Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Really Reluctant Dad -- or -- "An Unmistakable Rogue" by Annette Blair

Married and widowed in short order, Chastity Somers vows to claim her bridegroom's inheritance as the long-lost St. Yves, Earl of Barrington. But she must contend with Reed Gilbride, who also believes himself the missing St. Yves. The dangerously handsome military man has the power to derail all her dreams.

I know Father's Day was 10 days back, but this story captivated my interest and I wanted to share it with my visitors/folloapwers.  I haven't posted much for a while as we are getting ready to mozy down the road toward Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama and then back home during July.  But as I was reading this book, I couldn't help but think about Father's Day, my own dad, and what it must have been like to be growing up in a society where being a child was a dangerous thing.  

We read historical romances and see children who cosseted and spoiled, but Charles Dickens had it right when he painted the picture of children whose lives were seriously in danger from starvation, poverty, cold, and most of all, neglect and disinterest on the part of the greater society.  In this entertaining historical novel, set in the years just after the Battle of Waterloo, characters and relationships which were first introduced in this series' first book continue to make their appearance.  Reed Gilbride was a decorated officer in the war, but when he returned to England he was a man at loose ends--no family, no roots, and no knowledge of who he really was.  A  mysterious note causes him to begin his search for information that will prove that he is the heir of a long-dead earl.  But in his search he encounters a gutsy, sassy, and determined woman whose love for all things helpless has caused her to take charge of a whole cadre of children, apparently abandoned by people given responsibility for them by their desperate mother.  And the last thing Reed Gilbride needed in his life was a sassy woman loaded down with children. . . UGH!!

Yet the one thing Reed couldn't seem to avoid was the way his emotions resonated with these kids--he saw his own pain, he remembered his own drive to survive, he empathized with the defensive walls that enclosed their hearts because they didn't want to endure anymore loss and its resulting pain.  He saw Chastity's drive and experienced her warmth and generosity, he did all he could to avoid her giving ways and responding to her ways of including him as even a temporary member of her household.  Yet through it all he began to experience the rejuvenating effects of the kindness she brought into his life, the connections he couldn't seem to resist with those delightful kids.

This is a story about another battered and bruised and deeply injured veteran of the Battle of Waterloo, a member of the Rogue's Club--a small group of English officers who vowed to "be there" for each other and any survivors of those who didn't return from the war.  Yet Reed felt he had so little to give since he couldn't even figure out who he really was.  The kindness and grace Chastity injected into his heart not only changed the direction of his life, it renewed his belief in himself and opened his heart to others far more than he could ever have expected.

This book is a fun read in so many ways but it is also one that tugs strongly at your heart strings.  It was first released a number of years ago and is now being re-released.  How glad I found it and have had opportunity to read and enjoy.  It's a wonderful book that is built around the journey of discovery of a man whose desire to be a father was absolutely nil.  And yet, of all the Rogues, he came farthest in realizing a dream he wasn't aware he even possessed.

It's a great book and one that I think is even better than the preceding ones.  It certainly grabbed me, and I hope you can get hold of it and enjoy it as much as I did.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Widowed, penniless Sabrina Whitcomb isn't looking for romance. What she needs is a husband, and she knows well enough that romance and matrimony aren't always compatible. While providing for her twins and the child she now carries is paramount, wedding a virtual stranger--even a wealthy one, like Gideon St. Goddard, Duke of Stanthorpe--is no light matter. Sabrina knows the friend who arranged the union would not promise her to a true scoundrel, but one look at her future husband convinces her that he is a shameless rogue. A shockingly handsome and desirable one, at that. Why has he agreed to marry her? When Gideon flashes that wicked, seductive smile, the reason hardly matters, but the chance that he'll steal her heart becomes all too real.

This is a novel, first in a series, that was first published in 2002 and has now been re-released to the delight of historical romance fans and those who are especially fans of stories set in the post-Napoleonic era.  Six English officers, facing death before the battle of Waterloo, determined that they would enter into a pact together--not truly an original plot line--yet these men agreed that they would not only care for one another but they would also accept responsibility for looking out for any families who were left behind if one of them were to be killed.  And so began the saga of The Rogues' Club and the stories of four of these six British officers.

Sabrina had lived through circumstances that most of modern women can't even conceive of as being possible.  Yet for her--a woman who had literally been "sold" into marriage by her father in exchange for money and who was again "sold" by her husband because he couldn't pay his gambling debts--finding herself betrothed to the Duke of Stanthorpe didn't sound all that bad.  It was a marriage arranged by her brother-in-law--half-brother to her now-deceased husband--and upon whose assurances she relied that the Duke was a man of honor who would keep his word and provide for her and her children, regardless of how well they ultimately rubbed along.  But this is a story that once again reminds readers that secrets don't make for good relationship foundations and for both Sabrina and Gideon, it is a lesson that can cost them both dearly.

Ms Blair is an author with an impressive string of published stories and novels, whose books have received awards and award nominations and whose fans keep on loving her books.  For those of us who are only now discovering her work through the medium of e-publishing, it is a new and wonderful gift and one that just keeps on giving.  It is the kind of story that worms its way into your mind and emotions, whose word pictures enliven the imagination and tickle the funny bone, whose characters are stalwart and picturesque and sometimes scary.  Yet in the midst of real life and real living and real relationship emerges a genuine and winsome love story between two people of honor and deep sensitivity, passion and joy, whose capacity to love just keeps on growing.  And even amid the sexual heat and tension, there is the discovery of great joy and a kind of cutting edge pleasing of one another that comes when people are more concerned with giving than they are with taking.  

I have to confess that I was absolutely "hooked" on this author and this series.  I went right to the internet and bought all the remaining books in the series, some of which I will share as time goes on.  None were a disappointment.  I loved Sabrina--a mother of deep care and commitment to her children, whose twin sons spent time taking care of her in so many little and delightful ways.   But my favorite was Gideon--a many who came home to a wife he didn't know, a man of honor who was willing to do right by his dead compatriot's sister-in-law, and found the joy of his heart and the light of his future days.  It's a marvelous love story and one that will vastly entertain historical romance fiction lovers.  It really shouldn't be missed and right now it's also a great bargain.  I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life Lessons Aren't Always Easy -- "The Wrangler" by Lindsay Mckenna

Can a city boy make good in the Wild West? After Wall Street collapses, investment banker Griff McPherson trades in his suits and ties for Stetsons and cowboy boots. He returns to the Wyoming ranch he co-owns with his brother, but it's not exactly a happy homecoming. So to prove to everyone, including himself, that he belongs back in Jackson Hole, he takes a post as a wrangler on another ranch. Air force lieutenant Val Hunter has just returned to the Bar H ranch to help her ailing grandmother run the property. While it is full of unhappy memories, Val is determined to do right by her home. Her new hire is easy on the eyes and a tough wrangler to boot, yet her instincts make it hard for her to trust him. When a nefarious neighbor endangers her land, Val is forced to accept Griff's help-but will she finally be able to open her heart?

It is no surprise that contemporary romance writers take their cues from all that is going on in today's world and with the significant down-turn of the world economy, there are stories galore to be told. But there is also another truism that surfaces often in romance fiction and that is the fact that one can never really "go home."  The hometown is different--even when it seems to have not changed--and people are different.  Every new person who comes to town changes that community just a little.  Nothing is ever quite the same.  In the case of this hero, there is absolutely no welcome mate put out for him.   Griff hoped and planned on being welcomed by his brother, but no place awaited him.  He had ignored his brother in the fat-cat days of his financial successes, he had even turned down his brother's plea for financial help to save their family's ranch, and now he is picking up the pieces of his own life.  He's barely holding it together--working a low-paying job, looking for odd jobs on the side, hoping for a better ranch job to come along so he can at least keep body and soul together.

The heroine of this story is another unwilling returnee to Jackson Hole--an air force pilot of note whose family obligations have now intruded on her personal life path and she is back on the ole homestead.  She really loves her grandmother, but this isn't quite the future she had planned.  The real heroine of this story is, in my opinion, the grandmother.  Now she certainly isn't involved in the romance part of the story--an elderly rancher who is as sharp as a tack, who knows the ranching business forward and backward and also knows how to invest wisely.  She's now been hampered by a bad hip and resulting surgery, and yet that doesn't mean that she is ready to pack it in.

This is a story of redemption and recovering one's perspective in life.  It is teaching three people the wisdom of backing up, taking a long look at the "big picture" and coming to some different conclusions.  It is also about finding ways to rebuild bridges of relationship that have been seriously damaged and finding that in the middle of hard times and personal chaos, there still lives honor and integrity within good people.

I have read one of the previous novels in this series and found it to be so good that I was excited to move on to this next story.  I happen to like cowboy romance a lot anyway, but the story of the two brothers, their anger and disconnect, their need to find their way back to each other is an important part of both these stories.  This story is especially compelling in teaching the lesson that circumstances don't shape character;  they reveal character, and it is the important lesson that Griff has to learn about himself and those around him.  He also finds out that all those Wall Street skills he thought had no part of his life anymore really were just sitting there waiting to become vital once again, even if the setting is hundreds of miles West of New York City.

Good writing, good plot, good characters and when they are all put together they come out as a compelling and entertaining novel that cowboy romance lovers will enjoy.  It's worth the time to read and I even think readers may want to go back and read some of the novels that appeared earlier in this series.  I know that will be true for me.  I give this a rating of 4 out of 5.

This novel is published by HQN Books and is being released in June, 2012.