May 6, 2015

REVIEW: Two of Hearts

Two of Hearts, by Christina Lee
Publish Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: ARC, provided by the author
Genre:  adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble 

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Dakota Nakos was always the resilient, strong-willed achiever. But when her father dies and she’s entrusted with the family’s casino, she feels vulnerable, scared, and more than a little emotional —not exactly the best time to see an old lover she’s never really gotten over.

Dakota once meant the world to Shane Garrity. Then suddenly he left town to train as a U.S. Marshal, and their love for each other crashed into a memory. Now he’s come home for her father’s funeral, and one look at the girl he left behind stirs up both memories and regrets, and reignites a fire he feared he’d lost forever.

Dakota may be the same driven girl she always was, but she’s also changed in ways neither could have anticipated. She’s not just a young woman searching for own identity in the Native American community in which she was raised, but one questioning her new life outside her father’s shadow. Above all she wonders if Shane can push past her weakened defenses to rekindle what they once had, or whether the intense blaze between them will ultimately reduce her heart to ashes.

I've loved everything I've ever written by Christina Lee. I'm a huge fan of her Between Breaths series. But, TWO OF HEARTS was something completely different. I mean, it had a great story and a compelling romance and a super sexy man. So, you know, all those things were the same. But what Two of Hearts had that was new was a fantastic mystery set among the backdrop of a Native American culture. 

Dakota and Shane have a history. They were perfect together until their life choices separated them. Years later, Dakota's father's death brought the two of them back together again. And, although she is still really angry with Shane, he's there right when she needs him. Because, someone is out to destroy her and her family's business, and she doesn't know who. 

You can tell that Christina Lee did her homework with this one. One of my favorite aspects of Two of Hearts was the Native American culture that was threaded throughout. Dakota's family owns a casino on a reservation. I've been to a few of those, but I had no idea how important they are to the Native American community. Or how traditional the owners and operators can be. Dakota's father was a full-blooded Native American, but he married a Dutch-American woman. When he died, he passed ownership of the casino along to her, and even though she's the CFO and has worked and lived among these people for many years, they just can't accept a non-Native American in possession of one of their reservation's casinos. That kind of prejudice broke my heart. 

Dakota already has an uphill battle as COO of the casino. She's half white, she's young and she's female. Plus, she's still mourning her father and freaking out over the return of the only man she's ever loved. I would be rocking in a corner some where, but Dakota is made of some crazy strength. She deals with all of it with poise and grace. Well, all of it except for Shane. She's sort of a mess around him. 

And, who can blame her, really? He's hot and they have a lot of unfinished business. Once again, their split was the cause of some serious miscommunication on both sides. And, because these two couldn't just sit down and talk about what was bothering them, they spent five years miserable and apart. Luckily, Shane gets his head on straight first, and when Dakota's dad dies, he decides it the right time to come home and claim what is his. 

I loved seeing the professional and proper Dakota reduced to mush around him. It's obvious from the beginning that they were so perfect together. And, I love how protective he is of her. Someone is trying to remove her family from their casino - by any means necessary. Shane, who is a US Marshall, steps in right away, calls in backup, and starts helping Dakota figure out who is behind the threats, all while watching her back. Gradually, he works his way back into her life, and gradually, she realizes it's where she's wanted him all along.  

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