Wednesday, April 30, 2008

She Always Wore Red-Angela Hunt

She Always Wore Red
Angela Hunt
Tyndale, May 2008, $13.99
ISBN 9781414311708

A former Chief of Staff to a US Senator, almost forty Jennifer Graham left DC for Mount Dora, Florida following an ugly divorce, accompanied by her two sons. She is attending mortuary school and has converted her family Victorian mansion into a place for her and the boys to live and as the Fairlawn Funeral Home. Since she is in training, elderly embalmer Gerald Huffman lives with them while overseeing the body dressing.

However, the change does not work out as smooth as Jennifer hoped for. Her son thirteen year old Clay has joined a team of shoplifting troublemakers and has been nasty at home to her and his brother. He is driving her to the end of her rope although she loves him and will keep on feeling that way regardless of what trouble he is in. However Jennifer also discovers she has a half-sister dominated by a fundamentalist stepfather whose beliefs make Jennifer wonder about her own as her faith in God is tested.

The sequel to DOESN’T SHE LOOK NATURAL is a deeper tale than the fine first Graham entry as issues of faith, race, divorce aftermath and teen peer presure are handled deftly while interwoven into a strong character driven story. Jennifer is a wonderful lead protagonist who left DC for smalltown Florida for her sake and that of her sons in order for them to start fresh; however the best laid plans of mice, women and Jennifer often go astray. Angela Hunt provides a poignant contemporary novel that in spite of the profound issues, frustrations and differences true maternal love is always there.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Time I Was Me-Cathy Lamb

The Last Time I Was Me
Cathy Lamb
Kensington, May 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758214638

Mourning the death of her mother, Jeanne Stewart is outraged to find out her boyfriend “Slick Dick” has been cheating on her. Irate Jeanne obtains revenge on her live in lover when she mixes peanut oil that he is allergic to with his condoms. His reaction is to sue her. With her personal life in tatters, her professional life melts also when she suffers a nervous breakdown.

Jeanne closes her mom’s Chicago home and taking a violin and a gold dolphin necklace her dad gave her just before he died, she leaves and heads to her brother’s home in Portland, Oregon stopping to have pancakes at the Opera Man’s café in Weltana. She begins her recuperation by signing onto an anger management class as required by the court. Running naked as the class requires, she stumbles but a kind man helps her. At her brother’s urging, Jeanne works on the PR campaign of a gubernatorial candidate; the man who rescued her when she fell running. The Slickster she left behind in the Midwest is considering a lawsuit.

THE LAST TIME I WAS ME is a charming character study of a grieving woman using a betrayal to find herself. The story line overall is fun to follow, but at times Jeanne turns chick lit chic responses that feel out of place for her. Still fans will cheer Jeanne on as she seeks to find her misplaced groove.

Harriet Klausner

The Madam Of Maple Court-Joan Elizabeth Lloyd

The Madam Of Maple Court
Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
Kensington, May 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758223722

When Dom DePalma suddenly dies he leaves his twenty something widow Pam with an exorbitant mortgage on their exclusive Maple Court mansion and other bills. Pam knows that if she is to continue to live her lavish lifestyle she enjoyed with her spouse, she needs to find a way to bring in money.

Chase Hobart, a married associate of Dom, suggests to Pam that she is a sex object he desires though he loves his wife Anna. He implies she should host special parties for visiting business moguls in which beautiful women offer distinctive services for a fee so that Club Fantasy allows her to continue to belong to the country club. In other words she would be madam to high price call girls catering to the rich and richer. Things work extraordinarily well for Pam, who is booked solid and her sex life is better than ever; however, she soon realizes someone is not euphoric by her cottage industry and she fears may make trouble for her.

This engaging lighthearted frolic is an enjoyable read as Pam turns her posh mansion Maple Court into a high class brothel so that ironically she can pay her mortgage on her home. Pam keeps the story together as the only fully developed character; readers will understand her motives as her hedonism is a refreshing change from the usual adjusting to a less income lifestyle. With the Governor Spitzer and Senator Vitters scenarios, Pam’s saga is relevant; however, the story line loses an opportunity to look deeply at what drives a person to prostitution to maintain their current social position. Instead the tale never takes itself seriously yet fans will enjoy Pam’s escapades as the Maple Court madam to the wealthy.

Harriet Klausner

The Moon in the Mango Tree-Pamela Binnings Ewen

The Moon in the Mango Tree
Pamela Binnings Ewen
B&H, May 2008, $15.99
ISBN 9780805447330

Not long after WWI ended, Barbara is forced to forget her dreams of being an opera diva when she marries Dr. Harvey Perkins, who informs his new bride that he is giving up his practice to serve as a medical missionary in Siam. He offers her a platitude that she will be able to sing once they settle in Siam. Frightened as she is a comfortable Christian and not a missionary, Babs objects to their relocation as she prefers they move to Chicago where the local opera has offered her a performing role. However, he rules as the husband and they head to Siam.

However, not long after arrival in rural Nan, Babs is unable to adjust to the abject poverty she witnesses or the conditions of their lifestyle. Harvey is appalled with his spouse’s failure and irate with her weakness when she suffers a nervous breakdown. Still they return to the States for her to heal, but fanatical Harvey forces them to return to his Siam practice soonest.

THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE is a terific historical tale that allows the audience too look deeply at the role of women in society. Fascinatingly Harvey cares and loves his spouse, but is disappointed in her failure to adjust; her ambition and goals are irreleverant. Babs wants to adapt as she accepts that is her position in life, but resents giving up her goals and cannot cope with what she has seen in Siam. Although the description of time and place is extremely vivid enabling the reader to feel they are in America and Siam circa 1920s; that also slows down the pace of an otherwise strong early twentieth century relationship drama.

Harriet Klausner

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society-Beth Pattillo

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society
Beth Pattillo
Waterbrook, May 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073948

In Sweetgum, Tennessee, the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society consists of women who have been hurt in their relationships, but share their love of knitting and formed a book club. Sexagenarian librarian Eugenie Pierce has never even tasted love. Sisters Ruthie Allen and Esther Jackson will probably take sibling rivalry to the grave. Twentyish Camille St. Clair may not have the years of kicking the can experiences like the others, but her life is currently on hold as she cares for her dying mother. Merry McGavin seems happy with her loving family, but loving family means hiding the truth behind a façade as she is overwhelmed. Finally there is newest member thirteen years old Hannah Simmons, who has no future except to repeat the ugly past culminated with a temper fit in the library tearing out pages from books. As each faces a personal crisis caused in part by secrets they hide, their knit lit pals encourage and support one another.

This Yada Yada crowd meets the Elm Creek quilters in a Mossy Creek like Tennessee small town is a fine ensemble tale starring fully developed women in personal crisis who finds their knit lit members being there for them. The story line is well written, but though smooth, the author never explores deeply any of the ensemble cast while touching on all of them. Fans will enjoy the sisterhood as each helps one another.

Harriet Klausner

Dogwood-Chris Fabry

Chris Fabry
Tyndale, Jul 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414319551

It has been twelve years since Will Hatfield was sentenced to Clarkeston Federal prison, but he is about to be released in two months. He has a great desire to see the family farm in Dogwood, West Virginia and Karin the only woman h ever loved. When he went to prison, she never answered his letters as she made a new life for herself in a passionless marriage with three children she adores.

When Will comes home, he is not greeted like the prodigal son as most locals believe he should have spent his life in prison for his crimes; even his brother would be happier if he left. The family has been dragged through the sewage due to Will’s DUI vehicular homicide of two innocent girls. He is attacked at the place he used to work and the town tries to take the farm away from him due to eminent domain. Karin is coming to learn the truth ABOUT THE SACRIFICE Will made for her.

On the surface DOGWOOD seems like a straight line story with Danny the brother of the dead sisters receiving counseling because he blames himself for their deaths. Karin tries to be happy in her situation while Will shows patience as he waits for Karin to realize the truth. None of the peoples’ stories are quite what they appear as the revelations are quite shocking. Chris Fabry has written a heart wrenching character driven tale as each of the key players feels guilt while praying for redemption and a fresh start.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Magic-Cheyenne McCray

Shadow Magic
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's, May 2008, $8.99
ISBN: 9780312949587

In Otherworld, gray witch Hannah Wentworth plans revenge against the Dark Goddess of Underworld Ceithlenn, who caused so much death and destruction in San Francisco. Using her dragon elemental mirror to scry the future, Hannah is shocked to see humans flee from the Fomorii Demons and her familiar Fire Dragon shoot flames at her. Hannah travels with D’Dannen warriors and fellow D’Anu witch Rhiannon to meet with the latter’s father Drow King Garren ruler of the Dark Elves, considered a traitor by those in the Otherworlds of elves and humans for allowing Ceithlenn and her evil God spouse Balor to escape from Underworld. However, to defeat Ceithlenn, they will need Garren’s support although his elves like him cannot travel in sunlight as they have been cursed.

At the meeting Hannah feels nervous around Garren as they are attracted to one another. However, they ignore their desires and discuss the situation. Garren makes it clear he will do what is right for his people. After escorting Hannah on a tour of the Dark Elves realm, he explains they opened the door to Underworld to let in the light, but erred instead allowing the Fomorii Demons and Ceithlenn to escape; his beloved brother died in the fight to stop them.

In San Francisco, Ceithlenn is weak from her fighting with the witches, warriors, and cops, but most of her anger is at Darkwolf who has stolen her spouse Balor’s Eye. She also fears for her husband as she has not found him and knows he must be very weak and near death. Soon all the parties will converge in a key showdown.

This series is already one the best romantic urban fantasies and SHADOW MAGIC may be the best book to date. The lead couple is a great pairing who the audience will like while the paranormal species all seem genuine as does the attacks in San Francisco. Though there are obviously previous novels in this series and the future is somewhat established, this excellent tale can stand alone as Cheyenne McCray affirms she is a great fantasist.

Harriet Klausner

The Brass Bed-Jennifer Stevenson

The Brass Bed
Jennifer Stevenson
Ballantine, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345486684

Chicago is being overwhelmed by magic seemingly being blown everywhere. The mayor orders his subordinates to conceal what is going on insisting he fears a panic. Chicago Department of Consumer Services investigator Jewel Heiss is unhappy with her boss; with all the goings-one he assigns her to perform surveillance of his wife, who happens to be her best friend.

Her surveillance introduces Jewel to Clay Dawes, who claims his magical brass bed will cure all female sexual problems by simply taking a nap in it. Jewel is upset with the scoundrel who charges an exorbitant fee, but takes him up on his challenge of testing the bed free of charge as long as he is in it with her. However, his brass bed also contains an incubus cursed in the nineteenth century for being a crappy lover while a genie is turning the city into a magical mystery mayhem tour.

The speed is hectic from the onset, but fans of urban investigative romantic fantasies will hop onto THE BRASS BED for the wild ride. Though at times wordy, the lighthearted story line has a lot going on so it bewilders the audience as it does the investigative heroine; who must decide between sexual curse and sexual fraud; either way she wants to test first her hand (and a few other body parts).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Above the Houses-Susan Enberg

Above the Houses
Susan Enberg
Delphinium, May 28 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9781883285302

These are nine insightful tales starring people quietly hiding their feelings of helplessness from loved ones while navigating through a personal crisis; realism is Susan Enberg’s poignant deep collection. The best entry and one of the best shorts of the year is “Time’s Body” as an elderly man attends the funeral of his long time wife; anyone over fifty will taste their mortality with that story. Others are as deep as this one whether it is a grandpa who has not met his grandchildren talking with a grandma he just met who has memories of her children, a late spouse and a grandchild, but nothing else (“Beginning”); a new bride undecided between exaltation and detachment towards her new mate (“Moon”); or a woman recognizing her life is filled with lies starting with self-mendacity (“River Hills”). Ms. Enberg is one of the best short story authors on the market today as affirmed by this anthology that has readers marveling at the depths of her everyday people.

Harriet Klausner

The Guy Next Door-Carol Culver

The Guy Next Door
Carol Culver
Berkley, May 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780425221365

Since her parents are divorcing, Maggie and her mother leave the McMansion and move into a small rental house. Maggie’s mom is in such a deep depression, she cannot look for a job; Maggie’s dad, a venture capitalist, is also going through hard financial times. He has cut back on expenses including perks Maggie has taken for granted, but he still pays her fees to attend exclusive Manderley Prep.

Also attending Manderley is Eric, her former next door neighbor in exclusive Monte Vista; they used to play together as kids. Now he barely notices her, but she thinks he is a hunk and is hung up on him. Her father is going to chaperone the school dance and wants his daughter to date his girlfriend’s geeky son. She aggress on the condition he buys her invisible braces. Maggie wins a scholarship to go to Hawaii for a chorus competition and her friend makes her sexy clothing. Eric notices her, but they both might get in trouble when drugs are found in Maggie’s purse; he wants to be her hero by coming to her rescue.

This breezy fun filled young adult BFF tale demonstrates that being a teen is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Teenagers constantly face moral dilemmas while observing people in authority abuse their power and break the rules; role models at their best. (not) Maggie grows through the course of the action-packed story line as she learns to be honest to herself with the decisions she makes. Carol Culver has written a dynamite BFF book.

Harriet Klausner

Danger's Kiss-Sarah McKerrigan

Danger's Kiss
Sarah McKerrigan
Forever, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 044661887X

In 1250 the Kent shire-reeve Nicholas Grimshaw enforces the law but also insures justice occurs even for prisoners facing the gallows. He oversees the executions of criminals, but insures no one suffers needlessly.

When a convicted killer Hubert Kabyn asks Nicholas to become guardian to his ward his grandchild Desiree; he wants to say no, but agrees so the man can meet his maker with one less concern. Professionally tutored thief Desiree is stunned that the law enforcer has been named her guardian, but if she can persuade him to help her she might learn who framed her teacher for murder. Nicholas is shocked by his attraction to his ward, but more stunned that his finicky feline loves her from the first time they meet each other. A con who uses her lure to trick men into doing her bidding, Desiree finds she feels different towards the enforcer; as the use of her allure to entice him would be degrading her desire. As she turns honest and he a bit con, someone wants her dead. Nicholas will do what it takes even break the law to keep his beloved safe.

DANGER’S KISS is an exciting medical romantic suspense starring two opposites in love. Whereas she is all con artist and he is all law enforcer, their romance makes for strange bedfellows yet each realistically compromises their “values” for the other. Fans will appreciate Sarah McKerrigan's fine thirteenth century tale as Desiree takes over Nicholas’ home, cat, and heart.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets of Surrender-Madeline Hunter

Secrets of Surrender
Madeline Hunter
Dell, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440243953

Lord Norbury has no conscience as Roselyn Longworth has learned the hard way as his mistress; she ranks him below her wastrel brother Timothy who ruined their family and drove her into being a courtesan in order for her to save her sibling’s life. However, even she is unprepared for his latest odious audacity, when he hosts an auction with her as the prize to the highest bidder while her efforts to save Timothy appear futile.

Although he should not get involved, architect Kyle Bradwell has been attracted to the proud but vulnerable Roselyn since he first seen her at the theater two years ago. He competes against the vulgar and though the price is steep he wins her. His kindness is a shocker to Rose and soon she falls in love with her rescuer. He assumes her feelings are constructed on a foundation of hero worship for saving her. However, when she learns his darkest secret, Rose wonders if her beloved is as contemptible as her former paramour is.

SECRETS OF SURRENDER is a terrific historical romance starring a likable lead male even if his dark secret drops him off the pedestal and a fascinating woman who has no reason to trust men. The story line is driven by this couple and the repulsive Norbury who is so sordid his behavior is over the top even for wastrel aristocrats. Fans will appreciate this fine tale as love and the Queensbury Rules take charge.

Harriet Klausner

Act Two-Kimberly Stuart

Act Two
Kimberly Stuart
Thomas Cook, May 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781434700117

Classical soprano superstar Sadie Maddox is a diva in every connotation of the word; she lives in Manhattan and thinks her ex husband lives among the barbarians, somewhere on Long Island. However, her CD sales are drooping and her agent Avi “the Shark” Feldman tells her she has no gigs as no one wants a forty years old except Moravia College in Maplewood, Iowa. Desperate she accepts the visiting teaching position in the Corn Belt knowing that she will spend time in a designer shoe store desert.

In farm country, Sadie realizes her peers like voice teacher Kent Johansen loses his voice when she is near him or like conductor Gunther Rienhart flirty and her student assistant Mallory Knight is snippy when she is being kind. However the worst is living on a pig farm with Cal and Jayne Hartley and their three kids. Finally there is the veterinarian Mac who shockingly has her reconsidering her countdown back to the real world of culture even though she is appalled that even though it is not country western, he has never heard her sing.

ACT TWO is a delightful contemporary romance between two opposites as the fish out of water diva and the local vet fall in love in his pond. The story line is owned by Sadie, who finds Iowa to live down to her expectations only somehow she makes caring friends and realizes mentoring Mallory actually makes her feel great.. Mac is her perfect contrary as the city slicker and the country animal doctor prove love has no artificial boundaries except the individual’s construct that can destruct.

Harriet Klausner

Murder's Madness-Alex Matthews

Murder's Madness
Alex Matthews
Veiled Intent Press, Apr 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780979475603

Chicago therapist Cassidy McCabe runs a successful practice out of her Oak Park home. Recently she married her sweetheart crime reporter Zach Moran. Their life is perfect; wrong! Depressed Zach is struggling with a new editor, who has treated him shabbily. Almost as bad as Zach’s lack of tender loving, Starshine her cat has apparently found a better place to hang its’ paws.

Medicated for schizophrenia Delia Schiff recently rented Zach's condo in Marina City; Cass has befriended the lonely woman. However, when Delia calls her hysterically about Dark Angels, a corpse in a closet and magic, Cass assumes her new pal is off her meds. She goes over to reassure the distraught woman, but though Cass fails to find a body, she notices some blood. As Delia vanishes, Cass calls the police even as she intends to conduct her own investigation to insure Delia is okay.

The ninth Cass McCabe mystery, IN MURDER'S MADNESS, is an exciting amateur sleuth talethat stars a caring therapist hoping to save the life of a schizophrenic, who is off her medicine and may or may not have seen a corpse. The story line is driven by the heroine’s need to help a lonely person; a trait fans of the series know is part of Cass’ make-up. However, the plot is owned by Delia even though her appearances are limited; as she enables the audience to go deep inside the tormented soul of a mentally ill individual who needs to stay on her meds to keep some mental equilibrium.

Harriet Klausner

The Book of Summer-James F. David

The Book of Summer
James F. David
Tor, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765351470

God spoke to the Christians and gave his Chosen one a vision of a new world along with the science and technology to make it happen. He delivered on his promises and the Fellowship landed on America, which was not the world God granted them. Among the passengers are blacks who want to have a better lifestyle. They remained on planet America; when soldiers from earth arrived to eradicate them, the settlers defeated them. The blacks are the masters while the whites are the slaves.

Summer is a slave who is owned by Master Rice; though she abhors him she believes he will make her his concubine like he did with her mother. When Rice kills the man she loves, Summer runs off to a hiding place.. There she meets Rey Mann, who has traveled the world after twenty years of being alone on the other side. He hoped the Fellowship would return him from exile, but is unaware they are gone. He has encountered severe loneliness and endured horrific hardship until he meets Summer; he delivers her baby. When Summer is captured and taken to town for punishment, Rey goes to rescue her unintentionally starting a freedom revolt.

The sequel to JUDGMENT DAY is a fascinating racial bending reversal of the Antebellum South. Summer craves freedom and is willing to die to achieve it. Master Rice is a fully developed villain who is a product of his society as he nor his peers see his actions as evil; instead Summer is property to abuse and discard on a whim; his rage drives him over the edge as he wants the power his mother-in-law possesses. This is superb thriller filled with redemption and faith as some believe God has abandoned his children, but others strongly disagree.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 28, 2008

Honorable Intentions-Donna MacQuigg

Honorable Intentions
Donna MacQuigg
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 978159416961

In 1881 Territory of New Mexico, young Josh Barnes shoots visiting Mexico rancher Don Miguel Estrada as he recognized the man as a wanted outlaw Antonio Garcia. The sheriff has Lydia Randolph treat the wound. Two days later the sheriff apologizes as Miguel’s father sends a telegram insisting his son was in town to purchase horses.

Lydia, who is the heir to a duchy, is out riding when she sees vultures in the air; she knows from her new brother-in-law Sayer that means their prey still lives but is near death. She goes to help only to be caught by Raul Martinez and his gang who just robbed Wells Fargo. When Miguel learns about her captivity he poses as Antonio the gang leader in a desperate quest to save Lydia’s life.

Although mistaken identity has been used often in literature, Donna MacQuigg provides a fresh look as the hero employs it to try to save the heroine. Miguel is wonderful as he masquerades as Antonio, but struggles with the part because he is a caring kind person and the role calls for a nasty abusive thug. Adding to his difficulty in keeping in character is his attraction to Lydia. Readers will enjoy his efforts to rescue the woman he loves in this fine western romance and seek the tale of Lydia’s sister (see THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER).

Harriet Klausner

Leave No Stone Unturned-Jeanne Glidewell

Leave No Stone Unturned
Jeanne Glidewell
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146497

In Shawnee, Kansas, forty-eight year old volunteer librarian assistant widow Lexie Starr is helping a teenage use microfiche to find the winner of the 2001 Boston marathon when she notices an article on the late wife of police academy student Clayton Pitt. She realizes that Clayton is most likely her son-in-law whom she dislikes and whose first spouse Eliza was pregnant when she was murdered in DeKalb, New York.

While seeking replacement charms from a bracelet her daughter Wendy lost, Lexie comes into contact with Carolina jeweler Stone Van Patten. Using him as an alibi to divert Wendy, she heads to Schenectady, where Clayton lived to learn if he could be a spouse killer and whether her pregnant daughter is in jeopardy from him.

Although she knows she is over the top, Lexie LEAVES NO STONE UNTURNED as she goes the extra 1250 plus miles to insure the safety of her beloved daughter to learn whether her son-in-law killed his first wife. The support cast in Upstate New York adds eccentric color especially at the Camelot B&B where foul mouthed Sinbad the parrot and Harriet Sparks rule the roost. Detective Glick finds her amusing and irritation while Stone, whom she never met, joins her in New York. With a fine but improbable whodunit combined with a middle age romance, Jeanne Glidewell writes an engaging amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

The Red Necklace-Sally Gardner

The Red Necklace
Sally Gardner
Dial, May 2008, $16.99
ISBN: 9780739356487

In 1789 Paris, Tetu the dwarf has raised fourteen years old full blooded Roma orphan Yann as they both assist egomaniac magician Topolain. His arrogance leads to his death at the hands of evil Count Kalliovski who wants the automaton the mage used while performing. At about the same time, Yann meets reticent affluent aristocrat Sidonie; a lonely young girl who has no friends and never tasted love even from family members. Her cold distant father loathes her so much he has sold her to the vicious Count as his wife.

The murder of Topolain leads Tetu to smuggle his ward out of France to the safety of London. However, when the Revolution begins to take over the French capital, Yann returns hoping to take the two people he cares about, Tetu and Sidonie, to London; knowing her father and her fiancé will attempt to kill him for trying.

A Tale of Two Cities with an Oliver Twist spin, a serial killer leaving garnet necklaces on the victims, and an intimation of Gypsy magic make for an entertaining young adult suspense historical fantasy. The contrast between Paris and London is startling, but both cities have blood flowing in the streets; only the former is more in the open. Yann and Sidonie is a wonderful courageous couple while Tetu is heroic in his loyalty to his ward. Whereas the villains are a bit exaggerated, fans will appreciate this strong French Revolution thriller.

Harriet Klausner

River Ghosts- B.D. Robb

River Ghosts
B.D. Robb
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146541

In Red River Falls, terrified racially mixed eight year old Richard Hill hides under his family’s kitchen table as he sees teenage Henry Clayton rape and kill the child’s white mother. The preadolescent knows he will be haunted forever with the swastika tattoo that Richard proudly displayed. Henry is convicted of the rape-murder while Richard’s black father tries to help his son move past the hate crime.

Sixteen years later newly discovered DNA evidence exonerates Henry. The Illinois governor pardons him and he is released from prison. Now a Red River Falls police officer, Richard believes the so-called new proof is a fake as he witnessed Henry rape and kill his mom. When an elderly gay man is murdered, the circumstantial evidence points towards a white supremacist friend of Henry as the killer. Richard and his squad car partner believe Henry is involved, but have to find concrete evidence to validate their theory in court.

The adversarial relationship between Henry and Richard make for an exhilerating character driven thriller. The same event has turned both men into obsessive individuals although Henry already had a cause before the rape murder of Richard’s mom. Readers will appreciate this strong look at two foes; one a homegrown terrorist using race as his cause while the other became a cop in homage to his mom as he needs to insure victims see justice occur starting with himself.

Harriet Klausner

Scorch- Marc Paoletti

Marc Paoletti
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146572

Former Navy SEAL David Cole is excited about being the pyrotechniques expert on the filming of Bringing Them Back because his adult son Ronny works with him on the set and he is attracted to the movie’s director Jennifer Shragee. However, when Ned Brandenburg and Levar Watkins almost cause an explosion due to carelessness, he fires them knowing that the former is the nephew of Loki Studio head Gary Stanford. Ned and Levar vow to get even with Cole while Gary is upset because he needs the film finished or face bankrupcy and mob muscle; Cole is holding up the filming due to safety concerns.

Gary hires psychopath Frank Ruger to take out Cole. To the horror of Ned and Levar, Frank kills Ronny before igniting a horrific explosion that should have left David dead. However David survives though badly hurt and begins his quest for revenge against Gary, Frank, Ned, and Levar even as Police Lieutenant Scott Whittaker names him as the suspect in his son’s murder.

Fast-paced, fans who aprpeciate 200 proof action in their thrillers will relish Marc paoletti’s full octane tale. However, those who want a psychological side to the prime players will find that lacking as the action supersedes character devleopment. Still SCORCH is an exciting cat and mouse tale of twisted revenge.

Harriet Klausner

Death of a Lovable Geek-Maria Hudgins

Death of a Lovable Geek
Maria Hudgins
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146411

In the Scottish Highlands, Virginia medieval history professor Dotsy Lamb, accompanied by her best friend Lettie Osgood, is excited to be at an archeological dig led by renowned Dr. John Sinclair whose brother William owns the site. However, her enjoyment especially when she finds an ancient gold coin that could revise what is known about the eleventh century and earlier ends when the murdered corpse of mushroom expert Dylan “Froggy” Quale is found by Christine, a teen who works in the nearby Castle Dunlaggan kitchen.

Chief Inspector Duncan Coates suspects Froggy’s site roommate American media expert Van Nguyen, but Dotsy believes that is not likely. When John dies soon afterward, Dotsy thinks mushroom poisoning killed him, which she wonders might be tied to Froggy’s homicide as the young man was the expert on fungi. With the help of Lettie and her knowledge of the real King Macbeth (not that Shakespeare imposter), Lettie investigates at the same time that Coates makes his inquiries.

DEATH OF A LOVABLE GEEK is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale with a police procedural in the background. The story line contains two fascinating twists that will surprise the audience. The cast is strong especially the medieval scholar and her best friend while the look at how castle proprietorship has changed adds depth to a fun cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Aboard the Choctaw Gambler-Sharon Ervin

Murder Aboard the Choctaw Gambler
Sharon Ervin
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146985

Arizona State Bureau of Investigation Agent Jim Wills investigates the murder of Larry Potter, a croupier on the Choctaw Gambler riverboat casino. He allows Bishop Clarian reporter Jancy Dewhurst to join him as he makes inquiries. He soon concludes that Larry was in the wrong place at wrong time and looked especially in the dark like the owner Jesse Chase. The sniper must have thought he was killing Jesse.

At the same time, the rival Dominion News Editor Tyrone asks Jancy to investigate rumors that volatile G.C. Gideon has bankrupted his elderly father Tyrone’s vast ranching empire to pay his gambling debts. As she looks into that, G.C. remains the prime suspect in the Potter murder as he had a fight with Chase over gambling debts. After Jancy interrogates Tyrone, an outraged G.C. brutally beats up his father and sends his henchman Bubba Valentine to kill the meddling reporter. Jim who is attracted to Jancy tries to keep the curious journalist safe even as he fears he will lose her to her ambition.

Although I have doubts that an agent of the ASBI would allow a reporter easy access to an official inquiry (especially without complaints from rival journalists), readers will enjoy the fast-paced police procedural romance. The whodunit is fun, but it is the relationship between J & J that adds a tasty spice to the story as MURDER ABOARD THE CHOCTAW GAMBLER is an entertaining romantic investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Odd Hours-Dean Koontz

Odd Hours
Dean Koontz
Bantam, May 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780553807059

Odd sees the dead, has prophetic visions and dreams, and has saved many lives because he chose to do good deeds with his gift. After leaving the monastery, his plan was to go home to Pico Mundo to return to his former job as a short order cook. His plan is put on hold when he has visions of turbulent events and a woman floating over a red ocean. Odd somehow knows something dangerous is happening near the seaside town of Magic Beach where he goes.

He gets a job as a cook for a noted retired actor and children’s book author. He meets Annamarie who was the woman in his vision who talks in cryptic words, but has no information to give to him. When the local sheriff picks him up assuming Odd is an indigent, they shake hands and in both their minds they see the Red Tide. The sheriff thinks Odd knows more than he is telling. If he passes a lie detector test he will free him and pay him to keep quiet about what he supposedly knows. Odd escapes and learns what his visions mean; he will do anything to prevent this calamity from happening; failure or inaction means America will cease to exist.

Dean Koontz has created a character who wins the hearts of mostly everyone including readers who adore his innocence and courage. His innocence combined with his ability to challenge evil make him a special and aptly named person. In this tale he knows he cannot go to the authorities with his knowledge as a small cabal inside the sheriff’s office and the harbor patrol are part of what is coming. ODD HOURS is a special supernatural thriller because besides the save America plot, the hero who travels and lives off the land his way has a ghost dog named Boo for a pet and the shade of Frank Sinatra who appears to Odd. The hero wants to help him move on.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Way He Moves-Marcia King-Gamble

The Way He Moves
Marcia King-Gamble
Harlequin Mediterranean, May 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373389711

Argentinean publisher Serena d'Andrea decides a Rhythm Dancers’ cruise is just the ticket for her to forget her former lover, diplomat Marc LeClair. However, on board the Alexandra's Dream, Serena meets Gilles Anderson, who could be Marc’s identical twin; he insists he is not when she confronts him.

Serena finds a moon pendant that allegedly brings one’s true love to the person wearing it. However, she thinks her charm brings nothing but bad luck as someone threatens Serena’s life; fearing for the woman he loves, Gilles wonders if there is a connection between the threats to Serena and those he endured at his last post as Marc LeClair in Argentina.

Although there is too much distracting going on even for a cruise ship, THE WAY HE MOVES is an entertaining romantic suspense that makes for a fine finish to an entertaining mostly at sea contemporary miniseries. The story line is fun to follow as Marc struggles with his lies to the woman he loves while Serena knows the way Gilles kisses intimately. Fans will enjoy the last stop of the Alexandra’s Dream as Marcia King-Gamble provides a delightful wrap up.
Harriet Klausner

Dark Summit- Nick Heil

Dark Summit
Nick Heil
Holt, May 2008, $16.00
ISBN: 9780805083101

In 2006, eleven climbers died trying to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. The most famous fatality was David Sharp who was left near the top still alive while forty other people continued their ascent. One week later, Lincoln Hall was left to die at the same spot that Sharp died; he survived that night without shelter leading to speculation re Sharp.

Nick Heil investigates the true story of what went wrong on the Everest climb in the deadliest year since 1996. He makes the case that some ruthless commercial operators are making increasing access available but at the cost of dramatic increase in risk. Readers will be hooked by Mr. Heil’s passion for mountain climbing while horrified by the avarice of some to take advantage of the obsession of many advocates to claim they reached the top of the world. The author points out rescue is usually impossible and can endanger others; while he also defends operator Brice who was accused of abandoning Sharp to die on the mountain’s Death Zone. However, Mr. Heil also rips less conscientious operators like the guide who failed to assist a confused Thomas Weber, who other climbers felt could be rescued. This is chilling yet fascinating as Mr. Heil provides a lucid account of the deaths on the DARK SUMMIT.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow of Light-James E. Cherry

Shadow of Light
James E. Cherry
Serpent’s Tail, Jun 2008
ISBN: 9781852424923

Forrest looks like a typical small Southern town; however, below the surface in the Tennessee town, racial tension waits for the incident to explode. One night after planning and casing a house where a respected black woman lives, white males burst in to rob it. They expected the elderly female “Big Mama” to be at church as she always is, but instead she was home. The leader of the invaders Ronny Mcalister" rapes her before shooting her.

Miraculously she lives and her livid grandson police detective Walter Robinson wants to know how close his peers are o catching the culprits. All local blacks decry the crime, but Walter’s nephew neighborhood druglord Cebo wants white blood to flow especially those who committed the obscenity. He informs the police that if the SOBs are not in custody within forty-eight hours a cop will die; another will die every forty-eight hours afterward until there are no police or the perps are caught. The town is a powder keg with only Walter able to keep the fuse from igniting, but he sympathizes with his nephew as this is his beloved grandma.

It does not take a lot of words to describe the town where blacks see no way out of poverty that engulfs communities. In some way James E. Cherry’s vivid description of a town without pity feels somewhat 1960s yet the author makes the case that poverty is the modern day de facto racism. Walter is a good person and cop as he tries to glide above the racial divide even as he understands how many whites look down at blacks; he vents his frustration on his wife. However this time he cannot ignore the incident nor does he truly want too. How he acts will determine whether this town burns down in a Forrest fire or not as James E. Cherry provides a strong thriller that plays out on two levels: town-wide and character poignancy.

Harriet Klausner

Keeper of Dreams-Orson Scott Card

Keeper of Dreams
Orson Scott Card
Tor, Apr 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780765304971

The collection is broken into categories with six Science Fiction entries; eight Fantasies; two Literary; two Hatrack River (short novels related to Alvin Maker); and four Morman Stories. Each entry has notes afterward in which Orson Scott Card provides additional information. The compilation showcases the depth of the author as Mr. Card runs the gamut of the sci fi-fantasy continuum. Many have children especially teens and the lead characters are caught up in complex moral scenarios or questions on ethical choices. The “nonreligious” Morman tales are obviously timely and although Mr. Card explains that he targets Mormon readers as a Mormon writer; other fans might think these are “weird”, but many of these others in the audience will still appreciate tales of characters facing personal crisis inside a “ward”. Well written throughout, readers will relish the deep yet wide skills of Mr. Card to coax his audience to think beyond his enjoyable KEEPER OF DREAMS.

Harriet Klausner

Starfish-Peter Watts

Peter Watts
Tor, Apr 20 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780765315960

In the near future, the energy crisis has hit geometric proportions that no one anticipated just a few years earlier. Desperate for new clean sources leads to of geothermal sources deep in the ocean in places like Juan de Fuca Rift off the Canadian Northwest Pacific coast. However, it takes a special type of person to become a maintenance worker at the dangerous underwater power plants; employees must be psychotic to ignore their surface lives and agree to surgical alteration to cope with the ocean’s extreme pressure.

The brave (most surface dwellers insist insane) amphibious workers relish the undersea volcanic environs. However, none under and above realize what else resides in the Rift besides the newcomer rifter human species. There lives ancient bacterium has found a host to take them from the ocean depths to the continents. Soon mankind finds itself in a war of the worlds in which human resistance seems nil.

This reprint of a cautionary late 1990s thriller affirms how accurate Peter Watts predicted the energy crisis, but the crux of the tale is the underwater world from real biology and geography to the typical human disregard to the ecosystem. Though no character truly stands out even the deadly bacterium, the end of the world scenario with its anti heroes makes for compelling reading.

Harriet Klausner

Death’s Head: Maximum Offense-David Gunn

Death’s Head: Maximum Offense
David Gunn
Del Rey, May 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345500014

In the far distant future, humanity has spread across space as over time earth has become part of mankind’s original being mythos. Three rival human groups compete for superiority at a time when Emperor Octo V claims to rule the ten thousand systems yet seeks expansion. His Octavians and the Enlightened users of the Uplift Virus are at war with one another. The third group United Free pretends to seek universal peace while manipulating their two competitors so they run the universe their way.

The United Free assigns Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg and his squad the Aux to find a missing U/F observer sent to planet Hekati, but before landing an explosion on board cripples the vessel; he rescues his squad. However, they soon realize this is not Hekati as the U/F leadership sent them on a beta test before sending them to the right planet where society’s sociopaths and government exiles reside. Danger prevails as Sven courageously leads his unit, but soon he and his team learn the real mission.

DEATH’S HEAD starts off as a dark humorous grim outer space tale, but once on Hekati turns even darker and grimmer without the humor as David Gunn argues that war is not a precision dance to the stars but chaotic hell. Sven is terrific as he is tough and loyal, but also caring as he prefers to avoid unnecessary collateral damage; others couldn’t care less if planets are destroyed to achieve the mission. Readers will appreciate this bleak look at mankind in outer space still fighting one another.

Harriet Klausner

A Fire in the North-David Bilsborough

A Fire in the North
David Bilsborough
Tor, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765318930

In the tunnels under the mountains of Eotunlandt, Nibulus leads the Questor survivors of the battles as they struggle to reach the surface where they expect their enemies the Thieves will attack them en masse. Instead when they finally reach the outside, no one eerily awaits to ambush them.

Bolldhe heads towards the next fight with the resurrected evil lord Drauglir and his horde. He expects the engagement to occur somewhere near Vaagenfjord Maw, but has little hope to win except for the strange sword he now possesses.

Gapp and Methuselech reach Wrythe where the malevolent necromancer Scathur has quietly ruled for centuries while regaining strength lost five hundred years ago on Lyndormyn, Peladanes defeated the evil rawgr Drauglir and his supernatural minions; he quickly knows who Methuselech’s soul is and imprisons both of them, but they escape with his horde in pursuit. Soon everyone heads for Melhus Island and its underworld where the armies of the dead await to add to their ranks.

This is a direct sequel to The Wanderer's Tale that takes time to get started as the various key players and their allies are established for new readers. Once the action accelerates there is no slowing down as this military fantasy goes into hyperspeed with confrontations seemingly everywhere. With all the various armies at war and new leaders and heroes emerging, A FIRE IN THE NORTH still pares down to the destined Wanderer who remains the only one who can save an apathetic prosperous world from the malevolent Drauglir and the wicked necromancer Scathur as The Annals of Lindormyn move forward.

Harriet Klausner

The Mirrored Heavens-David J. Williams

The Mirrored Heavens
David J. Williams
Bantam, Jun 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553385410

In 2105 the Treaty of Zurich is co-signed by the representatives of the leaders of the United States and the Eurasian Coalition. The two contracting powers agree to reduce the tensions of the protracted second cold war with some cooperation although neither side trusts the other as the environment has failed “Quickening” the potential end of the planet.

The prime symbol of their cooperation is the construction of the Phoenix Space Elevator which will near full operations by 2110 in Belem-Macapa to enable humanity to expedite journeys off world. Central Intelligence Command counter cyber terrorism agent Claire Haskell is tracking the elevator networks as regional freedom fighters Jaguar’s Swords have reportedly hacked inside. However, a series of explosions soon rock the elevator and devastates much of the city. The enigmatic Operator sends “mechanic” Jason Marlowe to rescue Claire as he has plans for the pair in a complex counter operation against Autumn Rain who has taken credit for the destruction; while the superpowers blame each other as the cold war turns close to heating up on earth and on the moon. The Operator counts on his subordinate razor Claire and her mechanic Jason remembering fondly their love for one another a decade ago; however, as the pair works together to prevent another Rain tsunami, each wonders if their love is real or an imprint by their razor the Operator.

THE MIRRORED HEAVENS is an exhilarating action-packed futuristic counter intelligence espionage science fiction thriller with Brave New World twists and spins that will have the lead field agents and the audience wonders what revelation is next and just who road kill is. Reality is blurred by constructs to expedite a mechanic’s assignment so Claire and Jason only know that she is his razor and he is her mechanic on the stop the Rain project. Readers will appreciate this fast-paced grim look at earth twenty-second century.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Women In Hats-Judy Sheehan

Women In Hats
Judy Sheehan
Ballantine, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345480088

Bridie Hart is a show business legend as America’s most beloved TV mom even if her show has been off the air for fifteen years. Everyone adores except her adult daughter Leigh Majors, theatre director, who wants as little to do with her famous mom as possible. She hides her connection to her late famous father and older sister. Leigh is irate with her spouse playwright Michael, who agrees that his mother-in-law would be perfect for a role in a play he wrote.

Bridie being Bridie tries to take over the production because she fears her offspring is incapable of performing the production and so does not want her to fail. Leigh is attracted to the stage manager, James and considers acting on her desire. Instead she confesses to Michael why he hurt her when he accepted Bridie for a part and her thoughts towards a fling, but she agrees that her mom deserves one more time in the spotlight.

This warm family drama focuses on the dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter. The story line is filled with poignancy as Bridie tries to take over out of fear for her offspring while Leigh needs to succeed or fail on her own. Mindful of the song “Teach Your Children” by Sills, Crosby, Nash and Young, WOMEN IN HATS is an enjoyable contemporary tale.

Harriet Klausner

Women In Hats-Judy Sheehan

Women In Hats
Judy Sheehan
Ballantine, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345480088

Bridie Hart is a show business legend as America’s most beloved TV mom even if her show has been off the air for fifteen years. Everyone adores except her adult daughter Leigh Majors, theatre director, who wants as little to do with her famous mom as possible. She hides her connection to her late famous father and older sister. Leigh is irate with her spouse playwright Michael, who agrees that his mother-in-law would be perfect for a role in a play he wrote.

Bridie being Bridie tries to take over the production because she fears her offspring is incapable of performing the production and so does not want her to fail. Leigh is attracted to the stage manager, James and considers acting on her desire. Instead she confesses to Michael why he hurt her when he accepted Bridie for a part and her thoughts towards a fling, but she agrees that her mom deserves one more time in the spotlight.

This warm family drama focuses on the dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter. The story line is filled with poignancy as Bridie tries to take over out of fear for her offspring while Leigh needs to succeed or fail on her own. Mindful of the song “Teach Your Children” by Sills, Crosby, Nash and Young, WOMEN IN HATS is an enjoyable contemporary tale.

Harriet Klausner

A Hollywood Ending-Robyn Sisman

A Hollywood Ending
Robyn Sisman
Plume, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780452286139

Fearing her career is diving into made for TV movies older women roles; Oscar winner Paige Carson needs a major success. She made a poor choice when she agreed to star in a horrific remake of Cleopatra. Paige is also losing juicy parts to younger actresses.

However, Paige is euphoric when she is selected to star with superstar Jackson Rolfe in what looks like may be the box office hit of the year. However, her inane co-star makes Paige reconsider her career as he is as unprofessional of an actor she has had the misfortune to meet. When London stage calls her to perform Shakespeare, Paige leaves behind Hollywood dirt and the latest tabloid lies and shenanigans especially her rock star superstar father. In London she finds herself attracted to her snooty landlord, Ed Hawkstead, a documentary filmmaker struggling to break out; he to his chagrin reciprocates as he does not want to want this Hollywood fluff dubbed by the press as Princess Paige.

This enjoyable contemporary romance stars two likable opposites whose initial stereotype of the other makes each detest their feelings, but this is more Paige’s tale since the first part focuses on her woes and Ed does not enter the stage until act two (about halfway into the novel). Still as Paige and Ed become acquainted they realize their preconceptions were false and allow their hearts to lead them. Readers will enjoy the romance between this fine couple.

Harriet Klausner

The Sugar Queen-Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen
Sarah Addison Allen
Bantam, Jun 2008, $22.00
ISBN: 9780553805499

Affluent semi southern belle Josey Cirrini has one big problem. She is THE SUGAR QUEEN of the south; unable to resist candy and cakes. Since her mom the great dictator demands she must stop eating sugar, twenty-seven year old Josey feels like a kid as she hides her stash in a secret compartment inside her closet.

Battered Eat and Run greasy spoon waitress Della Lee Baker takes refuge in Josey’s hideaway. Worried about her uninvited guest, Josey tries to make the haven a bit more comfortable for her soaking wet unwanted guest who explains she took a dip in the nearby cold river. Meanwhile Josey relooks her lifestyle starting with her philandering father Marco, developer of Bald Slope Ski Resort, and her secret attraction for the mailman Adam Boswell while Della Lee becomes her streets wise fairy godmother helping Josey with her insecurities starting with the best grilled cheese sandwich in town and ending she hopes with Adam.

This whimsical charming romantic fairy tale is an engaging tale as tough Della Lee harangues, bullies, and coaxes Josey to go out and get him in spite of her mom’s objection to a working class son-in-law. The story line is driven by the relationship between Josey and Della Lee though the other key players are complete especially how they connect to and from the titled character. On top of all that is the mystery of Della Lee. Readers will appreciate this engaging tale and seek and want to read Sarah Addison Allen’s magical previous novel (see GARDEN SPELLS).

Harriet Klausner

The Sugar Queen-Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen
Sarah Addison Allen
Bantam, Jun 2008, $22.00
ISBN: 9780553805499

Affluent semi southern belle Josey Cirrini has one big problem. She is THE SUGAR QUEEN of the south; unable to resist candy and cakes. Since her mom the great dictator demands she must stop eating sugar, twenty-seven year old Josey feels like a kid as she hides her stash in a secret compartment inside her closet.

Battered Eat and Run greasy spoon waitress Della Lee Baker takes refuge in Josey’s hideaway. Worried about her uninvited guest, Josey tries to make the haven a bit more comfortable for her soaking wet unwanted guest who explains she took a dip in the nearby cold river. Meanwhile Josey relooks her lifestyle starting with her philandering father Marco, developer of Bald Slope Ski Resort, and her secret attraction for the mailman Adam Boswell while Della Lee becomes her streets wise fairy godmother helping Josey with her insecurities starting with the best grilled cheese sandwich in town and ending she hopes with Adam.

This whimsical charming romantic fairy tale is an engaging tale as tough Della Lee harangues, bullies, and coaxes Josey to go out and get him in spite of her mom’s objection to a working class son-in-law. The story line is driven by the relationship between Josey and Della Lee though the other key players are complete especially how they connect to and from the titled character. On top of all that is the mystery of Della Lee. Readers will appreciate this engaging tale and seek and want to read Sarah Addison Allen’s magical previous novel (see GARDEN SPELLS).

Harriet Klausner

The Triumph of Caesar-Steven Saylor

The Triumph of Caesar
Steven Saylor
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312359836

He conquered Gaul, settled the civil war in Egypt by placing Cleopatra on the throne, and won decisive battles in all over Europe, Asia and Africa. For the first time in many years Caesar has come home where he is the Dictator for life.

Gordianus the Finder has recently returned from Egypt and looks forward to settling into retirement. However his rest is brief because Caesar’s wife Calpurnicus has a job for him. An Etruscan soothsayer who she has complete confidence in says her spouse’s life is in danger; she orders Gordianus to find the potential killer. There are four Triumphs (festivals) coming shortly, and those are the most likely moment for someone to strike as Caesar is an easy target during them. The person she had looking for Caesar’s enemy before Gordianus was Hieronymus, a friend of Gordianus, making this assignment personal.

Two of Steven Saylor’s greatest strengths as an author arehis ability to make character seem genuine including real historical persona and to give his audience a sense of time and place; readers will feel they are in first century BC Rome. Gordianus enables readers to see through his eyes the jubilation that exists in Rome now that the civil war is over. With a strong who will do it investigative story line, fans will relish the triumph of Saylor.
Harriet Klausner

The Reapers-John Connolly

The Reapers
John Connolly
Atria, Jun 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9781416569527

Assassins Louis and Angel kill a Russian trafficker who peddled young children to pedophiles. Bliss kills a predator in a bar’s bathroom. A wealthy dying recluse murders a man who was involved in the death of his son. All these crimes are linked in a surprising way. Gabriel and his lover Angel will learn that crimes from their past have come back to haunt them in the present.

In 1983 Louis was assigned to kill Luther Berger, but what he didn’t know was that his victim was really Jon Leahagen, son of Arthur. Mr. Hoyle, is helping the duo with people coming after them. Arthur is dying, but before he passes on he wants to take with him to the grave everyone who was involved in the homicide of his offspring. Hoyle wants Arthur dead because he killed his daughter. He hires Louis and Angel to kill Arthur and his son; they agree not because of the money, but instead want Leahagen to stop trying to kill them. When they get to Leahagen’s estate, they realize they walked into a trap, but Charlie Parker is on the way to assist them.

The REAPERS is a great thriller as the readers get a deep look at the workings of Louis and Angel. When he was young Louis a black man watched whites lynch his father and set fire to kill him. Angel was sold repeatedly to pedophiles by his father to pay for his booze. Surprisingly they have traces of humanity left inside them although for the most part their human flame is barely flickering. They receive reader empathy in spite of being condemned for their actions, as John Connolly provides a strong crime caper fueled by these two outsiders.

Harriet Klausner

Nick of Time-Ted Bell

Nick of Time
Ted Bell
St. Martin’s, May 2008, $17.95
ISBN: 97803123680687

As Europe flares up with the latest continental war this time between the allies and the Fascists, twelve years old Nick McIver and his younger sister Kate live with their father in a lighthouse on Graybeard Island, one of the Channel islands. The Nazi U-boats surround their island while their father tries to get important information to the War Office in London. Meanwhile Nick finds a chest containing an odd plea from a long dead ancestor. Apparently Royal Naval Captain Nicholas McIver is in trouble, but has critical information that Lord Admiral Nelson needs. The message accompanies a handy time machine that enables Nick to go back to 1805 to help his antecedent.

As Nick goes back to the Napoleonic Era, Kate joins Lord Hawke and Commander Hobbes as they try to steal an experimental Nazi submarine. At the same relative time in both eras, pirate Billy Blood uses his portable time machine to abduct the children of wealthy parents from various periods that he takes to his French warship; he demands exorbitant ransom if they want their brats back. In 1805 he is about to kill Nick’s relative; in 1939, he considers kidnapping Nick’s sister.

Ted bell’s fine young adult thriller is an engaging preadolescent time travel fantasy in which readers will root for the McIver pair to be in THE NICK OF TIME to save England at sea TWICE a century and half apart. The sea battles are incredibly descriptive in both periods so much so that the audience can compare the navies. Although the non-stop action twists reasoning in order to keep the escapades going, no one will care as readers will cheer on the fully developed young champions while hissing that diabolically bloody pirate.

Harriet Klausner

Kushiel's Mercy-Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel's Mercy
Jacqueline Carey
Grand Central, Jun 2008, $26.99
ISBN: 9780446500043

Prince Imriel de la Courcel struggles with the deaths of his wife and their unborn son although he loves Princess Sidonie, heir to the Terre D’Ange throne. Still with her help he begins to move on and hopes to marry his beloved soon. However, Sidonie’s mother Queen Ysandre places a stipulation on their marrying; she orders Imriel to bring his evil seditious mother Melisande Shahrizai to justice or he will never obtain permission to marry her daughter.

As the royal prepares for his quest, a spell is cast that convinces everyone in the capital including Imriel that his beloved Sidonie loves the visiting prince of Carthage; she obviously believes it too as she sails to Carthage to wed him. Imriel seems to be the only one to recall that he and Sidonie have been in love, but when no one believes him he realizes great magic is afoot. As he prepares to rescue his beloved, he also struggles to prevent a crippling war from occurring.

The finish to the second trilogy (see KUSHIEL’S SCION and KUSHIEL’S JUSTICE) is a superb entry due to the excellent characterizations even with sexual themes less active than in previous books. Imriel and Sidonie are a wonderful pairing trying to overcome her mom’s opposition and a devious enchantment that challenges the power of love. Fans will appreciate KUSHIEL’S MERCY as Imriel is trapped between his deep loyalty to his people on the brink of a deadly war and his ensorcelled beloved on the brink of a deadly marriage.

Harriet Klausner

The Dark Ferryman-Jenna Rhodes

The Dark Ferryman
Jenna Rhodes
Daw, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780756405212

The Gods were disgusted at the damage that the Mage Wars did so they took the magic away from them and turned their backs on the people of Kerith. The Vaelinar Elfin like beings of magic were thrown into Kerith and over the centuries this long life spanned species entrenched their way into the infrastructure of this world. Lariel the Warrior Queen rules the land, but she has enemies within and without as civil war seems imminent.

Half-breeds Rivergrace and Sevryn, the Queen’s Hand find love, but Lariel supervises them until she can make sure that the former is not a traitor or a threat to her rule. The powerful Warlord Quendius leads his ruthless army of two deadly races, one of which is the Raymy, a deadly race of sentient reptiles. Lord Diort has his Boelgers, Galdarkin and his Kerran as alliess and they prepare for war against Kerrith. Enemies become allies and friends become seditious foes as the Ways become dangerous with only the DARK FERRYMAN seeming to know the answers, but his cost is exorbitant; just ask Rivergrace and Sevryn.

Jenna Rhodes has written a wonderful epic fantasy in the tradition of Terry Brooks and Kate Elliot. THE DARK FERRYMAN is filled with backstabbing political intrigue and fascinating characters who mostly have personal agendas to gain power. Especially fascinating is a brilliant Machiavellian traitor who makes the Neocons look honest as this genius plays puppeteer operating from the shadows to string those in the inner circle of the queen. There are plenty of surprises and twists starting from the moment the beleaguered Lariel no longer trusts those whom she always thought were loyal and as revelations surface, readers cannot put down this superb tale waiting for the next spin to occur.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 25, 2008

The One I Want-Nancy Warren

The One I Want
Nancy Warren
Kensington Brava, May 2008,
ISBN: 9780758210456

London party girl Chloe Flynt is the grandmaster of dumping fiancés and boyfriends leaving them with their pride in tact. However, she realizes she has no skills except partying and her experiences are limited to ending three engagements. She needs a new start, but knows it must be far from London where she has quite a reputation.

She moves to Austin and opens up a personal service business as a professional break-up artist. Business is booming and she soon hires help, but her attraction to her next door neighbor Matthew Tanner goes nowhere because he has a girlfriend Brittany whose “Let’s talk it out” motto is totally wrong for him; Chloe believes let’s sex it out. However to persuade him that she is right for him will take a Texas size maneuver while she is an expatriate London swinger.

THE ONE I WANT is a terrific amusing contemporary romance that showcases the true meaning of globalization as the ultimate London party girl takes Austin for quite a swing. Matthew is a wonderful hunk of beef but it is Chloe’s antics as she ropes in her man that makes Nancy Warren’s tale enjoyable.

Harriet Klausner

Baddest Bad Boys-Shannon McKenna, E.C. Sheedy and Cate Noble

Baddest Bad Boys
Shannon McKenna, E.C. Sheedy and Cate Noble
Kensington Brava, May 2008,
ISBN: 9780758208521

"Anytime, Anywhere" by Shannon McKenna. Robin MacNamara has decided her brother’s friend Jon Amendola is the man to make her a woman. She goes to his lake house to lose her virginity to him, but he has enemies from his current case as a cop who want him dead and collateral damage is not problem to them.

"After the Lovin'" by E.C. Sheedy. Mac Fleming is assigned to protect Tommi Smith from a nasty adversary. They were attracted before, but now their respective hearts have totally taken charge of their heads.

"Deal With the Devil" by Cate Noble. Max “Devil” DeLuca wants to keep Ellie DeLuca safe from a stalker so he offers her a week of sex at a private island retreat. The sex part of the scheme works perfectly, but the outcome fails when Ellie learns some information and flees from him into danger.

Though the well written heated interludes with danger nearby is hard to grab, these three passionate romantic suspense novellas are fun to read as the BADDEST BAD BOYS shield the women they cherish from deadly adversaries, but no one protects their hearts from each other.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Master-Tawney Taylor

Dark Master
Tawney Taylor
Kensington Aphrodisia, May 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758226778

Totally broke, Regan Roslund makes a living selling BDSM paraphernalia from the bondage shop she inherited form her late aunt. She finds her inventory boring until passing time she puts a leather choker around her neck and dreams of its previous user, who in her fantasy leaves her in need of more.

The King of the Undead Degenen, Quinby "Shadow" Sorenson needs to marry in order to come to full power and prevent attacks on his throne. When he meets Regan, he decides she is perfect and they quickly marry undead style. However, someone wants to prevent Shadow from becoming all he can be due to sexual intensity so he goes after his Achilles’ heal, Regan.

This enjoyable paranormal erotic romance is fun to follow, but has abrupt scene changes that can prove a bit jarring. Regan is an interesting protagonist as she wonders how she ended up making a living peddling sex gizmos until the Shadow shows her the fun in testing the BDSM merchandise. Fans will appreciate Regan’s DARK MASTER as he teaches his beloved new spouse, sex with a bite. Even as his opponents need her dead to prevent him from gaining the exponential increase in power that sex with the woman you love engorges his species with power.

Harriet Klausner

Promiscuous-R. Moreen Clarke

R. Moreen Clarke
Kensington Aphrodisia, May 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780758216816

Connie Jefferson is a nice woman who never acts out except once with affluent realtor Marshall James before scurrying back to the safety of her boyfriend Steady Victor. Her old high school rival Deandra Morgan loves being a bad girl as she relishes big especially in her men and no one comes juicier or bigger than Marshall James.

Marshall enjoys the uninhibited anything goes show me the money Deandra, but has not forgotten the best sex of his life; that one night with sweet Connie when he got her to let her hair and much more down. When he and Connie meet for the first time since that explosive evening, he thinks he better make up his mind as Connie has his heart and upper head, but Deandra owns his lower head; or does she?

This engaging erotic triangle with a nod to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind” is an entertaining contemporary romance. The story line is fast-paced and few male leads come across as fully developed as the confused Marshall does. Although the females are stereotypical polar opposites, fans will enjoy wondering who Marshall will leave behind between uninhibited sex and a complete person in love with him.

Harriet Klausner

Only With a Cowboy-P.J. Mellor, Vonna Harper and Melissa MacNeal

Only With a Cowboy
P.J. Mellor, Vonna Harper and Melissa MacNeal
Kensington Aphrodisia, May 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780758220271

"Hard in the Saddle" by P.J. Mellor. Cowboy Sam Austin wants to tame city slick she-cat Madison St. Claire, but has to use a ruse and his body to keep her in town.

"Breeding Season" by Vonna Harper. High school sweethearts Wendi Rennert broke up after Mike Wagner left town, but now he is back and she plans to complete unfinished business with him or at least his body.

"Getting Lucky" by Melissa MacNeal. Following a modeling career Luke McGrew has returned home wanting to save his mother's Wyoming ranch, but bank president Jane Cook rejects his loan request but not his body.

Although there is a bit too much bull from the lead characters, these three heated contemporary erotic romances affirm that cowboys know how to ride hard, fast and slow.

Harriet Klausner

Wild, Wild Women of the West II-Layla Chase, Delilah Devlin and Myla Jackson

Wild, Wild Women of the West II
Layla Chase, Delilah Devlin and Myla Jackson
Kensington Aphrodisia, May 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758223869

"Once Upon a Legend" by Delilah Devlin. In1883 Serendipity, Montana, when writer Prudence Vogel meets model of the lead protagonist of her books Jake White Eagle, she realizes he is even more a hunk.

"Second Wind” by Myla Jackson. In 1884 Thunderstruck, Kansas, when naked balloonist Dolly Sherman falls from the sky, she knocks Seth Turner off his horse and into each others arms.

"Cinnamon and Sparks” by Layla Chase. In 1876 Colorado Territory, when newcomer Oriana Donato Ignacio finds herself in danger, Sheriff Kent Wyman vows to keep her safe.

The second W to the 4th power contains three superb erotic wild west romances starring women who know what they want and go after their respective him.

Harriet Klausner

Hotter After Midnight-Cynthia Eden

Hotter After Midnight
Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758226020

Therapist to the paranormal Emily Drake’s client list includes vampires with a psychotic reaction to blood and legendary Others with phobias. Because of her abnormal caseload, Dr. Drake has been asked to provide profiling skills to the police investigating the Night Butcher murder. She will work with Detective Colin Gyth, who makes her lust for him, but the psychiatrist to the Monster species knows never trust a shifter with your heart, soul or body.

Soon more creatures are killed even and they begin to meet powerful demons, out of control shifters, and an apparent human with special powers. As they get closer to solving the serial killing case, alpha Colin lets the beast out that he has controlled as much as possible to keep his soulmate safe from the Night Butcher who looks forward to tasting Emily’s terror. However, in spite of her impudent rejections that she does not want anything to do with his only natural shape shifting organ, his desire for her has taken charge of him.

This dark yet amusing police procedural romantic fantasy is fast-paced and filled with non stop action. However it is the cast that makes this a superb thriller as nasty demons, disreputable shapeshifters, and other paranormal species prove anything is possible under the sun, and a fabulous abnormal psychiatrist who keeps the whodunit and romance focused. HOTTER AFTER MIDNIGHT is fantastic heat anytime of the day.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World

A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World
Tony Horowitz
Holt, Apr 29 2008, $27.50
ISBN: 9780805076035

Upon a visit to Massachusetts, Tony Horowitz is awed when he sees Plymouth Rock; not out of it being grand sort of an American Gibraltar, but to realize it is not much more than a pebble. As one child points out, the Pilgrims must have had small feet to land on that rock. Tony reflects on what he knows about American history only to draw major blanks for over a century and half; from Columbus until Jamestown. What frightens Tony is that he graduated with a history degree. Thus he vows to track the story of the European explorers who traveled American even before Columbus. Starting with the Vikings and following with the French and Spanish, Tony tracks those who came before Jamestown.

With a nod to Mr. Wuhl’s HBO special Assume The Position, Tony Horowitz goes on a reverent journey tracing the paths traveled by European explorers between 1492 and 1607. On his trek, Mr. Horowitz meets many people with a differing interpretation of events like the Spanish (St. Augustine was founded forty-two years earlier than the Plymouth Rock landing) came before the Pilgrims so America should celebrate Thanksgiving with Chili. This is a fun travelogue as Mr. Horowitz’ enthusiasm and energy add to the enjoyment; quoting Mr. Wuhl: "I shit you not".

Harriet Klausner

Quiver-Peter Leonard

Peter Leonard
St. Martin's, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312379025

In Detroit former racing car champion Owen McCall and his teenage son Luke go hunting together. Luke shoots an arrow at a deer that somehow goes through the animal and his father, killing Owen.

The sixteen years old boy is filled with guilt and depression, his mom Kate struggles with her own despondency. However, the Widow is not allowed any time to grief or be there for her devastated offspring. Her former Peace Corps lover Jack Curran arrives allegedly to console the widow who he reminds that he once saved her life. However, Jack has a hidden agenda and fails to inform Kate that he did time and that his current friends have criminal plans for the surviving McCalls.

Although an entertaining crime caper, QUIVER is too much a good guys vs. the bad guys thriller rather than a deep look at a grieving son filled with self loathing guilt over killing his dad even though Luke knows logically it was an accident. Instead the tale focuses on what Jack and associates do to Kate and Luke with a full circle high noon confrontation at Owen’s hunting lodge while the audience expects insight into Luke’s mental state. Still Peter Leonard provides an exciting suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Madman on a Drum-David Housewright

Madman on a Drum
David Housewright
St. Martin's, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312370817

In St. Paul, Minnesota sixth grader Victoria and fourth grader Katie Dunston were walking home from St. Mark’s Elementary School when a man in white coveralls and a black ski mask abducts the older sister. Their father Bobby, the city’s homicide chief, asks his long time friend former cop Rushmore McKenzie to help rescue his daughter although the detective knows his buddy lacks a sleuthing license.

The kidnapper demands Mac deliver the ransom, which he is willing to do. Mac begins racing through St. Paul following tips while someone places a $50,000 bounty on him. Soon Mac and Bobby begin to realize who the abductor is and why this snatch is personal. The knowledge brings fear to both men not for themselves, but for what their former childhood buddy might be capable of doing to this preadolescent girl out of an obsession to avenge what he believes was a betrayal of their friendship.

This is an exciting Twin City Noir that never slows down from the opening abduction to the final confrontation. Part of the fascination with this strong series (see DEAD BOYFRIENDS).is Mac makes mistakes that can prove costly as he does in MADMAN ON A DRUM. Although action-packed, the tale also focuses on loyalty between friends as Bobby was doing his job when the betrayal occurred (though not quite as potentially dangerous and it was a law enforcement matter, but think in terms of the heroic parents who turned in their son recently because they feared a Columbine). This is a strong entry in a powerful series.

Harriet Klausner

The Rough Collier-Pat McIntosh

The Rough Collier
Pat McIntosh
Soho, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781569475072

In 1493 in the peat bogs of Belstane Parish in Central Lanarkshire, a corpse has been uncovered. No one knows how long the body laid in the ooze, but many assume murder because of the severe injury to the skull and slash across the throat.

The Beltane Parish chaplain to Sir James, David Fleming accuses the local herbalist and healer "Beattie" Lithgo of committing the crime; his evidence is based on his belief she practices witchcraft and the body is that of a missing person Thomas Murray. The Archbishop of nearby Glasgow sends his Quaestor Gil Cunningham to investigate. Gil is accompanied by his new wife Alys; they quickly conclude the victim was killed quite a long time ago and is not Thomas. As the case spins into a matriarchal family while more corpses are found, the constable and his spouse feel they are stuck in the bog.

Although extremely well written and exciting, this medieval police procedural takes serious time and place so is filled with Scottish colloquiums that can make it a bit difficult to follow dialogue. Once the reader adjusts to the discussions, fans will find a terrific whodunit as the married detectives struggle with prejudice and fear inside of a strong fifteenth century mystery

Harriet Klausner

The Lost-Roberta Kray

The Lost
Roberta Kray
Soho, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781569475065

Reporter Len Curzon interviews a criminal in a local prison in what the journalist realizes is a waste of his time; he thinks of having a few drinks instead until he notices disgraced former politician Paul Deacon, convicted for the murder of Tony Keppel, son of a crime boss, with a beautiful woman who could not be more than thirty years old. Curious and sensing a story, he wonders if the female visitor who uses the name Ellen Shaw might be Grace Harper, who vanished two decades ago when she was eight years old.

At the Whistle, Curzon talks to former cop turned private investigator Harry Lind about his hunch. Harry is on his own paying case; nightclub owner Ray Stagg hired him to find his missing his brother-in-law Al because the man’s wife, his sister Denise, out of worry has nagged him to death. When Curzon is murdered, his journalist peer Jessica Vaughn convinces Lind that the cops got it wrong re Curzon’s death; it was premeditated not random.

This interesting crime caper takes readers on a fascinating look at the London criminal world through a large number of support players that bring depth and chaos to the engaging story line. Lind is a terrific protagonist who has his own issues, but with Jessica making him feel guilty and not just over Curzon’s death, he ignores his personal warning sirens and gets involved. With a strong cast, Roberta Kray sheds a deep spotlight on London’s “lost” population although that can slow down the action.

Harriet Klausner

Tailspin-Catherine Coulter

Catherine Coulter
Putnam, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780399155031

She woke up to find her hands tied to her chest and her legs locked in wieights just before theyows her into the lake. An expert swimmer, Rachel Abbott, illegitimate daughter of a powerful senator, gets free and goes on the run. She believes her father’s two siblings want her dead to prevent her from revealing something that could have destroyed her dad’s career; though before he died he was planning to go public. In Ketucky Appalachia on her way to a safe house to rest and think, she sees a plane make an emergency crash landing; the pilot and the passenger manage to escape just before the plane exploded.

The pilot is FBI Agent Jackson Crowne who was flying his friend psychiatrist Dr Timothy MacLean to Washington, D.C. in order for the agency to protect him from an unknown adversary. Dr. Maclean suffers from frontal lobe dementia, which has led him to break confidentiality about three patients. Even at the hospital there are attempts on the psychiatrist’s life just as there are on Rachel’s. Happily married Savich and Sherlock are sent to learn what happened to Maclean and then hearing her story, take Racheal under their wing. Soon they too are in danger from killers wanting Timothy and Rachel silenced.

Catherine Coulter is one of the best authors of exciting thrillers writing today. The several subplots running throughout her novels that eventually tie together is a work of art. In the case of TAILSPIN, Savich and Sherlock heat up the pages while a romance between Rachel and Jack blossoms. Readers already care about SS, but will also like JR. and his evolving romance with Rachael. Fans of the series will relish the protagonists and their cronies as they struggle to stay alive against cunning professional killers.

Harriet Klausner

The Snow Queen-Mercedes Lackey

The Snow Queen
Mercedes Lackey
Luna, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780373802654

As the Snow Queen of the Palace of Ever-Winter, Godmother Aleksia insures magic is handled safely. However the Godmother Elena through their mirror communication system informs her that someone pretending to be the Snow Queen is killing people. Aleksia is angry and disturbed, but plans to put an end to this odious affront.

At the same time that Aleksia learns of the deception, the Snow Queen abducts Veikko. His mother the Wise Woman Annukka and his fiancée Kaari vow to save him from the evil one. When these two courageous women meet Aleksia, neither trusts the other until the trio realizes an adversary to all of them is using powerful magic to cause havoc across the land.

The latest Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms (see THE FAIRY GODMOTHER, ONE GOOD KNIGHT, and FORTUNE’S FOOL) is a wonderful adult fairy tale starring three heroines facing danger with courage, wit, and humor. The story line is action-packed from the moment the mirror hot line activates and never slows down until the “Queens” confront each other. Readers will appreciate the enchanting SNOW QUEEN as Mercedes Lackey casts a reading in one sitting spell on her audience.

Harriet Klausner

Hawkspar-Holly Lisle

Holly Lisle
Tor, Jun 2008, $27.95
ISBN 9780765309945

In Korre, Aaran is an experienced very successful “veteran tracker of slaves”; having attacked slave ships on the seas to free the human cargo. However, his mission this time is personal; he seeks his missing sister, who disappeared without a trace a long time ago. He knows the trail is cold, but feels he must try.

The female slave has achieved the impossible twice; first surviving the abuse of her owner the Osselene Order and second somehow becoming an oracle, Hawkspar the demigoddess. She has learned of a nefarious plot that could eradicate a race and knows how to save the lives of thousands by using her skill to change the flow of Time through the amulet Eyes of War, but at the cost of her life. However this former slave needs to be rescued before she beginsand Aeran hears her magical song.

The second Korre fantasy (see TALYN) is an exciting thriller that feels like Dungeoens and Dragons on the open sea as much of the non-stop action occurs on oceans. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as one adventure follows another. However all the escapades also keep most of the cast from being fully devleoped especially villains. Still this is an engaging entry as HAWKSPAR who has not lived a gentle life finds herself caught in a personal dilemma between being a dead heroine for people who have mistreated her or a live coward.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Summer Snow-Nicole Baart

Summer Snow
Nicole Baart
Tyndale, May 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414316239

After seeing life as half empty for a decade since her mother walked out on her, Julia DeSmit drops out of college coming home pregnant. She vows to change her negative attitude for the sake of her baby thinking in terms of slicing off the top of the cup so that her cup is filled.

Julia lives with her beloved grandma who gave her a home when her mom abandoned her. She also works at the grocery store. However, Julia’s new found positivism collapses when her mother Janice comes home expecting a warm welcome on a chilly March evening. Her daughter’s anger and acrimony explodes as Julia wants Janice to just leave as she wants nothing to do with her mother although she sees herself somewhat in the same predicament that Janice faced.

This is a terrific character study of three generations of women struggling with the return of the sandwiched one who had previously abandoned her mom and daughter. The trio is fully developed so that the audience will feel they know why each behaves the way they do especially with one another. Fans will appreciate Julia’s lament as she begins to understand what her mother faced and what it means to forgive. However, being human and not divine she cannot forget and thus has doubts she can ever accept Janice as her blood relative especially since Grandma is more her mom than her biological mother ever was. This is a strong contemporary look at three related females trying to reconnect even as the fourth generation is coming.

Harriet Klausner

Duke Most Wanted-Celeste Bradley

Duke Most Wanted
Celeste Bradley
St. Martin's, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780312939700

In 1815 only one of the three cousins remain single with a chance to inherit the Pickering fortune, but bookworm too tall and clumsy twenty-seven year old Sophie is uninterested in their late grandfather’s fortune nor in marriage as she assumes she is on the shelf for life that is if she does not inelegantly fall off. Instead she is having the time of her life especially with her friendship with Graham, the youngest son of a duke with four older brothers.

However, when his father and a brother die, Graham reconsiders his carefree lifestyle and decides he needs a bride. He wants intelligent witty Sophie as his wife. However, Sophie who has always considered herself plain cannot believe her buddy desires her even with fashion tips turning her into a beauty.

The final Heiress Brides tale (see DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUKE and THE DUKE NEXT DOOR) is a delightful Regency romance. The key threads from the previous books are completed and a fabulous twist involving a crooked lethal lawyer (no oxymoron joke intended) adds depth as Phoebe and Deirdre return to help their cousin get her man. Celeste Bradley spins a winner as even the ugly duckling turning into a beautiful swan due to an early nineteenth century makeover seems right.

Harriet Klausner

House Rules- Mike Lawson

House Rules
Mike Lawson
Atlantic Monthly, Jun 2008, $22
ISBN 9780871139832

Muslim terrorists attack the Washington, D.C. area by air, by car and by suicide bomber. Although all three attacks failed, the country panics as everyone assumes a new 9/11 will reoccur soonest as anyone with a competent thought knows you cannot negotiate with people willing to die for their cause especially if they fully believe God awaits to hug them.

Amidst the fervor of patriotism and fear, House Speaker John Mahoney, having learned from Oklahoma City and the extremes exploited by our leaders after 9/11, calmly looks at the known facts. He has some doubts about the majority wisdom of the pundits that Middle Easterners are behind the assault and assigns his operative Joe DeMarco to investigate the incidents. Joe wonders if the attacks are tied to anti-Islamic legislation championed in a patriotic with me or terrorist supporter against me fervor of Virginia Senator William Davis Broderick who constantly reminds everyone of the failed attempt to blow up the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel on Labor Day.

This exciting post 9/11 Continental United States thriller is fast-paced, but what makes it a strong read is Joe who “escorts” readers through DC politcal power in which ambition, manipulation, and conspiracy is the norm. Fans will enjoy the hero’s effort to learn the truth behind the attacks, but each step he takes seems to be murkier and fraught with “J’accuse” danger as the shadowy opponents seem in control of the media; recent NYT revelations on military experts on the TV news affirms Mike Lawson's theory that Pogo is right that we met the enemy and they are us. (see THE SECOND PERIMETER and THE INSDE RING).

Harriet Klausner

Zoo Station-David Downing

Zoo Station
David Downing
Soho, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781569474952

In 1939 Berlin, Englishman John Russell earns a meager living as a reporter in Germany where he has lived for a decade and half. Although he fears what is going on inside his adopted country, John does not want to leave because he loves his young son Paul and the lad’s mother his girlfriend Effi Koenen; and wants to remain with them.

A Soviet operative hires Russell to write several articles to be published in Pravda lauding the Nazi accomplishments, but ignoring their atrocities in order to sell the nonaggression pact to the people. Although he detests extolling the virtues of this criminal regime, John accepts the assignment that will pay a lot. He agrees not because of the money, but he thinks he can help his home country with information. However, the British no longer trust John and the Nazis watch his every move threatening his two loves ones.

As in Russell’s previous appearance (see SILESIAN STATION), he is an everyday guy caught up in world events; thus once again even with plenty of suspense and intrigue, ZOO STATION is more a historical tale than a Nazi Era espionage thriller. David Downing writes how everyman finds the inner vigor and intensity to become a superhero when the motive, opportunity and means enable the person to step up to the plate. In harrowing times, John swings the bat.

Harriet Klausner

The Actress-Elizabeth Sims

The Actress
Elizabeth Sims
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312377274

After meeting his latest semi-notorious client Eileen Tenaway, L.A. celebrity attorney Gary Kwan realizes even he cannot stand the unsympathetic woman; a jury will hang her without needing any evidence to the charge she allegedly killed her baby. Desperate he hires starving wannabe actress Rita Farmer at one thousand dollars a day to train Eileen to appear a lot more sympathetic and likable in court especially when she takes the stand. Needing the money as she fears her rat of an ex will make an attempt to gain custody of their son Petey, Rita accepts the assignment.

Rita finds teaching Eileen nearly impossible as the woman is sociopathically uncaringly numb. However, not long afterward, the case twists when insurance investiagtor Mr.Rowe informs Rita of a pay out to Eileen and her husband’s business partner over the death of her sposue in Brazil. Soon Rita ponders whether the husband is dead and not long aftere that is resolved, his business partner, a lot of money and jewels vanish. When someone murders Gary and kidnaps Rita's son, the actress and her friend Daniel desperately search for her offspring even while knowing an unknown adversary wants Eileen hung.

Readers will root for Rita who turns from gentle kitty to ferocious lioness when her cub is threatened although some of her early investigative actions seem out of character as it places her and ultimately Petey in danger. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Gary hires Rita and never slows down. The key to this exhilarating amateur sleuth legal thriller is Eileen. She is so unsympathetic fans will convict her without any need of evidence. Elizabeth Sims provides a fascinating tale especially when the plot focuses on Eileen.

Harriet Klausner

Legend of the Treasure-J. Michael Squatrito, Jr.

Legend of the Treasure
J. Michael Squatrito, Jr.
iUniverse, 2006, $22.95
ISBN: 0595390080

Over a millennium ago, the Overlords simply vanished. Throughout the lands of Gammoria, Arcadia, and Ontarian Territory as well as disputed area, smaller semi independent states and unclaimed deserted patches, this powerful civilization left behind metal plates allegedly with clues to a hidden bounty that over the centuries has become known more as the legend of the TREASURE OF THE LAND concealed in the Seven Rooms.

In Aegeus, Arcadia off the Serpent Sea, Harrison Cross persuades some of his friends that they can find the mythical treasure and bring it home so their town can prosper. Even as they follow the clues of the plates along the way, the trek proves dangerous as the Scynthian race wants all humans dead so they attack them without mercy. At the same time the ruthless Governor of neighboring Concur Lord Nigel Hammer and his malevolent horde want the treasure for selfish reasons and killing a few rivals is no problem for them.

This engaging quest fantasy reads like a cross between the game Dungeons & Dragons and the cult movie Fillard Millmore. Findings from a dead ancient civilization are marveled over as if they were once magical and still are if you can figure out how to use them; sort of like a caveman seeing electricity. Although the villains are two dimensional either as ruthless and or Lady Macbeth ambitious, readers will fully enjoy traveling with heroic fully developed Harrison and his companions as they face danger every step of the way, but courageously continue on their mission in a land vividly described by J. Michael Squatrito, Jr. so it seems real.

Harriet Klausner

The Twisted Citadel-Sara Douglass

The Twisted Citadel
Sara Douglass
Eos, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780060882150

Escator King Maximilian and his former Queen Ishbel battle their strong feelings for one another. However, both have doubts about reheating their romance as the first time it ended sadly and though they care for one another they both fear it will end badly again.

At the same time the rulers debate the merits of their on and off relationship, Escator’s military chieftain Isaiah and the Icarii enchanter Axis SunSoar plot strategy to fight the powerful evil demonic god Kanubai. Since DarkGlass Mountain has absorbed Kanubai, the demon has become even more dangerous to the country and this malevolence is growing stronger. Both Isaiah and Axis know they must act promptly before it is too late; their fear is that it is already too late.

Although not as strong as the Axis Trilogy or the first DarkGkss Mountauin entry (see THE SERPENT BRIDE), THE TWISTED CITADEL is predominently a middle book quest fantasy. Still bone weary and mentally exhausted Maximilian makes the tale with his tired muses that being a hero and champion is not fun; he just wants to stay home for a change and ignore his responsibilty of battling evil. The cast is solid regardless of species especially the human and Icarii teamup and the story line is fast-paced, but progress in spite of some vividly described encounters is limited as this second act mostly sets up the grand finish.

Harriet Klausner

Mind the Gap-Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

Mind the Gap
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Bantam, Jun 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553384697

Coming home Jazz felt something was wrong in the house where she lived with her mother. Her parent taught her to be alert and always look over her shoulder to see if anyone was coming after her. Heeding her niggling feelings, she sneaks into her home and sees the Uncles there looking like they were waiting for her to arrive. She enters her mom’s room finding her dead with her neck slashed; her mom’s final words to her written in her blood: Jazz hide forever”.

Fleeing her Uncles, Jazz enters an Underground tunnel beneath London where the homeless, the disenfranchised, and the mentally ill reside. She joins forces with the United Kingdom; consisting of young people led by Harold “Harry” Pilkington Fowler. They take her into their home and she becomes a thief in the world above. The Uncles’ have thugs searching for her and he finds her. He kills one of her new friends and injures Harry. The United Kingdom kills one of them because these amoral hooligans do not care one iota about collateral damage in their quest to capture Jazz. Above ground she meets burglar Terrance, who is similar to Harry. Vowing revenge for her mom and the dead boy, Jazz plans to take the battle to the Uncles.

The London Underground is a city underneath the metropolis that topsiders are unaware exists; it has its rules, cultures and beliefs like any society have. It is also a place where Jazz sees scenes of magic of London in bygone eras. Jazz is the glue that holds the story line together; she is strong and obstinate as she refuses to cower any longer determined to take the fight to her enemy. Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon provide an engaging fast-paced yet eerie teen thriller as the revelations keep on coming but the action never decelerates.

Harriet Klausner