Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review: West of Heaven


West of Heaven by Victoria Bylin - Harlequin Historical Western #714 - Jul 04

In the prologue of this book, Jayne Dawson has only been married a few days to a man she barely knows when he leaves to complete unfinished business. Now I didn't feel anything for this hero. And I love all of Vicki's heroes. So what was going on? Well, I'm glad I kept reading b/c he wasn't the hero of the book. A few days later Jayne has found her new husband - dead and almost buried - on a ranch just hours before a blizzard hits.

Ethan Trent is the rancher who buries Jayne's husband. He's going through his own personal hell and doesn't want her there. She's supposed to go back to town but doesn't and the storm hits. She spends the night in Ethan's barn. The next morning, Ethan finds her. She's feverish. In the aftermath of the storm, he realizes no one can ride through the deep snow to town so he takes her into his tiny cabin and nurses her to health.

And that's when the story really stars. Not only is Jayne a grieving widow, but she finds out she's pregnant and her husband's partner is looking for her to get his money back. And he's not a nice guy.

Ethan Trent just wants to be left alone. He lost his family and doesn't want to another. But somehow through the fog of his existence, he's notices Jayne as a woman and the walls start tumbling down. When they hear her very life is in danger, he does the only thing he can - he offers to give her his name until the man stalking her is found and jailed.

The man who marries them is the Rev John Leaf - ex-gunslinger who knows what he's preaching about because he's seen and done it all. In fact, a book I read and reviewed earlier - Abbie's Outlaw - Harlequin Historical Western #750 - Apr 05 is the story of the Rev John Leaf and the woman he left behind...until she found him again. I just read the books out of order.

Heat Level: Sensual

My Rating: Great! - 4 ½ stars (a keeper)

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2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 78 Harlequin Imprint: 74 Others: 4


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Monday, July 28, 2008

Book Review: Dangerous Secrets


Dangerous Secrets (Harbor Intrigue) by Lyn Cote - Love Inspired Suspense #62 - Jul 07

This book was very suspenseful. I thought I knew who the ‘bad guy' was and what the motive was, but there were enough red herrings in my way to keep me from being positive. I like that, because it keeps the suspense up and yet I felt justified when the end revealed I'd been right.

Sylvie Patterson, owner of a small book store, is right where she wants to be. She suffers daily pain from an old injury but she's still mobile so she can live with the inconvenience of a limp. Guilt stemming from the accident that caused her injury was something she'd battled and won. With her father close by, she has everything she needs in the town of Winfield.

Then her old crush, Ridge Matthews comes back to town and Sylvie realizes that her life isn't quite complete yet as she still has feelings for Ridge. And those feelings are getting stronger the more time she spends with him. But why would a handsome, successful man like Ridge look twice at someone like her?

Ridge has been running from everyone and everything that has to do with Winfield since he was a teenager. Although his parents still live in his hometown, something so depressing happened years ago that they're alive but not really living. When Ridge ends up with a young boy as a ward, he leaves him with his parents but the atmosphere isn't conducive to a growing boy. Ridge doesn't want to take the boy home with him b/c his job as a county investigator keeps him busy.

Ridge shows up in Winfield the same time Sylvie's cousin in murdered. Ridge's boss wants him to stay in Winfield and help with the investigation which he reluctantly does. While there, he reacquaints himself with Sylvie who used to be his younger brother's best friend. Limp or not, Ridge considers her one of the classiest people in Winfield. But of course he's not staying to get to know her better, attraction or not.

Dangerous Secrets is the final book in the Harbor Intrigue Trilogy. As I noted on my previous book review for book 2 - Dangerous Game, the fact that I didn't know the setting distracted me enough to keep this book from hitting my top ten list.

With writing and scenarios this great, I'll be sure to buy Lyn's next book.

Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Great! - 4 ½ stars (a keeper)

Books in the Harbor Intrigue series:

1 - Apr 07 - Dangerous Season LIS 47

2 - May 07 - Dangerous Game LIS 53

3 - July 07 - Dangerous Secrets LIS 62

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2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 77 Harlequin Imprint: 73 Others: 4


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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Book Review: Dangerous Game


Dangerous Game (Harbor Intrigue) by Lyn Cote - Love Inspired Suspense #53 - May 07

This is the best book I've read by Lyn Cote. I can take or leave Suspense books but this one kept me intrigued and I didn't want to put it down. It's the story about a deputy, Trish Franklin and an ex-con Grey Lawson. In the book Trish, a Christian, can't understand why she has feelings for a man who recklessly took other lives, drunk or otherwise. But you can't control your heart. I believe God has chosen one special person for each of us. Whether you feel the pull of your heart and accept it or ignore it is up to you. And that's the decision Trish and Grey must face.

In Dangerous Game, Trish is not only fighting her own feelings for Grey, she also has to contend with her father and family's hate for the man who killed her uncle. When Grey returns home and the ‘chicken' games start again, Trish's family is determined to believe that Grey is at fault once more. For whatever reason, Trish knows he's not. It doesn't help that every time she makes an overture of affection toward Grey he pushes her away. She should be relieved - right?

Grey can never forgive himself for the irresponsible stunts he pulled as a young man. He became a Christian in prison. Upon his release, he wants to go far away where no one has ever heard of him but the aunt who raised him is ailing and needs his help. Grey goes back to his hometown determined to ignore everyone while taking care of his aunt and making her last days comfortable. After she's gone, he'll leave town and find a family for himself, somewhere. He can't seem to stop the way he feels for Trish but he's not going to acknowledge it either. Grey knows her family will never stand for a liaison with him and anyway, he's leaving soon.

This is the 2nd book in the Harbor Intrigue series. After reading this one, I went looking for the other books in the trilogy but was only able to find book 3. I wished I'd been able to find the first book, however because I always had the feeling something was missing. I had an inkling that book 1 was about Sheriff Keir Harding and Audra Blair and I was correct there.

I finally figured out that the reason I felt something was missing was when one of the characters looked outside and talked about the ice on the Lake Superior and being able to see an Island. And then it dawned on me - I didn't know the setting. Sure, the series is called Harbor Intrigue and it's on Lake Superior but that's a very big lake. No boats were mentioned in this book or how close to the lake they actually are. Fog is mentioned frequently so they must be close, right? The fact that I didn't know the setting distracted me enough to keep this book from hitting my top ten list.

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Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Great! - 4 ½ stars (a keeper)

Books in the Harbor Intrigue series:

1 - Apr 07 - Dangerous Season LIS 47

2 - May 07 - Dangerous Game LIS 53

3 - July 07 - Dangerous Secrets LIS 62

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2008 Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 76 Harlequin Imprint: 72 Others: 4
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Book Review: Of Men and Angels


Of Men and Angels by Victoria Bylin - Harlequin Historical #664 - Jul 03

This book is going on my 2008 Top 10 list. I was hooked from the 1st page. Vicki has the ability to write compelling, totally believable characters in realistic situations. She puts you right there where you not only see and hear the action, but you feel like you're a part of it.

The story opens when a deluge of rain takes out a stagecoach, leaving the heroine, Alexandra Merritt, alone in the middle of nowhere, attempting to help a stranger give birth. Her only aid is the good sense God gave her.

Jake Malone is minding his own business when he hears an angel singing. Curious, he follows the voice and comes upon a scene he'll never forget.

All Jake wants to do is high-tail it out of there but something holds him back. He's drawn to Alex and against his better judgment, he escorts her home, and even stays to work her parents' peach farm. Regardless of what he's done, Jake finds love and acceptance here. It's his for the taking.

But Jake is on the run and he doesn't want to face his past. Until he realizes that the only chance he has of a future with Alex is to go back and right the past. If he does that, however, he can never be with Alex again.

Warning: Before reading this book, ensure you have a box of tissues handy.

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Heat Level: Sensual

My Rating: Excellent - 5 stars (one to re-read; definitely a keeper)

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Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 75 Harlequin Imprint: 71 Others: 4


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Monday, July 14, 2008

Book Review: Where Love Abides


Where Love Abides by Irene Hannon (Heartland Homecoming) Love Inspired 443 - May 08

This is the final book in the Heartland Homecoming Trilogy. We met Sheriff Dale Lewis in the first 2 books. He's the compassionate law officer with integrity.

Unfortunately, Christine Turner has been betrayed by her ex-husband and the law so she doesn't trust her feelings where Dale is concerned. But Dale has such a precious daughter who wants a mommy.

Dale's already been married to a woman with emotional scars. He doesn't want to do it again. But is Christine emotionally scarred? Or can she overcome them with his love?

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Heat Level: Sensual (due to one scene in her memory)

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)

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Books in the Heartland Homecoming series:

1 - Nov 07 - From This Day Forward LI 419

2 - Feb 08 - A Dream to Share LI 431

3 - May 08 - Where Love Abides LI 443

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Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge

Total books Read: 74 Harlequin Imprint: 70 Others: 4


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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Book Review: A Dream to Share


A Dream to Share by Irene Hannon (Heartland Homecoming) Love Inspired 431 - Feb 08

Mark Campbell is a playboy. I didn't like him much. Until his father sends him to a small Missouri town that rolls up its sidewalks at 6 pm. Mark can either find something useful or useless to do with his time. Thankfully, he chooses the former and I start to like him as a hero. And then we find out why he is the way he is.

Abby Warner is the workaholic editor of a small town newspaper that Mark's father is looking to acquire. Mark is told to take 3 months doing a financial and operational audit of the newspaper. Shouldn't be too bad with a pretty lady like Abby to spend time with at the end of the day. Except Abby keeps her door closed and avoids Mark like the plague.

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Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)

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Books in the Heartland Homecoming series:

1 - Nov 07 - From This Day Forward LI 419

2 - Feb 08 - A Dream to Share LI 431

3 - May 08 - Where Love Abides LI 443

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Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge

Total books Read: 73 Harlequin Imprint: 69 Others: 4


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Friday, July 11, 2008

Book Review: From This Day Forward


From This Day Forward by Irene Hannon (Heartland Homecoming) Love Inspired 419 - Nov 07

I really enjoyed this book. I'm always sad when I hear a couple is splitting up after years of marriage whether they have children or not. In this book, Sam and Cara Martin are childless which seems to be a blessing to their hectic lives especially when they separate. The story starts about a year after their separation.

Cara has suffered a traumatic experience that triggers extreme panic attacks. After an exhausting month with no sleep where she huddles in her home refusing to go anywhere, she accepts an invitation from her husband for refuge. But she makes it clear that one betrayal was enough. She'll never trust him again.

Sam was an esteemed surgeon when he realized he was human. A patient's spouse took offense and ended his career as he knew it. And he took it out on Cara. Her leaving was his wake up call. Unable to operate, he moved to small town America and became a family practitioner. He's not very good at it and he doesn't know why.

Although he doesn't want to benefit from Cara's trauma, he still loves his wife and he'll do anything to get her back.

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Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)

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Books in the Heartland Homecoming series:

1 - Nov 07 - From This Day Forward LI 419

2 - Feb 08 - A Dream to Share LI 431

3 - May 08 - Where Love Abides LI 443

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Harlequin 100,000 Book Challenge:

Total books Read: 72 Harlequin Imprint: 68 Others: 4


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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Book Review: Hearts in the Highlands

Hearts in the Highlands by Ruth Axtell Morren - Love Inspired Historical #6 - Apr 08

This book is a fascinating look at the years just prior to the turn of the century when treasures were being discovered in the pyramids along the Nile. It's a sweet and warm love story of 2 people who find love despite their different stations in life.

Following his uncle's footsteps, Reid Gallagher has embraced the new field of archaeology. He's only back in England while red tape is hashed out with the politicians but he'll be going back to Egypt very soon. He's lonely but he's still loyal to his wife although he's been a widower for 10 yrs already.

Maddie Norton is the companion to Reid's aunt who seems on the brink of death several times a day if the subject of conversation doesn't suit her. But Maddie is gentle and patient with her. She's ‘on-call' 24/7 and yet she receives a pittance for a salary.

Maddie lives each day in that in-between world: she's a servant and yet she eats at the table with the family - she's just not supposed to speak or do anything to be noticed.

Of course, Reid notices her and that's when the problems start.

It struck me that Reid's aunt treated her dog better than Maddie, her loyal companion. I wonder if that was just because of the era or is it still like that among the well-to-do? It's a horrid thought either way.

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Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Very Good - 4 stars (excellent one time read)

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Harlequin 100,000 book challenge:

Total books Read: 71 Harlequin Imprint: 67 Others: 4


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Book Review: The Road to Love


The Road to Love by Linda Ford - Love Inspired Historical #7 - May 08

Linda Ford does an great job of bringing history alive in a memorable tale of love, laughter and leaving.

Until I read this book, the closest I've been to the dirty 30's was playing an extra in the movie ‘Prairie Giant - The Tommy Douglas story'. For the movie, once we had our hair and make-up done, they took this bag filled with some kind of grey chalky stuff and proceeded to ‘dirty us up'. The result was a very authentic looking movie but at the end of our filming day, I was glad to take the clothes off, wash up, and climb into my relatively clean car.

Kate Bradshaw, the heroine in this moving book is an optimist. She's survived the death of her husband and she knows there are good times ahead. Her belief that God put her on that farm to preserve for her children is reflected in everything she does. Even when the crop is failing to grow due to lack of rain, or when the tractor refuses to budge, or friends tell her she's crazy for staying out on the farm, or even when the hay crop is barely worth the trouble to harvest, Kate still believes that she is exactly where God planted her.

One element of this story that I never considered before was the amount of hobos roaming the land during those years. I remember my mother talking of the hobos who stopped by their farmhouse looking for handouts. Because they lived near the railroad and close to town, it was a logical jumping off point for the hobos so they wouldn't get caught riding the rails into town without a ticket. The Red Skeleton Show made the life of a hobo comical. But in reality, it was a lonely, depressing life.

Hatcher Jones, the hero of this book, is a hobo. He's an intelligent, articulated and refined man. We have to delve into the book a bit before we find out why he's living the life of a hobo so I won't spill the beans here, but I will say that for the first time in 10 yrs of roaming, Hatcher wants to stay in the same place more than 2 nights in a row. He's drawn to Kate and her 2 kids. He wants to help and protect her. He even sees a future for them. He just refuses to grasp it.

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Heat Level: Affectionate (kissing and hand holding but nothing more)

My Rating: Great! - 4 1/2 stars (a keeper)

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Harlequin 100,000 book challenge:

Total books Read: 70 Harlequin Imprint: 66 Others: 4


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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

In this blog, I'm usually talking about either my writing or what I've been reading. Today, in honour of Canada Day, I've decided to let you read what I've been writing.

I'm sure you've heard me mention the writing challenges on the eharlequin discussion boards. The last challenge just ended this weekend. We had to write a scene/story under 1000 words using a hero and heroine and it had to be a historical piece about our national day. Since my fictional historicals are usually set in the American Old West, this was definitely a challenge for me. What follows is my entry:

The Choice 998 words

On the eve of Canada's 10th birthday, Stephen Powers slipped his dusty boots out of the stirrups, swung his right leg over the back of the black gelding and slid to the ground. Shoulders slumped in weariness, he tugged the reins. The gelding plodded along, its head hanging down, bobbing in rhythm.

They passed the barracks, ignoring the men lounging on the wide wooden steps, enjoying an evening cigarette.

A few steps further, the aroma of roasted meat assailed Stephen's nostrils. The onslaught clenched his gut like a vise. The pemmican that had nourished his body on the trail had never filled his belly.

At the stables, he led his horse into a stall and forked hay into the manger.

With his nose in an empty bucket, the gelding blew a raspberry. He snorted when dust shrouded his face. Laughing, Stephen dumped a bunch of oats into the bucket, almost getting his hand knocked away by the hungry horse. With the animal chomping contentedly, Stephen drew the currycomb across its satin back, brushing through the day's dirt-crusted sweat. Soon, the horse glistened. After a final pat on its rump, Stephen headed toward the mess hall.

Hours later, his belly sated, he lay in his narrow bunk listening to the snores around him. After weeks of solitude except for the night sounds of animals on the open prairie, Stephen found the human sounds distracting. Almost intolerable.

Slanted moon rays lay across his feet. His saddlebag hung over the footboard. Grabbing his pillow, he twisted around, reached into one side of the leather bag and pulled out a worn photograph and a folded sheet of paper. With his head on the pillow, he tilted the photograph toward the moon and gazed upon the faded face of Lisette Dumonte.

Lisette. Beautiful Lisette. He closed his eyes. Their last meeting played in his mind. She had been so brave, saying she understood but he had seen the heartbreak in her shimmering eyes. Still, it hadn't stopped him. The Territories of the new Dominion of Canada were beckoning. It was a huge expanse of land that lay between Manitoba and the Rockies. Men like Sam Steele were becoming living legends out there. A man could either get lost or find himself. Stephen had wanted the latter.

Now he wasn't so sure. It had taken three years of patrolling this wild, empty land to realize he'd left the best part of himself behind. Lisette.

He unfolded the paper. It had arrived at Fort Pelly weeks ago. His three years of service was up. He had a choice. Re-enlist another three years or accept 160 acres of free land. He could choose any unclaimed land in the Dominion. And what land! They were growing some of the finest wheat in the world on the prairies north of the 49th parallel.

But without Lisette, he had no heart to work the land.

Yet, how could he go back empty-handed and say it was all for naught? That he'd chosen to sleep alone on the cold, uneven ground with only his saddlebags for a pillow instead of enfolding her warm, curvy body close to his during the long, dark nights?

Stephen stared at the photograph. Even with the paper's jagged crinkles and faded ink, he could see her smile. The secret one she'd give with her head tilted slightly downward. And he'd know she wanted his kiss. He'd always obliged. Except for that last day when he'd turned instead and headed west.

And to think he'd spent more time in Fort Pelly cutting firewood and looking for grazing land than keeping the peace or fighting contraband whiskey runners.

The papers wavered before his eyes. What a choice he'd made. The wrong choice. With his chest constricting, he tucked the items back in the saddlebag. Pulling his pillow down, he wrapped his arms tightly around it. And squeezed his eyes shut.

* * *


Lisette placed the sheet of paper onto the tympan, folded it over the type bed and rolled it under the platen. Rivulets of perspiration trailed down her temples. She swiped them with the back of one hand while the other grabbed the hand-press bar and pulled. Last one. She opened the machine and took out the newspaper, squinting at the fine print, looking for blots.


Dominion Day, 1877


On July 1st, 1867, the Queen sent out a proclamation for uniting the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into one Dominion under the name of CANADA.

Ten years ago on this day, bells pealed in every town and village to welcome Confederation.




Lisette placed the paper on the stack of others, ready for the morning. She should go home. It was late - almost ten o'clock. The sun had just sunk behind the houses to the west. But Lisette was drained. Not from the work. And not from the heat. Although both contributed to her lethargy to be sure.

For today was her anniversary. Of sorts.

Three years ago on June 30th, her beloved Stephen had left her for this land she now called home.

He had told her not to wait for him.

And then he'd ridden off in his scarlet tunic with the shiny brass buttons glittering in the sun. With her heart packed in his saddlebag along with his razor and strop.

She'd waited two years before following him. She couldn't move forward until he'd given back her heart. As if she wanted it back.

Trained as a printer, she'd been able to find work here in Winnipeg, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers converge.

With crossed arms, she stood at the window looking towards the fort. The commander had sent word that Stephen had arrived this very evening. He was to report in after breakfast. No one had told him of Lisette's presence. She dropped her hands, clasping them together. Wringing them.

Tomorrow, July 1st, her country would celebrate. Would her day end in celebration or sorrow?

The End

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So, that was my entry. Instead of writing a fictional story about a hero in the NWMP, I felt compelled to write about a hero who had gone that route but always regretted leaving the love of his life behind. I hope you enjoyed it.

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A new challenge has just started and is due on July 10/11. Maybe you'd like to try? Go here for more info:

http://community.eharlequin.com/forums/write-stuff/writers-challenge-4

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