#1 - Jake by Leigh Greenwood [Cowboys series]
#2 - Pete by Leigh Greenwood [Cowboys series]
i cannot say enough praise-wise about Mr. Greenwood and his novels. Seven Brides is by far my favorite series of his, but the Cowboys is trying to surpass that.
the premise of the series (copied from author's website--the words are his)
The freedom of the range, the bawling of the longhorns, the lonesome night watch beneath a vast, starry sky - they got into a man's blood until he knew there was nothing better than the life of a cowboy...except the love of a good woman.
This series tells the stories of nearly a dozen orphans who're adopted by Jake and Isabelle Maxwell and grow up on their cattle ranch in the Texas Hill Country. These boys were considered uncontrollable and thrown out of various orphanages and foster homes. Jake and Isabelle are their last chance for a semblance of a normal life. But the abuses and brutality of their lives make it hard for them to trust anyone, much less believe they can be loved or are worthy of love.
The series begins in 1866, just after the Civil War. Jake comes home to find his family dead or gone, squatters having claimed his best land, and threatening to take his herd for damages. His only hope is to get his cows to market before they can be taken from him. And the only cowhands he can find are this rag-tag group of orphans being nurse maided by a society woman from Savannah who knows nothing about the West, and precious little about boys.
each "Cowboy" has his (and in one case, her) past and as an author, Leigh shows the good, bad, and ugly and makes the characters leap right off the page from the orphans themselves to their future intended love interests, friends, enemies and even some minor characters.
personally my favorite of the Cowboys is Sean (whose story was the first i nabbed in this series...and the next time i reread it, it will likely get a notable reread mention!).
The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory - Alys, young apprentice to a rumored witch, flees and joins an order of Catholic nuns. when the abbey is ransacked, leaving Alys the sole survivor, her life takes a very different turn. very enjoyable thus far.
Alexander the Great: Murder in Babylon by Graham Phillips - historical mystery study....was one of ancient history's most famous rulers, who dropped dead at the young age of thirty-two, possibly the victim of foul play? author explores the events leading up to the day Alexander died and presents eight people that he considers could be suspects. slow reading in some spots, but very interesting idea. recommended for students, as each chapter has at its end a section that seems to be of use for study guides, research/book reports and the like.