Review: Lead Me Home by Vicki Lewis Thompson

 

Title: Lead Me Home

Author:  Vicki Lewis Thompson

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Thanks to his skills with difficult horses, trainer Matthew Tredway has traveled all over the world. And his new gig? The Last Chance Ranch. But after a chance glance at the ranch’s hot little blond cook, Matthew’s libido is immediately set to sizzle!

Chef Aurelia Smith has been trying to tempt the ranch hands with mouth-watering concoctions, with less-than-stellar results. But when Matthew is sent in to intervene, his attraction to Aurelia boils over.

Before long, they’re cooking up a storm, in and out of the bedroom. But Aurelia knows that while she might have led her horseman to bed, she can’t make him stay….

Review:

Whenever I get into a reading slump, I find myself reaching for a Harlequin category romance.  I don’t know why, but these things always seem to get me back on a reading track.  Maybe because of the formula, and because I know that despite all adversity, the protagonists will find a way to get together.  I’m not suggesting that they are all 5 star reads, but I find a great deal of comfort in the formula.  I have only read a few titles under the Blaze imprint, and so far, they have been quick, satisfying reads, so I  gravitated to one of these.

I picked Lead Me Home to load on my Kindle because of one thing:  the hero is a horse trainer.  I am always a sucker for a book with horses.  I am also extremely critical of stories featuring horses, because there are certain ways we do things at the barn, and then there’s the way everyone else does things.  Usually, it is in sync with how I expect horse care and horse training to be described.  Sometimes it is not.  With the exception of young Lester’s “natural” riding abilities, and the abbreviated time spent training Houdini, the unruly stallion, I didn’t have much to complain about with the horse scenes.  I would like Lester to come and show me how to canter on a runaway horse, because I am having a heck of time cantering on one of my mares.  Of course, Lester was helped out by a jerk throwing a rock, so maybe under different circumstances, he would have a problem, too.

Anyhoo, getting back to the book, Matthew is a huge guy, 6’5” and solidly built.  He is a muscle machine.  I am assuming that he’s training quarter horses, and my only other nitpick is that he is a big guy.  Quarter horses aren’t huge horses(well, except for their rear ends).  I am thinking that he looked pretty silly on Houdini, unless the stud was built like a brick sh!thouse, too.  I know how ridiculous my trainer looks on one of my mares, and she isn’t a small horse.  Oh! I am wandering off track again! Sorry!  Let’s try again!

Matthew is a famous horse trainer, probably along the lines of Clinton Anderson.  He is a published author, and everyone recognizes that he is a horse training expert.  He jets all about the world, working his equine mojo.  He also feels detached from people, and has no real committed relationships.  Both of his parents have passed away; his mother when he was a young child, and his father just a few years ago.  His father was so devastated by his mother’s death that he was an emotionally distant care-giver.  Matthew found completion training horses, and his training gifts have made him wealthy.

Aurelia, on the other hand, works at a bank.  She is very satisfied with her job, but she has taken an extended vacation to fill in for her aunt, who is off on her honeymoon.  Aurelia is working at Last Chance Ranch as the cook, and she is having a blast tormenting the ranch-hands with her gourmet cooking.  While she is a wonderful cook, the cowboys don’t like the weird things she is trying to feed them.  I loved this – Aurelia is trying to expose them to new food, and they just want to run for cover.  They are afraid of her food!  They think it is gross and inedible.  They sneak it out of the kitchen and feed it to the dogs.  They can’t even pronounce the names of these new dishes; how can they possibly eat this stuff??

Poor Matthew is immediately asked by the cowboys to set Aurelia straight and to save them from her goofy food.  She is just too nice for them to tell her how they really feel, so they are going to throw Matthew under the bus and make him to do.  He wants to taste her food for himself, because during his travels, he has learned to love food.  He isn’t afraid of new things!  I felt an instant bond with Matthew – any guy who has an open mind about food is all right with me.  Thankfully, I found a guy who enjoys food, too.  He even eats the gross stuff that Aurelia’s cowboys balked at – livers and yucky stuff like that.  Give me  tender goat that has been simmered in a curry sauce and I’ll be your friend forever.  The organ meats, though, that is another matter altogether.

Matthew and Aurelia hit it off right away.  It’s lust at first sight, and Matthew has the added bonus of yummy home cooking.  Their steamy affair is moving along full steam ahead, both of them acknowledging that this is just a short time, no strings attached romp.  Until they both get in over their heads.  Then Matthew makes a wonderful suggestion to Aurelia, as way to keep them together, but she rejects the idea, without even thinking about it.  And that is what irritated me about Aurelia.  She is so adventurous about about everything else,  but when the guy who seems to be the love of her life suggests as plausible way for them to be together, she shuts down and shoots him down.  Maybe he didn’t go about bringing up the topic in the right way, but, heck, he’s a horse trainer! What does he know about women!  Just kidding.

Lead Me Home is a quick, entertaining read.  It’s obvious that it’s part of a series, and I liked the characters enough that I will scrounge up more books in it.  This isn’t a perfect read, but it was engaging, the protagonists weren’t jerks, and it got me out of my reading slump.

Grade: B/B-

Review copy purchased from Amazon

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Interview with Amanda Usen, Author of Luscious and Giveaway!

 

Amanda Usen is the author of Luscious, a sexy romp through Italy, featuring yummy food and star-crossed lovers.  Amanda dropped by the virtual offices for a chat about her book.  After the interview, enter for your chance to win a copy of Luscious!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Amanda Usen] Pastry chef, word geek, romance writer, mom of three, caffeine addict, hot chef lover – all at the same time, not necessarily in that order!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Luscious?

[Amanda Usen] Chef heroine Olivia Marconi is balanced on the knife-edge of a major meltdown. Her marriage is over. She hates her job. Her two best friends have fallen in love with each other. She wants to start over, but first she has to go to Italy and tell her parents she doesn’t want to run the family restaurant anymore. Sean Kindred rejected Olivia’s indecent proposal while she was still married, but now that she’s free, he’s determined to take her up on her offer. Wherever. Whenever. Italy would be perfect. Luscious is the story of star-crossed lovers searching for a new beginning while eating amazing food, drinking fantastic wine and making incredible love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Amanda Usen] I was sitting in a doctor’s office editing the first draft of Scrumptious. When the doctor came in and learned I was a chef, he started telling me about his fabulous vacations at a cooking school in Italy. Villa Farfalla was born! A cooking school/spa/vineyard in Verona, Italy seemed like the perfect place for the next book. I knew Olivia, the restaurant owner from Scrumptious, would be the main character. Since she made a pass at her divorce lawyer and got shot down in the first book, it made sense that he would become her love interest in the second book. The storyline fell into place in my subconscious and was born, page by page, on the computer screen. There was a LOT of coffee involved in the writing of Luscious and more wine than I will ever admit.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Olivia?

[Amanda Usen] Hungry for love!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three ingredients Olivia would never, ever use?

[Amanda Usen] Strawberries, inferior quality olive oil, box wine

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things that Sean would never have in his bedroom?

[Amanda Usen] Best question ever! It’s going to take me ages to answer because I keep mentally trying on items and giggling. Okay…deep breath… a television. No hero I write will ever spend his time in the bedroom watching TV. Mementos from other women; it’s always been Olivia for Sean. Pajamas. No explanation needed. ;-)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Amanda Usen] I belong to the Western New York Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America. I’m constantly inspired by the hard work of my colleagues, and I’m grateful to the authors who write books that make me reach deeper and work harder to write my own stories. Food plays a big part in my books. I met my husband in culinary school, and he’s my own, personal, hot chef hero. He cooks, cleans and loves to play with our kids – now that is inspiring! I love to read the cookbooks of Maida Heatter, Nancy Silverton and Tish Boyle. I love to listen to the music of Adele, Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift. Growing up, I read all of Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books, Crystal Singer books and contemporary romances. I constantly seek inspiration from life; it’s the way I stay creative.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Amanda Usen] My three Cs: Coffee, Computer, Chair!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Amanda Usen] Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren, but her BDSM erotica isn’t for the faint of heart or the conservative of religious or sexual morals! Reisz is just such a great writer that it was impossible not to be pulled into her world of complicated and unforgettable characters.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Amanda Usen] One book? One book? When I was a child, I devoured books, one after the other. I was voracious. Insatiable. One book? Okay…Timothy and Two Witches by Margaret Storey. In the book, the good witch grows a petit four tree out of a stump after lunch, and the diminutive desserts have the characters’ names on them. In the forest, elves make hot chocolate that is the perfect temperature to warm your belly. Who would not be captivated by a book like that? I still have it, and my girls have both read it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Amanda Usen] I love to read. I was a romance reader long before I started writing, so I’m always in the middle of a book. I get to yoga as often as possible to help correct laptop-hunch. Since it’s summer, we take the kids swimming and to lots of parks. We love to cook with vegetables from the garden and make summer cocktails with the mint and lemon balm that run rampant in the flower beds. WNY summers are precious, so we spent quite a bit of time sitting in the front yard, watching the neighborhood kids and dogs chase each other around in circles, and waiting for the Mr. Softy truck to come down the street!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Amanda Usen] I love to talk about romance, writing and recipes on my blog Writer. Chef. Romantic. http://www.amandausen.com/

I can also be found on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/amandausen and Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/AmandaUsen

Thanks for having me here at Manga Maniac Cafe today! I love that you have “geek” in your tagline. I’ve always described myself that way, although I’m more of a barefoot, bookworm, sits-in-the-front-row, studies-for-every-test, hates-curling-my-hair kind of geek. I always have a book in my purse for emergencies. Speaking of books, what’s your current favorite? For the chance to win a copy of Luscious, comment below and tell me what you are reading!

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