The Crown Prince's Bride by Donna Alward
This is the 2nd book in the Royal Duology. At the very beginning of the first book the Crown Prince Raoul's wife is killed in a car accident. That book focuses mostly on the younger brother Diego's story. However, this book is all about Raoul. Years ago he hired his wife's cousin, Stephani to be his assistant and it has been a decision he's never regretted. Stephani is the perfect assistant, she's organized, tactful, and detail oriented. When her cousin, Raoul's wife, dies she's devastated and does her best to support Raoul and the family. However, doing that means she's sacrificing any hope she of a HEA which isn't helped by the fact that she's a little in love with her boss.
I was a little worried about this relationship because a imbalance of power makes me uncomfortable in a romance and Crown Prince vs assistant sounds like a pretty hefty one. As well, Raoul is a recent widower. Would he really be ready to move on? I was very comfortable with how Alward handled both of these issues. The death of Raoul's wife was very much dealt with and he struggled with being sure how ready he was to move on. There is no magic switch. As well the relationship between Raoul and Stephani felt equal. I never felt like she was being pressured into any situation. The relationship was one built on a friendship and incredible trust. It was sweet and had more heart than I was expecting. I liked both Stephani and Raoul and enjoyed their story. This is a fun bit of escapist reading. Rating: I Liked It
The Pines of Winder Ranch by RaeAnne Thayne
I love RaeAnne Thayne's books. I really do. I love her characters and the communities she creates and just everything. But... so even the best ball player has an off game and I kind of had that feel from this book. I mean it wasn't awful. It was completely readable and the pacing was good but the characters and dialogue felt a little wooden and it was lacking the magic I typically feel with a RaeAnne Thayne book. I didn't particularly care for Laura and while Taft seemed like a nice enough guy despite his demons he never made a big enough impression on my that I ever actually remembered his name. This is a second chance romance. Taft and Laura were engaged ten years before and were close to the wedding date when Taft's parents were murdered and his whole world fell apart. Laura not only left the little town but the country returning only after the death of her husband with her two small children. I like a second chance romance but there seemed like too much damage here to ever really recover from. As well I questioned how ready Laura really was to move on. She had a lot of very justified anger and resentment that never seemed fully worked through. I did enjoy the page time her children had and watching them interact with Taft was really sweet. It wasn't a bad book but it wasn't as good as what I usually expect from Thayne. Rating: It was okay
*Note - This review is for one half of The Pines of Winder Ranch - A Cold Creek Reunion and not the 2nd book - A Cold Creek Homecoming