2-in-1 Review: Straight from the Hip and Hot on her Heels by Susan Mallery

Posted on November 11, 2009

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[ Warning! May container spoilers! Read at own risk! ]

Straight from the Hip by Susan Mallery

Series: Lone Star Sisters #3

Hero: Nick Hollister

Heroine: Izzy Titan

Izzy has always been the fearless Titan sister. But when an oil rig blows up, leaving her barely able to see, her sisters find themselves as concerned by her emotional withdrawal as by the possibility that the explosion was no accident. Are the mind games their long-lost brother Garth has been playing turning physical? Or is someone else out to get them?

When her sisters enroll her in a survivor training camp, Izzy is not happy. Nick, her instructor, is determined that she won’t be left in the dark. In more ways than one. But if he tells her the terrible truth behind why he’s helping her, he’ll never see her again. Unless they’re both willing to take the biggest risk of all.

Straight from the Hip, the third book in the Lone Star Sisters series, hooked me in within the first few pages. Izzy Titan is the youngest of the Titan siblings and the most spirited. But when an oil explosion on the job left Izzy with only 30% vision, she withdrawn into herself. Her concerned sisters hired Nick Hollister, a survivor training specialist, to help Izzy recover. Nick kidnaps Izzy to his ranch and puts her to work taking care of his horses. Nick was such a jerk to Izzy at first that I really cheered her on when she cursed him and hated her sisters. I was really angry on her behalf at his attitude towards her. One instance was his response to Izzy’s question asking him if he was judging her or being critical,

“I wasn’t thinking about you at all. Is that typical for you? Do you expect everything to be about you? You’re only happy when you’re the center of attention? No wonder you were comfortable sitting around, being taken care of. Least effort, most outcome. Being blind is probably the best thing that ever happened to you.”

Ugh, what a jerk butt. I mean, come on, the woman is partially blind and he was so mean to her after having kidnapped her. Not only that, it was her sisters who called a stranger to take her away. Who would be okay with that? I really wanted Izzy to make Nick suffer somehow. Instead Izzy moped around the ranch for a few days then turned around and agreed to stay on the ranch after Nick used reverse psychology to get her to stay. I was so disappointed then. But my reaction was based on my own perverseness and unforgiving nature.

Once Nick and Izzy got along, they were great together. Nick, the jerk, became a much nicer man who has a conscience despite being best friends with Garth, Izzy’s half-brother. And his conscience was telling him that he wasn’t being honest with Izzy when he pretended ignorance of knowing Garth. Worse yet, it was Garth who brought Izzy to his attention before her sisters hired him. Nick couldn’t risk confessing the truth to Izzy because he was afraid she would leave and refuse to have her eye surgery. It was quite a catch-22 for him.

As a much nicer guy, Nick is a quietly sweet, modest, hard-working man with a responsible heart. He has a horrible past that he’s still fighting, nightmares that are as atrocious as the crimes committed on him. IMO, his past isn’t entirely resolved even though we see one of the kids he helped coming back to visit him. I don’t think a past of his nature is something that a person can get over, regardless of how much time passes.

Nick’s manager, Aaron, is a hoot. His interactions with Nick and Izzy had me laughing out loud so many times. Then there’s Rita who is caretaker of the horses on the ranch. Rita was blind since birth but you would never have guessed that because she is so confident at what she does. I teared when Izzy returned to see Rita after she had her surgery and worried how her ability to see again would affect Rita whose sight would never be restored. Instead of sorrow or envy Rita says,

“Never be sorry for what you have. Be grateful.”

Aw, I need more positive people like this in my life! But I digress. At first, I couldn’t understand why Izzy didn’t just get the surgery considering she was already acting like she had zero vision. But once Izzy was adjusted to moving around without help and confidently taking care of the horses, I sympathized with her fear of being totally helpless again. It stands to reason that the most self-assured person, when down, would be very vulnerable as they’re not used to such feeling of helplessness.

Jed Titan, Izzy’s father, is a horrible, horrible man. His daughter was physically and emotionally hurt and he only cared about what she could do for her him with his business associates. I had high hopes that the man would get part of his comeuppance in this book. Alas, he didn’t.

The third book is the turning point in this series. We see a slightly more human side of Garth when he went to talk to Izzy into getting back with Nick. Now that Garth was aware that hurting his sisters would not hurt Jed, I was curious how he would take down Jed.

Straight from the Hip pulled many reactions from me. I teared some and chuckled a lot.

Grading: B+

Hot on her Heels by Susan Mallery

Series: Lone Star Sisters #4

Hero: Garth Duncan

Heroine: Dana Birch

Dana Birch has vowed to never put herself at the mercy of a powerful man. She has become a sheriff’s deputy so she can protect herself. Garth Duncan has sworn revenge on his father for abandoning him and his mother. Now all that stands between him and his goal is Deputy Dana, her gun, and a growing passion that can’t be denied.

The last two books in the Lone Star Sisters series are really enjoyable. The camaradie between the Titan sisters and Dana are more pronounced in this last book. And with Izzy as the initiator and leader, Garth became much more a member of the Titan’s than merely sharing DNA and a last name. Garth’s discomfort at having a family – and sisters who care and don’t hesitate to show their affection towards him – is just too cute for words.

I love the chemistry between Dana and Garth. The way each reacts to the other is fun to read. The conversation they had after they jumped each other bones the first time had me chuckling much.

He tensed, pushed into her and two thrusts later, was done.

Still inside of her, he started into her eyes. “I can do better.”

She smiled. “It was great. Better than great. It’s been a long time since I was with a teenage boy.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

He kissed her. “Let’s get some dinner.”

Dinner as in eating together? As in going out?

“I, ah, don’t think that’s a good idea. I meant what I said. I don’t want anything between us.”

He chuckled. “Dana, we’re naked. My penis is still inside of you. We passed personal a long time ago.”

Dana reminds me a bit of myself with her lack of femininity and sense of humor. I have a biting, sarcastic humor and am somewhat of a tomboy — pretty clueless about makeup, clothing, and hair. Dana’s dress shopping experience with Lexi is similar to mine with my girlfriends, lol.

And I love it when a man admits that he is sorry without being prompted. The scene where Dana returns to Garth’s home to find him at home instead of work, he apologizes, and then asked her how long she was staying mad at him? Sweet.

The fall of Jed was not as explosive as I thought it would be. It was sort of pitiful instead. I almost felt sorry for the man, and thought the sisters would sort of just forgive their father after seeing him so down but they kept their bargain with Garth to breakdown the Titan Empire. What happens with Jed in the end is a bit much to take in — he was not only a lousy father but a criminal on many levels.

I wanted to cry for Garth after he took Kathy to see Glory’s Gate and her reaction wasn’t what he was expecting. Instead of her being happy, Kathy became agitated and urged Garth to take her away. I think he realizes then that the revenge he was after all this time was really more for him to make-up for what he couldn’t do as a child.

I really love reading the sisters’ interactions with Garth — talking over, joking, and teasing him. His panic at having to host the Christmas party was another LOL moment. Then when he realized that he does love Dana and his sisters refused to help him get back with her, ha, I could picture his frustration.

I am a bit disappointed that Garth and Nick didn’t have a make-up scene. Yes, they’re guys but the two men were best friends who went through hell together at one point in time. If anything, I wanted to get Nick’s reaction to the changes in Garth — from being so revenge-driven to a happy, family man.

Another thing is that the same past that which plagues Nick from the previous novel doesn’t seem to have the same effect on Garth. Both Nick and Garth had a terrible childhood and experienced unspeakable agony at the hands of a vengeful man. But yet Garth isn’t as scarred by that part of the past as Nick was. In retrospect, it’s almost as if the past was created to make Nick a less perfect guy — and perhaps as justification for creating the backdrop for he and Izzy meeting. With Garth, his scars laid on the irresponsible, criminal father who robbed him of a mother and his mother of her [presence in] life.

I’m really glad I finished the series instead of giving up on it after Skye’s story, Lip Service. Thanks, Nath, for bringing this book to my attention!

Grading: B

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Posted in: B Reviews, Reviews