Claiming his Secret Heir
The McNeills #5
By Joanne Rock
Releasing January 10th, 2018
Can he win back his wife?
When Caroline McNeill shows up outside her husband’s mansion, she claims to have no memory of the past year…or their passion-filled honeymoon. But faking amnesia is the only way Caroline can find out if Damon was behind her abduction. She needs to trust him—a man she craves but still barely knows—before she can tell him about their infant son. Did the Silicon Valley mogul merely marry to claim an inheritance then dispose of her? Or is what they share real and forever?
In Claiming his Secret Heir (The McNeills #5) by Joanne Rock, Caroline McNeill doesn't remember anything of the past year, so showing up at her husband's mansion is a little daunting. Still, if it's the only way she'll be able to discover what happened to her, she's willing to do anything, even if it means deceiving the man she loves. However, when she learns the truth about her kidnapping and the person responsible for it, will she ever be able to trust anyone again or will she walk away from the man that she's falling in love with all over again?
This series encompasses an incredible array of characters, especially the men of the McNeill family, and I've got to say that this story is one of the best of the series. Really, it started off very intriguingly because of what has happened to the heroine and finding her way back to her husband is just what she needs to help her to realize who she can trust and who she can't. Then again, being with Damon again could help her immensely in every way -- to hopefully find her way back to who she was and hopefully help her uncover what happened. Will she ever discover the truth of what happened to her?
As for the dialogue, it was intense due to the main characters back stories, especially that of the heroine, because she's been through so much and is still suffering from what happened to her because she needs to know who was responsible to ever be able to heal from the horrible event that led to her amnesia and her missing the last year of her life. Will the hero be able to help her figure things out? Will anything or anyone she comes in contact with help bring her memories back? Moreover, the heroine is strong and brave in being able to deal with everything she discovers, no matter how harrowing. I also liked how she put her trust in the hero, even though it wasn't easy for her to in the beginning because of what she was thinking or had been led to believe.
While the hero, he's a good guy, smart, loyal and I liked how protective he was of the heroine, because she means everything to him. I also liked that he took her surprise well, despite being blindsided by her news and the lengths he went to in order to help the heroine fight for answers. I also liked that he put his trust in his half-brothers, men he's only recently learnt about and what they do together to help the heroine and right the wrongs of the past.
Overall, Ms. Rock has delivered another fantastic read for this series where the chemistry between this couple was wonderful; and the ending had me liking the lengths the hero goes to in order to protect the heroine and make sure she remains in his life forever. No way will he let their second chance at forever after slip through his fingers. However, it was the epilogue that wrapped this story up nicely, as the McNeill siblings are finally beginning to come together as a family. I would recommend Claiming his Secret Heir by Joanne Rock, if you enjoy second chance romances or books by authors Karen Booth, Andrea Laurence, Barbara Dunlop and Catherine Mann.
He shook out the waterproof blanket on the snow—plastic on one side, wool plaid on the other. She watched him line up the sled at one end of the blanket before he knelt in the snow to open the picnic hamper. All the while, Caroline rocked the carriage gently, tilting it back and forth. Thankfully, their bodyguard sat outside the trees, keeping an eye on the hill below to make sure no one intruded on their space. She didn’t feel “watched,” per se, although she felt certain the guy kept an eye on them somehow. The team Damon hired seemed very skilled at maintaining a discreet presence.
“I know that I’m not alone any longer, and I’m glad for that.” She debated lifting Lucas out of the baby carrier, but then changed her mind, putting the brakes on the contraption and facing the carrier toward the blanket so they could keep an eye on him.
“Are you ready for the winter picnic to end all picnics?” Damon asked, waiting to open the picnic basket until he had her attention.
He shoved his gloves into the pockets of his vest. His dark hair had a few fresh snowflakes coating the top where he must have brushed against one of the evergreen boughs.
“Do you know what’s in there?” She peeled off her own gloves, ready to eat. “I can’t imagine what a winter picnic entails, so my expectations are fairly low.”
“I packed this myself. And believe me, my expectations run permanently high.” He tipped open the lid with a flourish. “I present to you, the Post-Sledding Woodland Feast.”
Caroline felt her eyes go wide. Crammed inside the huge basket were two brightly colored thermoses and insulated mugs, a red-and-white-checkered tablecloth, a wooden cheeseboard with fresh fruits and cloth-covered cheeses, a tray of shrimp on ice, a stack of Sternos and a lighter, a bag of huge, homemade-looking marshmallows, a tin of graham crackers, chocolate-covered strawberries…
“And champagne!” Her gaze finally reached a bottle of a highly recognizable brand of bubbly inside a champagne bucket. “Is that even legal?” She glanced around, half expecting a park ranger to issue a citation.
“Alcohol in the park is regulated, but not prohibited, so no one will bother us unless we start causing trouble.” Grinning, he gestured for her to have a seat on the blanket. “Get comfortable and I’ll serve us.”
She did as he asked, her eyes still on the stuffed hamper.
“You packed this?” It was a feat of engineering, the way everything was stacked and prepped.
“The technical mind is good for more than designing software, you know.” He pulled out fondue sticks and set them beside the Sterno cans so they could toast their own marshmallows. “And under the champagne is a bottle of whiskey if you’d rather doctor up the hot chocolate.” He produced a smaller basket with airline-sized bottles of Jameson and Baileys, plus a variety of add-in flavors from vanilla and almond to butterscotch.
“You have outdone yourself.” She glanced up into the carriage to check on Lucas. Surrounded by trees on three sides, their picnic spot felt safe and surprisingly private considering the view of the mayhem near Cedar Hill and the row of emerging snowmen lining the biggest walking trail less than fifty yards away.
“I will admit, it’s been hell keeping a lid on the surprise all day.” He found two small hurricane lanterns and placed candles inside them even though the sun still shone brightly outside. Then, he uncapped one of the containers of cocoa and poured her a mugful. “Here. You can add what you like while I work on the seating.”
He scrambled around to the back of the blanket where he used one arm to scoop a pile of snow under the edge of the wool plaid. It took her a moment to understand why he wanted a big lump of snow under the spot where she was sitting. But then he covered it up again, packing the pile into a U-shaped curve to create a support for her back.
“Genius,” she announced, settling into the snow seat with her mug of hot chocolate, the picnic spread out at her feet. “It really is the picnic to end all picnics.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Damon poured his own hot chocolate and settled on the blanket beside her. “Here’s to our first real day as a family.”
She met his blue gaze, his eyes all the more crystalline in the bright sun. He’d taken considerable time and trouble to make the day perfect for her, and Lucas, too. While she’d been sleeping late to catch up on rest, he’d been ordering a special sled and packing the perfect picnic.
“To family,” she echoed, softly clanking her pewter cup to his.
Tipping the drink to her lips, she savored the complex swirl of flavors. She hadn’t added much alcohol, just enough to give a pleasant jolt of warmth on the way down. The almond and vanilla notes were especially good, and the melting homemade marshmallow she’d set on top was a gooey bonus.
She was about to compliment the first beverage course, but when she turned to him again, she felt a flash of heat from the simmering look he gave her. His mug remained untouched, his attention fixed on her mouth.
He was very still.
“What?” Self-conscious, she set her cup aside in the snow. “I have marshmallow all over my face, don’t I?”
Her hand went to her nose, but Damon caught it. He’d set his own drink aside, too, freeing his hands.
“Let me.” He canted closer, his focus shifting to her eyes.
The heat ratcheted up so much it was a wonder they weren’t melting snow.
She could feel her heartbeat quicken, the answering spark she’d always experienced with this man. Time and distance hadn’t broken it. Even forgetting him completely for weeks on end hadn’t erased the response she had to him.
Four-time RITA nominee Joanne Rock has never met a romance sub-genre she didn't like. The author of over eighty books enjoys writing a wide range of stories, most recently focusing on sexy contemporaries and small town family sagas. An optimist by nature and perpetual seeker of silver linings, Joanne finds romance fits her life outlook perfectly--love is worth fighting for. A frequent speaker at regional and national writing conferences she enjoys giving back to the writing community that nurtured and inspired her early career. She has a Masters degree in Literature from the University of Louisville but credits her fiction writing skills to her intensive study with friend and fellow author Catherine Mann. When she's not writing, Joanne enjoys travel, especially to see her favorite sports teams play with her former sports editor husband and three athletic-minded sons.