Jannifer Hoffman

 

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Secrets of the Heart by Jannifer Hoffman

Review from, and Copyright held by, Night Owl Romance

Heart Score: 4/5

Hunter Douglas lives in New York City where he does research for people wanting to find their roots. Several years ago he did a small two week job for Brenda Casey so he was surprised when the police called him to inform him of her death. He was also asked to escort Brenda's two children to her sister, Nicole Anderson in Minnesota. Reluctantly, he agrees but when he sees the oldest child, Shanna, he is shocked by how much she reminds him of his sister, Diana, and wonders given her age, if she might be his.

Nicole Anderson designs and makes period costumes out of her grandmother's large Victorian house. When she gets a call at midnight from a stranger to tell her about a sister she's never heard of dying, she assumes it's a joke. As far as she knows she has no sister, only a younger brother, and has no desire to take custody of someone's children.

This suits Hunter fine as he had already decided that he'd like to keep them but he'll need paperwork signed by Nicole so he can. He and the children fly out to MN to meet Nicole and instead of the quick turn around trip Hunter envisioned, he ends up staying a while longer. At first, it was to find the suitcase someone stole out of the truck of his car. This suitcase had all the paperwork from Brenda and a few remembrances. As they look for this beaten up suitcase, Hunter and Nicole start to form a friendship. What started out as just a meeting to sign papers is developing into something more.

As Hunter can do much of his work in MN, he stays to see if he can figure out a mystery that is unfolding. Nicole is the exact duplicate of her sister. She swears that her father would have never had an affair so what is the connection between Nicole's father and Brenda's mother? And why would anyone steal a beat up suitcase? When someone starts watching Nicole's house, who are they looking for and why?

The multiple mysteries in this book are fun and confusing. Nicole's grandmother gives hints to the answers to some but trying to figure them out could give you a headache! She never comes right out and says where she's talking about.....the answer is between the date and the heart? Hunter gets his company involved as he tries to piece together who these two women really are that look so much alike. It's more than family resemblance but what can it be? And why can't the state of MN find Nicole's birth certificate and why does Brenda have a death certificate saying she died when she was 3 weeks old? As more questions get answered, more appear and it seems nothing is as it looks at first glance.

The characters are fun and interesting. Nicole has set up a workshop at home. She has lots of costumes and 3 employees. When giving a tour, they all dress up and even get the kids and Hunter to join them. Nicole's grandmother loves to do puzzles and pretends to read palms. Yet, she's fairly accurate with her palm reading so is she just pretending? Hunter is a city boy who realizes that he's out of his element in the country. He has no problems letting Nicole lead the way while traveling through the wilds of MN but look out in the city! Even the secondary characters are fun like Nicole's gay employee who is the brother of the local sheriff. He arrives to work by boat every day and teaches the kids how to fish. Even Nicole's younger brother makes an appearance and isn't too sure about this guy in his sister's life.

With all the twists and turns of this book's plot, you would think it would be hard to follow. It's not. I found everything was fairly logical to follow and by the end all the ends were neatly tied together. A few things could be figured out before the end but others were a complete surprise. It kept me interested from start to finish and I'm ready for another book concerning this strange but interesting group of characters.


 

Review from, and Copyright held by, Book Binge

Review by Rowena, Book Binge Reviews,  4 out of 5 stars

Okay, so Hunter Douglas was put in charge of delivering Brenda Casey's children to her half sister in Minnesota after Brenda dies. Hunter knows Brenda because he's a PI and she hired him to find her biological father about 7 years ago. So Brenda's dead and she's left behind two kids, Shanna and Kyle. Brenda hasn't lived a very straight and narrow kind of life, she was a little loosy goosy and she had a very brief affair with Hunter after he found her father for her and that information gets Hunter into a lot of trouble with Nicole.

Now Nicole is the half sister that Brenda never knew she had. She found out about her biological father and found out about her sister and brother. The intricacies of the whole plot and Brenda's plan was executed well in this story and I enjoyed watching everything unfold. There's a lot going on in this story with Nicole finding out she's got a long lost sister that is dead and she's the primary caretaker of two small children that are her blood relatives.

It's a whole lot to find out that your Dad might have possibly had an affair while he was still married to your mother, especially when you find out about your dad's other family after he's already gone and dead and Nicole handled it pretty well. She reacted as any normal person would react to having your entire world collapse around you and I ended up really liking her. The problem with Nicole's character for me, was that in the beginning of the story when we first meet Nicole, I couldn't really see what was so special about her. My first impression of Nicole was that she was forgettable. She was one of those heroines that serves her purpose in this story but I'm probably going to forget everything about her by next week...but as the story progressed, so did my appreciation of Nicole Anderson.

Do you guys remember this email story:

Women are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. Most men don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they sometimes take the apples from the ground that aren't as good, but easy. The apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality, they're amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who is brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree.

Nicole was one of the apples at the top of the tree, at first glance you wouldn't see how amazing she is but the more you got to know her, the more you got....her. She was great with the kids and she was good with Hunter. She found out a whole lot about herself that she never knew and she faced down her demons with Hunter's help and I just found her character to be a delight.

Hunter, on the other hand, I loved immediately. How can you not love a man who fell in love with two kids that were thrown into his lap and wanted to do right by them? Hunter was a hero who got under my skin (in a good way) right from the jump. I loved his relationship with the people around. The relationship he formed with Shanna and Kyle was what really sealed his fate as my favorite character of the entire story; I just got all gooey inside for him because he loved those kids and he was going to give them the kind of home they should've had all along if Nicole didn't take them. He wanted those kids and I heart him for that. Hunter's relationship with his family and with his assistant made him that much more awesome. I loved reading his conversations with Virgil and Quint and I just really enjoyed him. I loved how gentle he was with Nicole and I loved his role in helping her live again. There were times aplenty in the book where I was thinking, AWWWWWWW after he did something sweet and I just really, really heart him. My one complaint with him was, Hunter, Hunter, Hunter....why oh why did you ever think it was a good idea to keep your big secret from Nicole? He took his sweet ol' time telling her about the secret that when she finally found out about it, I was sooooo mad at him. I wanted to smack him upside his head but all's well that ends well and this story ended well.

As a whole, the story was enjoyable but there was a lot going on, a lot that you had to keep up with and then there was the whole coincidence thing with Billy that I could've done without because it reeked of overkill but even with all of that stuff going on, I enjoyed this book and cannot wait to finish this series out; Quint's story here I come. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a great story that you can sink your teeth into and figure out. This was a good one.


 

Review by Laura Breck

This book lives up to its name ó the characters possess so many fascinating secrets, that every chapter will have the reader blinking in surprise. Nicole Anderson doesnít know she had a sister until a stranger from New York calls to tell her, her sister is dead, and she is now the guardian of her six-year-old niece and four-year-old nephew.

The stranger, Hunter Douglas, had been involved with the deceased sister seven years prior. Although he hasnít seen her since, she left instructions in her suicide note for him to bring her children to Minnesota to live with her sister. But Nicoleís reaction is anything but familial.

Hunter arrives with the children and finds Nicole living a celibate life in the huge, old lake house she inherited from her grandparents. He vows to stay with the children until heís sure Nicole wants them because if she doesnít, heíll adopt them, for reasons of his own. When Nicoleís maternal instinct suddenly kicks-in, Hunter sees in her the kind of woman he never thought heíd find. 

Then things get complicated. Nicoleís grandmother is the only living relative who can explain how she could have a sister, but the elderly woman talks in riddles, confusing things further. Hunter is a private investigator and uses his resources in New York to research the sisterís past, but as they uncover pieces of the puzzle, even more questions arise.

Nicole and Hunter succumb to temptation and begin a steamy romance. But itís interrupted by a triple threat:  a sinister man from the deceased sisterís past appears, a mystery surrounding Nicoleís birth certificate surfaces, and one of Hunterís secrets is revealed and proves too shocking for Nicole to accept.

Jannifer Hoffman writes a touching and steamy romance wrapped inside a brain-teaser of a mystery. The clues are sprinkled throughout the book, but any mystery romance reader will love the challenge of solving this intricate puzzle.

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