HARD LOVING COWBOY by A. J. Pine

April 12, 2019

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Crossroads Ranch Series, Book 4

From the publisher:

This cowboy’s handsome, sexy, and definitely off limits . . .

Walker Everett spends his days at the Crossroads Ranch wrangling cattle-and steering clear of anything that would complicate his already too-complicated life. Until Violet Chastain, the ranch’s newest employee, asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend for her parents’ anniversary party. She’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever met and needs his help. How can he refuse?Violet isn’t about to fall for a brooding bad-boy cowboy, no matter how sizzling their chemistry. But she also never expected Walker to go along with the charade. Before long, he’s charming her parents at their weekly dinners and kissing her way more than necessary. Spending so much time together tests the limits of their “just friends” relationship, but what happens when their game of pretend becomes all too real?

Includes the bonus story Rocky Mountain Cowboy by Sara Richardson!


I read the third book in this series, Tough Luck Cowboy, which I mistook for the second book, but somehow missed the first (not unusual for me!) and the actual second book. Maybe. Apparently Amazon is as confused as I am about the order of this series! I am going to have to backtrack and find them because I know there are holes in the background that I’m missing.

So first things first, as my mother used to say, do as I say, not as I do, and read this series in order! I am investigating. Because of my little bit of confusion, I skipped reading the bonus novella but I’m sure I will get to that eventually.

The fake boyfriend is a good romance standby, and it works really well here. Violet has some serious family issues, and when Walker fakes it for her parents, too, she is really happy. Especially as she’s falling for him, despite all her reasons not to.

Walker is a good man, even if he is a cowboy. I lived in Dallas for five years in the early 80’s and rarely saw cowboys like the ones in these books. I think I mostly saw urban cowboys, thanks to the movie (John Travolta) and the TV series, “Dallas.” I lived just a few miles from Southfork and never saw them filming. I did see Susan Howard (“Donna Krebs”) in the hair salon once. But I digress.

I love this contemporary cowboy romance subgenre, and this one is pretty good. But I think it will be better once I read the other books in the series!

Crossroads Ranch Series, in order according to Amazon, sometimes:

  1. Second Chance Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 1) Feb 27, 2018
  2. Saved by the Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 2) Aug 7, 2018 (according to the author’s website, this is book 1.5 so maybe a novella?)
  3. Tough Luck Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 3) Aug 28, 2018 (according to the author’s website, this is book 2)
  4. Hard Loving Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 4) Mar 26, 2019 (according to the author’s website, this is book 3)

So according to the author, I read books 2 and book 3 and there is no book 4. And I can’t borrow Saved by the Cowboy from my library so I guess I’ll just be missing that one. Sigh.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HARD LOVING COWBOY by A. J. Pine. Forever (March 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1538727119.  480p.

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THE KOREAN WOMAN by John Altman

April 11, 2019

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Altman presents an extremely well planned and written novel about a sleeper spy living in the United States on behalf of the regime of North Korea.

The stark difference in ideas and life between the two countries has never been better presented than in this book. Song Sun Young was born in North Korea. She grew up in an environment of repression, semi-starvation and with even the slightest deviation from proscribed activity, punishment by death. In spite of this, Song has tried several times to escape along with her brother to South Korea. The last attempt meets with capture, but instead of executing her the government recognizes her intelligence and initiates a program to prepare her to become a mole; i.e. a sleeper agent in the United States.

Fast forwarding from her insertion into the U.S., Song is married to an American whom she loves and two children with him that are her pride and joy. But after seven years of this happy life she is called by North Korea to start the work she was trained for. Song’s brother has been held over her head with the threat that if she does not do as required he will be killed and she has no choice but to follow orders.

Song is not aware that the CIA knows of her and follows her as she moves forward with her mission for North Korea. Working with the CIA is Dalia Artzi a retired Israeli operative that Altman has used in other novels. The reader follows the counter actions of the CIA through the thinking of Dalia while working with them.

The culmination of the novel is a crisis that may lead to very unforeseen consequences and if you haven’t slept while reading the first part, what is happening will keep your eyelids open even wider. A very well done and well plotted adventure into international politics and conflict between nations.

4/19 Paul Lane

THE KOREAN WOMAN by John Altman. Blackstone Publishing; Unabridged edition (April 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1470826970. 272p.

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THIS SCOT OF MINE by Sophie Jordan

April 10, 2019

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The Rogue Files, Book 4

From the publisher:

A daring deception…

Desperate to escape her vile fiancé, Lady Clara devises a bold lie—that she’s pregnant with another man’s child. With her reputation in tatters, Clara flees to Scotland to live out her days in disgrace, resigned to her fate as a spinster…until she claps eyes on the powerful and wickedly handsome Laird Hunt MacLarin.

She’s the answer to his curse…

Laird of an ancient clan, Hunt needs an heir, but he comes from a long line of men cursed to die before the birth of their firstborn. When the Duke of Autenberry approaches him with a proposition—marry my ruined sister—it seems the perfect solution. Even better, the defiant lass stirs him to his very soul.

No escaping the truth…

Except marriage cannot set them free. No matter how much Hunt desires her. No matter how much Clara burns for him. Soon she is falling for her husband, but is love enough to end the curse? Or is the tragic history of the MacLarin Clan doomed to repeat itself?


This silly curse.

May all future lairds of Clan MacLarin live out their days knowing they are marked to love, but not to live. Until a laird of this line lives to see his first-born draw breath, this curse shall never be broken.

Clara thinks it’s silly. Her brother thinks it’s silly. But Hunt grew up with it and he and his grandmother strongly believe. She lost her husband before her son was born, and her son before her grandson was born. Hunt was raised knowing that if he procreated, he would die. So when he meets Clara, he thinks he met the perfect woman.

Clara is the daughter and brother of a duke. But when she is ruined in London, she is sent to live with her brother in Scotland. Everyone believes her lie and assumes that she is pregnant. Hunt happily acquiesces to the Duke and is happy to marry her and raise her child as his own, thus working around the curse and hopefully living a long life. Until the morning after the wedding night when he finds out about the lie.

Feeling that he is doomed, he tries to stay away from Clara but the attraction between them is sizzling hot. So is the sex in this book, for that matter. So despite his grandmother’s dire warnings and his own feeling of dread, Hunt and Clara find a way to their happily ever after.

No spoilers here, I’ll just say I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and thoroughly enjoyed this latest entry into one of my favorite series. I don’t think they need to be read in order, but in case you want to, here you go:

1. While the duke was sleeping
2. The scandal of it all
3. The duke buys a bride

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THIS SCOT OF MINE by Sophie Jordan. Avon (March 12, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062463661. 352p.

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THE EIGHTH SISTER by Robert Dugoni

April 9, 2019

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Dugoni is a well published author with a great many novels to his credit already. He normally writes utilizing one or several characters appearing in previous novels but has done just a few standalone books. “The Eighth Sister” is one of these although it does feature some characters from other novels.

Charles Jenkins is a retired CIA employee currently living on a farm he owns in Washington State. He’s happily married with one son and another child on the way. He is not a young man, he’s in his sixties but in good shape. He’s still at an age that most people will retire. He and his wife own a security consulting business with one very large customer that is expanding internationally and representing a good steady and growing income.

Suddenly the customer begins paying slowly, indicating cash flow problems due to its rapid expansion but forcing Charles to balk on settling his own businesses debts. This naturally impedes progress since his suppliers begin slowing down the credit extended to him.

Out of the blue, his ex-supervisor comes to visit him with a proposal. Charles has not seen him since they worked together in Mexico City in the 1960s. The CIA would like to utilize a person with Charles’ capabilities, which include speaking fluent Russian as well as experience operating for the organization. A fee is negotiated with the mission being to look into a situation in which a group called the “The Seven Sisters” currently operating in Russia as spies for the U.S. are being assassinated. Jenkins is told to contact an Eighth Sister in Moscow who remains unknown and is the only person that could be of help in locating the other seven women in order to get them out of Russia.

Charles’ adventures in Russia supply the bulk of the action of the novel. Dugoni is familiar with the territory he describes as the scene of Jenkins’ search both upon arrival and when he is discovered and chased by a brilliant Russian intelligence officer through the country as well as later in Turkey.

Robert Dugoni’s handling of Jenkins as the principal character is the highlight of this novel. Again, Charles is in good condition, but in his sixties and not in the shape he was in when he worked in Mexico for the CIA. He is also worried as any husband and father would be about this job causing problems for his pregnant wife and their son as well as the developing fetus soon to be born. His thoughts, feelings and his actions reflect those of a capable individual that is not in the prime condition necessary to do what he is called upon to do but forces himself to “soldier” on.

The book is a fascinating read with conditions and backgrounds brilliantly described with the reader immersed in the book and not able to put it down until completed. Very well done.

4/19 Paul Lanes

THE EIGHTH SISTER by Robert Dugoni. Thomas & Mercer (April 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1503903036. 465p.

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THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS by Victoria James

April 8, 2019

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From the publisher:

From New York Times bestseller Victoria James comes a poignant and heartfelt romance that wraps you in a warm embrace…

Eight years ago, Tyler Donnelly left Wishing River, Montana, after a terrible fight with his father and swore he’d never return. But when his father has a stroke, guilt and duty drive him home, and nothing is as he remembers––from the run-down ranch to Lainey Sullivan, who is all grown up now. And darn if he can’t seem to stay away.

Lainey’s late grandma left her two things: the family diner and a deep-seated mistrust of cowboys. So when Tyler quietly rides back into town looking better than hot apple pie, she knows she’s in trouble. But she owes his dad everything, and she’s determined to show Ty what it means to be part of a small town…and part of a family.

Lainey’s courage pushes Ty to want to make Wishing River into a home again―together. But one of them is harboring a secret that could change everything.


This was the first book I read by this author, and it was pretty good. It is a sweet romance, centered around family dynamics and has just enough drama to keep the pages turning. The characters are well developed, even the secondary ones, and I liked getting to know them all and the small town that is pretty much another character in this story. There is a bit of mystery surrounding the family feud between Ty and his dad which makes sense as it unfolds.

Lainey’s keeping a secret from Ty. This is a common trope in romances, and not my favorite. She knows she should tell him yet there never seems to be a good time until it blows up. I guess I’m too blunt in my own life to truly understand why people do this. You’re in a relationship, be honest or get out. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

That is a minor quibble though. The story moves along nicely, and it is always good to end a book with a smile. I love the happily ever after found here.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS by Victoria James. Entangled: Amara (March 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1640635418.  320p.

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THREE LITTLE WORDS by Jenny Holiday

April 7, 2019

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Bridesmaids Behaving Badly, Book 3

From the publisher:

From the USA Today bestselling author who is a “master of witty banter” (Entertainment Weekly) comes a hilarious road trip romance that proves opposites don’t just attract, they ignite.
Gia Gallo is officially in bridesmaid hell. Stranded in New York with her best friend’s wedding dress, Gia has six days to make it to Florida in time for the ceremony. And oh-so-charming best man Bennett Buchanan has taken the last available rental car. Looks like she’s in for one long road trip with the sexiest – and most irritating – Southern gentleman she’s ever met…
Bennett’s pretty sure that if there was ever a woman to break his “no flings” rule, Gia would be it. Sure, she’s stubborn. She’s also funny, smart, and the attraction between them is getting hotter with every state line they cross. While Bennett doesn’t do casual, Gia doesn’t do “relationships.” But if they break the rules, this unlikely pair might discover that their impromptu road trip could turn out to be the best ride of their lives.

This laugh-out-loud book was my antidote to the news this week. I wanted fun. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to get lost in someone else’s life and not have to think about what is going on in this country. This book checked off all the boxes for me. It’s the third book of a terrific series, and I’ve enjoyed all of them so far. Since the stories revolve around four best friends, I’m guessing there is one more book to follow. There are also a couple of novellas tucked into this series, but I haven’t found them yet.

Gia has appeared in the first couple of books and I felt like I got to know her a little bit from those so I think this is a series that is best read in order. Gia is a model, so it can be easy to hate her <cough>. But Holiday doesn’t let us fall into that trap. Instead, she takes someone who definitely has a bad side and turns her into someone we can root for.

Bennett is something of an anomaly of a man, but as we get to know him it starts to make sense. Again, Holiday steers this ship and keeps it upright, dodging big waves and ultimately taking us to the happily ever after – which is why I picked up this book.

Another fast, fun read in a sexy series. I really enjoyed this escape.

04/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THREE LITTLE WORDS by Jenny Holiday. Forever (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-1455542468.  368p.

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DIARY OF A DEAD MAN ON LEAVE by David Downing

April 6, 2019

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Downing has made his literary reputation with novels mainly set in Europe during the period of World War I and approximately to the second world war. His knowledge of actual events and circumstances is prodigious gained obviously through very painstaking research. The current book is no exception and is set in the Germany of the late 1930s during the period when Hitler was consolidating power over his people.

Josef Hoffman is a man that was born in the German city of Hamm and was old enough to serve in the first world war fighting for Germany. After the war was over he left his country living in Latin America and becoming an agent for the Soviet Communist party. His job was to organize sympathizers of the Communist doctrine into groups working to instill their beliefs into the general population of their country.

When Josef arrived in Hamm he took a room in a boarding house owned by a woman with two sons living with her. Josef’s work is described with vivid details of the events surrounding his efforts as well as bringing to life residents of the boarding house. Hitler has put unworkable ideas into practice and it is becoming evident that the only way he can pull Germany out of the morass it is in is with a major war. At the same time Hitler has selected scapegoats to blame economic conditions on: the main ones are the Jews living in Germany as well as in countries that are subjects of the projected war. Josef is writing a diary delineating the events of the time that he is working in Germany. He voices the opinions that the horrors inflicted by Hitler’s Nazi party go beyond anything that is civilized and humane.

Reading this book takes the reader completely into a world that is alien to those hearing about it today. It is a fascinating read; one that brings up a picture of a world turned on it’s axis and showing a side of human beings that have found they need to accept the unthinkable if they are to survive the new world that has evolved around them. A Gestapo has been formed with the function of arresting and punishing anyone that is against the regime. Anyone can cause someone to be arrested by merely denouncing them. People are guilty as charged with almost no way to prove that their arrest was without grounds.

This is a novel that does deserve attention not only for a fascinating story but as a warning that if people don’t watch their governments those entities can evolve into repressive horrors. A very powerful read and of course, one that will cause sleeplessness until the book is finished.

4/19 Paul Lanes

DIARY OF A DEAD MAN ON LEAVE by David Downing. Soho Crime (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1616958435. 312p.

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THE GHOST MANUSCRIPT by Kris Frieswick

April 4, 2019

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Carys Jones has a very unusual profession. She makes her living authenticating rare books for clients like museums, galleries, and wealthy collectors that can afford the high costs of establishing authenticity of the item or items they are interested in.

We meet her at the moment that her largest current customer is committed to an insane asylum. He makes a deal with Carys to authenticate a book and also follow it’s printed clues to a destination. In return he offers her his entire collection of rare books worth millions if she will successfully find the item that the book provides clues for. The veritable offer that cannot be refused sets Carys off on the adventure of a lifetime.

The item being sought is a tomb. Of whom is a find of all time and if excavated could change the course of history, possibly reshape national boundaries, and revamp all modern thought about the historic past. The estimated carbon dating for the writing of the book places it about the middle of the sixth century A.D. The writer is a monk that did live at that time, residing in a section of what is currently Wales.

The path to solving the puzzle delineated by the manuscript lies in a trip to Wales. Carys goes there, finds a romance with a young Welshman who helps her and also some confrontations with the ghost of the Monk that wrote the book.

To remove the book from the possibility of becoming a ghost story Frieswick offers an explanation of the spectral appearances that may be what is happening to Carys. Could be, but the ghost’s appearances does become important to several events depicted. The reader will be able to decide on their own which explanation is valid.

When it develops that the tomb in question is actually in the New World the action moves to the Cape Cod area of the United States. The finale of the novel becomes a bit of a spoiler when it develops into something that while a surprise, doesn’t do justice to the the crafting of the story. It is as if Frieswick found she was at the end of the main great idea and reached out for the first ending available. In spite of this I must indicate that future books by the author will be sought by me with a good deal of anticipation.

4/19 Paul Lane

THE GHOST MANUSCRIPT by Kris Frieswick.  Post Hill Press (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1642930245. 432p.

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CLOSER THAN YOU THINK by Darren O’Sullivan

April 3, 2019

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Claire Moore is living a half life, caught up in the terror of surviving the attack of a serial killer that did succeed in killing her husband 10 years prior to the story’s opening. She managed to save her own life at the cost of major injuries to both her arms and legs due to her struggles to escape the killer’s rage. She is afraid to go out, terrified of being alone in her own home, and jumping at shadows. O’Sullivan’s depiction of Claire and her overwhelming phobia is a masterpiece of description of what does happen to a person subjected to terror, surviving it but completely traumatized by what has happened to her.

Trying to help her face life, her mother and stepfather have subjected themselves to staying within beck and call of her and jumping to her rescue when Claire imagines something is threatening her. At the point the story begins, her mother and stepfather have succeeded in convincing Claire to try meeting single men and attempting to reenter normal interaction between normal people. She also has a following of a large group of people that have formed a support group in order to help her regain normalcy.

Thanks to her mother’s efforts, Claire meets a man that she finds herself attracted to, allowing herself to draw closer to him and developing the thoughts of a normalized life together. In the background of her attempts at coming back to social interaction are the actions of a serial killer that is copying the style of the man that killed Claire’s husband and attacked her, but who subsequently died in prison. She certainly imagines that the new copycat killer will go after her as a logical extension of what happened in the past.

The reader is drawn to Claire, connects to her thoughts and actions and is pulled into the novel by a very gifted author that has obviously postulated and successfully described a human being enduring the most emotionally troubled situation that can befall anyone. The ending is one that follows the actions of the story but becomes a part that probably won’t please everyone but is logical and could be admitted as the end. A well done story and one that will remain with the reader for a long time after completing the book.

NOTE: eBook or digital audiobook only.

4/19 Paul Lane

CLOSER THAN YOU THINK by Darren O’Sullivan. HQ Digital (March 15, 2019). ASIN B07HCV9PSB. 277p.

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CRASHING INTO HER by Mia Sosa

April 2, 2019

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CRASHING INTO HER by Mia Sosa. Avon Impulse; Reissue edition (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-0062878762. 400p.

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