Friday, October 31, 2008

Where Do I Go?-Neta Jackson

Where Do I Go?
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson, Dec 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595545237

Gabrielle Fairbanks has been a supermom to their sons and very supportive of her husband’s career at a cost to her own identity. When Gabby and her spouse relocate to Chicago for his job, they agree to leave the kids at boarding school.

However, with the children away at school, Gabby suffers from empty nest syndrome, but is unsure what she wants to do. When she meets a homeless person, Gabby finds a calling and obtains work at Manna House Women’s Shelter. However to her chagrin her husband opposes her work and the new friends she has made; he even has issues with her finding God in her life.

This direct sequel to the recently completed Yada Yada saga includes some of the cast and the beginnings of the same inspirational "House of Hope" messages of “to thine own self be true” by getting involved to help others through God’s forgiveness. The spousal war over who Gabby should be and her asking herself the title question is well designed, but those needing closure will have to wait for the next novel. Fans of Neta Jackson will rejoice with the opening of her new series.

Harriet Klausner

Bedding Down--Kristina Wright, Gwen Masters, Alison Tyler, Marilyn Jaye Lewis, Isabelle Gray, Sophie Mouette and Shanna Germain

Bedding Down
Kristina Wright, Gwen Masters, Alison Tyler, Marilyn Jaye Lewis, Isabelle Gray, Sophie Mouette and Shanna Germain
Avon, Dec 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061560637

"One Night in Winter" by Kristina Wright. Susannah returns home to Minerva where her former lover Derrick reignites their heat.

"Six Weeks at Sunrise Mountain, Colorado" by Gwen Masters. Stressed to the max, burned-out millionaire Fletcher flees for Sunrise Mountain to escape; there he rescues a frozen bruised Janine who in turn rescues his libido and heart.

"It's Not the Weather" by Alison Tyler. Shelly assumes it is her fault that her boyfriend Roger is cold regardless of what she tries; so she gives up on him only to find warmth and passion with Jeremiah.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Marilyn Jaye Lewis. Married couple Kaylie and Connor becomes snowbound, which gives them time to reenact some of their hottest moments.

"Northern Exposure" by Isabelle Gray. Their marriage is over yet neither Alana nor Gideon can move on as each wonders if they should give it one more try.

"Hidden Treasure" by Sophie Mouette. Brenda and Sean discover a treasure, but will they understand what the real treasure is.

"Sweet Season," by Shanna Germain. After being away for awhile, Dulcie returns to her family's maple syrup business only to find Travis is the real sweetener.

Although the plots are paper thin, the lead couples are developed enough to emit plenty of heat for fans to appreciate this wintry erotic septet.

Harriet Klausner

A Baby in the Bunkhouse-Cathy Gillen Thacker

A Baby in the Bunkhouse
Cathy Gillen Thacker
Harlequin American, Dec 2008
ISBN: 0373752415

On his Texas Hill Country ranch, Rafferty Evans behaves like the Grinch who stole Christmas year round; he is a grump if you ask the other cowboys living there. His new cook pregnant Jacey Lambert is driving him crazy with her kindness and caring for everyone even saying nice things to the grouch who makes Oscar look angelic.

However, Rafferty cannot prevent himself from looking forward to Jacey’s good cheer and to his shock he even likes A BABY INN THE BUNKHOUSE even if the infant is not his. As Jacey begins to turn around the crotchety cantankerous cowboy, they begin to fall in love, but to have a happy ending she must persuade him to move past his tormented past into a loving future.

This entertaining Texas ranch romance stars a crank, a baby, and an angel. Jacey’s optimism is contagious as she sees the glass as half filled while Rafferty would spill out the liquid and claim it is totally empty. Although similar to many sub-genre tales fans will enjoy this fine contemporary as Jacey keeps filling up the glass refusing to quit each time Rafferty empties it.

Harriet Klausner

Once Upon a Christmas-Holly Jacobs

Once Upon a Christmas
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin American, Dec 2008
ISBN: 0373752423

In Erie, Pennsylvania, although only the legal guardian to her nephew Brendan, Michelle Hamilton acts more like the child’s mother and has for five years ever since her sister, his mom, dropped him off explaining she was dying. She loves the lad and would do anything for him; even join the Erie Elementary PTA Social Committee; of course she volunteered when she was too sick to realize what she was doing.

However, when Brendan becomes determined to find his biological father, Michelle is hurt and worried as she fears if the child succeeds, the man will wants custody. Brendan meets his dad Daniel McLean and to her shock Michelle sees he is a terrific male role model. Even more stunning to the “single mom” is the realization she is falling in love with her nephew’s dad after spending several years hiding behind the mommy persona.

Holly Jacobs keeps this engaging Erie Elementary PTA (see ONCE UPON A THANKSGIVING) contemporary romance fresh through three strong protagonists coming together as a family who supersede the often used plot of finding a biological parent. The story line is driven by the changing relationships especially between the adults as each starts off wary and cynical but slowly observe how good the other is with Brendan before knowing they are in love. The fully developed triangle and the support cast make for a fine ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS tale.

Harriet Klausner

Scarpetta-Patricia Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, Dec 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399155161

Kay Scarpetta and Benton Wesley are married and for the first time in their long relationship, they are not only in the same state, they share the same house. She is the medical examiner for the Northeastern District of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and both are guest lecturers at NYC’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. They also provide free consulting services for agencies to include NYPD.

Oscar Bane, a little person, checks himself into Bellevue after seeing his lover, also a little person, dead; a homicide victim. Benton does a pre evaluation and Oscar reveals he will not talk to anyone except Scarpetta. When she arrives Oscar tells her that “they” are watching him and know every move he makes. He also tells her to find a disc hidden in his apartment so she will know he is not paranoid. The police believe Bone killed his significant other, but Scarpetta based on forensics does not even believe he warrants a warrant. Further research reveals other people were killed in a similar fashion; each wearing an ankle bracelet. Kay, Lucy, prosecutor Jaime Berger, and investigator Pete Marino begin to seek a serial killer who enjoys torture and murder.

It has been two decades since Scarpetta was introduced and over that time the characters have changed and grown. Bonds have formed and others broken; now Kay and Benton take the next step in their relationship. However as always in this great series, SCARPETTA is first and foremost a superb crime thriller filled with action though character driven. Readers will fully enjoy the heroine and her horde’s latest adventures as Patricia Cornwell affirms why she is this reviewer’s favorite crime thriller author.

Harriet Klausner

Demon's Hunger-Eve Silver

Demon's Hunger
Eve Silver
Forever, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0446618934

In New Orleans Dain Hawkins and his Compact of Sorcerer cohorts seek Hybrid humans who allow Demons to take over their bodies. They are concerned that the Solitary special demon is making an effort to cross the line between his realm and the human world; and has the help of Asher the Ancient Sorcerer who betrayed his oath. Dain collects gris gris voodoo bags with bones inside and plans to visit University of Toronto at Mississippi assistant anthropology professor Dr, Vivian Cairn for her take on his collection. He and his peers also seek a serial sexual killer, who they believe is a rare succubus.

Vivian feels relief that her mom’s latest visit ended though she loves her single mom. Still she wonders why her dad left them when she was two years old leaving behind a velvet bag and a photo of him. Over the years she has found more gris gris bags. However, her big fear is once again twelve hours of her life vanished without her knowing what she did.

Dane and two other sorcerers arrive at Vivian’s home to consult with her. Dane and Vivian are instantly attracted to one another, but he refuses to act on these feelings fearing the same fate for her as his human wife and daughter who were murdered centuries ago. Vivian realizes he is her dream lover. A demon and hybrids attack them; Dane kills the demon and his friends the hybrids. She is not sure what is going on, but uses her skill to stay emotionally detached though she desperately wants Dane, who insists she stay at his home so he can protect her.

This excellent romantic fantasy works because of the relationship between the lead couple and the belief that demons, half-breeds, sorcerers and succubus are genuine. The lost time is a brilliant spin that will leave readers marveling and there are other terrific twists involving the heroine and her mom. Although a pet peeve that the villain Asher boasts to one of his former cohorts much of his plan instead of acting, the audience will enjoy this superb thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked is the Night- Catherine Mulvaney

Wicked is the Night
Catherine Mulvaney
Pocket, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 1416525580

Racing car driver Patrick “Trick Granger is fortunate to be alive even though his career is over because he injured his knee. He and his assistant Marcello Bellini are driving from Tahoe to Placerville where he recently inherited a home that was once a brothel and is now haunted by nineteenth century hooker turned ghost Blanche.

Nevada White knows two men are after her since she escaped from the Appleton Institute. When a trucker tosses her from his van, Trick notices and gets Marcello to rescue her. She is upset as she lost a gold amulet; her only item from her mom, whoever she was. Nevada has some psychic skills, but they are not helping her remember.

They stop at a truck stop and she leaves them. When she sees the two thugs pursuing her at truck stop, she sneaks back into Trick’s car. Trick finds the man who deserted Nevada on the road dead with tons of blood everywhere. Trick and Marcello continue their drive, but are stopped by Detectives Branson and Collier who insist they are looking for an escaped killer who murdered her father. Trick sends them towards Sacramento as he refuses to believe Nevada is a killer. Over the next few days he tries to protect her, he knows someone wants her dead, but not whom; as they struggle to figure out just who is Nevada White.

The relationship between the lead couple is terrific as they are attracted to one another, but her lack of a past makes her hesitate to trust anyone. Ccritical to the strong paranormal romantic suspense plot are vampires seems real; especially how messy they can be when they dine on humans. Although not enough explanation on the Appleton Research Facility is provided and for someone with a bad knee, Trick gets around rather easily, sub-genre readers will relish this fine thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Divorced, Desperate and Dating-Christie Craig

Divorced, Desperate and Dating
Christie Craig
Love Spell, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527325

The kiss was everything but proved to be nothing. Houston Detective Jason Dodd kissed writer Sue Finley leaving her wanting more from him and wasted for anyone else. Thus when he fails to follow up, Sue is heartbroken calling him a jerk for never calling her and plotting murder with poison.

Jason grew up as a foster child so does not trust relationships even if his heart pleads with him to take a chance on Sue. He feels safer to keep his distance. However, when he learns someone is stalking Sue, he can no longer run from his feelings. Still in spite of protecting her Jason keeps his heart hidden even as Sue wants to know why because she can see by his looks he wants her too.

This is an entertaining character driven romantic suspense sequel to DIVORCED, DESPERATE AND DELICIOUS. The stalking subplot serves as a matchmaker of sorts as Sue does not hide her desire from Jason whom obviously wants her too, but flees even when next to her somewhere inside his mind. Jason makes the tale with his fear that relationships end rapidly and poorly so as a psychological defense mechanism he avoids them as if they are the plague. Fans will enjoy Christie Craig’s charming lighthearted frolic as the author refuses to accept no thanks even if their relationship proves to be a bridge to nowhere.

Harriet Klausner

A Deadly Silver Sea-Bob Morris

A Deadly Silver Sea
Bob Morris
St. Martin's Dec 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312377250

In Florida, former NFL player and ex con Zack Chasteen is contented to run a palm tree nursery, as long as his beloved travel magazine owner Barbara Pickering is with him. He especially looks forward to the birth of their first child in about a month.

Zack, Barbara and many affluent people are sailing on the luxurious cruise ship Royal Star on its maiden voyage; his invitation comes from being classy Barbara’s escort, which serves a reminder of how far he has come. Soon after the Royal Star embarks from Miami, gunmen kill most of the crew and take control of the vessel. After the passengers are separated by gender, Zack tries to get the men to join him on a blitzkrieg, but he end up in the drink while Barbara goes into premature labor.

The latest Zack Casteen thriller (see BERMUDA SCHWARTZ, BAHAMARAMA and JAMAICA ME DEAD) is as fast-paced as its predecessors, but lacks the originality of the previous tales with Cussler's Pitt novels and movies like Under Siege. Zack’s usual amusing cynical asides also seem out of place in a scenario in which his about to give birth beloved is in deep peril. Still he is an interesting mix as a sarcastic moralistic antihero struggling to rally the civilians at sea against deadly pirates making his current under siege escapade fun for his fans.

Harriet Klausner

A Body to Die For-G.A. McKevett

A Body to Die For
G.A. McKevett
Kensington, Jan 2009, $22.00
ISBN 9780758215543

In San Carmelita, California, plus-sized Moonlight and Magnolia Detective Agency private investigator Savannah Reid and police detective Sergeant. Dirk Coulter team up to catch a peeping Tom at Clarissa's House of Pain and Gain. Soon after that success, insufferable diet queen Clarissa Jardin informs the police that her rascally husband Bill is missing.

Not long after that Bill is found dead with a bullet in his head; Dirk leads the official investigation. Bill’s mother believes her daughter-in-law killed her son. She hires Savannah expecting her to prove Clarissa was involved in Bill’s homicide. Savannah agrees with her client’s theory as the victim was cheating on his spouse and spending her hard earned money gambling. Cooperating, Savannah and Dirk uncover several other people with strong motives especially Clarissa's obese twin sister.

Filled with humor and terrific asides, the latest Reid whodunit is a fabulous investigative tale in what is consistently a strong entertaining series (see POISONED TARTS). The investigation is cleverly designed to keep readers guessing re the twin vs. someone else, but the fun comes from the teaming of Reid and Coulter as the heroine makes it clear you can have your cake and eat it too (in moderation and with not guilt or remorse).

Harriet Klausner

Night of the Loving Dead-Casey Daniels

Night of the Loving Dead
Casey Daniels
Berkley, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425225554

Cemetery tour guide Pepper Martin was in the Garden View Cemetery when she knocked her head accidentally on a tombstone. When she regained consciousnesses, she was able to see ghosts; spirits of those who were murdered and unable to move on. They demand Pepper find their killers and bring them to justice so they can pass peacefully to the next level. She reluctantly investigates the claims because when she refuses they haunt her every living moment.

When Pepper goes to Chicago on business, she stops at the Greenland Cemetery where she meets the spirit of lab coated Madeline Tremayne, who pleads with her that their mutual friend Dr. Dan Callahan is in danger from his boss Dr. Hilton Gerard who is using him as the fall guy for the Feds to devour for their inquiry into misappropriation of funds. Knowing Dan once saved her life and how painfully persistent ghosts are, Pepper investigates learning that Dr. Dan is working on a new program in which the disenfranchised enter but never leave. As she obtains proof of the goings-on, a malevolent spirit turns Pepper into one of the disenbidied unable to help anyone even herself.

Anyone who believes communicating with ghosts would be fun, need to ask the heroine whose experience with the “gift” leaves her traumatic and seemingly always in danger; this is not sharing tea or lattes. Still her courage and desire, albeit reluctant, to help others endears Pepper to the reader. Her latest investigation is fast-paced, dangerous and somewhat personal; as NIGHT OF THE LOVING DEAD is a charming amusing paranormal amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Tall, Dark, and Kilted-Allie Mackay

Tall, Dark, and Kilted
Allie Mackay
Signet, Nov 2008
ISBN: 978045122551

After her lover dumped her for an odious but wealthy replacement and her rival killed her jewelry business, Cilla Swanner left Yardley, Pennsylvania to spend the summer with her Uncle Mac and Aunt Birdie at their Scottish retirement home Dunroamin Castle. Cilla does not miss her ex even an iota and in fact feels relived, but she is worried that her family will lose the castle.

Hundreds of years ago, Scottish knight Sir Hardwin de Studely is hosting some important VIPs when a travel bard asked for hospitality. Fearing for the lives of his guests, he refused. The bard being a wizard cursed Hardwick as he is called by friends to suffer a different lover for eternity. Over the centuries, he has become disillusioned, but the Dark One gives him a chance for redemption if he avoids arousal for a year; if he fails he will please the darkest females. The problem for the now chaste Hardwick is his attraction to Cilla; who makes matters worse as she is falling in love with the ghost haunting her uncle’s castle.

TALL, DARK, AND KILTED is an engaging urban romantic fantasy with a touch of a mystery and a terific twist in which Hardwick fled to the remote retirement home to avoid young women only to fall in love with the Sword of Damocles hanging over both his heads. The story line is brisk and breezy from the moment the ghost and the American meet and never slows down. With a strong cast, paranormal and human, fans will enjoy Cilla’s Scottish adventure in love.

Harriet Klausner

Fractions-Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod
Orb (Tor), Oct 28 2008, $19.95
ISBN: 0765320681

The Star Fraction. By 2040, the Kingdom of Great Britain lays in ruins divided into independent states due to the policies of the leftist Labour Party. Some of these new entities are no bigger than a few city streets and run by gang-lords while others like the Army of the New Republic control a vast area. Marxist gun for hire physical security expert Moh Kohn, computer scientist Janis Taine, terrorist Catherine Duvalier and teenage atheist Jordan Brown meet when Moh is assigned to protect Janis and her lab from the fundamentalist Stasis who control technology and have ruled that her work needs to be destroyed. After several Stasis assaults, the foursome decide they must take out an evil artificial intelligence if they are to survive.

The Stone Canal. Political rivals Jonathan Wilde and Dave Reid both love Annette, but the former marries her. Over time Jonathan drifts to the extreme left while Dave turns towards the anarchist’s credo. Their competition grows more heated with Annette still in play. Wilde wakes up near a canal where Jay-Dub the robot informs him he is a clone with the original Wilde's memories downloaded into the replica. Reid runs the Martian colony, but the Wilde clone remembers his rival being there when he was assassinated. Worse Reid has a clone of Annette. Round two is commencing.

This is a reprint of the “The First Half of The Fall Revolution” with the second part to come soon. The tales retain their fresh creativity though both were published in the mid 1990s. Each is fast-paced with the worlds, a futuristic dismal earth and a Mars colony after a loss in WW III, seem genuine even with clones and AI machines. The additional fun for Ken Macleod fans is to see the leap in skill from his first to second novel as each is entertaining but THE STONE CANAL is much tighter despite containing two major subplots.

Harriet Klausner

Daemon-Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez
Dutton, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780525951117

At thirty four years of age, Matthew Sobol, the genius behind successful CyberStorm Entertainment dies from brain cancer. However, the brilliant game maestro would not allow something as petty as death preveng him from causing global havoc from the grave. He somehow kicked off a war from cyberpsace against mankind.

Concerned authorities enter Sobol's mansion in Thousand Oaks, California only to find themselves under attack in spite of the fact that no human is inside or on the grounds; the police suffer several deaths as they retreat. Sobol has left behind the greatest weapon of mass destruction ever created; his daemon computer processor has taken control of most of the world’s major computer systems and has signed up brilliant quisling humans as foot soldiers to carry out the plan for world domination.

DAEMON is a fabulous futuristic AI technology thriller as the twisted but brilliant late computer game creator Sobol sets in motion a doomsday machine after he dies. The story line is fast-paced from the onset even with complex vernacular as Daniel Suarez assumes his audience can do more than breath and chew gum refusing to dumb down his tale. Readers will relish this superb science fiction book with a great finish that sets up AI part two.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eclipse-Richard North Patterson

Richard North Patterson
Holt, Jan 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780805087727

San Francisco law firm partner forty years old Damon Pierce is getting a divorce. The international litigation expert e-mails his college lover Marissa Brand to inform him that his marriage will be over by tomorrow although he knows she is married to oil rich Luandia reformist Bobby Okari whose country is run by a brutal despot.

While the foreign oil companies work closely with the government to rip off the oil deposits, everyone in Okari's village is murdered. However the government ignores the mass murders because they are the culprits; instead they arrest Bobby for the lynching of three foreign oil workers. Damon, out of love for Marissa, defends the accused in a kangaroo court that has already convicted him.

Few authors can hook an audience and maintain that grip throughout like Richard North Patterson does consistently. ECLIPSE affirms that belief especially with the haunting working and environmental conditions in Luandia that is the main star; even Governor Palin will shout the manta wind baby wind if she spent fifteen minutes getting her hair fixed there. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action that fans of legal thrillers in foreign nations in which the dictator makes the law will appreciate Mr. Patterson’s latest exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

Dead or Alive-Michael McGarrity

Dead or Alive
Michael McGarrity
Dutton, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780525950813

Escaped psychopathic convict Craig Larson goes on a killing rampage murdering everyone it seems in his path. Among the victims is Riley Burke, business partner to former Santa Fe police chief Kevin Kerney.

Outraged by the Burke death and just back from London where his spouse works in the American embassy, Kerney vows to bring the maniac to justice. However that pledge is easier said than done, as Larson leaves corpses in several southwest states. Working as a temporary New Mexico State Police special investigator, Kerney and his son Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Clayton Istee lead a state wide manhunt.

The keys to this wild manhunt are the relationship between the father and son law enforcement pair who only recently learned of their DNA connection and the deep look at multi-jurisdiction police investigations. The story line is fast-paced and filled with much more blood than the usual Kerney whodunit (see NOTHING BUT TROUBLE) and a strong sense of locale that would have pleased the late Tony Hillerman. In some macabre ways Larson steals the show as he makes the plot with his murderous spree that turns what looks like a blue state red.

Harriet Klausner

Running Hot-Jayne Ann Krentz

Running Hot
Jayne Ann Krentz
Putnam, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780399155215

The psychic investigative firm Jones & Jones sends Arcane Society member Grace Renquist, who can envision the evil in a person’s aura to Hawaii to uncover the identity of a serial killer. To protect the librarian who will be out in the cold for the first time, they hire former cop currently tending bar Luther Malone as her bodyguard, who can abort a person’s evil thoughts before they can perform an odious deed.

Luther and Grace are attracted to one another from their first meeting. However, in Hawaii they know to table their passion and focus on the killer. They quickly learn that others seek the psychopath too; from the drug stimulated malevolent Nightshades to psychic hunter opera diva La Sirene, whose voice kills.

Although obviously over the top of Mauna Kea, RUNNING HOT is a fast-paced exhilarating romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment the lead couple meets and never takes a breather until the concluding implication that sequels will follow. Ms. Krentz’s fans will enjoy this serial murder mystery investigation that turns into much more dangerous and evil than a psychopath on the loose.

Harriet Klausner

The Spoke-Friedrich Glauser

The Spoke
Friedrich Glauser
Bitter Lemon, Jan 2009, $14.95
ISBN 9781904738275

In Bern Swiss police Detective Sergeant Jakob Studer and his wife have traveled to Schwarzenstein to attend the marriage of their daughter. However, in the Hôtel zum Hirschen where they are staying someone stabs to death Jean Stieger using a sharpened bicycle spoke.

The local police arrest the only suspect, bicycle store mechanic and peddler Ernst Graf. However, Studer believes the murder weapon is not enough to prove Graf did the deed. Soon afterward while Graf remains in custody, someone poisons Stieger’s boss and partner , financier Joachim Krock. Studer investigates the two homicides, applying a logic that confuses the local cops, but leads to several suspects with motives for both murders.

The latest reprint of the 1930s Studer Swiss police procedural series is, like the previous four, a fabulous investigative tale. Studer is at his best working what appears to be a closed locked room case in which his progress in finding other suspects besides Graf with means, motive and opportunity alienates him with the locals and frustrates his wife on vacation and daughter preparing to marry. The Jakob Studer collection holds up as strong mysteries with an obvious historical perspectvie seven decades after they were initially released (see IN MATTO'S REALM, FEVER THUMBPRINT and THE CHINAMAN).
Harriet Klausner

Divine Justice-David Baldacci

Divine Justice
David Baldacci
Grand Central, Nov 2008, $27.99
ISBN: 0446195502

Joe Knox scans two homicide scenes in which he concludes a professional sniper took out DC super VIPs, Intel Chief Carter Gray and US Senator from Alabama Roger Simpson. At the same time Joe concludes the same sniper did both murders and that the Intel community was hiding something, former CIA assassin Oliver Stone takes the Amtrak train from Union Station heading to New Orleans after killing the two government superheavyweights who murdered his wife and for all intent and purposes buried his real identity John Carr with her.

Unable to mind his business, Stone intercedes in a fight on the train, but when the Amtrak conductor asks for a picture identification, he knows he must disembark ASAP because he will be exposed as a fake with minimal examination. He ends up in the mining town of Divine, Virginia where once again his tendency to get involved in a David vs. Goliath good cause gets him in trouble with high level corruption and a widow in peril.

The latest Camel Club thriller (see THE COLLECTORS , STONE COLD and THE CAMEL CLUB) is an exciting tale that fans of the series will relish as Stone’s code of justice makes him act when he should remain passively in the background. He cannot help himself when he took out the VIPS, on the train or in Divine. Although somewhat formulaic in the mining town reminiscent of Spencer Tracey in Bad Day At Black Rock and Steven Seagal in Fire Down Below, readers will enjoy Stone’s latest escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Sins-Cynthia Eden

Midnight Sins
Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava, Dec 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0758226047

The homicides are horrifying because they look somewhat innocent as if a tryst of two consenting adults left one behind tied to a bed. However, the victims all men may have appeared ready for a wild night of tough love, but somehow their essence is sucked from them leaving them dead with not a scratch or any evidence of foul play except for the corpse.

Police Detective Todd Brooks leads the investigation into the serial sex murders but has no clues until amidst the clothing of a victim is found the ID of Cara Firon. Todd brings Cara to the station for questioning. To his shock the men trip over each other to accommodate her; more stunning is he is the worst of those ready to her bidding. Cara tries to control her succubus pheromones with little success as the humans covet her, but she finds it more difficult controlling her desire for the human cop suspecting her as a serial killer.

This fast-paced paranormal romantic police procedural works because the two key elements, the murder investigation and the existence of supernatural beings seem real as each side enhances the other leading to an entertaining whodunit. Todd is superb as he is no nonsense professional working a difficult case that bewilders him, but his biggest confusion is how the testosterone back in the station has overflowed once Cara enters; he kicks himself because he is no better than the others though he conceals his tent pole better. Cara is an excellent prime suspect who can’t help but bringing out the male in the men. Cynthia Eden provides a delightful urban romantic investigative fantasy that sub-genre fans will relish and want more in this milieu.

Harriet Klausner

The Scorpion-Warren Stockholm

The Scorpion
Warren Stockholm
Pop Pulp Books (KHP), Oct 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780979988158

In an alternate universe Nazi Germany defeated the Allies and occupied the losing nations including America for sixty years until the economy tanked causing a war in which America forced the oppressors to leave. Everything is being built up and growth is everywhere even in Steeltown. New rules allow crime to thrive with one dirty operation running a slave trade child porn ring. Women vanish with their abused bodies found in record numbers.

Watching over the city is The Scorpion who stalks and attacks evil men. He is a German super soldier created by the Third Reich but he escaped to the United States. He thinks of Steeltown as his town and plans to clean it up from criminals and predators. He uses his extraordinary skills to kill those malevolent humans harming others. Yet his past catches up to him when he realizes someone he once called brother is now a vile monster needing to be eradicated.

Readers who enjoy pulp fiction thrillers with an homage to Captain America will enjoy the entertaining THE SCORPION. The fast-paced story line vividly describes through a somewhat horrifying lens a small American town of the future five years after the Nazi occupiers have left. The hero is a tortured soul struggling to control his berserker tendency, a critical element of becoming a super soldier. No Bucky sidekick for him; he is alone even when surrounded by allies because he trusts no one, not even himself. Fans will appreciate the adventures of the Scorpion and look forward to more pulp escapades.
Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alluring Tales-Cathryn Fox, Delilah Devlin, Lisa Renee Jones, Myla Jackson, Sasha White, Sylvia Day and Vivi Anna

Alluring Tales
Cathryn Fox, Delilah Devlin, Lisa Renee Jones, Myla Jackson, Sasha White, Sylvia Day and Vivi Anna
Avon, Nov 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061463174

"Peaches and Cream" by Cathryn Fox. Jennifer is a bartender at Risque pretending to be Peaches the exotic dancer when she meets Jack the research scientist in order to explore her fantasies.

"Indecent Exposure" by Delilah Devlin. Harmony returns home to seduce Sheriff Dalton; her fantasy since high school.

"Forbidden Fruit" by Lisa Renee Jones. Ryan has always been hard whenever he saw his best friend's sister Kelli who has always been wet and hot when she saw him; now she plans to take him her style.

"Billboard Babe" by Myla Jackson. Prim and proper Angie starts an erotic ad campaign to win a sexual evening or three with co-worker Daniel.

"Wish Upon a Star" by Sasha White. Professional dominatrix Miss Sarah wishes upon a star for someone to truly love; Nealon bikes in from out of this world.

“That Old Black Magic" by Sylvia Day. Warlock Max is despondent with grief when his beloved mate Victoria apparently died and he tries all sorts of magic to bring her back to him; however he begins to obsess instead over the feline-female familiar who recently entered his life.

"Silver Waters" by Vivi Anna. On the run, Sangria and Vance take a heated break in the Caribbean.

These seven fun erotic tales are mostly spice with a sprinkle in spite of being very short for any happenings beyond the sexual encounters that run the gamut from ménage a trois, S&M bondage, and anal.

Harriet Klausner

To Sin with a Stranger-Kathryn Caskie

To Sin with a Stranger
Kathryn Caskie
Avon, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061491009

Their father disgusted with their scandals that has earned them the reputation as the “Seven Deadly Sins” has exiled his offspring and warned them if they do not shape up they will inherit nothing beyond what the law allows. None of the unholy seven Sinclair children take him seriously as he has threatened them before, but they do feel the loss of income since he has cut off the purse.

His heir Sterling keeps himself and his brothers and sisters at a reasonable level of respectability and less significant from starving by prizefighting at Gentleman Jackson’s London gym. Miss Isobel Carrington enters the establishment to ask the wealthy male patrons to donate to her charity. Isobel is attracted to Sterling, but rejects him as being too avaricious to care one iota about the less fortunate. At White’s betting ignites that Sterling who is pursuing her will marry her. She reconsiders her opinion of his being a greedy aristocrat when she realizes he is boxing to support his siblings, but still fears letting her heart go to a man who placed a bet on him winning her.

The gender battle between Isobel and Sterling is an entertaining Regency romance as each is intelligent, knows whet they want, and what they will do to achieve their desires. Although Sterling’s sin is greed, his willingness to take hits for his siblings proves otherwise and has Isobel reconsidering his worth. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted historical while looking forward to more tales starring other Seven Deadly Sins’ siblings.

Harriet Klausner

Never Dare a Duke-Gayle Callen

Never Dare a Duke
Gayle Callen
Avon, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061235061

Abigail Shaw realistically looks at her father's failing newspaper and knows only one thing can save the family’s journalistic enterprise, a meaty scandal. Titillating sensationalism sells papers as the Ton loves to read about a scandal hammering at a peer. She selects the cleanest reputation she knows of because if she can find dirt on Lord Christopher Cabot, the sales will be through the roof.

Going undercover Abigail obtains an invitation to a party hosted by her targeted duke in which he plans to select one of the attendees as his bride. However, Christopher is attracted to Abigail, who to her chagrin, reciprocates. She offers to help him find his spouse by them pretending a dalliance. The only problems are it is not pretending and the scandal she has uncovered on Christopher has her included in the crosshairs.

This is a fun lighthearted historical romance starring two interesting individuals especially the undercover investigative reporter. Using Rovian logic to go after the strengths of your opponent, Abby picks Christopher, which leads to a series of amusing encounters and love as the heroine learns to NEVER DARE A DUKE; they will accept the challenge and double dare you back.

Harriet Klausner

Everything but a Wedding-Holly Jacobs

Everything but a Wedding
Holly Jacobs
Avalon, Dec 2008
ISBN: 0803499248

Elderly Hungarian matriarch Nana Vancy still regrets the “curse” she issued when she was young and in love with Bela Salo who failed to show up their wedding on time due to an accident. Now decades later her misgivings turn to fear as she worries about bad things happening at Salo family weddings since she angrily cursed big weddings, Bela and his relatives especially since she has proof with two of her grandchildren (see EVERYTHING BUT A BRIDE and EVERYTHING BUT A GROOM).

Her last hope to see the curse defeated in her lifetime resides with her last grandchild Pennsylvania developer Dori Salo. However, Dori shows no interest in men ever since her former boyfriend ended their relationship. Instead perhaps as a mental defense mechanism Dori puts all her energies on the Erie Hazard Hills housing development. Also on the project is architect Carter Hastings IV who pretends to be Bill the interior designer as he wants Dori to hire his cousin CeCe’s firm to design the interior of the model homes. However as they fall in love he must admit his deception and she must challenge the curse.

Returning to Erie, site of her WLVH Radio Romance saga (see LAUGH LINES, NIGHT CALLS, LOVE HANDLES and PICKUP LINES) as well as the prime locale of the Everything But saga, Holly Jacobs provides a charming contemporary romance. The enjoyable story line is fun starting with the likable lead characters although he appears to have committed a professional ethics violation. They in turn are supported by a strong cast of returning characters and the “curse”. Readers will enjoy Holly Jacobs' fine lighthearted tale that contains everything to warm the heart over the holidays.

Harriet Klausner

Scent of Danger-Doranna Durgin

Scent of Danger
Doranna Durgin
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146756

Former Buckeye, Dr. Dale Kinsall is still adjusting to life in West Winoza, just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. He finds his staff at the Foothills Veterinary Clinic professional but eccentrically amusing except when they wear animal scrotums as earrings; that sort of feels painful. He also is half in love with another veterinarian Laura Nakai who he hoped would join his practice, but did not.

As the clinic is being renovated and Dale semi exiled due to asthma, he begins receiving weird warning notes written in rhyme, but placed in such away that someone with full clinic access was dropping them off. Laura becomes concerned when her young second cousin becomes deathly ill from hanta fever. As the notes keep coming, Dale and his sidekick Sully the mouse eating Beagle work on the case of the notes even as he saves Laura’s life when she comes down with hanta fever.

Although the mystery is thin and comes late, fans will enjoy this fun Arizona cozy due to the eccentric cast. Fans will be fascinated that Dale is in the local police dog house for solving a recent case (see NOSE FOR TROUBLE) instead of them. The support cast adds to the character driven plot as Dale with Sully follow the SCENT OF DANGER.

Harriet Klausner

One Silent Night-Sherrilyn Kenyon

One Silent Night
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0312947062

Daimon Stryker, leader of the vile army of demons and vampires, is obsessed with one thing; destroying Acheron and Nick Gautier and the Dark-Hunters for their killing his sister. He loathes his two enemies so much Stryker vows to do whatever it takes to kill them. However, even his supporters fear the deranged Stryker has gone too far when he makes a Faustian deal with the Titan god War. He will free the imprisoned War in exchange for the God killing Acheron and Nick.

Artemis, realizing the potential danger to Ash, “frees” Stryker's supposedly dead ex-wife, Zephyra, who has an agenda of vengeance also against her former husband who deserted her and their daughter Medea. Stryker is stunned to learn he has a warrior daughter while War begins the assault on Ash and Nick. The stake is a world as strange bedfellows line up on both sides for what appears to be the final battle.

Throughout the Dark-Hunters saga, vile villain Stryker has been in some ways the most interesting character; sort of like a Darth Vader who mostly displays evil but once in a while shockingly seems to care. This is his tale, which means 98% fantasy thriller. Fans of the great mythos will not be disappointed as Stryker gets a taste of vengeance from the untamable shrew. He celebrated her death when he thought she was out of his life. This is a great entry in one of the best epic fantasies of the past decade.

Harriet Klausner

The Messenger-Jan Burke

The Messenger
Jan Burke
Simon & Schuster,Jan 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780743273879

At the Battle of Waterloo, twenty something British officer Tyler Hawthorne is severely wounded. While still on the battlefield, Lord Lucien Adrian deVille gives his probably dying brother in arms a ring with stipulations. The ring brings immortality to the bearer but the individual must spend eternity comforting those near death. He also is given a companion to protect him, Shade the cemetery dog.

Almost two centuries later, a Caribbean salvage diver working a vessel sunk in 1815 finds Adrian's remains. Upon returning to the surface Adrian revives and propels his rescuer to help him find Tyler. He succeeds and Adrian travels to Los Angeles to see how his crony is doing. Tyler still tends to his work this time assisting a leukemia patient. However, the still twentyish looking Tyler is in love for the first time in his over two hundred year existence. His cares for heiress Amanda Clarke, who survived a horrific accident that wiped out her family but enabled her to see ghosts; she struggles with survivor guilt, but is attracted to Tyler. Adrian a “messenger” of evil is coming to cause problems for the couple and his dog Shade.

This is a terrific paranormal thriller that grips the audience from the moment that Adrian arrives at Tyler’s side on the battlefield and never slows down once the time and place switch from the Napoleonic Wars through the deep sea rescue to mdoern day America. The story line is fast-paced with the key trio plus the canine seeming genuine even with their supernatural abilities. Jan Burke provides a strong horror tale that fans will appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Keepers of the Dead-Bob Freeman

Keepers of the Dead
Bob Freeman
Black Death Books, Oct 2008
ISBN: 9780979988141

The Circle of Nine Skulls, founded by Garrick Ward, and made up of Immortals, battle the Dark waiting for the final the end of times battle. Garrick believes his warriors and allies are ready, but the insidious Dark is working on defeating those groups before they can come to his aid.

Cairnwood Manor, the home of the Ash Lawn werewolf pack, is allies of the light. Michael has recently taken over as the leader, but everyone is surprised when another werewolf pack attacks them; he is the first casualty falling into a coma. The enemy has come to find the magical artifacts to bring to their master; they will succeed for sure if Michael fails to awaken. Even if he does, his side remains precariously near defeat as he will have to venture to the realm of his long time enemy Malcolm MacGregor the vampire who holds his beloved hostage.

Meanwhile the evil forces gather at Avebury where they use eldritch powers to call up the Old Gods and to raise an army of zombies. Two malevolent vampire hordes vie for supremacy as everyone from the Dark side to Garrick and his allies’ heads for a showdown perhaps the final one at Rosslyn Chapel.

Bob Freeman has written an electrifying horror thriller that in some ways is a throwback to the classic Castle horror moves albeit faster paced (some might say frenzied) and bloodier as vampires are villains and werewolves are heroes. Reminiscent also of Stephen King’s early works, readers will enjoy the supernatural war. Although the cast of seemingly zillions can become a bit overwhelming, several control the story line bringing focus to the hyper-speeding novel. Michael is the key; as he comes into his own as a leader and warrior but must return to the living if he is to be there for the last battle; without him all is lost while with him all still probably is lost. Vividly described, KEEPERS OF THE DEAD would make an exciting horror movie.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 27, 2008

Four in Hand-Stephanie Laurens

Four in Hand
Stephanie Laurens
HQN, Dec 2008
ISBN: 9780373773091

After a decade as a womanizing viscount with a temper when disturbed, Max Rotherbridge is now the Duke of Twyford. To him it is no big deal as he will continue his prime role as the most notorious aristocratic rake.

The thirty-four years old aristocrat will soon realize how wrong he is about his new inheritance. Besides the title and all its affluence and influence, he learns the hard way of a slightly different bequest when a young Miss Caroline Twinning visits him. He angrily goes to see her and she assumes he is too young and obviously rakish to be the Duke she needs to see. However, he is so she plows on by informing him she and her three sisters are his wards. Making matters worse, Max is attracted to the courageous Caro who diverts his temper from her pretty younger siblings onto her.

This reprint of a 1990s Regency romance is a forerunner of the talented Stephanie Laurens multiple stories like the Bastian Club and the Cynsters. However, unlike those sagas broken into several novels each, FOUR IN HAND is overwhelmed by a cast belonging in a Cecil De Mille movie with several relationships making it difficult to focus on the prime one. Still this is an intriguing tale that showcases the talent of Ms. Laurens as she juggles several romances.

Harriet Klausner

Dangerous Prey-Lindsay McKenna

Dangerous Prey
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773213

Flying a helicopter is something that Kelly Trayhern loves. Working for Bates International, a fire suppression company, she is exhausted after nine trips from Cottonwood Airport near Sedona into a blaze; the tenth ended in a crash caused by a sudden burst of smoke blinding her; the two men with her were trapped inside an inferno. Her joy of flying died with her co-pilot and the Forest Service Ranger; as she vows to never pilot a helicopter again.

Her long time friend Sky McCoy has also dealt with tragedies. He has found salvation working as a raptor rehabilitator. After Kelly’s mom visits him to tell him what happened to her daughter, Sky invites Kelly to help him, which she agrees to do. As they work side by side, his past surfaces threatening Kelly even as their love for one another blossoms.

The deep look at saving and protecting endangered birds of prey refreshes an engaging romantic suspense. Kelly and Sky have demons from their past; hers being very recent while his shows up in person. Although the suspense is somewhat typical of a romantic thriller, fans, with the exception of the Governor Palin crowd who would prefer to fly to hunt, will enjoy this tense tale as the most DANGEROUS PREY is human.

Harriet Klausner

Dying for You-Beverly Barton

Dying for You
Beverly Barton
Harlequin HQN, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773176

For almost a decade at Dundee Private Security Lucie Evans and Sawyer McNamara fought like cats and dogs. Anyone who observed the oil water mix would never conclude they were once very close. The gender squabble ends when Lucie leaves the firm to accept the position of a bodyguard to billionaire Cara Bedell.

During an attempt to kidnap Cara, Lucie is abducted instead. A stunned Sawyer bulldozes his way onto the rescue team. They liberate Lucie, but Cara remains a target of a killer. Lucie and Sawyer team up to try to keep Cara safe and bring down her assailant even as the two operatives try to still conceal their feelings for one another.

DYING FOR YOU is a fabulous Dundee Private Security romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment Lucie quits and never slows down as she and her beloved enemy fights one another while protecting Cara. The lead couple is fully developed especially their flaws as each is willing to risk their life but not their heart. Fans will relish this tense tale while seeking the exciting Protectors' saga (see A TIME TO DIE, MOST LIKELY TO DIE and DANGEROUS DECEPTION).

Harriet Klausner

When Danger Calls-Terry O’Dell

When Danger Calls
Terry O’Dell
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 159414723X

Following his second failed black ops mission in which people died and he is injured, Blackthorne agent Ryan Harper is put on medical leave. He knows that everyone at the private security firm assumes he turned rogue, but he believes someone inside caused the two failures; they were set up and he plans to bring that person down as a little girl who died in the first fiasco haunts him. Thus Ryan retrieved the container he was sent to obtain, but tells his boss otherwise so he can learn why something allegedly minor caused deaths.

Ryan returns to his hometown of Broken Bow, Montana to stay with his Pop on the ranch. He meets Gladys a waitress at the Three Elks and is attracted to her. Ryan later learns she is an elementary school art teacher Frankie Castor, a single mom to precocious six year old Molly. Frankie worries about her mom who has suffered two injuries since starting a relationship with Bob Dwyer. As Ryan and Frankie fall in love, he comes to the rescue of her, Molly, and Molly’s “friend” Mr. Snuggles even as someone wants what he possesses from his last mission; that person is willing to harm his loved ones something that is unacceptable to Ryan.

This is an exciting romantic suspense that grips readers from the onset when Ryan’s cakewalk mission turns ugly and never slows down as his work arrives at Big Sky Country. The cast is very strong especially the lead couple and their immediate family. Although major coincidence twice involving land takes somewhat away from this fine thriller, fans will appreciate Ryan’s reactions WHEN DANGER CALLS.

Harriet Klausner

A Veiled Deception-Annette Blair

A Veiled Deception
Annette Blair
Berkley, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425226407

Madeira “Maddie” Cutler, a vintage clothing designer for a famous fashion house, is on her way to her hometown of Mystick Falls, Connecticut where she hopes to create the gown for her baby sister she raised. Maddie arrives in time for pandemonium; an angry Sherry watches her fiancé Justin’s former girlfriend Jasmine hang all over him as if she is the bride. Upset Sherry makes a rash statement that she will kill Jasmine in front of witnesses.

Maddie goes to see the wedding dress Sherry’s mother-in-law expects her to wear only to find Jasmine choked to death by a veil. Sherry is the number one and only suspect; she does not help herself as she refuses to provide an alibi. Maddie has visions of another woman wearing the same dress and concludes her visions are related to the Jasmine homicide, but has no idea how. She investigates Sherry’s in-laws especially their past since the dress belonged to Justin’s mother to understand what she saw and hopes to apply it to identify the killer.

Annette Blair, renowned for her sensational bewitching romantic fantasies provides a new series filled with humor, the paranormal, two related mysteries, and of course romance. The protagonist is a beguiling intelligent free spirit who prefers a laughter and lay back lifestyle, but knows when the situation calls for a serious spin. She is glue that not only holds A VEILED DECEPTION together but turns the tale into an outstanding read.

Harriet Klausner

The Witch’s Grave-Shirley Damsgaard

The Witch’s Grave
Shirley Damsgaard
Avon, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061493430

Librarian Ophelia Jensen and her beloved grandmother Abby live in a small Iowa town. People who meet the pair assume they are ordinary Midwesterners. A few locals know that they are witches and psychics just like their ancestors. Ophelia has not always felt comfortable with her gifts although they have helped her solve several homicides (see WITCH WAY TO MURDER and THE WITCH IS DEAD). Currently she is in a happy mood because of her dreams of a new man entering her life.

At a library fundraiser, Ophelia meets former horror writer Stephen Larsen and they are attracted to one another. When they go for a walk near the woods, a shot is fired and he begins to bleed from his chest. He is stabilized at the hospital, but later someone shoots at Ophelia, but misses. The psychic begins to dream of a French Resistance fighter Madeleine and her lover Henrick, who loves her back but refuses to marry her. Abby believes Stephen and Ophelia were once Madeleine and Henrick; her inquiries into the past lead to a present illegal immigrant ring who wants the trio silenced.

In their sixth appearance, Ophelia is accepting her powers that are getting stronger as she understands her desire to find out who the sniper is requires full use of her talents. Matters turn even more corrupted when a politician running for office is shot at and his aide killed. Thus THE WITCH’S GRAVE is a multilayered paranormal whodunit in which the WW II European past and the twenty-first century Hawkeye State converge through Ophelia and Stephen inside a fascinating supernatural amateur sleuth mystery.
Harriet Klausner

Holiday with a Vampire II-Merline Lovelace and Lori Devoti

Holiday with a Vampire II
Merline Lovelace and Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne Dec 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618019

"A Christmas Kiss” by Merline Lovelace. Sergeant Brett Cooper barely prevents a nasty accident when he almost runs over a woozy Delilah Wentworth. She is a vampire who had been to the dentist to have her fang fixed. They are attracted to one another and stay together for the holidays while both wonder about the New Year.

"The Vampire Who Stole Christmas" by Lori Devoti. Seeking vengeance against the family that adopted him, vampire Drystan Hurst returns home to fall in love with his brother's fiancée, Aimee Polk.

Although vampires star in both tales, the paranormal is low keyed as each is more a typical lighthearted holiday romance except perhaps for the vamp needing to go to the dentist in Ms. Lovelace’s tale. Still fans will enjoy the vampires finding their “souls” through love.

Harriet Klausner

Scions: Revelation-Patrice Michelle

Scions: Revelation
Patrice Michelle
Silhouette Nocturne, Dec 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618002

As the werewolf Lupreda protector Caine Grennard knows he must leave since his mentor the Alpha leader Landon gives him no choice. To stay, he must wear a silver collar to keep him from going “zerker”, which he knows that means he can not do his job. He leaves his pack to venture out on his own.

The former second in command feels all alone after three months delivering packages until he meets reticent waitress Emma Gray at the Squeeze night club and to his shock is attracted to her as he always assumed his soulmate would be a shapeshifter. Emma reciprocates his feelings even as Landon wants him back with his family and offers a full moon compromise. Soon after their first meeting Emma tells Caine someone kidnapped her Aunt Mary. Caine tells her he will find and try to rescue her. As they investigate together, their attraction turns to love. However, both are in for a shocker when they learn her aunt has been giving Emma vitamins that are actually shapeshifting suppressants; instead of a purebred human she is something else but not werewolf as he would have sniffed that; his fear is that something else is his pack’s natural enemy.

The latest Scions romantic urban fantasy (see RESURRECTION and INSURRECTION) is a fabulous paranormal that works because the audience obtains a fascinating look at the relationships within the Lupreda pack. The romance is fun to follow as the secret behind what she is will enthrall the audience. The abduction of Aunt Mary takes a back seat to the bite between a unique star-crossed lovers twist.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Your Roots Are Showing-Elise Chidley

Your Roots Are Showing
Elise Chidley
5 Spot, Oct 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 0446178144

Lizzie and James Buckley seem to have the perfect life as they raise their three year old twins in love and affluence. However, though Lizzie loves her stay at home mommy role on their country estate, she also can use some time out with a box of chocolates. She suffers from postpartum depression that has only grown worse as James remains unsympathetic while she mopes and gains weight.

In a frustrated rage, she types an e-mail ripping her dear husband for his lack of understanding. However instead of her sister, she accidentally forwards it to James. He is livid upon reading her diatribe and angrily tells her he is filing for divorce before walking out on her. Stunned Lizzie takes their kids and leaves. Although she misses her beloved James, but not Mill House, Lizzie realizes she suffers from depression and starts running as a means of releasing her stress with the motive that James will come back for her.

Lizzie makes this deep English character study work as she struggles with being a mommy only. The support cast from her spouse to their “martinet” kids to the neighbors at Back Lane Cottage enhances the deep look at a woman suffering from postpartum depression that has gotten worse over the three plus years since she gave birth. Although limited action and a bit too tidy of a wrap-up, contemporary fiction fans will appreciate this fine tale of an individual whose self esteem went with the afterbirth.

Harriet Klausner

Crossroads-Belva Plain

Belva Plain
Delacorte, Nov 25 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 0385336845

In Wrightstown, New England, twice widowed Mrs. Cassandra Wright (Ms. Is too trendy though using her maiden name is not) is the CEO of Wright Glassworks. A family tragedy forces Cassie to take in her relative, one years old Gwen. She raises Gwen as if she is her own daughter and the child thrives in the affluence of her surroundings.

Jewel Fairchild works as a receptionist at the Glassworks with ambition to marry wealth. Whereas the adult Gwen is at best plain looking; Jewel is vivaciously beautiful. Envious of Gwen, Jewel achieves her goal by marrying affluent businessman Jeff while Gwen settles on steady middle class worker Stan while coveting Jeff. When Stan uncovers questionable practices at his place of work owned by Jeff, they and their wives will be forced to confront their inner demons.

This contemporary comparative character study is fun to follow as readers will contrast Jewel with Gwen, and Stan with Jeff. Although Jewel is more of a caricature of the scheming gold-digger, Gwen a bit too introverted to carry the story line and the husbands two and half dimensional, the dynamic CROSSROADS relationships between the lead quartet make for an interesting drama for fans of Belva Plain.

Harriet Klausner

Enchanted Again-Nancy Madore

Enchanted Again
Nancy Madore
Harlequin Spice, Nov 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0373605218

This spicy collection contains Nancy Madore’s clever erotic spin to eight classic nursery rhymes. The titles tell all as the torrid spoofs include "Birds of a Feather", “Curley Locks”, "Desperate Dan", “Hot Cross Buns”, "Little Miss Muffet", Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater” and Humpty Dumpty”; all contain a sexual face lift inside of a relatively long short stories (the shortest is over thirty pages). The tales are fun whether they are amusing or dark. Each contains reasonably solid lead characters like Carol Curley Locks wanting a commitment from her hot boyfriend who hides his heated darkness from her, Peter giving new meaning to eating pumpkin pie, Georgie wanting more than just stealing kisses and Marcie understanding the true meaning of hot buns, etc. The sequel to ENCHANTED consists of "more erotic bedtime stories for women" as fairy tales can come steamy in Ms. Madore’s enchanting erotic interpretation that Freud would endorse.

Harriet Klausner

Slippery When Wet-Kimberly Raye

Slippery When Wet
Kimberly Raye
Love Spell, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527738

Race Chicks Inc. driver Jaycee Anderson has stunned the previously all male dominated NASCAR Sprint Cup by finishing fourth in the final standings. Her objective for the new season is to move up at least one notch with her bodacious goal being cup champion. To obtain third place means holding off all that testosterone that placed behind her and move past Rory Canyon, whom she has known much of her twenty six years of life.

Rory has never forgotten when the teen tomboy kissed him as he ran from her and still is running. However, he knows in his soul how much he wants her even when she hides her curves with driving garb. She never forgave him for ending their friendship a decade ago, but also knows her impetuous kiss affirmed how much she needed him. Each use their rivalry on the track to keep them apart off the track as Daytona looms.

Readers will enjoy this “NASCAR Holiday” while rooting for the heroine to beat the pants off her rival on the track and elsewhere as Kimberly Raye leaves the “dead” romantic fantasy crowd for a spin on the NASCAR circuit. The story line is fast-paced especially when the lead couple competes with each other; the support cast seems two dimensional at times causing a detour to the pleasant prime plot of lady start your engine.

Harriet Klausner

A Dead Bore-Sheri Cobb South

A Dead Bore
Sheri Cobb South
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147111

In London with the Ton titillating over the murder of her husband, widow Lady Julia Fieldhurst decides it is time to rusticate so she does not have to see the gleeful looks of her peers and hear their gossipy whispered innuendos. Thus to ignore the scandal of her spouse’s homicide, Lady Julia travels to Yorkshire to stay with Sir Gerald and Lady Anne Hollingshead.

Her hosts at Hollingshead Place celebrate her arrival with a small dinner party in which guest Vicar Danvers provides the other diners with verbal extracts from a local history book he is almost finished writing. Soon after dinner, a fire at the vicarage kills Mr. Danvers. Julia sends a message to her London associate Bow Street runner John Pickett pleading with him to come to Yorkshire investigate what she believes was an arson murder related to the history book. Pickett, who because he is attracted to the out of his reach Lady, quickly arrives and masquerades as Julia's footman so that he can serendipitously investigate.

A DEAD BORE is a superb Regency mystery (see IN MILADY'S CHAMBER) that brings to life the aristocracy as well as the servants who reside under the stairs. The whodunit is cleverly set up so that the motive in general terms is obvious but specifically which passage is not; opportunity abound for many people who could have set the inferno. The subtle attraction between the lady and the runner enhances a strong early nineteenth century investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Drifting South-Charles Davis

Drifting South
Charles Davis
Mira, Dec 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325420

He spent two decades and one year behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Now finally in 1980 Ben Purdue leaves the Harrisburg Federal Penitentiary where he spent much of his time in protective custody after two inmates tried to kill him. He knows someone wants him dead; most likely tied back to the felony that led to his incarceration. Still in spite of the danger of going home where the source of his assassin probably resides, he needs to learn the fate of his mom and brothers following the shooting that led to his incarceration; which means going to the place he loathes more than prison, his hometown Shady Hollow, Virginia.

In Shady, Ben learns his family is all buried. Used to being alone due to his imprisonment, Ben mourns their death but easily deals with the solitude. He seeks to learn the truth about that fateful September day in 1959 that changed his world from a teen with hope to a bitter felon. Even more so he needs to know why his family resides in graves. The Shady “Keepers”, people who he should have been able to trust from the girl he loved to the preacher to the law were involved, but someone wants him to join his family before the truth surfaces.

This is a terrific character driven suspense thriller that grips the audience from the moment Prison Officer Dollinger explains to Henry (Ben) that he is being released a few days early so whoever wants him dead will not kill him in the penitentiary. The story line never loses that level of intensity as Ben affirms that you can never go home as the memory never existed and besides what is accurate no longer lives at least in his case. The tension mounts with each revelation as an obsessed Ben needs to know as does fans who will relish Charles Davis’s strong thriller in one concentrated sitting.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire’s Revenge-Raven Hart

The Vampire’s Revenge
Raven Hart
Ballantine, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345498588

It has been only two weeks but Jack McShea does not have the time to mourn his sire William, the vampire who created him over a hundred and fifty years ago. The woman he loves Connie Jones has been magically transformed into a vampire slayer; in her trance she is no longer able to delineate between good and evil vamps. Connie is unaware that she is carrying Jack’s child and that he loves her enough to allow her to be with a shapeshifter who also loves her.

When Connie awakens from the trance, her feelings for Jack remains strong but so does her commitment to Seth. She and Jack reunite to send the double dead vampires back to the hell they escaped from Jack must deal with Diana, and prevent William’s grandfather and his father from destroying Savannah. He must also make long turn plans to save the New World from the Old World vamps who see the human race as bugs

Beleaguered and bewildered while coping with traumas and grief, Jack realizes how much he depended on William, but with no time to spare must learn to rely on himself for the first time in his undead life or lose everyone he loves like he did his mentor. The fabulous fast-paced story line is sort of a coming of age tale if a century and half plus individual can be such. Raven Hart is a fabulous horror writer on a par with Karen Koehler as fans who have read her exhilarating Vampire sag already know. THE VAMPIRE’S REVENGE is an excellent and brilliantly executed horror thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Echoes in the Dark-Robin D. Owens

Echoes in the Dark
Robin D. Owens
Luna, Jan 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373802937

The world of Lladrana is under siege by an alien Dark force who lives in a volcano where it has made its nest. The malevolence has created monsters who stalk the countryside killing the people and draining the planet. To save their realm, the Marshalls summoned four women who are necessary to defeat the Dark. The fifth female Raine was summoned on the cheap by the Seamsters. For her first six months she was abused and overall abused so her confidence remained steadily negative. Her job is to build the boat that will take them to the island. Her ally Faucon, once dumped by an Exotique who returned to Earth helps her but tries to keep his distancc because he is drawn to her but doesn’t want to get hurt again

The final Exotique to be called is Jikata, a world known pop singer destined to become a superstar. She was summoned by Mirror Magic to the Singer to fulfill the prophecy so is kept isolated to prepare her to save the world when it is time for her to face the Dark. Raine builds a boat to get there on time while Jikata and her significant other Luthan the Singer begins their quest with the other Exotiques and their mates.

Readers learn why the Dark came to Lladrana and other questions left from the previous four exciting tales are answered. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as are all of Robin D. Owens fantasies in this saga and her Heart novels. The characters are fully developed including the Dark while romantic subplots and a trek to an exotic dimension enhance the countdown prime theme of good trying to save a world from a seemingly more powerful evil.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 6, 2008

Talk of the Town-Karen Hawkins

Talk of the Town
Karen Hawkins
Pocket, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 141656022X

Roxie Treymayne celebrates Victory Day as her divorce from two hundred and fifty ponds of worthless cheating slug is finalized. She vows no more Ms. Nice Gal behaving properly. Before noon on V-Day she bleaches her hair blond, obtains a tattoo and wears four inch heels with a black mini low top. Her come and get me gear is step one on the wild side.

However, the best laid plans of mice, men and Roxie go astray when her mom suffers a heart attack. She rushes home to Glory, North Carolina to be there for her mother. There she meets Sheriff Nick Sheppard, who she once shared short blissful high school tryst that ended badly duie to a misunderstanding. She decides he is the perfect one for her to walk on the wild side with; he rejects her though he wants her. However, his investigation into a death turns into a homicide case in which Roxie and his great-aunt Clara's Murder Mystery Club members trespass.

Displaying her vast talent Karen Hawkins leaves the historicals that have made her popular and writes a lighthearted wonderful regional investigative romance. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as Roxie goes all out to seduce Nick, but though he has a permanent hard on for her, he refuses to let the lower head do his thinking especially while working a murder investigation. The support cast is great starting with her friend Tundy and his Aunt Clara as fans will want the Glory Murder Mystery Club to work on future amateur sleuth cases while driving the sheriff and his professional law enforcement peers crazy.

Harriet Klausner

Talk of the Town-Karen Hawkins

Talk of the Town
Karen Hawkins
Pocket, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 141656022X

Roxie Treymayne celebrates Victory Day as her divorce from two hundred and fifty ponds of worthless cheating slug is finalized. She vows no more Ms. Nice Gal behaving properly. Before noon on V-Day she bleaches her hair blond, obtains a tattoo and wears four inch heels with a black mini low top. Her come and get me gear is step one on the wild side.

However, the best laid plans of mice, men and Roxie go astray when her mom suffers a heart attack. She rushes home to Glory, North Carolina to be there for her mother. There she meets Sheriff Nick Sheppard, who she once shared short blissful high school tryst that ended badly duie to a misunderstanding. She decides he is the perfect one for her to walk on the wild side with; he rejects her though he wants her. However, his investigation into a death turns into a homicide case in which Roxie and his great-aunt Clara's Murder Mystery Club members trespass.

Displaying her vast talent Karen Hawkins leaves the historicals that have made her popular and writes a lighthearted wonderful regional investigative romance. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as Roxie goes all out to seduce Nick, but though he has a permanent hard on for her, he refuses to let the lower head do his thinking especially while working a murder investigation. The support cast is great starting with her friend Tundy and his Aunt Clara as fans will want the Glory Murder Mystery Club to work on future amateur sleuth cases while driving the sheriff and his professional law enforcement peers crazy.

Harriet Klausner

Bedtime for Bonsai-Elaine Fox

Bedtime for Bonsai
Elaine Fox
Avon, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061474644

In Baltimore divorcee Penelope Porter has vowed off men ever since philandering Glenn dumped her and she acted foolishly afterward feeling like a deranged stalker trying to get him back in spite of his cheating. She turns for affection to Mr. Darcy, her mischievous pup, who keeps running across street to the business owned by Dylan Mersey.

He proves kind as he brings Mr. Darcy back to her. She is stunned that she is attracted to him and when Penny learns he is an ex-con she realizes that does not matter. Dylan seeks a fresh start, but owes a favor that could destroy his hopes for the future. He is attracted to the canine and the cute dog’s pet Penny, but he refuses to act on his feelings as his past makes him feel he is an undesirable for someone at Penny’s social level.

Elaine Fox’s latest canine matchmaking romance (see BEWARE OF DOUG and HELLO DOGGY) is an engaging contemporary romance with the twist that Penny is the pursuer and Dylan the reluctant target. The characters are fully developed as Penny is confused about her feelings and Dylan is not. Mr. Darcy adds matchmaking and humor to the kibble mix while characters from the previous canine capers add a sense of homecoming.

Harriet Klausner

A Bride for His Convenience-Edith Layton

A Bride for His Convenience
Edith Layton
Avon, Dec 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061253676

When his father died, Ian Sutcombe became a Marquis only to learn that his dad thought with his wrong head; apparently his sire’s second wife left the estate broke. Sutcombe feels the weight of the world on his shoulders once he learns of his obligations and explores his options with businessman Mr. Foster. He has one, marry for money quickly.

He selects the daughter of an affluent merchant as his spouse. Miss Hannah Leeds has no say in the negotiations between her dad who dances to the idea of a title in the family and her future husband, who makes it clear their relationship will be one of convenience only. Hannah accepts the marriage of convenience arrangement as she disdains love having given her heart away once before Timothy Atkins trampled it. Still she begins to care for and ultimately falls in love with her husband although he behaves at all times as a rigid patrician. When Timothy confesses to Hannah he made a mistake and wants a second chance, she considers her options while Ian wants to inform his wife he loves her and needs a real passionate marriage but fears rejection.

The theme has been used a zillion times in historical romance novels, but master magician Edith Layton refreshes the marriage of convenience premise with excellent characterizations. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing whose relationship changes seem genuine while the support cast enhances the era or in the case of Timothy causes a wedge between Ian and Hannah. A BRIDE FOR CONVENIENCE is an entertaining historical.

Harriet Klausner

Royal Escape-Susan Froetschel

Royal Escape
Susan Froetschel
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147173

The Princess of Wales Elena dreams of a different future far from her so-called fairy tale marriage to Edward that has turned into a choking nightmare. She wants to be free to help the less fortunate and she desires fun time for their two children the heir thirteen years old Richard and the spare ten years old Lawrence. Her divorce proceedings has stirred the media and the Royal family as that is unprecedented, but Edward’s blatant cheating with his long time girlfriend finally pushed her to go the final mile with the help of kind solicitor Derrick Wilson.

After a royal gala, an angry upset Elena, who was supposed to have her kids for the weekend, but due to royal chicanery does not, leaves in a Rolls Royce. When she sees Lawrence running she has her driver Henry stop the car. She goes to her son just when the car explodes killing Henry and knocking her out. Lawrence tells the press his mom was a hero. At about the same time two thugs murder Derrick and steal Elena’s journal. Other die as Elena with the help of American journalist Michael McLarrity tries to escape anti royalist terrorists, royal imprisonment under the guise of security and still spend quality time with her two offspring.

This obvious parallel to Princess Diana is an intriguing royal suspense thriller although Elena comes across as too perfect while the royals as so tight ass that a five pence coin could not slide out of their butts. Still the story line is exciting especially once the terrorists begin their campaign and provides insight into what it is like to be a Windsor abiding by choking nightmarish rules under the British media microscope.

Harriet Klausner

Speed Demon-Erin Lynn

Speed Demon
Erin Lynn
Berkley, Nov 2008, $
ISBN: 9780425223666

In Ohio, West Shore High School Teen Kenzie Sutcliffe was taking a shower when she accidentally spilled her expensive acne cream down the drain releasing demon Levi from a demon hole (see DEMON ENVY). Kenzie is the only one who sees him for what he really is; others think he is an amiable good looking teen. She struggled to clog the hole before other more dangerous demons cross over form their realm.

Succeeding by destroying her family’s minivan and kitchen, her reward is a life sentence of permanent grounding. Adding insult to her Good Samaritan success, Levi is her driver as she is banned from driving. He explains that his time on earth is numbered as other demons will come forth from another hole to drag him home. Not if Kenzie the kitchen killer has her way even as she wonders what the cost will be this time as she is already grounded for several lives.

This lighthearted teen urban fantasy is a fun tale starring a real American heroine and the illegal alien who demonically has turned her life upside down. The story line is fast-paced and breezy with plenty of humor and some suspense. Although the plot is thin, fans will enjoy Erin Lynn’s amusing tale of a demon haunting a sweet sixteen-Buckeye.

Harriet Klausner

22 Nights-Linda Winstead Jones

22 Nights
Linda Winstead Jones
Berkley, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425224915

Six years ago in an act of desperation to keep her freedom Princess Bela Haythorne of Turis drugged General Merin who was leading a local military force; while he was not fully aware of his situation she bedded and wedded him. He left going off to fight for the newly crowned Columbyanan Emperor Jahn moving up the ranks through blood and sweat to the point where he is the next in line as Minister of Defense while she hid in her Turis village in the Eastern Province.

Now Emperor Jahn is choosing a bride from candidates being brought from the corners of the empire. Merin volunteers to his superior General Hydd to escort Bela to the court in Arthes as almost anyone else would end up losing their head; he admits he might too. In Turis he is greeted by Bela ready to slice off his head. Her brothers and papa want his head too as they know what he did to her. Bela admits the truth including that they are married; stunning her family and her husband. They agree to divorce, which in Turis custom means bound together for 22 days and nights. Her mother believes they will either kill each other or realize they are in love.

The sequel to UNTOUCHABLE is a terrific Emperor’s Bride romantic fantasy with a superb premise of having two enemy combatants bound together while fighting enemies who want one or the other dead. Her mystical “talking” sword Kitty adds uniqueness to the caper as the couple follows her sword into the Forbidden Mountain. Subplots involving other key characters enhance the saga as mom is right with her immediate assessment that the General and the barbaric princess will either die or love in a wonderful sword and sorcery romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Drowned Life-Jeffrey Ford

The Drowned Life
Jeffrey Ford
Harper, Nov 4 2008, $$13.95
ISBN: 9780061435065

This is an excellent sixteen story collection that runs the gamut from sci fi to surreal to realism while following the travails of everyday people forced (sometimes by their choices and sin some instances by those of others) down dark paths. All are well written with several sensationally poignant and haunting as drowning (not necessarily in water) serves as a metaphor of life. The opening tale The Drowned Life (same as book title) sets the quality bar of excellence as it seems so allegorically apropos with people unable to financially float when sharks chase them until they start drowning but end up in an underwater city that no one escapes. Another example of a life drowning is “Night Whiskey”; following an annual gala, two men wake up peers sleeping off a magical brew in trees. Others are just as weird yet each provides a symbolic look at people drowning in spite of seemingly doing everything allegedly right.

Harriet Klausner

Eye to Eye-Grace Carol

Eye to Eye
Grace Carol
Red Dress, Dec 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373895823

Ronnie and Doris are best friends who live on opposite sides of the continent. Ronnie, after a graduate school stint in Indiana, lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend Earl and no money. Doris resides in Atlanta, but just ended a relationship.

Ronnie tutors sixteen years old Ian who runs his wealthy family like a dictator. Doris is under siege at the college she works by a royal academic pain in the butt. They remain best friends picking each other up mentally as their career paths collapse and their romances seem to crumble.

This is an intriguing tale starring two women who once shared their feelings in person, but geography has somewhat limited that support although they remain steadfast for one another. There is little action and much of that comes across as musings and doubts although the audience get inside the respective heads of the best friends to the point of understanding their wants and fears. These internal asides are all over the place making them realistic but difficult to follow. Still this is a fascinating lock at two people reflecting on their choices, past present and future.

Harriet Klausner

Highland Sinner-Hannah Howell

Highland Sinner
Hannah Howell
Zebra, Dec., 384 pp., $6.99
ISBN: 0821780018

In 1478 Scotland, Tormand Murray is used to waking up with a hangover and a woman. However, a different type of ache in his head and the smell wake him up this time. His head has a large bump from where he either banged it or someone banged him; the smell comes from the woman sharing his bed as he recognizes the odor of death. Someone murdered his companion.

The witch Morainn Ross has been haunted of late by visions of murder and a hunk with two different eye colors. When she meets a bewildered Tormand she recognizes him as the man of her dreams. Tormand knows immediately the witch is his life mate. He needs to persuade his beloved they belong together and while keeping her safe investigate the homicide of his bed companion starting with how he got there and just who she is.

The latest Highland romance is a fun fresh tale that contains the usual premise of a wild Murray male meeting a brave female and knowing his true love instantly. The story line is refreshed by the homicide inquiry that is part dangerous, part loving and part amusing as if the Thin Man and his wife went back to the fifteenth century. Fans will enjoy Hannah Howell’s Highland romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Parlor House Daughter-Joanne Sundell

The Parlor House Daughter
Joanne Sundell
Five Star, Dec 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147221

In 1863 in Nevada City, Colorado Territory, an assailant murders prostitute Ruby Rose. Her five years old daughter Rebecca moves into a brothel, Jenny Clayton's Palace, where she is raised by the ladies with tenderness and kindness. Madame Jenny even offers to send her east for schooling when she became a teen, but Becca is obsessed with one day finding out who killed her mom and why.

When Becca turns seventeen, customer Morgan Larkspur notices her and is willing to pay top dollar to have her; none of Madam Jenny’s other girls would do. Becca accepts being Morgan’s mistress as she feels that arrangement might help her make progress on her cold case investigation. However, as she begins to fall in love, a crisis threatens to overwhelm them. He must deal with a miner’s strike and she with the unknown culprit trying to kill her. Besides which, Morgan is engaged to another woman.

This Reconstruction Era romance stars two solid lead characters and a strong cast, especially the prostitutes as the story line contains a deep look the plight of females. The plot is fast-paced even the opening scene in which Ruby is bleeding to death and never slows down as Becca forces her mother’s killer to confront her and propels Morgan to confront his feelings and desires. Historical fans will enjoy this fine 1870s Americana tale.

Harriet Klausner

Welcome to Serenity-Sherryl Woods

Welcome to Serenity
Sherryl Woods
Mira, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778325895

In Serenity, South Carolina, Jeanette Brioche has mixed feelings about her new friends. On the one hand, she welcomes for the first time in her lonely life people who care for her. However, on the other hand although she feels good for her new friends, she envies the loving marriages of Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue as she has no man in her life, never has had one, and never will.

Town manager, Tom McDonald meets Jeannette and does not hide is interest in her. Maddie realizes this and signs up Jeannette as a volunteer on the Serenity’s annual Christmas festival committee. Jeanette and Tom are teamed up with each attracted to one another. However, both have had losses in their lives; whereas Tom has moved on and wants to start again with Jeannette, she has not and fears relationships mean loss.

The return to Serenity for another Sweet magnolia contemporary romance FEELS LIKE FAMILY visiting as the audience finds out what is happening to the stars of previous tales (see STEALING HOME). The lead couple is a fine matching as Tom is a nice person and Jeannette is the last one standing alone although Sherryl Woods hopefully has a few more singles in Serenity. Although there is little action, fans will feel the warn holiday WELCOME TO SERENITY.

Harriet Klausner

Die Before I Wake-Laurie Breton

Die Before I Wake
Laurie Breton
Mira, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778325901

Julie Hanrahan goes on a cruise as a means of relaxing. On board she meets and falls in love with widower Dr. Thomas Larkin, father of two young children. He feels the same way and after a five day whirlwind courtship they marry.

Julie leaves California to live with her spouse in Maine where she struggles to adjust to the environs. However, the biggest shock is to learn that Tom’s first wife Beth committed suicide and her two kids still grieve big time as they do not understand why their mommy died. Tom's mother, who lives with the, is outright nasty to Julie, who wonders if she should go home. As she considers fleeing to the West Coast, Beth's sister believes her sister was murdered probably by Tom, who displays a temper that he hid when they were in the Caribbean. Julie ponders whether her husband is a killer as accidents begin to befall on her.

Though the theme has been used before (for instance the classic Grant-Bergman movie Notorious) DIE BEFORE I WAKE is a tense contemporary gothic thriller with excellent spins. Laurie Breton keeps the reader off kilter guessing whether Tom is a dangerous menace ready to kill his second wife or a brooding hero unsure what to do to keep his beloved safe. The story line is fast-paced but it is Julie’s account of the goings-on that makes the tale exciting and frightening as the audience knows the bumps in the night are real; at least in her mind. Ms. Breton provides a one sitting taut tale that keeps fans off balance with doubts between straight deadly suspense and romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Gift-Heather Graham

Deadly Gift
Heather Graham
Mira, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778325277

While visiting Ireland with his second wife, millionaire Sean O'Riley becomes ill. He recuperates enough to go home, but hires local Nurse Caer Cavannaugh to help him as he returns to States and heals at home.

Sean's alarmed daughter Kat believes the trophy wife wants her dad dead so she can insure her inheritance before Sean wisely cuts her off, but she lacks hard core proof. When Sean's partner Eddie Ray disappears, Kat asks her friend private investigator Zach Flynn to make inquiries. Zach finds no motives for either killing one partner or for the vanishing of the other. Caer assists him on his investigation, but as they fall in love, she hides from him a secret that impacts the case and will end their relationship.

The concluding Flynn brothers’ “deadly” romantic suspense (see DEADLY NIGHT and DEADLY HARVEST) is a terrific finish to a strong trilogy. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sean arrives in Ireland and never slows down as Zach with Caer’s aid investigates the business partners’ sudden problems. However, what makes the story line is the secret that puts quite a twist to a tense private investigative romance.

Harriet Klausner

At Close Range-Tara Taylor Quinn

At Close Range
Tara Taylor Quinn
Mira, Dec 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778925529

Judge Hannah Montgomery presides over the murder trial of white supremacist Kenny Hill, a member of the Ivory Nation. However, she and her friends and family become victims of a rash of incidents including vandalism. She assumes allies of Hill probably belonging to Ivory nation, are trying to frighten her.

At the same Hannah worries about her safety and that of those close to her, the police investigate her friend Dr. Brian Hampton. Several babies under his care have recently died with the assumption being tragically SIDS. Although her adopted infant is one of the deceased, Hannah refuses to believe Brian is a murderer until shockingly a connection to Ivory Nation surfaces that makes her reconsider her opinion perhaps as previously being rose colored.

With strong believable twists enhancing a powerful thriller, romantic suspense fans will relish AT CLOSE RANGE. The story line is fast-paced from the opening courtroom scene and never slows down as increasingly the evidence condemns Brian and even Hannah, who believed in his innocence when everyone else was ready to lynch him, begins to judge him as a dangerous felon allied with the group threatening her life. Tara Taylor Quinn provides an exhilarating tale.

Harriet Klausner

Your Heart Belongs to Me

Your Heart Belongs to me
Dean Koontz
Bantam, Nov 25 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780553807134

Thirty-four years old Ryan Perry created Be2Do, a social networking web site that makes him a billionaire. He quits as CEO so he can spend more time on development projects and with his girlfriend Samantha, whom he wants to marry. However the aspiring author rejects his proposal though she loves him.

He soon learns he is under a death sentence diagnosed with cardiomyopathy; only a heart transplant can save his life. A donor is found and the operation proves successful. A year after the transplant, strange things occur inside Ryan’s fortress. Candy hearts appear then vanish; likewise a gold heart pendant. He becomes uneasy with the goings-on, but soon believes he is in danger when a video arrives starring a woman who looks like the heart donor with a message “YOUR HEART BELONGS TO ME”. He believes she is going to kill him and with all his wealth and connections he fears she will succeed.

Dean Koontz has written another great thriller filled with heart and supernatural elements. The protagonist is a nice person comfortable in his limited world especially the cyber realm, but is clueless re life outside his circle. When confronted with the paranormal he does what most people will do seek the rational explanation. There is a lot of action, but the tense story line belongs to Ryan who is unable to mentally accept the truth. Readers will enjoy another one sitting Koontz tale.

Harriet Klausner

Salem Witch Judge-Eve LaPlante

Salem Witch Judge
Eve LaPlante
HarperOne, Nov 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780060859602

In 1692, magistrate Samuel Sewall sat on the Massachusetts Court along with other zealous judges hosting the trials of hundreds accused of witchcraft by their neighbors. He convicted over thirty people of the crime and oversaw the execution of twenty by hanging and one by large stones pressing down on him. Some of the executed were friends of the presiding judge. Five years later, removed from the frenzy and reflecting what he and others wrought, Samuel repented taking responsibly for the “shame and blame” and grief he caused. No other judge showed even the slightest remorse.

Eve LaPlante provides a great biography of Judge Swell, who like her previous nonfiction (see AMERICAN JEZEBEL: THE UNCOMMON LIFE OF ANNE HUTCHINSON, THE WOMAN WHO DEFIED THE PURITANS) is apparently an ancestor of the author. Combining diaries by Judge Sewell with anecdotes by her Aunt Charlotte, Ms. LaPlante provides a deep gripping description of a deeply religious Puritan who realized looking back at the atrocities that fundamental extremism led to unnecessary deaths; basically governmental theocracy sanctioned murder. A doting father and husband, he spent the rest of his life following his public confession atoning for what he felt were sins he committed as he wrote papers demanding equality, justice and freedom for everyone even Indians, women, and slaves. This is a timely well written look at the one SALEM WITCH JUDGE who regretted his role in the Salem witch-hunt.

Harriet Klausner

An Irish Country Christmas-Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Christmas
Patrick Taylor
Forge, Oct 28 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0765320703

In the quaint Irish village of Ballybucklebo, Dr. Fingal O'Reilly and his partner Dr. Barry Laverty deal as always with the vast ailments of the townsfolk while also dealing with respective attractions to the opposite sex. Fingal has doubts about courting effervescent Kitty O'Halloran except when he is near her; than he has no rational thought. Barry is upset because his girlfriend Patricia Spence at Girton College informs him she may not make it in time for his first Christmas in the small Irish village.

However, all that pales compared to a new doctor in town who steals their patients with remedies that should have the man barred. To country doctors O’Reilly and Laverty, Dr. Fitzpatrick should be called Dr. Quack, but as ridiculous as his prescriptions are, he is gaining patients.

The third Irish County medical cozy (see AN IRISH COUNTRY DOCTOR and AN IRISH COUNTRY VILLAGE) is a fun tale as O’Reilly and Laverty continues to take care of the villagers by combining modern medical practices with homespun “cures” like dressing up as Santa. The story line is warm and uplifting even when Patricia looks like she will not make for the holidays and Fitzpatrick causes harm to the patients he steals. Readers who enjoyed the previous entries will especially want to read this one as the two physicians spend their first holiday season with fans.

Harriet Klausner

The Magic Bullet-Andrew Neiderman

The Magic Bullet
Andrew Neiderman
Leisure, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843961898

In Palm Springs, California eight years old Jodi Walker is dying from leukemia. Dr. Carver knows the child has only a few weeks at best and wants to at least rid her of infections that add pain. Jodie’s first cousin fifteen years old Taylor Peterson donates his O negative platelets and white blood cells. A few hours later, Jodi is cured, hungry and wanting to go home as a miracle has occurred.

An elated stunned Carver calls his friend Dr. Allan Parker with the news. Since his mom died from cancer, Allan has been obsessed with finding THE MAGIC BULLET that cures all cancer. He drives to Palm Springs to obtain the most likely reason for the cure, Taylor’s blood that apparently duplicated experiments he conducted with mice. Taylor refuses to donate blood and his mom widow Demi supports his decision while her live in lover Warren wants the cash. Allan hangs around praying he can persuade mother and son while Warren seeks to make money. Soon fifty years old gangster Frankie Vico, dying from cancer, learns of the teen and offers cash to Warren.

This is an exhilarating thriller that grips the audience with the concept of THE MAGIC BULLET elixir. Even when the story line turns from a medical thriller into a more conventional thriller the pace remains hyper. The key cast members are fully developed except for Warren; whose nasty behavior makes one wonder why an intelligent lovely woman would stay with this Joe twelve pack (by half time) especially since her son disdains him. Starting with Jodi’s parents making their death row walk in the hospital, Andrew Neiderman provides a terrific thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Unusual Suspects-Dana Stabenow (editor)

The Unusual Suspects
Dana Stabenow (editor)
Ace, Dec 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780441016372

These superb twelve new tales focus on the convergence of mystery and suspense inside a fantasy realm. The stories are all well written, holding up nicely to its predecessor collection (see POWERS OF DETECTION). Charlaine Harris provides a Sookie entry while Simon R. Green returns to the Nightside and the editor Ms. Stabenow takes her fans back to Mnemosynea for what she describes as a “Seer and Sword” thriller. The other entries are strong with deep characters such as Laura Anne Gilman’s loan shark dragon star of “Illumination”. Carole Nelson Douglas’ “Bogieman” answers one of the deepest fundamental questions of the universe: who wants Sam Spade dead (than again who does not might be easier to answer)? Likewise John Straley responds to another question of the ages: what does Santa do during his off season? Whether it is Donna Andrews’s Gwynn the apprentice returning to cast a “spellbound” on her fans to read her story or Mike Doogan a “Glamour” satirizing the sub-genre, readers will enjoy this compilation. The remaining four are excellent contributions by top tier authors (Michael A. Stackpole, Sharon Sinn, Michael Armstrong and Laurie R. King).

Harriet Klausner