A Texas Chance (February 2012), the first book in the new series, is the story of Cade MacAllister, an adventure photographer who has spent twenty years wandering the world and taking photographs of some of its most beautiful and inaccessible spots, and hotelier Sophie Carlisle. Cade returns home after an accident on a shoot leaves his friend dead and Cade critically injured. He is also burdened with guilt so severe that he has lost his passion for photography. He loves his family, but he finds their anxious hovering unbearable. When he escapes to his sister Jenna’s home in Austin, she asks him to help her friend Sophie by giving her some of his photographs. Cade fears Sophie is taking advantage of his kid sister’s big heart, but when he meets the hotelier, he is captivated by her fierce independence. Helping her not just with photographs but with free labor on the hundred and fifty-year-old house she is working to turn into Hotel Serenity fills in empty hours, and if she makes him think of more pleasant ways to fill those hours, he’s not admitting that to anyone else.
Sophie Carlisle is used to depending only on herself. Orphaned at fifteen, left alone again after the death of her husband and three-year-old daughter in an automobile accident, she has built a life devoted to her work, allowing only a very few friends into her inner world. When a betrayal ends her fifteen-year career with a hotel chain, she sinks everything she has into creating Hotel Serenity, a five-star hotel that offers every convenience and the comfort and security of home to the wealthy and famous in search of privacy and the unique. Cade MacAllister’s photographs would be perfect for her hotel even though she’s determined not to accept charity. But soon Cade has infiltrated her life, threatening the barriers she’s put in place. How can this man make her feel safe when all her instincts tell her he’s a danger she can’t allow in her life and in her heart.
Wounded characters in need of healing and fighting it every step of the way are Brashear’s specialty. I loved the reluctant vulnerabilities of Cade and Sophie, and I loved seeing them achieve their HEA. Catching glimpses of all Cade’s extended family as they come together to help Sophie and her reaction to the big, loving family made this book even more special.
On His Honor (April 2012), the second of the new books, has a strong romantic suspense element, as do a number of Brashear’s books. Actress Violet James, “America’s Sweetheart” and current co-star of Zane MacAllister (hero of A Real Hero, Book #4, 2004), needs a place to hide and heal when the infidelity of her second husband and her response to it becomes the center of a media frenzy. Her best friend and former actor, Avery Lofton, persuades her that Austin where he is co-owner of the city’s hottest club, Danger Zone, is the perfect spot. Thus, Violet becomes the only guest at Hotel Serenity. After more than two weeks of rest and solitude, Violet is ready for something a bit livelier and accepts an invitation to join a Montalvo/MacAllister celebration. But she’s not prepared for the handsome cop who literally knocks her off her feet at Jenna MacAllisters birthday party.
Detective JD Cameron has spent ten years as a member of the Violent Crimes Task Force (VICTAF), a select interagency group that includes local, state, and federal law enforcement officers. He’s become inured to the evil humans perpetrate upon one another, but even so the sex-trafficking that is the current VICTAF focus fills him with rage and a determination to stop the exploitation of women and children. Avery Lofton and his partner are suspected of being involved in the ring. When JD, an adopted member of the Montalvo/MacAllister clan through his VICTAF association with Vince Coranado (married to the sister of Caroline Malone Montalvo and hero of The Good Daughter, Book #3, 2003) and Delilah and Jesse Montalvo (Most Wanted, Book #5, 2004), meets Violet Jones at Jenna’s party, he’s already committed to using her to gather information on Lofton. When a chance to become her quasi bodyguard is offered he can’t resist. His instincts tell him she’s not involved in the crimes, but her connection to Lofton is troubling. The more time JD and Violet spend together, the more they enjoy one another and the hotter the sparks between them grow. But Violet is wary of trusting another good-looking charmer, and JD can’t forget he has a job to do.
Violet and JD are an unlikely pair with lifestyles that are worlds apart, but underneath surface differences, they are two people who share a love of family, a fondness for simple things, and sizzling chemistry. Watching them fall for each other and overcome issues of pride and trust is a delight.
The series concludes with A Life Rebuilt (June 2012), the story of Jenna MacAllister, the adored younger sister of Diego and Jesse Montalvo and Cade and Zane MacAllister. Jenna is an effervescent optimist who deserves the nickname her father gives her, Sunshine. Her belief that everyone deserves a chance has led her to Foundations for Families, a nonprofit group that builds houses for families who need helping hands to have their own homes. Leaving one of the houses one night, Jenna is assaulted by a gang member who has trashed the house and stolen copper wire. She is saved from harm by a mysterious man who disappears when the police arrive on the scene.
Roman Gallardo has become a creature of the night. Tormented by all he saw as a member of an Army Special Forces team in Iraq, Roman has become a recluse who runs through the night streets to keep himself in shape and works on restoring the house he grew up in, which has been left to him by his grandmother who died while Roman wandered the country after a chopper crash left him unfit for service and unready for civilian life. Jenna’s innocence and idealism capture Roman’s interest, and he feels reluctant responsibility for a lost boy he meets at the house site. Almost against his will, he finds himself among Jenna’s volunteers. When he saves Jenna a second time, the bond between them strengthens. But Roman can’t believe the darkness that surrounds him can be overcome even by the brightness that is Jenna—until she shows that she’s strong enough to save him as surely as he saved her.
This is the most emotionally rich of the 2012 trilogy. Many readers will feel a personal connection to Roman’s struggles with PTSD, and the novel is filled with characters who show brokenness and courage can co-exist. You may need a handful of Kleenex for the closing chapters, but the epilogue will leave you smiling.
Clearly I’m a fan of the whole series, and I recommend that you read not only the three new books but also the five older books: What the Heart Wants, The Healer, The Good Daughter, A Real Hero, and Most Wanted, all of which are available at a good price for the Kindle and Nook and in Adobe EPUB format direct from Harlequin. However, the three 2012 books can be read independently of the earlier books or even as standalones. If you like unforgettable characters and stories that touch the heart, you’ll like Jean Brashear’s books. If you are as big a fan as I am of family series, you’ll love the Montalvo/MacAllister clan. I think Jenna’s story is supposed to end the series, but I keep thinking about all those grandchildren. Maybe the Montalvo/MacAllister Family: A New Generation . . .
Are you a fan of family series? Who are your favorite families?