Friday, February 29, 2008

A Dangerous Love-Brenda Joyce

A Dangerous Love
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin HQN, Apr 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373772759

In 1820 her family’s aristocratic standing makes Ariella de Warenne part of high society, but her free thinking behavior keeps her outside not looking in; she just does not care what the Ton thinks. So when a Gypsy band sets up camp on her family's Derbyshire estate, she visits without a second thought towards proper behavior. She stunned to find herself attracted to the Roma leader Emilian, who to his inner turmoil reciprocates.

Unbeknownst to Ariella, the recipient of her affection is also her affluent neighbor, Lord Emilian St. Xavier. When he was little, his aristocratic father abducted him from his Roma mother because Emilian was the heir. He detests his title and his peerage as his only desire is vengeance against the mob who murdered his mother. Thus when he feels an attraction to the female de Warenne, Emilian also feels self-loathing until he decides Ariella is an expendable pawn that he will publicly ruin. Emilian does not know that messing with a de Warenne in love is more dangerous than facing the late Napoleon and his French army.

A DANGEROUS LOVE is a strong de Warenne Regency romance starring two aristocratic outsiders who scorn the trappings of the Ton. The story line is fast-paced, but character driven as each of the lead pair has a scheme to win their heart’s desire; hers being him while his being revenge. Though both protagonists are similar to many fictional Regency protagonists, Brenda Joyce refreshes them with Attitude that provides fans with a marvelously entertaining entry in her delightful long running historical saga.

Harriet Klausner

A Mother's Love-Ruth Wind, RaeAnne Thayne and Janice Johnson

A Mother's Love
Ruth Wind, RaeAnne Thayne and Janice Johnson
Harlequin, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373837243

"Her Best Friend's Baby" by Ruth Wind. Yogariffic studio owner Kyra Tierney is stunned when Mr. Dylan Jones calls her from Cardiff to inform her that her best friend “Africa” Fletcher and her Welsh husband, Thomas Rhys died in a car crash. She is further shocked to learn she was named their daughter’s guardian. Kyra travels to Wales to meet baby Emma; there she meets Thomas best friend Dylan; both are attracted to one another.

"Daughter of the Bride" by Janice Johnson. Although attracted to the hunk, Leila Foster refuses to go out with Detective Mark Duncan, as she vowed to never date a cop after a disastrous affair. However, Leila is stunned when her mom announces she is remarrying as her dad has only been under the ground for about a year. Mark is there for her as she struggles with wanting to feel good for her mom without betraying the memory of her dad.

"A Mother's Hope" by RaeAnne Thayne. Former rodeo star Jace McCandless provides horse riding therapy to Hope Sullivan who is slowly recovering from a car accident. Jace is attracted to Hope’s mother Christa, but she rejects his flirtations while hiding her desire for him from him. She may want Jace, but she stereotypes him as being no better than the glib cowboy who sired Hope and never looked at his daughter.

Seemingly published a month too early to celebrate Mother’s Day, these three warm family dramas salute moms, who bring nurturing and love year round regardless of their age. Romance and daughters fill out this pleasant anthology.

Harriet Klausner

For Pete's Sake-Linda Windsor

For Pete's Sake
Linda Windsor
Avon, Apr 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780061171383

One of the Four Musketeers Ellen Brittingham loves driving a motorcycle but her tomboyish behavior seems to turn off men. She has pretty much settled on the thought she will never meet someone who will embrace the real full Ellen because they will demand she give up her safety helmet for frills. Additionally Ellen has never met a man who makes her melt inside.

That is until Adrian Sinclair moves in next door. Ellen is attracted to the single dad and likes his eleven year old son Peter, whose mom Carol died giving birth to him. However, now that she finally has found the man of her dreams, she knows she cannot compete with his fiancée Selena a stunning tall blonde software marketing rep; besides which she understands Pete must come first.

The second Windsor's Piper Cove tale (see WEDDING BELL BLUES) is an engaging inspirational romance starring two likable individuals who both understand that Pete comes before their needs. That mantra gives Ellen her only edge against her rival, who is beautiful and brilliant, but misses the key to Adrian’s heart. The secondary cast, mostly the other three pals, of course Pete, Carol (through Adrian’s pensive thoughts) and Selena, enhances the deep look at the fully developed lead couple. Fans will appreciate this warm romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Hunted-Rachel Lee

The Hunted
Rachel Lee
Mira, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778325383

The Houston Examiner fired investigative reporter Erin McKenna because the Mercator Media Group bought the newspaper placing her in the obvious crosshairs as she testifies in federal court against the parent company Mercator Industries. Although expecting this outcome but still depressed, she goes home only to interrupt a break-in to her apartment. When Erin awakens, she finds FBI agent Jerrod Westlake insuring she is okay. She wonders why a Fed arrived so soon for a burglary that she did not have time to call 911. Erin finds her computer, DVDs and CDs stolen; nothing else taken.

Both assume that her testimony against Mercator Industries is the prime reason for the theft. To keep her safe, Jerrod spends the night with Erin at a hotel where they discuss another case he is working involving a missing teenage girl that he believes is a victim of the international sex-slave trade business, which the Fed feels links to the Mercator investigation. They team up to end the abomination knowing the enemy will kill them to keep their lucrative business profitable.

From the moment readers learn about Jerrod’s obsession to find his probably dead sister snatched from a school bus twenty-two years when Elena was ten, fans will be hooked by this powerful romantic suspense thriller with the emphasis on the intrigue. The romance is used to enhance the thriller as the courageous lead pair are THE HUNTED by deadly antagonists whose business interests include brutally selling young girls. Rachel Lee pulls no punches as some of the appalling conditions kidnapped females placed in the sex trade industry face are graphic (rightfully so). As the afterward points out that “Girls as young as five are bought and sold” on a real international flesh peddling commodity exchange that comes horrifically alive in this exciting gritty FBI thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Fallen-Tim Lebbon

Tim Lebbon
Bantam, Apr 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553384673

Four millennium before the DUSK occurred, Noreela sends forth intrepid explorers into unknown territories. These brave souls expanded the nation’s glory and affluence on all sides except the south. There voyagers ran up against the Great Divide that ranges so high its top is hidden somewhere in the clouds above. Of those who have tried to scale the Great Divide, none has come back to tell the tale until now. Ten claims to have done this with his proof being an ancient parchment.

Cancer stricken Ramus Rheel has always competed against his friendly rival wealthy adventuress Nomi Hyden to be the first to reach the clouds and beyond and return to tell the tale though Ten has made that claim. For Ramus besides wanting the mantle of the greatest voyager ever, this is probably his last escapade; for Nomi wearing the greatest mantle is everything. As they make the trek together accompanied by Serian soldiers, they go past the line where no information is known except Ten’s questionable ramblings There they run into the “home” of one of the ancient Sleeping Gods and they soon find themselves fighting to live to tell their saga.

The latest Noreela fantasy thriller (see DAWN) is an exhilarating adventure tale into the unknown in which fans will want to trek up the Great Dive alongside the exploring Voyagers. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the fully developed lead duo that makes the escapades seems genuine especially in the encampment of the Sleeping God who “awakens” to the intrusion. Tim Lebbon provides a fascinating quest fantasy with a different spin to the quest as a consequence of their actions is the need to the save the world endeavor

Harriet Klausner

Key to Conspiracy-Talia Gryphon

Key to Conspiracy
Talia Gryphon
Ace, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780441015764

Marine Corps Special Ops psychiatrist Dr. Gillian Key is an expert in abnormal paramortal psychology as she works with supernatural patients with biting problems. However she is assigned as part of a team to provide assistance to the victims of a horrific earthquake in Russia. Though she knows she will see plenty of tragedy and her specific task is investigating rumors of child selling, Gillian looks forward to getting away from her usual paranormal clientele especially the brass.

However what should have been a natural calamity with a horrific aftermath turns into a supernatural disaster. Dracula, whom she met on a previous adventure (see KEY TO CONFLICT), is fascinated by the soldier-psychiatrist as he is more used to subservient females not combatant women. As bad or perhaps worse Jack the Ripper is using the mishap as an easy cover for his nefarious activities. Of course Gillian wonders if she has Murphy DNA as she meets a who’s who of horror superstars.

Whereas KEY TO CONFLICT is preeminently military urban fantasy, KEY TO CONSPIRACY is more horror although the heroine’s patients include vampires with biting guilt complexes, werewolves with species identity issues and military brass with 5-star superegos. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but also contains an underlying satirical feel as Talia Gryphon lampoons the sub-genre. Readers will relish the Russian adventure as the Key to this tale is the fully developed (with a wink) lead protagonist who copes with Drac, Jack and general whackos.

Harriet Klausner

Wrath of a Mad God-Raymond E. Feist

Wrath of a Mad God
Raymond E. Feist
Eos, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780060792985

A Rift (or portal) was created connecting Dasati to Kelewan, and the Dark God’s Death priests have caught the powerful magician Miranda to find all they can about humanity before they invade. When Miranda escapes, she kills many of the powerful enemy, but also learns the Dasati not only plan to attack, but also to turn Kelewan into a place identical to their evil world which is hostile to humans. Miranda rallies the troops to go to war against a more powerful enemy, but her sides knows the outcome if they lose to the Dark God.

Miranda’s husband Pug, the most powerful magician in the world, is in Dasati gathering intelligence. The Dark God has made Dasati into a dark place in which the inhabitants enjoy killing as if it is a sports contest and enjoy providing pain to others. Despite the precautions, the Dasati breech the Kelewan defensive perimeter, killing millions. On Dasati, Pug concludes the only way to end the deadly assault and return balance to the worlds is to kill the invincible immortal immoral Dark God.

To fully understand what is going on in the third Darkwar Saga tale, fans must read at least the previous two stories (see FLIGHT OF THE NIGHTHAWKS and INTO THE DARK REALM) as this thrilling fantasy does not stand alone. What is even better is to peruse the entire Rift War and Midkemia novels as that will fill in a little more background especially about Pug. WRATH OF A MAD GOD is a complex tale with multiple plotlines that converge into a terrific climax. Fans of the long running series will relish the finish to Raymond E. Feist’s fine fantasy trilogy.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Coming Soon-Jo Leigh

Coming Soon
Jo Leigh
Harlequin Blaze, Mar 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373793907

Mia Traverse is the concierge at Manhattan’s five-star Hush Hotel. Currently she tries to keep things running smooth as Hollywood is staying at the luxurious inn, which means paparazzi is behind every flower pot.

However, Mia never expected to find the corpse of paparazzo Gerry Geiger, a royal pain in the butt, but not deserving of murder. NYPD Detective Bax Milligan leads the investigation, but realizes he needs a hotel insider; Mia volunteers. As they work together trying to solve the homicide, they fall in love, but can a pair of overworked people make time for one another once the whodunit is solved or closed.

Bax is a fascinating protagonist who is burned out at thirty six with plans to leave in three months to relocate to Boulder. Mia is TV mystery junky who loves her job and enjoys going undercover to assist the sleuth. Although the mystery is fun, it seems unlikely a cop even near his departure date would risk a civilian especially the one he is falling in love with. Still fans will enjoy Jo Leigh’s entertaining romantic whodunit that is entirely not by the book.

Harriet Klausner

Getting Lucky-Joanne Rock

Getting Lucky
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze, Mar 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373793853

Sports agent Dex “Lucky” Brantley has lived a most fortunate life as everything he touches turns to gold; for a dozen years he has been at the top of his vocation that is until his thirty-third birthday when his touch became fool’s gold. Six months later, the family curse has left him mentally and emotionally devastated, symbolized by his new nickname, Dex the Hex.

Desperate to have the curse removed so he can regain a life worth living, Dex asks psychic Lara Wyland to eliminate the blight. Lara agrees to help him although he was scornful of her psychic skills when he was Dex the Lucky. Still she knows he is serious as he is willing to leave the Big Apple for Albany, a place where only politicians from the city go. She rationalizes helping the king of derision as she would be a fool to pass up the money he offers and the knowledge of how much he has crawled by asking her. Besides he is a hunk.

GETTING LUCKY is an engaging paranormal romance with a bit of late suspense that enhances the story line. Dex is terrific as he goes from scornful non believer to desperate doubter to in love fully converted. This is a fun tale as Dex the Hex feels his nothing but bad luck string of blue notes ending in a spite of ghosts, a nasty storm, and someone who wants him to crap out of life just because he won the World Series and Superbowl of his life: the love of Lara.

Harriet Klausner

The Grand Scheme-Kathy Herman

The Grand Scheme
Kathy Herman
Multnomah, Apr 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781590529232

After all the trials and tribulations caused by drug and alcohol abuse and their legal problems, Rue and Ivy Kessler go on a magnificent well deserved honeymoon as each has straightened out their life. They come home to Jacob’s Ear, Colorado to the love of their family and to raise their eight years old son Montana together.

However, not all their woes have past. Someone is stalking the newlyweds. That unknown individual slowly begins a campaign to frighten the Kesslers. The assaults increasingly turn violent including the murder of a crew member working construction under Rue’s supervision. Rue and Ivy are scared but determined to uncover the identity of their enemy and learn why before someone else is killed.

The third and final Phantom Hollow tale (see EVER PRESENT DANGER and NEVER LOOK BACK) is an exciting entry as the issue of redemption and forgiveness makes for a powerful inspirational character study. However, to fully grasp how far Ivy and Rue have come, I recommend reading the previous books. Still this is a deep tale that focuses how long does one pay for one’s transgressions or is it impossible even with good deeds and paying society’s price to ever overcome the past. Fans of the mini series will enjoy this exciting finish as Rue and Ivy would like to look forward but someone is a present danger motivated by looking back.

Harriet Klausner

Healing Promises-Amy Wallace

Healing Promises
Amy Wallace
Multnomah, Apr 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781601420107

FBI agent Clint Rollins proudly works in the Crimes Against Children Unit risking his life whenever a child is in danger. His latest case to save a youngster led to his being shot. However, he believes he has a guardian angel because the hospital tests reveal he has cancer that was caught in time with the help of chemotherapy.

However, Clint’s spouse Sara has mixed feelings about her husband’s cancer. On the one hand she is very grateful that it was found early, but on the other she feels guilty that she as oncologist should have diagnosed it; she questions her abilities and in a circular logical way feels more guilt about her feelings. Meanwhile in spite of the side effects of chemo treatment, Clint needs to uncover the identity of a child serial killer before some other innocent dies.

Both Clint and Sara question whether God deserted them as they face a trial of faith, as much as the flesh in the second Defenders of Hope series (see RANSOMED DREAMS). The exciting FBI investigation returns characters from the first book in support roles. However, HEALING PROMISES belongs to the lead couple as each has something to prove more to themselves than the other or to God while doubting yet praying for Clint to recover. Amy Wallace provides a fabulous inspirational thriller starring realistic protagonists.

Harriet Klausner

A Novel Way to Die-Karen Hanson Stuyck

A Novel Way to Die
Karen Hanson Stuyck
Five Star, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146329

Helen Lewis calls University of Texas at Houston Criminology Professor Molly Patterson to say that her renowned mother, mystery writer Katherine Marsh dies from an apparent heart attack. Though not close to her mom, Molly is sad. She, her estranged husband Alex, and their two preadolescent children Annie and Will travel to Austin to arrange the funeral.

Tests by pathologist Dr. Lester prove that Katherine died from an overdose of Stelezine, an anxiety drug she was using while coping with ovarian cancer. Molly refuses to believe that her mother would take the drug as she rejected aspirin or that her mother would ever taken her life without taking care of her affairs as she was the queen of task management. However, her mom did provide generous Christmas presents as if she knew her time was short. She soon believes wannabe writer Suzanne Lang killed her mother, but all the evidence is in the final copy of her mom’s last book, “The Summer That Changed Everything” although the version Molly finds is an earlier one containing the wrong ending.

A NOVEL WAY TO DIE is an interesting whodunit wrapped inside a deep family drama. Whereas Molly believes murder occurred as she knew her mom well, everyone else thinks suicide. With a plausible final twist, fans will appreciate the criminologist professor investigating the death of her mother, a best-selling mystery author.

Harriet Klausner

The Restorer’s Journey-Sharon Hinck

The Restorer’s Journey
Sharon Hinck
NAV Press, Mar 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781600061332

Before Susan, Mark and their eighteen years old son Jake use the portal to return from the dimension of Lyric to their home on earth (see THE RESTORER’S SON), Councilman Cameron and the Rhus Media (who can twist and poison the minds of her victims) they escape through the portal into our earth too. They disappear for several weeks before they return with packages and force Susan to get through the dimension corridor with them.

Mark is unable to use the portal, but Jake travels to the other world to rescue his mother. Jake has changed since the last time he was on the other side. Cameron claims to have records that say when Restorer appeared twice in a generation, the line ends. This is a lie because Jake is the new Restorer, a person sent to the One to fight for the people and help the guardians. While Jake seeks his mother and a plan to defeat Cameron and throw the Kahlarea out of Render, Susan is trapped in the land of Rhus where Medea’s protégé tries his best to beak her by crawling through her mind.

Anyone who has felt the darkness close in on them while also feeling rage and despair should read THE RESTORER’S JOURNEY. Susan and Jake feel all that and more, but they draw on the strength from the One and in their hearts and refuse to allow evil to win. Sharon Hinck writes fantasy that takes the audience to a special magical place where faith is the cornerstone of life. Those who fail to adhere to that philosophy end up destroying themselves from inside their souls to their physical presence.

Harriet Klausner

Dawn’s Light-Terri Blackstock

Dawn’s Light
Terri Blackstock
Zondervan, May 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310257707

It has been a year since the Pulses from the dying supernova knocked out all the fiber optics sending civilization back into a pre-electrical age (see TRUE LIGHT, LAST LIGHT and NIGHT LIGHT). Beth Branning has seen her father shot; her sister Deni in the hands of a serial killer; and Deni’s boyfriend Mark beaten severely by vigilantes. She is waiting for the “Next Terrible Thing” to happen; which of course occurs.

She witnesses a man kill a person and comes after her next; however a homeless man intercedes and Beth escapes even as her good Samaritan rescuer is murdered. The killer warns Beth not to tell anyone or he will go after her family. He knows her name because it is on the back of the shirt she is wearing. Mark plans to propose to Deni, but on the night he intends to give her an engagement ring, her former boyfriend Craig visits her. Since the Pulses occurred, he has been working diligently trying to get the electricity running. Beth sees a notice of a missing man on a bulleting board; he was the first victim she saw killed leaving behind a wife and their toddler. She worries about the killer coming for her loved ones until he arrives and almost kills her. Her parents find Beth hurt and rush her to the hospital where she undergoes brain surgery. Mark and a deputy search for her attacker while Craig uses his connections to get Beth medicine. The Branning clan knows that Beth’s fate is in the hands of God, but a few prayers by them might influence the outcome.

The final Restoration thriller will lift the spirits of readers while simultaneously leave readers weeping. Fans care about the Branning family and friends so feel deeply they feel their trials and tribulations. Mark is heroic as his love for Deni is so unselfish he is willing to give up what he most wants in life, her, if she loves Craig instead of him. Craig likewise is a good person but he tries to put strings on Deni while helping Beth. Terri Blackstock reaches the hearts of her audience with her belief that God remains in charge especially when things are darkest.

Harriet Klausner

Before They Are Hanged-Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged
Joe Abercrombie
PYR, Mar 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781591026419

In the South Inquisitor torturer Glokta serves as the Superior of the city of Dagoska. He has two missions to accomplish if he is to survive his new position unlike his recently assassinated predecessor. He must root out the traitors before they murder him; and he must keep the city safe while it is under siege from superior enemy forces with no hope for outside supplies..

In the North the powerful well trained and equipped Northmen military have invaded neighboring Angland. Crown Prince Ladisla demands leadership of his Union army as he plans gloriously to repel the enemy back beyond his frozen border. However, as Major West escorts the bodacious royal fool he knows his side lacks proper arms, training, leadership and courage while the other side will swamp the battlefield with its superiority.

In the center the First of the Magi Bayaz leads a party of pariahs (incompetent apprentice Malacus Quai, warrior Logen, Ferro the Navigator, Brother Longfoot and Jezal) seeking the Seed. Each person distrusts the rest of the participants, but it is this band that must defeat the Eaters that threaten humanity. Bayaz understands this so he tells the tale of creation to encourage them

As with the First Law Book One: THE BLADE ITSELF, the second tale contains three well written major plots; there is also somewhat of a fourth segue re the Named Men remaining undecided. The best of the trio is Glotka’s saga as the audience sees deep into his unsympathetic “soul” while he tortures (graphically) anyone using the rationale he seeks to save the people by rooting out enemy plotters; his detachment from his victims is classic. The West subplot is fun to follow too as he knows what his Prince is leading them into, but can do little to prevent their charge into the valley of death (think of The Charge of the Light Brigade). Finally, the Bayaz clip tells a lot about the history of the world in vivid descriptions, but his teammates fail to listen. This is a complex well written quest fantasy that will have the audience clamoring for the next law book.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Baby, I'm Yours-Baby, I'm Yours

Baby, I'm Yours
Carrie Weaver
Harlequin SuperRomance, Mar 2008, $6.25
ISBN: 9780373782215

Becca Smith is stunned when her spouse Gabe dies without any warning. Following his funeral the grieving Becca turns to Gabe’s business partner, Rick Jensen, also in mourning, for comfort. Although he knows he must not out of respect for his and best friend Gabe he cannot resist offering her sympathy starting with a hug that soon leads to them making love.

Several weeks later, Becca knows she is pregnant, but is unsure whether the late Gabe is the father or Rick. She tells Rick, who wants to be there for the baby regardless of whose DNA is part of the child’s make-up. As he and Becca try to forge a relationship, both remain haunted by guilt and grief.

Although the sex after the funeral seems a disrespectful stretch, fans will appreciate this interesting contemporary tale of grief, guilt, and relationships. Becca is a fascinating lead character as she goes through the grief process compounded by her guilt over having sex with Rick. He is the more fascinating protagonist as he wants to raise the child with the woman he loves, but feels obligated by guilt to assume the baby is Gabe’s even if it really is his. Readers will appreciate this deep look at two people struggling with what is the right thing for everyone but themselves as they each feels they are the least deserving.

Harriet Klausner

Be My Babies-Kathryn Shay

Be My Babies
Kathryn Shay
Harlequin SuperRomance, Mar 2008, $6.25
ISBN: 9780373782246

Her husband may be affluent and a member of high society, but Derek Wakefield fails to grow up as drugs and now women supersede family obligations especially now that his wife is pregnant. Expecting twins and no help from her addicted Peter Pan mate, Lily Wakefield leaves New York City to visit her mother's hometown Fairview, New York. There she hopes her maternal grandfather Gil Gardner, owner of the local newspaper Sentinel, whom she has never met, will help her.

In Fairview, Lily meets newspaper editor Simon McCarthy and his daughter Jenny, who calls Gil “Grandpa Gil”. Soon she meets a stunned Gil who feels guilt for allowing his wife to run off their pregnant daughter Camy when she needed them. He knows Camy died, but was unaware that she had the child, his granddaughter. He needs her to stay and she wants to as her mom only had kind words for her father. Meanwhile Simon fears she has come to take over the paper as he understands how thick blood can be. Still he is attracted to the pregnant woman who might replace him as the editor after she gives birth.

This is a wonderful family drama with likable characters as Gil and Lily get second chances. Simon and Lily are a terrific pairing and love for each other and for Gil brings them together. Although a subplot involving Derek’s vengeful upper crust mother using blackmail seems over the top especially the extortion gamut, fans will enjoy this fine homecoming romance.

Harriet Kalsuner

The Marine's Baby-Rogenna Brewer

The Marine's Baby
Rogenna Brewer
Harlequin SuperRomance, Mar 2008, $6.25
ISBN: 9780373782239

Caitlin Calhoun mourns the death of her Navy SEAL husband Luke Calhoun, Jr. who died in the line of duty. 89 days 9 hours and 9 minutes since the two uniforms knocked on her door with the news she dreaded, Caitlin receives a letter from CryoBank of San Diego asking what to do with his semen specimen. She decides she wants his offspring so she goes to the cryo facility to get impregnated.

However, Caitlin is unaware that her late spouse had an older half-brother with the same name; neither did the sperm bank. She learns later that she has been impregnated by the sperm of Luke Calhoun; just not her Luke Calhoun. Feeling she owes her half-brother-in-law the truth, Caitlin meets and explains to Luke "Lucky" Calhoun about the mix-up. The marine knows what he wants, which are Caitlin and their baby, but she is wary having lost one military officer she loved to the war on terrorism.

Caitlin makes this contemporary romance works as she goes from grief to euphoria to shock to love to guilt in a believable manner. Luke the marine is a caring person who understands much of what his beloved is dealing with as he learns from her that his half-brother was also a good person. Readers will appreciate this strong military romance as Rogenna Brewer brews up a deep lead couple struggling with forming a relationship as the ghost of her late spouse, his brother, lingers in their minds.

Harriet Klausner

Willing-Scott Spencer

Scott Spencer
Ecco (Harper Collins), Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780060760151

Thirty-seven years old New York writer Avery Jankowsky is tired of not making it as he lives from day to day with no money put away and a diet that would make peanut butter seem like a luxury. Worse his apprehension for the future turns uglier when he learns his girlfriend Deirdre is cheating on him.

Being depressed and feeling sorry for himself, he turns to his Uncle Ezra at their monthly luncheon in Grand Central Station; Ezra says all his nephew needs is a quality sex vacation for the affluent as everyone has these moments when they can’t get it up. Ezra sends him to Iceland and from there the continent on a tour of the upper crust sex capitals of the world. Avery’s early encounters lead him to realize his tour is worthy of a book; his publisher loves the idea and gives him an advance, but as he gets to know his male companions he wonders if a tell-all is ethical.

Although the plot is somewhat limited, readers who appreciate a deep introspective character study will want to read the adventures of Avery Jankowsky on a sex tour starting in Reykjavik and climaxing seemingly all over the continent. Avery makes the tale fun as his growing understanding of himself is poignant and that of his companions insightful and humorous as he knows this tour is like traveling in a locker room with high school randy boys. Fans will enjoy the ups and downs of Jankowsky’s sexual tour.

Harriet Klausner

Avalanche-Patrick F. McManus

Patrick F. McManus
Simon & Schuster, Mar 25 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416532774

In Blight County, Idaho, Blanche Wilson calls the Sheriff’s Department to report her spouse Mike is missing. Sheriff Bo Tully sees the investigation as an opportunity for him and his team (the previous sheriff his dad Pap and Dave the tracker) to take advantage of the upscale facilities at the West Branch Lodge, owned by the Wilsons.

However fantasies of hot tubs vanish as fast as an avalanche traps the father and son detecting team. The Tullys manage to get to the lodge where they find a horde of outsiders vacationing at the exclusive spot and a few locals including his dog sledding former girlfriend Janice. As they investigate in between hot tub soaks, they find the corpse of Mike and Bo’s deputies inform him that Horace Baker, Wilsons’ business partner, was murdered. The only motive to surface is Blanche has a multimillion dollar insurance policy on the two victims, but Tully and Pap think that is too obvious.

The latest Bo Tully Idaho police procedural (see THE BLIGHT WAY) is a terrific tale not because of the investigation, which lies behind the last sled dog, but due to the loving teasing between Tully and Pap, and Tully and Janice (as well as a few other females the hero meets during his hot soaks). The case is well written though straightforward, but it is the younger Tully’s eccentric relationships that make for a fun whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Fires Rising-Michael Laimo

Fires Rising
Michael Laimo
Leisure, Mar 2008, $7.99,
ISBN 9780843960648

Father Pilazzo oversees the renovation of the once abandoned church. He dreams of the flock returning and the ancient church regaining the respect it once had. As the workers tear up the floor, they find a pit underneath; inside this man-made excavation is a long forgotten buried wooden crate. The workers excited by their find open the box.

None knew what they have unleashed on humanity. The demon interred is free causing havoc as it leaves a trail of death with every person the monster touches. Father Pilazzo blames himself for liberating the demonic killer as his sin of pride led to his ignoring his nightmares that warned him to stop the repairs. He knows he must end the abomination even if it means he spends eternity in hell for releasing this evil on the innocent.

Although the releasing of an incarcerated buried demon has been done many times in movies and books, Michael Laimo provides an entertaining horror thriller. The demon never rests once liberated while Father Pilazzo is filled with guilt that he knows he will take to the afterlife with him, but also feels accountable as he plans to take the evil one with him even if it means being stuck in hell with this malevolence for eternity. Readers will enjoy this good and evil confrontation as the innocent become casualties.

Harriet Klausner

99 Coffins-David Wellington

99 Coffins
David Wellington
Three Rivers (Crown), Jan 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780307381712

After the horrors she faced (see 13 BULLETS), vampire hunter Laura Caxton vows never again as field work is too gory for her. However, at an archeological dig at the Gettysburg Battle Site, Civil War era coffins are dug up. Detective Jameson Arkeley realizes what the team found is the remains of a Union vampire corps. He knows the only person to handle this gruesome finding is Caxton; so he sends for her.

Caxton reluctantly arrives at the tomb and finds 100 coffins with 99 occupied by vampires without hearts; one is empty and the coffin smashed as if a vandal attacked it. Worse someone manages to return one of the vampires from the dead to the undead; soon the rest of corps begins to reawaken to finish the mission they started in 1863. Caxton knows she must stop them before the Civil War is reenacted with real blood flowing from the victims of a night-stalking militia obsessed with completing its mission.

99 COFFINS is a unique vampire military thriller that rotates between the present, and Civil War Era journals and other writings. Thus the action-packed present stars a heroic Caxton who wants to retire from paranormal hunting while the 1860s correspondence provide insight into the vampire regiment especially their mission that they feel strongly must be achieved over a century and a half since they got their orders. With Gettysburg at stake (pun intended) the battle lines are drawn in this bloody superb tale.

Harriet Klausner

A World Too Near-Kay Kenyon

A World Too Near
Kay Kenyon
Pyr, Mar 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9781591026426

The Tarig constructed the concentric circles Fortress Ahnenhoon to protect the engine that uses the Rose universe as its prime power source to provide energy to sustain the Entire universe. In the Rose universe, sentient beings on planet earth realize the power draining caused by the Ahnenhoon will suck life out of this universe.

Pilot Titus Quinn knows the only way to save earth’s universe is to destroy the Ahnenhoon engine although that could result in destroying the rival universe where his wife and daughter reside. However, scientist Helice Maki insists humanity cannot trust Quinn to do his job as he has a motive to keep the Entire functioning. Maki believes Quinn will try to skip the Rose for the Entire to find his wife Johanna abducted by the Tarig over a decade ago and probably incarcerated inside Fortress Ahnenhoon; and once he rescues her they will search for their missing daughter, Sydney. Maki is sent to accompany Quinn on his mission, but the scientist has a scheme to use the nano-technological weapon to take control of the Ahnenhoon engine and from there usurp the Tarig as the power of two universes fight for survival.

The sequel to BRIGHT OF THE SKY is much more complex than described above as the two “dueling” universes contain convoluted relationships; thus plenty of twists and spins await readers who accompany Titus on his quest. The story line is action-packed, but also further describes the two universes especially the Entire while key characters like beleaguered Quinn and ambitious Maki are fully developed. With two universes on the brink of mass destruction, science fiction fans will want to join Quinn on mission.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Going Down to Georgia-Ann DeFee

Going Down to Georgia
Ann DeFee
Harlequin American, Mar 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373752065

Widow Grammy Liza Henderson runs around her hometown of Magnolia Bluffs, Georgia doing errands for her daughter Cassie. Liza loves her daughter, two preadolescent step-grandsons and likes her son-in-law who is half between her age and that of her only child. She detests running errands especially when she is stuck in traffic or involved in an accident that has her buried in a sea of green kudzu. She is running late on her key chore besides buying size six boys shoes and picking up former California police officer turned land developer Zack Maynard.

Zack is in town helping his brother, but is attracted to Liza from the moment they met; he is unaware of the family connection between them. However, he soon wears his former cop hat as someone has threatened Liza and several break-ins make the menace real. As he tries to keep her safe, Liza and Zack fall in love.

This is an entertaining regional romantic suspense that star likable lead protagonists and stereotypical eccentric southern support characters. Liza is a steel magnolia while Zack goes from California titanium to melted metal. Although the mystery of Liza’s missing spouse assumed dead is to simplistically resolved, which takes away from an overall fine plot, fans who appreciate GOING DOWN TO GEORGIA for a visit will want to read Ann DeFee’s fine contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Because She Can-Bridie Clark

Because She Can
Bridie Clark
Grand Central, Feb 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446697576

The New York publishing world knows that Vivian Grant, CEO of Grant Books, is the nastiest person in Manhattan. Her staff affirms what everyone knows that Vivian is the boss from hell, cursing them when she is not having a tantrum that would be the envy of the most terrible two years old. Her firm is renowned and profitable for best-selling exposé books that make tabloids jealous as Vivian understands “smut sells” to American women who never get any outside of novels.

Literary fiction editor Claire Truman knows the reputation of Ms. Grant as the queen of mean and Grant Books as the schlock of literature, but accepts the position of an editor anyway. Claire learns quickly what working for Vivian means and not just having her skin ripped off by her meanness; Vivian demands pounds of flesh 24/7. This constant requirement interferes with her relationship with her handsome successful fiancé Randall Cox and her dreams of being kissed by Luke Mayville, the writer she recently met.

Although this takes place inside book publishing (where the author worked) instead of magazine publishing as the case of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, BECAUSE SHE CAN is also an enjoyable look at working for the boss from hell. As long as the audience is not in a similar employee relationship with a Marquis de Sade supervisor, readers will find the antics amusing, as Bridie Clark using hyperbole (I hope that is) provides a portrayal of the nasty malicious manager although that tale has been told obviously before.

Harriet Klausner

The Gentleman Rancher-Cathy Gillen Thacker

The Gentleman Rancher
Cathy Gillen Thacker
Harlequin American, Mar 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373752058

Jeremy Carrigan and Taylor O’Quinn attended medical school together until she abruptly quit to become a writer. She left their Texas home for the East to fulfill her dream. He became a doctor while she wrote chick lit novels.

Taylor’s book is being turned into a movie by publicity hounds Zak and Zoe. To escape them and the press, a bone weary Taylor flees for her hometown Laramie, Texas where Jeremy owns a ranch. The Z squad pursues her. Once home, Taylor realizes that she still loves Jeremy who apparently prefers a friendship with her. She needs to decide whether she can handle being a pal or the media seekers even as Jeremy wonders if he can persuade his beloved author she can write novels on their ranch.

The latest Carrigan tale (see THE RANCHER NEXT DOOR and THE RANCHER’ FAMILY THANKSGIVING) is a zany Texas romance somewhat caused by the maniacal Z squared pair. However, the plot belongs to the chick lit author and her beloved as they prove you can keep them down on the ranch after they’ve seen New York with love and a large dose of honest communication.

Harriet Klausner

Klondike Fever-Kate Bridges

Klondike Fever
Kate Bridges
Harlequin Historical, Apr 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373294916

In 1898, Miss Lilybeth “Klondike Lily” Cromwell rides a coach in the Yukon Wilderness on her way to Alaska to find her missing sister Amanda. The wealthiest female in the territory due to gold, the former servant would return to servile work and give up all the gold she possesses if she could find Amanda safe. Also on the coach is undercover Mountie Dylan Wayburn, who is using the guise of a drifter to investigate coach robberies. He and Lily not only know each other, they concealed their love for one another.

The Maddock gang stops the coach and chains together all the prisoners as they know who Lily is. They steal her gold leaving them to die from wild animals or the even wilder climate. However, the pair survives and team up pretending to be married in their quest to rescue Amanda, retrieve Lily’s gold, and end the robberies. During their ordeal, neither can hide their love any longer.

No one brings vividly to life late nineteenth century Canada better than Kate Bridges consistently does with her Mountie historical romances (see KLONDIKE FEVER). The story line is fast-paced from the moment that the coach is robbed and Dylan and Lily are chained together and never slows down until the final confrontation. Lily is terrific as she knows she would give up the gold for her loved ones while Dylan wonders how to prove to his wealthy beloved that he loved her when she was a servant. As always this talented author provides a bridge to bygone era.

Harriet Klausner

Shadows of the Night-Lydia Joyce

Shadows of the Night
Lydia Joyce
Signet, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451223425

During the courtship Colin and Fern behaved as expected of aristocrats by Victorian society. Both expected a normal somewhat boring relationship as neither showed a tendency to break out of the mold. Then came their wedding night in which Fern displays sass, boldness, and desire, which makes Colin hot for her and dream perhaps they can have an ardent loving marriage that breaks sexual taboos with some safe S&M.

They go on their honeymoon to his most remote estate where she wants independence and he desires more of what they had on their wedding night. They fall in love and enjoy their isolation until Joseph Reston from Colin’s past arrives with demands that shake apart the newlyweds as she realizes he has hidden things from her while he insists they no longer matter as love has changed him from what he was.

SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT is an engaging Victorian romantic suspense in which the peril comes later in the plot, but enhances the story line by causing a major rift between the lead couple who struggle to understand their sexual appetites. Fans will enjoy this heated historical because the conflict comes from within the relationship between Colin and Fern even before Reston arrives and amplifies the already existing issues.

Harriet Klausner

Thigh High-Christina Dodd

Thigh High
Christina Dodd
Signet, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451223371

In Philadelphia, Jeremiah "Mac" MacNaught is stunned by the behavior of his always professional investigator into the Beaded Bandits robberies of the New Orleans branches of his Premier Central Bank during Mardi Gras. The staid Reed seems full of life as he explains he danced with the prime suspect Ionessa Dahl, who works at the bank and whose family has lived at renowned Dahl House for generations. Arrogant that he will never fall for the Dahl party life that he believes his banks bankroll, Mac assumes this Nessa who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Emery school of business is the brains behind the thefts. Obsessed he travels to Philadelphia to prove his theory.

Nessa Dahl made one error while working at the Premier Central Bank, but hopes that her dedication, hard work, and success at her job will overcome that indiscretion leading to a promotion. Mac goes undercover masquerading as an insurance investigator. However, when they meet during Mardi Gras, he is totally under her spell and that of her zany aunts, who live with her. Their parties are the in place to be, but Mac's fixation has changed radically as he wants Nessa as his, but fears when she learns who he is she will send him home alone.

This zany New Orleans frolic is a humorous over the top wild spin of the Big Easy starring two likable protagonists. Interestingly he has honesty at the top of what makes a good person list and she has trust at the top of hers; ergo the truth may set you free, but separately in this case except her matchmaking eccentric aunts will not allow that to happen. Fans will enjoy Christine Dodd’s amusing romantic dance around New Orleans.

Harriet Klausner

House of Whispers-Margaret Lucke

House of Whispers
Margaret Lucke
Juno, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780809571581

After she catches her husband in bed with another woman, Claire Scanlon starts divorce proceedings and returns to her California hometown where she quickly shares a home with her best friend Lindsay. She obtains a realtor position with Golden Gate properties. Because she is late on her first day on the job, her boss makes her compete with another newbie Avery for the LeGrande listing. The seller Ben Grant will select the realtor of record after he meets the rivals and gets their opinions on how to show the house.

The house has a dark past because the last tenants were murdered there by their son who turned his gun on himself and committed suicide. Claire smells blood when she enters the abode and hears a voice whispering. She next sees something out of the corner of her eye. Claire is shook to her bone marrow, but Ben picks her to show the house because she will know how the other potential buyers will feel. Claire and Ben become romantically involved. She goes to the house and picks up vibes that a fifth person was there during the murder-suicide. In spite of her sudden paranormal skills, Claire understands she has no mundane proof that the real killer got away with mass murder.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS is a fascinating blending of romance, mystery and the paranormal. Every few chapters, the ghost talks to herself wishing she could communicate more directly with Claire so that the truth becomes known about her parents, her brother and her. Claire’s reactions to what her senses find seem right as she goes from doubter to questioner to believer. Margaret Lucke provides an entertaining haunted house whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

13 BULLETS-David Wellington

David Wellington
Crown Three Rivers, May 2007, $13.95
ISBN: 0307381439

In 1983 US Marshall Special Deputy Jameson Arkeley ended the vampire feeding frenzy killing all but one and almost dying in the war; most people feel safe as officially all of the once thought of as supernatural beasts are reported dead. However, because of laws intended to provide justice to mortals, the sole surviving blood sucker Justinia Malvern resides on life support as a guinea pig for scientific investigation in a remote Pennsylvania asylum.

Now two decades later, Pennsylvania state trooper Laura Caxton reports some weird homicides that bring Arkeley back on the scene. He knows vampires killed the victims and assumes somehow Justinia has "offspring" planning to free their queen once they are powerful enough to do so. He takes over the investigation with Laura assigned to assist him. They must follow the blood trail to the lair of Justinia's minion to exterminate them before they can bring blood to resuscitate their leader.

This ultra-gory vampire police procedural is pure action on action as David Wellington never slows down even to bite a victim. The story line is filled with twists that at times seem too jarring especially a final spin that sets up the next encounter, but also keeps the audience alert. However, the key to this refreshing thriller is the relationship between the vampire hunter and the state trooper as no romance, no best pals, nor any Gandalf-Frodo affinity occur; instead he is an abusive arrogant ahole and she hates having to take orders from this know it all bully. With a nod to his zombie Monster Island trilogy, Mr. Wellington returns the vampire lgend to its bloodiest veins.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fully Engaged-Abby Gaines

Fully Engaged
Abby Gaines
Harlequin NASCAR, Mar 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373217878

Public Relations Specialist Sandra Jacobs struggles to satisfy her unimpressable client, Gideon Taney, owner of Taney Motorsports as she needs this job, but so far nothing has worked. When his NASCAR driver Will Branch fails to arrive at Olivia Winton Show where he was to be the guest of honor, three cups of coffee does not abate the trepidations she feels when Taney arrives. Someone must take the fall for this embarrassing debacle on the top breakfast morning TV show so Taney fires Jacobs.

Sandra knows how much she needs this client to pay for her father’s Alzheimer’s medical care so she refuses to slink away. Besides she feels strongly she did everything right as she had worked hard to obtain this coup; it was not her fault that Will pulled his DNF (did not finish). As she struggles to stay afloat, bossy Gideon is impressed with her fortitude, which soon turns to love.

Readers will be FULLY ENGAGED with this fine NASCAR romance due to the strong relationships between the lead couple and within her family. The actual strength of the tale is the contrast between the seriousness of her father’s mental fading away vs. the humor of the relationship between the Motor Medias Group member and her client. Abby Gaines provides a wonderful mostly off track romance.

Harriet Klausner

Truth and Consequences-Bethany Campbell

Truth and Consequences
Bethany Campbell
Harlequin NASCAR, Mar 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373217861

Penny Branch has not told her husband Craig why; only that it is over. She quits modeling and kicks him out of their condo while informing him she is filing for divorce. Although she loves her soon to be ex spouse, she cannot even tell him her secrets that are driving her from him. Even her loving mother in Dallas begs her to explain why as she thought they were the perfect couple, but Penny refuses to say anything.

Craig wants his wife back as he loves her. However, her family has a bigger issue as her father, a business mogul who sponsors NASCAR since he has twin sons as drivers, fled to Switzerland, skipping Daytona, with millions of embezzled company funds. Feeling selfish and opportunistic, Craig is there for Penny because he wants to help her, but also he sees this as his last chance to reconcile with the woman he loves.

Although a tornado is one spin too many, readers will appreciate this deep look behind the scenes at an upstart newcomer family trying to break into the upper tier of NASCAR. The keys to this interesting second chance romance are the Branch family financial woes and Penny’s secret that has placed her relationship with Craig on the brink of crashing; something that only his niece Lilly can commiserate with. Fans will enjoy reading Bethany Campbell’s drive around the racing oval.

Harriet Klausner

i heart bloomberg-Melody Carlson

i heart bloomberg
Melody Carlson
David C. Cook, Apr 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781589191044

Half-Hawaiian Lelani Porter, white Christian Megan Abernathy and Hispanic Anna Mendez are thinking of renting rooms at 86 Bloomberg Place. However, each expected a "luxurious" house based on the advertisement of owner Kendall Weis, but 86 Bloomberg Place is more a fixer upper. Kendall barters with them; and they agree to rent when she reduces their rent in return for helping renovate the home.

Kendall turns out to be a lunatic with enough issues to fill an abnormal psychology class. The three renters consider moving out, but each decides to remain for now as their previous arrangements remain a motivation to stay and they even pledge to be nice to their neurotic landlady.

The concept is fascinating as each of the four females has strong reasons to make their arrangement at 86 Bloomberg Place work. The characters are solid and seem fully developed although Kendall’s psychological issues are overwhelming as there are too many for the audience (or the renters) to cope with. Still the story line is fun to follow as relationships begin to form, but the climax is abrupt and nothing important resolved as if this opening tale was to introduce the cast to the audience while affirming the importance of friendship.

Harriet Klausner

Hokus Pokus- Fern Michaels

Hokus Pokus
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9781420101850

The magnificent seven who make up the Sisterhood have been forced into luxurious exile in Barcelona as their merry escapades of exacting vengeance on men who done them wrong was so successful, law enforcement noticed. At the same time they enjoy their “vacation”, US Supreme Court Justice Pearl Barnes is being blackmailed by her odious former son-in-law Tyler Hughes. He threatens to expose her and her underground railroad she operates to transport women and children to safety from abusing men.

Pearl does not want to pay off this blackguard, but likes his concept of extortion so she contacts the Sisterhood and with a bit of blackmailing obtains their services. The septet knows they cannot just return to Americas as themselves as they will be arrested at customs. Instead, they must play HIDE AND SEEK knowing the FBI desires PAYBACK and Maggie’s former lover Ted Robinson wants SWEET REVENGE. They decide to impersonate the Australian G-String Girls.

The latest Sisterhood thriller is an amusing entry as the seven samurai sneak back into the States to cause mayhem. The story line is as always implausible but absolutely enjoyable as fans will once again root for these ladies to succeed in their newest wild endeavor. HOKUS POKUS is a zany over the top tale filled with action, mirth and mayhem.

Harriet Klausner

Mystery Writers of America Presents the Blue Religion: New Stories about Cops, Criminals, and the Chase

Mystery Writers of America Presents the Blue Religion: New Stories about Cops, Criminals, and the Chase
Edited by Michael Connolly
Little, Brown, Apr 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 9780316012515

These entertaining nineteen tales focus on the police procedural theme. However, as Mr. Connolly explains in his introduction, for the most part the entries concentrate on the “world of the cop” as the stories “explore the burden of the badge” more so than investigative procedures. The contributions run the gamut with a strong historical by Polly Nelson to the return of Harry Bosch to a retired cop and his wife running into trouble (T. Jefferson Parker’s “Skinhead Central). There are no clinkers yet the range is vast from a dark tale of a selected amnesiac (“Such a Lucky, Pretty Girl: by Persia Walker) to amusingly light (Jon Breen’s "Serial Killer"). All are excellent, especially insightful is Paul Guyton’s tense "What a Wonderful World" that proves a short story can contain fully developed characters; an apropos title along with Alafair Burke’s “Winning” as this anthology is a wonderful look at individual members of the Blue Religion special congregation.

Harriet Klausner

People of the Weeping Eye-W. Michael Gear and Kathleen Gear

People of the Weeping Eye
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
Forge, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765314383

Almost a millennium ago, an advanced civilization existed on what is now the Moundsville section of Alabama. Split Sky City had one thousand inhabitants with giant palisades and mounds built as a gate to protect the citizens. Like suburbs, additional villages were located nearby along the river and occasionally one tribe conquered another. Alligator Town has been attacked and the Chief Clan of the Sky People avenges them with a daring raid.

While this is transpiring, Trader, who left the city after killing his brother, also left behind the woman he loves. He becomes a Trader journeying far and wide seeing things few men have ever observed. In one village, he hits the mother lode of copper, and meets Old White also known as Seeker. Old White also left the city under a cloud; he too became a Trader reaching the Aztec Civilization in the south and the icy tundra in the north. His dreams led him to Two Petals, a powerful mystic, who sees and acts the opposite way of most people. Seeker is going home with Two Petals to redress an old wrong. Trader joins them because the Power moves him to help prevent a catastrophe from happening.

This book ends with a cliffhanger as the tale of Trader, Seeker, and Two Petals will continue in the next First North Americans saga People of the Thunder. Once again the Gears bring alive an ancient North American civilization this time showing somewhat how the Moundsville tribes and the people near the head of the Mississippi lived based on archeological historical information. The research is impeccable but does not overwhelm the story as the key characters are superbly developed especially when they undergo trials and tribulations. Although no climax occurs, fans of the series and those of Jean Auel will relish the vivid details of the PEOPLE OF THE WEEPING EYE.

Harriet Klausner

The Beast in Him-Shelly Laurenston

The Beast in Him
Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava, Apr 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758220370

In Smithtown, Tennessee, werewolf Bobby Ray Smith always protects wild dog Jessie Ann Ward from his sister and her pack. As he is about to join the navy, he wants to kiss Jessie Ann, but controls himself as he knows that once started he will not be able to stop and neither has sexual protection. Jessie Ann is mortified when he seemingly rejects her.

Sixteen years later in New York former SEALs Smitty and his partner were-lion Mace Llewellyn run a security firm. They are currently providing protection to a wild dog pack of computer geeks, Kuznetson Security Systems. The CEO and alpha dog turns out to be Jessie Ann. She pretends she does not remember much about Smitty, who is upset by her action and subsequent behavior towards him. Smitty and Jessie go for coffee where he tells her she is afraid because she wants him. Jessie says she hates him.

Jessie sees Walt Wilson, a cousin to the notorious Smith clan. He means trouble for her pack as his teenage daughter Kristin and her mother Maylin are part of the group. He never cared about them before so she knows he wants something besides Kristin. As she hides how much she loves Smitty from him, he works on keeping her safe and making her his, but fears wildly marking her as a wolf is so much bigger than a dog.

The sequel to THE MANE EVENT affirms that in the Laurenston world, the various breeds of shapeshifters come across as genuine. The lead couple is a nice pairing as both are likable protagonists who have a misinterpreted history, a confusing present, and a potential future as soulmates. Although the climax is too soft, fans will enjoy this lighthearted amusing paranormal second chance at love.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Winding Ways Quilt- Jennifer Chiaverini

The Winding Ways Quilt
Jennifer Chiaverini
Simon & Schuster, Apr 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781410403711

The Elm Street Quilters camp is about to reopen and participants eagerly hope to learn more about their craft and meet old friends and make new ones. This year’s opening is bittersweet because some of the founding members are leaving.

Judy wouldn’t leave for anything less than a tenure position at U of Penn and her husband is getting a job at the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is a time for new beginning for pregnant Sara and her husband Matt. Bonnie lost her store Grandmother’s Attic when some thugs destroyed it beyond repair and her husband changed the numbers to their accounts and the locks to their home. Summer who is also one of the founders is taking her doctorate at the University of Chicago. It is time for the Elm Street Quilters to have welcomes and farewells to characters who are coming and leaving.

The characters are fully developed and likable especially bringing in two new faculty members to replace departing instructors adds freshness to the saga. However, the story line feels very similar to previous tales with flashbacks overly employed and there are very little interactions between the main characters as the tale is more of a series of vignettes. Still fans will want to say goodbye to leaving quilters and welcome new members.

Harriet Klausner

Savage Flames-Cassie Edwards

Savage Flames
Cassie Edwards
Leisure, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843958775

In 1851 in Florida Lavinia Price lives a perfect life with a loving adoring husband who she thinks the world of and a wonderful daughter. Their plantation home is beautiful and shows their affluence without being gaudy.

One day, Lavinia notices a white cat in a tree on their plantation; before she can blink the feline seems to change into a green-eyed Indian; and before a second blink she sees an empty tree. She has no time to be shook by what she saw because immediately afterward her beloved husband is killed. Her brother-in-law Hiram coveted what his late sibling had, the plantation and Lavinia; he schemes to force the grieving widow into marrying him. However when her daughter vanishes into the nearby Everglades, Lavinia follows. Meanwhile the green-eyed Seminole who watched her from her tree quietly and safely guides the two female Prices to his people’s legendary but secret camp on Mystic Island. Lavinia falls in love with this majestic warrior and his tribe while Hiram, using the soldiers who are forcing Indians onto the reservations, sets out to make her his whether she wants that or not.

As is typical of the Cassie Edwards’ Indian romances a brave morally upright white female, an ethically courageous Indian male and an evil white male form the classic Edwards’ triangle. However, also as always with a Ms. Edwards’ historical, SAVAGE FLAMES is an entertaining tale that shines a light on a Seminole tribe refusing to live on a reservation; opting instead to hide and reside in the swamps. Once again Ms. Edwards provides her fans with a delightful nineteenth century story.

Harriet Klausner

Without a Trace- Sandra K. Moore

Without a Trace
Sandra K. Moore
Silhouette Athena Force, Mar 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373389797

Delphi, whom she has never met, warned the Athena Academy for the Advancement of Women graduates that Arachne was kidnapping alumni. One of them Coast Guard Lieutenant Nikki Bustillo heeds the warning alertly watching her crewmates just in case. She loves her job working drug interdiction as she has the DNA enhanced ability to “smell trouble in a man’s sweat”.

After stopping a shrimp boat containing harshly treated refugees trying to sneak into the States, Nikki receives an encrypted message from Athena’s Delphi. She checks with her friend Two-Finger Jimmy who provides her information on a ship owned by S.H.A. leaving Miami for Hong Kong allegedly carrying textiles. Nikki believes they are carting human cargo. She heads to Hong Kong where she works with local police detective Johnny Zhao. However, as they find themselves in deep trouble from a powerful adversary with international criminal connections, they are attracted to one another, but Nikki wants his respect while Johnny needs her safe after his previous contact was murdered.

The latest Athena Academy alumni adventure is a superb romantic suspense thriller that focuses on human trafficking. The story line is fast-paced and the lead couple a strong pairing who understands mission supersedes love. Although I am bias when it comes to this consistently entertaining series, newcomers will see why as Sandra K. Moore provides a great entry in a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Mirror's Edge-Steven Sidor

The Mirror's Edge
Steven Sidor
St. Martin's, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312354138

Independent reporter Jase Deering believes it was the disappearance of his brother Mathias who at twelve years old walked into the wintry woods and never came safely home. Now as one year has passed since the kidnapping of two-year-old twins Liam and Shane Boyle, Jase and his blind girlfriend Robyn Matchfrost decide to investigate what the police have classified as a cold case.

The Chicago police detectives who worked the official inquiry assist Jase and Robyn as much as they can as they want closure almost as much as the victims’ parents crave it. The journalist team interviews the Boyle former nanny who lives in total abject fear and shows them the term “mirrorrorrim” that the abductor etched on her skin. That message leads Jase and Robyn to black arts cult leader Aubrey Hart Morick, who believed strongly in human sacrifice; however Morick was dead long before the snatch occurred. Jase turns to Aubrey’s offspring and soon uncovers disturbing information that makes him wonder if the son is a chip off the evil father’s block. Finding the twins and proof remain elusive as the years go by with Jase now a solo act digging deeper and deeper into the cult and the supernatural. He knows he is too late for the boys and for himself, but obsessively keeps drilling deeper in search of the truth

This is a one-sitting superb but upsetting suspense tale (keep the antacid tablets handy) that plays out like an investigative thriller, but is much frighteningly more. Readers will follow every disconcerting twist with macabre fascination as Steven Sidor keeps the audience mesmerized with what is going on especially in the obsessed mind of Jase. You will not sleep well thinking about what really happened in this unforgettable novel.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Ones-Christopher Golden

The Lost Ones
Christopher Golden
Bantam, April 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553383287

Oliver Bascombe has learned so much about the creatures of legend since that night Jack Frost busted into his Maine home (see THE MYTH HUNTERS) and the Sandman abducted his sister Colette (see THE BORDERKIND). The American attorney has crossed the Veil several times to and from the Two-Kingdoms mostly to save his sister, but has learned of an interesting prophesy that vaguely implies earthlings saving this realm; could the Bascombe siblings be the saviors?

However, when the sly Atlantans destroy the peace between Euphrasia and Yucatazca, Oliver realizes he must prevent Armageddon. He blunders when he is fooled into using the sword of Euphrasia and kills the ruler of Yucatazca. As the doomsday clock ticks down, Oliver frees himself, Collette, and his fiancée Juliana Whitney from the Yucatazca royal dungeon. Whereas Collette and Frost journey to Euphrasia to reason with Hunyadito, Oliver and Juliana beg the indifferent legends of the Two-Kingdoms to save the realms as no one will remember them if they fail to act. However, no longer one to sit idly on the sidelines with cold feet, Oliver attacks Atlantis bringing the hostilities to the place that started the fiasco.

Although like in most if not all (can’t think of an exception) quest fantasies, readers know what to expect, but will still be enthralled by the conclusion to the Veil trilogy as this is a golden winner. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the Maine siblings use Yankee know-how and some magic to try to save the day. Fantasy fans will appreciate this fun finish to a fine saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Golden Rose-Kathleen Bryan

The Golden Rose
Kathleen Bryan
Tor, Mar 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765313294

The Duchess of Quitaine Averil knows it is time to fulfill her promise that she made to her uncle last year. She pledged to the traitorous malevolent bachelor King Clodovec that she would come to his court in Lutrec within a year to select who will sire the heir to the Kingdom of Lys with her. She made that vow to keep Clodovec from destroying the people of her duchy.

The depressed Averil begins her quest knowing her soulmate and magecraft bondmate is commoner Gereint, who she can never marry. However, Averil finds some hope when she meets opponents of the monarch who believe in the Serpent God of Chaos like the king does, but not to release this deity from his incantation incarceration. She also learns that her seditious uncle is planning to do to the Ladies of the Isle what he did to the Orders of the Knight. She knows he must be stopped with her only hope residing with Wild Magic; that means introducing chaos and anarchy by finding a way to void the marital laws of nobility to marry Gereint so besides their love they can craft the mystical counterpoint to the king.

The second War between Order and Chaos tale (see THE SERPENT AND THE ROSE) is a terrific fantasy suspense thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seats from the moment Averil knows it’s time and never slows down until the cliffhanger sets up the next entry. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced, but it is Averil and Gereint’s forbidden relationship that makes this saga excellent as the kingdom’s laws forbid their marriage yet they need to bond in holy matrimony to raise the Wild Magic in order to save the people. Although this novel stands alone, it behooves readers to obtain the first stupendous story as that explains how Kathleen Bryant got us to this magnificent point.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Spare Wife-Alex Witchel

The Spare Wife
Alex Witchel
Knopf, Feb 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9781400041497

After graduating high school in Harding, South Carolina Ponce Porter heeded Sinatra’s advice by coming to Manhattan to make it as a model. Instead the teen married wealthy TV producer Lee Morris, who was older than her parents. Finding marriage to a man four decades older than her boring, Ponce went to NYU and law school.

Over two decades later, the fortyish Ponce is a wealthy widow known by her socialite friends as "THE SPARE WIFE" as she is a companion to husbands at sports galas and to their wives at charity events. Everyone trusts the popular Ponce. However, in Chicago Boothby's Review wannabe reporter Babette Steele catches Ponce kissing happily married fertility Dr. Neil Grossman. Whereas Babette feels she has the ticket into journalism. Ponce and her friends begin a discrediting campaign to spin the story by destroying the aspirant and the other jealous media sharks trying to devour their affluent superiors.

Ponce and her social set prove that President Bush is right that the economy must have a strong base affirmed by the excess hedonistic extravagance in which one would expect this crowd to answer health care issues with “Let them eat cake”. Alex Witchel goes deep into the soul of the title character, ironically a shallow person socializing with her superficial friends. Readers will enjoy this powerful character study of the ultra elite whose earmarked connections would be the envy of lofty politicians.

Harriet Klausner

Plenty Good Room-Cheri Paris Edwards

Plenty Good Room
Cheri Paris Edwards
Walk Worthy, Jun 2007, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446699372

In Springfield, Illinois caring professional Tamara Britton works diligently at her job in the Child Protective Unit’s Stabilization Section of Care for Kids Agency. However, she hides from her friends, peers and clients her desire to learn about her own roots behind a façade of control. Her world is nuked when her friend field worker Lynnette Moore asks her to take in fourteen year old runaway Miss Sienna “mouthy” Larson.

The out of control teen misbehaves constantly leaving Tamara with a big headache as to what to do with the recalcitrant sassy “Little Miss Thang”. She also finds the “housepitality” border gets Tamara to finally look into her own past as the kid has hammered at her protective barrier forcing the anger and discontent of the adult to surface. Tamara is at a crossroads of letting go or rebuilding her battlement.

This is a strong look at the dangerous life of a teen runaway as Sienna steals the show with her mouth that never rests although Tamara is the fully developed star. The story line is driven by their relationship but changing perspectives jolts the plot. Still readers will enjoy this fine inspirational tale as Sienna in her street sass style teaches Tamara that caring for someone else and oneself is not only okay but encouraged by the Lord.

Harriet Klausner

Virgins and Martyrs-E. L. Merkel

Virgins and Martyrs
E. L. Merkel
Five Star, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146350

In Spanish Bay, Florida, a powerful bomb devastates a family planning clinic that provides abortions; two are dead. At the moment local detective Beaulieu leads the investigation at least until the FBI arrives. He is proud that he found a second bomb in a car before that could explode. However, he miscalculates the cunning of the terrorist as a third bomb ignites killing police detective Tara Kinsey and severely injuring her partner Aria Quynn.

The police and FBI suspect sniper Bobby Teasdale who admits on the Centurions of the Lord website that he is hunting twenty-seven abortion-providers in northwest Florida. However, Federal prosecutor Howard Zhang-mei and FBI agent Moira Osterholm encourage Aria to investigate who killed her partner. After an ugly incident with TV reporter Jack Reason at Tara’s funeral, they team up following clues that take them to thirteen year old Maddie Shepard who has had stomata cuts and godly visions that lead back to the Centurions.

VIRGINS AND MARTYRS may star a cop, but is more an urban noir than a police procedural. Aria is terrific as she faces down men and women including verbally pounding Jack and “bi*ch slapping a big ex-con as she understands no man will report police brutality against a female cop who physically over-powered them. With a great final spin that ties up the loose ends, fans will enjoy tough ass Aria’s unofficial investigation into who killed her partner.

Harriet Klausner

Judas Horse-April Smith

Judas Horse
April Smith
Knopf, Feb 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9781400042050

Seven months ago, FBI Special Agent Ana Grey was forced to shoot "a crazed detective on a suicide mission". Her badge and weapon was confiscated as is normal procedure while the Office of Professional Responsibility works with the agent on administrative leave to cope with the psychological trauma of a life changing incident; they determine when an agent returns to duty. When the agent does another agent escorts them back to the office. For April that was her friend Steve Crawford.

Soon afterward he vanished leaving the insomniac April with another reason not to sleep. Now Steve’s remains was found scattered by a hiker on Oregon's Cascade Mountains; apparently a victim of a homemade bomb. Ana goes undercover to infiltrate the anarchist most likely to have perpetrated the execution, Free the Animals (FAN) so as to obtain evidence of who killed Steve and how big of terrorist threat this group is. She quickly realizes that former FBI agent Dan “Allfather” Stone has something horrific in mind that he dubs "the Big One".

The third April Smith FBI thriller (see GOOD MORNING, KILLER and NORTH OF MONTANA) is a fabulous tale in which the heroine has a difficult task to obtain information re The Big One while staying alive. The difficulty in what she does is simply that the FAN members distrust everyone even themselves; as Stone especially knows the Feds will be back with a new infiltrator now that they have learned what happened to Crawford. In this milieu of obsessive behavior Ana remains calm as she deals with brilliant lunatics over the edge.

Harriet Klausner

No Control-Shannon K Butcher

No Control
Shannon K Butcher
Forever, Feb 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446618663

Having survived a terrorist kidnapping in Armenia in which everyone else was killed, she had prayed that she would join them. Eighteen months later, not feeling safe even in her home in Columbia, Missouri, Lana Hancock suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, euphoria for being alive, and a horrific case of survivor's guilt. The nightmares make it impossible for her to sleep. Worse one of the evil abductors, Miles Gentry, appears in each of her horrific dreams as he saved her life but failed to prevent torture or keep the others alive.

Unbeknownst to Lana, Miles is actually undercover Delta Force operative Caleb Stone, who struggled to keep his identity concealed for fear of crippling his mission when all he wanted to do was rescue her. He would like to comfort her, but feels the best thing for Lana is to never see him again. However, the CIA believes she might be a target of the terrorist cell wanting to complete the job; Caleb is assigned to keep her safe; filled with guilt for allowing her to be battered, he vows to die if necessary to insure she is not harmed by these monsters.

Romantic suspense fans will have NO REGRETS after reading Shannon K. Butcher’s action-packed NO CONTROL due to the lead couple whose guilt complexes supersedes rational thought. Both are fascinating characters struggling to cope with the memories of that ugly incident; however, readers will especially find Miles interesting as he has regrets for not interceding earlier even though he knows logically it would have destroyed the mission. He keeps asking himself esoteric questions like whether freedom is a sham when innocent pawns are sacrificed for the common good. Fans will relish this strong character driven thriller as Miles has a second chance but he also knows he can never make up for what he allowed to happen to the woman he loves.

Harriet Klausner

Staked-J.F. Lewis

J.F. Lewis
Pocket, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9781416547808

In Void City Eric the vampire cannot remember the last time had so much trouble as he has had over the past few days. It is not that his blood sustenance has turned sour, but he has had some bouts of mini amnesia and suffers apparent blackouts. Roger his business partner at the Demon Heart Strip Club acts strangely as if he wants more; and Eric fears he may owe Police Captain Stacey an exorbitant “Fang Fee” to cover his recent unknown crimes. His human girlfriend Tabitha has begged him to turn her; something he has been hesitant to perform, but mental erosion sets in as the insistent nagging persuades him to change her; only to have her dump him once her new teeth are set; besides her sister seems cuter.

However, Eric has even bigger problems as he had an incident with a werewolf pack that kill his Mustang and capture him, but immediately afterward turn up dead in Orchard Park with the evidence affirming that a vampire killed them. He knows he is being framed but does not know why or who. The dead lycans’ pack led by the father of one of the deceased, is outraged by the affront. Evangelical William the Alpha sends his minion after Eric.

STAKED is a thrilling action-packed urban fantasy starring a predatory fall guy who finds everyone in his circle seemingly using him for personal gain. The story line is filled with action as Eric does what vampires do to stay alive while battling vicious werewolves, magical assaults; clever blood suckers, bribing cops, and the most dangerous species of all: human females; all in a night’s bite. Fans will appreciate J.F. Lewis’ fine opening tour of Void City where even the undead wonder if you are better off dead.

Harriet Klausner

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana-Anne Rice

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana
Anne Rice
Knopf, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781400043521

Rumors have always abounded that Yeshua bar Joseph was miraculously a virgin birth child. However, he never gave that a second thought as he faithfully attends synagogue every Sabbath just like his brother James and everyone else in the village of Nazareth. However, recently Yeshua has had emotional issues between his religious calling and his love for a kinswoman. He knows what he must do, but is reluctant to embrace it as he sadly realizes he is about to lose his youth though he accepts the cause is worth the cost. On the “Road to Cana” he changes water to wine at the family wedding of Reuben and Avigail. Three years later Yeshua starts preaching the people must return to God. He performs miracles as he walks the path that the Lord has assigned to him.

The first Christ the Lord tale (see OUT OF EGYPT) was a strong opening story, but added little poetic license to the gaps of what is already known of Jesus. THE ROAD TO CANA is much deeper and better as Anne Rice provides an insightful look at Yeshua that miraculously makes him human as he covets love and feels loneliness with his increasing understanding of the heavenly mission bestowed on him. He displays human feelings yet Godly responsibilities that converge at the wedding where a family dispute has led to unhappiness at a moment that all should be rejoicing.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 22, 2008

How To Propose To A Prince-Kathryn Caskie

How To Propose To A Prince
Kathryn Caskie
Avon, Mar 2008
ISBN: 9780061124877

With her two sisters married (see Mary’s tale - HOW TO SEDUCE A DUKE and Anne’s saga - HOW TO ENGAGE AN EARL). the youngest of the Royle sisters, Elizabeth dreams of marrying a prince; nothing less will do for her. She even dreams of the royal she will marry. When she actually sees the royal of her dreams for the first time Elizabeth struggles to keep her deportment especially when she learns her hunk is Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield.

However, Elizabeth is taken aback when she learns Leopold is intended for the Princess of Wales. Hoping for a miracle, Elizabeth obtains a position as a lady in waiting for Princess Charlotte. As she tries to get close to her dream husband, Elizabeth begins to believe something is not right. She plans to find out what secret Prince Leopold is hiding.

This is a terrific ending to the Royle Regency romances as Elizabeth’s plan is unusual and seemingly insane yet is clever as it allows her entry into the playing field. Fans will appreciate Kathryn Caskie’s superb tale filled with historical persona and tidbits that bring the early nineteenth century to life; plausible twists (especially a final one) that add depth to the plot; amateur sleuthing that enables the audience to understand the heroine’s strength of conviction; and a fun romance.

Harriet Klausner

Empress of Asia-Adam Lewis Schroeder

Empress of Asia
Adam Lewis Schroeder
Dunne, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312376406

Harry Winslow is stunned when his wife Lily on her death bed at St. Paul Hospital informs him that his French World War II buddy Michel Ney was still alive; Harry had thought Michel had died several years ago. She gives him an address and unanswered questions like how did she know this man whom he assumed she never met. His quest to meet up with the Frenchman who saved his life back in 1942 takes him to Kanchaburi Province, Thailand.

On his quest Harry reflects back to his days as a Canadian marine in Singapore. He met, married and lost Lily there in one day when the Japanese invaded the island and captured him as a prisoner of war. He went to a Japanese prison camp where he met Michel. They became friends until the Japanese separated them. He later learned Michel died trying to escape internment. After the war ended, Harry finds Lily, freed form a women’s prison, but she hid a dark disturbing secret from her husband.

EMPRESS OF ASIA is a fascinating look at the negative impact of war on the lives of people even decades after the conflict is over. The story line is superb when it focuses on the three main characters in the present and during WW II. However, there is an overwhelming sense of place due to overwritten but picturesque descriptions of geography. Still filled with excitement, readers will appreciate Adam Lewis Schroeder’s fine tale that armchair cheerleaders insisting the surge is working should read to understand the long term side effects of war on the soldiers (and their families).

Harriet Klausner

The Law Of Second Chances-James Sheehan

The Law Of Second Chances
James Sheehan
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312366308

Defending insurance companies against claimants made attorney Jack Tobin wealthy, but unsatisfied. He gave up that practice to defend death row inmates in Florida as he totally opposes capital punishment.

Seventeen years ago, poor black Henry Wilson was convicted of murdering a drug dealer; Jack believes he is innocent and sets out to prove his assertion. He also decides to represent Benny Avrile, who has a long criminal record and on a robbery that turned ugly allegedly shot and killed oil mogul Carl Robertson; the case against him is air tight with no lawyer wanting to go near it. At the same that Jack steps in to represent Benny in a death sentence case that he knows will take up much of his time and have an emotional cost, he is also is distraught that his wife Pat is suffering from a life-threatening illness.

With more courtroom time than Jack’s first tale (see THE MAYOR OF LEXINGTON AVENUE), THE LAW OF SECOND CHANCES is an excellent legal thriller due the protagonist’s deliberations on life and law; although at times he slows the pace with flashbacks to growing up in 1950s-1960s New York. Still it is the hero’s balancing his emotions and time to defend capital punishment sure shot losers with the needs of his wife and (himself) that make this a terrific legal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Amateur Spy-Dan Fesperman

The Amateur Spy
Dan Fesperman
Knopf, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781400044672

After years working in the world’s most dangerous spots as an aid worker, fifty-five year old Freeman Lockhart retires. He and his thirty-something Bosnian spouse Mila take residence on the island of Karos in the Aegean Sea.

However, on their very first night, three home invaders abduct Freeman. They demand he do their bidding. He is to go to Jordon to spy on a former aid co-worker Omar al-Baroody. If he refuses, they will publicly destroy him and his wife by revealing his darkest secret involving his spouse when they worked in Africa. Stunned, he travels to Amman while in Washington, D.C. Dr. Abbas Rahim plans a terrorist attack that ties back to Freeman’s Jordanian mission.

THE AMATEUR SPY is a superb espionage thriller and the audience will show their appreciation by reading it in one entranced sitting. Freeman is terrific as the title character blackmailed into a scenario that is out of his skill level but failure is unacceptable as he knows the price. Fans will sympathize and root for him while watching him bungle his way through a dangerous mission in which he knows no matter what he does someone will die.

Harriet Klausner

The Blood Ballad-Rett MacPherson

The Blood Ballad
Rett MacPherson
St. Martin's, Feb 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312362225

New Kassell, Missouri genealogist Torie O'Shea uncovers some fascinating information re her fiddler grandfather, John Robert Keith. He apparently had ties to the 1930s regionally popular country band Morgan Family Players. Glen Morgan, the grandson of band member Scott Morgan, informs Torie that he has found a tape that implies his grandfather claimed authorship of songs that apparently her grandfather wrote.

While on a bird watching expedition, Torie notices someone dump what turns out to be the corpse of Clifton Weaver, another Morgan grandson. She already rules out coincidence and her opinion is affirmed when a CD arrives apparently sent by Weaver before he died with someone singing the tune of a murder confession by Belle Morgan, who vanished many years ago. Torie follows the song’s clues that take her to Belle's body. Starting to fear what else will fall out of the family trees, Torie keeps on shaking the branches.

This is a fun entry in a fine series (see THICKER THAN WATER) as Torie learns a lot about the apparently cutthroat Depression music industry in the Ozarks as much as the modern day murder mystery while she follows the genealogical paths which converge on a contemporary killer. Although not quite as exciting as her past escapades in BLOOD RELATIONS investigations, cozy readers still will appreciate Torie’s latest genealogy adventures as a murderer makes research dangerous.

Harriet Klausner

Making Over Mr. Right-Judi McCoy

Making Over Mr. Right
Judi McCoy
Avon, Mar 2008
ISBN: 9780061341434

In New York successful businessman Theo Maragos is tall, dark, and a geek who needs to change his image before he appears in a national magazine. Zeus’ daughter Zoe, the Muse of Beauty, is assigned the ask of making him over; Zoe knows what failure means as her dad will not tolerate such a fiasco on her part or for that matter her two sisters, Kyra (see ALMOST A GODDESS) and Chloe (ONE NIGHT WITH A GODDESS) who have their own Herculean tasks to contend with.

Her plan is to start with the removal of the brainy wire glasses so that his blue eyes shine bright even if he cannot see. Then there is the need to remove the hair from the face so his dimples can shine bright. Then there are his clothes though Zoe is not sure she wants to put garb on that hunk of a body. As Zoe and Theo fall in love, she worries how her father will react to her wanting more than a simple tryst with a mortal. Still she hides her feelings out of fear that her dad might take out his renowned anger on her beloved. Theo assumes Zoe has her reasons for not telling him how she feels about him, but he wants her and plans to make her his one geek move at a time.

MAKING OVER MR. RIGHT is a fabulous ending to the Zeus offspring romantic trilogy. As with her siblings’ tales, Zoe knows the rules of engagement include no falling in love with a mortal and the price of failure so she muses over what to do about her heart vs. her father’s wrath. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted whimsical romantic fantasy as the Muse of Beauty and a computer geek fall in love to the consternation of Theo’s potential father-in-law.

Harriet Klausner

Galaxy Blues-Allen Steele

Galaxy Blues
Allen Steele
Ace, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441015641

Being caught helping his brother to pass his exams at the Space Academy by giving him the answers, Jules Truffaut is kicked out of Union Astronautica Space Fleet. For months he works towards one goal: to get airborne. He stows away on the spaceship headed for Coyote but he gets caught. He steals the shuttle and lands on the planet where he is arrested. He hoped to ask for asylum when he landed but instead he knows with the charges against him that the Chief Magistrate will deport him.

Before he goes in front of the judge, billionaire Morgan Goldstein visits Jules in his prison cell; the wealthy man offers a proportion to the prisoner. He gives Jules a chance to become a crew member of the Pride of Cucamonga en route to the Rho Coronae Borealis System in order to make a trade pact with the elder species the hjadd. If he agrees all charges will be dropped and he will receive asylum. He agrees to go on the mission.

When the crew reach their destination, a cultural misunderstanding turns disastrous. Jules and his mates take part on a dangerous mission that more than likely will mean their death, but correcting the blunder is critical. If they succeed the hjadd will reconsider allowing humanity into the Talus, an organization of highly sentient races who exchange science and technological advances.

Set in the same universe as the Coyote trilogy, GALAXY BLUES is a rip roaring electrifying space opera in which humans are infants compared to the elder races. Readers will thoroughly enjoy learning about the hjadd and their strong unconscious belief in their superiority to the visiting barbaric mankind. Jules is an interesting antihero who tries to disapprove the hjadd perception that advanced technology equates to superior culture and species. Fans will appreciate his efforts.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Return Of The Rogue Donna Fletcher

Return Of The Rogue
Donna Fletcher
Avon, Mar 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061375439

In the late sixteenth century in Scotland, her abusive stepfather Calum Tannach arranges for Honora to wed the oldest son of Laird Sinclare, Artair. However, on their wedding day, Cavan Sinclaire, thought dead, crashes the ceremony. Calum realizes he is the rightful heir and demands he marry Honora. She knows he once saved her life when she was eight years old, but one look at her new betrothed leaves her fearful that this big man will be as brutal as her stepfather although his eyes twinkle with kindness.

Cavan knows his immediate need is to keep his people safe from raiders, but he will honor the wedding contract that states the eldest Sinclaire will marry Honora. Still although he believes she is a pretty lass; he will not allow her to interfere with his obsession to insure his clan’s safety. As passion turns to desire and desire to love, Cavan believes he is fortunate, but now must convince his wife they were intended for one another even as someone causes dissension, despair, and destruction.

Though typical of the historical highlander romance especially the return of the prodigal son, readers will appreciate this fine sixteenth century tale. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as neither is prepared to marry the other, but obligation (and contracts) supersede their desires; soon love supersedes all desires. Fans will appreciate the RETURN OF THE ROGUE as he understands his duty to his clan and to his wife while she proves his equal.

Harriet Klausner

Let Sleeping Rogues Lie-Sabrina Jeffries

Let Sleeping Rogues Lie
Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket, Mar 2008, $7.50
ISBN: 978141651515

Madeline Prescott is upset that her beloved father has become the laughing stock of the medical profession because he believes the use of nitrous oxide will relieve some of the pain of surgery. His daughter seeks a reputable scientist to prove her dad is correct. To achieve her goal she accepts a teaching position at Mrs. Harris's School for Young Ladies.

She also is realistic enough to know that society will ignore her as a mere female so she needs male assistance to achieve her objective. She asks Lord Anthony Dalton for his help; he agrees as he is fascinated by the female “scientist”. Madeline persuades Mrs. Harris to allow Anthony to teach a session on how to avoid a rake, but although she audits the class, she flunks as she is unscientifically attracted to him. To his amazement he reciprocates her feelings.

The School for Heiresses Regencies are consistently some of the besthistoricals on the market today (see ONLY A DUKE WILL DO and NEVER SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL). Although in many ways the lead couples are similar, Sabrina Jeffries finds a way to refresh them; for instance in this case the medical science angle. Thus readers obtain an entertaining battle of the sexes between a pleasure loving huggable male and a scientific minded beautiful woman.

Harriet Klausner

The Kiss-Sophia Nash

The Kiss
Sophia Nash
Avon, Mar 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061231377

In Cornwall as children Quinn Fortesque, Anthony Fortesque and Georgiana Wilde were best friends. One day Quinn left to marry someone else without warning and a heartbroken Georgiana wedded Anthony although she dreamed of being the wife of Quinn. On their wedding night, Anthony tragically died.

Quinn comes home to Penrose allegedly to inspect his estate, but instead he plans to uncover the root cause of a potential scandal that impacts his and Georgiana’s family. Georgiana expects he will dispossess her leaving her with no place to go. However, Quinn has come home not because he loathes Georgiana, but because he loves her and always has. Obtaining assistance from a merry widows group and his daughter, Quinn begins his campaign to win his beloved’s heart unaware he already has it as he always did.

This is an interesting historical romance starring two obstinate likable protagonists who have a second chance at love if they take that opportunity. The story line is fast-paced once the lead couple sees each other for the first time in fifteen years and never slows down. Although somewhat typical of the sub-genre, Sophia Nash’s strong characters especially the Wilde and Fortesque families make this a strong tale that will send new fans seeking the author’s previous work (see A DANGEROUS BEAUTY).

Harriet Klausner

What Was Lost- Catherine O'Flynn

What Was Lost
Catherine O'Flynn
Holt, Jul 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780805088335

In 1984 in the Birmingham, England area, ten years old orphan Kate Meaney, accompanied by her sidekick a stitched stuffed monkey pretends to be a private investigator. The preadolescent especially keeps an eye out for criminal activity in Green Oaks shopping center near her home. When she is not sleuthing, Kate spends time at the sweetshop next door to her home discussing music with twenty-two tears old Adrian, the son of the owner. Her grandmother who raises Kate directs her to take an exam to gain entrance to a boarding school. Adrian takes her there, but no one sees Kate again. The police suspect Adrian of murder as they cannot comprehend a friendship between the tweener and the adult, but have no evidence to prove their case. However, the neighborhood condemns Adrian forcing him to move away.

Two decades later on a CCTV monitor Green Oaks night shift security guard Kurt Jump notices a girl wandering seemingly lost holding a stuffed monkey. He rushes over to where he saw her, but no one is there. Not long after that Kurt mentions the girl with the monkey to Your Music store manager Lisa, Adrian’s sister. They begin a search for the girl as Lisa hopes to solve the disappearance of Kate that destroyed her family especially her forced exiled brother.

WHAT WAS LOST is a superb thriller that uses a mall, especially what happens outside the shops, as a terrific backdrop to a fascinating mystery. In many ways Green Oaks is a major character as the audience learns its economic impact on a blue collar neighborhood in which factory workers are forced to accept shop jobs at extremely diminished income; a subtle slap at the gurus who insist the economy is strong as everyone is working. The atmosphere of the non-shops is a part of the mall that is dark and gloomy at least through the surveillance cameras. With the mall playing a key role and Lisa and Kurt jumping into the cold case seeking the truth, the bottom line is fans will need to know the answer to the title question.

Harriet Klausner