Love With a Scandalous Lord

Never Love a Cowboy

Never Marry a Cowboy

The Outlaw & the Lady

A Rogue in Texas

Texas Destiny

Texas Glory

Texas Splendor

To Marry an Heiress

Hard Loviní Man by Lorraine Heath
(Pocket Star, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7434-5744-7
Lorraine Heath has returned to her former splendor with a touching, emotional and endearing romance. Hard Loviní Man, despite the rather non-descriptive title, is a treasure full of lost opportunities found, secrets revealed and healed, and an enduring love story.

Nine years ago Kelley Spencer, a newly graduated, 22-year-old teacher came to Hopeful, Texas, looking for a fresh start. She met 19-year-old senior Jack Morgan and was determined to stay true to her ethics despite the attraction. Bad boy Jack did everything in his power to tempt her, but all she did was motivate him to get his act together and graduate. Just when she thought they might be able to have a relationship, another teenager named Stephanie accused Jack of getting her pregnant. Kelley made Jack stand up for his responsibility and marry Stephanie. Then she left, hurt and licking her wounds.

Times have changed. Kelley is now the guardian of her 15-year-old sister, Madison. Kellyís mother and stepfather were killed in an accident 18 months ago and she took over the care of a confused and rebellious teenager. After some trouble in Dallas, Kelley decides to move to Hopeful, again hoping for a fresh start.

Jack Morgan walks back in her life when Kelley is called to the police station to get Madison, who was trying to pick up a man at the local bar, dressed to the nines and passing off a fake ID. Kelley didnít know Jack had returned, but here he is and the police chief to boot.

Jack had spent the intervening years in the army, then in college. He and Stephanie have long since divorced and Jack is raising his son, Jason. He is living next door to his best friendís widow and her son. Serena and Jack have a strong friendship and share the burden of raising sons only months apart in age. But Jack still sees his army buddy in his mind and nothing more will develop with that relationship. Besides, Jack has never forgotten Kelley.

He sees her return as a sign they are meant to be together. Kelley is cautious, fearful of getting hurt again. Madison is struggling with dealing with her sister, who was a friend and is now acting like her mother. Jason is laying hints about wanting a mother.

It was so easy to be drawn into this story. If you like bad boys who turn into good guys, then Jack is for you. He is hard when he needs to be and tender when he can be. He is a great father and a good man. He is proud of who he has become and credits Kelley for his turnaround. She was the first female to believe in him without disdain or pity. Yet when things get tough and Kelley proves she is not perfect, he shows his love is more than heroine-worship.

Kelley has scars she has hidden well. Yet she is doing all she can to help Madison and lead her in the right direction. She starts to take a chance on Jack and their romance is a gem. They love, they laugh, they disagree and they do so as adults. They work on their relationship and it is a joy to be a part of it.

Madison is a well-written teen. She is rebellious, but she also has other sides to her. Her moods seem legit and her emotional roller coaster realistic. Jason is a 10 year old who acts like a 10 year old. Both are refreshing and true to life.

The story is all about these people. It is written in a style that slowly reveals their thoughts and feelings. The past, which has shaped them, is exposed slowly and in a manner that keeps you wondering. When the payoff comes, it is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. They react they way you would expect someone to act in the circumstances.

This story brought out all my emotions. I laughed and smiled. I was warmed by the love scenes, which are explicit but written in a loving manner. I cried. And I finished the story with that cuddly feeling that I want when I read a romance.

There is one little twinge that made me uncomfortable in the beginning about the early relationship between Kelley and Jack. Yes, Jack was 19, but he was still her student. Kelley vows to maintain her ethics but comes really close to crossing the line. Once the whole story is revealed, I had much less angst about this, but in the beginning, when only bits and pieces are exposed, it caused some minor discomfort.

Hard Loviní Man is a great story with real-life characters and a romance that will warm you while bringing you to tears. It is a story I will want to read over and over again.

--Shirley Lyons

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