Petal is the last place Caroline Mendoza thought she’d end up. Sixteen years ago she lost both parents there—her mother to murder and her father to prison for the crime. Since then she’s built a successful life, but she’s never let go of the belief her father is innocent.
Now she’s back in Petal to find the truth. With a new job and a mystery to solve, she’s got plenty on her plate. But when she bumps into Royal Watson, the sparks fly hard and fast.
When the whipsmart, opinionated lawyer blows into town like a beautiful storm, Royal has a reason to make the time to get off his organic farm and pursue her. And soon their intense attraction is tipping into something more.
As Caroline’s dogged investigation digs up ghosts of the past, there’s not much time for basking in love’s glow. The closer she gets to the truth, the more threatened the real killer gets…and the greater the danger that all her digging could lead to her own grave.
Warning: Laid-back ranchers who are really sneak alpha males, tight butts in wranglers, and creative use of belts and buckles. Bad words, hot sex, and lots of pie—sometimes all at once.
This blurb came from the author’s http://www.laurendane.com website.
E: Some authors I know I can count on to give me a small town story complete with extended/entangled family and friends by blood and by choice. Ever since I was introduced to the Chase brothers I have loved the town of Petal, Georgia and its diverse occupants. I was very glad when Dane decided to write more stories set in and around Petal because I knew I would get glimpses of characters I already enjoyed. In addition to providing me those Dane has also introduced more memorable individuals, their lives, and struggles as they find love and acceptance. I was lucky enough to get a peek at Count on Me early so when I was preparing to start writing this review I umm got sucked back into the story and had to reread it. Even knowing “who done it” I loved the fact that I enjoyed the story just as much the second time around.
MinnChica: I’ve always enjoyed Dane’s writing, but for me this book really stepped it up a notch. Not only did we get a great romance, but we also got a really good mystery woven in. I liked the way that Dane kept the romance and the mystery moving along at a fast pace and in a really interesting and exciting way. Every time the romance reached a lull, she would flip to the mystery and I’d be sucked completely back in, and vice-versa. My only issue with this book was Anne. Given his past with Royal, I knew she would be a problem child in this book, and I found myself really hating and detesting her character as the book went on.
E: Oh Anne, I really wanted to just take her outside and give her a good shake because she was so very immature! I loved the way Caroline handled her when Anne finally stepped over the very last line but I wouldn’t have been so patient. At this point if Dane ever makes her a heroine she has a lot of work to do in terms of redemption. Like MinnChica, I enjoyed the mystery. Its many facets touched on so many different negative and positive pieces of life. Seeing the results of sloppy unprofessional work mixed with racism on one side balanced by the number of people who were willing to step up and help work to right a wrong made me think Dane was really describing a slice of life. I was very glad to see that Caroline never let bygones be bygones because the amount of intentional emotional and mental damage done over the years wasn’t anything to be swept under the rug. This technique allowed me to enjoy the story all the way through the end instead of feeling let down and cheated emotionally.
MinnChica: I don’t know that I’d ever be able to read Anne as a heroine, she really made me that angry, but we’ll see…. The ongoing issue of racism really struck a cord with me in this book. Although I live in a very diverse city, there are so many times I hear about instances of racism all around me. I hated the way Caroline was forced to deal with her shitty grandparents just so she could have a chance at a relationship with her brother and sister. Now that I think about it, there were quite a few secondary characters in this book that royally pissed me off. I would have liked to take the lot of them out back and teach them a lesson!!
E: Oh yes, there certainly were a few little pissants I wanted to squish but the Chase family certainly helped make up for it. On the lighter side Royal and Caroline provided me with laughter, tenderness, and steamy moments. From their initial meet cute to his determination to get her phone number and her obvious enjoyment of their flirtation and growing relationship I enjoyed watching them together. Caroline gave into Royal’s need to protect her sometimes and at the same time he restrained his desire to wrap her up in cotton. My favorite part is when Caroline realized exactly what she was involved in. “You’re a sneak alpha.” And in my opinion the scene only gets better from there.
MinnChica: I did really enjoy Royal and Caroline’s romance. I thought it was perfect for them. Royal needed someone who wasn’t afraid to commit 100% to being in a relationship with him, and Caroline was more than ready for him. I also loved that Royal was the strong and supportive type for Caroline, he acted as her protector, but also let her grow in the ways she needed to in Petal. They had smokin’ hot chemistry, and I adored them togetherr. The romance aspect, for me, more than made up for the other areas that annoyed me.
E: Yes, they both needed someone who was 100% committed and supportive. I loved seeing their relationship and intimacy grow over time. And it wasn’t just Royal and Caroline but also the relationships Caroline developed with various Petal residents despite the best efforts of a few individuals. Dane provided a really complete story with Count on Me. I enjoyed the relationship building, mystery, suspense, twists and turns, humor, and some lovely sexy times. I also really liked seeing the extended Chase family in action as they stayed true to their previously established characters. I can’t wait to see what Dane brings to Petal next.
I give Count on Me an A-
MinnChica: All in all I enjoyed this book. While there were a few characters that brought the story down for me, the romance and overall plot really worked at keeping the story fresh and exciting. I loved the relationship between Caroline and Royal, and thought they were super adorable together. The mystery plot was amazing as well, and I loved the way it all wrapped up. The mystery aspect was quite possibly my favorite aspect of the book as a while.
I give Count on Me a B