Review: Texas Christmas (Texas #5) by R.J. Scott

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Texas Christmas coverWith the holidays upon them, Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes are stressed out. Jack and Riley are anxiously waiting for the courts to decide if they will be able to adopt Max, the twins are growing rapidly and they still haven’t found a nanny. Meanwhile Jack’s sister Beth is about to give birth after a dangerous pregnancy, and their new employee, Liam, is having trouble adjusting to life on the Double D .

Liam Frazier loves his life working with the horses on the Double D Ranch.  His bosses are wonderful as are the other ranch hands he works with.  The trouble?  His abusive past that won’t let him go.  Now Marcus Walker, co owner of the surrogacy agency that helped Jack and Riley find a mother for their children, is flirting with him and Liam doesn’t know how to handle it.  He finds Marcus attractive but his abuse is a barrier he doesn’t know how to get past.

When Liam’s past follows him to the ranch, it puts everyone in danger.  It will take Marcus and the rest of the Double D family to help Liam  face those who hurt him so he can move forward.

I have enjoyed this series from the beginning story, The Heart of Texas, which introduced us to Jack Campbell and Riley Hayes. I have been with this couple through their rocky start with a fake marriage and tumultuous family histories, their declarations of love, the murderous events that took place and the fire that almost cost them their lives and home.  In the previous story, Texas Family, Jack and Riley’s family had grown to include twins as well as the children and partners of the rest of their extended family.  It was a joyous layered story that took us through the surrogacy issues for gay families and introduced us to Max, a young foster child with autism.

Texas Family was a book packed with relevant issues and new characters.  It also left us with some unresolved elements, specifically those that focus on Max’s adoption fight and the new ranch hand Liam Frazier.  I am happy to report that with Texas Christmas, R.J. Scott ties up all those loose ends happily and on a perfect note for a book about families,friends, and the holidays.

Jack and Riley’s relationship is still the foundation upon which this series rests and they are still working on their marriage here, adjusting to the twins, their daughter getting older, and all the other stresses life can put on a marriage.  It’s a healthy, sexual and deep relationship and the author relays that beautifully.  But I have to admit its the newest member I wanted more of.

I was entranced with Max from the moment Scott introduced him to Jack and Riley.  The little boy clutching his Thomas the Tank Engine toy caught at our hearts.  RJ Scott did not shy away from the issues of adopting a child with autism.  Max’s emotional issues, his inability to deal with certain social situations, the manner in which he communicates, and well, everything about a life with an autistic child is relayed realistically along with the love.  There is a magical moment that RJ Scott brings to life as Max explores a sensory room Jack and Riley have created for him.  The wonder of a child caught up inside his mind is revealed in such a way that we feel we are on the floor with him, holding our breath as Max explores with a quiet joy a place created for him out of love.

Liam Frazier is another special character and his story is brought full circle as well.  But as his started in pain and abuse, those elements reappear to be dealt with before he can move forward.  The elements where Liam decides he needs outside help to deal with his abuse, the frustration Liam feels as he tries to deal with Marcus and a real relationship have a feeling of authenticity to them. Liam brings out our empathy and our compassion.

There are several scary and heartrending scenes.  But they serve to heighten the satisfaction the reader will feel as all the elements come together to give Jack, Riley and all the others a Christmas to remember.  Consider this story and this series highly recommended!

Here are the stories in the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read:

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1)
Texas Winter (Texas, #2)
Texas Heat (Texas, #3)
Texas Family (Texas, #4)
Texas Christmas (Texas #5)

Cover by Meredith Russell.  The cover is adorable and perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 189 pages
Published December 12th 2013 by Love Lane Books
edition language English
series Texas #5

The Eternal Optimism of Dogs and the Week in Reviews

Winter trees longs

It snowed on Friday.  Only 3 inches or so but the first accumulated snow we have had here in over 2 years.  And Winston is not happy about it. Not happy at all.  Now Kirby is in snow heaven.  Like the good Irish dog he is, the cold and snow just rolls off him.  Even now he is bounding around the back yard communing with nature, racing the squirrels along the fence and in general, just having a blast.  Willow is asleep.  And Winston?  Well, he is gazing longingly out the front window in hopes that the weather there is dramatically better than the one outside the back door.

He reminds me of that quote from Robert A. Heinlein’s wife, Virginia, that inspired his novel The Door into Summer. Virginia remarked when their cat refused to leave the house: “he’s looking for a door into summer.”  That’s Winston.  Going from one door to the next, eternally optimistic that he will find that the door opens into summer, or spring, or fall, anything but a season thatWinter_2 contains snow or ice.  We head out the backdoor into the snow, Willow and Kirby marching resolutely ahead.  Only Winston stops at the door, peering out, dubious at the thought of putting paw to the cold snowy ground.  Eventually he goes out, does his business and quickly returns to the warmth of home after venturing out perhaps 5 ft in all.  Willow returns next, and then we all gather at the door to watch as Kirby runs and gambols around, only returning with a sigh when I call him in.

Then and only then does Winston begin to bounce.  He twirls, he whirls, he grabs his leash and heads to the front door where surely it is sunny, warm and green.   Several times I have accommodated him.  I hook up his leash, grab my hat, gloves, scarf and coat (and his sweater) and we head out the door.  And every time Winston freezes as he looks out upon the snow and ice.  We get no further than the driveway. The disbelief and disgust is written on his upturned face as he looks back at me.  The little balloon above his head so clearly stating “really? here too?” And without me saying a word he pulls me back to the front door and the warmth he knows is inside.

So here we sit, all four.  For myself, I think the snow is beautiful and fleeting, it is Maryland these days after all.  Kirby is waiting for his next adventure in the backyard where the foxes and squirrels await.  Willow is asleep behind me, content in her red sweater. And Winston?  Well, he is watchful and waiting too.  For the grass to be green, the bunnies appear along with the bees and the warmth of his favorite seasons.  I love that optimism.  For Winston a change in the weather is only a door away.  No matter how many times it proves otherwise, the promise of Summer remains just on the other side of the door.

Always hopeful.  Not a bad way to live at all.

Here is this week’s reviews.  There are holiday stories, a wicca story, a humorous tale of romance and a fantasy book from Megan Derr you won’t want to miss.  Truly something for everyone.

Monday, Jan. 6:              Home for the Hollandaise by BA Tortuga,Julia Talbot

Tuesday, Jan. 7               Texas Christmas by RJ Scott

Wed., Jan. 8:                   A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne

Thursday, Jan. 9:          Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine

Friday, Jan. 10:              Serenading Stanley by John Inman

Saturday, Jan. 11:          The Engineered Throne by Megan Derr

ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

November banner

November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Review: Texas Family (Texas #4) by R.J. Scott

Rating 4.5 stars out of 5

Texas FamilyJack and Riley Campbell-Hayes have been through so many things together, and overcome it all to get to the place where they are today, a happy couple with an adorable daughter and a wonderful extended family. Each hurdle in their path, whether it was their disastrous start to their relationship, fires, gunshots, and even the deepest of family betrayals haven’t kept them from each other or hurt their deep bond.

Now its time for another change, another forward step that will enlarge their family…..that of having another child.  This time, the child will have Jack’s DNA and their chosen path is surrogacy. But before Jack and Riley know it, their plans for just one child are being hijacked, first by their  surrogates pregnancy and then by a young four year old boy, Max, in foster care As Jack and Riley quickly find out, nothing is ever easy, especially in the state of Texas where gay couples, even rich ones, have a tougher path as families.

I have followed the romance of Jack and Riley through three books now and still can’t get enough.  Starting with The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1) where the men meet and marry under the worst possible circumstances through Texas Winter where Riley learned about his daughter and the devious workings of his family to Texas Heat (Texas, #3) and the expansion of the Double D, I have felt an intimate connection to these men and their future together as a couple and family.  So I was thrilled to see Texas Family released so I could pick up where we had left off before, with the men wanting to have another child, this time Jack’s.

But the road to having children is never an easy one, especially for gay couples. Then locate the gay couple in question in the not so gay friendly state of Texas and the obstacles in front of them increase exponentially.  R.J.Scott makes sure that Jack and Riley’s pursuit of a surrogate to have their child is realistically described to her credit.  This is not an easy process in any respect.  From the mens thoughts on whose sperm to donate to the woman who will carry their child, it is a complicated procedure, fraught with the possibility of rejection, pain, and the right of the birth mother to refuse to turn over the child when it is born.   The author brings us right into couples journey to fatherhood, making all the many emotions and complex decisions seem as though they could be ours.  As Riley and Jack questioned the two surrogates as to why they would agree to such an emotional and physically draining procedure, they asked the same questions that were in my mind as well.  It all felt authentic.  It was stressful, hopeful, and ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences for them all.  Trust me, by the time everyone ends up in the maternity room, your eyes will be filled with tears of joy along with everyone present.

But if that is not enough, Scott adds yet another dimension to this picture of Jack and Riley’s expanding family.  The couple that is the surrogate and her husband are also foster parents.  In their care is a very special child named Max.  I won’t spoil either his introduction or his history but needless to say that Max will grab onto your heart just as quickly as he does Jack and Riley’s.  So adoption and its complications enters into the story, again not an easy path for a gay couple, not only in Texas but elsewhere.

In fact Texas Family is about more than just Jack and Riley and their efforts to expand their family.  It’s about their extended families efforts to have children or to move forward in their troubled relationships.  Its about family in every aspect you can think of.  Its Jack’s sister whose fragile health complicates her dreams for another child. Its Riley’s sister’s problems with the man she loves , one Riley doesn’t approve of. Its their mothers, step fathers, and co workers. Its even the new worker newly arrived with problems of his own.

If I have a quibble, its that the author has packed so much into one story that it threatens to burst at the seams. Just the introduction of a new thread about the latest hire, a young man with a troubled past, had me wanting more yet wishing she had postponed that element in favor of a last minute look at Jack, Riley and their new family. I ended up wanting more of everything and everyone. The Double D Rance is a huge canvas and R.J. Scott is taking advantage of every square inch to bring us a multigenerational family saga, complete with drama, laughter, and romance.

I know the author has at least two more books planned.  I hope that the Texas saga will continue on much, much longer.  I love this series and highly recommend both the series and this book.  If you are new to the Texas saga, go back to the beginning and see how it all starts.  Otherwise, some of the relationships and past events will make little sense to a reader picking up this book to read as a standalone story.

Here are the stories in the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read:

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1)
Texas Winter (Texas, #2)
Texas Heat (Texas, #3)
Texas Family (Texas, #4)
Texas Christmas (coming soon)

Cover by Meredith Russell.  The cover is adorable and perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 186 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Love Lane Books
edition language English
series Texas

Not What I Expected and This Week’s Reviews

Doctor__NeedleSo, there I was lying on the hospital table waiting for the fluoroscope to start up and the doctor to appear to give me an injection. With a very long needle.  One the size of the Empire State Building. And of course, the first words out of his mouth are “well, this shouldn’t hurt very much” and my heart sinks.  Because between you and me, I have a long history with that phrase (as I am sure most of you do as well) and it isn’t a good one.

I can remember various dentist offices and dentists themselves saying that just before annihilating my mouth in a frenzy of drills and numbing injections that never seemed to work.  I remember vaccines and pops of cotton that, yes indeedy, hurt, even though the doctors swore up and down they wouldn’t.

And then there were the injections I received for rabies (8 of them at the time) that alternated sites, left, cheek, right cheek (not the face mind you), left arm, right arm, stomach…well you get the drift.  Oh the perils of being a park naturalist.  There have been ones for the flu, tetanus, and during anaphylactic shock, epinephrine.  I have had ones for antibiotics and ones for steroids.  Lots and lots of shots over time and always with the same result.  Shot then pain.

And you know what?  Each time, the doctor assured me it shouldn’t hurt very much.  And  each time it most certainly did.

drag queen sharon needles

knitting needlesNow I don’t have a problem with needles themselves.  I even adore certain needles, like my mahogany knitting needles or knitting needles of any type.  I also think the drag queen Sharon Needles is pretty darn awesome.  I even have a certain fondness for sewing needles even though I am hardly proficient with them.  They have repaired many a beloved teddy or tiger and for that I am grateful.

But medical needles, long, long medical needles?  I think not.  True they are necessary but I don’t have to like them and once more here I was waiting to be injected.  But first they had to find the right spot….yeah, topical anesthesia  doesn’t help there.  And yes, I felt that needle going in…and in…  and the doctor asked me…wait for it…did I feel it and did it hurt?  He’s lucky all I shot him was a glare. Cause yes I did feel it and yes, it hurt.  Argh.  And I am not, repeat not a baby about these things and I have a high tolerance for pain. But yeesh….they need to find something different to say…cause I am telling you that has truly gotten old.

So here I am, my hip is throbbing.  The doctor said I should feel better in a day…if the shot works.  Sigh.  Sometimes life is a crap shoot.  Sometimes you role doubles and sometimes snake eyes. And by now I really should know to stick to the needles I like when given a choice, and leave the others alone.  Because here is something I have learned over the years….when someone tells you its not going to hurt, run, run like the wind in the opposite direction, it’s going to hurt like hell.

Now for the week ahead in reviews.  It’s one terrific book after another this week.   There are two guest blogs on our schedule. One by the fabulous Abigail Roux for the release Shock & Awe.  And the other by an author whose books have always appeared on my must read list, L.B. Gregg and her latest release How I Met Your Father.  Added to that are two new books in series I just love, R.J. Scott’s Texas Family and Kate McMurray’s The Stars That Tremble and this will be a stellar week indeed!

Twas the week before the week of Thanksgiving…..

Monday, Nov. 17:   Texas Family by R.J. Scott
Tuesday, Nov. 18:   The Stars That Tremble by Kate McMurray
Wed., Nov. 19:         Guest Blog by L.B. Gregg for How I Met Your Father
Thurs., Nov.20:      Guest Blog and Contest by Abigail Roux and Shock & Awe release
Friday, Nov. 21:       Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Sat., Nov. 22:           How I Met Your Father by L.B. Gregg

Review of Texas Heat (Texas #3) by RJ Scott

Rating: 4.75 stars

Riley and Jack Campbell-Hayes are hoping that the trauma of the past is finally behind them and their families.  Jack’s mother Donna is remarrying and all have gathered for the celebration,  Jack is expanding the ranch holdings into training quarter horses and Riley is moving his “green” energy exploration business forward just as he always wanted. Veterinarian Neil Kendrick is marrying the love of his life, Donna Campbell. Neil is aware of the complicated feelings of some of her family have with her marriage to a much younger, less wealthy man, so he brings along a good friend, Robbie Curtis, for support.

Robbie has just landed back in the States from a long stay in Australia that ended badly for him. An experienced horse trainer, Robbie is just the person Jack needs to help with his new business and Robbie settles uneasily into life on the Double D Ranch. Then Eli Martin, Riley’s old friend from college, reappears on the scene.  Loud, energetic,and a force of nature, Eli is now a fashion photographer and wants to use The Double D as a backdrop for underwear campaign using cowboys.  Eli takes one look at Robbie and decides that cowboy is the one for him. Now all he had to do is convince him.

But Robbie is still full of pain from the events in Australia and Eli is hiding a secret of his own, facts that will make a relationship much harder for both of them.  Haley, Riley and Jack’s daughter wants a sibling and a former competitor wants to sabotage Riley’s latest oil exploration venture. Nothing ever comes easy for the married couple and those that surround them.  But even with 20 half naked cowboys lounging around the barns and the gay rodeo in town, Riley and Jack’s rock solid love proves to be the answer for all that life throws at the people of the Double D.

Texas Heat is the third book in the Texas series from R.J. Scott and what a terrific series it is.  Starting with the book The Heart of Texas, we have followed the relationship up and downs of Riley Hayes and Jack Campbell through blackmail, marriage, murder and the barn burnings of Texas Winter (Texas #2) to finally arrive at a happy state for both men and their families.  And what a long hard road they have had to travel but Scott has done her job in giving us two great characters to start off with and then continuing to flesh them out and surround them with equally interesting families to support them and add their own drama and surprises.  It really is the tale of two families whose pasts interconnected through passion and business decades earlier, the reverberations of those events passing through all generations to effect the current generations in the form of Jack and Riley.  We have watched as Riley Hayes grow from petulant pretty boy obsessed with his own ends to happily married man concerned for the welfare of both families he has come to love.  Jack has also grown in his love for Riley,  lessening his suspicion of others as well as his need for control.  Seeing both men at this stage in their lives as fathers to Haley and husbands and businessmen is one of the true joys of this book.   We have been through so much with them that their happiness here becomes ours.

In addition to Jack, Riley, Haley, and all the rest of the families from the first two books, Scott gives us Eli Martin and Robbie Curtis, a fascinating couple in every  respect.  Robbie has been hurt emotionally from the loss of a partner and is afraid to open himself up to the possibility of love and perhaps more loss.  Eli was with Riley through his irresponsible  years, in fact he was co pilot of them as well.  But a life changing event now sees Eli grabbing out with gusto for everything life has to offer.  If he sees it and wants it, Eli goes after it without thinking it through. How can two such disparate men make a relationship work? There are no easy solutions and it takes both men taking a realistic look at what they want and what they can offer each other.  We get a realistic vision of a relationship in progress.

What I continue to appreciate with RJ Scott’s writing, no matter the series,  is that even as our emotions are engaged with two couples at differing stages of their relationships, other events are swirling around the outskirts just waiting to come forward with a jump and a bang. Scott keeps juggling a number of plots in her story but never lets one drop.  There are so many layers to appreciate and think about that when the end of the book comes the author has a structure in place for the next in the series without losing reader satisfaction with the current story.

I can’t wait to see how the next book continues the saga of the Campbell-Hayes family and the fortunes of the Double D Ranch.  Who needs Dallas when you have the Double D? If you have started the series,  don’t forget to pick this one up.  If you are new to Scott’s Texas books, start with The Heart of Texas and work your way to this one.  They need to be read in the order they were written. RJ Scott rarely disappoints and here she comes through with bells on her  cowboys boots and then some. Don’t let the Campbell-Hayes pass you by!

Here is the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events involved.

The Heart of Texas(Texas #1)

Texas Winter (Texas #2)

Texas Heat (Texas #3)

Thank you, Nationals and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Well, as everyone knows by now, the Cards rallied and the Nats lost.  But oh what a season they gave us!  The Nationals had an outstanding year, giving the city something we haven’t seen in close to a century, a winning baseball team in DC.  We have Davey Johnson, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jason Wurth, Gio Gonzales, Ryan Zimmerman and all the others to thank for all the glorious play, the unbelievable pitches, the outstanding hits and the high drama of the outfield.  It was great!  And now we have all winter to dream of the return of the Boys of Summer.  Great job and thanks for the wonderful memories!

The weather seems more like November than mid October these days with our first frost occurring on Friday.  A portent of a hard winter to come? Perhaps.  We didn’t actually have a winter last year but I just hope Mother Nature doesn’t feel the need to make up for that and give us the snow and ice for two winters.  At any rate, the plants are getting  mulched and the gardens prepared, just in case.  The generator is in, new roof on and gutters as well.  I hope we are prepared but you never know until it comes.  At least I have lots of books to read and pumpkin spice coffee to drink.  Sigh.

Here is the week ahead in book reviews:

Monday:                               Steamroller by Mary Calmes

Tuesday:                               Texas Heat by RJ Scott

Wednesday:                         The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux

Thursday:                             Rocking Out by Emily Veinglory

Friday:                                   Three of Swords by Theo Fenraven

Saturday:                               Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee  and Just A Summer Fling by Lily Grace