Author: Nicole Helm

Mess With me by Nicole Helm

Mess With me by Nicole HelmMess with Me by Nicole Helm
Series: Mile High Romance #2
Published by Zebra on August 29th 2017
Pages: 231
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

In Gracely, Colorado, it s all about the climb into the rugged Rocky Mountains, and over the obstacles that life has thrown in your way. With the right partner, the view from the top is grand . . . Sam Goodall knows how to hide. And in the years since his sister s death, he s done just that, burying himself in his work at the Evans brothers Mile High Adventures as a backpacking guide. Clients don t mind his strong, silent demeanor, and he s happy to leave the rest of the world behind when he s hiking, or holed up in the off-grid cabin he calls home. But he owes his life what there is of it to the Evans boys, and when they ask for a favor, he can t refuse. Hayley Winthrop is looking for something she s never had a true sense of family, and a purpose. Finding her half brothers was the first step discovering where she belongs in the world is the next. Could it be in the fresh air of small-town Gracely? With hunky Sam agreeing to train her as an outdoors guide, she s torn between exploring her newfound skills and getting closer to him. But chipping away at the walls around Sam could take a lifetime . . . Sam is stuck in the past, and Hayley is looking toward her future they re a mismatched pair from the start. But the connection between them right now is too good to let go . . ."

I’m a tad conflicted about ‘Mess With Me’, the second book in Nicole Helm’s Mile High Adventures series.

Sam Goodall, the tortured hero was mouthwateringly enticing—the circumstances that made him that way drew me like a moth to flame rather than his yeti-like appearance—which meant that the story started off well. But then it sagged in the middle when the plot seemed to be more of the same from the start: Hayley Winthrop gaining some courage to test out her newfound independence on the unwitting Sam, who in turn, gets drawn out from his cold shell of self-recriminating isolation because of her, all through their training sessions. In essence, there was too much to-and-fro without the sense of anything very significant happening, despite Sam’s intriguing backstory drawing me in from the start.

Hayley was one of those heroines who had me rooting for her at the beginning, only for this sentiment to fizzle out when I just didn’t see her in a better place by the end of the book. In fact, it was harder to like her by the end of it; there was this passive-aggressive vibe in her that rubbed me the wrong way, though her uncertainty and hesitance were understandable in the beginning before it got annoying in the middle. I did understand—sort of—her familial conflict and her need to please people, though her assertion of her own independence vacillated between feeling timidly guilty and then lashing out too often that I just got fed up with her.

I only perked up when Helm introduced the conflict for the next book through the character of Tori, who spiced the dynamics up between the Evans brothers a little more and finally took the focus off Hayley’s self-pity, irrational behaviour and her constant musings about her inability to fit in as the ‘outsider’. Which clearly means that I’m cautiously optimistic for Tori’s story and those years of unresolved history with Will that is bound to explode in their faces. I just hope that it’ll be a ride that would be worth it.

two-stars

Need You Now by Nicole Helm

Need You Now by Nicole HelmNeed You Now by Nicole Helm
Series: Mile High Romance #1
Published by Zebra on May 30th 2017
Pages: 304
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

He s mountain-tough. She s city-smart. The sparks are about to fly . . . Only the most resilient of souls could breathe new life into an all-but-forgotten town nestled in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains but what they get in return might be worth the heartache it takes to make it happen . . . Gracely, Colorado, was once a booming mining town. No one knows that better than Brandon Evans. His father s company kept the town thriving for years until Brandon threatened to expose his illegal practices and drove him away. Everyone blames Brandon and his brother for turning Gracely into a ghost town but the tenacious residents cling to a long-held legend about the land s healing powers. And Brandon has a plan to spin that legend into reality . . . Lilly Preston took a leap of faith and moved to Gracely a year ago to save her nephew from an abusive situation. She would do anything for him, even sacrifice her glamorous job. Reluctantly, the former PR hot shot takes a job at the ruggedly handsome Evans brothers Mile High Adventures, a company offering restorative Rocky Mountain vacations. Brandon thinks PR is pointless, and Lilly knows less than nothing about the outdoors. Which is exactly why they need each other in ways neither ever imagined . . .

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with ‘Need You Now’, since small-town stories can be charming as they can be vicious depending on the genre that I actually get into. But Nicole Helm has written quite a heartfelt one about a man who’s trying his hardest to establish his business in a town that hates him and his brothers and a woman whose family burdens lie squarely on her shoulders, mirroring reality closely in such a way that their situation is a relatable one. I felt for the Evans brothers as they cleaned up the mess their good-for-nothing father left them as much as I felt Lilly’s frustration at being trapped as the provider of a family that’s more broken than complete. Both Brandon and Lilly were hard on themselves in a way that made them the harshest critics of their own circumstances in a way I could definitely understand, as Helm makes both these characters face some hard truths about themselves.

It’s slow-going (with a lovely slow-burn) as Helm brings some nuanced emotions and well-timed humour into a prickly relationship but I genuinely enjoyed the rounds that Brandon and Lilly engaged in as they argued constantly over how to get Mile High Adventures up and on the map once more. Their disagreements were not only funny, but served to amp up the tension between them, which was always a fun way of getting them closer without both parties realising how much their mutual attraction had grown. Before I knew it, half the book was gone with Brandon/Lilly finding themselves in awkward situations until it all, well, explodes.

But as always, it gets worse before it gets better, business in town declines and Lilly/Brandon hit a very rough patch in their relationship. I did think Lilly tended to severely over-react in several parts because of her own issues, second-guessing everything and her lashing out seemed unjustified as she judged Brandon through these black-coloured lenses of her past. Her irrational behaviour towards the end was over the top as she only looked to protect herself, which made her harder to like when she selfishly refused to give Brandon a chance for anything and pretty much eviscerated him where it hurt the most.

The end of the road (read: the end of the book) came sooner than I thought and the curtain fell on Lilly/Brandon with a HFN ending, which is probably the most realistic one to expect in this case. Yet Mile High Adventures has barely gotten off the ground and Helm seems to promise more to come despite this rather abrupt conclusion.

three-stars

Keep Me, Cowboy by Nicole Helm

Keep Me, Cowboy by Nicole HelmKeep Me, Cowboy by Nicole Helm
Published by Tule Publishing on October 2nd 2015
Pages: 130
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

The Copper Mountain Rodeo has returned to Marietta and cowboy reputations aren’t the only thing at stake…
Rodeo cowboy Cole McArthur has spent the last ten years running from Marietta, Montana, from his father’s expectations, and from the only woman he’s ever loved. But now his past is at his front door, begging for his help.
Jess Clark doesn’t want to face the only man who’s ever claimed enough of her heart to break it, but her foster family needs their prodigal son home, and she owes them too much to not make that happen. Seeing Cole for the first time in a decade unlocks the kind of desire she’s only ever felt for him, and never acted on with anyone.
Back in Marietta facing family betrayal and family secrets, heat explodes between them, and feelings buried long ago rise to the surface. But can Jess convince this wandering cowboy that his home is with her?

The Marietta novellas tend to be a special, self-contained brand of mini stories centred around its inhabitants finding their happy-ever-after. Astounded as I was to realise that “Keep Me, Cowboy” was only 80-ish pages long, Nicole Helm has managed a short story of love lost and found (and hopefully kept) in Cole and Jess, where that decade apart hasn’t lessened the friction of their previous parting. Cole had run from his family’s expectations while Jess had stayed for the acceptance and the sense of belonging it gave her, but both soon realise that these issues never really go away even years later. I felt for Jess strongly; I was indignant too, at Cole’s apparent abandonment and sympathetic to her needing a place to belong; cheering, finally, when the decision was made to prioritise her happiness and needs.

Carried by Nicole Helm’s buoyant and persuasive prose, the story manages to steer clear of a HEA falling too quickly into place after Cole’s week-long stay, yet renders enough of an emotional connection that I didn’t feel short-changed by its length.

three-stars