This hefty omnibus of western-flavored contemporary shorts has mixed degrees of romance, suspense and steamy sex. Having only read a different series from Beth Williamson there was no expectation or history. All outings were strong enough to stand alone and easy to follow, though a couple of previous relationships were obvious and averaged about 100 pages (GR’s page count is off by 200pgs)
Justice for Laine by Susan Stoker (Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes #4) Rating:4.25stars
Laine Parker takes her friend’s place to oversee cowboy Texas Ranger Westin ‘Wes’ King’s charity photo shoot. The older, virile and muscled rancher looked every inch a working cowboy as he flexed and sent Laine into overload. Just as things take off between them Laine has a bit of trouble. No rock in Texas is safe as Wes gets busy turning them over and picking up unlikely help along the way.
This new to me author embraced the sexy cowboy icon and personified it in Wes as the leads scorching chemistry blasted the page seconds before their semi-cute meet in this fast enough and very light read. This reader was smitten enough to get the other installments before I finished this one!
Justice Burning by Elle James (Hellfire Texas #2) Rating: 3.5stars
Phoebe Sinclair realized she wouldn’t believe a woman in a wedding dress saying her groom left her at the altar so she ran from the church in his car and found him dead in the trunk 100 miles later. Bored and delicious rancher deputy Nash Grayson perks up when he stops to help Phoebe with her car troubles and she fumbles for reasons not to have the car towed.
Hellfire proves to be friendly and welcoming for Phoebe and she quickly begins to settle in with Nash’s help. But before she can get too comfortable, several suspicious characters arrive and kick Nash’s protective instincts into high gear and Phoebe can no longer hide the truth from him. This outing had great elements but by this time this reader was invested enough to care it was done.
Laying Down the Law by Becky McGraw (Cowboy Way #4) Rating: 3.5stars
When Sheriff Brock Cooper stopped Dr. Melanie Cooper for traffic violations, they both realized a few things. He realized she was no longer the funny looking teenager he and his friends taunted. She realized a dozen years hadn’t lessened the pain of being mocked relentlessly and as soon as she settled her mother and her aunt. Then she noticed his sickly looking son.
For my taste this outing felt rushed overall. The mystery piece worked well enough but the romance felt awkward for the most part as both characters were distracted, her with the difference a dozen years make and him with his current obligations. Brock’s ex seemed unnecessarily heavily weighted with negativity for compare and contrast in their triangle.
Texas Justice by Cynthia D’Alba (Texas Justice: Texas Mavericks: Ranger Lake) Rating:4.5stars
Dr. Tess Sweeney and Sheriff Kyle Monroe’s blooming romance is interrupted when Tess’ ex-lover the widely reviled DA brought baggage from their bitter breakup and hone in on Tess when his son dies during surgery after a traffic incident. Tess tries to break things off with Kyle so his personal life and career won’t be tainted by the vindictive fallout, but Kyle’s having none of it.
For my taste, the strong emotional characters started this fast paced outing claiming immediate investment in themselves and this outing. The antagonism between the characters and their personal quirks made the more interesting and a ratcheted this reader’s desire to know more about them as the plot thickened but the too neat rushed ending chipped a bit of satisfaction away.
Texas Lonestar by Sable Hunter (Texas Heroes #4) Rating: 4.5stars
Rancher Lennon Starr has always worked through her problems, even the humiliation of high school. Now there’ve been incidents of vandalism and rustling and her mean-spirited high school crush is now the town sheriff. He won’t listen to her complaints and definitely won’t help. Lenny calls for help from an old friend and gets a Texas Ranger, specifically Dallas McClain.
Dallas made the most of his star turn and came off as a shining hero and kudos to Lennon not being a hand-wringing damsel in distress. For my taste, the pacing of their romance worked excellently against the not really a mystery of Lennon’s troubles. Also while an enjoyable journey with this very likable couple, this reader would have appreciated a quicker pace in some places.
Cain’s Law by Delilah Devlin (Cowboy’s on the Edge #3) Rating: 3.5stars
Cain Whitfield is suspicious of women in particular after his wife humiliated him on her way out of their marriage, much to the enjoyment of the town but he’s especially suspicious of new to town Carina Black. Cain’s not sure the newcomer isn’t responsible for the arson at the cabin she was renting until they’re chased. All Carina can say is ‘sorry, my mobster ex-boyfriend didn’t want me to leave.’
Keeping Carina safe quickly becomes a priority for more than professional reasons as things heat up quickly between the leads. This sexy short started fast paced and complex but stalled and got lost in the insta-lust.
Cowboy Lawe by Donna Michaels (Dangerous Curves #4) Rating:4.5stars
Rancher, ex-Navy Seal and Knight agent Callahan ‘Rook’ Lawe agrees to protect mob hit witness, schoolteacher Tarah Swanson. But things aren’t that simple, she’s actually Tarah Lynch, a Knight agent assigned to protect the Callahan brothers and investigate who targeted them and why. When Tarah and Rook lock eyes they protect each other and not because their boss said so.
This outing started at a fast pace and took twists and turns without slowing as the lines separating personal and professional smudged between Rook and Tarah as more violence was directed at the brothers with few clues and plenty of suspects. For this reader’s taste the only disappointment of this outing was the small serving of a great read.
Cowboy’s Best Shot by Lexi Post (Poker Flat #3) Rating:3.5stars
Easily the most erotic outing of the bunch has ex-military officer turned nudist resort security officer Hunter McKade broods over sexually free, former prostitute turned bartender Adriana Perez when he isn’t flashbacking to his time in Afghanistan. She interests and intrigues him as no one else and he can’t stop stalking her even when her downtime is recreating her old life with the guests.
But someone else is stalking her too and they’re taking it so far as to endanger the resorts guests. When Adriana’s forced to take time off for everyone’s safety, Hunter’s on hand to offer safe haven. For this reader the outing wasn’t as much fun as it should have been because I didn’t connect with the characters in this slow to start read. Unless it was closet prudishness.
Protect and Serve by Sabrina York (Stripped Down #3) Rating: 4stars
On the way to a wedding Claire Silver can’t stop thinking her biological clock kicks like a metronome except much louder and she has yet to find the right man for her. She so wrapped in her thoughts she gets stopped for speeding. The officer that stops her is Charlie Dunham, an annoyance from her teens. Now he’s back in Snake Gully, now he defines hot and now they aren’t kids.
Running into each other and getting reacquainted is easy for Claire and Charlie but not so easy on those around them. Claire’s brothers and her sometime boyfriend don’t like the closeness they’re seeing one bit. This light romance with definitely steamy adult scenes worked well and the leads had good chemistry.
Badge and Saddle by Randy Alexander (Heroes in the Saddle #2) Rating: 4.5stars
Vegetarian astronomer, Dr. Mina Cooper’s disappearance from a turkey hunt baffles Detective Rex Tarrow for so many reasons. He’s also puzzled when a poorly disguised Mina shows up at his house with an intriguing but incomplete tale of conspiracy and murder. Chief among the questions and thoughts swirling in Rex’s head is to get and keep the gorgeous redhead alive and safe.
Definitely not a damsel in distress Mina did her bit for keeping herself safe and Rex’s cowboy was not a slouch as their romance built relatively slowly. Not only were the leads fully fleshed, the nicely drawn supporting characters made enough of an impression for this reader to purchase the rest of the series immediately.
Blind Sided by Lindsay McKenna (Delos #4.5) Rating: 4stars
One of former marine Cade Patterson’s most treasured memories is when young wealthy Kara Knight hugged him after his father died. Though Kara was nothing like her bigoted father, Cade knew Kara wasn’t for a man like him. Kara’s passion was for the town’s underprivileged Latino children and much to her father’s chagrin, Kara organized and operated a school for them.
Though each secretly hoped for a chance meeting since Cade had become a deputy, neither wanted it to be because Cara had been attacked and beaten at her school. It’s now Cade’s job to get to the bottom of whatever this is, keep Kara safe and protect his heart in this well written and suspenseful short.
Lazarus by Beth Williamson (Circle Eight Millennium #1) Rating:
Childhood nemesis, secret crush and ranger Lazarus ‘Laz’ Graham was the topping on theft victim Beatrice ‘Bea’ Cartwright’s horrible day. After discussing the awkwardness of childhood cruelty and pranks, Bea offers on accompanying Laz as he goes through his investigation. An offer Laz flatly refused so Bea made her case. With brief persuasion an offer Laz had his own reasons for accepting.
Laz and Bea’s growth arcs are easily seen as they get reacquainted and work together to resolve the countywide smash and grab crime spree while the reader had time to invest in both characters. The family, romance and sex pieces are equally satisfying and underscore the leads as a working couple surrounded by well drawn characters and nicely done world building keep the quick pace.
Overall Rating: 4.5stars
It wasn’t easy for Roxie McAlister to leave her ex and convince him it was O-V-E-R but she did it! Maybe the boyfriend couldn’t spell, or had thought process issues since he thought Roxie couldn’t leave him and ultimately ruffled feathers and made the horrendous mistake of bringing his shortcomings to the attention of the “This is my woman/She doesn’t take your crap” Nightingale boys & company.
With said boyfriend’s attempts to force Roxie to choose him, Hank Nightingale had a perfect platform of tension and palpable danger in this tightly wrapped read with a dash of real fear and gave the boys more room to strut their stuff. I absolutely loved the chemistry and cute nicknames between Hank and Roxie and thought they fit so well I wanted to make a new nickname for my sweet.
The pages flew quickly as my pleas for more was answered. This read had more in-depth Nightingale Investigations, more insight to the secondary characters including Todd & Stevie, Tex and the Smithies crew. This fangirl’s gushing is tempered by this reader’s personal bias(es), 1)my total abhorrence of the free use of “Bitch” as a catchall for women and; 2) the I’m responsible for another’s actions trope.
Hank and Roxie’s path to Loveland was littered with plenty of humor , danger and more than a little bit of romance and was quite a WOW for this reader. They might be my favorite couple so far. Though the official fan term is Hot Bunch, I’d rather call these guys Big Handsome Freakin’ Heroes!
Re-read: November 2016 & August 2014 – Original read October 2012
Original rating: 5 Stars/Rating 4.5stars
Last Christmas all Olivia Reese wanted was what she had, HOT computer expert, Billy ‘The Kid’ Blake. But she gave him an ultimatum and answered it herself. A year later Liv is accidently brought into a scheme that can cost soldier’s lives and thinks Billy might be able to help prevent that. This enjoyable mind mint of a series has fast paced action, sexy alphas and enough story to keep it interesting, with no heavy lifting.