‘Unbuttoning Miss Hardwick’ by Deb Marlowe

UMH DMSTORY: Adopting the guise of a buttoned-up spinster is nothing new for Chloe Hardwick. But under the watchful eye of her unnervingly handsome employer, the Marquess of Marland, for the first time Chloe yearns to be unbuttoned! Yet he sees her only as his assistant, the efficient Hardwick—not as Chloe the woman.

Determined to escape Braedon’s cold detachment, Chloe leaves. And when he pursues her to London, determined to entice her back, Braedon is utterly unprepared for what he finds there—the real Chloe Hardwick…

REVIEW: The novel opens as Braedon Denning, the seventh Marquess of Marland returns home after spending some time abroad, to find that this “Mr.Hardwick” (upon whom he’s been relying during his absence to oversee building a new wing to Castle Denning which would allow him to better display and protect his vast collection of rare and antique weapons), is actually a woman.

Chloe Hardwick, the adopted daughter of George Hardwick who has passed away from a wasting illness some sixteen months ago, has lived at Castle Denning while learning everything from her father before he passed away. The knowledge, contacts and capabilities she acquired were unsurpassed.  

While Chloe is nervous at finally meeting the Marquess, she is cool and calm as she explains the changes and improvements that have been made during his absence.  Although impressed at Chloe’s capabilities, he is unimpressed at her almost manly clothes and dress with lots of buttons, rather like a gentleman’s morning coat.

The cold detachment with which Braedon continually treats Chloe results in her decision to leave Castle Denning and journey to London.  However, with her absence, things are not running smoothly at the estate.

Therefore, the Marquess decides to go to London to see if he can entice Chloe to return. When he meets her again, he is enthralled with the beautiful woman he finds.  She has begun to dress in a more feminine way and he becomes smitten.

While in London, Braedon and Chloe team up in their quest to find and buy the very rare and valuable weapon known as Skanda’s Spear to add to Braedon’s collection.  They are up against some dangerous and unscrupulous people who wish to find and own the spear as well.  These foes will stop at nothing to keep Braedon and Chloe from getting the Spear.

I found this novel to be a bit difficult to follow at times.  I simply did not care for the character of Braedon as his cold and detached manner hardly seemed to change throughout the novel. However, I am sure that readers that enjoy learning about antique weaponry, wouldn’t mind reading it.

Connie Fischer for b2b

‘Doc Holiday’ by Debra Dixon

STORY: Drew Haywood needs a feminine touch to help give his young son a holiday to remember—and no one does Christmas better than Taylor Bishop. She knows how to transform a house into a home that sparkles. But when Drew lets his guard down, he finds that Taylor has much more to offer. Kissing her is like coming in out of the cold—and Drew doesn’t want to go back out.

Taylor has already raised one family—she grew up with six brothers, after all—and she doesn’t need another. She may have fallen for Drew as a teenager, but he’s asking for a Christmas miracle that would break all her rules. Still, the chemistry she shares with this sexy, single father has nothing to do with the past. Perhaps the gift of a young boy’s smile, not to mention stolen kisses beneath the mistletoe, will point the way to the one thing on Taylor’s wish list.

REVIEW: Debra who?! Dixon? Never heard of her, but I loved the cover of the book; title was cute and it’s free on NetGalley, so why not? I’m on a roll to read not just Christmas themed stories, but taking a dip into contemporary genre of which I wasn’t such a fan of..before this month that is. I’m changing my mind and mighty quick, especially after I read ‘Doc Holiday’.

Before I go all out and start gushing, let me warn you: Do NOT start reading this story without having Klinex close to you! You’ll need it, trust me.

Ms. Dixon put this story together so perfectly that I gobbled it up, hating to put it down and go to sleep, or eat [that one wasn't so bad, I need to lose a few] or do anything but turn the pages to see…what NOW?!
The emotions within the pages were palpable and raw; the characters too real and loving; the story filled with tension, sexual and emotional.

For our heroine, Taylor, who took over ‘mothering’ duties of her six brothers while helping her father after her mother’s death thirteen years ago, her personal life was put on hold. The promise she gave her mother was to look after them until they all were grown and well on their way to taking care of themselves, and that time it seems to be close at hand as the youngest is in college, although he doesn’t think he should be.

Taylor is finally ready to be herself, her own person, and unencumbered by the ‘boys’. She can almost ‘taste’ that ‘freedom’…that is until the man from her past shows up…with a son in tow! And she slowly enters into a fight…with herself. To let go of everything she thinks she wants, or give in to what she really needs…

Drew Haywood comes back to his home town with one goal in mind: to give his son their first Christmas together that they never had, and to do that he needs ‘Mouse’ [his nickname for Taylor] to help him. The question was, will she agree to it or will she remember, that thirteen years ago their kiss sobered him up into pulling away from her because he was six years older.

This is one of the best ‘past meets present’ stories I’ve read in a while and to have a child in the mix was absolutely marvelous! This kid was so cute and if you’re one of those that can’t read a romance with children [I know you're out there], don’t let that stop you from picking this one up, as little Noah will steal your heart.

Hands down, heartwarming, at times [many times] sad and frustrating  sexy and sensual; modern tale of real, true love; and just overall sweet, sweet romance. Can you tell I loved it?!