Review: Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory

Format: Paperbackbitterleaf
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Jove
Hero: Jeremy Delvin
Heroine: Meredith Whitney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 01, 1983
Started On: March 15, 2019
Finished On: March 18, 2019

Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory aka Candace Camp was first published when I was just barely one year old. Since this book has never been released in the eBook format, I purchased a used paperback copy of the novel sometime back. This book was listed in one of the recommendation threads I had been searching through way back, in my attempt to find novels where plenty of angst is to be had in a story that brings together two strong willed characters in a marriage of convenience.

When Bitterleaf begins, 21 year old Meredith Whitney, considered plain and gawky because she is taller than average and is not considered a beauty that would turn a man’s head, goes to Charleston with her stepfather Daniel Hurley. Meredith’s mother had died sometime back, leaving her with her stepfather, whom she had grown to love and respect in time. Under Daniel’s hands, Bitterleaf, the homestead where Meredith had grown up, had flourished and prospered, making Meredith a wealthy woman in her own right.

It is when Meredith, in her bid to escape the companionship of her vapid cousin Phoebe steps out into the market with her stepfather that she faces the man who would change her life in ways she would never have thought possible. Jeremy Devlin, a member of the aristocracy, whose uncle finally has enough of him and sends him on his way to the colonies as an indentured servant, finds himself purchased by none other than the man accompanied by the haughty woman whom he promises to teach a thing or two, if he ever has the chance.

Even though Jeremy finds Meredith to be plain and lacking in terms of beauty, there is something about her that draws him to the “Amazon” that she is in his mind. Jeremy prefers women who are more comely, but it is Meredith and the way she looks at him, with innocent wonder in her eyes that makes him burn.

For Meredith, laying eyes on the tall and sapphire-eyed Jeremy is the end to life as she has known it. Meredith, who had considered herself above those ruled by their want for pleasures of the flesh, finds herself wanting something that she herself does not even understand. It is perhaps owing to this and Jeremy’s frustration with Meredith that culminates in the resulting events, causing a rift that practically defines the whole story from that point onward, casting a dark shadow on every interaction that takes place between Meredith and Jeremy, especially when they are “forced” into a marriage of convenience.

I wanted to like the story, I really did. After all, this had all the ingredients that should rightfully satisfy my appetite for the less than conventional/accepted romances by readers today. To a certain point in the story, everything did work for me. But from the point where Meredith couldn’t seem to come clean about what was bothering her, how she started to continually grate on my nerves (now imagine poor Jeremy who actually had to put up with her?) was the point of no return for me when it came to my dislike for Meredith as a character.

Meredith turned out to be a tiresome, hateful in some ways, unable to look beyond her own insecurities that are of course ingrained deeply in her psych. However, for me, just like a man’s inexcusable behavior towards the heroine is not forgiven all because of what he may have faced during his childhood, I hold the heroine too to the same standard. I found Meredith wearisome especially when it came to not being able to see Jeremy’s desire for her for what it truly was – desire for the woman he wants above anything and anyone else.

Meredith never gives Jeremy the chance to explain things, which once again puts a black mark against her already laborious character. I dislike couples who detract from the enjoyment of the angst that should rightfully be present in a book such as Bitterleaf, but Meredith’s way of being unable to open her mouth without something scathing coming out of it, her self righteousness above everything else was certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to Meredith and the story itself.

I felt that the story would have been better had Jeremy left and Meredith finally had to face the erroneous assumptions she had made about a man who would would have given her everything. She should have learnt the hard way that Bitterleaf alone wouldn’t give her lifelong happiness. The way one of the secondary characters left the story was also a bit of a sore point. While I understood Meredith’s jealousy, I found her inability to forgive and move on a sore point, especially when nothing had actually happened. For me whatever good that was Meredith was overshadowed in a large way by her critical nature. Her inability to look beyond and see the larger picture.

In the end, I skipped through huge chunks of the story just so I could reach the ending because I had invested a lot of time in reading Bitterleaf, not to to mention the first half of the story that was enjoyable.

Final Verdict: Bitterleaf’s name is synonymous with a character trait that defines the heroine. I expected more from the story than a woman who could not look past her own insecurities.

Favorite Quotes

“Jeremy, what are you doing? Stop this at once.”
He chuckled. “Your voice lacks conviction.”
“You startled me, that’s all.”
An eyebrow quirked in disbelief. He dropped her glove on the ground and placed his hands on either side of her face, imprisoning her head and forcing her to look at him. For a long moment, he stared into her green-brown eyes, and then his face lowered. Meredith closed her eyes and sought to pull away, but his grip held her firm. Jeremy’s lips took hers gently, moving upon them in exploration as if he had all the time in the world before him.

At first his kiss was harsh and angry, more a demand than an expression of feeling, but at the touch of her soft lips it didi not remain so for long. His lops gentled as he tasted the sweetness of her mouth. He worked at her with tongue and lips and teeth, exploring, hungry, until she responded with a whimper and her arms came up to curve around his neck. Her tongue met and matched his, easing tentatively into his mouth.
Jeremy shudderedm hurled violently into a relam beyond reason, aware of nothing but the supreme pleasyre he held in his arms. He rained wild kisses across her face and neck, mouthing the soft flesh of her throat, nibbling her sensitive earlobes. Meredith moved in his arms, unable to absorb the multitude of delights he showered upon her.

Suddenly his lips dug into her fierecely. He wrapped his arms around Meredith, pulling her down with him until they both knelt on the floor. Jeremy pressed her torso against his firm body, savoring the thrust of her breasts against his chest. “Meredith,” he breathed. Holding her, he lay back on the floor, pulling her on top of him. It seemed to Meredith a surprisingly natural place to be.
With one hand he shoved down the bodice of her dress, and his mouth trailed down her neck and chest to explore her breasts. He made asoft, wordless noise as he took her nipple into his mouth and felt it harden at the touch. The sound stirred Meredith almost as much as his caressing tongue. She felt strangely weak and melting, itching, yearning.

Jeremy drew back, panting. “God, you tempt me. But I won’t take you like this, on the floor of the study. Not the first time. We shall splendidly be married and marvelously naked in our own bed. I wanted to give you a taste of what you’re ‘buying.’ Perhaps there will be women who snicker, but you can bet there isn’t one who wouldn’t trade places with you, because you’ll wake up smiling. They’ll pretend to pity you, but in reality it’s envy they’ll feel, thinking about the nights you spend tumbling in my bed, well-serviced, while their own husbands are out wenching at the tavern or sporting with a slave girl or too tired or lazy or old to give their wives pleasure. They yearn, my love, they hunger for a young, healthy male like a mare in heat. Believe me, they’d grab at what you have. They’d pay any price to have the sleepy, well-loved look your face will wear. Maybe you bought me on the auction block, but I’ll give you more than you could ever pay.”

“Jeremy,” she sighed when his mouth released hers.
He nibbled at her earlobe, sending bright shivers all through her. “Say it again.”
“Jeremy?”
“Yes.” His breath came hard, in short gasps, his skin as burning and damp as that of a man in the throes of a swamp fever. “My name. You’ve never said it. Jeremy.”
“Jeremy,” she repeated in wonder that he should want her to say his name.
“Oh, Meredith, Meredith.” His mouth was running wild over her neck and shoulders.

“Oh, Jeremy, you won!” Meredith’s eyes sparkled.
The hand that had lifted her up fastened behind her neck and turned her to him, his mouth sinking into the softness of hers. The warmth that had mushroomed in her belly now shot through her enture body. Meredith didn’t give a thought to the other spectators. Instead, she wrapped an arm around Jeremy’s neck and pressed her lips against his. He was hot, his shirt damp beneath her hands. Her nostrils were filled with the pungent odor of horse and sweat. Boldly, instinctively, her tongue flicked out to scoop up the tiny droplets beading his upper lip. Her movement interruped their kiss, but Jeremy didn’t seem to mind. He made a startled, almost animal growl deep in his throat. His free hand slipped beneath her volumnious cloak, straining her against his body, and he kissed her with even more passion, his tongue raking her mouth.

His hands went to the sash of her wedding gown, untying the knot and letting the belt fall. Slowly, savoring the moment, he shoved back the heavy velvet robe, exposing her body clad only in the almost transparent nightgown. She heared him catch his breath and glanced up. His face was flushed, the eyelids heavy, shuttering the intense blue gaze. The dressing gown crumpled silently to the floow as he studied her. All mockery fled from his face as he looked at the swelling mounds of her breasts, nipples dark against the thin material. His eyes moved downward, taking in the smooyth line of her legs, hazily revealed beneath the cloth, all the more tantalizing for their faint concealment. Meredith watched him, braced for a jest or offensive mark, but none came. She sucked in her lower lip, Jeremy’s eyes darkened to a deep midnight blue. “Meredith.”

He began to move within her, but unlike their earlier lovemaking, he thrust again and again. Instead of satisfying her ache, it seemed to make it grow until Meredith involuntarily rolled her head from side to side. Jeremy pounded into her, and she arched up to take him in more fully. She wanted all of him. And something more. She didn’t know what, but the urge was deep and driving.
But Jeremy knew. At her whimper of frustration, he began to move faster, his hips churning, carrying her with him to a new universe of blinding pleasure. He hurled her higher and higher, until she was gasping for breath and clutching at his back, her nails digging unthinkingly into his skin.

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

averageread

Review: Man With a Past by Kay Stockham

Format: E-bookmanwithapast
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Joe Brody
Heroine: Ashley Cade
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 24, 2010
Started On: April 2, 2015
Finished On: April 5, 2015

Man with a Past by Kay Stockham is one of those stories that I stumbled across in my quest to find something featuring a widowed hero or heroine. I was utterly convinced to give this a go based on the rave reviews her books seem to receive, noted in particular for her delivery of emotional reads.

Man with a Past deals with ex-convict Joe Brody who returns back to his hometown after spending 10 years in prison for murder. Joe knows that no one would welcome him with open arms but he needs to find a way to stay, at least for his father’s sake.

Ashley Cade is swimming in waters out of her depth, having just moved to the neighborhood. Growing up in group homes has left its mark on her, and the one thing that drives her to strive to make it amidst feeling like the outsider who would never fit in is the dream that she and her husband had shared of bringing up their children in a homey neighborhood which would give them the experiences that they had both never had.

When Joe turns up at her home, Ashley, the one who follows every self-help guide that was ever written has a hard time letting go of her control issues and saying yes to the help that he would provide. The fact that no one else wants to work that hard for such a small pay is one of the reasons she says yes and within no time Joe proves to her that he is more than capable of delivering on his promises where work is concerned.

What troubles both Joe and Ashley from the onset is the attraction that slowly unfurls in both of them, each yearning for the other in a fashion that refuses to be denied. Joe believes deep in his heart that no one would want to be tainted by a man with a past as his and Ashley though she knows that its time for her to move on from the memory of her beloved, has a hard time trusting her instincts when it comes to going all in.

Kay Stockham writes a mean romance, delivering on characters that reach out to you, putting in the angst and emotional factor that makes the story that much more worth delving into. Joe is the character that clutches at your heart right from the very moment he steps into the story. The wealth of pain that he hides in his heart is one that swallows you a whole and you can’t help but feel for him all the way through.

Joe is one of those heroes that all kinds of romance readers would fall in love with without fail. He is sweet, kind and yet a tortured soul that you’d want to soothe no matter what. The fact that he had made something out of himself during the time in prison when he could have let it rot his mind and soul shows strength in his character that is rarely found. That Joe could find it in his heart to be patient when everything and everyone practically worked towards running him out of town was one of the best selling points when it came to his character. And of course, his rough and tough physique that hides the sweet and generous man that he is serves to be the icing on the cake.

Ashley proved to be a strong heroine, who has a hard time coming out of her comfort zone, her mode of survival when she had been growing up. It takes a different kind of strength to shake free the emotional ties that bind and strive to be better, to push yourself out there because you want your child to have the kind of childhood that you’d never experienced. I loved Ashely from her sassy nature to the kind hearted soul that she tries hard to hide, which nevertheless makes itself known time and yet again.

Kay Stockham touches on a lot of sensitive and important issues in this short novel. Deaths of babies associated with vaccination is one of the reasons why some parents tend to forgo vaccinating their children altogether, owing to the fact that certain children can prove to be allergic to certain vaccinations, especially given the circumstances of their birth. I found it quite informative, the concept that Kay explored in this story, an area that I have never yet delved into even with all the reading that I do.

The issues associated with small towns is also one that touched the core issue of someone from outside trying to fit in. Not to mention the tough time that even a wrongly convicted person, having served his “time” has in trying to fit back into society. There’s a lesson to be learnt from each of these issues that Kay has touched and I love an author who can make me think beyond the storyline and well into the issues that are highlighted in the story. All in all, I can honestly say that Kay Stockham is an author I would continue to seek and read because she has the sort of talent that draws the reader in.

Recommended for those that love sweetly emotional reads.

Final Verdict: Emotional, tender & sweet!

Favorite Quotes

Ashley’s laughter ended with a gasp. She pulled away to look him in the eyes, but didn’t put any more distance between them. He stared into the honey-bronze depths of her gaze and waited for her reaction. Waited for her to shove him away and stammer something about how she shouldn’t have hugged him.
Instead her mouth parted and an instant later Ashley raised herself on those sexy, red-painted toes. That was all the encouragement he needed. He pressed his mouth to hers, swept his tongue inside. She tasted hot and sweet, musky.

“What if I want you to?” she whispered. “What if I want you to kiss me?”
Joe turned just enough to glare at her over the shoulder she touched. In her bare feet she nearly met him eye to eye–nearly, but not quite. And although Mac had been taller, Joe was broader, more strongly built. Honed and hardened.
By prison.
“You deserve nice things like that car your date drove. Things I can’t give you.” He swore softly. “Ashley, I can’t give you anything right now because I have nothing to give.”

Still, he did as she asked and she got an eyeful of taut backside and corded muscles. She smoothed her hands up his arms, trailed her fingers to his shoulders, in to his neck and down his spine. She rose to her tiptoes and pressed another kiss to his skin, this one to the tattoo of Josie’s name.
“Ashley.” His voice broke, husky, filled with too much emotion and needing an outlet. Joe turned so fast she gasped, and even though she stood mere inches from the bed, he swept her into his arms to lower her to the surface. Then Joe’s mouth covered hers, his tongue delved deep and she immediately discovered a difference between this kiss and the ones they’d shared before she’d found out the truth.
Joe’s hesitation was gone. Her acceptance of him, of his past, had unleashed something inside him, a fierceness, a tenderness.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | eBookMall | ARe | HQ

goodread

Review: The Slow Burn of Silence by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-booktheslowburnofsilence
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Snowy Creek, #1
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: Jebbediah Cullen
Heroine: Rachel Salonen
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 24, 2014
Started On: October 31, 2014
Finished On: October 31, 2014

I seem to be running through a streak of good luck where new to me authors are concerned. The Slow Burn of Silence was a novel recommendation I got off of Amazon that has been sitting tidily in my to-be-read pile for a while now. Recently, my interests have veered towards finding good romantic suspense novels and The Slow Burn of Silence coming with raving reviews turned out to be my next read of choice.

27 year old Rachel Salonen is enjoying her engagement celebrations in Bali when she gets the shocking news of the deaths of her sister and husband. Returning home to find that her sister had appointed her as the guardian of their eight year old daughter is the first wave of flooring news that Rachel receives followed by the name of the actual father of her niece. Life as Rachel knows it comes to a standstill and six months later Rachel finds herself without a fiance, fearing the return of Jebbediah Cullen (Jeb), father of her niece, her high school sweetheart and the man convicted for the rape and assault of two women, one of whom had never been found.

Jeb returns to Snowy Creek for one reason alone. For retribution. To clear his name of the wrongful charges upon which he had been convicted and thrown into jail for which he had lost nine years of his life. The betrayal of a town that had seen him as the man from the wrong side of the river, the easiest target to put all the blame on burns. But the need for justice outweighs the anger that simmers deep inside of him, partly due to his unwavering determination that his daughter would not grow up thinking herself to be the offspring of a rapist and murderer.

Jeb aims to rattle the cages of those that had made him the scapegoat of a crime that he didn’t commit. What Jeb doesn’t aim on happening is for his daughter and Rachel to rattle his emotions inside out, giving the men who wouldn’t want him making a ruckus in his crusade for the truth to come out fighting dirty. Anger, vile and filled with hatred consumes the small town grappling in the fear of secrets spilling forth that could mean grave consequences if Jeb isn’t stopped in time.

The Slow Burn of Silence is a novel filled with evocative writing. Rachel’s thoughts are written in the first person point of view, the reason for which I have no clue. I thought it quite odd that throughout the whole story, multiple character view points were included, but it was only Rachel’s that was told in the first person. Me being not such a fan of first person viewpoints just thought its worthy of a mention in the review.

The result of a heated lover’s spat that had gone wrong nine years back forms the basis of the story. For Jeb there had been none other than Rachel and vice versa. While I understood why Rachel had testified against Jeb and revealed his secrets to the jury that had been the foundation of his conviction, I found myself a little bit reluctant to forgive her for leaving Jeb in the lurch when he had needed her the most. They had had a strong bond between them, from childhood to adulthood. Theirs had not just been a love that had kindled at first sight in high school, rather a love that had been borne out of mutual like, respect and a lot of shared moments throughout their years of friendship. And for that I just found it a trifle bit hard to forgive Rachel even though she comes out with guns blazing to clear Jeb’s name later on.

Jeb was the character who made the novel in my opinion. Life had not been easy for Jeb even as a child and at the cusp of adulthood, he had been thrown into prison together with the most vicious of criminals. The way he turned himself into someone that could make a difference made me admire him, when he could have given into bitterness, hate and resentment and let his life while away. Rachel’s sister is worthy of a mention, as a crusader for justice without whom Jeb would never have made it out.

The Slow Burn of Silence is a story steeped deep into the small town life that is Snowy Creek. Multiple characters that stand out makes the story an unbeatable one. It is small town relationships beneath which secrets lurk and wounds fester that forms the basis of the suspense aspect of the novel and it is those same frissons and ripples that made everything come to its satisfying conclusion.

The one thing that would stand out for any reader of this book is the writing. It is almost as if you are right there, in the town of Snowy Creek watching everything unfold and unravel. With the simmering secrets threatening to swallow you a whole, your heart racing in the attempt to uncover the deadly lies and half truths that had put Jeb away before it is too late. The Slow Burn of Silence is a novel that will pull you in and submerge you with a tale that is riveting and suspenseful. Recommended!

Final Verdict: Deadly small town secrets, undying love and a quest for the truth. A definite must-read for fans of the genre.

Favorite Quotes

He comes out of the bathroom. Naked. His erection sheathed and gleaming in a condom. His thighs muscular. My throat goes bone-dry as he pulls the drapes shut over the windows facing the house. Somehow he seems even more powerful unclothed. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

He’s between my thighs, kneeing me open even wider . . . and he plunges into me. To the hilt. Hot, hard, quivering. I gasp, my fingers digging into his back as my body accommodates to the size of him. I can feel his balls, soft against my skin. Then he’s moving, sliding, driving into me. Hotter, harder, faster. I’m arching, sweating, shaking, desperate to have him even deeper yet, I’m aching for something even more than the sensation inside of me. More than sex. I’m aching to be whole. To be released.

She smiled at him, a slow, seductive smile that invited him in, that clawed back the years, made every terrible thing just melt away. She reached up, taking his waist and raising her knees, opening to him. Jeb’s vision swirled into shades of scarlet and red as he lowered himself and slowly thrust his cock back into her. She was hot, tight, her muscles humming. And as he sank into her, he felt as though he’d somehow come home. Like he fit, belonged.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

greatread

Review: Desire in the Sun by Karen Robards

Format: Paperbackdesireinthesun
Read with: NA
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harper Collins
Hero: Jocelyn San Pietro
Heroine: Delilah Remy
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: December 26, 2006
Started On: April 15, 2012
Finished On: May 5, 2013

Desire in the Sun by Karen Robards is a book that has been sitting in my TBR pile since I bought a paperback copy of it when I was in Malaysia in 2009. I have been putting off reading this for one reason or the other and almost one year after I started reading, I actually managed to finish the story and loved it too!

Delilah Remy (Lilah) is the much pampered and only child of her very rich father who has ensured that she led a very privileged life growing up. Though Lilah dreams of being swept off her feet by some mysterious man who would turn up and make her heart beat faster and make her go all dewy eyed in remembrance, Lilah is of the mind that such things do not happen in real life. That is until Jocelyn San Pietro (Joss) happens into her life who shows her a glimpse of how wonderful it could be and everything goes so horribly awry afterwards.

One minute Joss is his own boss, the commander of his own life who has a feeling that meeting Lilah has changed his life in an inexplicable way and that life would never be the same for him ever again. The next, he faces ultimate betrayal and finds himself taken as a slave, his fierce pride and the anger that flares to life at the injustice nothing short of violent in its desire to be unleashed on those who caused the misfortune to befall on him.

Though it seems unlikely that Lilah and Joss would ever find a way to make things work for them, fate seems to have a different plan in store as they find themselves thrown together time and yet again. When stranded on an island with no one else to act as a buffer to the smouldering passion that is almost always a tangible part of the connection they have with each other, its inevitable that the dam burst open and the passion held on a tight leash find free rein in its abandoned glory.

The trials and tribulations that Joss and Lilah go through in their journey to finally be able to love each other freely and on their own terms was an amazing journey, every minute of which I loved. I loved both Lilah and Joss. I found Joss to be a refreshingly different hero from Jonathan, the hero from Island Flame and Sea Fire who turned out to be the material out of which ass-hole heroes are made of. Joss has this sweetness about him even though he is all alpha when it matters. Lilah seems to be the perfect fit for him and even though there were some gruesome bits to the story, there were those moments of hilarity that occurs between Joss and Lilah that gives the reader no choice but to laugh out loud.

All in all a very enjoyable historical romance by one of my favourite authors in the romance genre, recommended for fans of the genre and fans of Karen Robards.

Favorite Quotes

Lilah gasped as she felt the fiery heat probing against her. Then he was inside the first little bit and his hands on her hips were tugging her down, down until he filled her and she was squirming against the hugeness of him.”Love me,” he muttered again, the words thick. His eyes were glazed, his face flushed with passion.

Lilah cried out as his hands closed over them.
As if that small sound had snapped something inside of him, he groaned and pulled her down to him so that he could take her breasts in his mouth. He suckled with savage hunger, his hands hard and hot on the silken roundness of her bottom as he held her still above him and ground himself upwards into her.

She clasped her arms around his back and lifted her hips to meet him as he thrust wildly inside her.
At last, when he had brought her trembling to the brink and then pushed her over, she got what she wanted. As he convulsed inside her and groaned the words in her ear: “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Over and over, like a litany.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

greatread

Review: Loving Luke by Jenny Andersen

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Hero: Luke Stone
Heroine: Hannah Bluefield
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 17, 2009
Started On: March 23, 2011
Finished On: March 25, 2011

Romances featuring ex-convict heroes are one of my favorite types to read. I got this title off a discussion thread on Amazon and the promising blurb had me acquiring this book into my to-be-read pile. Eons later I suppose, I finally took the plunge and read Loving Luke, and while there were things that could have made this book a better read all around, I still enjoyed reading about Luke’s journey to happily ever after with Hannah.

The story kicks off with Hannah Bluefield going to visit Luke Stone at Deep Mountain Prison to offer the man she has loved all her life who is up for parole a job at her ranch. Hannah dreads finding a miserable and hopeless Luke and instead finds a bleak and hard version of the Luke who had taken over the reins of his family ranch to skyrocket it from thriving to mega successful in a few years. Sentenced to prison for the murder of his wife Chrissy, Luke had been one of the most successful horse trainers in the country before his arrest.

Luke grabs the lifeline that his childhood friend Hannah throws at him though marriage to any woman or giving up his heart once again to be trampled all over is not on his agenda. Luke is determined to remain celibate throughout their marriage, until he can prove his innocence and walk out of Stone Crossing for good, forever. Hannah dreams of finally achieving her dreams of having Luke in her arms and her life for good when Luke doesn’t even remember what took place between them 12 years back, the night she had given up her virginity to the only man she has ever loved.

Life is far from idyllic when the one man who pursued the avenue of Luke doing time for murder is now the new mayor of Stone Crossing and is determined to send Luke back to where he rightfully belongs. However in Hannah he finds a worthy opponent, who would do anything to keep the man who is her only from going back to prison, even if it means that he would walk out on her once his name is cleared.

A fresh murder in Stone Crossing, similar in M.O. to Chrissy’s have the local police hounding on Hannah’s doorstep making Luke fear that his freedom is going to be a short lived one. Though Luke starts depending on Hannah and considers her his lifeline, Luke has trouble letting go of his past, how he was duped before into loving a woman more than his last breath and continues to reject all his emotions where Hannah is concerned until the very last minute when the turn of events towards the end makes him realize that what he has yearned for since his prison cell door slammed on him 10 years back is right in front of him.

I liked the premise of the story well enough and Luke is a yummy hero to dream about. The horse training business that serves as the backdrop was an interesting one and proves to be something that both Hannah and Luke have an immense talent for. I liked Hannah well enough and considered her mother-tiger-protecting-the-cub routine when it comes Luke an endearing one. Though she wears her heart on the sleeve and would love nothing more than for Luke to return her feelings, that doesn’t stop her from trying to ease Luke’s pain and make him see that if he wants, they could have a wonderful life together. And I reveled in the simmering tension between Hannah and Luke which was of the toe-curling variety and lent the story the spice it so rightfully deserves.

However, even with all those things that I liked, there were a certain things that didn’t work for me in the story. I wanted glimpses of Hannah and Luke’s past which Hannah seems to think about a lot. I wanted to know how she fell in love with him, and I wanted Luke’s fascination with Hannah which had started when he was 20 years old to come to the spotlight as well. These issues were just skimmed over, the momentous night in which Hannah gave herself up to Luke all but forgotten and his proposal to Chrissy the very next day just mentioned. The emotions both Hannah and Luke had felt would have made this story a much better read with insights into their shared past lending the story what it needs to make this a 5-star read.  But nevertheless, Loving Luke is a good read, recommended for fans of western romances in a contemporary setting.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo | Wild Rose Press

goodread