Sunday, June 21, 2015

Recent Reads

Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner

Why this one:  I LOVE THIS BOOK

Genre: Western

Steam Level: pert ‘near perfect

Outline: At twenty, Miranda Hayes had known more than her share of heartache and loss. Widowed by the war, orphaned by a vicious band of rebel raiders, she was a woman alone in a harsh, unyielding frontier. Then she clashed with the notorious gunslinger Jake Harkner, a hard-hearted loner with a price on his head, and found within herself a deep well of courage...and feelings of desire she'd never known.

Hunted by lawmen and desperadoes alike, haunted by his brutal past, Jake had spent a lifetime on the dusty trail--and on the run. Until he met a vibrant, honey-haired beauty who was determined to change his violent ways, who loved him enough to risk her life to be his outlaw's woman.

From the vast plains of the Midwest across the Oregon Trail to the sun-drenched valleys of southern California, from the blazing Nevada desert to the boomtowns of Colorado, Miranda and Jake struggled to endure amid the perils of a lawless wilderness. In a world of heart-stopping danger and burning desire, could their hard-won love survive the shadows that stalked their happiness?

My Thoughts: Take this review I did last year:
I read this book years ago when it first came out and it blew me away at first reading. I’ve reread it a number of times since then and I've loved it more every time.
Jake Hackner is an outlaw. Pure and simple he’s a bad guy. He’s in town loading up on supplies when Miranda Hayes accidentally shoots him. He manages to get away and heads out of town. He finally holes up at a farm to recover a bit. Little does he know the farm he ended up belongs to Miranda. She is a young widow whose husband died in the Civil War. After raiders kill her father and take most of their belongings she decides to head out west to look for her younger brother.

She finds Jake and nurses him back to health. And during this time she sees something good beneath the outlaw exterior. She asks him to take her out west since he is headed the same way, but he refuses.

Later he has a change of heart and decides to look for her to help her. He finds her at station after she’s  been left behind by the wagon train she was with.  She’d been bitten by a snake and the nasty scoundrels were taking advantage of her illness.  Jake saves her and thus begins a truly amazing love story between an outlaw wanting to go straight and an incredibly strong woman. They are desperately in love with each other but time and time again Jake’s outlaw past comes back to try and destroy them.

This is one of those epic type books. It’s a long book coming in at 501 pages with teeny tiny print. It spans over 20 years. Bad things happen to good people and it isn’t always easy to read. Each time I read it, I have to take breaks due to its richness and length. It’s like a truly rich feast that is best eaten slowly in order to savour it.

Jake is one heck of a hero. He’s not all good. He definitely has shades of gray to him. But what saves him is his almost worship of ‘Randy’. He knows he’s no good for her; staying with her can bring her great heartache.

But Randy sees past his outlaw ways into his hidden heart and realizes he is a victim of his early circumstances. She sees the lost little boy inside and that inside he really has a good person wanting to come out. She refuses to let him give up no matter what fate throws at them.

This really is a heart in your throat, breathtaking book. I have a list of about 10 books that seem to stand out above all others. Outlaw Hearts has always been one of them and I know it always will be. So I'm spreading the word early on this one, you don't find much better than this book

 And add a Hell to the Yes!! – even if it is a review I did previously.   I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book now, but it just doesn’t get old and I fall in love with Jake and Randy all over again – not that I ever fell out of love with them.  The love and devotion and passion that exists between them is timeless.  They have to fight so hard to keep it going so that when they do overcome whatever has kept them apart, it’s even better, their coming together.  Randy is the goodness that Jake needs in his life to keep him on the right path when it would be so easy to go off it.  And Randy needs Jake because he needs her.  She sees the goodness in him where no one else does and because he had such an abusive past, she needs to keep reinforcing him that he is good.  He truly does treasure and cherish her, and she stands by him through good times and bad.

She has another book coming out next month with Jake and Randy, apparently one she’s been wanting to write for years now.  I already have it preordered and I can hardly wait until it appears on my kindle.

Grade: 5 out of 5

Will I read it again: A Resounding YES.  Again and again and again.  I can’t get enough of it.


Night Whispers by Leslie Kelly

Why This One:  I really enjoyed Bringing Down Sam and Reforming Jake and I really enjoyed them and went searching for some of her back list

Genre: Contemporary

Steam Level: simmers for a while then breaks out into a full boil

Outline: Thanks to her sexy radio talk show, Night Whispers DJ Kelsey Logan has become infamous! Suddenly, men all over Baltimore are desperate to discover the true identity of Lady Love, the sultry siren who keeps them up all night. But the only man Kelsey is desperate to have is sexy, stuffy Mitch Wymore.

Mitch is having a hard time believing that his bratty childhood nemesis has grown into the temptress the whole city's lusting after. A woman he's lusting after. He might have been able to keep his libido under control if Kelsey hadn’t made it clear she wanted to seduce him.

My Thoughts:  Leslie Kelly is a good writer.  I just finished a reread of Outlaw Hearts and loved it all over again.  Sometimes when you finish reading a very good book there is almost a restlessness that comes over while you search for the next book.  But Night Whispers had a very soothing effect on me and was a perfect book to read after.

I like the trope of this story, heroine has had life-long crush on hero but she was just the pesky little sister of his bed bud.  Mitch had mostly lived with Kelsey’s family growing up due to his own lousy home life, but he always felt like he was standing on the outside looking in.  so when Kelsey comes back into his life and things are combustible between them, he’s very reluctant to start anything, not wanting to upset the family who raised him.  But things burn hot between him and Kelsey.  He was kind of wild as a young man but he’s gotten a bit stuffy over the years and Kelsey unstuffs him.  She drives him crazy with some of the things she does, she’s kind of a wild and crazy heroine, and he particularly hates her job, though he does admit she’s very good at being a late night, very seductive DJ.

He finds himself living on the wild side again and he finds he’s enjoying it and falling more and more for Kelsey all the time.

While I didn’t enjoy this quite to the level I did Bringing Down Sam and Reforming Jake, still, it was a very good treat when one was needed.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Will I read it again:  Probably not – but NOT and I repeat NOT because I didn’t enjoy it.  But I’m trying to be realistic.  I’m buying books at a very scary pace and I already have so many to read the first time as well and a number that I reread frequently.  If I was much younger, my answer would probably be different though – heh, heh, heh.

Alex by Irish Winters

Why this one:  No real reason, it’s just where my finger stopped when trying to pick the next book to read

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Steam Level: I’d say warm – not boiling but nice and warm

Outline: He’s trying to forget . . .

Alex Stewart, ex-Marine and tough as nails boss, ditches the success of his fledgling business and flees to his cabin in the deep woods. He’s had enough. Four years after the deaths of his wife and daughter, he’s stuck in the anger stage of grief. He wants to be left alone. Life used to make sense. It just doesn’t bring him joy. Nothing does.

She’s trying to remember . . .

Left to die in those same deep woods, Kelsey is the last thing Alex expects to find at his cabin. She’s everything he’s running away from. Responsibility. Memories. Having to care about someone else beside himself. To make matters worse, she can’t remember anything except her first name. Neither can she explain the marks on her body, nor why two darling baby boys haunt her dreams.

But Alex can . . .

My Thoughts: I struggled with how to rate this book.  I liked the characters, I liked the story but there several plot points left untouched after being introduced and one was a GLARING plot point that was never addressed and since it was MAJOR to the story, the lack of follow-up was very jarring.  And sadly, this was too big a mistake and I can’t ignore that fact and it brings down the grade of this book.

The book opens with Kelsey running through woods and finally collapsing against a wall.  It then switches to Alex, the founder of a group of former army snipers who help out in the world trouble spots.  His own life exploded a few years previously when his wife and young daughter were killed and he hasn’t really recovered since.  He’s full of anger and frustration and decides he needs to get away from it all and visit his very rustic cabin in the woods with his two inherited war dogs.  He comes across Kelsey and can tell right off the bat that she is in very bad shape.  She’s been badly beaten, has scrapes all over her and is in a very weakened condition.  On top of that, when she regains conscious , she has no memory of who she is or what happened to her.  He’s resentful at first, having to take care of her, almost blaming her for the state she’s in, but he very quickly gets past it and sees that she is someone very special.  He falls deeply for her and is determined to help her in whatever it is she needs.  As he is a very angry individual, his almost blaming her goes along with his nature at the time so he reaction didn’t bother me at all and then he is so sweet and protective of her that I really liked him once he took off his grouchy uniform.

Kelsey is a good heroine.  She has gone through some horrendous things that most of can’t even imagine dealing with and a large part of the book is spent with her grieving and finally and slowly being able to move on with her life with the help and support of Alex who has been through that difficult and painful journey himself.

So – what are the problems?  Well for one thing Alex mentions that he’s been married twice. We know of his one wife but nothing else is mentioned about the other one – what happened to her, why did he marry her, was she the first or second wife?  I had all kind of questions running through my head and why start that thread if one isn’t going to do anything with it and just leave it hanging?  But a much worse thread left hanging is the fate of Kelsey’s abuser.  It’s never mentioned and this is such a huge oversight all things considered that it really did spoil what could have been a great book.  It’s a complete fail by the author and I’m very shocked that it wasn’t fixed through editing.

So because of this I don’t know if I can recommend this book.  It should serve as a warning book to authors.  Alex had such great potential to be a 4.5 or even 5 star book, but the author torpedoed that for me by completely ignoring a vital piece of the story.

Grade: 3 out of 5

Will I read this one again:  Sadly no.  Though I do want to try another book by her since it was absolutely not the writing itself, nor the characters that didn't work.  It was a plot hole I couldn't get past.

Take a Chance on Me by Susan Donovan

Why this one:  I’ve read this book a number of times now and it never fails to cheer me up and make me laugh.

Genre: Contemporary

Steam Level: A nice rolling boil

Outline: They've Got Nothing In Common...
For animal behaviorist Emma Jenkins, romance has been at the bottom of her daily "to do" list since making it through a messy divorce. But everything changes the day six-feet-of-gorgeous Thomas Tobin walks into her office with a quivering Chinese Crested named Hairy, a canine that looks more like an underfed rodent than a dog. Sure Thomas is sending her mixed signals-but that charming smile just sent Emma's dormant sex drive through the roof...

But Animal Attraction-
Thomas isn't looking for a fling. In fact, he wants nothing to do with women. He just wants to know if Hairy witnessed his owner's murder. But something tells him that asking Emma to help him with the case will spell nothing but trouble-trouble in the form of serious temptation.

And the Willingness To Take A Chance On Love
Thomas knows that relying on Emma's expertise-and her soft touch with a weird dog that has somehow become his-may be a crazy way to track a killer. Especially when Emma's down-home warmth makes him want to believe that anything is possible-even true love.
My Thoughts:  This is one of those books that every so often I get an urge to read again.  As I said above it never fails to cheer me up.  The characters are all delightful, each and every one of them, including and almost especially Hairy, the Very Ugly Chinese Crested who is in some ways the real star of this book.  I’m not even a dog person but he is such a hoot.  Sometimes we get his POV and it’s hilarious.

Thomas Tobin is a grouchy bear of a hero – one of my favourite kind.  But he has a reason for his grumpiness.  He’s a lawyer who masquerades as a hit man in order to catch they bad guys who want to have people murdered.  He doesn’t really see the best of mankind in this role.  In addition, he questions his very masculinity when he and a former fiancé were told his ‘swimmers’ were in pretty bad shape and he’s probably never be able to father a child.  His former flame didn’t take the news so well and really did a number on him.

He meets animal behaviourist and heroine Emma Jenkins when he kind of inherits this ugly, traumatized Chinese Crested dog Hairy when one of Thomas’ informants is murdered and Hairy was his dog.  Hairy is very high maintenance and the advice that Emma offers Thomas to help poor Hairy out is LOL hilarious and almost makes Thomas squirm in embarrassment.  Both Thomas and Emma are wildly attracted to each other but both have issues.  Emma’s ex has done as big/bad a number on her as Thomas ex did on him and it’s cute watching them completely misread each other.  But attraction and love eventually wins out.

If you are looking for a book to make you smile, possibly laugh, with a wonderful grump of a hero and warm, loving, smart heroine, this is the book for you.  It would be under the “if you like” type of Rachel Gibson, Julie James, Susan Andersen kind of book.

Grade: 5 out of 5

Will I read this book again: Yep, already have a few times and I know I will again.

And that's it for this latest batch
'til later


Lover Of Romance said...

I own Outlaw Hearts but I really want to read it!! And wow your review is amazing of this book. I love those heartfelt romances.

Kristie (J) said...

Lover of Romance - you really do need to read it. There have been so many really excellent Western romances over the years and this is one of the best of them - and the one I've reread the most. It's a real "epic" type of story.