Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The God Cookie-Geoffrey Wood

The God Cookie
Geoffrey Wood
Waterbrook, Feb 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073443

Coffee shop owner John Parrish enjoys debating anything and everything with his best friends, his employees Mason and Duncan. He especially relishes their arguments over faith and Heeding God’s voice. At a Chinese restaurant, Parrish opens up his fortune cookie to a bizarre message: "Take the corner." Whereas his buddies believe this is some cookie cutter nonsense, John believes God is calling him to take a leap of faith.

Although he has doubts and expects he will end up humiliated in the eyes of his two friends and several strangers, John heeds the note to go to the nearest corner to obtain further divine guidance. There he picks up a mysterious letter from the ground by the bus stop. John decides his heavenly quest is to deliver the note to its rightful owner. His odyssey has begun.

The story line starts slow until Parrish’s quest leads him to meet people who react differently to his heavenly need to deliver the letter. His mission enables him to see what others need as if he is wearing their shoes. The interaction between the lead character and the support cast makes for an unusual inspirational tale that fans will enjoy trekking along side Parrish on his journey of the soul.

Harriet Klausner

Love and Other Natural Disasters-Holly Shumas

Love and Other Natural Disasters
Holly Shumas
5 Spot, Jan 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446504775

During Thanksgiving with her spouse and their five years old son Jacob, eight months pregnant Eve thinks her Jonathon is having an affair, sort of. She sees how friendly he is on the phone with some unknown female and concludes where there is smoke there is fire. He denies her accusations.

Eve opens his e-mail, which affirms he never physically touched the other woman, but shared a deep emotional relationship with her. However, Eve and Jon also realize how much they had drifted apart when both considers whether it is worth saving their marriage for themselves and not just the kids.

This is a thought provoking deep look at what is cheating in a relationship especially in the electronic age. Fans will ponder whether one is stepping out on a spouse although there is no physical contact between the mate and the other person. Holly Shumas also raises the ethical question of whether it is ethically acceptable to perform domestic spying when a spouse suspects their mate of an affair; especially to check the personal email to find evidence they are cheating. Although the story line is a bit slow as the focus is deeply on the emotional behavior of the lead couple, readers will appreciate this fascinating sharp tale that asks what denotes cheating in the modern age.

Harriet Klausner

We Take This Man-Candice Dow and Daaimah S. Poole

We Take This Man
Candice Dow and Daaimah S. Poole
Grand Central, Jan 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446501835

In Florida Dwight and Tracey Wilson seem to have the perfect marriage as they raise their two children in their new home. They are euphoric when Dwight has a chance for a major promotion, but Tracey changes her mind when she learns the job is in Maryland. They talk and argue over relocating until Dwight takes the position and leaves on own with plans to return to Florida on weekends; while Tracey remains behind with the kids. That arrangement fails.

Dwight ends his marriage with Tracey and soon afterward has an affair with his work peer Alicia Dixon. When she becomes pregnant, Dwight marries her, but he is unaware that his divorce from Tracey is not finalized. Instead his legal wife arrives in Maryland hoping to save their marriage.

This is a well written entertaining extended family drama starring three people with personal issues that make each struggle with relationships. However, most readers will have a problem with the basic premise that each of the two women wants Dwight as their mate to help them raise their kids although he comes across as emotionally feeble and unable to cope with one family let alone raising two. Fans will enjoy this intriguing tale of a bigamist caught between two women, three children, and his inability to decide what to do; leaving it up to Tracey and Alicia to come up with an alternative family arrangement if the two strong women can stop their bickering and compromise.

Harriet Klausner

Houston, We Have a Problema-Gwendolyn Zepeda

Houston, We Have a Problema
Gwendolyn Zepeda
Grand Central, Jan 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780446698528

In Houston twenty –six year old single Jessica Luna is perhaps the most superstitious person in Texas; she will argue otherwise insisting it is a survival technique to dealing with her family especially her mom and older sister. She depends totally on psychic Madame Hortensia for guidance and buys special good luck gizmos from the spiritualist especially after the clairvoyant makes three predictions that all happen.

Jessica has decisions to make as she loathes her job in insurance even with a promotion coming her way when she would prefer to use her Art History degree. However, it is the two men recently in her life who represents her work vs. her vocation whom she must choose from. Guillermo the lazy flaky Latino artist and a prim and proper white businessman Jonathan are attracted to her. Jessica turns to her advisor Hortensia for her job decision and for which man she should select.

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEMA is an entertaining lighthearted Latina chick lit romp focusing on the metamorphosis of a young woman lacking confidence in herself so she depends on amulets, horoscopes, and psychic reading, etc. to boost her esteem. Readers will root for her while enjoying the amusing antics of Madame Hortensia, the psychic whose objective is contact with dead presidents on official government paper yet has a consciousness. Fans will enjoy this fascinating coming of age tale with a psychic dependence twist starring a passionate believer who relies on undependable forecasts to make her decisions.

Harriet Klausner

The Bishop's Daughter- Tiffany L. Warren

The Bishop's Daughter
Tiffany L. Warren
Grand Central, Jan 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446195140

After his mom praised Bishop Kumal Prentiss with increasing fervor, freelance journalist Darrin Bainbridge moves to Atlanta with plans to investigate the celebrity minister. He figures he will not have to dig far to find dirt for a story and in turn obtain accolades from his father.

However, Darrin quickly realizes that God works in mysterious ways when Darrin visits Bishop Prentiss’ Freedom of Life Church to join the congregation as an undercover reporter. There he meets THE BISHOP’S DAUGHTER Emoni Prentiss. As he falls in love, Darrin uncovers the scandal that would make him famous and get his father’s praise, but he must weigh that with being the righteous person his beloved pious Emoni warrants.

THE BISHOP’S DAUGHTER is a terrific inspirational romance starring two fully developed wonderful lead characters. This fine duet is nicely supported by solid family members and the congregation. The story line is loaded with scripture as “Honor thy father” becomes increasingly difficult to achieve but the biblical references enhance the tale of love between the cynical undercover reporter and the title character. Their rotating perspective to include his blog augment a delightful realistic romance as doubting Darrin falls in love with the enemy’s daughter.

Harriet Klausner

Scandal-Carolyn Jewel

Carolyn Jewel
Berkley, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425225516

Gwilym, the Earl of Banallt, relishes his reputation as a rake of the first order. However, he has one clink in his roguish armor; he loves Sophie Evans, wife of a womanizing friend and sister to another. In other words, she is untouchable even if her marriage was scandalously over the anvil elopement.

In 1814 Sophie has become a widow, so Gwilym decides to pursue the intelligent independent Sophie. However, she rejects his advances, not wanting a tryst or two with any man as love failed her once already. Gwilym knows what he wants is not a short affair, but a lifetime with his beloved while Sophie hides her deepest love for him; he no longer fancies his reputation as he must overcome his bad reputations She illogically fears if she submits to her desire he will use her like Evans did and go on to his next conquest while she knows if he stays she will lose her independence.

Sophie makes this character driven Regency romance into a great story as she has learned her lesson re falling in love with rakes as unlike the myths that they make the most faithful dedicated spouses, they remain rogues charming to others while ignoring their wives. Thus Gwilym knows he has an extremely difficult task ahead to prove to his beloved he is just like the legends of reformed rakes and not like her late spouse. Fans will relish this jewel of a historical.

Harriet Klausner

Made to be Broken-Kelley Armstrong

Made to be Broken
Kelley Armstrong
Bantam, Mar 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553588385

To finance her Red Oak Lodge in the Kawathas, two hours from Toronto, she is a part time hit-woman contracted mostly by the Tomassinis mob. Nadia Stafford’s partner on her current job is a Federal Agent, but Quinn sees that justice is done by playing vigilante. Nadia’s mentor in how to be a successful hit-woman is Jack, a mercenary for hire with few scruples.

When Nadia returns to her prime business she has a fight with her employee. Seventeen year old Sammi Ernst lives with her little daughter Destiny who accompanies her on her job. Sammi pays more attention to her child than her work so a frustrated Nadia explains her duties to the teen mother. When the mother and daughter vanish, Nadia searches for a grave. With Jack’s help she finds it, but Destiny remains missing. Since the cops believe Sammi ran away, they refuse to look for her. Nadia, Jack, and Quinn discover there are other crimes when a disenfranchised teenage mom with a baby disappears. Mindful of an incident in her past, Nadia wants to take out those who caused Sammi’s death and find the still missing infant. Jack and Quinn assist her on her avenging quest for justice.

Known for her Otherworld tales, Kelly Armstrong also writes exciting refreshing and enthralling sagas that are every bit as great as her urban fantasy sagas. The protagonist believes everyone she kills deserves their fate so when the Canadian legal system fails she becomes an avenging Lady Justice if the case is personal. However, she is not someone to role model after as she also kills in cold blood as a means of making money. Though not admirable, she is refreshing and fascinating as are her two cronies. MADE TO BE BROKEN is filled with twists and blind cul de sacs, but it is the lead trio especially the lodge owner who turn this into an entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Mortal Touch-Inanna Arthen

Mortal Touch
Inanna Arthen
By Light Unseen Media, Jul 2007, $16.95
ISBN: 9780979302800

In 2004 in Sheridan, Massachusetts psychic Regan Calloway owns a quaint shop while hiding from her gift. Several years ago she helped law enforcement catch killers by using her ability to see things by touching objects held by a murderer or a victim, but the cost to her mind was too great for her to cope with.

Her friend Dr. Hiram Clauson, who worked with her when she lent a hand to the cops several years ago, asks for her help as there has been a serial attacker who leaves victims with scars on their necks, a major loss of blood, and no memory of an assault. Regan reluctantly agrees to assist with the investigation. As she begins to touch objects to try to fathom what the victims can no longer remember, writer Jonathan Vaughn moves into Sheridan; Regan’s best friend Veronica Standish seems attractedto the reclusive author. When Regan meets Jonathan, her touch of him reveals to her his connection to the unsolved mysterious assaults and much more as if he has lived for centuries and something illogical about blood. As the psychic and the vampire become attracted to one another, Veronica begins to lose her mind turning dangerous and suicidal.

This is an intriguing paranormal investigative thriller with a touch of romance that grips the audience from the moment Dr. Clausen asks a reluctant Regan to use her psychic skills on the strange case he works. Thus the readers meet the heroine, immediately after the call her flighty best friend and soon afterward the vampire-author. The small New England town is a Frisbee toss away from Rhode Island, making a perfect atmosphere for this engaging supernatural mystery in which Regan suspects the man she is attracted to is the neck biter. Although the font size is tough on the eyes, Inanna Arthen provides an interesting Vampires of New England tale as the lead pair must make difficult even perilous choices that endanger them, loved ones, and semi-innocent.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Funeral Planner Goes to the White House- Lynn Isenberg

The Funeral Planner Goes to the White House
Lynn Isenberg
Mira, Feb 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780778327356

Much of the country regardless of political affiliation is in shock with the unexpected sudden death of the charismatic First Lady Haley Stone; not only was she widely loved and respected, this was a first for a FLOTUS. Even before Americans can move on, the Secretary of State Jonathan Darcy having worked diligently and successfully forged a Middle East accord died from a broken heart three months after his terminally ill fifty-two years old wife did.

Funeral planner Madison Banks of Lights Out Enterprises had tastefully handled Mrs. Stone's memorial and that of the Darcy couple; earning the appreciation of the nation and the widower President Andrew Stone. He appoints Maddy on the hastily created House Bereavement Specialists Committee, a temporary group to help the nation obtain closure and move on in the grief cycle. Called "The Grief Czar", Maddy struggles with her assignment especially being there for Andrew as his "grief buddy". She sets up a special government sponsored event, My Grief Day while her boyfriend Victor Winston works on the legacy of his former boss, Darcy, on implementing the peace accord in the Middle East.

There are too many “stand up comic” type jokes and chick lit asides that subtract from what otherwise is a superb satirical political thriller. The story line is fast-paced as Madison is drafted by POTUS to help the country work its way through the stages of grief. Fans will agree that Maddy has come a long way since her first foray into the Adam Smith world as THE FUNERAL PLANNER.

Harriet Klausner

Second Chance Pass-Robyn Carr

Second Chance Pass
Robyn Carr
Mira, Feb 2009, $5.99
ISBN: 0778326462

Friends Matt Rutledge and Paul Haggerty meet flight attendant Vanessa Booth, the daughter of a retired general. Matt pursued Vanni until they married; while Paul ever the marine stayed out of the way of their romance though he loved her too. However, Matt died leaving behind his pregnant widow.

Vanni raises their son Matt in Virgin River. She wants to move on with her life, but wants to do so with Paul who she loves. Paul loves her and her son, but he cannot act on his feelings out of honor to his fallen comrade who was killed in Baghdad and knowing he owes all to his pregnant lover Terri; he will do what is right by her and their offspring once the child is born and by his late best friend and his family.

The latest Virgin River contemporary romance (see SHELTER MOUNTAIN, WHISPERING ROCK, A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS, and VIRGIN RIVER) is an enjoyable tale that displays Robyn Carr’s talent as the plot skirts but never quite enters soap opera territory. The extended cast is strong (a trademark of this series). Although Paul seems too principled at times to be human, his morality makes the tale work as he tries to do what he believes in his marine heart is the honorable choice, but each step he takes seems filled with IEDs. Fans will relish this fine tale as the marine learns that values are complex and convoluted when it runs up against the values of others especially when heart felt in relationships forge.

Harriet Klausner

Fireside-Susan Wiggs

Susan Wiggs
Mira, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326175

Public relations expert Kimberly van Dorn is reeling. Her professional basketball star lover dumped her following a public argument. Soon after that spat, she is fired by her firm. Needing time to recuperate and decide what next, Kim goes home to stay with her widowed mom for a while.

However, mom has converted their house into a boardinghouse; more shocking is she is dating one of her renters. Also residing there is baseball pitcher Bo Crutcher, who is about to reach the majors playing for the Yanks, and his son AJ. The child stays with him since AJ’s mom got into serious immigration issues and is probably going to be deported. However, Bo is caught between two conflicting spitballs as he has never met his kid before the dumping while he must attend the Fame School if he wants to play for the Yankees. Bo hires Kim to be his PR guru. Though attracted to one another, he can’t get to first base with her as she has vowed to never date professional athletes ever again.

The latest Lakeshore Chronicles (see SNOWFALL AT WILLOW LAKE, DOCKSIDE, THE WINTER LODGE and SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE) is a fabulous lighthearted romantic romp. Susan Wiggs cleverly combines humor with a strong cast working through a difficult situation as life after striking out Kim has thrown two splitters at Bo just when he is about to join the Yankees.

Harriet Klausner

Gallant Match-Jennifer Blake

Gallant Match
Jennifer Blake
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0778326195

In 1846 in New Orleans, Kentuckian sword master Kerr Wallace is proud to have earned the honor of being recognized as a maitre d'armes after years of obsessive training. However, through all that hard work, he also has not lost his focus. He lives for one thing; to avenge the death of his brother killed by Pierre Rouillard who resides like a noble in Mexico.

When Pierre decides to bring his Creole fiancé Mademoiselle Sonia Bonneval to him in Vera Cruz, he hires Kerr to escort her; unaware of the man’s deep grudge against him. Sonia surprises Kerr as she refuses to marry Pierre in a marriage arranged by her family. However, though attracted to her he ignores her wishes as he has two vows to complete. First he pledged to deliver her to Pierre safe and sound; second he pledged to his late sibling he will kill Pierre. The trek is dangerous, but the biggest peril awaits the travelers in Vera Cruz.

The latest Master at Arms historical romance (see CHALLENGE TO HONOR, GUARDED HEART, and ROGUE’S SALUTE) is terrific entry in a strong mid nineteenth century saga. The story line is refreshed by partially moving out of New Orleans (especially in Mexico) and by the Kentucky hero who has become a maitre d'armes for all the wrong reasons. Fans will relish how the French Creole Mademoiselle Sonia bursts his unshakeable resolve with love as his objective turns from killing her fiancé to keeping her safe especially from her fiancé. GALLANT MATCH lives up to its title as an exciting pairing of two wonderful protagonists.

Harriet Klausner

Rapid Descent-Gwen Hunter

Rapid Descent
Gwen Hunter
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326212

On their second honeymoon, Joe and Nell Stevens went whitewater rafting. A nasty accident left her with a concussion and injuries from head to toe. Joe simply vanished. She got help, but in spite of a major search they never found Joe. The lead police detective Nolan Lennox believes the widow got away with murder.

Seven years later, Nolan persuades his son Orson, also a cop, to investigate. His gut totally differ from his dad’s belief as he feels Nell is innocent watching her raise her son with love and run the rafting business she and Joe opened up together. When Joe’s corpse is found, his family makes noise that his black widow killed their son; her motive being his money. Even Orson begins to have doubts whether Nell is innocent.

RAPID DESCENT is a strong police procedural with a hint of romance between the lead cop and the prime suspect that is kept simmering for the most part, which augments the inquiry into whether she killed her spouse or not. The cast is strong especially the lead pair and their extended families who believe she is a cold blooded killer while the story line is faster than the whitewater rapids as Gwen Hunter provides no respite from her superb thrilling story line.

Harriet Klausner

The Prime Objective-Ginna Gray

The Prime Objective
Ginna Gray
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326205

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Prime Objective-Ginna Gray

The Prime Objective
Ginna Gray
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326205

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Prime Objective-Ginna Gray

The Prime Objective
Ginna Gray
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326205

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Prime Objective-Ginna Gray

The Prime Objective
Ginna Gray
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326205

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Prime Objective-Ginna Gray

The Prime Objective
Ginna Gray
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326205

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Prime Objective-Ginna Gray

The Prime Objective
Ginna Gray
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778326205

Kate Mahaffey asks her ex husband CIA field agent Jackson Prime to come to Tralee as she needs his help. He translates that to mean she fears for her life. Still in love with Kate and knowing how calm she is in a crisis, Jackson takes her plea seriously and obtains time off from the agency during a case; he rushes back to keep Kate safe as he is very concerned about her.

Jackson learns some people are chasing after Kate though neither she nor he knows why. The only person in her circle, who might want to harm her, is her former brother-in-law, a nasty abuser. He also needs to know why she abruptly filed for divorce almost two years ago while he was in the field when he thought they were happily married for eight years. He hopes to have answers soon while keeping his beloved safe.

THE PRIME OBJECTIVE is an action-packed thriller starring two likable lead protagonists who confront external danger while having issues to resolve between them as they remain in love. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Jack tells his handler Annie he is coming in from the cold to protect his ex and never slows down on either the suspense or romance fronts as Ginna Gray entertains sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Long Fall-Walter Mosley

The Long Fall
Walter Mosley
Riverhead, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594488580

Albany, New York private investigator Ambrose Thurman hires Manhattan based sleuth Leonid McGill to find four black men who were close friends to two decades ago. He gives Leonid their nicknames as that is all his client gave him. Leonid has turned over a new leaf about being morally correct when it comes to working cases to include no jobs for the mob and being straight with his wife Katrina to include no more affairs with Aura and raise his three children; two not sired by him.

He learns James “Big Jim” Wright is dead; Frankie “Jumper” Tork is in the Tombs awaiting sentencing for B&E; Theodore “Toolie” Nelson is doing 86 years; and Roger “B-Brain” Brown is a successful financier. He reports the information to Ambrose, but soon afterward Jumper and B-Brain are killed; Toolie is stabbed; followed by Ambrose whose real name is Norman Fell also being murdered. As NYPD Detective Kitteridge tries to nail him, Leonid works on finding who the client was as he feels he owes B-Brain for exposing him; he also works a case involving a mobster seeking an accountant hiding in Coney Island and his teenage son Twill planning to kill an abusive pedophile father.

This is an intriguing private investigative Noir starring a man who in his fifties has found scruples that makes his job that much more difficult. The prime investigation is action-packed as Leonid realizes he indirectly caused the murders and almost dies too; yet feels he must uncover the truth even flying in a prop to Albany to do so. The other two sleuthing subplots, some musings by the hero into his unprincipled past and his family drama are well handled and enable the audience to better understand Leonid’s motives. Although the king of the city seems over the Empire State Building, fans will enjoy this Walter Mosley’s fine opening Manhattan (and Albany) murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Pride-Rachel Vincent

Rachel Vincent
Mira, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0778326497

Werecat enforcer Faythe Sanders is charged by the Tribunal with murder after infecting her former human boyfriend Andrew Wallace. However, though she is on trial facing a potential capital punishment, Faythe admits to killing Andrew, but swears it was accidental due to a “Partial Shift” when she becomes excited, which in this case occurred in the victim’s bedroom. She also continues her work along side her lover and enforcer partner Marc Ramos hunting down strays and rogues.

The duo rescues young tabby Kaci Dillon, who only feels safe when Faythe is near. The Pride wonders who her parents are. Meanwhile as the trial progresses, an alpha Rogue werecat, killing any creature in its way, seeks Kaci, but no one can fathom why. Faythe vows to keep her safe.

The latest Sanders werewolf thriller (see STRAY and ROGUE) is an exciting combination police procedural and legal thriller. The hunt for the Rogue is fast-paced as the killer cat works the mountainside seeking the tabby while Faythe and Andrew hunt for him. The Tribunal trial feels intrusive slowing down the cat and cat game between the Enforcers and the Rogue. Rachel Vincent provides a thrilling paranormal.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 29, 2008

Buying a Piece of Paris-Ellie Nielson

Buying a Piece of Paris
Ellie Nielson
St. Martin's, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 031238355X

Jack Nielsen tells his wife Ellie while they are driving in Melbourne, they should buy an apartment in Paris. She and their accountant agree for differing reasons. She because she loves the city while the accountant says it makes sense financially. Back in Paris Ellie begins the search for an apartment they can afford that has the special French unique feel and would comfortably be showcased in a magazine. Blaming the butcher, she entered her first realtor office only to be met with culture shock from the onset; as the number of rooms is irrelevant, but the number of meters is everything. Other stunners also occur as Ellie obtains a taste of the unique Parisian real estate market. Like much of the audience outside of Paris, Elle finds a part of the city that she never knew existed until she began the search. Filled with homage for the French capital, readers who enjoy a lighthearted well written memoir will want to read Ellie Neilson’s melodious tour of apartment hunting in Paris.
Harriet Klausner

Super In The City-Daphne Uviller

Super In The City
Daphne Uviller
Bantam, Jan 2009, $12.00
ISBN: 0385342691

In New York City, twenty-seven years old Zephyr Zuckerman has quit school and a relationship so is undecided what to do next especially since unemployment makes her choices somewhat limited. Her friends encourage her to be all that she can be, but offer nothing specific as they have issues too. Divorced scientist Tag travels the world in search of a party to crash. Lucy the social worker seeks Mr. Right via ten dollar bills. Mercedes the violinist has a famous boyfriend and plenty of doubts. Professor Abigail tries the Internet for her dates.

When the super at her parents’ Greenwich Village brownstone is taken away by the cops, Zephyr takes the job as she figures how hard is using a plunger. She begins to learn the dark criminal secrets of the tenants, which leads to two groups investigating her as the Feds assume she is working for the mob in the Village and the Mob assumes she is working for the Feds in the Village. The behavior of her friends only affirms what the Feds and the Mob believe.

Over the top of the Empire State Building, SUPER IN THE CITY is perhaps the best urban chick-lit tale in the last few years. The story line is fast-paced from the opening lies and transgressions and never slows down until the final desperate effort to clear her name before either undercover group takes drastic action. Humorous and satirical with no respites, fans will enjoy Daphne Uviller’s irreverent biting of the Big Apple.

Harriet Klausner

Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court-Chuck Black

Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court
Chuck Black
Multnomah, Feb 17 2009, $$8.99
ISBN: 9781601421258

In Chessington, his father the Noble Knight and merchant Sir Barrington watches along with his peers as squire Bentley takes the sacred vows to adhere to Lord Kifus’ Articles of Code and of being a Noble Knight of Arrethtrae from his mentor Sir York. Soon afterward, while on constant missions to kill the Followers of the recently murdered Prince, Sir Bentley has doubts that his side is in the right though Sir York proclaims they are doing the King’s work. The lad notices how the Followers only defend themselves, but never attack first.

His unit gets into a deadly battle with ferocious fighters in which two Followers join their side. Afterward Sir York demands Sir Bentley kill the two men. Stunned he refuses, enabling them to escape while Sir York condemns him. The Followers Esmond and Trae explain to Bentley that they just fought the Vinceno Knights trained by the fallen angels Shadow Warriors. Bentley says goodbye to his parents; his father tells him he is proud of him as honor is important and is not proud of what he saw happen to the Prince. Bentley needs to learn who is right about the Prince as the Knights insist he was a charlatan while his Followers believe he was the King’s son sent to help the people. Bentley meets Eirwyn who under the tutelage of the mysterious Gardener distributes food to the poor of Holbrook where affluent Lord Kingsley and his court flaunt their wealth. However, Bentley and Eirwyn soon find themselves battling evil as the Shadow Warriors attack the castle and the village.

The sequel to SIR KENDRICK AND THE CASTLE OF BEL LIONE is a terrific exciting Christian parable that grips the audience from the moment Bentley begins to doubt his mentor as he sees dishonorable actions on his side and honorable behavior by their foes. His quest is exhilarating as he needs to know the truth about the Prince, the Shadow Warriors, and why the Noble Knights of Arrethtrae killed him.

Harriet Klausner

Patient Zero-Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero
Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin's, Mar 2009, $14.95
ISBN 9780312382858

Baltimore Police Detective Joe Ledger participates on a raid of a terrorist cell that turns nasty. He is forced to use his gun and kills Javad Mustapha. Soon after killing Mustapha, Joe is shocked as he has to kill Javad Mustapha again. The newly formed Department of Military Sciences (DMS) recruits Joe to join their specialized ultra top secret antiterrorist unit that deals with the unexplained phenomena that HSD is not equipped to handle like killing reanimated corpses.

Apparently a terrorist scientist Amirah has learned how to bring back to life the dead as zombies. Financed by affluent international businessman Sebastian Gault, Amirah and her husband terrorist leader El Mujahid deploy a zombie army around the world. Joe and his DMS unit fight the Zombie force with early success, but he is unprepared for a traitor to sell him and his squad to their dead enemy.

Zombie fans will be singing a DEAD MAN’S SONG of praise to Jonathan Maberry for this exhilarating wild military horror thriller. The story line is action-packed from the onset when a stunned Joe kills Mustapha twice in a week and never slows down as the zombie horde assaults an unsuspecting world while the hero and his DMS unit counter fight the dead insurgency. Sub-genre reader will enjoy this engaging tale as the dead don’t stay dead for long.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon's Lair-Denise Lynn

Dragon's Lair
Denise Lynn
Silhouette Nocturne, Feb 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618057

The men refuse to take no for an answer as they demand Alexia Reve-Drake translate an ancient Druid manuscript. Instead she flees to what she believes might be her only haven, the home of her estranged Druid husband Braeden.

He not only vows to protect his wife whom he still loves, but also work with her to prevent a disaster. They must stop Nathan the Learned, an evil ancient wizard, from using the ancient manuscript that contains Druidic magical spells, which will enable him to obtain power; something he has coveted since the twelfth century. If they fail to stop him, he not only will kill them once she completes his demand, Nathan will devour the world. Their only true chances lie with their love for one another if they freely embrace that and can control the inopportune lust, and with a dying incarcerated wizard, whom the Drakes are unaware that he exists.

This is an excellent romantic fantasy starring a wonderful lead couple caught in a great premise. They each feel their relationship suffers from a weird sexual bi-polar syndrome as they bounce from euphoric passion to abject loathing and back in an instant; neither is cognizant that their sudden uncontrollable desire seems to occur whenever they begin to translate the tome. Lacking restraint makes for a fun tale that sub-genre fans will relish as the powerful battle to control the Druidic spell book starts with a need for the lead couple to find a way to restrict their extremes so they can work as a team.

Harriet Klausner

Vanished-Maureen Child

Maureen Child
Silhouette Nocturne, Feb 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618040

Alison Blair accompanied by her sister Casey travels to Ireland to deliver a message to centuries-old Guardian Rogan Butler, whose mission is to keep Ireland safe from demons. However, as Aly goes alone to her appointment with Rogan, a demon kidnaps Casey, who is an anomaly as she is the first family member in centuries without the guardian skill imprinted in her DNA.

A frantic Aly persuades Rogan to rescue her sibling. As they work together to save Casey, Aly and Rogan realize they are soul mates. Still in spite of the overwhelming desire for one another, neither takes the first step to embrace their attraction. Each recognizes rescuing Casey and protecting Eire comes before personal desires.

This exciting romantic fantasy opens with a fabulous atmospheric start as Aly feels the fear of walking alone in isolation and the plot goes from there into a more frightening paranormal environ. The lead couple is a great pairing of soulmates in denial using the rescue quest as a psychological defense mechanism to avoid their feelings. Readers will appreciate Maureen Child’s latest demonic thriller as she returns to the world of the Guardians (see ETERNALLY and NEVERMORE).

Harriet Klausner

Tooth and Claw-Jo Walton

Tooth and Claw
Jo Walton
Orb (Tor), Jan 62009, $15.95
ISBN: 0765319519

Although society has strict rules of conduct for each of the classes including the ruling nobles, the death of a family patriarch is always rough on the survivors When highly regarded Bon Agornin passed away, his son Blessed Parson Penn vows to play fair with his younger siblings and adhere to his father’s distribution of the wealth. However, the death bed confession, an act considered a sin by the church, shakes Penn’s soul when he learns what his father guiltily explains what he did to his family and why sibling love meant so much to him.

Still Penn hides what he now knows from everyone but he does inform his brother and three sisters they must partake equally in the feeding so that all of them can gain some of the strength of their late dad. Penn also insists spouses can join in their dining on what remains of their sire; as all should grow and remember Bon as a great dragon. However, although his sister Berend’ spouse Lord Daverak is already wealthy, he avariciously eats much more than his allotment. This angers his in-laws, but only the youngest son Avan acts by suing him in court. Berend and Daverak take in Haner, who is shocked by the mistreatment she sees in the household while Penn takes in the other sister Selendra.

This superb satirical look at Victorian customs through a fantasy lens mindful of Swift’s A Modest Proposal is a reprint of an early Jo Walton tale. The story line is driven by the five siblings who react differently to Daverak’s greed. However, it is the dragon hierarchal society with nobles, church, servants and commoners in which even the good ritually dine on the weak that make for an intriguing Victorian fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

The Mystery of Grace-Charles De Lint

The Mystery of Grace
Charles De Lint
Tor, Mar 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0765317567

After her beloved grandfather died, Altagracia Quintero falls into a deep depression. They lovingly had worked together restoring old Fords so they ran smoothly and he was her best friend. Grace goes to the local bodega to buy cigarettes only to become caught in a junkie robbing the grocer. He shoots her and the next she knows she is back in her apartment in the Alverson Arms. A woman she does not know is there informing her she is dead and in a small dimensional place because she died so close to her building; Grace thinks cigarettes do kill you.

Everyone can return to earth twice a year; on Halloween and On the Day of the Dead, but no one will recognize Grace if she goes back. She becomes friendly with a teenager Conchita who had a rough life. When she returns she meets John Burns at the Solona Music Hall. They fall in love, but she disappears while in his bathroom. His research into her life informs him he loves a ghost as she has been dead for a few weeks. He now knows when he will see her next so he waits for her appearance on Samheim night. Before she disappears Grace and Conchita sneak into the Alverson Arms where they enter the other dimension to learn more about their new home especially why they are trapped there. Grace gives the inhabitants a choice to pass on to the next place in exchange for what they know.

Where Grace ends up after dying is an artificial construct surrounded by a mist in which people walk through it and end up on the other side of town. Through perseverance, she investigates to learn what is going on, but finding out where she is does not mean she is less trapped; but it does encourage her to continue to seek freedom for her and Conchita. This fascinating urban fantasy entertains the audience who will wonder what exactly the afterlife is. Charles De Lint provides his delightful fantasy version.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Give Me A Cowboy-Jodi Thomas, DeWanna Pace, Linda Broday, and Phyliss Miranda

Give Me A Cowboy
Jodi Thomas, DeWanna Pace, Linda Broday, and Phyliss Miranda
Zebra, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 1420103717

"Silent Partner" by Jodi Thomas. After time in prison, Rowdy Darnell comes home to Kasota Springs planning to earn some money in the rodeo. However, he needs the fee to be paid to enter so seeks a silent partner as no one would want to publicly bankroll a felon. Laurel Hayes wants nothing to do with the convict she once considered a friend, but their kisses speak otherwise. A charmer

"Luck of the Draw" by DeWanna Pace. They reunite at the Kasota Springs rodeo, but Dally Angelo must conquer the bull who killed his father and "Gus" Garrison must reveal a secret to him that she fears will send him running away before they can consider a second chance at love. Heartwarming

"Texas Tempest" by Linda Broday. Rancher Tempest LeDoux comes to the Kasota Springs rodeo seeking husband Numero 6. Gunfighter McKenna Smith comes to town only to be wanted by Tempest. Somehow she has out gunned the gunfighter or why else would he participate in a rodeo. Exciting

"Roping the Wind" by Phyliss Miranda. Undercover Pinkerton agent Morgan Payne is in Kasota Springs during the rodeo seeking to catch cattle rustlers. However the detective is distracted by kick-butt tomboy Alaine LeDoux who considers him a citified suit and would not suit with her except for those kisses. Adorable

The follow-up western romance anthology to GIVE ME A TEXAN (not read by me) contains four wonderful novellas that occur in the summer of 1890 in Kasota Springs. Each tale stars delightful lead characters who provide different perspective to the same event. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this fabulous compilation insisting like the heroines the authors GIVE ME A COWBOY.

Harriet Klausner

The Alchemist’s Pursuit-Dave Duncan

The Alchemist’s Pursuit
Dave Duncan
Ace, Mar 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441016785

Nostradamus respected throughout Venice and beyond for his clairvoyant skills is a tad grumpy because his rheumatism has nearly crippled him. His apprentice Alfeo, an impoverished noble, goes about his chores ignoring his master’s constant complaints when his mistress Violetta asks Nostradamus to find out who killed her friend and mentor courtesan Lucia. At the same time, the dying Giovanni sends someone to the house to tell something to Nostradamus, but he dies before he can reveal his closing remarks. Alfeo learns from a servant that the dead man wanted a killer brought to justice; a person who murdered a courtesan a week ago.

When Alfeo learns that another courtesan was killed, he informs Nostradamus who is interested in the serial killings. Their inquiries come to the attention of the Three, the ruling body of Venice who demand they desist in their investigation. Meanwhile Alfeo finds out that the killer was called “Honeycat “by the Courtesans who were killed.” This turns out to be the name of Zorzi Michiel. Eight years ago Zorys was accused of killing his father and Lucs though he fled the city to avoid conviction. The Michiel Palazzo is riddled with secrets with seemingly everyone having something to hide. Nostradamus believes if they can unravel each person’s secret, they will identify the killer of Zorzis’ father as he believes the son did not commit patricide.

The latest Alchemist saga (see THE ALCHEMIST'S CODE and THE ALCHEMIST'S APPRENTICE)takes place in an alternate Renaissance Italy where magic exists along side of science (so one might ask if Nostradamus could obtain magic to relive his chronic aches). The hero Alfeo remains obstinately resolute to solve the case before someone carves Honey Cat on his beloved Violetta who is also a courtesan. Inside a fun whodunit, master fantasist Dave Duncan makes his version of the latter half of sixteenth century Venice seem believable as THE ALCHEMIST’S PURSUIT is a terrific historical urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Sins of Lord Easterbrook-Madeline Hunter

The Sins of Lord Easterbrook
Madeline Hunter
Dell, Feb 3 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440243960

The Marquis of Easterbrook Christian has traveled the globe to learn how to cope with his inner secrets. In Macao, China pretending to be a commoner, Christian meets Leona Montgomery, the daughter of a trading house tycoon. Their attraction frightens both of them, but a young Leona flees from him fearing her feelings. He is heartbroken as she is the only person he ever met who keeps his demons at bay.

Seven years after they first met, Leona is in England seeking answers to her family’s devastated business now run by her brother while also seeking needed capital investment. Her late father blamed the government sponsored Opium for Tea triangular colonialism trade anchored by the English opium monopoly for destroying his firm. Christian has waited for her all these years. Though he will help her on her quest, this time he will not allow her to run from love.

This mid nineteenth century romance is fast-paced and filled with action as love and intrigue make for an excellent historical. The relationship between the lead couple is worth the cost of this fine early Victorian, but it is the insight into the octopus tentacles of the Opium Trade for tea that brings depth to this passionate tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Bikini Diaries-Lacey Alexander

The Bikini Diaries
Lacey Alexander
NAL, Feb 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451225900

Wendy Carnes is on a business trip to Florida. While walking on a beach on the Emerald Coast, she notices the ultra confident “White Bikini Babe” who has men salivating and women envying her daring openness that she is looking for a super lay. Wendy writes in her journal how much she would relish being that confident female.

Deciding to see if a bikini would give her that sexual approach for a fling with a hunk or be like that old song, Wendy takes the plunge if nothing else to see what she has been missing. Men keep staring at her like a VOYEUR; while CEO Brandon meets Wendy and calls her Bunny. As they heat the Florida coast, they begin to fall in love; but she clings to her plan of brief while he wants much more.

This heated erotic romance star two likable characters who meet when “she wore an itsy bitsy teeny weenie … bikini”. Wendy’s attitude changes with her wardrobe modification though perhaps too easily as she loses a lot of her self consciousness. The plot is a bit thin, but fun as fans will enjoy THE BIKINI DIARIES due to the heroine going from gun shy to gun sly while her champion struggles with telling her how much he cares about the whole Wendy.

Harriet Klausner

The First Sin-Cheyenne McCray

The First Sin
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0312946449

At NSA Recovery Enforcement Division (RED) Human Trafficking and Sex Crimes Division, field agent Alexi Steele has been promoted to a team supervisor position. The current assignment, Operation Cinderella, consisting of the former Special Forces sniper and her team is undercover making the Boston S&M scene in order rescue thirteen abducted college age females from being auctioned as sex slaves to the highest bidder.

However, something goes wrong and one of her teammates Stacey Randolph was raped and murdered; her body found in Boston Harbor. Lexi wants revenge against the perpetrators, but to do so must get deep inside. She is partnered with a new co-leader Nick Donovan, who thirsts for vengeance too as this predatory group kidnapped and sold his sister Kristin in bondage. He wants to rescue his sibling and take out the sex slavery ring. To do they must enter the S&M world as a couple with her being his submissive and him as her “Control”.

Boston has never looked grittier and dirtier even when Bush 41 accused Dukakis of crapping up the harbor or any Parker case then Cheyenne McCray’s exciting but extremely dark portrayal of the human sexual slavery market. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene when the abductee informs Kristin he would F her, but knows the rules of business starts with not to screw with the merchandise. That sets the tone of a terrific erotic police procedural starring a petit fiery dragon and her beloved Control.

Harriet Klausner

MacGowan’s Ghost-Cindy Miles

MacGowan’s Ghost
Cindy Miles
Signet, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0451226186

Allie Morgan is a for hire ghostbuster who is proud of liberating spirits so that they can move on. Her current client takes her from the States, her last job being in Raleigh, to the Northwest coast of Scotland. Odin's Thumb Inn and Pub is loaded with irritating ghosts.

However this assignment in Sealladh na Mara is different than any she previously performed. She quickly learns that every resident can communicate with the ghosts, which makes her realize she is not as unique as she thought, but also wonders why her customer the pub owner Gabe MacGowan needs an outsider like her; to do so he must sell the pub; to sell the pub he must rid it of its otherworldly infestation including his late wife. Neither Jake nor the ghosts want to leave their home, so they have teamed up to drive potential buyers away. However, Allie is attracted to the gloomy Gabe and likes his sons and the lively spirits so instead of driving them out, she joins their side hoping to understand what is disturbing her client’s soul.

This is a fun paranormal romance starring a likable heroine, a Grinch of a male lead, and a fine cast of ghosts who play matchmaker along with his son. The story line is lighthearted fun while also digging deep into relationships even with those beyond the grave; especially Gabe’s late wife. Fans will enjoy this enchanting romantic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

My Man Michael-Lori Foster

My Man Michael
Lori Foster
Berkley, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226292

Twenty-six years old Michael “Mallet” Manchester is a month away from his SBC title shot that he and most pundits believe he will win. That was before the car accident left his right leg mangled, his fighting career over, and since he knows nothing else he is moping and bitter. He believes his life is over.

Kayle Raine enters his hospital room calling him a loser as a warrior never mopes regardless of the conditions of her limbs. She offers him an intriguing deal. Though Mallet believes he must be hallucinating from the pain medicine, he accepts her transaction; she will heal his injuries in exchange he will go back to the future with her people have become weak couch potatoes. She hides her real mission in taking him to 2220, which is his mating with a woman; but the rules forbid Kayle from being that lucky female.

This is an entertaining major twist to Lori Foster’s SBC contemporary romances as the story line is a fascinating futuristic science fiction romance. Mallet is fabulous as he goes from total sulking ready to withdraw from life to stunned champion. Though the early twenty-third century does not seem quite real (could it be his drugs?), fans will relish the love between the rescuer and the rescued if they can each overcome their inadequacy fears.
Harriet Klausner

Mortal Sins-Eileen Wilks

Mortal Sins
Eileen Wilks
Berkley, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425225523

FBI Agent Lily Yu and her soulmate California’s Nokolai clan werewolf Rule Turner are in North Carolina planning to bring home his son, Toby, who lives with his grandma. While on a wolf run near the Lediolf clan’s home, he smells death. He follows the scent to a grave containing three corpses and the lingering infection of death magic.

Since Agent Lily is already at the crime scene, she is put in charge of the official investigation. Another "death magic" homicide occurs; leading Lily to believe that something new at least to her is the serial killer. Werewolf sorcerer Cullen tells Lily someone has created a deadly wraith, but offers no clues how ends the reign of terror.

The latest Agent Yu “Mortal” urban fantasy police procedural is refreshed by the family element and by a unique serial killer who the FBI operative, her werewolf significant other and the sorcerer have no earthly idea how to defeat it. Thus solving the whodunit turns out relatively easy while solving how to prevent further deaths proves seemingly impossible. Eileen Wilks provides a strong entry in her Yu thrillers (see MORTAL DANGER).

Harriet Klausner

Night’s Pleasures-Amanda Ashley

Night’s Pleasures
Amanda Ashley
Zebra, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 082178062X

Journalist Savanah Gentry first met the magician when she was a little girl and her late single dad took her to watch him perform as the Remarkable Renaldo. Sixteen years later he still works the small town circuit but calls himself Santoro the Magnificent. In the Northern California audience he recognizes Savanah who somehow seems to follow his shows. Savanah wants to interview the magician, but though he wants her and has for years, vampire Rane Cordova has avoided his need to taste her blood. This time when she waits for him, he surprises both of them by asking her out.

Humanity has achieved universal peace until Vampires and Weres each believed they should run the earth so they finally went to war to decide who would rule (see NIGHT’S MASTER). Their fragile ceasefire is teetering as both sides seek the hunter who possesses a special reference book that lists all vampires. Savanah inherited the tome from her late mom, a renowned vampire hunter. Rane keeps her safe even as they fall in love.

This is an exciting paranormal romantic suspense starring star-crossed lovers as he is vampire and she's a slayer. The story line starts off at hyperspeed, get a bit anemic in the middle, but accelerates to the finish. Fans will enjoy this fine urban romantic fantasy as the paranormal species and Amanda Ashley’s alternate earth seem real.

Harriet Klausner

Deathwish-Rob Thurman

Rob Thurman
Roc, Mar 2009, $ 7.99
ISBN: 0451462629

Cal Leandros is half-human and half-Auphe; he looks human, but has the power to move about space and dimensions so he can travel from one plane to another. He denies his Auphe heritage and does not look in the slightest like the pointed ears, pale skin, razor claws and crimson eyes of that evil species. Mortals know the Auphe as elves from mythology. They want Cal but he and his brother Niko defeated their efforts to snatch him. Soon eighteen more arrive; Cal notices they are all females, which worries Niko as he thinks the enemy has switched tactics from muscle to something worse.

While trying to figure out how get rid of the latest infestation Cal and Niko are handed a case by the latter’s vampire lover Promise. Her former lover Seamus the vampire feels someone is stalking him and he wants the brothers, who have opened up a preternatural private investigator firm, to find out who and why. They learn the Vigil who clean up supernatural messes are watching the flamboyant vampire; they feel he is coming close to exposing himself to humans. Their mission is to keep humans and monsters separated. While the siblings deal with these two problems, a third issue surfaces. Promise’s daughter Cherish the thief and con artist stole something from a monster who is in town to retrieve it. Between the Auphe, the Vigil, and the theft, the siblings feel they are back in the MADHOUSE.

This is an excellent urban fantasy due to the two brothers, who love one another and will do whatever it takes to keep their sibling safe. Readers will feel the story line is moving at the speed of light as the Leandros brothers move from one escapade to another adventure without a respite. Told in the first person rotating chapters between Cal and Niko, fans know up front and in person what motivates each of them. They make a great team as they battle against overwhelming odds leaving the audience to root for them to succeed and wait for their next misadventures.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 26, 2008

When a Stranger Loves Me-Julianne MacLean

When a Stranger Loves Me
Julianne MacLean
Avon, Feb 2009, $ 6.99
ISBN: 9780061456855

In 1874 on the Western tip of the Jersey Islands, Lady Chelsea is besides herself after receiving a note from Lord Jerome Carruthers. He coldly informs her that her brother Lord Neufeld has no offspring after a decade of marriage and is ailing; he will inherit leaving her and her mom homeless unless she marries him, a man many years her senior. When she finds a man lying on the beach having been washed from the sea, she thinks she has the answer to finding an heir. She will seduce the stranger who has no idea who he is as he suffers from amnesia. Her pregnancy will keep the estate and her from odious Carruthers.

However, Chelsea’s plan goes astray when she falls in love with the kind amnesiac. His family arrives to bring him home and he realizes how his nurse used him. As he learns more about the cause of his memory loss, he too is in love, but no longer trusts his hostess.

Though readers might assume Chelsea’s risky plan as inane, her desperation will convince the audience that she sees no alternative unless she marries the despicable Jerome. She and her amnesiac make for a fun Victorian tale although his mystery memory loss seems too easily resolved. Still historical romance fans will appreciate Julianne MacLean’s fine Victorian romance e (see MY WILDEST FANTASIES and THE MISTRESS DIARIES).

Harriet Klausner

Hot Flash-Kathy Carmichael

Hot Flash
Kathy Carmichael
Medallion, Feb 2009, $7.95
ISBN: 9781934755037

In Las Vegas, La Papillon sous chef Jill Morgan Storm turns forty today. After rescuing a kitchen helper form the chef and the freezer, the single mom celebrates her milestone with friends when she decides she needs a husband right now, but only for a week. Her first marriage failed and since the divorce she has not met anyone whom she is attracted to until now. Ignoring her heart, her brain insists she marry a traveling salesman. He would bring in needed money to send her son Stephen to college without the albatross of a monster student loan while only requiring satisfaction one week each month; three weeks on the road sounds perfect to Jill. He would also provide cover from breast grabber Chef Radkin.

However there is one major obstacle to Jill's perfect plan, schoolteacher Davin Wesley. He wants her and she is attracted to him. However, he is home four weeks out of a month, which makes his demands on her perpetual. On the other hand his kisses melt her brain. Years with no one activating her libido and now that she has the plan, he shows up keeping her in constant heat.

This lighthearted amusing romp contains amiable characters especially the lead couple supported by eccentrics at the restaurant, school and family. Mother and son are a dynamic duo who seems to land in one amusing situation after another especially since Davin enters the relationship. Although somewhat too frivolous, contemporary romance fans who want plenty of laughs will enjoy the frolics of HOT FLASH.

Harriet Klausner

Shattered-JoAnn Ross

JoAnn Ross
Signet, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0451226127

Over a year ago, Army Night Stalker pilot and Army Dr. Kirby Campbell met in Baghdad and shared a great tryst. However when he crashed during a mission, he lost his leg; he never returned to Kirby. She assumes he died while on a SOAR mission. Shane returns to the States where he is fitted with a prosthetic leg. He never forgot Kirby, but has too much on his plate trying to rebuild his life in his hometown of Somersett, South Carolina.

Kirby is in Monteleon, Central America providing medical relief as a WMR physician to the residents of the jungle nation run by Dictator President General Vasquez. When her friend and boss Dr. Rachel Moore is abducted and held hostage, she joins the Phoenix Team led by Tremayne and McKade planning the rescue. Shane also insists on joining the rescue team. As the pair reignite whet they started in the Middle East, they both knows this is love, but is that enough to overcome what happens the first time they are together in a non “High Risk” scenario.

This action-packed romantic suspense thriller (see FREEFALL and CROSSFIRE for the previous High Risk thrillers) is fast-paced from the onset in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq and never slows with a brief respite in the States and then onto Central America. Fans get a deep look at issues facing veterans coming home after a deployment in the war zone. Shayne is a great hero as he adapts to his lost leg by teaching aviation and a willingness to test breakthrough prosthetic technology; as a medical volunteer in hot spots Kirby is as brave as he is. Readers will relish their exhilarating High Risk tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Little Sleep-Paul Tremblay

The Little Sleep
Paul Tremblay
Holt, Mar 3 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 0805088490

Eight years ago around the time he received his private investigators license, Mark Genevich was in a car accident. His friend George died and though he survived, he has suffered from narcolepsy ever since. That sleep disorder could prove too big a handicap for a sleuth, but the Southie has few clients and never does field work; his jobs are internet research.

Legs that stretch from Maine to South Boston arrive at his office. Jennifer Times, a contestant on a TV reality talent show and the daughter of Suffolk County DA Billy Times, wants Mark to uncover who stole her fingers; she leaves him with racy photos taken of her. When he awakens, he finds a note and the portfolio; so he goes to see her. She denies hiring him. Since Billy was a close friend of his late father, Mark visits the DA who insists the pictures are not his daughter. Soon afterward a frightened Brendan Sullivan, who lives in the same Cape Cod town as Mark’s widowed mom and was best buddies with his late dad Tim and Billy, calls to ask if he found what he was hired to find and to make sure he does not mention the pictures to anyone. Mark realizes Brendan not Jennifer is his client. He goes to see him, but fails to reach the man as the cops claim fiftyish Brendan committed suicide. The case is not closed as Mark’s home and office are trashed probably by Thumper and Thunder, goons of the DA.

This is an enjoyable Noir mindful of Insomnia while satirizing Chandler’s the Big Sleep. Mark’s little sleep that leaves him confusing realty with hallucinatory dreams makes the tale starting with his mixing up who the client is and his reality that he might have caused the death of Brendan. Though smoking and narcolepsy seems a dangerous combination, fans will enjoy this offbeat private investigative tale of a detective suffering from his own private South Boston.

Harriet Klausner

The Warlord’s Daughter-Susan Grant

The Warlord’s Daughter
Susan Grant
Harlequin HQN, Feb 2009, $ 6.99
ISBN: 0373773617

The two powerful civilizations are on the brink of the final battle to determine who will dominate the galaxy. The brutal Draaken Empire informs Battlelord Aral Mawdarr that none of the Coalition fleet is to get past the Warlord’s Flotilla. However, he has switched alliances and plans to see the end of the brutal empire that his father worships as a man of power. Aral expects his award will be THE WARLORD’S DAUGHTER, Awrenkka promised to him as his bride ten years ago when she was thirteen.

His treachery works leaving the Warlord dead, but the offspring in danger as everyone wants her; the Draaken to begin a revival while the Coalition to end that revival; even earth is interested in her. Forging a Triad, they seek her while Aral also searches for his vanished fiancée, who plans to destroy a mythical treasure to keep it out of the hands of any warrior regardless of loyalties. That was her intention until she reconsiders when Aral finds his Wren.

The latest Borderlands military science fiction romance (see MOONSTRUCK, YOUR PLANET OR MINE, MY FAVORITE EARTHLING, and HOW TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN 10 DAYS) is a terific entry as betrayal for various reasons is the norm. Aral is a fascinating character who has played the dangerous game of traitor for several years while inside the inner most advisory circle to the Warlord; his stealth skill might seem implausible but espionage cases like Ames and Walker prove otherwise. In many ways Wren is the more intriguing protagonist as she goes from total isolation to being the most wanted person in the galaxy. Fans of the Draaken-Coalition War will enjoy the latest saga as the battles may be over for now, but the hostility remains heated.

Harriet Klausner

End of the Century-Chris Roberson

End of the CenturyChris RobersonPyr, Jan 2009, $15.009781591026976

In 498 a bizarre vision sends Galaad journeying to Caer Llundain. In 2000, American teenager Alice Fell suffers from epilepsy; during her seizures she has strange dreams that send her to London in 2000. In 1897, Detective Sandford Blank and his partner Roxanne Bonaventure investigate brutal serial killings.
Fifteen centuries apart yet all three people share much in common. There are three eras including Camelot, late Victorian and contemporary as diverse individuals struggle with visions that make no sense to any of them.
Compelling from the onset, but not easy to follow especially when the timelines “converge”, END OF THE CENTURY is a complex somewhat convoluted thriller that brings the past, present and future together in the space-time continuum. The bewilderment of the prime players make each feel genuine as they struggle to understand what is going on yet they sense the time has come but not what or why. With a story line that is fascinating but paradoxically not fast-paced, set aside plenty of time to read this engaging multifaceted thriller.
Harriet Klausner

The Vast White-Jason Walters

The Vast White
Jason Walters
Blackwyrm, Jan 1 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9780982006702

In Northern al-Muttaqiina Mountains bordering on the Vast White in the Year of Ascension 327, the Sultanate and the Etrisian Empire prepare for war over who annexes the Spice Cities into their monarchy. Both sides covet Salt, the unconquered Spice City that neither has been able to bring under their rule. The winner of this battle will invade the city that has never been occupied by outsiders.

Padisha the Sultan has his army of Bedune units growing; each new arrival comes with his camel herd to show off his worth. On the other side of the upcoming battle is the Etrisian forces led by Horsehead the terror wizard who recently destroyed the Spice city Saffron. Murdering mercenary Highdome, leader of the Red Regiment of killers, mutants and monsters, observes his leader Horsehead patiently waiting as if he wants more of his enemy in his way.

Both sides release new magics to totally annihilate their opposition. Neither considered the consequences of sorcery on the edge of the Vast White. Both sides soon find monster issues as the suddenly awakening Vast White ignites in retaliation. Horsehead and his Red Regiment struggle to survive the raging expanding desert with no hope except perhaps unleashing the uncontrollable Murderer’s Edge force not knowing the subsequent consequences, if they can even perform this seemly impossible task, may prove worse than the raging assault of the awakened Vast White.

Part of the fascination with this exciting military fantasy is there is no hint of a concept of good and bad warring. Instead survival not necessarily of the fittest is what the war turns into. The Red Regiment is an intriguing group as murdering misfits must band together whether they are monsters, mutants or mortals if they want to stay alive once the Vast White begins its “cleansing” of the Sultanate and Etrisian forces. Narrated by roguish Highdome, the audience mostly obtains his viewpoint of what is going wrong. Fans will enjoy this entertaining tale though the print copy contains a very small font size that detracts from the enjoyment.

Harriet Klausner

A Drop of Red-Chris Marie Green

A Drop of Red
Chris Marie Green
Ace, Mar 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441016815

Limpet and Associates have traveled to England to wipe out another vampire underground. Many centuries ago, Costin exchanged blood with a man who made a deal with the devil; like a bloody Ponzi scheme, he turned his closest advisors into master vampires who go out and create armies. So when he wakes up from a centuries-long sleep, he has soldiers around the world waiting to do his bidding. Cortin hated what he has become and merged his consciousness with the body o f Jonah Limpet to destroy these underground pockets; praying his soul will be returned to him.

Muscular Hollywood stuntwoman Dawn Madison is believed to be the “key” to Costin regaining paradise lost by destroying the underground vampire units as he did in Los Angeles (see the first Vampire Babylon trilogy). The Romanian psychic Natalia who hears the dead joins the Limpet group and, Dawn finally accepts her. The group learns about young teens attending the Queenshill School in St. Alban’s. They were turned by a master who is training them to take their places in the underground’s main hive. The new vamps love night stalking searching for bodies to drink from and mutilate. They are confident that no one can defeat them, but Dawn and her crew are going to test that premise.

This is the start of the second Vampire Babylon trilogy saga and it is radically different from its excellent predecessor though as superb. The key is the California and England undergrounds are dramatically dissimilar from one another as are the creatures of the night. Dawn remains somewhat uncomfortable in her role, but has adapted mentally; she was already strong before her new task so physically her adjustment was easier. A DROP OF RED is urban fantasy at its best; filled with interesting characters and a fast-paced story line in which death has several outcomes but is always a bite away.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Girl She Used To Be-David Cristofano

The Girl She Used To Be
David Cristofano
Grand Central, Mar 19 2009, $22.99
ISBN: 0446582220

In Columbia Pike, Maryland, bored and alone except for the one man in her life, math teacher Sandra Clarke decides it is time for a change. She calls up her man; Witness Protection Program US Marshal Randall Ferquer to inform him she received a call from the Brooklyn based Bovaro family. The sixty year old Fed retrieves her so she can receive her newest identity as he has done several times over the past two decades.

When she was six, her parents took her to a restaurant where they witnessed the Bovaro mob patriarch kill a man. The FBI was given a tip about their witnessing the homicide and placed them in he WPP. However Melody’s actions as a teen led to the murders of her parents. Randall has been with her all the way, but he informs her he is retiring and the new man in her life is Sean Douglas.

However, this time when they reach a motel in Cape Charles, the last stop before the Chesapeake Bay complex, another man enters her life. Jonathan Bovaro, son of the killer, sneaks into her room and persuades Melody Grace McCartney, her birth name that he calls her by, to flee with him. Although she knows he probably will kill her, she takes a chance on his offer of freedom even as Sean gives chase.

THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE is a strange but intriguing contemporary tale that puts a fascinating spin to the Witness Protection Program. Melody finds it tedious with the same stereotypical identities, cities, motels and lack of fun. The Feds feels they are doing her a favor by keeping her safe and alive, but she feels otherwise; that the FBI and WITTEC lied about their “new” lives as Melody feels they killed her with their rules. Thus when Jonathan enters her life, he brings freshness to her stale existence. Fans will enjoy this fascinating character study that places a totally unique limelight on the WPP.

Harriet Klausner

The Winter Rose-Jennifer Donnelly

The Winter Rose
Jennifer Donnelly
Hyperion, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781401301033

Twelve years may have passed since the Whitechapel serial killings (see THE TEA ROSE), but time does not heal all wounds; as East London remains a slum. On a positive note, idealistic reformers want to make things better for the impoverish masses residing there.

With the help of her fiancé, M.P. Freddie Lytton, recent medical school graduate Dr. India Selwyn Jones opens a practice in Whitechapel tending to the ailing poor especially addicts, but with her goal being the closing of the opium dens. Resident crime chieftain Sid Malone detests these outsiders who think they are better than the locals. He wants this Good Samaritan and all her reformist ilk to leave the neighborhood as their type of good in his mind causes more harm. Besides they interfere with his lucrative businesses. However, he changes his mind about India when she saves his life. They fall in love, but Freddie wants control of India’s fortune and will do anything to insure he gets it. When a pregnant India thinks her beloved Sid is dead, Freddie “gallantly” marries her.

This is an interesting late Victorian romance that besides the subplot above contains what has happened in the dozen years since the events of THE TEA ROSE to key players like Joe and Fiona, who is Sid’s sister and India's friend. The well written story line is character driven by a strong cast, although there is too much happenstance occurring to them. Still fans will enjoy catching up with the Bristows and others while reading about the star-crossed love between Charlie (Sid’s real name) and India.

Harriet Klausner

Instant Attraction-Jill Shalvis

Instant Attraction
Jill Shalvis
Kensington, Feb 2009, $14.00
ISBN 9780758231239

Los Angeles accountant Katie Kramer did everything by the book keeping in mind the bottom line until the accident. Feeling fortunate to be alive, Katie vows to live life to the fullest as she understands you have one chance and hiding cubicles is not what one would call living. Katie applies for a job with Wilder Adventures in the Sierra Madre mountain town of Wishful and to her euphoria is hired.

The accident ended Cameron Wilder’s career as a champion snowboarder. Feeling at a loss as what to next, he has wandered around but has come home to Wishful. He is shocked to find a beautiful woman sleeping in his bed in his cabin. She is shocked to find a man sharing her bed when she awakens the next morning. Each don’t need caffeine to feel in their gut the INSTANT ATTRACTION between them. As they fall in love, one daredevil stunt at a time, she is unprepared for a relationship beyond the moment and he has doubts that love lasts though his “mom” Annie and her husband Nick prove otherwise.

The lead couple is a fascinating pairing as neither wants a relationship, but has no choice as the Wilder bunch insures they remain together. The Wilder bunch makes the story line fun with their antics yet key members are drawn with depth and poignancy especially the matriarch and her spouse. Readers will enjoy Jill Shalvis’ fun contemporary romance as everyone seems to embrace love when they feel the emotion even in others except for Katie and Cameron who want to flee love.

Harriet Klausner

Montana Creeds: Logan-Linda Lael Miller

Montana Creeds: Logan
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0373773536

After a successful career with the rodeo and a failure twice at marriage, Logan Creed returns to the family dilapidated Stillwater Springs Ranch in Montana; though he is somewhat estranged with his brothers Dylan and Tyler. He is wealthy, but ironically he made his money not from the rodeo, but from self-help legal services over the net.

Dylan has allowed Briana Grant and her two sons ten year old Josh and eight year old Alec to live in Logan’s house since her rat of an ex Vance deserted her, their kids and their dog two years ago in Stillwater Springs. Logan likes the children and is attracted to their mother. When it appears that someone wants to hurt Briana, Logan vows to keep her and her children safe while fixing up the ranch and reconciling with his brothers.

Linda Lael Miller expands her McKettrick universe with their Big Sky cousins: the Creeds. The first tale stars big brother Logan and a courageous single mom who shows how much she cares about people by making it her mission to pull weeds from the nearby cemetery’s gravesites. The Creeds are as dysfunctional as a family can be. Ms. Miller uses broken relationships like a master mage. Obviously targeting the McKettrick mob, fans of the author will appreciate her latest entry as the saga grows and two more siblings to follow.

Harriet Klausner

The Courtship Dance-Candace Camp

The Courtship Dance
Candace Camp
Harlequin HQN, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0373773544

Fifteen years ago, then eighteen years old Lady Francesca Haughtson and the Duke of Rochford were engaged though they told no one as he insisted she enjoy her first season. However, she ended their relationship when she learned the truth about her fiancé with Lady Daphne Swithington; she married someone else. All these years Sinclair has never met anyone else he wanted to marry; besides he does not trust women as he tried to explain to his beloved, but she refused to listen.

A widow for five years after an unhappy marriage, Francesca is filled with remorse and guilt because she knows the truth that she was duped with lies when she dumped her beloved Rochford. She wants to rectify her error and though it will hurt use her matchmaking skills to find him a proper wife who will believe his word. However, to find him a suitable wife means being with him. Francesca knows at first look she still loves him; Sinclair has never stopped living her. Although he wants her he knows he can never trust she will stay with him if another misunderstanding surfaces.

The fourth delightful Matchmaker Regency romance (see THE WEDDING CHALLENGE, THE MARRIAGE WAGER and THE BRIDAL QUEST) is a superb tale as this time Francesca’s efforts are much more personalized as she owes Rochfort for doubting him. The engaging story line is driven by her and Rochford as she wants to make amends and he wants her; the days of reckoning between them that Candace Camp’s fans have waited for have finally occurred.

Harriet Klausner

Full Exposure-Tracy Wolff

Full Exposure
Tracey Wolff
NAL, Jan 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451225962

Years ago photographer Serena Macafee was the victim of a brutal assault. She physically healed but emotionally she fears intimacy with men.

In Baton Rouge, her current project is to take pictures of highly regarded sculptor Kevin Riley. To her shock she is attracted to her subject as he awakens a part of her that she thought died with the vicious attack. Kevin wants her as much as she desires him. Both struggle with their need for the other. Especially adding to their difficulties is there is no respite from their respective hearts as she is living in his house during the shoot. As they fall in love and make love, he wants forever, but she fears relationships. Kevin soon realizes her paranoia has a current base as someone filled with rage stalks her. He pleads with her to go to the cops, but she says done that and have the mental scars to prove it so she insists no cops. He reluctantly accepts her proclamation fearing she might leave otherwise and vows to keep her safe.

Although Kevin seems too perfect especially his patience level, FULL EXPOSURE is an exciting romantic suspense thriller due to the heroine who needs a forklift to carry her baggage. Serena makes the tale work as her past, her kin, and her emotional withdrawal make her a fascinating protagonist. The stalker enhances her most crippling quirks. Fans will wonder whether the photographer will be able to overcome her phobias and stay with Kevin; or will she flee from love as Tracey Wolff provides a strong contemporary in which the answer to stay or not to stay is in the photos.

Harriet Klausner

Grave Goods-Ariana Franklin

Grave Goods
Ariana Franklin
Putnam, Mar 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780399155444

In 1176 during the reign of King Henry II, a fire causes damage to the holy Glastonbury Abbey. After the flames are put out, an ancient box is found. Inside are skeletal remains of a man and a woman.

King Henry II directs Adelia "Mistress of the Art of Death" Aguilar to investigate starting with identifying whose bones these are. Everyone who knows of the discovery and how old the container has to be, prays the remains prove to be proof of Camelot; King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Adelia and her “forensic” support team (Mansur, Gyltha, and daughter Allie) begin their inquiry into who were buried in the coffin; each prays that their leader will be able to tell the ruler what he wants to hear, but Ariana’s crew knows she will tell the truth regardless of what they learn.

As with the two previous Aguilar medieval mysteries (see Mistress OF THE ART OF DEATH and THE SERPENT'S TALE) Ariana Franklin provides her audience with a blending of a Judith Tarr historical with a Kay Scarpetta forensics thriller. The story line is fast-paced and clever with its Arthurian connection. Adelia is a terrific lead character who leads the inquiry with a strong support squad in which they bring to life the court of King Henry II. Sub-genre readers and Camelot fans will appreciate this entertaining who are they twelfth century detective story.

Harriet Klausner

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time-Emily Brightwell

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time
Emily Brightwell
Berkley, Mar 2009, $
ISBN: 9780425226780

A tea party is commencing at Humphrey House, but the owner of the place, train devotee Francis Humphreys fails to be with his guests. Relatives and friends become concerned because he is a punctual person. A knock on his door goes unanswered. Recently Francis has been forgetful as if he was in an early stage of senility. All talking at the party abruptly ends when a shot is heard. Everyone rushes to Francis’ room where they find him dead, a bullet to his head. They call the cops and Scotland Yard sends their top detective Inspector Witherspoon to investigate what looks like a suicide by a man losing his mind.

The Inspector is disgusted as he is stuck with as his assistant Inspector Niven’s’ nephew Lionel Gates; Witherspoon would rather have Constable Barnes whom he respects. Still they interview the guests and investigate motives; most inherit part of Francis’ estate. However opportunity remains elusive as every attendee had an alibi as all of them were in the drawing room together when the shot was heard. Witherspoon’s housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of the downstairs staff secretly investigate in hopes of finding clues to assist their kind employer and prevent a killer from murdering again.

Reading a Mrs. Jeffries Victorian whodunit is paraphrasing the Lays’ potato chip commercial you can’t read just one. The latest case is a fabulous locked room police procedural with all the suspects providing alibis for one another as they were together having tea. Witherspoon is as always solves the case, but is clueless that his housekeeping staff conducts an inquiry with the downstairs employed at Humphrey House. Fans will enjoy this fine historical mystery that showcases how the police conduct an official investigation and how the amateur sleuths perform their version.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Courtesan’s Wager-Claudia Dain

The Courtesan’s Wager
Claudia Dain
Berkley, Feb 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425225806

In 1802 London, Lady Amelia Caversham perfectly meets the criteria for a duchess. She has excellent breeding as the daughter of a duke, no whiff of scandal, polite, and most important is that she has a sizable dowry. In spite of her assets, no male seems interested in her.

She decides she needs help from a professional when it comes to the males of the Ton. She asks notorious courtesan turned notorious matchmaker Lady Sophia Dalby to assist her. Dalby agrees feeling this will liven up a slow season. She arranges interviews of men who must meet her eligibility criteria to become Amelia’s husband. The Ton explodes with delight and men line up for the job. Alas only Lord Cranleigh refuses to make a fool of himself except wanting to protect his reticent younger brother from doing so. His plan is to seduce the twit only he finds the seduction too enticing to walk away from.

Once again though a secondary player, Dalby steals the show (see THE COURTESAN'S DAUGHTER and THE COURTESAN'S SECRET) in this well written amusing Regency romance. The frolic is fast-paced from the moment a desperate Amelia turns to the notorious one and never slows from that first encounter. Readers will enjoy this terific jocular caper as Cranleigh’s behaves as amusingly shameful as Dalby and Amelia do.

Harriet Klausner

Devil of the Highlands-Lynsay Sands

Devil of the Highlands
Lynsay Sands
Avon, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061344770

In 1273 England, Lady Edda asks King Edward to arrange for her stepdaughter Evelinde of d’Aumesbury to marry the “Devil of Donnachaidh”. The stepmother loathes her late husband’s offspring and detests sharing the fruits of her deceased husband’s barony, which is beneath her needs as it is She also wants to punish Evelinde for being the brave daughter of her despicable dead spouse; so assumes the Scottish aristocratic barbarian will be a perfect brute for Evelinde. The monarch arranges for the couple to meet. Each is shocked that their preconceptions re the other is totally wrong. She expected an abusive thug, but he is kind and caring; he anticipated a cold aloof shrew, but she is warm and daring.

After they exchange marital vows, they head to his home in Scotland as she wonders why the nickname as he nothing like his ferocious reputation. She learns the epithet was given to him due to the murder of his father and the alleged suicide of his cousin; everyone assumes he caused both. Everyone except Evelinde until someone tries to kill her. She wonders if her husband is actually insane or is someone trying to make him seem like a berserker murderer; she plans to learn the truth or die trying.

Starting with the evil stepmother, DEVIL OF THE HIGHLANDS is a fabulous medieval romance starring two charming courageous characters. Evelinde is somewhat typical of the sub-genre except that she matures with a keen understanding that the man she loves proves his caring of her and his people through what he does for them. The whodunit adds to a strong thirteenth century tale as the heroine realizes her spouse is the angel of Donnachaidh.

Harriet Klausner

The Runaway McBride-Elizabeth Thornton

The Runaway McBride
Elizabeth Thornton
Berkley, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226346

In 1885 on her deathbed, his grandmother Lady Valeria pleads with James Burnett to find his ex fiancée Faith McBride to protect her as her life is in danger. He would do anything for his grandma the witch but not that; still he swears he will keep his former fiancée safe even as he wonders who will keep him safe from her. He also knows his grandma’s last act of life is passing on her clairvoyance skills to him; either that or he is hallucinating.

Faith believes her beloved James dumped her to marry someone else. When she sees him, she knows she still loves him even if he is somewhat cold towards her. He offers to help her learn how her mother died. As they follow the clues their love remains strong but their trust remains at zero; love is not enough until she realizes James risks his life for his Faith.

This superb late Victorian romance is enhanced by a touch of the paranormal and by the whodunit amateur sleuth investigation. The story line is fast-paced, filled with humor and action, but it is the second chance at love between the wonderful lead pair who makes this a fine historical.

Harriet Klausner

A Darker Domain-Val McDermid

A Darker Domain
Val McDermid
Harper, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780061688980

Michelle Gibson informs the Fife Police Department that her father Mick Prentice is missing; no one seems interested. That changes when she mentions her dad vanished in 1984 during a miners’ strike. The Cold Case Review Team Detective Inspector Karen Pirie decides it is worth an inquiry and learns everyone assumed Mick went to Nottingham to find work as a scab, but never bothered to come back to the Fife area.

Wealthy Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant informs Karen that in 1985 his daughter Catriona and grandson Adam were kidnapped. He tried to pay the ransom demand, but everything turned ugly; his daughter was murdered and his grandchild vanished. He never gave up hope of finding Adam. Karen has two missing persons’ cold cases to solve so family members can have closure.

This interesting Scottish cold case police procedural is filled with plenty of action as DI Price investigates the two missing persons mid 1980s cases. The story line is fast-paced but lose some momentum and plausibility when the inquiries converge. Though Dr. Tony Hill takes a needed breather, fans of Val McDermid will enjoy her latest mystery though most will have preferred two separate investigations.

Harriet Klausner

Murder in the Latin Quarter-Cara Black

Murder in the Latin Quarter
Cara Black
Soho, Mar 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9781569475416

In 1997 the world remains stunned with the recent death of Princess Di; especially shook is Paris where the car accident occurred. Soon after the tragedy, illegal Haitian Mireille enters the office of private investigator Aimee Leduc proclaiming they are half sisters; having the same biological father Jean-Claude; her mother was tortured and murdered soon after giving birth by Duvalier’s thugs. Aimee still grieving the recent death of her fiance (see Murder in the Rue de Paradis) needs to know if the woman is pulling a sham and why or is she telling her the truth.

Soon after her stunning proclamation, Mirelle vanishes. She leaves behind an odd mysterious note with an address in the Latin Quarter. Aimee goes there to learn what she can about her maybe half sister. She finds the building houses an anatomy research facility that includes a corpse of a black male missing an ear who she learns is Professor Azacca Benot. Others associated with the late professor are also murdered while a Haitian trade delegation argue over a water deal with a French company.

This is an excellent entry in one of the best series around as the tale plays out on multiple fronts to include the Mireille mystery, the impact of economic globalization colliding with post-colonial nationalism politics and their convergence at the homicide of a Haitian expatriate professor in the Left Bank. The story line is vintage Leduc as she desperately seeks her missing maybe sister to learn whether they truly are siblings. Though for the most par her sleuthing partner Rene plays an even lesser role than usual, Cara Black provides a strong look at late 1999s Paris where the past and the then present crash resulting in MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER.

Harriet Klausner

Hollywood Buzz-Margit Liesche

Hollywood Buzz
Margit Liesche
Poisoned Pen, Mar 2009
ISBN 1590585798

Having prevented a Nazi plot in Detroit (see LIPSTICK AND LIES) Women Air Force Service Pilot Pucci Lewis is assigned by her superior officer Miss C to go undercover at Fort Roach, a converted movie studio serving as the home base of the First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU). The mission of the unit is to create training and propaganda films in support of the war. Her official assignment is to replace injured pilot Frankie Beall whose job was to insure the movie makers treat the WASP with respect; however her real secret task is to investigate the suspicious plane crash in which veteran pilot Frankie was hurt in her life threatening crash.

Pucci works for producer Roland Novaro and quickly realizes female pilots are treated as a joke worse than her boss expected. However what concerns Pucci more is the squabbling between the producer, the editor Rask and the abusive abrasive director Brody. She also learns from airplane mechanic Mad Maxine Beacock that the plane the WASP pilot flew was deliberately sabotaged, but a cover-up has occurred though neither woman knows why. Soon others are murdered including Brody as the cover-up turns deadly.

Paying homage to the WASP warriors, Margit Liesche writes an engaging WWII military mystery that provides a deep look at the female pilot corps and at Hollywood goes to war. The whodunit hooks the audience as Pucci’s assignment changes from investigating sabotage probably by Nazis to a homicide inquiry. She is a terrific lead as she holds the plot together. However, the deep makes the tale refreshing as they bring to life the roles of women and Hollywood in the 1940s at a military base in the States.

Harriet Klausner

Murder in the Dark-Kerry Greenwood

Murder in the Dark
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Mar 2009
ISBN- 9781590584392

In Australia liberated Phryne Fisher enjoys Christmas 1928 with her significant other Lin Chung and her family. Scandalous acquaintances from Paris, the Golden Twins Isabella and Gerald Templar, have invited her to the Last Best party of 1928, a four-day affair at Werribee Manor house.

Phryne considers declining the invitation until she receives letters and a Christmas present containing a poisonous snake in the post that threaten her if she attends. No one scares Phryne away so she goes to the gala. At the party, hashish and alcohol flow freely and she meets an odd collection of people including a bad-mannered child Tarquin who soon afterward vanishes without a trace. Two more people disappear with puzzle clues left behind. As Phryne and Nicholas Booth, who she has just met and believes is an undercover cop, investigates, she realizes someone has been hired to assassinate the sibling hosts.

No one messes with kick butt Phryne whether it is threatening her by post, behaving boorishly towards her at a party, or committing murder. She is at her best in this pre-Depression Era Australian whodunit as her sleuthing partner Nicholas brings out her strengths. The mystery is cleverly devised with solid twists and the roaring cast fits the decadent 1920s. Fans will enjoy Phryne’s latest caper as once again Kerry Greenwood provides her readers with a deep look at a bygone era Down Under inside of a rousing investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner