Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hard Lovin' Man by Lorraine Heath *****

I got this as a Kindle download on my iPhone (I am sooo looking forward to getting an iPad for reading!!) along with the 2nd in the series, Smooth Talkin' Stranger. This is a new author for me, and hey - I loved it!

The story revolves around the heroine, Kelley Spencer, and her former student Jack Morgan. Kelley was fresh out of college, on her first teaching job - senior English - when she met Jack, a 19-year-old senior bad boy. She took an interest in him as a student, because he seemed to have potential but was doing everything he could to fail. Of course, her interest was a little deeper - and so was his. After all, she was only 3 years older...

Jack had one of those classic romance-novel childhoods - no father, bad mother who took off. He was living by himself, taking care of himself and still going to school - in spite of being held back a year. He didn't want anyone to know his mother was gone - but Kelley finds out when she shows up to talk to her, and Jack is there alone. He makes a move on her, and she's sorely tempted, but tells him she could never be interested in an uneducated man. He has to graduate from high school before she could even consider it.

OK, there is also that pesky thing about her being the teacher that keeps her from doing it as well. I guess since he's over 18, it won't be illegal, but immoral? Unethical? Yeah, there's that.

Jack showers her with little reminders of him throughout the year - a teddy bear on her desk, flowers, and she is constantly aware of him, but doesn't give in and put out. (good for her) He's pretty thoroughly besotted, but a guy can only hold out for so long. When the senior prom comes along, he brings a date, but sneaks away to dance with Kelley in the hallway. There they have a great fight - and, well, what's a guy to do with all that testosterone, especially with a cute senior girl as his date?

Well, cute senior girl gets pregnant. Jack swears it's not his, but admits it could be - and therein lies the rub. Not that Kelley had any right to be jealous, after all. But she encourages him to do the right thing and marry the girl and take care of his kid. And Kelley moves away, broken hearted.

Kelley has her own issues - it's 9 years later, her parents recently died in a car accident, and she is now having to raise her sister, younger than her by 15 years. The sister is a hellion, and Kelley is hoping small town life will keep her out of trouble. She also hints a lot at having lost her trust of men, first with something that happened when she was 15, then with Jack. She moves back to the same small town, and now Bad Boy Jack is the small town's sheriff. Oh, another romance novel cliche, you're thinking - how good can that be? Yeah, even with cliches, the story is well-written and moving. Even when the next cliche rears its oh-so-ugly head (not that the reader will be the least surprised when it's revealed), the story is still wonderful.

The author throws in a couple of curve balls - Jack's neighbor is a single mother, and now Jack is a single father since the cute senior girl abandoned him and her kid (but was it his kid??). The 2 neighbors do everything together since their boys are the same age - and there's some sparks when he brings Kelley into the picture. He's still besotted with Kelley, but Mrs. Neighbor is territorial, and secretly hoping they can merge their 2 little families.

so there's kids, and mothers who abandon them, and maybe a secret or 2, and that bad boy turned sheriff thing - all in a small town "in the shadow of Houston".

I just love a besotted hero, and I love bad boy heroes too. 5 stars!

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