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Stone Cold Christmas Ranger by Nicole Helm @NicoleTHelm

Stone Cold Christmas Ranger (Harlequin Intrigue) - Nicole Helm

Helm with another winner. This is a follow up to Helm's Stone Cold Undercover Agent (which I never wrote about, just tweeted, for some reason), and it's just as good. 

Helms' characters are terrific and the dialogue snappy. There are no constant reminders of how strong the lead woman character is - that comes from the plot. If the character is constantly being told how strong she is, it makes me think she must be really insecure to constantly need morale boosting.


In the previous book, Gabby had been prisoner of The Stallion, a really weird psychopath. Alyssa, the lead female character in this book, had only been The Stallion's prisoner for two years, but Gabby and Alyssa had a mutual respect , and both played the key role, along with Jaime's (the male love interest) help.


Alyssa grew up the only girl with five brothers, all children of a drug cartel leader. She was essentially a prisoner, for her own protection, her brothers claimed. She learned to be independent and self-reliant, but socially awkward, with no experience with men. After escaping her kidnapping, she's taken in by Gabby, and starts an illegal bounty hunting business, helping the disadvantaged get justice.


Bennet, the male protagonist, is a Texas Ranger, His father is a US Senator and his mother is a Texas State Representative. He grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth and was expected to follow in his parents' footsteps, but he couldn't stand the hypocrisy and the pretense, and went into law enforcement. Further, his grandfather beat him regularly. and his parents looked the other way.


Bennet's need to have different faces is mentioned often. He's good at it because of his upbringing, but Alyssa knows one face: tough.


Both Alyssa and Bennet are damaged by their childhoods. And, while the "both heal each other" trope is in play here, the relationship that develops between the two is drawn so well. Neither is the other's fool, and the verbal exchanges between them are often sharp and funny.


The scene where they finally bonk is sweet: Alyssa is getting more and more curious about sex, after an earlier scene where Bennett's father shows up while they're together, and Bennett doesn't want his father asking too many questions. He pulls Alyssa close and covers her mouth with his. "Kiss me back!" "I don't know how!" I couldn't help laughing.


 Her curiosity finally wins out, and she makes the move on Bennett. I always like when the woman makes the final move in romances.


The suspense plot is well-paced, and the reveals are logical and come at just the right time. I was never tempted to scroll to the end to find out who done it.


A terrific read and highly recommended.