Review

Always a Cowboy by Linda Lael Miller

book cover

Published: HQN books
Date: August 30th 2016
Format:  e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Western Contemporary
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
4 stars                    Add to Goodreads

Drake Carsonis the quintessential cowboy. In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of this life, its pleasures and heartbreaks. Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down. When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but he can’t deny the longing—and the challenge—she stirs in him.

Luce Hale is researching how wild horses interact with ranch animals—and with ranchers. The Carson matriarch invites her to stay with the family, which guarantees frequent encounters with Drake, her ruggedly handsome and decidedly unwelcoming son. Luce and Drake are at odds from the very beginning, especially when it comes to the rogue stallion who’s stealing the ranch mares. But when Drake believes Luce is in danger, that changes everything—for both of them.

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Always a Cowboy is #2 in Linda Lael Miller’s The Carson’s of Mustang Creek, and is set within her books that take place in Biss County.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, a great addition to the series although there would be no problem picking up this book as a stand alone – the best of both worlds!

What drew me?

  • Linda Lael Miller knows her ranch and the animals on it. Right down from the wild stallion and its herd, to the ranch horses, mountain lion and faithful dogs.
  • The care of animals – wild and ranch. There is a respect for both and the needs of both. No just shoot on sight because you are a nuisance factor.
  • The beautiful Wyoming setting. Perfect for a cowboy type romance.
  • A gentle romance story, no big tension or angst. A great stand off at the beginning that was a fun hook though into the book.
  • The family that surrounds the main couple. We had met Drake’s older brother and his choice of wife – Grace in the first book, and they are still very much about, with a nice little cameo advancement to their story. Then there is his younger brother Mace whose story no doubt will be next, and Blythe his mother. Blythe is terrific, if a little too much “let’s get this romance on the road” style. Red a ranch hand and Harry the cook along with Grace’s brother round out the strong family atmosphere.
  • The sense of community, they are not centre stage but they are there in the background and it was great just having a taste of some previously well loved characters doing what they do well.
While there was a nice rounding off to the book I felt a little more could have been made of the wild stallion and the mountain lion – there was scope to broaden it out a little. But happy reader anyway!
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Review

Once a Rancher. Linda Lael Miller

Once a Rancher book cover

Published: Harlequin
Date: March 29th 2016
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 320
Genre: Romance
Source: Little Bird Publicity via NetGalley
Rating:
4 stars                                Add to Goodreads

Slater Carson might be a businessman by trade, but he’s a cowboy at heart—and he knows the value of a hard day’s work under the hot Wyoming sun. So when he sees troubled teen Ryder heading down a dangerous path, he offers the boy a job on the ranch he shares with his two younger brothers. And since Ryder’s temporary guardian is the gorgeous new resort manager, Grace Emery, Slater figures it can’t hurt to keep a closer eye on her as well…

Grace Emery doesn’t have time for romance. Between settling in to her new job and caring for her ex-husband’s rebellious son, her attraction to larger-than-life Slater is a distraction she can’t afford. But when the past catches up to her in Mustang Creek, she’ll discover just how far Slater will go to protect what matters most—and that love is always worth fighting for.

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Once a Rancher starts off a new trilogy in Linda Lael Miller’s setting of Biss County in Wyoming. It involves three Carson brothers of Mustang Creek. This one is all about Slater or as he is known to his two brothers – Showbiz. That’s because he is involved in the movie industry.

The Carson family is a delightful mix, with related and… unrelated characters. Red for instance, the ranch hand who each of the Carson boys really respect, and Harry the cook. Then there is Blythe their mother, a woman to be reckoned with.

Along comes Grace and Slater certainly is slayed! Grace is a resourceful, independent woman and she sure is not looking for love and a man about the house! She is divorced and has responsibility for Ryder her stepson.

Mix them all up together and you have a recipe for a very enjoyable romantic story. I really delighted in the return to this small community, where before the word is out of your mouth the whole town knows. However that is a small price to pay when they are also totally there with their care and support as well.

I took time to just appreciate the romantic build up, the fun, genuine characters, the spice added by someone who is out to ‘pay Grace back’ in irresponsible ways, and the warmth of a story well told. It was a well paced, very entertaining story. Actually so looking forward to the other Carson stories. Love their sense of fun and good taste in hats!

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Review

Christmas in Mustang Creek. Linda Lael Miller

book cover

Christmas in Mustang Creek
Linda Lael Miller
Published: Harlequin
Date: September 29th 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 272
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Little Bird Publicity and Publisher via NetGalley
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My thoughts banner
Christmas in Mustang Creek is #4 in The Brides of Biss County, and is a delightful shorter story for the Christmas season.

Charlotte is returning home to the small Wyoming town to the house she shared with her aunt since childhood. Her aunt is now in a home, because she has a little dementia.  Residing in the house is the warm, rather mysterious Mrs Klozz. (say her name out loud and you’ll get the idea). A little Disney, but kinda sweet. She certainly has the Christmas spirit and is not about doing a little organising so that Charlotte is put in the path of Jax. She and Jax had been an item, but had parted company over a year ago. Now he too has come to the small town to help Nate in his vet practice. Mrs K sees to it that he is right in the action and right in the path of Charlotte.

Want to get into the Christmas spirit – this is an ideal book to put you into the scents and warmth and goodwill of this season. Mrs Klozz is a magical mystery, and she certainly adds to the spirit of Christmas.

There is goodwill aplenty, the small town ambience where everybody knows everything, and of course it has delightful animals, family and a hint of new birth. Some romance too of course.

Save this one up for near Christmas and you will be right there in the spirit of the season.

4 stars
Review

The Marriage Season. Linda Lael Miller

book cover

The Marriage Season
Linda Lael Miller
Published: Harlequin
Date: May 26th 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Little Bird Publicity
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Since Hadleigh, Melody and Bex—the best of best friends—entered into a marriage pact, two of them have found (and married) the men of their hearts. But Bex doesn’t think she’ll be as fortunate as the others. Her own first love died years ago in a faraway war, and Bex has lost hope for a happy marriage of her own. She concentrates on her business, a successful chain of fitness clubs, instead.

Then, when single father Tate Calder comes to Mustang Creek with his two sons in tow, who befriend Bex’s six-year-old nephew, she and the handsome, aloof newcomer are constantly thrown together. But is the marriage season over? Or can a man with doubts about love be the right husband for a woman who wants it all?

My thoughts banner
The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller is the third in her The Brides of Bliss County series.  This is the story of the third friend in the trio – Bex.  Her two best friends are now married and both pregnant, but they would love nothing more than to see Bex married too.  So they are not above a little matchmaking that seems to hold promise.
Bex is taking care of her nephew while his mother Tara (Bex’s sister) gets her life together. Josh, the nephew loves being with his Aunt Bex anyway, because he finds security with her. Tate Calder has two boys of his own, and Josh gets along well with them.
Bex and Tate are attracted to one another and they seem ideally suited. Yet both have had relationships in the past that did not work out well for them, so both are cautious.  In face, even though Bex has made a marriage pact with Hadleigh and Melody, she shies away from the idea of a proposal.
Set in Wyoming, this story is full of happy couples, children, dogs and horses.  I really liked both Bex and Tate, both caring, responsible adults.  Life doesn’t go smoothly for them, but they work it out successfully and of course reach their happy ever after.
I think this was my favourite in this series, I just loved the general mix of the story.  I see we can expect a Christmas story in this series  Mustang Creek for Christmas later in the year.  A little peek in again will be a treat I am sure.
4 stars
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Linda Lael Miller
Review

The Marriage Charm. Linda Lael Miller

The Marriage Charm   Linda Lael Miller book cover

The Marriage Charm
Linda Lael Miller
Publisher: Harlequin
Date:  27th January 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 304
Genre: Western contemporary romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley and Little Bird Publicity
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The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.

One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it’s her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She’s not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She’s always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she’s convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn’t what you’d call husband material.

Spence is a good cop who isn’t scared of anything—except love. And he’s done everything he can to preserve his reputation as a womanizer—a reputation that keeps marriage-minded women, including Melody, at bay. And yet…there’s something about Melody he can’t forget. Something his heart can’t ignore.

My thoughts banner
The Marriage Charm is the second book in the The Brides of Bliss County by Linda Lael Miller.  It is aptly named as the heroine – Melody is the artist who has designed the charm bracelets that all three women wear as part of their pact to find husbands they love and all the delights that follows with family life.  
Melody first proposed to Spence, who is now the town’s chief of police nine years ago, and he declined!  That really upset her so now she is a little wary as Spence begins to pay her more attention.  After all she knows he has a bit of a reputation with the women! Slowly their relationship rebuilds, but Spence is treading warily too.  When he was nine years old he was dropped off in Bliss County to his Aunt Libby who has reared him since.  So he has some issues of abandonment.  Now a letter from his mother sits unopened in a desk drawer.  He can’t decide whether to open it.
I liked the way the point of view alternated in this story in a fairly even way.  It gave the reader a chance to really get to know both Melody and Spence and how they were feeling as they circled each other.  We knew early on the reason why Spence had declined Melody and it wasn’t all bad!
As always in a Linda Lael Miller animals play a small but endearing part.  Melody’s three cats were fun and Spence’s dog Harley and Reb his horse are very much part of the scene.  As in The Marriage Pact like Hadleigh, Melody is surprised by a gift from Spence that she very aptly names.  Mind you it’s very difficult to keep anything quiet or a surprise in this small country town in Wyoming. Mrs Arbuckle a wealthy member of the community also is involved with many plans – some endearing, some risky and some downright unpalatable.
There is some mystery in this book – someone is stealing items from homes and in doing so hit very close to some of the characters in the book.  However finally with a few wily moves by other characters in the book this mystery is totally solved much to Spence’s chagrin.
The Marriage Charm was a very pleasant, romantic story with familiar and likeable characters, a little humor thrown in and  set in the beautiful Wyoming countryside.
3.5 stars
The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than one hundred historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, the self-confessed barn goddess now lives in Spokane, Washington. Linda hit a career high in 2011 when all three of her Creed Cowboys books—A Creed in Stone Creek, Creed’s Honor and The Creed Legacy—debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Linda has come a long way since leaving Washington to experience the world. “But growing up in that time and place has served me well,” she allows. “And I’m happy to be back home.” Dedicated to helping others, Linda personally finances her “Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women,” which she awards to those seeking to improve their lot in life through education. More information about Linda and her novels is available at www.lindalaelmiller.com. She also loves to hear from readers by mail at P.O. Box 19461, Spokane, WA 99219.
Review

The Marriage Pact. Linda Lael Miller

The Marriage Pact.  Linda Lael Miller

The Marriage Pact
Linda Lael Miller
Publisher: Harlequin
Date: May 27th 2014
Format: e ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: NetGalley via Little Bird Publicity

Ten years ago, Hadleigh Stevens was eighteen and this close to saying “I do,” when Tripp Galloway interrupted her walk down the aisle. Now that she’s recovered from her youthful mistake and Tripp’s interference, Hadleigh and her single friends form a marriage pact. She doesn’t expect Tripp to meddle with her new plan to find Mr. Right—or to discover that she’s more attracted to him than ever!

Divorced and eager to reconnect with his cowboy roots, Tripp returns to Bliss County to save his ailing father’s ranch. He’s not looking for another wife—certainly not his best friend’s little sister. But he’s never been able to forget Hadleigh. And this time, if she ends up in his arms, he won’t be walking away!

My thoughts
The Marriage Pact is the first book in a series by Linda Lael Miller – The Women of Bliss Country. Hadleigh and her two friends Bex and Melody decide to support each other in finding the right marriage partner and wedded bliss.  They even have identical charm bracelets,  and when one of them marries a charm just suited to the one getting married will be added to all the bracelets.
Hadleigh has already made an attempt to be married – rather injudiciously, and was embarrassed by her brother’s friend, Tripp.  His intervention went unappreciated, and Hadleigh’s plea to go with him to L.A.  was turned down.  She runs a quilt shop – this is an aspect of the book that I wish had been integrated a little more into the story in some way.  We only fleetingly see Hadleigh in her shop.
Tripp is now  wealthy in his own right, has sold up his business and returned home to Mustang Creek to help out on the ranch.  His dad has been ill; the ranch is somewhat run down. Tripp is ready to stay and make something of the ranch. He has been out into the world and experienced all he wanted, and after one failed marriage he is ready to settle down.  
I really liked the relationship between Tripp and his step dad – Jim.  Tripp is very caring and considerate, and Jim has always considered Tripp as his own son.  Tripp’s mother and Jim’s wife had died a number of years before.  Now Jim is ready to live life a little differently. I totally enjoyed his new venture – some might say a little rushed, but I think when you get to a certain age you are ready sometimes to take big and most times rewarding leaps.  
Linda Lael Miller’s books often include animals that fit really well into the story.  Again I loved Tripp’s dog Riddley and the dog  Muggles that Hadleigh rescues when a neighbor falls ill.  As well there are the horses that Tripp adds to the ranch.
The book alternates between Hadleigh’s and Tripp’s point of view.  That works really well and the details about there growing up in the same town, with a person in common to both to link them from when they were young – Hadleigh’s brother (killed in Aghanistan) who was also Tripp’s best friend.
I liked the book, it mostly relied on the characters to develop and move the plot along.  I found that there was not a lot of tension  in the story, however if you enjoy a pleasant story with warm relationships then this story could be for you.
3.5 stars
Review

The Last Chance Cafe.

The Last Chance Cafe
Linda Lael Miller
Published 2002
Pocket Books
373 pages.

  Summary from back cover.
When a blinding Nevada snowstorm and a broken-down truck force Hallie O’Rourke and her two young daughters into the warmth of the Last Chance Cafe, Hallie could not know she would find a new beginning at the roadside diner. Or that the handsome stranger she meets there would change everything she believes about home and family. Chance Qualtrough is a rancher with deep roots in Primrose Creek, and he’s never met a woman as alluring — or downright stubborn — as Hallie. An undeniable passion is pulling them together, but Hallie is fleeing a danger so threatening she dares not let Chance into her heart. Will all that Hallie fears come back with full force, destroying her last chance for the life she’s always dreamed of?

This book has sat for at the very least three years on my TBR pile.  As I am involved in a couple of TBR challenges I finally picked up this book – turning away from some of the 2012/3 books.  I have read a number of Miller’s historical fiction and enjoyed them but they weren’t books that I would rave over. Hence this one sat and sat…….

I found I really enjoyed this story – it was contemporary, and I have to admit I do warm to contemporary more generally.  Not that a great historical will not have me raving about it – it will.  There was a heroine in trouble and on the run, also two adorable twin girls – Hallie’s daughters who added to the charm of the story.  The hero was very likeable and ready to help Hallie shoulder her burdens.  In the background were a delightful array of small time characters in the community.  Throw in a few baddies out to get Hallie and it had all the elements that kept me entertained.

It was a predictable plot, when as a reader you read these kind of stories, you do know what is going to possibly happen, but you enjoy the story anyway.  Sometimes a book like this is just the read for me. When I sit up at night to finish a book I know I was hooked by it.