. As the book begins, she is uncertain and lacks self-confidence. She is a woman who is too much in her own head which keeps her from living in her present life and enjoying her sexual experiences. She also struggles against her own mental expectations of herself which makes her feel like a faker in her own life.

Gabe is a beta hero but is simply adorable. He is also struggling with expectations and trying to be the perfect son and a problem solver. He is so supportive of Veronica and respectful of her that I just loved him. I would have liked more library or reading time though!

This book really worked for me. It was comforting and the focus on the relationship between these two just made me happy in these difficult times. There are some misunderstandings and some problems that arise from failures to communicate, but that felt real here. I don’t think that people who are just getting to know one another are likely to tell everything about their lives to one another. That causes problems in real life just as it does in this book.

I really enjoyed how things turn in this book and Veronica leverages her strengths to demand what she deserves and being willing to call out the truth to Gabe even if it damages their relationship — because a true relationship must be based on truth. I loved how adult this book ends up being.

WORTH MENTIONING: My only negative is that this book ends up being a happy for now ending. I wanted and needed more for this to be a 5 star read. The ending might not bother some readers, but I felt cheated a bit at the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TAKING THE HEAT is the third book in the Jackson: Girls’ Night Out series. I haven’t read the other books in the series and didn’t feel that I missed anything so this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: On Second Thought

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: On Second ThoughtOn Second Thought by Kristan Higgins
Series: Cambry-on-Hudson #2
Published by HQN Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 480

FINAL DECISION:  A book that focuses on two sisters experiencing the ending of the relationships and the birth of new ones, this book was interesting but the romance was definitely secondary.

THE STORY:  Kate finally has everything she has ever wanted except a child.  She and her new husband have been trying since their marriage and have hopes of having a child soon — then he husband dies in a freak accident on the night her stepsister expects to get engaged. Ainsley has been with her boyfriend for eleven years and expected to be with him forever — until the death of Kate’s husband convinces him to dump her. Now Kate and Ainsley are living together and their mutual grief and anger bring them together in a way they didn’t expect. Both also have other men in their lives step up and begin to develop a different romantic relationship.

OPINION:  I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a fan of so-called “women’s fiction” because I prefer books where the romance is central to the story.  While this book has romance (two of them) in it, I was left unsatisfied because I wanted to know more about the romance between the characters than either Kate or Ainsley’s personal journey.

That doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good.  It was well written and I really did enjoy it, but I wouldn’t read it again.  The central story in this book is Kate’s loss of her husband. Because the book begins before her husband’s death and takes her through her grieving process, her husband is a central part of the book.  This is Kate’s journey and I greatly appreciated that her journey was complex and multifaceted and addressed head on how one lives again after a loss.  The book was especially refreshing in that it doesn’t judge Kate for moving on — even if other do. It is all here..the grief, the anger, the denial, the desire to be normal and live again.  The emotions are messy and much remains unresolved.

For me, however, the complexity of these emotions meant that they overshadowed any romance between her and Daniel. Things between them felt like default. I liked him and liked his character, but I didn’t feel any intensity between them. Instead, it felt like any guy who had been there for her would have garnered the same response from her. I walked away from the book wondering if the two would even be together in a couple of years.

I really liked the story of Ainsley more and I wish there had been more resolution to her story. Ainsley is suffering when her boyfriend of eleven years dumps her, but that event opens her up to the possibility of a different guy. I thought that her feelings for her ex were resolved before she got involved so the romance felt less conflicted and I really got some connection between these characters.  Her romance was funny and sweet and my only wish is that I had gotten more.

This book is billed as two sisters who resolve their relationship.  But there really isn’t much to resolve between these two.  Yes, there was distance and the two were not particularly close, but there were no serious disagreements or problems between them.  Rather than being their story, I felt that Kate’s personal journey was the heart of this story and Ainsley had a supporting role (even though the book is told in alternating first persons).

Ultimately, the book is a serious look at grief and loss and living again, but not my favorite kind of book.  (I do want to note that I read Higgins previous book in this vein, IF YOU ONLY KNEW, and liked it much better).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book is really women’s fiction rather than romance although romance does play a part.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This book is loosely connected to IF YOU ONLY KNEW as the two take place in the same town, Cambry-on-Hudson.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

Review: Wyoming Brave

Review: Wyoming BraveWyoming Brave (Wyoming Men #6) by Diana Palmer
Series: Wyoming Men #6
Published by HQN Books on December 27th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION:  A typical Palmer romance with an experienced hero who misjudges the sweet innocent heroine and then regrets it.  I liked this book but it doesn’t elevate Palmer’s formula but rather stays strictly within its boundaries.

THE STORY:  Ren Colter has closed himself off after his fiancee’s betrayal. Everyone is therefore surprised — even Ren — that he allows Meredith Grayling to stay at his ranch. Meredith is hiding from a stalker. Nervous and afraid, Meredith is dealing not only with her current threat but past abuse as well.  The alpha male feels his protective instincts go in overdrive over the innocent Meredith and her gentleness might soothe Ren’s battered soul.

OPINION:  I’ve read Palmer’s books for over thirty years. Her readers know that she has a formula for her books. Her characters often — and almost always in recent years — live in small western towns.  There is usually an experienced but romantically betrayed man who meets up with an inexperienced woman.  He mistakes her for experienced, treats her poorly, finds out the truth and then spends the rest of the book groveling.

I know what I’m getting in one of her novels and sometimes the characters make the story fantastic.  This book was just okay for me. The characters were nice — and even the hero wasn’t too jerky — but I didn’t feel that the characters expanded the formula nor were they so compelling that I thought — “wow!  I’m like to read this again”.

Enjoyable for the time I spent reading it and ultimately forgettable as a book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book actually is a crossover book with Palmer’s Long, Tall Texans series with appearance by characters from that series.  Seeing characters that I’ve

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WYOMING BRAVE is the sixth book in the Wyoming Men series.  It can be read as a standalone although pretty much all of Palmer’s books are connected these days with characters appearing from different books and series.  This book is most closely connected with DEFENDER.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Into Dust

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Into DustInto Dust (The Montana Hamiltons, #5) by B.J. Daniels
Published by HQN Books on July 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368

FINAL DECISION:  Action packed and very intriguing romantic suspense. There is more suspense than romance, but I enjoyed this one enough to want to read more of the series.  A warning that the story is not self-contained.

THE STORY:  When Cassidy Hamilton, youngest daughter of potential US President, is almost kidnapped off the street, she is saved by cowboy Jack Durand. The two end up on the run trying to find out who wants Cassidy.  The truth strikes close to home for both Cassidy and Jack as it appears that family might be at the heart of the danger that both are in.  The conspiracy that the two tumbled into is decades old and people will kill to bring the conspiracy to fruition.

OPINION:  I really liked that the book began with immediate action.  The book was very focused on the suspense portion of the story.  There is a romance, but I wouldn’t read the book for the romance alone because the focus of the story is the mystery suspense.

The book is filled with overlapping stories and points of view which makes the book a big puzzle.  I thought the book was filled with tension and drama and I worked to figure out who was being deceptive and who was honest.

The suspense story is definitely the highlight.  There is a lot going on here and I think it might have been even better if I had read the other books in the series.

The romance between Jack and Cassidy was pretty predictable at first but wrapped in a very tension filled and dramatic storyline.  I was completely surprised by how their romance ended up.  The story is not complete here and the twist at the end might end up disappointing those looking for a pure romance.  I ended up being completely enthralled by the story and definitely will be reading the next book to find out what happens.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is the first book by B.J. Daniels that I have ever read, I thought it was good and I now want to read the Montana Hamiltons series from the beginning.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  INTO DUST is the fifth book in the Montana Hamiltons series. I have not read any of the other books in the series, but I was able to figure out most of what was going on. I suspect that the book would be even better if I had read the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Trial by Desire

Review: Trial by DesireTrial by Desire (Carhart, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Carhart #2
Published by HQN Books on September 28th 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 360

Unique Concept

TRIAL BY DESIRE is the second novel in the Carhart series. It is the sequel to PROOF BY SEDUCTION and fans of that book will be happy to see Ned Carhart get his happy ever after. In PERIOD BY SEDUCTION, Ned gets married after mistakenly compromising Lady Kathleen. This book takes place three years later. Ned, who is bipolar (though it is never called as such in the book) left because of his struggles with depression. He has now returned to a wife he barely knows. Kate has spent the years that Ned has been away helping women flee their abusive husbands.

This story is about two people who have secrets and yet are married. I liked how Milan makes these two characters struggle. There are no magic answers in this book. At the end, Ned still struggles, but has learned to struggle with Kate. I thought that was a wonderful and hopeful message.

The edition I read is an enhanced version that includes some additional material from the author including deleted scenes, commentary, pictures and some small audio clips. While these enhancements are not extensive, they are an interesting addition. For example, I learned how difficult this book was for Milan to write and how many problems she still had with it.



Review: Unclaimed

Review: UnclaimedUnclaimed (Turner, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #2
Published by HQN Books on September 20th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 422

Courtesan and Virgin Trope Elevated

UNCLAIMED is the second novel in the Turner series about the three Turner brothers. This book is about Mark Turner, the youngest and a virgin (but not innocent as he tells the heroine). Mark has written a book that has taken society by storm. It is a book about chastity for men. Mark’s reputation has masse other men want to ruin him. Jessica Farleigh is a courtesan who has come to seduce Mark and ruin him publicly in order to get enough money to stop being a courtesan.

I am not a fan of this troupe, but this book is much more than that basic story plot. Milan has created real, dynamic characters who experience so much pain and growth. I loved these two together especially because Milan does not allow their happy ending to come easily.

Both of these characters have reputations that do not encompass who they really are. They are more complex than the label. Mark is not a virgin because of his moralistic principles but because he doesn’t want to cause harm. Jessica is not a poor girl ruined by a man and in need of rescue. Jessica is strong but at the same time she receives from Mark’s regard an ability to make things right for herself.

I loved this book much more than I had expected. One doesn’t have to read the prior novel and novella in this series, but UNVEILED does give the reader more information and understanding of the charger of Mark and the Turner family.



Review: Unveiled

Review: UnveiledUnveiled (Turner, #1) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #1
Published by HQN Books on January 25th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

Unique Version of Familiar Story

UNVEILED is the first book in the Turner series. It is the story of Ash Turner who is the eldest of three brothers. Ash has managed to make himself the heir to the Duke of Parford a distant cousin by proving that the Duke’s children are illegitimate because the Duke had a secret marriage to his mistress in his youth. Margaret Dalrymple is the Duke’s daughter. She is, however, masquerading as the dude’s nurse to find out more information about Ash in order to restore her family.

The premise of this story may sound familiar but zero Milan has a way of executing these familiar story tropes in a way that is unique and empowering to her characters. Ash and Margaret are simply amazing. Ash makes Margaret see herself as empowered — as a person who makes things happen rather than having things happen to her. He gives her the confidence to see in herself the strength to make her own future.

Milan subverts the expectations of the reader and thus pulls her characters into being more real, more human.

I had read the synopsis of this book before reading it and had in fact put off reading the book because Ash sounded like a horrible person, but he is simply amazing.