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Liz Talley

REVIEW: The Way to Texas by Liz Talley

REVIEW: The Way to Texas by Liz Talley

“Her stay in Oak Stand, Texas, is only temporary. After a series of setbacks, Dawn Taggart is giving herself one year to pull everything together so she can start over somewhere else. No putting down roots here. No romantic entanglements. No exceptions!

Not even the very persuasive Tyson Hart can change that. A contractor looking for a fresh start himself, Tyson is the type of guy who promises forever-’and means it. But Dawn refuses to let those whiskey-colored eyes, that smooth voice and the broadest set of shoulders this side of Houston weaken her resolve. Her mind is made up. Now, if she could only convince her heart…”

Dear Ms. Talley,

REVIEW: The Way to Texas by Liz TalleyDawn’s character caught my attention when I read the first book in this series, “Vegas Two- Step” last year. She’s a veteran of a bad marriage and has the battle scars to prove it. And it seemed that her wounds would go deep since her entire life had its share of problems. So when I checked the upcoming Harlequin Super Romances and found it listed, I was a happy camper.

Some of the previous characters make appearances here, like Jack and Nellie, but in supporting roles that make sense. I love the initial “baby on the way” scene and usually I’m not a fan of “lets show how past characters are all fertile and happy.” Tyson is nervous, especially when – as he says – Nellie springs a leak but then he swings into action doing what men can do best in those moments – driving like a bat out of hell to the hospital. I like how you use this to also allow Tyson and Dawn to quickly get to know the other’s basic personality as there’s nothing like a crisis to get to strip someone down to bare bones.

‘Second chance at love’ stories are favorites for me and I like that both Dawn and Tyson have survived rough and broken marriages and are due for happiness. They’ve suffered and are initially reluctant to risk their hearts which means they also know where the other is coming from. And both have a teenage child which adds to the difficulties in working out their relationship. Add to that the presence of the previous spouses and our couple have their work cut out for them. Lots of conflict here but it’s conflict done well.

I felt the relationships between Dawn and her son Andrew and Tyson and his daughter Laurel were handled well. The children are at the stage where they still want their original familles back and are suspicious of the new romantic interests their parents have. They are close to the age when acceptance would come easier but not quite there yet. Their rebellion and back talking seem realistic to me. But I do feel that, however well you wrote the scene when Dawn explains things to Andrew and for all the basic truth of her arguments to him, his change of heart comes fairly quickly. Ditto for Laurel. They’re strongly against the romance for days or weeks then suddenly after one ‘heart-to-heart’ they both do a 180? It was just too fast.

Dawn and Tyson have the hots for each other but they also feel comfortable with each other even to the point of going into what went wrong – warts and all – with their first marriages and bad dating choices. As I mentioned earlier, I like that they both don’t want to rush into anything new and take some time to get to know the other. Dawn does toss up a lot of roadblocks and comes up with a lot of excuses which might have been a deal breaker had Tyson had less experience in relationships. But he realizes she’s been burned – more than once. And then there’s the fact that she thought Tyson might be on the rebound – and everybody knows that rebound relationships = bad. So I can understand her actions.

When Dawn has decided she’s had enough of men stomping on her heart – or so she thinks – she really lets loose. Because that’s one hell of a hissy fit, tantrum she throws. 20 years of pent up emotion are all that could account for it. But good for Tyson that he didn’t press the matter, that he backed off and then tried again in a more subtle way. Of course it helps when he’s got Nellie and the townspeople on his side.

So, let’s talk about the town of Oak Stand. All snickers aside, it still sounds like a nice place to live with nice people in it. The Senior Center could have been insulting or cutesy but instead shows that the seniors of the town still have life, humor and something to give to their community. I lurve seeing Bubba again. I hope that his character translates well for those who’ve never had the chance to meet a ‘good ol’ boy’ in person. They can be charming.

Forget a doctor or a lawyer…give me a man who can repair things or make them with his own hands. I love that in a man so I was already predisposed to love Tyson. Plus he’s a Tar Heel! Ahem, sorry. Where was I? Yes, Tyson is a delicious hero. And Dawn is well worthy of him – at least once she gets her hissy out of her system. I can believe in their romance and not just because the plot tells me so. I’m also looking forward to the at least one more romance in this series. B


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REVIEW: Vegas Two Step by Liz Talley

REVIEW: Vegas Two Step by Liz Talley

Vegas Two Step by Liz TalleyDear Ms. Talley,

What does a Cinderella heroine do when what she did in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas? When, in fact, it follows her home and then dogs her footsteps around the small Texas town she calls home? It seems she panics a bit, denies some more then manages to pull out a sexy finale.

Nellie Hughes is in a rut. A fashion and dating rut, which she knows about, but does little to change before some comments from a few junior high school cheerleaders serve as a wake-up call. Stung by the thought that they, and an octogenarian, think she’s dowdy she calls Kate, a friend who lives in Vegas, and makes plans for a week long stay and makeover.

On her way there, she meets a jaw droppingly handsome man, whom she dubs El Magnificent, and feels a connection with him. Which he just as obviously doesn’t feel. But with her makeover complete Nellie – now Elle – hits the Vegas clubs and who does she meet but El Magnificent – aka Jack Darby, owner of the hottest nightclubs in Vegas. They meet, they greet, they get together and start a whirlwind romance then Jack stuns Elle by talking marriage. Which is when she loses it and tells him about how he dismissed her the first time he met her. Then she storms off.

Thinking that’s it, Nellie is shocked when Jack shows up in Oak Stand, Texas. Not only shows up but has bought a ranch, announced he’s going to live there and then starts after her. Nellie and the population of Oak Stand are in for a whirlwind courtship.

This almost seems like two books to me. Vegas and then Post Vegas. Nellie is convincingly turned into Elle – well not so much turned into Elle as much as her inner Elle is let loose. A haircut, highlights, contacts and some new clothes changes her outside but her inside still balks at $300 for a pair of pants and still smarts from the way Jack paid her no attention when she looked dowdy. But let’s face it, what El Magnificent guy would have checked her out given the way you describe her as looking that evening?

I guess it’s a lifetime of not getting the guy that wells up in her and lets loose when Jack gets serious but methinks she comes across as slightly over the top. He might not have fallen at her feet in the airport but he does seem to be getting to know her now, feeling comfortable with her now and making all the noises a man makes when he’s thinking of settling down. Instead of saying, “that was me then and this is just a change in outward appearance now so where do we go from here?” Nellie throws the baby out with the bath water, acts irrational – her words – and storms off.

Now, if I were Jack, I’d be thinking “whoa, this lady has issues” and “narrow escape.” Wait a minute, he does think the first thing. But this is RomanceLand so Jack immediately puts his Vegas place on the market and buys a ranch, sight unseen, in a town he’s also never seen and sets out to woo Nellie/Elle. One question: how did he find her since she never told him her last name or where in Texas she’s from? Did he ask Kate? At least his sister recognizes that he’s jumped off the diving board without even checking for water in the pool. Oh, and I liked Jack and Dawn’s relationship. Dawn acts very Big Sister: thumping Jack on the head for doing stupid things yet ready to defend him against anyone else who tries it.

When Nellie returns home and Jack arrives in Oak Stand, I was braced for Small Town Cutesiness which, thank you very much!, I didn’t get. These people are fairly normal and (I laughed at this comment) just as smart as big city folks. And while the contractor Nellie hires to redo her kitchen is a pervert (why does she keep him on after she knows he’s been through her underwear drawer?) I adored her growing friendship with Bubba. When you first introduced him to the story, I think I actually groaned out loud yet he quickly became my favorite secondary character.

The story started to sort of drag a bit here. Jack and Nellie have various encounters in town and Nellie’s still mad at him and the town is entertained, etc., etc….It’s Jack who finally makes his move and verbally challenges Nellie in a turn which still seems to me to be more Romance Hero than real guy but it at least gets things going and makes Nellie think, which leads to our HEA. What saves this whole resolution of their future is the fact that you make them talk to each other and be honest with each other.

Hmmm, so to summarize, I like that in the end, Nellie and Jack are talking honestly to each other and plan on living in a nice, small town that isn’t filled with Quaint Characters. I’m glad that Jack sees beyond the outer Nellie and loves the inner person she is and that Nellie heeds what Jack suggests and realizes that Elle is just another part of herself. And even if I don’t completely buy how they get from Point A to Point B, I’ll still give the book a C+


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