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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously tantalising!
This was a deliciously steamy Western read which had me gripped from the word go. It begins with the death of Niall's parents when he is still a child and you can't help but feel for Niall and his brothers as they are subsequently re-homed with their Aunt and Uncle. That's not the last of death that Niall has to face, however, as his wife is taken from him shortly after...
Published 21 months ago by Anari

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Niall was a Jerk - Kate was Weak - Gloria was on the Side!
Story Background:

Niall MacLaren was 15 years old when he and his three brothers, Jamie - age 13 and twins, Drew and Will - age 7, hid in an underground room near the back of the barn while their parents were murdered by raiders from West Virginia who came to their family farm in Ohio. Their parents had made them promise not to come out regardless of what they...
Published 9 months ago by Judge Tabor


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Niall was a Jerk - Kate was Weak - Gloria was on the Side!, 22 July 2014
This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Story Background:

Niall MacLaren was 15 years old when he and his three brothers, Jamie - age 13 and twins, Drew and Will - age 7, hid in an underground room near the back of the barn while their parents were murdered by raiders from West Virginia who came to their family farm in Ohio. Their parents had made them promise not to come out regardless of what they heard. After the fighting was over, the four boys came out and found their parents dead. Niall's father had given him instructions to go to his Uncle Stuart's home in the Arizona Territory should anything happen to Niall's parents. After burying their parents and locating the two bags of money their father left, the four boys traveled to Arizona to find their Uncle. When they arrived, their Uncle Stuart and Aunt Alicia gladly took them in.

The book then jumps forward 12 years. Niall is now age 27 and a widower - his wife, Camille, died 7 years previously after giving birth to their daughter, Beth. Uncle Stuart has passed and Niall is the boss of his Uncle Stuart's ranch with Aunt Alicia in charge of the home. Drew and Will are still with Niall helping with the family ranch but Jamie is no longer at home - he is now a U.S. Marshall.

During a trip to Phoenix, Niall literally runs into a beautiful young woman, Kate, who is traveling with a female companion to Los Angeles, California where she has a job waiting on her as a teacher. Niall and Kate are struck with one another but after they stare and have a few words, she gets back on the stagecoach and continues on her journey. Niall and his Aunt Alicia finish up their business in Phoenix and head back home to Fire Mountain. Along the way home, Niall and Aunt Alicia see a stagecoach crash and go to help the occupants. They find an unconscious Kate inside, her companion dead and others injured. They take Kate to the local doctor but she has had a serious head injury and when she wakes up, she has lost most of her memories. She does have a wedding band on her finger. Against Niall's wishes, Aunt Alicia insists that Kate will go home with them and they will help her until she is gets on her feet.

Niall has reasons for being against Kate joining the family at the ranch. He realizes from his first brush with Kate that she could be a potential major obstacle to some of his plans for his life. He truly loved his wife Camille and doesn't believe he will ever love again - in fact he doesn't want to love again. Therefore, he has recently resolved to court a woman that will bring him the political influence and contacts he needs to help him in some of his goals. He doesn't exactly have aspirations to run for public office but he wants to be in a position of influence that will enable him to have a say in the way his home and Arizona's future will develop. The lady he plans to make his wife, Jocelyn Van Deelin, is the widow of a wealthy industrialist from the East. She is just the person who will help him get what he wants for his family's future. Now his aunt might just put a huge crimp in his plans by bringing a complication into the picture - the lovely Kate.

***REVIEW WITH MASSIVE SPOILERS***

I am so in the minority with my review, however, I felt I needed to point out some things in this book for people who may have some major issues with the portrayal of Niall's character, as I did. In my opinion, Niall is a total jerk. He is attracted to Kate so he is rude to her. He has had a long standing relationship with a young woman named Gloria (of the soft buttery skin) who owns a local saloon and who has been his bed partner since he was age 20. Gloria is one year younger than Niall and has owned the saloon since she was 23. He did take a hiatus from sleeping with Gloria during his marriage to Camille and even stayed away for two years following Camille's death. The book describes their relationship as being close friends. He spends pretty much every Friday night with Gloria and has no intention of letting her go even after he marries Jocelyn. Yes, he will consummate the marriage with Jocelyn but he will continue to visit Gloria for his primary sexual needs. Further, he knows Jocelyn will not make a good mother to Beth but he is bent on having her for the connections she will bring to him.

After Kate has been in his home for a few weeks, Niall can't resist her and kisses her, Kate is very attracted to him but neither of them know whether or not she is married, although after kissing her, Niall has a pretty good idea due to her lack of experience in kissing.

Finally, this thing with Kate is driving Niall nuts and he comes to her room one night and this is where he says.... "We don't have a future. Tonight won't change anything, We can only have this one night." They make love and he finds out she is a virgin. He is full of guilt but he is still determined to go his way and marry Jocelyn. In fact, the very next day, he brings Jocelyn to the MacLaren ranch and insists Kate join the family for dinner where he will announce his intentions to marry Jocelyn. Before this can take place, Kate's father shows up with Jamie. He is a long time friend of the MacLaren Family and has been looking for Kate for several weeks. Kate recognizes her father, her memories begin to return and she realizes her father had given her mother's wedding ring to her before she left on her trip to California - so no, she's not married but definitely no longer a virgin.

Kate believes her father will take her away but then she finds out he has bought a ranch a few miles away from the MacLaren ranch. Kate loves the area and has decided to get on with her life and put Niall out of her mind. She does give it a good effort for a couple of months, then she finds out she is pregnant but she doesn't tell anyone. Niall, jerk that he is, continues to try to play all his cards while he figures out what to do about the three women in his life. After Kate's visit to the local doctor, her pregnancy is confirmed and she goes to a cafe to have lunch. While she is there, Niall comes in with the beautiful Gloria. Because of poor little ole Niall's confused state of mind about Kate, he is no longer visiting Gloria on Friday nights, he has only brought Gloria out for dinner to celebrate her birthday - apparently a yearly date he has with Gloria - even during his marriage with Camille. Kate, sad and troubled in the corner of the restaurant sees them, doesn't know who Gloria is but stands and leaves to go home. A storm is coming in and she winds up being thrown from her horse and never shows up at home. Niall finds her, everyone gathers around and the doctor is called.

At this point the book is about 94% complete. Niall finds out Kate is pregnant and finally has the courage to tell her that he loves her, after her Dad gives him a good pounding. HOWEVER, he doesn't address his relationship with Gloria even after he has asked Kate to marry him. Only after Kate asks him about Gloria does Niall tell Kate his relationship with Gloria is one of long time friendship, not of commerce - in other words, they bed one another because they are friends but he doesn't pay. He also tells Kate that he never slept with Gloria during the time he was married to Camille - how kind and sweet of him. This is his way of assuring Kate that he will be true to her - hmm... wonder if he will still have his yearly date with the beautiful buttery skinned Gloria on her birthday - I would definitely count on it, Kate.

So, if the reader doesn't mind having the main guy act like a jerk, with the main gal putting up with his junk, and a story line where the leading male character has a life-long female friend who he sleeps with and is definitely emotionally involved with and who he may continue to date at least once each year on her birthday even after he is married, this is the book for you. Although well written, parts of the story line frustrated me to no end. I had to write this review which has taken me longer than it did to read the book. Ugh! Now, after my negative review, you will think I'm nuts because I definitely plan to read the next book in this series due to the fact I believe this writer has a lot of potential and I am very intrigued by Jamie's persona. I just hope he is a "one woman" man or I will not be happy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously tantalising!, 8 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
This was a deliciously steamy Western read which had me gripped from the word go. It begins with the death of Niall's parents when he is still a child and you can't help but feel for Niall and his brothers as they are subsequently re-homed with their Aunt and Uncle. That's not the last of death that Niall has to face, however, as his wife is taken from him shortly after they are married. When Kate enters his life as an amnesiac, recovering from a stage coach accident, the hero is determined not to fall in love again...

Not wanting to spoil the plot for other readers, I will just say that the authoress writes with a practiced hand and builds up the sexual tension notch by notch, until you want to bang the hero over the head with a saucepan to make the poor guy see sense. (Well, I did, anyway).

5 Stars Ms Davies - I can wait the next installment of the Fire Mountain Men :)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Man Who Refuses to Love and a Woman Who Remembers Nothing Else, 1 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
First Paragraph:

"Niall covered his ears to drown out the relentless gunfire, but it was no use. He could not hear his parents above; he could no longer hear the whimpering of his seven-year-old twin brothers. His other brother, Jamie, was with them in the small space, but he made no sound. The chamber smelled stale, common in places rarely used."

Tougher Than The Rest by Shirleen Davies is the first book in the 'MacLarens of Fire Mountain' series.

PLOT

Ohio, 1866. Niall's family is attacked by raiders. His parents just manage to hide him and his brothers in a secret space beneath their barn before the attack takes place. When fifteen-year-old Niall emerges, fire and death are all that greet him. His parents dead, his home up in flames and all their belongings with it. As the oldest of the four brothers, Niall takes charge and remembers what his father said to him. If anything ever happened, find your uncle in the West.

Twelve years later and the boys have grown. Niall now has a daughter, whose mother died in childbirth. He is determined to make sure his family is well taken care of. Even if it means marrying a poisonous widow for her money and connections.

Meanwhile, Kate is travelling to Los Angeles for her new teaching job. Her father worries, especially as she's the only family he has left, but Kate's mind is made up. However, when her California-bound stage carriage loses control and crashes, Kate's plans go out the window.

Niall witnesses the crash and manages to get Kate, and the other survivors out. When it's apparent that Kate has amnesia following a bad concussion, Niall's aunt offers to take care of her until her memory returns- much to Niall's chagrin. A chance encounter with the young woman earlier in the day, was enough to send him running. He has carefully laid out plans that this attractive, young woman (who awakens within him emotions he believed long dead) threatens.

On the other hand, Kate struggles to remember anything about herself, while all the while her mind turns to the handsome stranger living under the same roof. But he already has an intended, and the wedding ring on her finger surely means she does too. Then why can she not control her heart when he's around?

REVIEW

As with most romance novels, the plot and characters are quite formulaic. The basic character personalities of the main leads could be out of a Jane Austen or Bronte novel. Kate is more learned than most other women are expected to be for the era, in all manner of things- including talents more common to men. Though the main difference is Kate's lack of flaws. I struggle to think if she has even one. She is too perfect, and excels at everything. It can make her a little boring and unrealistic. I don't have a problem with strong female leads, but everyone has flaws and weaknesses. There are no exceptions to that rule. It would make her a stronger lead if she had to overcome her own shortfalls.

Cast alongside our leading lady, Niall is by far the more interesting of the two. It's almost as if the author tried to balance out Kate's lack of flaws with Niall's abundance of them. As with many male romance leads, he comes of at first as abrasive and rude, but is a good man at heart. He is almost her opposite in a way. Surprisingly immature in matters of the heart, and his motivations can be hard to understand. He refuses to admit his attraction to Kate, which at first makes sense, considering everyone believes her to be someone else's wife, but is very obnoxious about it, treating her as a schoolboy might treat his first crush.

Later in the story, there is no sense in it. Why he refuses to accept his emotions is beyond me. It's not out of respect for his dead wife, as he's fine with a lover and marrying a woman just for her connections. A woman who his daughter hates and whose connections he doesn't really need.

On a small side note, I do think the title and book cover should be changed. Or maybe just the cover. I may be the only one who thought this, but when I was first approached to review this, I fully believed it was the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' kind of romance novel. I want to make it clear, in case any one else is thinking the same thing, that that is not the case. This is just your typical chick-lit. To be fair, I should've paid more attention. The man on the cover is wearing a shirt, which should've been indication enough.

The plot itself is a little slow. Almost the entire story is just one person misunderstanding and the other denying their emotions. The same excuses they tell themselves are repeated over and over again like a mantra, as though saying them enough could make them true and bring some kind of closure.

The ending, once you get to it, is predictable (as it is with most romance) and felt a little rushed. For all the build-up, there isn't a huge payoff. I think telling us a little more would've negated that, especially considering a late plot point and an event from Niall's past. It had me questioning why he wasn't more worried.

The whole thing ends with a final, quick remark setting up the plot of the sequel. Whether I'll be checking out the next book remains to be seen. The plot seems interesting enough, and the story will star my favourite brother from this book, so those factors may lead me to pick it up (once it exists).

There are also a couple characters and side plots that have little to no point in the story. A couple are never seen again, and their main purpose it to add length to the story. It can drag it a little, but not enough to make you stop reading.

Having said all that, my only real criticism is with the main leads. Other than that, the story is enjoyable enough, and even the main leads can be entertaining. You've seen this story a million times, and doubtless will see it a million more. This is the kind of romance book that isn't read for its originality. It's read for the same reason people watch romantic comedies. You don't have to think too hard, you know what's going to happen, and it makes you feel good.

I am often frustrated with the main leads of chick-lit/ flick type romances. Not for the reasons I stated above, but because they always deny the obvious, whether out of ignorance, misunderstandings or just sheer pig-headedness.

Overall, an easy read (despite it's dark beginning), that may not leave you warm and fuzzy, but will leave you joining in with the supportive cast for one last word, 'Finally!'

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully written western romance, 8 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
This was a wonderfully written western romance that pulls at your heart. There were some serious sparks between Kate and Niall, and I found myself really wanting them to be together. All of the characters in this book were realistic and the world building was excellent and in tune to the 1800s. I can't wait to see what happens in the next book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping tale with an excellent plot, 4 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I loved the tale about a young teacher who goes on an adventure into the world of the wild west. The author has an amazing ability to bring the setting to life with those vivid details and well researched history. The characters are well drawn too. The ongoing battle between the young lady, Katherine, and Niall is one of those memorable romances that ebbs and flows and comes together and then doesn't that propels this awesome and amazing book right through to the heart stopping end. What will happen in the next one? Can't wait to find out!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real classic, 27 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
So much to enjoy in this book. Very good in its structure with all the required elements of romance with touches of mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed this and recommend it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read, 12 Mar. 2015
By 
Jo-Anne (Bowmanville, Ontario) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
When the four MacLaren boys lose their parents to raiders, the oldest, Niall, who is 15 knows he has to take care of the others. His father told him to go to his Uncle Stuart MacLaren in Arizona Territory if anything ever happened to him. He had also told Niall where he had hidden two bags of money. Niall sent a telegraph to his uncle, telling him they were coming and off they went. It was a very long and dangerous journey in the 1800s but the boys made it.

The story fast-forwards 12 years where Niall is widowed with a 6 year old daughter, Beth. He meets Kate and is instantly smitten but moves on. Shortly after, he finds her again when she has been in a terrible carriage accident and has lost her memory. He takes her to his ranch, where he lives with his aunt, to recuperate and she finally agrees to be a governess to his daughter.

I enjoyed this historical western romance and found it to be a nice easy read. I must admit I was confused at the very beginning not knowing who Kate's father was. So I didn't start off with the best impression. Some of the things that happened in this story didn't ring true but, again, I enjoyed it.

The characters were a bit odd. Kate was very well educated which was unusual in that time period. She could do absolutely anything! It was one of the 'odd' things I noticed that she never did anything wrong. Niall's daughter, Beth, was a cutie and I really liked her. She was a lot of fun and often spilled the beans, so to speak, as 6 year olds will do. Niall was a miserable man who believed he had to do whatever it took to grow his ranch for his family, even if he didn't want to do it. He was strange and hard to like.

The plot was interesting with Kate getting amnesia and not even knowing her name. Luckily she had told another passenger her name was Kate so they knew that much but that was all anyone knew about her. How she was attracted to Niall, I didn't understand but she was and he with her. I was surprised that things got pretty heated between them, especially for that day and age.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Cracking Start, 3 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Brilliant start to this series which I know I will enjoy. The west and its wild beginnings. Beautifully told and written. Bill if you'll forgive me is a total Pratt despite his humble beginnings. Too driven to see what's in front of him. Thank God for good men like Trent who will give him a swift kick in the pants to remind him what's truly important. Loved it
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3.0 out of 5 stars Easy read, 11 April 2014
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This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Just sit down and while away a few hours, escape reality and enjoy this story. Good plot, characters with depth and you don't have to think too hard about anything other than to enjoy this read. Looking forward to reading the next follow-up book. Would definitely recommend.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Tougher Than The Rest, 4 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Tougher Than The Rest (MacLarens of Fire Mountain Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
This book was OK for light reading, I read one more but think that will be the last one I read from this author.
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