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.

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ARC Review: The Sheriff’s Daughter by Kay Stockham

Format: E-bookthesherrifsdaughter
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: North Star, Montana Series, Book 1
Publisher: Harlequin Publishers
Hero: Liam McKenna
Heroine: Caroline Taggert
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 6, 2011
Started On: October 1, 2011
Finished On: October 8, 2011

I am always confused when it comes to the release dates of Harlequin romances. The Sheriff’s Daughter was up for grabs at Netgalley & states the release date as the 10th of this month. But a visit to the author’s website revealed that this book has already been released this September. Regardless of all this confusion, The Sheriff’s Daughter turned out to be a surprisingly wonderful & heartwarming romance, filled with endearing characters that worm their way into your hearts and impact you in a way that makes you remember them even long after you are done with the story.

This is the 1st book in a new series entitled as North Star, Montana Series. Based in the small town of North Star in Montana, this series focuses on the three adopted boys Liam, Brad and Chance of the McKenna family. The Sheriff’s Daughter tells the story of Liam, the boy who used to get into all sorts of trouble, who grows into a man who carries the sort of deep emotional wounds that one would never fathom that the now calm and controlled Deputy Sheriff of North Star to have.

Liam and Carly meet each other in high school during their freshmen year, Carly growing up as the daughter of the town’s sheriff and as the town sweetheart whilst Liam had grown up in foster care ever since he turned five years old, his belligerence stemming from the fact that his mother had never wanted anything to do with him. Carly has her own demons to conquer with her mother abandoning her while she was young. The hurt that has never completely faded away is one reason why Carly is so adamant on becoming a foster mother, going so far as to completing all the paperwork that would pave the way for her.

When Carly’s father goes on a two week vacation, Liam is under orders to see to Carly’s welfare, to see to it that she doesn’t get into any sort of trouble while the Sheriff is away. Carly revels in the freedom of not having her father around for the first time in her 27 years of life and gets into a bit of trouble here and there, just not enough to warrant Liam breathing down her neck, enticing her into forgetting that she has never before had the hots for her friend since high school.

Liam tries so damn hard to keep his hands off of Carly, but the temptation she presents just by existing is too hard for him to deny. Though Liam knows that he has nothing to offer for someone like Carly who shines with an inner goodness that has landed her in her fair share of trouble in the past, Liam cannot say no to the answering need that blazes to life in Carly as one kiss turns into two and something much more than either of them bargained for.

The Sheriff’s Daughter is a very well done first book for an enticing series that I am definitely going to be keeping an eye out for. Kay Stockham though a new author for me didn’t make me feel like a stranger to her writing. Her way of telling a story leaves no room for the reader to back out, but rather invites one to make herself at home and see where Kay’s characters are going to lead you. I loved the way Kay seemed  to know just which buttons to push when it came to both Liam and Carly and absolutely reveled in all the emotionally-charged encounters that Kay delivers so very well.

Liam is a hero that each and every one of us  is bound to fall for. Strong, silent and handsome with a tortured soul that deep down inside wants love and is afraid to ask for it, Liam’s brooding nature makes for a very enticing hero. His control which always snaps when it comes to Carly was so darn fun to watch, the way he tries to hold himself together around her and fails so miserably, lets just say that I was grinning throughout it all!

Carly is such a wonderful heroine who managed to make me fall in love with her right from the very start. With her heart always in the right place, all Carly wants is a stable home and a man who would stand by her side and children that she can love and grow old with. Though Liam tempts her in ways she has never been tempted before, Carly’s one hard and fast rule in relationships has always been to never date someone whose a cop. But for Liam, Carly finds herself breaking all the rules, defying every reason that she stay away from him because deep down inside Carly knows that Liam is the one for her. And though Liam might push her away, Carly knows that he needs her more than she needs him.

It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time to see Carly’s struggles as a foster mother, an aspect of the novel that I found really interesting. There were no short cuts to handling becoming a foster mother for the first time, the troubles Carly faced seeming all too real which lends the story that quality that makes it hard to put down. Liam who is adamant that Carly remain as far away as possible from foster parenting finds himself tied to a woman whose big heart refuses to do that, forcing Liam face his worst nightmares and open up wounds that are better left unopened.

There is not one character within the story that doesn’t lend something extra to it, making this contemporary romance a very well rounded one. The passion between Carly and Liam is of the toe-curling variety, one that made my senses come alive and hum in anticipation every single time. Kay certainly knows how to deliver on all the sexual tension she creates so well, and I for one ended up very satisfied with how she dealt with their passion, the romance and of course the happily ever after.

The ending which came with a lot of surprising twists and turns paves the way for the next story in the series. Brad, the steadfast member of the McKenna family who has to butt heads with the daughter of his foster father who never acknowledged her father’s existence when he was alive. The sparks I believe will surely fly & I am expecting a lot of emotional grittiness from the story, knowing how well Kay can deliver a good dose of angst with her stories if this book is anything to judge her style by.

Recommended for fans of Harlequin Superromances, fans of Kay Stockham and fans of romances with a small town setting, The Sheriff’s Daughter is an intense read that delivers on all counts.

Favorite Quotes

Liam stared at her, his gaze glittering hot with something she was afraid to identify because it made her knees weak and she couldn’t breathe from the intensity and pace of her heart pounding away in her chest.
He wanted to kiss her.
He didn’t want to want to kiss her—she could read that in his expression, as well—but she knew he did. And right, then. Cop or not—mistake that it would be— she wanted him to kiss her, too.

His mouth settled over hers with mind-numbing possession and it was way better than the on-screen kisses she’d envied. Way better than— Wow.
Liam released a husky groan the second his tongue swept into her mouth to touch hers. Fire exploded in her veins, a hot rush of feeling and sensation that obliterated the chiding voice in her head, screaming at her to run.

When she didn’t let go, when she buried her freckled nose in his chest and snuggled closer and when she shivered from the cold, he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and wrapping his arms around her. Hesitant, he lowered his face into her hair and breathed deep.

Liam tossed the top half of the sleeping bag aside and snagged the end of her shirt and jacket. Her jeans were next, the moonlight bright enough he could see the masses of freckles on her pale skin and the starkness of Carly’s matching black lace underwear. “Do you always wear things like that?”
“They make me feel sexy.”
She didn’t need anything to be sexy. “Any sexier and I’d keel over now.”

Groaning softly, he kissed her, his tongue on hers as he matched his movements. His strokes quickened, harder, deeper, until pleasure suffused every nerve in her body and sent her zinging into the heavens above like the lights they’d come there to watch.

She turned her head and rubbed her cheek against the surprisingly velvety feel of his inner arm, the muscle tensing even more against her face when she pressed a kiss to his skin. In response, she felt him flex inside her.
She’d always hated her name. It was too old-fashioned, too hokey and very grandma-ish. But when Liam said it like that, she actually liked it. He made her name, he made her, feel like the sexiest, most beautiful woman on earth.

He sucked in a harsh breath when she pressed her mouth to his, and she was fascinated by the way his eyes darkened and glittered with sexual hunger when their tongues melded together. It was cold, the temperature dropping little by little. It didn’t matter. Not when she could press her bare breasts against his chest to warm them, when his hands slid up her back and his arms were so engulfing and so hot she was encased in perfect heat.

“Before you tell me how we shouldn’t be doing this—” did she dare say what she was thinking? “—I want you to remember how it felt when we were together, because I know you’d like to feel that way again.”
His hands tightened at her waist and his entire body hardened against hers. She drew back enough to see his face and caught her breath at his expression. Desire and want, need. Not sexual but…the need for closeness, for a connection. For her.

With every detail about his home she noted, anticipation built inside her. His silence added to the feeling when the closing of the door and the latch of the lock shut out the moonlight and everything else.
The last what-if niggles of doubts fled entirely, replaced one hundred percent by the awareness that she was with the man she was supposed to be with. Broken, bruised, guarded. Liam needed her. Even more than she needed and wanted him.

He suddenly understood in a way and on a level he never had before why Carly was so passionate about fostering. Why she was drawn to it.
He understood, but it didn’t make it any easier. Carly had never been abused and she wasn’t sucked into hell at the sight of every mark on Riley.
Not like him. Staring into Riley’s gaze Liam saw clear to the kid’s battered soul and it ripped Liam’s heart out because what he saw… What he saw was like reliving his past—and getting burned—all over again.

A flash of something—hope, excitement, disbelief— flickered over the boy’s face, shattering the remaining pieces of her heart. She’d known it would be a hard journey, and staring at Riley’s cast and bruises, she struggled to hold a smile on her face. Being a mother, especially a foster mother, took strength and courage, a backbone of steel and a loving heart.
All the qualities her mother had lacked—and all the things Carly was slowly learning she possessed.