Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Last Chance Christmas-Vicki Lewis Thompson

A Last Chance Christmas
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798278

Ben Radcliffe drives the icy roads from Sheridan to Jackson Hole to deliver a custom made saddle that Jack Chance commissioned as a family birthday present to his mom Sarah on her seventieth birthday.  At the Last Chance Ranch, Jack loves Ben’s artistry, which relieves the tense artisan as this is his biggest commission.

Also staying at the spread, Chance relative Molly Gallagher the genealogist works on a family tree.  When she and Ben meet, each feels a powerful uncomfortable attraction.  As they fall in love, the reclusive Ben revises his opinion about family being undesirable hemorrhoid creators since the loving rowdy Chance clan embraced him as one of them and Molly wants him.

The fourteenth Sons of Chance (see Riding Home, Riding Hard and Riding High) Wyoming ranch romance is a pleasing tale as two professionals with polar opposite views of family fall in love.  Although understandable as apparently this is the last entry, the Chance horde at times overwhelms the romantic storyline.  Still Vicki Lewis Thompson provides her appreciative audience with a nice Christmas present.

Harriet Klausner

Deliverance At Cardwell Ranch-B. J. Daniels

Deliverance At Cardwell Ranch
B. J. Daniels
Harlequin Intrigue, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698004

Freezing his butt in Montana, Texas Deputy Sheriff Austin Cardwell hates he promised his siblings and his cousin Dana Cardwell Savage (see Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch) he would spend Christmas with them to celebrate the grand opening of their Texas Boys Barbecue.  Used to Houston traffic and no snow, he drives to his destination while a blizzard makes the roads hazardous.  When he comes across an overturned car, Austin stops to help anyone stranded; only a crazed woman assaults him with a tire iron.  Stopping the attack, Austin asks her name and noticing a child’s car seat in her car asks where her baby is.  She cannot recall her name; insists she has no infant; and that is not her car.  Her watch says Gilliam, but her driver’s license lists her as Rebecca Stewart, but she insists she is not Rebecca. 

Highway patrol arrives and takes her to a hospital in Bozeman.  Her husband Marc Stewart arrives to take his wife home; Austin observes how terrorized she is of him.  Though having doubts and challenging Marc’s claim, Austin leaves for the Cardwell Ranch feeling foolish for getting involved in a domestic dispute; yet the inconsistences haunt him.  As a family favor, Dana’s law enforcement husband Hud chats with Marc who shows him a picture of him with his wife holding their baby and her sister Gillian Cooper.  Still unable to let go of the woman’s terrorized expression, Austin investigates.

The third Texas Cardwell Cousins romantic suspense (see Wedding At Cardwell Ranch and Rescue At Cardwell Ranch) is an action-packed taut thriller with a solid lead triangle.  Series fans will appreciate Big Sky Country takes Austin.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wild Holiday Nights-Samantha Hunter, Meg Maguire and Debbi Rawlins

Wild Holiday Nights
Samantha Hunter, Meg Maguire and Debbi Rawlins
Harlequin Blaze, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798292

“Holiday Rush” by Samantha Hunter.  In New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, performance baker creative genius Calla Michaels is tired of the days leading to Christmas as she fills orders.  Related to cops and a firefighter back in Texas; Calla reacts smartly when a robber enters her establishment.  Her brother Nathan’s friend police officer Gideon Stone arrives to keep her safe even as he struggles to control his desire.

“Playing Games” by Meg Maguire.  Due to the weather, Carrie Baxter’s flight from Sacramento to Portland on Christmas Eve is cancelled.  Unable to get a rental, Daniel Barber offers to share his vehicle with her since they both need to be in Grafton, Oregon by morning.  She cringes with the thought of hours in a contained isolated car with the man she secretly craves.

“All Night Long” by Debbi Rawlins.  Paralegal Carly Watts is a grouch because her first vacation in three years is on hold as she works the Emerson case documents in Manhattan instead of being home for Christmas in Pittsburgh.  Equity partner Ryan Dunn gives her a chance to make it home when he sends her to Chicago to obtain Jack Carrington's signature authorizing the sale of his grandfather's company.  As he wants more time to consider what he wants to do with the family firm, Carly wants more time to get to know Jack.

These are three cheerful Christmas contemporaries starring likeable leads.

Harriet Klausner

A Certain Retribution: A Merrick McKnight Novel-Michael Lister

A Certain Retribution: A Merrick McKnight Novel
Michael Lister
Pulpwood, Nov 28 2014, $16.99
ISBN 9781888146455

Merrick McKnight lost his journalist position at a Florida Panhandle newspaper due to downsizing, and his wife and child due to a car accident.  Living in Wewathitchka, Florida he runs into Reggie Summers at the Tiki Grill; she attended Wewa High School like he did.  Though attracted to each other, Reggie doubts a reporter like Merrick would want a too big country-fried trashy single mom raising a teenage football player.  At Tucks, Merrick and Reggie intervene when Deputy Donnie Ray threatens Dahl Rogers.  As Rogers flees the scene, Reggie tasers nasty Donnie Ray.

Not long afterward Gulf County Sheriff Robin Wilson asks Merrick questions re Dahl, who was killed soon after his last call to Merrick though the reporter failed to answer his phone.  Insisting his innocence though the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates him and his department for alleged wrongdoings, Wilson wants Merrick to cover the inquiry offering full access.  At the same time, using the nuts test Reggie checks on whether Donnie Ray killed his former sheriff department’s peer.  Soon someone kills more cops.

As Prison Chaplain John Jordan (see Blood Sacrifice) and WWII detective Jimmy "Soldier" Riley Series (see The Big Hello) take respites, the second McKnight Panhandle mystery (see Thunder Beach) is a twisting dark investigative thriller.  Adding fun to the mix is Michael Lister entering the Corner CafĂ©.  Although the sex distracts from the grim inquiries, the gender role switching enhances an overall exhilarating regional whodunit. 

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Last Goodbye-J.A. Jance

A Last Goodbye
J.A. Jance
Pocket Star eBooks, Nov 24 2014, $1.99
ISBN: 9781501103698

Lovers Ali Reynolds and B. Simpson plan quietly to marry on Christmas Eve in Las Vegas.  However, when friends crash their nuptials, Ali tries to throw together a last second much more complex reception than what she and B decided to have.

Ali’s grandson rescues a miniature dachshund.  Believing someone who loves the canine must be despondent, Ali searches for the owner.  She soon identifies Bella’s owner, elderly Harriet, but cannot locate her.  As Ali and B search for Harriet, they learn she was rushed to a hospital six months ago with aphasia while her son coldly shut down her apartment; Ali fears much worse happened.

The tenth Ali Reynolds investigation (see Moving Target and Deadly Stakes) is a sad Christmas e-novella in spite of the wedding finally occurring.  The inquiry is very minor compared to previous whodunits yet readers will feel deep empathy for Harriet and Bella.

Harriet Klausner

The Cinderella Murder-Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

The Cinderella Murder
Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
Simon & Schuster, Nov 18 2014, $26.99
ISBN: 9781476763125

Two decades ago, UCLA student Susan Dempsey skipped her father’s sixtieth birthday bash to audition for a role in director Frank Parker’s production.  She was found strangled to death near the director’s home.  Because a shoe had fallen off the victim, the media dubbed this The Cinderella Murder.

In the present, Under Suspicion TV producer Laurie Moran wants to do a recreation show on the cold case.  Susan’s still grieving mom Rosemary agrees as she sees this as an opportunity for her daughter Susan to become known as a victimized person rather than a fairy tale in which everyone has ignored that the ogre won.  No one else from Susan’s inner circle including her then boyfriend actor Keith Ratner, her college roommates (Madison Meyer and Nicole Melling) or her close friend Dwight Cook want to participate; though their motive for avoidance may have to do with their present elite stature rather than guilt.  In spite of a persistent refusal to help from those who knew Susan; Laurie and show attorney Alex Buckley continue their inquiries.

The latest (and first collaboration with Alafair Burke) Under Suspicion (see I’ve Got You Under My Skin) is a thrilling cold case whodunit as the TV protagonists investigate what happened twenty years ago, but with practically no cooperation from the victim’s friends.  As readers will try to guess whose lead character seemingly represents which of the two authors, The Cinderella Murders is a super mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 17, 2014

Herald Of The Flame-Sylvia Engdahl

Herald Of The Flame
Sylvia Engdahl
Ad Stellae Books, Oct 2 2014, $16.50
ISBN: 9780692293768

He was Terry Radner from top secret Maclairn where, unlike the rest of humanity on other planets, mental powers are encouraged; on Ciencia he became a freedom fighter, prisoner, and escapee Terry Rivera, but crashed his ship to protect his homeland from terrorists.  Elders saved his life; gave him a new identity as Terry Steward; provided him with a starship he calls Estel to recognize what he fostered on Ciencia; and a mission to help spread support for mind skills in order to save mankind.  He knows he can never go home and misses his wife and the tweener son he never met, but embraces his role. 

Captain Steward returns to Ciencia to ask his beloved Allison Willard and pilot Jon Darrow to join him.  Gwen the engineer also becomes part of the crew.  As the quartet begin their impossible Quixote quest, Steward makes a dangerous announcement to the people of Ciencia; while, assaults on those with mental abilities everywhere intensifies.  The Captain of the Estel becomes public enemy number one hunted by hired guns by those in charge who reject these skills as an abomination, but conceal from the manipulated masses their fear of losing power.

The second Hidden Flame science fiction is a terrific timely futuristic thriller as deniers in charge persecute those with abilities they fear leading to equality and subsequent loss of power.  The pace starts more leisurely than the first entry (see Stewards of the Flame) and the previous series Rising Flame (see Promise of the Flame and Defender of the Flame), but once in space readers will want to fly with stalked Captain “Terry and (his) Pirates” (cartoonist Milton Caniff).

Harriet Klausner