Title: Kiss Me by Susan Mallery
Fool’s Gold Series Book Seventeen
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery creates the small-town destination for romance in charming Fool’s Gold, California—where a loner cowboy finds the one woman who can capture his heart
After Phoebe Kitzke’s kind heart gets her suspended from her job in LA, she swears off doing favors—until her best friend begs for help on the family ranch in Fool’s Gold. Unfortunately, sexy cowboy Zane Nicholson isn’t exactly thrilled by the city girl’s arrival.
Thanks to his brother’s latest scheme, Zane has been roped into taking tourists on a cattle drive. What Phoebe knows about ranching wouldn’t fill his hat, but her laughter is so captivating that even his animals fall for her. One slip of his legendary control leads to a passionate kiss that convinces him she’s exactly the kind of woman a single-minded loner needs to avoid.
In his arms, Phoebe discovers she’s a country girl at heart. Yet no matter how much the small town feels like home, she can’t stay unless Zane loves her, too…but is this cowboy interested in forever?
In Kiss Me, the newest addition to the always fabulous and incredibly heartwarming Fool’s Gold series, Susan Mallery takes an unusual approach by setting the novel on gorgeous cowboy Zane Nicholson’s ranch instead of in Fool’s Gold. This bold (and possibly risky) decision, coupled with the addition of several new characters, keeps this long running series fresh while guest appearances by beloved characters from previous installments will delight devoted fans of the series.
Phoebe Kitzke is a compassionate and kindhearted woman whose latest act of kindness almost lands her jail when she takes the blame for a mistake made by her boss. She is generous to a fault and genuinely helpful to those in need and although this tendency to help others often ends badly, she remains unfailingly optimistic and caring. Phoebe has many endearing qualities (such as conversing with animals)and she is also surprisingly intuitive, quite humorous and unexpectedly self-aware. Phoebe is absolutely marvelous and she is impossible not to like as she gamely agrees to join her best friend Maya Farlow on her ex-stepbrother’s cattle drive.
The ex-stepbrother in question is none other than Zane, the taciturn and delectably sexy cowboy briefly mentioned in previous novels of the Fool’s Gold series. Zane is beyond furious when he discovers his seventeen year old brother Chase set up a website offering tourists the chance to join in the ranch’s yearly cattle drive. He is Chase’s guardian and their relationship is precarious since Zane keeps trying to prevent Chase from making decisions that he will later regret. Zane carries tremendous emotional scars from his childhood and in an effort to avoid the heartache his father experienced after his mother’s death, he keeps his entanglements light and emotion free.
Joining them on the cattle drive are a group of eclectic greenhorns who are fighting a few battles of their own. C.J. and Thad Swanson volunteer to bring Lucy and Tommy, two foster kids on the drive. While Thad is eager to bond with the children, C.J.’s disappointment and anger at what she has lost causes her to avoid them as much as possible. Audacious and fun-loving septuagenarians Eddie and Gladys are two of the series regulars who join the cattle drive. Although the pair once again provide comic relief with their zany antics, a very poignant discussion with Zane will make even the most stoic reader shed a few tears. Married couple Martin and Andrea round out the cast of secondary characters and they definitely add a little spice to the adventure with their dietary demands.
Phoebe and Zane are attracted to one another right from the start, but neither plan to act on it. Phoebe takes relationships seriously and this is something that Zane not only recognizes but respects. However, they do enjoy one another’s company and they share many quiet (and a few passionate) moments together during the cattle drive. Zane thinks Phoebe is a little goofy but he surprisingly enjoys her little quirks. He also sees how open and giving she is and he appreciates her perceptive observations. Phoebe knows she is a little too trusting and while she vows to stop helping people, she eventually realizes that these traits are integral parts of who she is. However, she does learn to stand up for herself and not let others take advantage of her.
Kiss Me is another sweet, sexy and charming romance by Susan Mallery. The characters are multi-dimensional with believable flaw and realistic issues to overcome. The setting is unique and provides added interest to the overall storyline. This latest installment of the Fool’s Gold series is an emotional yet highly entertaining novel of love and forgiveness that old and new fans are going to love.