Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Almost Just Friends (Wildstone #4) by Jill Shalvis Blog Tour/Giveaway/Excerpt

Coming to a bookstore near you January 21, 2020:
Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis

Piper Manning’s about as tough as they come, she’s had to be. She raised her siblings and they’ve thankfully flown the coop. All she has to do is finish fixing up the lake house her grandparents left her, sell it, and then she’s free.

When a massive storm hits, she runs into a tall, dark and brooding stranger, Camden Reid. There’s a spark there, one that shocks her. Surprising her further, her sister and brother return, each of them holding their own secrets. The smart move would be for Piper to ignore them all but Cam unleashes emotions deep inside of her that she can’t deny, making her yearn for something she doesn’t understand. And her siblings…well, they need each other.

Only when the secrets come out, it changes everything Piper thinks she knows about her family, herself…and Cam. Can she find a way to outrun the demons? The answer is closer than she thinks—just as the new life she craves may have already begun.

The last time a woman had ordered Cam to strip had been a very different scene altogether, and it’d been a while. Generally speaking, he liked to be behind the wheel in most situations, but he’d never had any complaints about a woman driving in his bed. “Interesting bedside manner.”

“Okay,” she said. “How about strip, please.”

He laughed, and he realized that until tonight, it’d been a damn long time for that too. “Well, since you asked so nicely . . .” But still he hesitated.

“Trust me, I’ve seen it all before.”

He pulled off his shirt, wincing when the cotton stuck to the deepest slice across his chest.

Piper blinked, and for the first time all night, appeared short of words.

It was pretty damn cute, especially with the mud on her nose. “Thought you’ve seen it all before.” She bit her lower lip, eyes suddenly hooded, and he couldn’t resist teasing her. “So, how do I stack up?”

That got her, and she rolled her eyes. “Like you don’t know. Sit.”

The couch seemed too . . . personal, so he sat on her coffee table. She dropped to her knees at his side and doctored up first the cut on his left palm from where he’d nicked himself in his dad’s kitchen, and then the two slices on his left biceps, and then the biggest one across his chest, during which time he did his best to ignore the feel of her soft breath on his skin and failed.

When she’d finished, she looked down at his cargoes and saw the blood seeping through from his thigh. Rising to her feet, she stepped back, gesturing for him to lose the pants too.

“Seriously,” he said. “Doesn’t even have to be dinner. An appetizer would work.”

“If you’re real good, I’ll give you a sticker.”

“How about letting me look at your secret secret bucket list instead?”

Her eyes narrowed. “How about we stop talking now?”

“Wait.” He cocked his head. “Does this mean you also have a secret bucket list? And possibly a not-so- secret bucket list?”

She had hands on hips; a fresh, clean gauze in one hand, antibiotic ointment in the other, her expression dialed to Not Feeling Playful.

With a rough laugh, he stood and took the gauze and ointment from her. “I got this one, Doc.” And then he gestured for her to turn around.

She did with a smirk, and then spoke over her shoulder. “Didn’t peg you for the shy type.”

“Oh, I’m not shy.” He shoved his icy, muddy, wet cargoes to his thighs, and yeah, the cat had come within two inches of de-manning him. “Just didn’t want to have to fight you off.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I always get verbal consent first. And I bet you didn’t want me to see your tighty-whities.”

He gritted his teeth as he cleaned out the cut. Son of a bitch, that cat had gone deep. “They’re not tight and they’re not white.”

“Batman undies?”

“Commando,” he said, and that shut her up. When he’d finished and pulled his pants back up, he lifted his head and found her facing him. His brows went up. “See anything you like?”

Instead of answering, she blushed. And he grinned because, yeah. She’d definitely seen something she liked.

From Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis, published by William Morrow. Copyright © 2020 by Jill Shalvis. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062897800/almost-just-friends/

Connect with Jill Shalvis:
Website: http://jillshalvis.com/
Facebook: @JillShalvis
Twitter: @JillShalvis
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jillshalvis/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jillshalvis/
Tumblr: http://jillshalvis.tumblr.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22370.Jill_Shalvis?from_search=true

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website, www.jillshalvis.com, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Title: Almost Just Friends: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 21, 2020)
ISBN-10: 0062897802
ISBN-13: 978-0062897800
Author's Website: https://www.jillshalvis.com/
Notes:  I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected by review or rating.

"You're the one always fixing everyone's life, everyone's but your own, of course. But even the Fixer needs help sometimes."

Piper Manning has just turned thirty and she isn't anywhere near where she wanted to be at this time of her life. She's had to put everything on hold--her hopes and dreams--to keep her family together. Her parents followed by her grandparents had passed away, and it was left up to her to keep what was left of her family together. Now, with both her siblings out of the house, she plans to make her dream of becoming a physician's assistant a reality. She just needs to sell the family lake house to make it happen. When her siblings come home unexpectedly, however, she'll find things may be more complicated than she imagined...

It's been three months since Camden 'Cam' Reid lost his brother, Rowan, in a car accident. He is suffering from a bad case of survivor's guilt. His plan was to come to Wildstone to check up on his father and then get back to his work on the East coast, but when he arrives he finds his father isn't in the best of conditions. He starts to wonder if an extended stay may be necessary...

As both Piper and Camden know, life doesn't always go as planned, and as they shall soon find out plans are sometimes meant to be broken. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes someone who could almost just be a friend can turn out to be something more...
This is the fourth book of the Wildstone series and it was written to be a standalone book. Each book in the series is a separate entity from the others with only an occasional character or two loosely overlapping in the stories. The town of Wildstone is the glue that binds of this series together. It's the place where each novel in the series takes place. If you haven't read one of these novels you're in for real a treat. The novels tackle some serious issues with heart, love, and compassion. The books leave you with the feeling that love, family, and good friends can conquer all or at least lighten the sting life can have.

At thirty, Piper is the family Matriarch. She has always appeared strong and tough on the outside because she's had to, but even she has her soft spots. For years she's put her own needs on hold. She's an EMT who is quick thinking and used to being the first to take charge of a bad situation. She's a little anal about keeping lists because they'd saved her neck more than once. One of the things on her list of 'Life Rules' is to 'never, ever, EVER, under any circumstances fall in love.' She's loved and she's lost a lot in her short life and that admission reveals a lot about her.

Cam is DEA agent and is on the reserve list for the Coast Guard. His relationship with his dad isn't what he'd like it to be, but he was raised by his mother after his parents divorced while his brother had been raised by his father. Cam lived with his mother on the East coast while Rowan and his dad had lived on the West. The two brothers had only recently established a close bond when Rowan had died.

Cam hasn't been in many romantic relationships over the years because most women can't handle his not being able to talk specifics about his job. It's literally his job, at times, to keep certain things secret. As he gets to know Piper he realizes she's not like other women. Being that she's an EMT she understands and gets what his job requires. In her he starts to see something he's never let himself see before--a future.

If I had to sum this story up in one sentence it would be the following: This is a story about two perfectly imperfect families who come together to form one perfectly perfect family. The quote which I feel exemplifies the story is:

"It's okay to be broken. Broken can be fixed."

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The story was engaging from the very first page. The heat between Cam and Piper was sizzling hot from the moment they met. I adored seeing these two people who thought they would never find love find it with each other. I also loved that the vibe 'we're family and family sticks together and supports each other no matter what' permeated the story even though it wasn't ever stated. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.This is a story I HIGHLY recommend. I loved it.

Order of the Wildstone series:

Novella associated with the series:
(Should be read after 'Lost and Found Sisters' but before 'Rainy Day Friends')

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Monday, December 30, 2019

The Prince of Broadway (Uptown Girls, #2) by Joanna Shupe

Title: The Prince of Broadway: Uptown Girls
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Uptown Girls (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (December 30, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062906836
ISBN-13: 978-0062906830
Author's Website: http://www.joannashupe.com/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review or rating. All quotes are subject to change as an ARC is not the final version. Any errors in quotes are most likely my own and not the authors.

Florence Greene is not your typical society miss. She doesn't have grand plans of marriage or of raising a family. Her dreams consist of opening a casino for young ladies and she's come up with a plan to accomplish just that. It all revolves around a rather illusive man named Clayton Madden. Clayton owns the most successful gambling establishment in the city call the Bronze House. She wants her casino to mimic his and she's hoping he'll mentor her on how she can go about making that happen. Gambling, after all, is illegal in the great state of New York, but Florence isn't the type to let a little thing like that get in her way. The one thing she hadn't counted on, however, was finding herself attracted to the man, or that he'd be attracted to her...

"You should know a few things before we finalize any apprenticeship."

She leaned in, all eagerness and devotion, hanging on his every word.(...)

"I'll put my cards on the table. I'm attracted to you."

Her brows shot high on her forehead, her face slackening. "W-what?"(...)

"Understand that my motives are never pure. I'm as selfish as they come, and if there's an opportunity to get you in my bed I won't hesitate to take it."(...)

"Was there anything else?"

"Yes, actually. I plan to bring about your father's ruin."

This was the second book in the Uptown Girls series and it can be read out of order as a standalone. It actually takes place at the same time as 'The Rogue of Fifth Avenue,' the first book in the series, so the reader truly will have missed nothing if they haven't read the previous book first. The series revolves around the Greene sisters who are unconventional young women who are the daughter's of one of New York's richest and most influential men. The series is set in the 1890's when Carnegie Hall has just been built, child labor laws are all but nonexistent, and women still have yet to acquire the right to vote. It's set in an era when there is a great divide between how the upper and lower classes of New York society live. The novel takes place during a time when corruption in the police department runs rampant and justice is not always served. In other words, it's a great period to use for the backdrop of a story. If you've not yet read one of Ms. Shupe's novels, you will not be disappointed.

Florence Greene is smart and beautiful, but has never truly felt like she fit in with high society, mainly because she's never cared what they thought of her. Plus, she isn't one to engage in games unless they involve a gaming table. She's played her role in society seamlessly, however, for the sake of her mother and sisters. She's even turned down several proposals, but being married to some society fop whose ego barely fits in the room is not her idea of bliss. The only thing that has kept her sane over the years is her dream of one day opening up a casino for ladies, and being able to be the person she'd always felt she was meant to be. She found out at an early age she had a love and knack for cards. She intends to make use of that.

Clayton Madden is a self-made man who blames his family's demise on Florence's father. All he's done over the years has been driven by the thought of one day being able to exact revenge on him. Florence, however, is something he hadn't expected. The more he gets to know her the more he comes to like her. He convinces himself he can still exact revenge upon her father without it affecting their relationship. He'll soon find out the truth of the matter and have to deal with the consequences.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. The book had a nice combination of drama and romance which kept my interest from start to finish. While Clayton and Florence would appear to be an unlikely couple, their chemistry is undeniable. As they start to work together and get to know each other they gain a mutual respect for one another. Clayton has no problem letting Florence be who she wants to be and, for the most part, encourages her endeavors. Some of Florence's behavior, however, was a little questionable for someone who supposedly was trying to protect her mother and sisters from scandal. Plus, it took me some time to warm up to Clayton, but by the end he won me over. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a SHOWER rating--a cold shower may be necessary. Need I say more? Some books should come with a warning--make sure your significant other is handy or your shower is in working order. lol 

Order of the Uptown Girls series: 

Coming June 2020:

Friday, December 27, 2019

Rocky Mountain Heat (previously published as All of Me) (Wedding Veil Wishes (4)) by Lori Wilde

Title: Rocky Mountain Heat (previously published as All of Me) (Wedding Veil Wishes (4))
Previous title: All of Me
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Wedding Veil Wishes (4) (Book 4)
Format: Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Forever; Reprint edition (December 17, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538700190
ISBN-13: 978-1538700198
Author's Website: https://loriwilde.com/
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my rating or review.

Legend has it long ago a witch created beautiful lace bridal veils. Her last and final creation she enchanted with a spell, or so the story goes...

“Once upon a time, in long-ago Ireland, there lived a beautiful young witch named Morag who possessed a great talent for tatting lace. People came from far and wide to buy the lovely wedding veils she created. But there were other women in the community who were envious of Morag’s beauty and talent. These women made up a lie and told the magistrate that Morag was casting spells on the men of the village.

The magistrate was engaged to a woman that he admired, but did not love. He arrested Morag, but found himself falling madly in love with her. Convinced that she must have cast a spell upon him as well, he moved to have her tried for practicing witchcraft. If found guilty, she would be burned at the stake. But in the end, the magistrate could not resist the power of true love.

On the eve before Morag was to stand trial, he kidnapped her from the jail in the dead of night and spirited her away to America, giving up everything for her love. To prove that she had not cast a spell over him, Morag promised never to use magic again. As her final act of witchcraft, she made one last wedding veil, investing it with the power to grant the deepest wish of the wearer’s soul...”

Now, hundreds of years later, the veil has found itself in the possession of a group of friends. The final, and last of the friends to try the veil, Jillian, doesn't believe in magic. Truth be told, she doesn't believe in love, at least not for herself. She believes the love matches her friends made after wishing upon the veil were just coincidental and not the result of their wishes. On night, after a friend's funeral, however, Jillian finds herself in a vulnerable state and makes a wish. That wish will change everything...

 "I wish I had a brand new life."
This is the fourth installment of the Wedding Veil Wishes series. The series centers around four friends and an enchanted wedding veil. 'Rocky Mountain Heat', previously published under the title of 'All of Me', can definitely be read out of order and you won't feel lost. At the beginning of this story, three of Jillian's friends have already found their soul mates, but Jillian is a hard sell on the magical powers said to be possessed by the wedding veil. She's the most skeptical of the bunch and doesn't believe the veil had anything to do with her friend's love matches. She vows to never make a wish with the veil.  As we all know, however, you should never say never. In a moment of emotional weakness, she makes a wish. That is when all the fun begins.

Men have disappointed Jillian Sanders all her life. The last time she tried to put herself out there things ended badly. Believing most men are jerks and those who aren't are taken, she's pretty much given up on relationships, but deep down she still wants someone to love. When her best friend and mentor dies, she feels everything so much more, especially when her ex-boyfriend ends up becoming her new boss. Feeling like her life is falling apart, she decides to do the one thing she never thought she'd do--make a wish.

Tuck Manning is a widower who is a shadow of his former self. He loved his wife dearly, but has still not come to terms with her passing even though it's been two years since she died. When Jillian comes to town she challenges him, excites him (even though he's loath to admit it), and makes him feel again. Despite that, however, he still has to come to terms with having feeling for someone other than his deceased wife. He's a great guy but the big question is can he overcome his grief and guilt that he feels at the thought of moving on--preferably with Jillian?

I admit I had mixed feelings about Tuck. While I liked how much he'd loved his wife, I felt it sometimes didn't bode well for his relationship with Jillian. There were times when if I'd been Julian's friend I would have advised her to cut him loose, but I have to admit I've seen others act similarly in real life so I can't really fault Ms. Wilde for it. It took quite some time before Tuck won me over.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. It was a sweet, funny, and charming romance with some twists and hurdles thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed seeing these two fall for one another despite their trying to resist the pull they felt for one another,  I loved the situation which developed as they tried to figure out who truly owned the lake house. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Order of the Wedding Veil Wishes series:

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

My One and Only Cowboy (Meadow Valley Book 1) by A.J. Pine

Title: My One and Only Cowboy (Meadow Valley Book 1)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Meadow Valley (Book 1)
Format: Paperback; 656 pages
Publisher: Forever (December 17, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538749793
ISBN-13: 978-1538749791
Author's Website: http://ajpine.com/
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my rating or review.

Sam Callahan is one of the three owners of the Meadow Valley Ranch. He, his brother, and best friend bought the land for the ranch two years ago and are now into their second month of full operation. Things are tight as they are still working on drumming up business and have sunk a ton of money into building the newly established guest ranch.

In the blink of an eye it could all be taken away when a feisty blond bombshell shows up spouting claims of forgery, fraud, and the illegal sale of her property.

Delaney Harper is beside herself with fury. He ex-husband sold the land she planned to use for an animal rescue shelter by forging her name on a quit claim deed. Now she's confronting the new owners and trying to set things straight. Half that land is hers. While she came looking to reclaim her land, she might just get more than she bargained for...

"I've been thinking about kissing you for two days now, and I don't know if I'm going to be able to stop thinking about kissing you until I know what I missed out on because of that damned storm."

She stared at him, and he watched her chest rise and fall with each breath she took. It was a risk just to say the words to admit what he wanted. What would they be risking if they acted on what he guessed they both were feeling?

She fidgeted with the material of her dress.

"I still want my half of the land," she said. 

He nodded, "I know." 

Could a crazy little thing like love be in her future?
This was the first book in a new series by A.J. Pine which centers around the town of Meadow Valley. It's a small old fashioned town where everyone knows everyone else and can't seem to help poking their noses into everyone else's business. It's a place perfect for fresh starts and the place both Delaney Harper and Sam Callahan chose to start their businesses. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending how you see it), they both chose the same piece of land.

Neither Delaney nor Sam is looking for a relationship. Both have issues which they need to come to terms with before they could have a chance at a successful relationship. Plus, the matter of who truly owns the land Meadow Valley Ranch still sits between them. As they get to know each other, however, they realize they have more than they thought in common. The spark of attraction they've both felt from their first meeting will slowly ignite into something neither can deny, but they'll do their darnedest to do just that.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses.This was a sweet and lighthearted romance that tackled a heavy topic. Sam's father suffers from dementia and he doesn't believe love is in the cards for him. Sam has closed himself off from serious relationships for years not knowing if his future will mimic that of his dad. When Delaney first confronts Sam claiming half the land is hers, he's convinced someone's playing a joke on him. A bad one. Soon, however, it becomes clear his entire business could be in jeopardy, but there's something about Delaney Harper, despite the threat she poses, that draws him to her. Slowly, she tears down the careful constructed walls he's erected around himself, and makes him realize he can have it all if he just lets himself. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Forever Friends (Cranberry Cove #1) by Sarah Mackenzie

Title: Forever Friends (Cranberry Cove Book 1)
Classification: Adult Women's Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Cranberry Cove (1) (Book 1)
Format: Paperback; 320 pages
Publisher: Forever (December 10, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538751127
ISBN-13: 978-1538751121
Author's Website: Not Available at this time
Notes: I received an eARC loan of the book from the publisher through Edelweiss for review purposes. This in no way affected my review or rating.

Sadie Landry is a stay-at-home mom who feels she's losing her identity. The cool, confident young professional she'd once been has been replaced with a women who feels a bit like a fish out of water flopping around and trying to catch her breath. Add in the fact her husband is acting suspicious, her mother-in-law is constantly nitpicking her every move, and she suspects she might be pregnant and you've got the makings of a woman on the verge of coming undone.

Renee Rhodes is a single mom and a newly minted empty nester. Her daughter is attending her first year at college and Renee doesn't know what to do with herself. Her life centered around her daughter and now she feels a little lost and without purpose.

Two individuals with seemingly nothing in common at different ends of the mommy spectrum will be united over the burning of a batch of cupcakes. They will come to each other's aid in ways neither could ever have imagined--helping each other out with life, love, and the pursuit of happiness all while forming a friendship that will last forever...
This was a very heartwarming story with some twists and turns along the way. The mystery of what Sadie's husband is up to kept me guessing. The friendship forged between Renee and Sadie was enviable and there was no doubt that these two would be life long friends. I liked how Ms. Mackenzie picked two people at very different points in their life to form a friendship. I enjoyed how each was able to impart a piece of wisdom to the other to help them get through the difficult and confusing situations they were facing.

I loved how the author captured some of the stress and self doubt that sometimes accompanies being a stay-at-home mom of young children. I still remember my first real shower after having my daughter. I was relieved to finally have some alone time, something I hadn't realized I needed until I stepped into the bathroom. Less than a minute into it my husband rolls our daughter into the bathroom in her bassinet and left her saying he couldn't get her to stop crying. Needless to say I started crying and got very upset with him when I got out. Crying babies and showers don't mix especially when you're nursing. Your whole life is upended in ways you never would have imagined when you have a child. Having a little person attached to you at the hip is both wonderful and a bit overwhelming. At times it feels like you're constantly taking one step forward and two steps back and losing yourself in the process.

On the other side of the parenting perspective, I loved how the author captured some of the emotions a parent experiences when their child goes off to college. I've yet to become an empty nester, but I do know what it's like when your child goes off to college and suddenly their coming home during breaks isn't a given any more. While they're out testing their wings getting ready to fly away, you're still trying to deal with the fact you need to let them go so they can become the independent person they're meant to be. This is not always the easiest thing to do when your main goal for years has been to keep them safe, healthy, happy, well rounded, clothed, and fed. While the story delves a little into some deep topics, this storyline made me think of the Jergens lotion commercial where Leslie Mann makes her 20-year-old daughter use the skin lotion on her elbows, and ends with letting her know she's free for dinner. I'm so that type of mom--while the kids may be ready to break away, I'm just not.

While friendship holds a key role in this story, romance was just as prevalent. The repairing of the relationship between Sadie and her husband, and the transformation of the relationship between Renee and Dan into something more were fun to watch. Each couple had some hurdles to overcome, but as expected in any good romance, love prevails.

I ended up giving this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I enjoyed this story immensely. The two main characters, Sadie and Renee, were easy to relate to and sympathize with. I liked the contrast between the characters and between their relationships. The book contained a lovely combination of humor, friendship, drama, and romance. This was a great first novel from Ms. Mackenzie. Her writing style reminded me a little of Debbie Macomber's and Susan Mallery's, and I look forward to reading many more of her novels. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one scored a FAN rating--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice. The only thing missing in this one was recipe for one of Grandma Hester's pies at the end. That would have been the proverbial icing on the cake, or, er, the à la mode on the pie, I suppose, for this one.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Restless Rancher (Wild Rose Ranch, #2) by Jennifer Ryan

Title: Restless Rancher: Wild Rose Ranch
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Wild Rose (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (November 12, 2019)
ISBN-10: 006285190X
ISBN-13: 978-0062851901
Author's Website: Not Available
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review or rating.

To say Austin Hubbard has fallen on hard times would be an understatement. Months ago he'd been living the good life running his family business under his dad and ready to settle down with his girlfriend for the long haul. Then his grandfather had died leaving him the house his mother had grown up in and the land surrounding it. That's when everything went to hell in a handbasket. His father wanted the house and land for reason's Austin couldn't phantom. When Austin refused to sell it to him, he'd been cut off and, without funds, his girlfriend quickly abandoned him. He'd been devastated. Slowly, with the help of his friends, he'd managed to get back on his feet only to be knocked down once again by the betrayal of all betrayals he never saw coming.

Sonya Turner had been passed over for a promotion that by all accounts should have been hers. The promotion was the final step in her plan to becoming partner. The only thing lacking from her repertoire was she lacked that vital piece of male anatomy that would have gained her instant access to the good ole boys club, and there was no way she would be doing anything to change that--if that was even possible these days. So when her sister by choice, Roxy, asked for her assistance in helping her fiance's best friend get his newly inherited ranch sorted out, she'd turned in her resignation without a second thought. The sight that greeted her upon arrival, however, gave her pause for thought. A drunken cowboy passed out on the front porch was not what she'd been expecting. Not one to suffer fools gladly, she grabs a pitcher full of water and gives him the wake up call he so dearly needed.

While you can't always get what you want, Austin's about to get exactly what he needs...
This is the second book of the Wild Rose Ranch series and while you could possibly get away with reading this one as a standalone novel, I don't recommend it. The series is based on a group of four women--Roxy, Sonya, Adria, and Julia--who became a makeshift family due to their similar circumstances--they were all the children of women who worked at a high end brothel just outside of Las Vegas called the Wild Rose Ranch. Over the years they all endured endless scorn, ridicule, and torment due to their mothers' chosen profession. They're all around the same age, and it's their shared situation which made them all stick together and become the tight knit family they are today. Roxy, however, is the glue that binds them. Her story, Dirty Little Secret, is where we're first introduced to these Wild Rose riders, the name the four chose for themselves as they competed in rodeos.

The beginning of this book does not start off painting a picture full of double rainbows and unicorns. If anything, it paints a one the exact opposite--a harsh world filled with cruelty, unfairness, and a smattering of crudeness. Austin, when we're first introduced to him in this book, is not portrayed as a knight in shining armor or the dashing prince charming type. He's in a bad place and he's bitter, mad, and confused by the betrayals he's been dealt. As we start to gain a handle on the situation and come to understand how Austin managed to fall so far so fast, we begin to see more than just a spark of redeemable qualities. He is, as we all are, more than what he appears during his darkest moments.

Sonya is a no-nonsense, smart as a whip, beautiful young women who has hopes and dreams just like the next girl. While you'd think with all the lemons life has handed her she'd be a very cynical individual, she's mainly just a very guarded and cautious person about who she lets into her life. While her first impression of Austin isn't very high, as she works beside him and becomes acquainted with him, and he with her, she gets to know him in a way she wouldn't have otherwise. A mutual respect forms between them which quickly transforms into something more as they give in to their mutual attraction.

Sonya is a shrewd business woman and a forensic accountant by trade. She's been trained to find money, property, or whatever else people are trying to hide within the numbers, and she's very good at what she does. She's seen a lot over the years and has never been accused of wearing rose colored glasses or of being naive, and she is rarely intimidated. Very little surprises her and she doesn't play games, doesn't take crap from anyone, and calls 'em like she sees them. She's exactly what Austin needs and he's exactly what she needs.

The song that kept playing in my head as I read this one was Julia Andrew's song 'Something Good'...

'Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good'

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. There were plenty of twists, turns, and heart wrenching moments. The story kept my attention, and maintained a good pace. I liked the dynamics of Austin and Sonya's relationship although it took me a while to warm up to Austin. I liked Sonya, however, from the moment she drenched Austin with water. She made me laugh and smile. We should all have a friend like her. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. 

Order of the Wild Rose Ranch series:

Monday, October 21, 2019

Total Bravery (True Heroes, #4) by Piper J. Drake

Title: Total Bravery (True Heroes Book 4)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Romantic Suspense/Contemporary Romance
Series: True Heroes (Book 4)
Format: Paperback; 304 pages
Publisher: Forever (April 24, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1538759535
ISBN-13: 978-1538759530
Author's website: http://piperjdrake.com/
Notes: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected by rating or review.

Raul Sa' is just starting a job with Search and Protect when he gets a call from his best friend's younger sister:

"There's someone--several people--chasing me."

Mali Siri and her research team were out doing field work when her PI, Principle Investigator, was approached by men in dark suits. At first no one was alarmed thinking they were probably just government officials checking up on their research. The heated conversation that ensued quickly suggested otherwise. When her PI sounded the alarm that the team should disperse, they did, scattering in different directions. Not knowing what happened to the rest of her team and being pursued herself, she tries to contact the one person she knows can help her, her sister. The only thing is the person who answers is not her sister. Apparently, her sister forwarded her calls. Mali will need the help of Raul and the Search and Protect team to get to the bottom of what happened to her team and, if they're still alive, rescue them.
This was the fourth book in the True Heroes series, and the first book of the series I've read. I didn't feel lost, so it can definitely be read as a standalone novel. The novel is fast paced and grabs your attention from the get go. It deals with some very heavy subject matter--human trafficking--and brings to light how close to home the horrific trade truly is. Even if you think it's only a third world country problem, it's not. Human trafficking is pretty much happening right in our own backyards.

Mali Siri is a strong, smart, resourceful, and quick thinking young woman who is trying to make a difference. Her work, and the work of her team, could do a world of difference in changing laws to help the victims of human trafficking from being victimized a second time by the laws that presently exist. Most of the women in the sex trade work out of fear for themselves or their loved ones, not because it's their profession of choice. This book just scratches the surface of human trafficking and the dangers associated with it. When Mari's team is taken, she acts without thinking knowing they were in over their heads. She calls the one person who has always managed to get her out of a jam, her sister.

Raul is a good man with a lot of emotional scars caused by guilt, shame, and self-reproach. In the past, his job made him do things that he's not proud of, but were necessary. He was the person they sent in to extract answers from people, and he was very good at it. Against his better judgment, he gives into the attraction that starts to stir between him and Mali knowing Arin, Mali's sister, will not be happy.

I loved how Raul was strong and vulnerable at the same time. He was afraid Mali wouldn't be able to come to terms with his past, but, in the end, he's the one who needed to come to term with it. I really wish the author would have delved into this a little deeper. It would have bumped this story from a really good story to a truly great one. 

The defining quote of the book which held multiple significance (even though Raul, ironically, didn't seem to realize it also applied to himself) was:

“Whether a person is good or bad can’t be identified by their job title. People aren’t that easy to categorize.”

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I loved the dynamics of the relationship, and how Raul let Mali take the lead. I liked how he did not try to shelter Mali or act like she was too fragile to assist in the extrication of her team. He made sure she was included in all the planning and implementation of the rescue attempt. I loved how these two were together. I do wish, however, that the author had delved a little deeper into Raul's past and let him come to terms with it. I believe it would have added another layer to this already wonderful story. Additionally, if Mali had been the one to help him do it, that would have been the icing on the cake for this tale. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. I definitely recommend this one. Now I need to figure out how to fit the rest of the series into my reading lineup.

Order of the True Heroes series:
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