ARC Review: How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart by Donna Alward

Format: E-bookhowacowboystoleherheart
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Harlequin Romance, #4270
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Clay Gregory
Heroine: Megan Briggs
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 1, 2011
Started On: September 21, 2011
Finished On: September 22, 2011

I have identified with the fact that Donna Alward writes romances that practically seeps with bittersweet emotions until towards the very end which of course delivers the reader with a happily ever after that is that much sweeter because of the fact. Though not highly sensual in nature, Donna Alward still manages to deliver sexual tension of the toe curling variety amidst all the deeper and messy emotions she makes her characters confront, and that is one reason why I would continue to read her books.

How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart is deceptive in the way its title and blurb are presented. Deceptive I say because I delved into the story expecting a light and fluffy read which would make me feel on top of the world towards the end. However, from page one, you learn that Megan Briggs (Meg) is a survivor of breast cancer, having had one of her breasts removed because of the ravaging disease. She had left her hometown in Larch Valley behind to pursue her treatment and a year on, she is back home determined that she would put away her silly dreams that features her rugged and sexy cowboy neighbor who happens to be her brother’s best friend.

The last time Clay Gregory had talked to Meg it had ended up in a huge verbal confrontation that had concluded in them going their separate ways; Meg for her treatment and Clay to resume his day-to-day life unable to face the fact that someone he cares deeply about has to go through the very same thing that had killed his father and torn his family apart. Clay is a man who holds true to his belief that love and marriage are facets of life better left untouched and is determined that none of that would ever have a place in his life.

When Clay encounters a recovered Meg, she is so much different from the sweet woman he remembers. This Meg stares at him with eyes full of fire, defiance and the will to live her life on her terms stamped all over her face. And  though Clay feels small stirrings of something akin to desire for Meg the stubborn little chit who had always stuck like glue to him when he was growing up, Clay has no intention of acting on any of those feelings that makes him squirm, that is until Meg does a number on him at his aunt Stacy’s wedding which has Clay rapidly reaching out for his crumbling iron-clad control.

Though Meg tries to crush the tendrils of hope that unfurl whenever she is around Clay, the constant misunderstandings that leap out due to their different attitudes towards life and the stuff that scares them both makes it inevitable that a relationship between herself and Clay would never survive the many a tough times that may come ahead. But with Clay equally determined to prove otherwise, it is a battle of wills these two embark upon which makes their ultimate surrender that much more meaningful.

I have to admit that even though there were parts of the story that worked for me such as the tendrils of sexual tension between Meg and Clay that was delicious and heady as they come, to the side characters such as Jen and Tara who all seem to have quite interesting stories of their own to tell, there were certain elements within the story that didn’t quite make the cut for me. I didn’t quite warm up to either Clay or Meg though there are bits and pieces in their characters that makes them endearing and appealing at times. I can’t quite put my finger on why it was so with Clay but with Meg it was the way she wanted to prevent anything from happening between her and Clay because she didn’t want to put Clay through the emotional turmoil of a remission of the cancer which is always a possibility with cancer survivors. The way she makes the decision for Clay without even contemplating the rapidly changing feelings between them didn’t seem to sit with me quite that well.

Even then, I found myself pulled in with the constant whirlwind of emotions that courses through Meg as she tries and walks ahead into a future that is an uncertain one. But her determination and courage through it all just amazed me and I was rooting for her all the way through those moments. Light hearted and fluffy is certainly not what this romance is about, but engrossing and a good deal of emotion it certainly delivers and I would recommend this one for fans of Donna Alward.

Momentous Scenes

  • The moment Clay lays eyes on the altogether made over Meg whose beauty and lure at that moment just shocks him to the very core! *Sigh!*
  • The first kiss. Sizzling hot!

Favorite Quotes

She unlocked the door, but before she could turn the knob his hand covered hers. She turned and froze.
“Clay,” she warned, but it was too late.
His arm came around her, lifted her feet clear off the floor as he kissed her: hot, demanding, and all encompassing.
His mouth was soft, hot and devastating. Megan let the shock ripple deliciously through her as she clutched his shoulders. There was a small thunk as the house key dropped to the step. Even through the layers of his tuxedo and her coat Meg felt the hardness of his body against her.

Short & Sweet Review: Breathe by Donna Alward

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Samhain Publishing Ltd.
Hero: Jace Willow
Heroine: Anna Morelli
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 2, 2010
Started On: November 5, 2010
Finished On: November 5, 2010

Though I have never tried any of Donna Alward’s books, I have had her title Sold to the Highest Bidder in my TBR pile for quite sometime now. And whilst I was browsing through Samhain Publisher’s website last month looking for new releases (not that I don’t have enough books to be read already), I found myself interested in this story and have been looking forward to its release since then. And I have got to say I am quietly impressed on all fronts with this story as it delivers what it promises and more with this quick page turner which I loved from the start to finish.

The Hero: Jace Willow, now owner of the Two Willows Winery grew up dirt poor with two parents who had always struggled to make ends meet and to provide for him the best they could. When Jace’s father is hired by the rich Italian Roberto Morelli to look after his stables, Jace lives vicariously through his children Alex and Anna Morelli who live a life of luxury that Jace can only dream about. Roberto had always made Jace feel that he would never be good enough and that resentment alone was enough for Jace to equal happiness with being successful and being able to provide for his family all the little as well as extravagant luxuries in life. Alex had been his best friend whilst Anna had been close as well but she had always meant something more to Jace until the summer that everything changes between them.

The Heroine: Anna Morelli had grown up feeling cossetted and stifled with expectations from her rigid and controlling father all her life. Anna’s mother had walked out on them when she had been quite young and it had been Alex who had being her savior back then. But when Jace had come along, Anna’s world had revolved around Jace and a friendship that was frowned upon by her father had bloomed into something much more the summer when Anna had barely turned 18. But when Jace leaves her to pursue his dreams of getting rich and making a name for himself, Anna does the one thing that she regrets more than anything else in her life. She ups and marries her father approved Stefano for whom she bears her two adorable children Matteo and Aurelia.

Storyline: When Stefano dies leaving Anna a widow with two children in his wake, the role of the grieving widow that she is forced to play when grief is the furthest thing from what she is feeling makes Anna run towards the one man she knows that she can count on. Jace is taken aback to find his beautiful Anna, the one woman whom Jace would lay down his life for at his winery with her two children looking for a place to regroup from all that had happened to Anna till now. Resentments that Jace had long since thought buried come to the surface making a situation fraught with tension that much harder to deal with making this story one of the most angst filled reads I have read of late – a fact which I loved.

The First Encounter: There is no mention of how or what happened when Anna and Jace had first met each other. But rather there are flashbacks and memories of a past that had built a strong and everlasting bond between two people who are definitely two halves of one soul.

Time period: This story has a contemporary setting and takes place in Canada.

Awareness between the hero and heroine: Though the sexual zing between Anna and Jace doesn’t take center stage in the story, nevertheless its subtlety makes the read one worth sinking into. With flashbacks into a time when the only thing that had mattered to both Jace and Anna had been each other, the awareness between Anna and Jace never ceases all throughout the story.

The turning point: Though at first Jace resents having his life intruded upon by the love of his life and her two children when Jace had been one who was adamant on the fact that he doesn’t want children, the move into his house and the close proximity between all of them proves to be Jace’s undoing. The deep hurt, resentment and anger that Jace had stored up all through the years reach its culmination and the healing process begins as a result of which Jace and Anna get a chance to make their love work, a second time round.

Ending: Jace and Anna get their happily ever after and a beautifully done epilogue had me satisfied on all ends by the time the story was through.

Likes: I loved all the characters within the story. Jace who had been hurt so bad when Anna had married another, who still opens up his door for the woman he loves more than anything in his life, who has a twisted vision of what is actually important in life was one of the best things about this story. Anna too drew me into her character, made me sympathize with what she had gone through and I loved her for the fact that she reaches out to Jace whose wounds are festering on the inside and had enough courage to face whatever it was that kept them from communicating truthfully with each other. And I just adored both Matteo and Aurelia who just invaded right into my heart right from the very first moment. The title is so very appropriate for the story such that there was so much emotion packed into it that I forgot to breathe at times or tended to hold my breathe in as two people who are definitely made for one another tried in their own ways to show the other that nothing means more to them than making the other happy.

Dislikes: None.

Recommended for: Those who love a romance that has so much emotion packed into it that you cannot help but hold your breathe in hoping against hope that the hero and heroine gets their happily ever after – and soon before you pass out!

Favorite Quotes

“Matteo, you’re in charge of helping your sister.” Jace issued the instruction while Anna stared in surprise. He handed them a plate with crackers, tiny pieces of cheese, and baby-sized pieces of proscuitto. He fixed a similar plate for Anna, only in adult proportions, and then one for himself.
It was simple. It was perfect.
A flurry behind them announced a family of loons taking off from the river. Matteo pointed at them with a finger and Aurelia’s mouth made an “O” in response. Jace looked at Anna and smiled.
And damn near broke her heart.

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