Losing the plantation as well as her family and worldly goods left Amelia Carson little reason to remain in Georgia with the deluge of carpetbaggers and scalawags. Plucking her courage Amelia accepted Dallas Leigh’s contract for a mail order bride and looked toward Texas for a new life with him. But a riding accident forced Dallas to send his younger brother Houston in his stead to meet Amelia.
Houston saw a careworn Amelia across the platform and thought how lucky his overbearing older brother was. Dallas didn’t carry visual reminders of the war and had a pretty wife in the godforsaken hindmost part of Texas. Gruff to the point of rudeness was all Houston could manage as he tamped his attraction to Amelia and annoyance at Dallas for not properly preparing her for the harsh life ahead.
During a time when getting to know someone meant spending time together or sending letters to stay in touch the healing journey to the ranch provided intimacy with shared discoveries, protecting and relying on each other as Amelia saw the tortured man beyond the physical scars Houston carried and wanted to share his dreams and his life as they realized their mutual attraction had become love.
***A complimentary copy of this read was furnished by Sourcebooks Casablanca through NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review***
When Houston Legend’s bride was killed at the altar before their vows, he wallowed in agony. As painful rumors and truths came to light, he wallowed in anger moving to adrift as his heart hardened. Unfortunate circumstances left Lara Boone, a damaged mother to a small daughter with no husband and no desire for a man in her life, wallowing in her own anguish.
Over late night cards and too many drinks, Stoker Legend loses half the family holdings to new neighbor Till Boone. The only negotiation Till will entertain is how soon Stoker can convince his son to marry Till’s daughter. An angry Houston’s obliged to do anything to secure his family’s legacy, even if it means marrying a woman he’s never met and claim her babe as his own.
Standing in front of a preacher with a tad of resentment for their fathers neither bride nor groom wanted to celebrate their somber, funeral-like wedding. Afterward, Houston realized the depth of Lara’s personal nightmare and vowed no force on earth would keep him from avenging his new bride or claiming his new daughter as he and Stoker greeted Lara as the new Legend matriarch.
Yuma, the well written villain of the piece was a threat on the page or looming in the distance. The remaining personable and distinct secondary characters supported the story and other characters well. Houston was quite the standout as the swoon-worthy hero women wanted and men wanted to be. Lara was no slouch displaying the type of clarity, grit and steel spine that built a nation.
The broken, damaged leads managed to fall in love as they traversed adventure, danger, deceit, heartbreak, shame and a madman’s revenge to find their way out of the dark to joyful new dreams and a new future as a family. This new to me author pandered to my innate penchant for stoic, protective heroes and weakness for cowboys. It’s a great rainy day read but a tad too intense for the beach.
It’s highly recommended Elemental Mysteries is read before digging into the back stories of fan favorite, Carwyn and new character Brigid. Though it brackets A Hidden Fire, what could be confusing here is thoroughly explained in the previous series.
After years of alternating abuse and neglect, Brigid Connor showed no surprise or alarm when big, shaggy earth vampire priest Carwyn ap Bryn’s came into her bedroom and saved her. Carwyn’s belief is one loves and protects family first and last every time and there was no question Brigid needed a better family. Carwyn helped her into one but knew he couldn’t help with what Brigid had to face next.
While 1000 year old Carwyn, lover of American wrestling, bad jokes and Hawaiian print shirts was a lonely and an intermittent fixture in her life, Brigid had the hard part of growing up and through emotional damage and rebellion as a very sheltered human in a vampire world as she ripened to be a full character to appreciate.
This reader had difficulty releasing Carwyn and Brigid’s combined past through changing times and situations (possibly affecting the rating). To this reader’s taste, the author can be counted on to ignore a casual, steamy, sex-riddled hookup in favor of a fumbling, bumbling old fashioned ROMANCE between fully fleshed characters. The intrinsic humor and wit of the characters ensure a fun read.
This collection of shorts contained new to me authors (Hieber and Taylor) and a series I’ve been enjoying (McDonald)
A Christmas Carroll by Leanna Renee Hieber (Strangely Beautiful 2.5) (3stars)
One holiday season at the Luminal in Victorian London, the spirits responsible for weaving memories through time and space are concerned that without a respite or spirit intercession, their headmistress and vicar could be lost forever to grief. For this reader’s taste, getting through the flowery, overwritten descriptive phrases given to Dicken’s, A Christmas Carol was hard work.
The Worth of a Sylph by L. J. McDonald (Sylph 2.5) (3.5stars)
Lily ‘The Widow’ Blackwell has caring for the valley orphans for years, at 82 she’s thinking it’s time to get her affairs in order. She advises Mace to shop for a new mistress. Meanwhile Jayden, Lily’s youngest charge, a very emotional teen runs away to a nearby town to try to rule the battle sylph by becoming a swordsman.
The Crystal Crib by Helen Scott Taylor(Magic Knot 3) (2.75stars)
Sonja goes to broker a deal in Iceland and inadvertently reignites the feud between her father and Vidar, a guardian angel. Unfortunately, this reader was adrift through most of this read and couldn’t get past the middle-ish feeling. It seemed to strongly depend on the reader’s familiarity with the series.
England’s beautiful Princess Gabrielle’s dowry of a sizable and lush border estate was a bone of contention for Lairds MacHugh and MacKenna and Barons Coswold and Percy on either side of the border. The barons hoped Gabrielle knew the lost location of St. Biel’s legendary gold cache, thwarting the barons King John gave Gabrielle to elderly Laird Monroe. The Lairds wanted a bride.
Traveling to her wedding, Gabrielle and her guard see rogues arguing the best way to kill a battered Liam MacHugh. As Liam’s clan and allies descend on the battlefield, Gabrielle sees Liam will lose his head before his men reach him. Gabrielle fires an arrow killing the rogue. As the battle erupts Gabrielle and her guard aren’t seen as they take Liam for medical help.
The groom is killed before the wedding can take place and the Baron’s believe it’s their opportunity to claim Gabrielle. When her secret visits to check on Liam’s health are discovered, she’s banished from England and branded a whore. Gabrielle’s cousin Brodick, Lord Buchanan convinces his friend Colm MacHugh to protect Gabrielle by marrying her. As they fall in love the mystery’s resolved.
For this reader’s taste this weak effort did not do justice to the series. There were too many people doing too many things at the same time and most of the things they were doing were confusing. Also bland characters overexcited over a mystery that wasn’t and a villain with hysterical cackle rather than a maniacal laugh made this outing an overall readable but unremarkable effort.
Almost as soon as the despicable commander Lord William Wentworth’s niece Lady Sarah Woodville set foot on future American soil in Albany than she’s kidnapped by Shawnee warrior, Katakwa. After five years Wentworth emptied his pocket of no fail McKinnon brothers when he assigned youngest brother Major Connor MacKinnon and his Indian blood brother Joseph to rescue her.
Before Katakwa forced Sarah into moccasins as they marched through the forest and hit her in the face for not responding quickly enough, Sarah’s greatest fear had been she’d have to either live in shame as a spinster or be forced into marriage with a man she couldn’t abide. Either way her family’s wealth and breeding would more hindrance than help. Now she knew fear for her life.
Sarah subtly left clues and trinkets for the warriors to find but was discovered. Connor and Joseph followed the clues until they were sure of the destination and rushed ahead to the village. Before Katakwa arrived with Sarah in tow, Joseph and Connor had been welcomed as friendly visitors as the pair related their mission.
Though the chief held no love for Connor, she held Joseph in great esteem but held off on a decision. Seeing Sarah adorned as a warrior bride, Connor re-iterated his pleas but was denied and only had two options left to him for Sarah. One was to challenge the war chief, Katakwa for Sarah’s hand in marriage or leave her to her fate as Katakwa’s bride. Connor chose to challenge him.
As premier villain in the tale, Wentworth went to new heights (or depths) in cruelty and evil-idity as he strove to keep the couple apart. The McKinnon brothers, their brides and the recurring characters all appeared for the bittersweet series farewell and this reader suspects some may be fond memories longer than others. This reader’s only regret is there wasn’t enough about Joseph for his own HEA.
Each fast paced installment of this exciting series was fraught with danger, suspense, drool-worthy heroes, despicable villains and heroines with backbone as it slanted toward English, French and Indian views in turn. Connor and Sarah were no exception as their bravery, ingenuity and strength were put to the test more often than not.
Mountain sized lycan lieutenant of the Wolf Creek Pack and local sheriff Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Dunham is delaying his claim and trying not to rush his still fragile intended mate, librarian Katalin ‘Kat’ Petrova. It’d taken 200 years to find her so he’d wait. Gabe’s burning the candle at both ends watching over Kat all night and ‘sheriffing’ all day,but not chasing the increasingly bold rogues kidnapping gifted lycans.
Rescued from kidnappers before they could rape her or her sister Sara, still learning to master her gift of telekinesis and the still fresh ache of her father murdering her mother and planning to sell her and Sara has robbed Kat of her ability to cope. Gabe’s frustration mounts as Kat agrees with the lycan therapist that she learn to cope alone before she mates Gabe despite their strong emotional bond.
After taking care of Kat in a crisis and not making her emotions or telekinesis unstable, Gabe suggested moving in to his place for comfort. Life with Gabe makes Kat happy, she thinking about life with Gabe and their consummation ceremony helps stabilize her power. The Wolf Creek pack goes on high alert when they hear an unmated, gifted female from a neighboring pack was kidnapped by the Hellfire pack.
Young Lady Gillian suffered a lot of loss in a short time. Her mother died giving birth to a son that died shortly after. Separated from her sister Christen as they fled to safety and seeing her father murdered by his friend Baron Alford over a jeweled box. Alford wanted the land and appointed himself her guardian. In shock, Gillian refused to speak, told she killed Christen then banished from her home.
Gillian had found refuge with her Uncle Morgan Chapman who raised her but was unable to find Christen. Alford continued to search for the box to no avail and summoned Gillian. In an escape attempt, when Gillian stopped to help young Alec Maitland from life-threatening danger by Alton’s men they were re-captured. As Alec chattered, Gillian realized the villains had unwittingly captured the wrong boy.
While drunk, Alford boasted about knowing Christen and the box’s locations. He threatened to kill Gillian’s Uncle Morgan if she didn’t return both of them to him. Ignoring Gillian’s presence the men continued to discuss their secret plan. This time Gillian and Alec escaped and located Alec’s protector, Brodick, Lord Buchanan in Scotland. Gillian immediately fell in love with the highlands and Brodick.
By the time they reached Alec’s home and related their adventure, Gillian not only had the devotion of Brodick and his men but Ramsey and Iain as well. An in love Brodick led the laird’s vows to both avenge her and assist in her quest. Gillian finds a friend in town beauty, Bridgid, besotted with Ramsey. When the women accidently discover the traitor, they’re in need of Brodick and Ramsey’s swords.
This enjoyable middle outing continued the tradition of highland lairds and their clans loving English beauties on a mission, charming them with wit and humor. Though the installment began slowly for my taste, the mystery of separated sisters, a royal artifact, traitors, strained truces between clans and countries plus the lure of two romances quickly gained and held this reader’s interest.
Each night Jack Malloy had debilitating and terrifying nightmares featuring his sister Nicky’s best friend, Rebecca Connor, no matter what since Nicky came home. He hoped helping his brother in law, Tyler, finish his and Nicky’s house additions quickly would take care of that problem. Meanwhile, Tyler had requested Rebecca visit Nicky and help with the baby and house decorations. She’d arrived.
Nicky asks Becky to help find out what’s bothering Jack. Becky reluctantly agrees because Jack rushes away whenever she comes near. Trouble in the family has Nicky and Tyler rushing to her parent’s home, leaving Jack and Becky at their small ranch with a teen-aged hand. Nature and the boy eliminate the awkwardness when Jack and Becky take turns needing nursing and the other takes on the duty.
The great familiar characters worked well for my taste but the too light, too convenient, too sweet storyline wrapped around an erotic tale wasn’t necessarily a favorite. While it flowed smoothly at a nice pace it was ultimately a read I liked but didn’t love.
Amalie Chauvenet was more terrified for her life and her father’s than ever and couldn’t just wait as the battle raged outside. Things seemed hopeless for the French with the deadly, legendary McKinnon Rangers militia against them and the British forces outnumbered their own. Helping at the hospital provided distraction until her father’s aide’s solemn face spoke o her as his body was brought in.
Exiled from Scotland and forced to serve the British in the French-Indian war, level headed, middle brother, Morgan McKinnon has inherited command of the Rangers. French spirits are raised with the heavy British losses during the battle and Morgan wounded and captured. They would be able to try him as a traitor before handing him over to their allies for more punishment and death.
It fell to Amalie to assist in Morgan’s care and she did it with a heavy heart knowing the fate awaiting him coupled with her grief. Amalie’s dutiful feelings graduated to tender and then to loving the more she looked at Morgan as man instead of an enigma. As he heals, Morgan sees Amalie as a woman he could want forever. Meanwhile Morgan’s family and his men believe him lost to them forever.
Amalie’s soft with a steel spine as expected from every word in the read. Morgan’s definitely the stuff dreams are made of, the epitome of the sexy, indestructible and steadfast hero against a backdrop of war is perfect for his story. Bourlamaque and Rillieux were wonderful characters as they made their views about the couple known.
A comparison to Surrender would be unfair. Fans of this engaging trilogy get a more or less even view of the conflict as the reads play to the very strong characters strengths and growth arcs as grudging respect is exchanged. The outing is solidly in this reader’s indescribably good bin.