Tutored by a Duke by Emma Lane

DUKE
Tutored by a Duke by Emma Lane
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (285 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

The handsome but incognito Richard Hawlester, Duke of Roderick, weary of toad-eating house guests, engages in a serious flirtation with young Elisabeth Barrows, who is primed for an exciting adventure. Mistaking the fat squire for the duke, she holds her secret relationship with a man known only as Richard, Nobel Rescuer, close to a tender heart while discovering love for the first time.

Elisabeth’s trust seems irrevocably lost when the duke’s actual identity is revealed. Realizing his mistake, Roderick begins an earnest, dangerous, and often hilarious campaign to convince her of his love. Elisabeth ponders whether true love can overcome the loss of trust between two people, even as danger presents in the guise of a vile, undesirable suitor, while a wicked assassin makes an attempt on the life of the duke. Trust broken can never be regained, or can it?

Love without trust makes the heart cry.

The joy of life seen in Elisabeth Barrows at the beginning of the story brings a smile. She bubbles with mischief and adventure.

Two years later she is far more circumspect. She vows never again will she be taken in by a smiling stranger. But her heart still loves her Richard. However, her Richard isn’t just Richard. He is the Duke of Roderick, and he did not tell her who he was or that he was leaving. He just left.

Wiser and supportive of her proper sister Sophia, who also had her heart crushed at the same house party two years ago, Elisabeth goes by the rules.

They, like most of the rest of the elite in the Regency Age, work hard to entertain themselves, to maintain their standing in a gossipy society, preen, and position themselves in the best place possible to acquire a suitable mate – hard, tedious work at times.

The Duke of Roderick and Captain Mark Estermire return home after a two year stint of doing government business for the reigning regent. They find the two women who haunted their dreams for the last two years are busy with their friends doing the socially proper activities: Almacks, riding in the park to see and be seen, attending the proper social affairs, and offering only cool politeness to them.

They need strategy, much like a battle plan, to get back into the good graces of the ladies they love. Mark has better luck than the Duke does. Elisabeth can’t bring herself to forgive “The Duke.” She longs for her Richard. The conflicts abound plus a villain enters the fray in the person of Viscount Teasdale.

I enjoyed the story, though it is predictable and loses momentum at times with the same activities taking place. However, there are some truly humorous, entertaining incidents. I must admit, I’ve never read about betting on a caterpillar.

The many secondary characters are around. For the most part, they just help set the scene for important events that propel the main characters along to their goals.

Tutored by a Duke gives the reader a vicarious adventure into the Regency Age with lots of details about the uniqueness of that age being woven in.

Happy Ever After in Christmas by Debbie Mason

EVER
Happy Ever After in Christmas by Debbie Mason
Publisher: Forever – Hachette Book Group
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (333 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

It’s beginning to look a lot like love . . .

As her thirtieth birthday approaches, deputy Jill Flaherty decides it’s time to live a little. When she walks into Sawyer Anderson’s bar in her sexiest dress, she’s not thinking that he’s her brother’s best friend or about the many women he dated during his years as a pro hockey player. All she’s thinking is that it’s finally time to confess to her longtime crush how she truly feels.

Sawyer is done being a player on and off the ice. Yet no one in the small town of Christmas seems to believe he’s ready to settle down, not Jill, and certainly not Jack, who is determined to keep Sawyer from breaking his little sister’s heart. But as Sawyer and Jill’s relationship heats up, can he prove that he’s her happy ever after?

Looking for a heartwarming romance? A story that engages all your senses and makes you feel like you are there? A love story about a man who can’t resist the attraction of his best friend’s ‘not so baby’ baby sister’? A heroine who is strong in many ways but vulnerable when it comes to her heart? All this and more is in store for readers in the wonderful novel that is Happy Ever After in Christmas.

Jill is a sheriff’s deputy and she’s quite good at her job. A reader learns just how good she is during one of the books exciting plot climaxes. Before that though, readers are treated to a woman with hopes, dreams, insecurities and an untapped passion. The only person that comes close to breaching her heart’s protections is the hero, Sawyer. He’s an addiction she just can’t resist. I give her credit, she surely gives it the ol’ college try.

Sawyer has some huge hurdles to overcome to reach his happy ever after with the woman he comes to love, Jill. Some will tug on a reader’s heartstrings to the point that putting the book down isn’t an option. There is so much emotion being tapped that it’s hard for guy to know what to do. Thing is, Sawyer shows his love in a hundred different ways, he’s creative, dogged and earnest. When he wants something, he goes after it. But what happens when what he does isn’t working? Poor guy is put through the wringer, not the least of which is being the target of an angry villain.

Secondary characters abound to help the two lovebirds find their way. I guess this book is the culmination of a series but I never read the others, and yet, I never felt lost or that I was missing out on key elements. This novel is about Jill and Sawyer; the things that draw them apart and the things that bring them together, the joys of dating and the pain of parting and loss. It’s the sweet and simple way they come together again that embodies the best of what romance has to offer readers. Falling in love makes more than two people happy, it brings joy to all who love them as well. Happy Ever After in Christmas is a true delight of the heart. There’s so many things that I can share in this review but my words can’t do them justice.

The chemistry between Jill and Sawyer is very sensual and passionate. The spice is gentle yet powerful and very well written.

Happy Ever After in Christmas is a story not to be missed. Fans of the series should be plenty pleased if this final book is any indication of the stories before. New readers will find so much to like, it wouldn’t surprise me if they checked out Ms. Mason’s back list just to meet some of the other characters who helped on Jill and Sawyer in this novel. This is a wonderful read and an easy recommend.

The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams

WOMAN
The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Two decades after the Civil War, Josephine Marcus, the teenage daughter of Jewish immigrants, is lured west with the promise of marriage to Johnny Behan, one of Arizona’s famous lawmen. She leaves her San Francisco home to join Behan in Tombstone, Arizona, a magnet for miners (and outlaws) attracted by the silver boom. Though united by the glint of metal, Tombstone is plagued by divided loyalties: between Confederates and Unionists, Lincoln Republicans and Democrats.

But when the silver-tongued Behan proves unreliable, it is legendary frontiersman Wyatt Earp who emerges as Josephine’s match. As the couple’s romance sparks, Behan’s jealousy ignites a rivalry destined for the history books…

At once an epic account of an improbable romance and a retelling of an iconic American tale, The Last Woman Standing recalls the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral through the eyes of a spunky heroine who sought her happy ending in a lawless outpost—with a fierce will and an unflagging spirit.

Wyatt Earp is a western legend. He was a man of strength both in spirit and in body. He tried to maintain the law in Tombstone and the OK Corral gun battle is a historical site. This is the story of his woman. She’s so very different from him and his lifestyle it’s amazing that they fell in love.

The author does a very nice job of mixing history and fiction. She remains true to the facts but gives them life by creating her story. She shows that both Josephine and Wyatt had the determination and desire to be together despite the odds. You can feel their characters as you read this story.

Josephine was Jewish and from San Francisco. She moves to Tombstone to marry Johnny Behan, a man she’s met and has decided she loves. She was quite naïve when she arrived but she learned quickly. Behan wasn’t all that anxious to get married and she refuses to become his mistress. As time goes on, she ends up bedding him but she still isn’t getting married. Then she comes home with his son and finds him in her bed with another woman. That’s the end of that relationship for her.

How Josephine and Wyatt get together, how Behan tries to get even for her leaving him, and the gunfights at that time make interesting reading. There’s plenty of action, her words flow well, and all you can do is hope things will work well.

My favorite part is the dynamics between Josephine and Wyatt. Both of them had other partners before they found each other but the dance between the two with the best prize being their love is what makes this book good.

Pictures and Memories by Lauren E Mitchell

MEMORIES
Pictures and Memories by Lauren E Mitchell
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT
Length: Short Story (43 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Tim is finally enjoying his gap year at the age of thirty-three, starting out in Asia with plans to go from there to Europe. But his itinerary didn’t account for Jaye, fresh out of high school and on his own gap year. Jaye turns Tim’s visit to New Delhi into something he never expected, something he must all too soon leave behind.

Tim is finally travelling. It’s taken him a number of years to save for it, but he’s thrilled when he finally has enough to make it worthwhile. At thirty-three he’s a bit old to be calling it his gap year, but that’s actually what it is for him. He’s in New Delhi when the Festival of Colours begins, and he meets Jaye when a handful of purple is thrown in his face. Jaye is eighteen and also on his gap year. And together they’re going to have a great adventure.

This is a fun and quick read. I enjoyed reading about the Festival of Colours and enjoyed both Jaye and Tim, but also Jaye’s two Indian friends. Seeing everything new through Tim’s point of view was a great way for the author to be descriptive without information-dumping too badly. I enjoyed learning bits and pieces of Indian culture, but a large portion of the middle of the book was steamily filled up with Tim and Jaye having sex and enjoying one another. I found the sex to be hot and descriptive, but very romantic and emotional as well. Personally, I didn’t find anything the least offensive or extreme and would think that most modern romance readers won’t find anything too outrageous with this M/M romance.

I found the ending a little unrealistic – but it was so happy and so romantic and deeply satisfying I was quite happy to disengage my brain, ignore logic and just enjoy it. Readers who hate cliché’s or stories where Fate steps in and magically fixes everything might be disappointed, but readers who can just relax and enjoy the happy ending should find this satisfying. Tim and Jaye so clearly love each other – even with their age difference – that it was a pleasure to read about them coming together and starting a lovely, sensual relationship.

A fun book with interesting cultural tidbits and a good bit of traveling fun. This is a steamy M/M that I really enjoyed.

The Accidental Cowboy by Heidi Hormel

COWBOY
The Accidental Cowboy by Heidi Hormel
Publisher: Harlequin American Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (158 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

When former bronc rider Lavonda Leigh is asked to guide a Scottish archaeologist through the Arizona desert, she’s expecting a fussy egghead. But then she discovers tall, strong Jones Kincaid competing at the local Highland games. She can’t help her interest in him—and that’s before he puts on his cowboy hat and hits the trail like a pro.

Jones is after more than he’s letting on. His quest could clear a past scandal and let him live his dream—studying the old West. But as he spends time with Lavonda in this rugged landscape, he realizes that what he wants isn’t just academic—he yearns for a life with her on the ranch. If she discovers his deception, this professor-turned-cowboy will lose his reputation…and Lavonda, too.

This is a really sweet romance story that is character driven and whose cast includes an opinionated cat and a donkey who thinks the cat is his BFF.

The Accidental Cowboy has plenty of adorable, charming and special moments sprinkled throughout. The romance that grows between Lavonda and Jones occurs in spits and spurts. There are mistaken assumptions, untruths or partial truths and marriage proposals for all the wrong reasons that create conflicts between them. Most are rectified and the main characters make up, and then there are the ones that cause some serious emotional plot twists that make a reader wonder if they’ll ever be honest with each other and come clean on all levels.

The one thing that annoyed me was Lavonda forcing Jones to admit what he was really doing. I simply could not understand the complete disregard for the possibility that Jones might be onto something. I didn’t like how the revelation was handled, how the university responded or how the people involved acted. Then, Lavonda finally lets her starch out, regrets her prudish demands and does an about face to then support Jones. All this at a time when his departure and lack of funding have finally become a reality does she finally decide to make the fateful journey to see what there was to see. I suppose better late than never, but this was the only area in the entire book where I did not think Lavonda a good heroine. I thought she was a ninny.

If not for that implausible conflict, the book is a good read. I thought the man/woman differences, the Scottish and the American differences, were well done, entertaining and put to good use. I’m a sucker for a rolling Scottish accent and Lavonda is no different except she actually gets her own Scotsman to romance her and I thought she was one heck of a lucky lady.

I’d classify this novel as a gentle romance with some light spicy loving to illustrate that both Lavonda and Jones are highly compatible. There are even some moments of effective self-sacrifice which showcases that they are worthy of the titles hero and heroine. The Accidental Cowboy ends with a confusing (because Lavonda comes from a loving but zany sounding family) but effective and humorous happy ever after that made the whole journey worth it. If you have time for a sweet read, then this is a good book to choose.

Sweet Texas Charm by Robyn Neeley

CHARM
Sweet Texas Charm by Robyn Neeley
Sweet Texas Secrets, Book 3
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (138 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Small town. Big secrets. Welcome to Sweet Ridge.

Grayson Cooper is livid when he learns his father left him a keychain with a strawberry charm rather than ownership of the successful Guac Olé company. He’s been groomed for this position since he escaped the factory floor as a teen and joined Jack in the corporate offices. But what good is the CEO title without the stock shares?

College dropout Becca Nash is dumbfounded to learn that she now owns fifty percent voting stock in the company where she’s just a line supervisor. The pay bump will help her take care of her mother’s nursing home care, but the corporate halls intimidate her—and who wants to hobnob with those snobs anyhow?
Stymied at every turn by her attitude, Grayson goes undercover boss to find out how he can steal back those shares, but surprisingly loses his heart to Becca instead. What he does discover is a secret that could blow apart not only Becca’s world but his whole family. With so much hanging in the balance, Grayson must decide whether it’s better to follow his head or his heart.

Robyn Neeley creates a tension that sweeps the reader into the conflict immediately in Sweet Texas Charm, the last book of the trilogy Sweet Texas Secrets. This book rounds out the Cooper men’s story beautifully. While it is part of the trilogy, it can be enjoyed as a standalone book.

Grayson Cooper has no intentions of falling into the same predicament (in his estimation) as his brothers. He is CEO of the family business, Guac Olé. He is furious about his father leaving fifty percent of the company stock to Becca Nash, a line supervisor in the guacamole factory. He set in to buy, beg, or whatever to regain the company shares that he feels are rightfully his. His actions set him on a collision course with Becca who is efficient and fair, with unquestionable integrity. However, she does have a hot temper when pushed too far.

The secondary characters, extremely important to the unfolding of the story, come alive with the author’s smooth, flowing writing style. She weaves details in so subtly the reader gets an abundance of information while the plot unfolds at an attention-keeping pace. An undercurrent of emotions bubbles throughout the story—emotions that come to a boil from time to time, in more than one way.

The author’s use of foreshadowing, symbolism, play on words, and subtle humor adds more depth and pleasure to the story.

When the tapestry of the trilogy is complete, the intertwined stories reveal a romantic history of two generations of Cooper men.

Dark Season by Joanna Lowell

DARK
Dark Season by Joanna Lowell

Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (189 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Haunted by her Future.

Tainted. Degraded. Doomed. Doctors told Ella Arlington that her epilepsy would prevent her from living a normal life. When her cousin tries to put her in an institution, she flees to London, determined to control her own destiny. But while at a séance, Ella’s epileptic fit is mistaken for spiritual possession. Loath to reveal her scandalous condition, she goes along with the misperception, and soon finds herself attracting the attention of a devilishly handsome viscount determined to keep the past buried.

Tortured by his Past Viscount Isidore Blackwood’s fiancée died with secrets he’s vowed to keep, but nothing could have prepared him for the arrival of a mysterious woman who’s rumored to have contacted her ghost. He doesn’t believe for a moment that Ella possesses supernatural powers. Her presence, however, shakes him to his core and when he accuses Ella of being a con artist, sparks unexpectedly ignite between them.

When some surprising truths come to light about Phillipa’s death, Isidore concocts a plan to stage a spectacle of a séance for the ton with Ella’s help. Their devil’s pact might just flush out a killer, but will Isidore let his fury and guilt consume his own soul in the process? And can Ella trust him enough to gamble on a future she never thought she could have?

Dark secrets and dark emotions!

Dark Season begins in an eerie, scary, dark place with flickering candles, sickly, sweet smells, and haunting music—an atmosphere for a “Spiriting-rapping.” This setting stirs up a tumult in Ella’s brain that brings on one of her epileptic seizures.

She regains consciousness in the gentle care of Mrs. Trombly, who believes the spirit of her dead daughter Phillipa is trying to speak through Ella.  Ella tells everyone she is Eleanor Reed. She wants no word to get back to her despicable cousin Alford where she is.

When Isidore Blackwood, the man who was affianced to Phillipa, hears of Ella, he is determined she will not take advantage of the sweet, grieving Mrs. Trombly that he loves like a mother.

The conflicts and undercurrent of dark secrets tug the reader into a tangled web that keeps one turning pages. What a mess these people have made!

Isidore, Viscount Blackwood, surely doesn’t come across as “hero” material when the reader first meets him. He did indeed have a tough row to hoe to wiggle his way into this reader’s good graces. However, what he overcomes and how he overcomes it makes for tension-filled, stay-up-late reading. His struggles give him a depth of understanding that eventually make him ideal for Ella who struggles to make a life for herself without family support while all the while coping with her little-understood epilepsy.

Joanne Lowell named the novel well. The title foreshadows the dark, dreadful issues that plague not only Ella and Isidore, but also many of the secondary characters, especially Clements, Isidore’s longtime friend and Daphne Bennington, who had been Phillipa’s best friend.

This author does a wonderful job of creating a sense of place as she lets the reader feel the distressing emotional undercurrent tied to the death of Phillipa and immerses the reader into the doings of the characters.

Isidore has to dig deep to redeem himself, but he does. Moreover, he affirms Ella and lets her know, without a doubt, she is worthy. He is a true “hero.” Dark Season has a unique, special happy-ever-after.

GOOD READING!

Pretend You’re Mine by Lucy Score

MINE
Pretend You’re Mine by Lucy Score
A Small Town Love Story
Publisher: Pub Yourself Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (451 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

I only wanted to protect you…

Luke Garrison is a hometown hero, a member of the National Guard ready to deploy again. Strong, sweet, and sexy, he doesn’t have a girlfriend and doesn’t want one. When the wildly beautiful Harper stumbles into his life, though, he realizes that she’s the perfect decoy. A fake girlfriend to keep his family off his back until he’s out on another mission.

So what if a single bite of her lip sends his mind to wicked places? He can control himself. Can’t he?

Harper was on her way to starting a new life… again. But something about Luke makes her want to settle down in this small town and make Luke’s house a home. When his arms wrap around her like steel, she finally knows what it’s like to feel safe. Protected.

One night of sleeping in the same bed turns into something much, much more… and soon Luke can’t keep his mind off Harper’s wide gray eyes, or his hands off of her luscious curves. He never thought he’d feel this way about a woman again. But he knows that he can’t tell her the truth about his dark past, and she can’t reveal to him what she’s running from.

Anyway, this isn’t a real relationship. It’s only for a month. Only pretend. Until it isn’t…

He needs a temporary girlfriend and she needs a temporary place to stay. What they both get is so much more.

I love a good small town romance when I get to meet and feel like I’m part of the community along with the characters. Ms. Score did a good job of expanding the story beyond the lives of Luke and Harper. It was a nice start to what I hope becomes at least a trilogy since I NEED to see both Linc and James’ stories. Linc may be Luke’s nemesis but he’s a hot fireman who never really does anything bad in this story and therefore he needs his own HEA.

Speaking of Luke, bless him, the tragic back story that slowly unfolds broke my heart. He has a real personal issue with not having control over situations and his own emotions and I think it took a free spirit like Harper to show him that it’s okay to not always be in control. Life is going to happen one day at time, full of surprises good and bad, regardless of how we try to control the outcomes. I liked that the author didn’t minimize his past and how she brought pieces of the past and present together to heal both Luke and others involved.

I like Harper a lot. Like Luke, she had a not great history but her outlook, and her decision to not let it rule her life made her a stronger person than she first appears. Luke thinks she’s flighty and needs a keeper but Harper proves that push come to shove, she might get knocked down but that doesn’t mean she’s out. She mourns temporarily for what was and she keeps moving. In the end, she teaches Luke how to live again, love again, and accept being loved. Along the way she builds the life she always dreamed of and finds the family she never had. There’s two different foster care elements to this story that totally won me over for the realistic way they were handled.

I’ve seen some reviews that hated Luke’s grand gesture towards the end saying that it made Harper look like a weak damsel. I disagree. What Luke did was as much for himself as it was for Harper. It was his first step towards the future he finally realized he could have if he could reconcile the past. He was pretty harsh when he pushed Harper away but I chalk that up to being scared because he didn’t think he deserved to be happy. If I had one crit about the story it was how vocally as well as internally adamant he was that he could never and would never love again. It was practically a mantra by the end of the book and I was like “okay, I get it, you’re scared” because that was honestly the bottom line.

While Luke’s words say no, his actions towards Harper say yes loud and clear. Their sexual chemistry, once he stops fighting it, was on an explosive level! I had to laugh at one review that complained that they don’t even have sex until about a third of the way in. That’s good, the author wisely used that time to build up the tension. They tease each other with looks, words and touches. When Luke goes all caveman on her after seeing her in Linc’s arms, I cheered because I knew, there was no way he could hold out now. It was awesome!

I did something with this story that I rarely do. When I finished reading it, I started reading it again. I loved this story that much. I truly hope Ms. Score decides to expand this book into a series, even a short one so I can revisit with Harper and Luke but mainly so I can see how Linc and James find love in Benevolence. Ms. Score has another small town series that’s calling my name and if it’s as good as Pretend You’re Mine, I know I’ll be hooked. This book is for readers who love a hot romance with a dash of intrigue.

The Other Side: Trent’s Story by Starr Gardinier

OTHER
The Other Side: Trent’s Story by Starr Gardinier
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (322 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Melinda James is finally out of Skyview Haven—an asylum where she was confined for years—and is living her life, free at last. However, things are not going as planned; harassed by unexplained paranormal experiences, she doesn’t feel safe in her own home. And when she turns to her best friend Trent for help and support, she is surprised to find her feelings for him have grown far beyond a simple friendship.

Trent Miller isn’t prepared to fight evil, but he will do whatever it takes to save Melinda from an evil entity that is seeking revenge for past events. Armed with knowledge gleaned from television shows, a team of paranormal investigators, and the prayers of family and friends, he is ready to face anything.

The question is, does he tell her about his feelings for her before or after he fights a battle with evil for Melinda’s very soul?

Love is Strong.

Nothing worth having is ever easy. This story shows that love can be strong and worth all of the bad we go through to find it.

Melinda has been out of the asylum, where she has been wrongfully admitted, for two years. She has her own house, a roommate and goes to university for her classes. However, her new life with Trent, who may or may not be the love of her life, comes with a couple of hiccups.

Trent and Melinda start experiencing events and accidents that are not only improbable but down right paranormal. They know that what they are experiencing is a paranormal event, they are being haunted or the house is haunted. When Melinda disappears, Trent knows that he has to get her back from where ever she is and he will do anything to bring her back alive.

Trent and Melinda are first shown as just friends. I just think it would have been nice to read about how they become friends and then how Trent fell in love with Melinda. This book did show their attraction towards each other and their concern or love for each other with a couple of almost kisses and a whole lot of heat between each other, perfect for readers who aren’t interested in being in the bedroom with the main characters.

The Other Side is a ghost story. The first half of the book was pure ghost story and slowly the story starts evolving and the other elements of the plot began to appear. Then it starts becoming more fantasy than ghost story. I think what surprised me was how much of fantasy elements I saw in this books because it is not what I expected.

My expectation was of a typical paranormal. The main characters are being haunted, threatened by unseen forces who want their death for some reason and they find a way to eventually save themselves. This book showed the other side to the haunting that I don’t normally get to experience in a book. I liked it. It was different. Readers who enjoy a good paranormal experience but want something new should give this one a try.

Sweet Texas Fire by Nicole Flocton

FIRE
Sweet Texas Fire by Nicole Flocton
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (128 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Small town. Big secrets. Welcome to Sweet Ridge.

Gage Cooper has always wanted the family cabin. Not only for the oil on the property, but as a way to prove to his father that Gage’s past doesn’t define his future. When his dad wills the land to stranger Charlotte Wilkinson and all Gage gets is a mysterious key, he’s determined to do anything to get his rightful inheritance back.

Charlotte Wilkinson never expected to inherit a piece of property in Sweet Ridge, Texas—the Aussie businesswoman is focused on building an environmental analyst career here in the States. But the moment arrogant oil-man Gage Cooper walks into her office accusing her of seducing his father, all plans for selling the property to him fly out the window.

Then fate threatens to send her back to Australia and the dueling duo are forced to accept a fake marriage to keep their dreams alive. But as they discover common ground and a surprising chemistry together, suddenly Gage must decide what’s worth more: the land he’s always coveted or a future with Charlotte.

The protagonists in Sweet Texas Fire, Gage Cooper, an oil man, and Charlotte Wilkinson, an environmentalist, strike sparks off each other that could start a Texas fire. They are both strong-willed and “dedicated-to-their-professions” people. In their professional dealings Charlotte is a “thorn-in-the-flesh” to Gage. It gets worse when they are thrown together by a coincidence that is a major premise running through the trilogy. This encounter sets off personal conflicts that add fuel to the fire of their professional conflicts.

The business deal they finally agree on sets things up to create a love story fraught with pitfalls.

Each of them has an agenda that does not blend well with the other one’s agenda. When love wiggles its way into the conflicting agendas, and their physical attraction to each other is acted upon, the emotional upheaval makes page-turning reading.

The twist that comes, when a box is found in the attic, intrigues.

The story unfolds in a predictable progression, making it an easy, relaxing read. It kept me well entertained on an evening when I needed a respite from the real world. Since I was born and raised in Midland County and have ties to the oil business and Houston, I found the author’s views about the environment and the people fun to read. The characters, both the primary ones and the secondary ones, depict a slice of life in Texas. Much of the profanity so overused used these days did not seem to fit the characters personalities. I was disappointed to see them.

Sweet Texas Fire has me all set to read the third book of this trilogy to see how Grayson, the middle son of the deceased Jack Cooper, copes with terms of his father’s will—terms that were not at all what he’d expected.