Book Review: Rescue Me by Lara Van Hulten

Rescue Me by Lara Van Hulzen

 Recue Me

Publisher & Release Date: Self-published, November 3, 2015

Time and setting: Present Day, Lake Tahoe

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Inspirational

Length:  181 pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweet Heart

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description:

Keith is a soldier with a wounded heart.

 Torie’s secrets haunt her.

 Can they trust love enough to mend what’s broken?

 Torie Walker is a police officer with a past she’d like to stay hidden from. Staying at her best friend’s cabin in the mountains over Christmas is just what she needs. However, when a handsome cowboy saunters into her life, she takes the risk and trusts him with her secrets.

 Keith Scott is a United States Marine. Home for the holidays, he intends to spend a quiet Christmas with his family. What he doesn’t plan on is Torie Walker, a woman who mends his heart and makes him want to love again.

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He bent down and picked up the book she’d dropped and handed it to her. “Here you go.” He looked at the cover.  “Historical fiction? Hmmm, I’d see you more as a True Crime kind of girl.”

She smiled, her heart rate slowed, returning to normal. “One would think so, right? But no, I get enough of that at work.”

He nodded at shoved his hands in his jean pockets. “Makes sense now that you say it. People always think I’d want a military book to escape. Not sure how they figure that, but they mean well.” Sadness flashed in his eyes for a moment then was gone. Torie could only imagine what he’d seen and done as a soldier. The idea of Keith in harm’s way made her stomach turn. She shivered at the thought of the danger he faced in his job.

“Are you cold? They have fresh coffee here. It’s good too.” He winked at her.

She shook her head. “Um, no thanks. I’m good. I’m jumpy as it is, apparently. No more caffeine for me.”

He smiled. “What kind of book are you looking for if you don’t read military?”

“Well, I know it’s sort of stereotypical, but I like old westerns. Louis L’Amour, that kind of thing.” He leaned towards her and whispered, “And sometimes I like Science Fiction. But let’s keep that between us.”

“Your secret is safe with me,” Torie whispered back. She couldn’t help but soak in the irony of this enormous mountain of a man whispering like a little boy about his secret love of Science Fiction. Keith was living proof that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. His cover was enticing and the inside story was something she definitely wanted to read more about.

He stood straight again. “I’m here today though looking for a book for my mom for Christmas.”

“Oh, that’s nice. What does she like to read?”

He frowned. “Romance novels.”

Torie laughed out loud. The woman working behind the desk gave them a look but then continued with her task.

“Hey now. I didn’t say I was reading them.”

“I know.” Torie couldn’t stop laughing. “I’m just picturing you standing in front of the romance novel section of a store and getting some . . . stares.” But mainly because he belonged on a cover. She didn’t add that last part, of course, but her brain sure went there. Keith without a shirt on had to be romance novel worthy. Her cheeks warmed at the thought. “I don’t know much about that genre but Aimee reads them all the time. I could try and help you pick some for your mom.” The relief that washed over his features was priceless. This fierce warrior in front of her wound up tighter than a drum over picking a book had her laughing again.

“What? Why are you laughing again?”

“Nothing. I think it’s nice, actually, that you would go to such lengths of discomfort to get your mom a Christmas gift.”

He smiled and looked at his boots. “Yeah, well . . .”

Ah, a rough exterior with a soft, gooey center. Keith was becoming more and more appealing by the minute.

 Vikki’s Musings

When I was offered the chance to read Rescue Me in exchange for an honest review, the book description intrigued me. I enjoy inspirational novels and this sounded like it would be different than what is the norm for that sub-genre. I thoroughly enjoyed Rescue Me.

Torie Walker is on Christmas vacation from her job as a police officer in San Diego. She’s come to Lake Tahoe to stay at her best friend’s cabin while Aimee is on her honeymoon. She met Aimee’s brother-in-law, Keith Scott, several months earlier. When he shows up at her cabin to check on her, she feels drawn to him in a way that has never happened before.

Home on leave from the United States Marines, Keith finds the tall, slender Torie entrancing, but he’s had his heart broken in the past. With his dangerous job, he believes he needs to stay out of a relationship. As they spend time together, he begins to question that decision, especially after she opens up and tells him her secrets.

Can two emotionally wounded people learn to open their hearts to each other, and find the wonderful plan God has for them, or will they allow fear to stand in the way?

This is a sweet, emotionally-charged romance that gently unfolds as Torie and Keith learn to trust each other. The pacing is nice and steady, and it kept my interest from start to finish.  While this is a faith based love story, both characters believe from the start, so their faith is sprinkled in a bit at a time with a reference to reading their bible and turning to prayer. I enjoyed that part of the story a great deal.

Torie’s character is troubled from events she had no control over as a child. Those events make it very difficult to allow someone into her life. Other than her best friend, she’s a loner because she has never had anyone she could depend on before she meets Keith.

Keith is a wonderful hero. He is dedicated to his faith, a considerate son, and a loyal friend. His heart was broken by his ex-wife, so at first he has a hard time trusting that Torie is the right woman for him. As they spend time together each day during the Christmas season, he is able to see the caring person Torie is, and that it’s worth taking a risk. His attraction to her is more tender than sensual as I would expect in an inspirational novel.

I did have one minor problem with the book. Personally, I would have liked more information concerning Keith’s role with the Marines. It seemed like he spent all his time in between missions helping out on his parent’s ranch. I’m thinking he would have regular duties when not involved in a covert operation. He has his own home there. It could be that his base was nearby, which would allow him to be home a lot. That just wasn’t mentioned in the book.

Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable read for the holidays, and I am glad I read it. I liked all the characters in Rescue Me, and plan to read the other books in this series. Happy reading!

Author Bio:Van Hulzen Author Photo

 Lara Van Hulzen received her BA in Journalism from Point Loma Nazarene University in 1994. Her first published article was when she was a senior in high school. She has worked as a book reviewer for the past 18 years with various organizations such as Crossings Doubleday, YouthWorker Journal, and Radian Lit. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Inspired Christian Writers, and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband three children in Northern California.

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Audio Book Review: Dream Kisses by Verna Clay & narrated by Wendy Rich Stetson

Dream Kisses by Verna Clay

Narrated by Wendy Rich Stetson

Dream KissesPublisher & Release Date: M.O.I. Publishing, January 17, 2012

Time and setting: Present Day, Colorado

Genre: Contemporary Western Romance

Length: 148 pages

Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flame

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description:

Romance on the Ranch Series: Dream Kisses; Honey Kisses; Baby Kisses; Candy Kisses; Christmas Kisses; Rock Star Kisses; Forever Kisses

Mims Murphy a.k.a Sarah Carter, meets Sage Tanner at Imaginings Publishing while he’s posing for the cover of her soon-to-be-released romance novel. After being bulldozed into a coffee break with him by her publisher, Sissy Johansen, an embarrassing incident makes Sarah furious and she walks out. Of course, fate has a wonderful way of intervening in matters of the heart. After deciding her book needs a dose of reality, she signs up for “dude” lessons at Lazy M Dude Ranch. Imagine her chagrin when she discovers the owner of the ranch is none other than Mr. Tanner himself!

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Vikki’s Musings

I listened to the audio version of Dream Kisses. I have listened to Wendy Rich Stetson’s fantastic narration of The Cypress Corners series by JoMarie DeGioia, so when I found out she had narrated this story I quickly agreed to review the recording and book. As always, Wendy Rich Stetson brings life to the characters, especially the cowhands on The Lazy M Dude Ranch!

Sarah Carter writes under the pen name Mims Murphy. When she meets the cover model for her next book, a cowboy western romance, to say they get off on the wrong foot is saying it mildly. When Sarah decides she needs to spend six weeks on a dude ranch for research, the last person she expects to meet again is Sage Tanner, the cover model for her upcoming book.

When Sage Tanner discovers Mims hobbling her way to his ranch, he figures out she must be Sarah Carter, the woman who has come to his property for six weeks. After he gets the injured Sarah to his house and settled on his couch, he calls the doctor so he can take a look at her ankle. Not quite sure how he offended Sarah on their first meeting, Sage is determined to make up for his mistake. He is wildly attracted to Sarah’s curvy little figure and her fiery temper, even when it is directed at him.

Will Sage burrow his way under Sarah’s skin, or will she ignore the attraction between them and play it safe, missing out on what could be a match made in heaven?

Dream Kisses is a fast-paced romantic tale with a hero that is first off gorgeous, second a truly nice guy and third a cowboy. How could you keep from falling in love with him? Sage is a fantastic character, and I liked him right away. He’s basically an uncomplicated guy raising his fourteen year old daughter on his own, while running a cattle/dude ranch and modeling on the side.

Sarah Carter on the other hand is hard to like. To put it mildly, she is totally insecure and comes across bitchy much of the time. Her only redeeming characteristic is her kindness toward Sage’s daughter. I have to question why Sage would fall in love with her to begin with. Her character blows everything way out of portion from the beginning and is constantly second-guessing herself. She doesn’t have a romantic bone in her body. I found it hard to believe such a cynical woman could be a romance author.

On the flip-side, there is chemistry between the pair and by the end of the book, I was rooting for him to win the girl, mainly because he wanted her so badly. I did quite enjoy the secondary characters as well and fell in love with his sweet, fun-loving daughter, Julie.

Ms. Stetson gives a stellar performance, managing all the various characters, giving each one a distinct voice. I particularly loved Newt, one of the ranch hands. I imagine Wendy had a blast working on them. She reads with so much passion, she even had me forgetting at times that I really didn’t like Sarah at all. I highly recommend listening to Ms. Stetson’s narrative. I am sure you will enjoy her style as much as I do. She definitely earns five Gold Crowns easily.

Overall, this is an entertaining read, and I do plan to read the other books in the series. Ms. Clay has an easy to read writing style and her pacing is excellent. Other than the heroine, I liked all the other characters and look forward to visiting with them in the next books in the series. She also does a great job on fade to black love scenes while still keeping the sexual tension building, and I loved the ending. A great finish can cover a multitude of sins. Happy reading!

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Book Review: The Cowboy SEAL’s Triplets by Tina Leonard

The Cowboy SEAL’s Triplets by Tina Leonard

(Bridesmaids Creek series)

The Cowboy SEAL's TripletsPublisher & Release Date: Harlequin American Romance, July 1, 2015

Time and setting: Present Day, Bridesmaids Creek, Texas

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Length: 224 pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweet Heart

Rating: 3 Gold Crowns


When Daisy Donovan roars into town on the back of John “Squint” Mathison’s motorcycle, the people of Bridesmaids Creek start buzzing like bees in mating season! The former bad girl is finally home where she belongs, ready to win over her Texas town—and the hunky former SEAL who is the father of her soon-to-be baby boys. 

Although he just had the most passionate time of his life with the woman he adores, John’s after a prize he thought couldn’t be his. He never had a real home, growing up in a family who traveled from rodeo to rodeo. But now he’s determined to show Daisy that he’s ready to settle down and be the new favorite son of Bridesmaids Creek—by getting Daisy to the altar before their triplets are born!

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Vikki’s Musings

I accepted The Cowboy SEAL’s Triplets for an honest review, via Net-Galley. I love military romance, so when I read the book description, I was anxious to dive into this one. Not only does it have a SEAL in it, it has a cowboys and babies, love books with little ones in them. I thought this would be a match made in heaven for me.

Daisy Donovan is the town’s “Diva of Destruction.” Because Daisy feels like an outsider, she has promoted her bad girl image. She rides around on her motorcycle with her five member entourage following behind, wreaking havoc in the small town. She returns from Montana on the back of John Lopez “Squint” Mathison’s bike, an ex-Navy SEAL after an undisclosed period of time.

John and Daisy have known each other for several years, and he’s known from the beginning Daisy is the woman for him. This dilemma is convincing Daisy he’s the man for her. When Daisy discovers she’s pregnant, he is determined to get her to the altar before their birth. Will John win her over before the birth of his sons, or will the Bridesmaids magic keep them apart?

I want to say up front, The Cowboy SEAL’s Triplets is an easy read and definitely had a lot of action, which kept the story moving along at a steady pace. I did enjoy Cosette Lafleur’s character a great deal, and I also liked Jane Chatham’s as well. This is a story with the town of Bridesmaids Creek at the center. The plot is driven by the town’s magic for matchmaking, not the characters.

Unfortunately, I had a difficult time with this book. I think that if I had read the other three in this series first, I might have enjoyed this one a bit more. There are some very humorous scenes that had me chuckling out loud, and I did like the hero and the heroine and enjoyed their romance. However, I would have liked to see more depth in their characters, and an easier to follow plot.

The story tends to jump from one scene to another without a strong transition, which I found quite distracting, pulling me out of the story. At times, I had to backtrack to figure out which characters were in the new scene.

This is a book for anyone who enjoys a tale set in small town USA with plenty of humor sprinkled in with a sweet romance thrown into the mix. I do recommend reading the other books in this series first before you read The Cowboy SEAL’s Triplets. Happy reading!

Book Review: Ballad Beauty by Lauren Linwood

Ballad Beauty by Lauren Linwood

Ballad Beauty

Publisher & Release Date: Soul Mate Publishing, March 25, 2015

Time and setting: 1875 Texas  

Genre: Historical Romance/Western Romance

Length: 232 pages

Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flames

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

After ten years apart, Boston schoolmarm Jenny McShanahan receives a letter from her beloved father that instructs her to join him in Texas. She has no idea that he’s become Famous Sam McShan, the Robin Hood of the West. She arrives to find Sam already gone, but he left instructions for Jenny to hire a guide and rendezvous with him in Nevada. 

Texas Ranger Noah Daniel Webster knows Sam personally because his father, Pistol Pete Webber, was Sam’s longtime partner in crime. When Pete is killed during their last big score, Noah requests the assignment to bring Sam to justice. Going undercover, he volunteers to act as Jenny’s escort across the dangerous prairie, using her to track her outlaw father’s location.

As they journey through rough country, love blossoms—but Noah knows the second he arrests Sam, his betrayal will kill Jenny’s love for him. Should the lawman do his duty as a Ranger, or should he let love rule? The choice Noah makes will change their lives forever.

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Vikki’s Musings

I’m quite impressed with Ms. Linwood’s ability to go from one distinctly different sub-genre to another. I had enjoyed Music for the Soul and A bit of Heaven on Earth tremendously, which are both medieval and wasn’t sure that this switch would work for me, but she handled it well, taking me from medieval England to western Texas without a blink of the eye.

Jenny McShanahan receives a letter from her papa with tickets and money to join him out west. It’s been ten long years since he left her at a Boston boarding school, where she remained as a student for eight years and then a teacher for the last two. Now, as a young woman of twenty, she is ready to begin her adventurous journey with a joyous heart and finally be re-united with her father.

Noah Daniel Webster, a Texas Ranger, stumbles across Jenny in Texas where she is trying to find a guide to take her to her father in Prairie Dell. Turns out, her father is Sam McShan, a notorious outlaw, and Daniel needs to capture him and bring him to justice. He offers to be Jenny’s guide, and they set off on the arduous two week journey. Can a schoolmarm and a Texas Ranger find true love, or will Daniel’s secret drive them apart?

Ballad Beauty flows well and is a fast-paced story with loads of surprises along the way, keeping me guessing throughout the entire book. This tale of love led me on an enthralling ride through old Texas and Nevada. The story gave a strong sense of the time period, which is what I have come to expect from Ms. Linwood’s writing.

I enjoyed the romance between Jenny and Daniel a great deal. There is plenty of good old-fashioned sexual tension from their first meeting and it only burns brighter as the story progresses. Both characters are easy to love, Jenny with her fierce determination and independence, and Daniel with his perseverance to always do the right thing, even if it goes against his desires.

Now this is why I could not give Ballad Beauty 5 Gold Crowns. I found myself getting a bit lost in the timeline of the story. At times, it seems as if the events happened too fast, especially the part that involved the villain. It just seemed somewhat out of sync to me. The other small problem I had was the point of view shifts from one character to the other without any forewarning. That took me a bit out of the story.

Nonetheless, an enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading future books by Ms. Linwood. If you like stories with lots of action and a great romance, then Ballad Beauty will be one you will want to read. Happy reading!

Author Bio:Lauren Linwood

Lauren Linwood became a teacher who wrote on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones. Her historical romances use history as a backdrop to place her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire for one another grows into the treasured gift of love. Her romantic suspense novels feature strong heroes and heroines who unite to defeat a clever antagonist and discover a deep, abiding love during their journey.

A native Texan, Lauren lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with long walks. She plans to start a support group for House Hunters addicts—as soon as she finishes her next piece of dark chocolate.

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