Saturday, February 28, 2009

Glamour-Louise Bagshawe

Louise Bagshawe
Plume, Feb 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452289420

The three young girls meet at a posh Beverly Hills high school because they are the outsiders; undesirables not good enough to mingle with the rest of the affluent student body. Thus Texan Sally Lassiter, Englishwoman Jane Morgan and Jordanian Helen Yanna form their own pact to help each other survive the bullying barracudas and harassing sharks. However, finances force Sally and Jane to drop out and Helen is packed off in marriage to live in the Middle East.

Over the next few years separately all three obtain business success with Sally a designer, Jane a corporate officer, and Haya (formerly Helen) an international carpet seller. A decade later, the trio meets in Los Angeles; where they concoct a concept to combine their skills to open up a luxurious shop GLAMOUR. While the store is extremely successful, the partners never recapture the level of friendship they had as teens and drift in separate directions while taking potshots at one another.

The obvious homage to Sex and the City is throughout this intriguing character study, but Louise Bagshawe puts her own spin on affluence and trysts. The three prime players contain differing personalities. As teens they need to bond with someone in similar dire straits, but as late twenties with professional success, they no longer need one another. Although there are some cul de sac scenes that feel like padding, fans of women’s modern fiction will enjoy following the exploits of three women in Los Angeles.

Harriet Klausner

A Flickering Light-Jane Kirkpatrick

A Flickering Light
Jane Kirkpatrick
Waterbrook, Apr 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781578569809

In 1907 in Winona, fifteen year old Jessie Ann Gaebele loves to take pictures of in Minnesota’s beautiful landscapes. Neither her family nor her peers understand the teenage girl’s obsession with photography. No one except that is professional photographer F.J. Bauer who feels an affinity with the young girl as he loves picture taking too. He hires her as his apprentice.

Jessie Ann proves adept at all the workings involving photography including the use of dangerous toxic chemicals in the backroom and the flash powder used as lighting. However, she feels out of her league as a woman and loaded with guilt when she falls in love with her married mentor as she knows his somewhat difficult wife Jessie is not a bad person. Although he knows not to act on his wants, Bauer finds himself increasingly desiring his apprentice especially her unabated enthusiasm for what he cherishes too, photography.

Reaching back to her family tree, historical novelist Jane Kirkpatrick provides readers with a terrific "biographical fiction" of her grandmother as a teen at the turn of the previous century breaking the gender barrier. The key to this super tale is that the prime three players based on real persona are not over the top nasty people; instead the audience will empathize with each. Readers will also obtain a deep look at the danger of photography in the first decade of the twentieth century and cannot help compare it with “danger” of the digital age; as exposure has different connotations. Ms. Kirkpatrick provides a profound look at an era when women were given limited options yet Jessie Ann refuses to allow societal restraints from preventing her from being what she wanted to be and open-minded Bauer encourages her.

Harriet Klausner

The Seduction of a Duke-Donna MacMeans

The Seduction of a Duke
Donna MacMeans
Berkley, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425228067

In 1880 her mother ignores Newport heiress Francesca Winthrop desire to marry someone she loves as inane because social status is everything. Instead mom arranges a marriage for her daughter with an impoverished English duke.

William Chambers prefers to marry for love or not at all, but has no choice except to accept the Winthrop’s social climber’s offer for her wealthy daughter. Bitterly he accepts his title for her money.

William and Fran meet at a masquerade ball and each is attracted to the other. He gores so far as thinking marriage to an American if it is her will be okay; she thinks similar thoughts. However, both are anxious leading to a great misunderstanding they misconstrue what is happening until Fran reads a courtesan's diary; given to her a few months ago when the American was in Paris by her former tutor. She applies the tips and soon has William out of control with desire. However, her past surfaces and threatens the marriage between the heiress and the duke.

The sequel to THE EDUCATION OF MRS. BRIMLEY, THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE is a wonderful Victorian romance starring two likable protagonists who fall in love while she applies the courtesan’s diary to their relationship. The story line contains droll double entendres, a staple of Donna MacMeans. With a strong support cast and plenty of wit, sub-genre readers will enjoy this intelligent amusing historical.

Harriet Klausner

Enduring Justice-Amy Wallace

Enduring Justice
Amy Wallace
Multnomah, Apr 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781601420145

Twenty years ago, the ugly incident that still haunts Hanna Kessler occurred. She somewhat walled it way, but recent events have made her realize what a lie she conveniently made for herself.

Crimes Against Children FBI agent Michael Parker struggled emotionally with the cases he has worked; even the trauma specialist offers him little help though he religiously attends their appointments. His current case involves a white supremacist who escaped the justice system. With an Asian child snatched he realizes his beloved Hanna's past has caught up with them as she is in the crosshairs.

This is not an easy read as the third Defenders of Hope inspirational thriller (see RANSOMED DREAMS and HEALING PROMISES) is extremely dark and gritty as pedophile and racial hate crimes take center stage. The story line grips the audience as time is running out to save a child. At the same time, Michael wants to execute justice so the perp cannot fall through the cracks. He and a hurting Hanna may be in love, but their future together looks grim unless they can heal; only God can help them achieve this, but neither seems ready to embrace the Lord as each feels deserted instead.

Harriet Klausner

Second Thoughts-Bobbie O'Keefe

Second Thoughts
Bobbie O'Keefe
Five Star, Apr 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147728

In California, Hayworth gives Petey $10 for a valuable pre WWII SteelMan comic book. He got away with his transaction because mentally-challenged Petey is an adult with the brain of an elementary school child while his caretaker brother Max an alcoholic was on a binge. With the help of their pal Moose, a bank investor they rob Hayworth’s convenience store three times in two days; as Max wants to harass Hayworth to return the comic book or give him $5K.

At about the same time, Kristy and Kevin go on a honeymoon in Hawaii leaving their three kids watched by their former sister-in-law Connie. Her ex TV newscaster Derek arrives to take the oldest five year old Chris fishing though he apparently mixed up the dates. He invites Connie to join them as well as the fourteen month old twins Andy and Abbie. When they run out of gas, they walk back to a nearby house they noticed. Inside are the three robbers who kidnap them. However, they are made to feel at home as Petey and Chris become playing buddies, Moose enjoys watching the twins, and Max appreciates Derek’s great cooking. While Derek is working on one master recipe to win back his Connie, she has SECOND THOUGHTS about their divorce and first thoughts about stealing the purloined comic book for Max and Petey.

This is a madcap romantic suspense thriller that the audience will relish as long as they understand they will have to ignore the plausibility gauge; the fast-paced story line is fast-paced but stratospherically over the top of the Sierras. The five adults and Chris have distinct personalities while the changing relationships between the kidnappers and the victims are fun to follow as Connie and Derek adopt the siblings’ quest as their own. Fans will have no second thoughts about this comedic screwball contemporary as zany is the name of the game.

Harriet Klausner

Dining with Devils-Gordon Aalborg

Dining with Devils
Gordon Aalborg
Five Star, Apr 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147494

On Tasmania, a visiting gundog trial judge is shot by an apparent blind man who was participating with blanks firing at clay pigeons. At the scene as a civilian is police Sergeant Charlie Banes holding obvious Bluey the dog before he takes charge of the murder scene. His friend Canadian author Teague Kendell, who wrote the true crime thriller THE SPECIALIST and American novelist Tex Henderson are there too; the deadly bullet grazed Rex’s ear.

Meanwhile renowned caver Kirsten Knelsen, who saved Teague’s life on Vancouver Island from the Specialist, is inside a cave with several locals when they find a displaced knife that they take back with them to give to the cops. That night Dr. Ralph “the Specialist” Stafford thought dead in Canada, uses a post hypnotic spell to easily kidnap Kirsten. Stafford looks forward to serving Knelsen as dinner. Teague’s ex-wife Rose Chapman and sniper Ian Boyd arrive at the same isolated cabin that Stafford holds Kirsten. Rose was his nurse and Ian a patient so Stafford has no problem controlling them. A frantic Teague tells Charlie that Kirsten is missing. Nothing adds up as he believes Stafford lives, but if Charlie cannot crack the case soon, Stafford will enjoy his repast Kirsten.

The sequel to the SPECIALIST is an exciting Tasmanian thriller in which the real devil is Dr. Stafford, an obvious take on Lector. The story line is fast-paced from the opening murder and never slows down until the final climax when justice is served cold. Bluey provides comic relief as well as heroism. Fans will enjoy DINING WITH DEVILS but would have appreciated more insight as to how Stafford not only found his way out of a cave, but killed a deadly cougar. Still Gordon Aalborg provides an exciting thriller as time is running out for Kirsten and Teague as Stafford plans to serve them as gourmet delights.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire's Quest-Vivi Anna

The Vampire's Quest
Vivi Anna
Silhouette Nocturne, Apr 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618088

When Otherworld Crime Unit bomb specialist vampire Kellen Falcon was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder Sangcerritus, he researched it to learn more about the disease that is killing him. He learned two doctors were considered experts and rumor of a cure. Thus Kellen left Necropolis and traveled to the Otherworlder European city Nouveau Monde because Dr. Bueller, one of the premier experts practiced there.

Kellen arrives at Nouveau Monde Medical Center for his appointment with Bueller. However, after stepping back into the reception area for a moment, he recognizes the ticking sound and covers the receptionist with his body when a bomb explodes killing several people including the doctor. Inspector Bellmonte leads the investigation and informs Kellen not to leave town, implying he is the prime suspect. He also assigns Lycan police officer Sophie St. Clair to drive Kellen to his hotel. They are attracted to one another, which surprises him since an alluring vampiress was standing next to Bellmonte. Somewhat cleared because killing the doctor meant Kellen was committing suicide though still a suspect as the disease makes him grumpy and angry, he and Sophie team up on the investigation when other bombs also explode.

The latest Otherworld police procedural romance (see BLOOD SECRETS and DARK LIES) switches locale from the States to Europe, but retains the belief that Nouveau Monde like Necropolis is a real city filled with paranormals (and humans). By simply having the paranormals and humans interact in a progressive positive way, Vivi Anna distinguishes the two continents from one another. The story line is explosive from the opening scene and never takes a break on two fronts: preventing more terrorist killings and the death watch of the hero as he falls in love. THE VAMPIRE’S QUEST is a great thriller as ironically time is running out on the lead male when he used to have all the time in the world at a time he has found his life mate.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing

I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing
Kyria Abrahams
Touchstone, Mar 3 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 1416556842

Kyria Abrahams was raised as a Jehovah Witness, which she explains means humans are divided between the have and have nots; the have true believers will live forever in a new Eden on earth while the "worldly" will be shunned though ironically the Jehovah's Witness extended community pray for their salvation. She did not celebrate Halloween or her birthday except with thank you prayers to the Lord. Every night she would go to bed expecting the end so had her end of the world pack ready for expeditious movement. She shunned a friend for having a devil’s device, an Ouija board. However, when she married as a teen she began to have doubts as she hated her spouse and turned to drugs and alcohol. When that failed she went on line where Ms. Abrahams discovered a whole new world out there including adultery. Now in her twenties, she is a shunned fallen one having kicked Jehovah out of her life and having the Jehovah Witness “fire” her.

This is a well written autobiography that provides insight into the lifestyle of a former member and her family. The keys to this intriguing account are that the author uses humor and clearly remains fond of her apparently dysfunctional family and even the religion; she avoids acrimonious nastiness. The memoir changes in tone from semi-humorous to totally serious at the point Ms. Abrahams married as she quickly detested her husband and turned to escapist self destructing activity. Although the author seemingly has turned her life around as evident by this fine book, she fails to explain how and what helped her overcome two plus decades of upbringing. Still Ms. Abrahams provides readers with a profound anecdotal look of growing up as a Jehovah Witness.

Harriet Klausner

Hold Love Strong-Matthew Aaron Goodman

Hold Love Strong
Matthew Aaron Goodman
Touchstone, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781416562030

In 1982 in the Ever Park project in New York City, thirteen year old Jelly Singleton gives birth to Abraham on the bathroom floor of her grandmother’s apartment while her mom thinks her daughter is having a gas attack. The rest of the family that includes his nine year old Uncle Roosevelt, his Aunt Rhonda and her brood especially the oldest four year old Donnel are at the movies watching ET.

Over the tweener years, Abraham dreamed of becoming a member of the Huxtable family in Brooklyn while his mom turned to crack and Roosevelt went to prison. During that period grandma kept the family together. When Donnel, who was more like an older brother to his younger cousin, goes to prison, Abraham is ready to give up. However, his girlfriend Kaya keeps the pressure on that education is their tickets out of the projects. His hope for a scholarship resides more on his basketball skills than his classroom success, but with encouragement he tries to improve his academic standing.

HOLD LOVE STRONG is a powerful look at inner city life and survival in the projects as a poor family struggles to overcome addiction, deaths, incarcerations, and broken dreams. Grandma is the key to keeping her family together and giving hope to all even addicted Jelly and Donnel who through away an NBA career. Character driven, Matthew Aaron Goodman provides a profound family drama of living in the projects where daily existence easily snuffs out the hopes and dreams of those who want the life of the Huxtables.

Harriet Klausner

Madame Bliss-Charlotte Lovejoy

Madame Bliss
Charlotte Lovejoy
Signet, Mar 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451225979

In the eighteenth century waif Marianna Wren is taken into an aristocratic home where she became a servant. However, as she blossomed into a beautiful woman, she is accused of unbecoming behavior when her owner took her virginity and consequently fired her. Marianna tries to hitch a ride and is picked up by Calliope. They hit it off and the more experienced woman tutors her new friend in the vast delights of a wide variety of sex with male and female partners

Marianna loves her new freedom and changes her name to Madame Bliss. She enjoys seduction and being seduced, but deep down in her heart, Bliss knows Marianna is still that stray trying to belong to someone; she wants to love and be loved by her own personal Eros.

As Signet states, MADAME BLISS will remind readers of Fanny Hill and Tom Jones. This is the amorous adventures of a woman of pleasure in a delightfully lewd coming of age historical. Marianna is like a wren until her mentor teaches her the love and joy of blissful bisexual bawdy encounters of all kind. Fans will enjoy Madame Bliss’ erotic escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Mischief 24/7-Kasey Michaels

Mischief 24/7
Kasey Michaels
Harlequin HQN, Apr 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773664

As always the oldest Sunshine sister, Jade remains the responsible last one standing trying to prove their father Teddy did kill Melody Brainard or commit suicide. She refuses to give up while Jolie has found a distraction (see DIAL M FOR MISCHIEF) and so has Jessica (see MISCHIEF BECOMES HER). Jade worked for her dad in his private investigative agency and assumes his last cases contain the key clues.

She is stunned when her former husband, Courtland Becket offers to help her. His ulterior motive is for a second chance at their love now that high maintenance Teddy is gone. As they investigate the cold case files that Teddy was searching before he died, their attraction remains strong, but not quite as powerful as Jade’s obsession that Teddy goes to his grave a hero not a killer.

Although the readers will know early on what Teddy did and did not do in his last moments, fans will relish this often amusing romantic suspense thriller. The current day cases are resolved while the ties back to the Regency saga Romney Marsh is brilliant. Jade is the most convoluted of the Sunshine siblings as even in death her father comes before her needs; Court hopes to gain that role on his second chance, but knows Teddy must be more than just exonerated; he must receive homage from the Philadelphia police, the media, and the sisters.

Harriet Klausner

Defender-Catherine Mann

Catherine Mann
Berkley, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425228029

In Afghanistan, with his mentor and partner Major Nathan “Socrates” Breuer unconscious and his C-12 nose diving with smoke coming from the tail, Captain Jimmy Gage knows he must land the plane safely and pray for help to arrive fast. He succeeds in getting them to the ground, but his prayer is answered by insurgents who execute Breuer on the spot and take Jimmy prisoner. Tortured by the enemy, his only regret is he left his fallen comrade behind; vowing never again.

Three years later, Jimmy, who escaped from the enemy, is escorting a boat filled with USO performers when the vessel explodes. Jimmy rescues several survivors including beautiful Chloe Nelson. She had joined the troupe to pay homage to the late soldier who donated a kidney that saved her life. As their respective hearts hotwire love, the pair finds themselves struggling to survive while on a dangerous mission.

This exciting first Darks Ops military thriller hooks the audience from the opening suspense laden scene and never loosens the tension until the end. The key to this taut story line is the lead couple whose attraction can light up the country, but keep their romantic inclinations in check as survival and mission come first. Fans who relish an exciting military thriller with a romantic subplot will wan to fly with Jimmy and Chloe.

Harriet Klausner

Packing Heat-Penny McCall

Packing Heat
Penny McCall
Berkley, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425228050

On her first case, desperate FBI agent Harmony Swift enters Lewisburg United States Penitentiary to free white-collar criminal Cole Hackett' because she needs his computer skills to rescue a kidnapped agent whose ransom is information; her agency geeks will not do it. Two feds try to stop her breaking him out, bur she succeeds. She tries to persuade him to help, but he points out he is no longer the naive kid who the FBI “F” eight years ago leading to is incarceration; trust of a fed is no longer in his DNA.

Shockingly, the FBI conceals the break-out, which makes no sense to Harmony. As Cole hacks into the FBI database seeking the information, Harmony reconsiders what is happening now and what happened to Cole the first time he worked for the FBI; something is not right, but she has no idea what that is and who is behind the scenes manipulating everyone including an escapee convict and a renegade agent on the run.

This fast-paced thriller stars two wonderful people on the lam as he is rightfully a pessimist and she is an optimist; as a team they slice off the top half of the glass that contained liquid to the midpoint making it filled to the top. Fans will enjoy the wild adventures of the Fed and the anti-Fed as they fall in love while working on allegedly saving a kidnapped agent, but nothing is quite the way it seems in this action packed romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Perfectly Criminal-Celeste Marsella

Perfectly Criminal
Celeste Marsella
Dell, Mar 24 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780440244677

They work at the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office. Laurie, Shannon, and Marianna are prosecutors while Beth is a paralegal. Laurie is going to law school in the fall so their boss attorney general Vincent “the Pig” Piganno hires Brooke Stanfield to replace her. One night the foursome is celebrating their working together for six years when Shannon goes to the bathroom for a pit stop. She meets a drunken man who comes on to her; when he faints they both tumble to the floor. When he reawakens, Shannon takes him to her home, but he cannot sexually perform.

He tells her he may have killed his wife and her lesbian lover before introducing himself as Connecticut State Senator Scott Boardman. He explains he is unsure if the committed two homicides because he mixed alcohol and pills before blacking out. Shannon calls the police to take him in and he hires his attorney who tells him to be quiet. He recants his confession and is released. His public relations man insists he is innocent despite Brooke giving Shannon a phony confession. Scott admits she lieed even though he just broke up with her. When his P.R. expert is murdered, the evidence points to him, but Shannon refuses to believe it; risking her life to prove he is innocent.

The second romantic suspense thiller by Celeste Marsella (see DEFENSELESS; Mariana’s tale) is a fascinating crime thriller with a ton of red herrings and plot twists though perhaps too many. Shannon is a tough person, but is also running away from her past, which is a prime reason an affair with a married man pleases her. She does not want a commitment and though her married paramour deeply loves her he cannot leave his wife which to Shannon is the perfect arrangement. Scott in many ways is the more beguiling character as many of the spins are caused by him; keeping readers interested into learning his true motives. Celeste Marsella provides fans with a strong tale reminiscent of the works of Linda Fairstein.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Crusade-Lori Devoti

Dark Crusade
Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne, Apr 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618095

In Gunngar, witches are hunted as the lowest varmint on the place between worlds. Thus when witch Heather Moore finds herself trapped in Gunngar, she knows to rely on no one but herself as anyone could betray her. However, she also knows she has no prayer of escape and going home without help as the malevolent elf Marina wants all witches dead.

Wolf shapeshifter guardian Kerr Vik offers his protection when he finds her hiding place. Heather wants to accept but fears her attraction to her wannabe guardian might be obfuscating his real reason for tender protection. She knows he works for Marina; so either he is preparing to betray her or his evil employer. To his chagrin, Kerr finds himself bewitched by Heather making him willing to risk his life to keep her safe from the wicked elf.

The world of Gunngar comes across as a plausible dark grim place in which magic and the paranormal abound. Kerr is terrific as a champion caught between his duty and his love while Heather wants to believe her heart but all the facts point to one conclusion that her beloved will hand her over to Marina. Fantasy romance fans will appreciate Lori Devoti’s latest Guardian thriller (see WILD HUNT, UNBOUND and GUARDIAN’S KEEP) as they along with the witch wonder if Kerr deceives Heather with a pretense of love as he has a greater mission to achieve.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Me Cheeta-Cheeta

Me Cheeta
ECCO (Harper), Mar 3 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061647420

Septuagenarian Cheeta of Tarzan fame is proud of his film résumé. Before becoming Weissmuller’s sidekick in 1934, he was captured two years earlier in the Liberian jungle and brought to Hollywood under the name Jiggs. After performing in eleven Tarzan movies as Cheeta, he was considered too old so he was forced into retirement. He came out of the rest home for retired acting chimps to make one film in the 1960s in Doctor Doolittle (Harrison not Murphy). Still alive and residing in Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes (C.H.E.E.T.A.) in Palm Springs, California, he provides his unique perspective of Hollywood.

This is a unique autobiographical fiction in that it is “written” by a chimp who tells his story in Hollywood. Cheeta provides an insider look at some of the great names especially in the 1930s and 1940s like Gable, Bogart, Rooney, and of course his sidekick Johnny Weissmuller. Although there is little about the life of an animal star in spite of the author, fans will enjoy the latest Hollywood exposé as Cheeta tells about his co-stars’ monkey business as the likes of Natalie Wood and Victor Mature agreeing he was a better kisser than James Dean.

Harriet Klausner

The Winter Vault-Anne Michaels

The Winter Vault
Anne Michaels
Knopf, Apr 21 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780307270825

Avery and Jean met near the St. Lawrence River. The engineer and botanist are attracted to one another, fall in love and marry. In 1964 he is assigned as part of a team dismantling, relocating, and reconstructing the Great Temple. Traumatized with the loss of their child that leaves both heartbroken, their relationship becomes a victim too as they go back to Toronto separately.

Avery returns to school as an architectural student and Jean meets Polish artist Lucjan, a Polish immigrant. However, Lucjan proves errant when it comes to relationships; as if he is unable to relax perhaps from his time in Warsaw when the Red Army more than just threatened everyone. Jean has her baggage too as she has not forgotten Avery and their history together that included two watery destructions of the past.

This is a profound tale that looks deep into the debate between historical heritage and modern day progress as Avery and Jean participate in the development of two watery graveyards that on the one hand provided great economic growth to the respective regions. The story line is character driven with the action somewhat muted to the support role as THE WINTER VAULT is more cerebrally poetically passive than active.

Harriet Klausner

Mommy by Mistake-Rowan Coleman

Mommy by Mistake
Rowan Coleman
Pocket, Mar 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 1416583882

She is stuck on a train when she meets him where they talk. The next thing Natalie Curzon knows is that they are in Venice enjoying the sights in between making love. Jack tells her he will call her soon, but does not; breaking her heart. She soon learns she is pregnant and keeps her baby Freddie. When her electricity fails, she tells Gary the electrician that her spouse Freddie’s daddy is in Dubai.

Natalie meets Gary’s assistant teenage girlfriend Tiffany, also as a single mom is raising a child who black and tells her the same lie. The pair attend a first aid class where they meet Meg who believes her husband is cheating. They begin to form a single moms’ group with two other women. Jack is back and wants to be a father to Freddie, but shows no interest in Natalie, who detests the word platonic because she loves Jack. She also wonders how to tell her new sisters that she is single having made up a spouse in Dubai.

The latest Rowan Coleman mommy lit (see THE ACCIDENTAL MOTHER and ANOTHER MOTHER'S LIFE) will remind the audience of family dramas by Eileen Goude and Barbara Delinsky. Natalie learns the hard way that raising a baby nukes the parent’s lifestyle as does her new friends who forge a support group to help control the nuclear waste. Points of view rotate so the audience knows what the prime characters are thinking and feeling, but Natalie is the focus as a likable vulnerable single mom.

Harriet Klausner

Gorgeous As Sin-Susan Johnson

Gorgeous As Sin
Susan Johnson
Berkley, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226810

In 1891, his Grace the Duke of Groveland George Montagu Fitz-Robbins Monckton, left the countryside and his latest married paramour at the urgent request of his barrister Prosper Hutchinson. Prosper explains that if a Mrs. St. Vincent refuses to sell her bookstore on Monckton Row, his project would fail and His Grace will be out at least 90,000 pounds. The lady is obstinate.

To save his project, Fitz visits the lady in question who refuses money. He likes her courage and stubbornness so different than all the women he knows who do whatever he asks of them. He changes plan from cash to seduction as no female can resist his lure. Rosalind knows her adversary is GORGEOUS AS SIN and desires him, but she knows he will break her heart so rejects her need of him and his enticement leading to an immovable force colliding with an irresistible object.

This engaging late Victorian heated romance stars two enemy combatants insisting it is only passing lust that will go away like gas does. The gender war makes for a fine historical as Fitz and Rosalind feel they have good cause to motivate them to fight and win the battle while ignoring their respective seditious hearts and other body parts. Although the plot is a bit thin, Susan Johnson provides an enjoyable late nineteenth century romance because of heated hostility between the lead couple.
Harriet Klausne

Sudden Death-Allison Brennan

Sudden Death
Allison Brennan
Ballantine, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345502742

The killer murdered vets in Austin and Las Vegas before the third victim appeared in a Sacramento alley. Each was single, between thirty five and forty five years old, and former Delta Force soldiers; they were tortured with their hamstrings cut so they could not escape. FBI special agent Megan Elliot knows she has a serial killer to contend with, but who and why remains out of reach. She turns to the military to learn more about the Delta Force, but the Pentagon refuses to cooperate; going so far as claiming a corpse due to national security.

Ex-Army Ranger Jack Kincaid runs a mercenary team in Texas. When someone tortures and murders one of his associates, a Delta Force vet, he vows justice for his fallen brother in arms. His breaking the rules leads him to frustrated by the book Megan.

Readers meet the two killers and the motive before Megan investigates the Sacramento crime scene so the tense story line is more a cat and mouse contest with death being the most likely outcome. Jack and Megan are opposites as he flaunts the rules while she embraces them. They are a wonderful pairing, but the prime reason fans will enjoy this exhilarating FBI romantic suspense is the chilling serial killing duo Karin and Ethan, but especially her.
Harriet Klausner

The President's Henchman-Joseph Flynn

The President's Henchman
Joseph Flynn
Variance, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 193514202X

When his wife is elected president, Jim McGill becomes America’s “first” First Man. A former Chicago homicide detective, Jim was working on the homicide of Patricia Darden Grant’s husband. When he married Patricia he did not expect them to relocate to the White House for her job. He is offered the position of FBI chief, but declines. Instead he obtains private investigator license.

His first case involves a stalker threatening a White House press corps member as Jim wants to make sure the loose cannon does not go after his wife. Jim also gets involved in an adultery charge against a female colonel stationed at the Pentagon with the possibility that could devastate his wife’s new administration.

THE PRESIDENT’S HENCHMAN is an enjoyable refreshing political noir starring America’s First Man who refuses to hide his roots as a former Chicago cop, but does so in an intelligent tough guy manner. The story line is fast-paced though one must wonder how the Secret Service Agents plan to protect Jim when he has clients; surveillance for instance might prove messy and awkward. Although the plot does not dig deep enough into the impact of Jim working as a P.I. on POTUS protection detail and other considerations, Joseph Flynn provides fans with a brisk political thriller starring the First Nor sleuth in the White House.

Harriet Klausner

The Shadow Queen-Bertrice Small

The Shadow Queen
Bertrice Small
Harlequin HQN, Apr 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373773688

No woman has ever ruled the Kingdom of Terah. However, when the monarch Magnus Hauk dies in an accident, his son is not old enough to rule. Thus his mom the faerie Queen Lara will serve as a secret regent until her offspring can formally run the nation.

To assist THE SHADOW QUEEN as she guides her son is her trusted friend Prince Kaliq at a time Terah is threatened by powerful enemies emboldened by the lack of a strong king. However, Lara’s efforts to protect her children go astray when their adversary Jonah the Lord High Ruler beguiles her daughter and her twin sons openly fight leaving the kingdom divided and consequently increasingly weakened. The only thing working for Lara is her reciprocated love with loyal Kaliq.

The fifth Hetar erotic romantic fantasy is an exciting tale as Lara star of the first book is the prime focus again; which enables the audience to see how far she has come and to a degree fallen. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as the heroine realizes she can only protect her children so far, but as adults they will make poor judgments that she can do little about. The romantic subplot is hot and engaging, but also intrudes in some ways on the primary theme of what she must sacrifice to save the next generation, her kingdom, and ultimately two worlds. Fans of the series will relish THE SHADOW QUEEN while spellbound newcomers will seek the previous entries (see THE SORCERESS OF BELLMAIR, THE TWILIGHT LORD, A DISTANT TOMORROW and LARA).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hater-David Moody

David Moody
Dunne, Feb 2009, $21.95
ISBN: 9780312384838

Danny McCoyne is a bureaucrat at the Parking Fine Processing Office; a job he loathes but as poor as the pay is he needs to keep his boring position in order to feed his wife and kids. Depressed Danny knows he has no future beyond being near the bottom of his agency’s food chain.

Danny is stunned when he witnesses an apparent random act of violence. When more occur, the media dubs the assaulters as Haters. Victims are loved ones, friends and fellow workers as much as strangers. No one can explain why even as society begins to unravel as exponentially the number of attacks is beyond when the government can contend with. Danny anticipates the worst is yet to come; so he tries to keep his loved ones safe though that means hiding inside their home like convicts. He trusts no one especially the government who he thinks may be behind the sudden violence

This is a chilling thriller as the increasingly violent society forcing innocents to lock themselves and their families in houses that are prisons seems plausible due to the pace of the story line. The brutality is often vivid, rightfully so, as that cruelty is what leads to self incarceration. Fans of a dark world will appreciate this grim thriller as normality is simple survival in a Moody world gone mad.

Harriet Klausner

Manna From Hades-Carola Dunn

Manna From Hades
Carola Dunn
Minotaur, Mar 17 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312379452

Widow Eleanor “Aunt Nell” Trewynn runs a charity shop in the village of Port Mabyn in Cornwall. At the store, Aunt Nell’s dog Teazle finds a corpse of a young male in the storeroom. She notifies Detective Inspector Scumble who initially thinks the victim is a bum. He does not want to investigate with his partner on sick leave and he stuck with Aunt Nell’s resolute niece, Detective Sargent Megan Pencarrow, but has no choice as a murder occurred.

Aunt Nell drives the gruff senior investigator crazy as she seems to omit critical information because she is forgetful. She is actually more interested in a suitcase of jewelry left at the store that turns out to be stolen loot from a London jewelry. As Aunt Nell and the Vicar’s wife Jocelyn work the case, Scumble grumbles about amateurs and London cops.

This 1960-s 1970s English village mystery is a wonderful character driven police procedural-amateur sleuth whodunit. The ensemble cast brings to life the small Cornish village through key players who are fully developed with differing personalities. Fans will enjoy Carola Dunn’s new series as she moves forward in time four decades from her super Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher 1920s mysteries without missing a beat.

Harriet Klausner

Chinatown Angel-A.E. Roman

Chinatown Angel
A.E. Roman
Minotaur, Mar 17 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312375003

In New York City, commercial actor Kirk Atlas hires private investigator Chico Santana to find his missing teenage cousin Tiffany, Chinese-Cuban American. His inquiry takes Chico to Queens where Pilar Menendez offers him money not return Tiffany to Kirk. Soon afterward, Chico observes someone pushes Pilar from the rooftop of her Astoria building.

Chico learns that Tiffany's brother died from a heroin overdose and her father Samuel runs HMD Financial. The sleuth locates Tiffany and Irving Goldberg Jones, who is in hiding after writing a story about a person forced to OD on heroin. Still the case fails to tie together even as more deaths follow. He is abducted by Kirk’s crazy father, and an incriminating sex tape seems to be getting around the city.

This is a fun urban noir that lampoons the sub-genre as Chico is the man who has turned his life around since his wife Ramona kicked him out of their apartment and under the Pelham 123. Chico’s amusing asides as he escorts the audience through the boroughs make for a lighthearted tale. Fans who enjoy a tough hero will want to join Chico’s tour of Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx.

Harriet Klausner

In a Gilded Cage-Rhys Bowen

In a Gilded Cage
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur, Mar 17 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312385347

Following a particularly cold New York winter, two friends of Molly Murphy persuade the private investigator to join the "Vassar Wants Votes for Women" march in the annual Easter Parade. On Fifth Avenue where the parade is held, Molly meets Emily Boswell and several of her socialite friends. They cause a disturbance and NYPD’s finest arrest Molly, Emily and the other women.

Molly's fiancé exasperated police captain Daniel Sullivan gets the females released from their cell, but is uninterested in the women’s right to vote movement. Meanwhile Emily hires Molly to investigate the deaths of her missionary parents and the loss of their estate that she should have inherited; she cannot pay much of a fee because she is eeking out a living at a drugstore.

As always with this excellent early twentieth century Manhattan mystery series (see TELL ME, PRETTY MAIDEN), the time and place make for a terrific read. The Boswell inquiry and another investigation are cleverly drawn emphasizing that Molly’s sleuthing business is booming, but it is Rhys Bowen’s description of Easter Parade New York that makes for a vivid look back to the beginning of the last century.

Harriet Klausner

Payback-Solomon Jones

Solomon Jones
Minotaur, Mar 17 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312348380

Municipal Court of Philadelphia Judge Myra Weaks is ruling whether Karima "Cream" Thomas must stand trial for the death of her boyfriend, Duane Faision (see C.R.E.A.M.). As the Judge states there is efficient evidence for Ms. Thomas to stand trial for murder and the accused insists an accident during a shoot out occurred, a scream is heard by all inside the courtroom by someone outside.

Karima, worried about her mom’s reaction to the recent tragic events, recognizes the voice and rushes out to the hallway. There she finds her mother Sharon Thomas dying from a puncture wound in her neck; the Ice Pick serial killer has struck. Karima vows to avenge her mom’s death. However, as the killer goes on a rampage murdering anyone he had the slightest grudge with, Karima follows his icy blood trail looking for a confrontation.

This is a wild satirical sequel starring a kick butt African-American heroine who takes no prisoners as shown by the opening argument between her and the Judge over the merit of her late drug dealing boyfriend and never slows down as Cream takes readers on a tour of the city. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action while the audience anticipates a final grudge match winner takes all between the diabolically brilliant profiling Ice Pick killer and the heroine, mindful of Cleopatra Jones.

Harriet Klausner

Tight Lie-Don Dahler

Tight Lie
Don Dahler
Minotaur, Mar 17 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312383503

Someone hammers Hollywood actress Holly Ann Cramer with a cappuccino machine, rapes her and murders her with six vicious stabs to her heart. Because the homicide is excessively violent implying a crime of passion, LAPD suspects the victim’s boyfriend, all star baseball player Joniel Baker, who was ending their relationship but swears he did not kill her.

Joniel asks his friend private investigator Huck Doyle to investigate the murder as the prime suspect does not trust the police to look beyond him. Huck, who has a law degree that he does not use and is a licensed private investigator who has license that he does use when he is not sinking the putt on the PGA tour, which is frequently, reluctantly agrees. Complicating the case is a second victim also containing DNA that implicated Joniel. With the help of his disgraced father and his paraplegic brother, Huck begins to believe Joniel’s claim he is being set up

The Doyle family makes this a fine sports mystery as the Huckster narrates the whodunit with a string of enthusiastic birdies about golf, murder and the collapse of society. His two relatives are total opposites when it comes to investigations; dad the ex LAPD cop says the end is all that matters while the brother the ex FBI agent insists the means is just as important. Although the inquiry is conveniently helped, sub-genre fans especially golfers will enjoy Don Dahler’s delightful debut as Huck beats par for the course.

Harriet Klausner

Hunted-P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast

P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 2009, $17.95
ISBN: 9780312379827

Stevie Rae’s blood splashed the earth where Kalona emerged from the earth. He was imprisoned a millennia ago by the wise women of the Cherokee because he raped their women. They created out of the earth a woman A-ya who lured him into a cave and trapped him underground. He was released due to work if the High Priestess of Nyx who wants Kalona as a consort. He is one of the Fallen but looks like a beautiful and he is deadly ruthless and evil. He wants fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird who he believes is A-ya. She and the others escape into the tunnels near their school the House of night.

A Raven Mocker, Kalona’s children he got on Cherokee Woman are part bird and part human wound her. Through her friends she is kept from dying, but must return to the House of Night. She needs to be near a fully formed vampyres because she is a fledgling and is not as strong as a fully aged vampyre. Otherwise she will die. While at the school Kalona enters her dreams trying to turn her away from the Goddess Nyx because he believes she is A-ya reincarnated. They must stop him and the High Priestess Neferet who brought him back to life otherwise the whole school will abandon the Goddess and turn to the dark.

HUNTED is an appealing supernatural thriller that focuses on a fledgling vampire who must believe in the Goddess while having an affinity for the five elements when most newcomers have none or one. She is being groomed to become the High Priestess and the decisions she make shows a maturity (caused by events in the previous four novels) that belies her being a teen. The exciting story line is filled with teenage angst as Zoe struggles with choices that would cause PTSD in most adults. Like the Twilight saga, this fine entry casts a strong spell on readers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Highland Scandal-Julia London

Highland Scandal
Julia London
Pocket, Apr 21 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 141654710X

In 1807 the Prince of Wales demands the Lords Commissioners complete their Delicate Investigation into the behavior of his wife. Being the royal heir, George expects one outcome. However, the Lords Commissioners are finding little to uphold the accusations George is making against his spouse Princess Caroline of her sleeping around.

The latest lord the Prince accuses of adultery with the Princess of Wales is Scottish Earl Jankin "Jack" Haines. Jack assumes George will quickly drop the nonsensical charge so he goes home to wait. Instead the Prince, claiming Jack fled to Scotland to avoid conviction of the seditious act of sleeping with the Princess, hires bounty hunters to find the earl. They capture Jack and take him to their clan laird, Carson Beal who forces his prisoner to handfast with his troublemaking niece, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Drummond Beal in order to avoid her possible marriage with Gavin Gordon. Although Carson denies duplicity, Jack thinks his “host” has a nefarious reason to keep his niece from marrying Gordon and he plans to learn what that is even as he begins to fall in love with the shrew taming him.

Based on a real investigation, the second scandal Regency romance (see BOOK OF SCANDAL) is a delightful historical Scottish romance. Jack expects the accusations will soon pass but underestimates the Prince’s determination. However, he adapts nicely as he goes from the fire to the frying pan and back into the fire. Lizzie acts inane at first blaming Jack for her situation and behaving dangerously foolish to avoid marrying her uncle’s prisoner. She quickly comes around (thank goodness) as she falls in love. HIGHLAND SCANDAL is a wonderful tale as a real event leads to love between two Highlanders.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret Wedding-Jo Beverley

The Secret Wedding
Jo Beverley
Signet, Apr. 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780451226518

Heiress Caro Hill believes she is a widow, but has no definitive proof her spouse died. Since the wealthy Caro is considering remarrying, she needs to learn whether Jack Hill died as she assumes he did.

Army officer Christian Hill, Viscount Grandiston, is concerned as he hears rumors about someone asking questions re Jack Hill. He can answer the probe personally since a decade ago back in 1754 in Yorkshire he as Jack Hill married Dorcas Froggatt after killing her fiancé Moore; he admits to himself he never gave his bride a second thought until now as he believed he was a widower. Now he wonders whether Dorcas is alive. In London going by the name Mr. Grandiston he investigates the investigator looking for Jack Hill while Caro masquerades as several people to thwart any threat to her owning a cutlery business.

The second not so “Secret” Georgian romance (see A LADY’S SECRET) is a fabulous intelligent tale starring two lead characters masquerading as others in order to conceal their true identity while falling in love with their spouse. A comedy of manners, misconceptions and mistakes, Jo Beverly provides an amusing historical with a touch of suspense and a hint of scandal as you like it.

Harriet Klausner

A Twenty-first Century Courtesan-Eden Bradley

A Twenty-first Century Courtesan
Eden Bradley
Delta (Dell), Mar 24 2009, $13.00
ISBN: 9780553385571

Valentine Day is a high class hooker whose clientele is wealthy and caring. One of her favorite customers is Hollywood producer Enzo Alighieri who has a wife and a mistress, but loves to pamper Valentine; whom he set up at the elite of the profession. Another client Bennett is taking her to a production of La Travolta at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, but due to work is unable to make it. He insists she attend as he knows she loves the opera.

Sitting next to her at the show is Joshua Spencer who also attends alone as his guest, his mom, could not make it. They talk and realize they share in common a love of art. He gives his card to her and asks her to call. Valentine wants to ignore Joshua because he stirs feelings she has never had, but she cannot stop herself from calling. In fact she masturbates dreaming of him and has an orgasm for the first time in her life without someone paying her to do so. As they fall in love, she knows her profession disqualifies her for any normal relationship.

This Pretty Woman spin is an enjoyable contemporary romance starring an engaging half Jewish former Valley girl and the men in her life especially the first non-paying male who makes her come. Val’s clients are too nice as any woman would relish the pampering that Bennett and Enzo provides Val while the danger of her profession is ignored except for an aside or two involving some other woman. Still A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY COURTESAN is an engaging character study as Val knows she is not good enough for the man she loves just by the simple fact she hides her profession from her Joshua.

Harriet Klausner

Afterthoughts-Lynn Tincher

Lynn Tincher
BlackWyrm, Mar 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9780982006726

In Louisville, Kentucky widow Sarah Steckler still grieves the murder of her spouse Anthony when another tragedy strikes. She calls her foster sister Detective Paige Aldridge pleading with her to come over as her son Richie is dead. Paige would do anything for Sarah who was there for her last year when an assault left her with no memory.

Paige and her partner Jay Vittidini arrive at the death scene with the evidence overwhelmingly supporting suicide. Richie’s note implies he killed his dad and consequently hurt his mom. Meanwhile his death triggers memories of her kidnapping assault that she had obviously repressed and visions of homicides. Paige fears she is losing her mind with three traumas in a year and the deadly dreams; however mysterious Junna Breck visits Paige offering her help even as the detective believes her extended family is under siege from a serial killer.

This is a strange, but exciting well written police procedural starring an intriguing lead character whose family appears to be the foci of a serial killer though she has no idea why. The support cast makes the tale as Jay worries his partner may be psychologically over the edge with her theory linking her brutal kidnapping to the murder of her brother-in-law and the suicide of her nephew while Junna is enigmatic with her offer of help. Young adult fans will enjoy Lynn Tincher tense thriller as the heroine (and readers) begins to have AFTERTHOUGHTS about what has happened and she fears will happen in future Mind Bending tales.

Harriet Klausner

Treasure Keeper-Shana Abe

Treasure Keeper
Shana Abe
Bantam, Apr 2009, $22.00
ISBN 9780553806854

In England, daughter of a seamstress Zoe Cyprienne Lane is a drakon, but conceals her magical skills from others out of fear more powerful mages will use her as an expendable pawn. In 1782 while her fiancé Hayden James is away investigating rumors of a magicians cabal from the continent causing problems. Zoe becomes fearful for her Hayden when his letters stop arriving.

At about the same time Zoe’s childhood friend womanizing Lord Rhys Langford is abducted. Zoe vows to rescue Rhys, though she believes he is an ass through their psychic link, and learn what happened to Hayden. However, to do either means revealing she is drakon, which denotes she will pay an exorbitant price in the future.

Returning to the Georgian fantasy realm of THE DREAM THIEF and THE SMOKE THIEF albeit a decade later; Shana Abe provides her fans with an entertaining romantic triangle suspense thriller. The lead trio especially the courageous heroine makes for a fun gender bending tale as the least in her tribe as well as being a female tries to rescue the male drakon in her life. Clearly targeting romantic fantasy over historical in spite of the late eighteenth century setting, sub-genre readers will relish going on Zoe’s excellent adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Lord of Legends-Susan Krinard

Lord of Legends
Susan Krinard
Harlequin HQN, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780373773657

In 1885 the Earl of Donnington meets and courts American heiress Mariah Marron. He wins her heart and they marry. They move onto his estate, but he never claims his conjugal rights to her shock.

Exploring her new home, Mariah finds a semi-naked male locked in a cell. She tries to help Ash, as she names her husband’s prisoner, as much as she can. Her husband’s explanations make no sense to the American. She spends time with her Ash and he soon learns to speak. As he heals encouraged by the tender Mariah, Ash regains his memories. He knows he is King Arion a unicorn who must go home. To do so means betraying the woman who cared for him when he was not much more than a beast; the woman he loves and who is in peril from her spouse who sought her out because of her mythical connection that Mariah is unaware of.

Filled with twists, LORDS OF LEGENDS is an engaging historical romantic fantasy starring a caring heroine who is betrayed by the males in her life. The story line is fast-paced once Mariah and Ash meet and never slows down even with several spins although the ending is way over the top of Big Ben. Fans will enjoy this late Victorian rooting for Mariah, but have monster doubts about Ash and no second thoughts about Donnington.

Harriet Klausner

New Dawn Rising-Scott Gamboe

New Dawn Rising
Scott Gamboe
Medallion, Apr 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933836959

In the distant future, the United Systems Coalition with its numerous species and the Bromidian Empire were at war (see THE KILLING FROST). However the USC triumphed overthrowing the authoritarian rule of their enemy leading to a democratically elected government. One year later, both sides of the conflict celebrate the peace until assassins kill the visiting USC leaders and a coup d’etat takes down the Bromidian government.

The son of the late deposed former ruler, has prepared for the past year to retake the government with the help of people from the old regime. They are allied with pirates who are led by a new species assisting the new ruler consolidate his rule. The Avengers including Captain Arano Lakeland, his wife and some Bromidians are trapped behind enemy lines. They employ guerilla tactics to weaken the new government. A battle is space between the two forces occurs while the new species observes and waits for a chance to defeat the weakened both sides.

This is an old fashion space opera though much of the plot occurs on planet-side. The USC forces try to overturn a government that came into power through force, terror and assassination although that coup especially the murders seems too easy even arguing that the USC became complacent. There are plenty of fights between the two sides and Arano and his comrades especially the Bromidians are heroic as they risk their lives to bring back the fledgling democracy. NEW DAWN RISING is a fun outer space military political science fiction novel. Readers will wonder what the new species’ will do next.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chasing Charity-Marcia Gruver

Chasing Charity
Marcia Gruver
Barbour, Apr 28 2009, $10.97
ISBN: 9781602602069

In 1905 Humble, Texas, Daniel Clark could not go through with the vows. Instead he left his fiancee Charity Bloom at the altar of the Free Grace Church and walked out. Almost immediately Charity's best friend Emmy Dane chased after him. All the townsfolk offer sympathy to the jilted woman, but she holds her head high and insists she is fine though she feels a bit humbled by their betrayal; her only pain however is the hours her widow mama put in to make a dress for her as the impoverish Blooms could not afford to buy one.

When Buddy Pierce finds oil on the Bloom property, Charity and mama are excited. He is attracted to Charity, but is reluctant to act on it as he assumes she loves another man and he rejects the notion of a rebound romance. Meanwhile Daniel has come home filled with remorse and regret having blundered by choosing high maintenance Emmy over caring Charity; he wants a second chance. However, her mama rejects him as a fool preferring Buddy for her daughter and Emmy stalks him, but the worst interference in his effort to redeem himself is the stranger who seems to be CHASING CHARITY too.

This is an enjoyable early twentieth century Texas romance starring a wonderful lead character who readers will admire for her attitude. Charity lives up to her name as she is forgiving, loyal and loving. Fans will enjoy this fine Texas oil historical romance as the heroine is pursued by the man who jilted her and by a stranger who avoids her as much as he chases after her.

Harriet Klausner

The Reluctant Cowgirl-Christine Lynxwiler

The Reluctant Cowgirl
Christine Lynxwiler
Barbour , Apr 2009, $10.97
ISBN 9781602601505

Heeding Sinatra’s advice, Crystal McCord left Arkansas to make it as an actress in New York City. In spite of good reviews for her acting, the play she is in making a Splash folds as the critics kill it. When she returns to her rent controlled apartment, Crystal finds her boyfriend Brad who missed her performance sleeping with her roommate Sasha. Since her family called for a meeting anyway, the Arkansas traveler decides to go home to her parents’ ranch to heal from the play’s closing and the betrayals.

When neighboring rancher Jeremy Buchanan and Crystal meet, sparks fly. She metaphorically considers him to be her potential leading man in this regional theater, but he has a history with her type. As they fall in love, both have decisions to make and stereotypes to overcome.

How you’re going to keep her down on the ranch after she’s seen New York is the underlying theme in this entertaining contemporary romance in which author Christine Lynxwiler avoids dissing either the location as tastes and desires matter. THE RELUCTANT COWGIRL is a fun tale due to the misconceptions of the lead couple re the other. With a strong supporting cast, readers will enjoy this light inspirational as the wannabe in the clouds actress and the grounded rancher fall in love. See ALONG CAME A COWBOY for an even deeper Arkansas character study.

Harriet Klausner

Unseen-Nancy Bush

Nancy Bush
Zebra, Apr 2009, $6.99
ISBN 9781420103403

She awakens confused in a bed that is obviously in an Oregon hospital. Winslow County Sheriff's Department Detective Will Tanninger is at her side and tells her she is at Laurelton general Hospital; he asks her name and after a hesitation says Gemma LaPorte. Her last memory was making breakfast while it was raining outside; he tells her it has not rained near here for three days. Finally he explains that she is his prime suspect in a hit and run that critically injured child molester Edward Letton, also in the hopspital but with much more severe injuries.

Gemma suffers from traumatic induced amnesia, but could the trauma be hitting Letton as her face is battered perhaps from a steering wheel and she suffered a concussion. She also does not look close at the description provided by the young soccer player Carol Pelltor who Letton was targeting when he was mowed down. However, the mystery spins further as a serial killer who burns his victims somehow connects to Gemma’s slowly returning memories.

This is an exhilarating suspense thriller that cleverly contrasts a romantic subplot between Will and Gemma with a dark mystery. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action. However, the key to this tale is the comparisons as Will and Gemma’s relationship slowly turns warmer and lovingly, a serial killer turns nastier. Fans will relish Nancy Bush’s taut thriller as she leaves the colorful Jane Kelly mysteries for a much darker and intense suspense.

Harriet Klausner

The Fifteenth Letter-Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler

The Fifteenth Letter
Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Swimming Kangaroo Books December 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 1934041629

In 1989 Nelson Salim and Zeke Carfi entered a bank to rob it while the former’s wife Serena sat in the getaway car with their son Roman. When Nelson started to kill the bank manager, Zeke interceded. Nelson ended up dead while Zeke went to prison. Nelson’s wife and child vowed vengeance on Zeke and his kin.

Every year on the anniversary of the botched bank job, Zeke receives a letter from his late partner’s bitter widow. Fifteen years later, Zeke's twenty-four years old daughter Amber is a patrol officer assigned to the Falcon's Bend Police Department for the past two years. Now that Zeke is out of prison, Amber is confused how to deal with her father whom she worshipped as her hero when she was a small child. Still she asks him to move in with her; mostly because she hopes to keep him out of trouble. However, when she receives THE FIFTEENTH LETTER, she understands what occurred to destroy her image. Now someone is stalking Amber and her police partner Warren Jensen vows to keep the woman he is attracted to safe.

This is an exciting suspense thriller supported by a mystery (Amber’s need to know why her hero turned bank robber) and a hint of romance (between the police partners). The key to this interconnected family drama is all the prime players from the Salim and Carfi families behave plausible with vengeance and death being the links. Fans will relish this fine tale as the truth will not set anyone free because the pivotal moment in the past will always haunt those still living.

Harriet Klausner

Nightwalker-Heather Graham

Heather Graham
Mira, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780778326373

In the Las Vegas Sun casino, entertainer Jessy Sparhawk wins quite a lot of money at the craps table. Before the Lakota Sioux can rejoice over her gambling winnings, bodyguard Tanner Green falls on top of Jessy. Not moving once he lands on her, Tanner is dead from a knife in his back. Private investigator part Paiute Dillon Wolf pulls the body off of her.

Soon after the Tanner death, a second person who works at the Sun is murdered as the killer is cleaning the crime links, which makes Jessy a potential target. The victim, a parking lot attendant, had witnessed Tanner leave a limo just before his murder. Dillon and LVPD homicide detective Jerry Cheever investigate the two related murders in different manners. Dillon is a nightwalker, as is Jessy now since Green made direct contact by falling on her, as she keeps “seeing” him. Dillon talks with the witnesses, ghosts. He learns that nearby ghost-town Indigo, Nevada is apparently the location of a violent confrontation between the paranormal and human as it once was the location of a nasty gunfight in its old west heyday.

This is a terrific paranormal whodunit starring an intriguing hero, a dedicated cop, and a stunned entertainer whose relative world will never be the same after Green’s pinpoint landing. The support cast, living and ghosts enhance the exciting story line by either adding to the investigation or to the Nightwalker ESP skill. The romance remains somewhat in the backdrop as keeping Jessy alive and catching the DEATH DEALER culprit are the objectives superseding his attraction.
Harriet Klausner

Close Encounters-Katherine Allred

Close Encounters
Katherine Allred
Avon, Mar 31 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061672422

In the distant future, humans are divided between Naturals created in the traditional way and GEPs developed to the buyer’s specifications in test tubes as genetically engineered people. Each GEP is indentured to a boss until they are old enough to produce and go on their own.

Kiera Smith of The Bureau of Alien Affairs is much more evolved than the usual GEP as she is stronger, faster, heals quicker and is an empath. She is sent to the planet Orpheus Two, where the Buri race faces extinction as the natives have dropped to under 100 living. Dynatec corporation claims the planet since the Buri will be gone within 100 cycles. Buri leader Thor Sparks and Kiera are attracted to one another and he actually makes her feel she belongs to him; an alien feeling for the GEP loner. His people also welcome her as one of them rather than the usual treating her as an intrusive outsider. She will insure Dynatec adheres to the rules, but the firm wants to expedite their take-over by immediately annihilating the dwindling indigent populace. Kiera risks her life to keep her adopted people safe.

This excellent science fiction tale contains characters whether they are Naturals, GEPs or aliens that seem plausible. The audience will root for the “David” Buri to somehow triumph against the Goliath Dynatec Corporation. Kiera struggles with the awakening of new emotions as the Buri welcome her as an insider showering her with love and respect; something Naturals never have done before as she is used to being a tool to them. Thus when Thor and his people get through to her, she lowers her natural barriers for the first time in her life. Though in some ways too simplistic with the evil industrial giant trying to destroying the pristine native world, Katherine Allred provides an entertaining strong thriller as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS in this case includes the heart and soul of a GEP who never understood she had a soul and her heart that did anything besides pumping blood.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Bellini Card-Jason Goodwin

The Bellini Card
Jason Goodwin
FSG, Mar 3 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780374110390

In 1840, the new Ottoman Empire Sultan Abdulmecid orders the eunuch Yashim to travel to Venice to obtain a portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror painted by Bellini. However, before leaving for Italy, Resid Pasha directs Yashim to keep the expenses including the purchase down. Yashim asks his friend impoverish Polish Ambassador Stanislaw Palewski to masquerade as an American to help locate the portrait of the hero who took Constantinople from the Christians in the fifteenth century.

In Venice while Palewski conducts his search, a killer has murdered two dealers connected to the Bellini masterpiece. Soon the Polish Ambassador becomes a target of this unknown murderer, but Yashim working from the shadows keeps his friend safe while trying to obtain the painting.

The third Yashmin historical thriller (see THE JANISSARY TREE and THE SNAKE STONE) is an enjoyable fascinating look at Venice and at the Ottoman Empire. Interestingly Yashim plays second fiddle for much of the early part of the novel, but once he comes on stage, he and his adversary battle in am electrifying contest. Fans will enjoy this terific nineteenth century mystery due in part to the investigations into the portrait and the killer, but also because of the deep sense of time and place.

Harriet Klausner

No More Dying-David Roberts

No More Dying
David Roberts
Soho, Feb 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569475393

In 1939 England, M15 sends Lord Edward Corinth to Lady Aster’s estate of Clivedon in Buckinghamshire to determine the relative strength of the Hitler appeasers headquartered there and to uncover the identity of Nazi super assassin Der Adler. At the same time his fiancée Communist Party sympathizer reporter Verity Brown arrives to ascertain the sympathies of the American Ambassador to England Joseph Kennedy.

However, soon after their arrival, a Communist comrade and two other visitors are murdered. Corinth and Brown team up on the investigation with clues leading to the IRA or the Kennedy clan. Both wonder if Der Adler is behind the homicides with a plot to destroy the growing Anglo-American alliance by taking out the prime English supporter Winston Churchill.

Although the climax seems too typical of the sub-genre for what is a very complicated pre WWII thriller, fans will appreciate the latest Corinth-Brown historical tale. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the engaged couple arrive at the Astor estate and never slows down until the final confrontation with a killer. Corinth is his usual decadent elitist self while Brown has begun doubting the Communists. Fans of the series will enjoy their preparations for their marriage begins with stopping a killer whose goal is to destroy the cross Atlantic alliance.

Harriet Klausner

Lords of Corruption-Kyle Mills

Lords of Corruption
Kyle Mills
Vanguard, Mar 24 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593154998

Ex-con Josh Hagarty is proud of how far he has come from being a convict; his growth is symbolized by earning an MBA. However, prison taught Josh the acceptance of reality so he knows being an-con limits his employee pool as that is not a good item on a résumé.

When the NewAfrica charity offers him a job to manage a farming project, he grabs the opportunity to prove him self though he knows nothing about the continent. Not long after he settles in, Josh learns the local leader of New Africa Gideon is related the country’s brutal unpopular president and a goon. The impoverished nation is filled with civil dissension and his predecessor was apparently murdered for doing his job. As Hagarty begins to dig into the philanthropy he works for, he finds ugly truths and no allies except for Scandinavian aid worker Annika Gritdal and journalist J.B. Flannary. Someone is prepared to silence the trio as they have done so before, but Hagarty and Flannary see a chance for redeeming their unworthy souls and Gritdal is too dedicated to slink back to the safety of Europe.

This is an exhilarating thriller in spite of the obvious stereotyping of the lead trio and their goon opponents. The story line is fast-paced with the hero pulling off Peril of Pauline type escapes. Readers who suspend plausibility and not mind two dimensional characterizations will appreciate this action-packed diversion as LORDS OF CORRUPTION is a fun read.

Harriet Klausner

WWW: Wake-Robert J. Sawyer

WWW: Wake
Robert J. Sawyer
Ace, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0441016790

Blind teenage mathematical genius Caitlin Decter is a wonder with her effortless ability to surf the Internet. Her brain compensating for her lack of sight has embellished her other senses enabling her to easily travel the web.

Caitlin is euphoric with the experimental implant that will enable her to see. However, instead of normal vision, the processor placed inside her allows her to “see” the Web. As she explores her new cyberspace imageries, she realizes another sentient being exists. Caitlin begins to believe that every minute the other seems more aware of its cyber environs and perhaps much more. This "webmind" has become aware of an external existence outside the internet dimension.

This is a terrific opening act as Robert J. Sawyer introduces his readers to the complex WWW though his two lead characters, the teen heroine and the webmind. The story line is much more complex and diverse than described above as the explorations by Caitlin and the webmind lead the audience to all sorts of places around the world such as the Chinese freedom bloggers as the new conscience learns globalization of its dimension. Extremely well written and complex making Tron look like pre-school, this is a terrific first tale in what looks like will be a great trilogy that is also being serialized in Analog (started in November and ending in March).

Harriet Klausner

A Madness of Angels: Or the Resurrection of Matthew Swift

A Madness of Angels: Or the Resurrection of Matthew Swift
Kate Griffin
Orbit, Apr 2009, $19.99
ISBN: 0316041254

In London two years ago malevolent mage Robert James Bakker arranged for the death of sorcerer Matthew Swift. No doubt the young man was dead as his unknown adversary left a grand canyon in his chest. His body was never recovered and his killer never found.

Matthew awakens in a strange bed, but no longer occupies his body alone. He has come back from the dead as a "we" with an "electric angel" as his co-occupant. Swift wants vengeance against his unknown culprit so he investigates what happened to him two years ago. He meets magician Dudley Sinclair, who believes Bakker and his evil cabal with the help of Matthew’s seditious apprentice murdered him. Whereas Matthew is willing to die again to obtain vengeance, Dudley wants the entire Bakker cabal dead as all her evil practitioners.

Although the story line is perhaps overly simplistic and too linear, being as straight as the Bonneville Salt Flats track, fans will enjoy the “Resurrection of Matthew Swift”. Swift is an enigmatic protagonist while Sinclair and Bakker seem like Yin and Yang polar opposite practitioners. The key to the engaging urban fantasy is the world of Kate Griffin filled with mages and A MADNESS OF ANGELS feels genuine enabling the reader to get lost in this alternate London.

Harriet Klausner

Corambis-Sarah Monette

Sarah Monette
Ace, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0441015964

In a desperate effort to start the Cymellunar Summerdown engine that he believes is the only chance to free Caloxa from Corambis, rebel Prince Gerrard Hume dies in his attempt. His lover the Margrave of Rothmarlin Kay Brightmore is not only blinded during the failed coup, the Corambis’ Duke of Glimmering captures and incarcerates her.

Exiled to Bernatha, gay wizard Felix Harrowgate worries about the health of his half-brother former thief and assassin Mildmay when the latter becomes very sick. Needing money for his sibling, Felix returns to what he knows best when short funds, prostitution, but Corambis thugs’ gang-rape him. However, the ritual assault starts the Clock of Eclipses, which, like the Summerdown engine, only the most powerful of wizards, someone of Felix’s caliber, is capable of aborting and this preventing mass destruction; but he has to face the jealous Council of Corambis wizards for his insurgent heretic practices.

The final Harrowgate quest fantasy (see VIRTU, MIRADOR and MELUSINE) is an exciting finish to a strong saga. In some ways Felix has gone full circle, but in most ways he has matured so he is a force to be reckoned with especially with Mildmay having his back. Fans will relish the conclusion though it helps to have recently have read at least The MIRADOR while newcomers will be lost in Corambis without reading the previous three tales.

Harriet Klausner

Magic Strikes-Ilona Andrews

Magic Strikes
Ilona Andrews
Ace, Apr 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017027

When the shift started the world we knew ended. Waves of magic swept over the world making technology inoperative and creating magical wielders along with creatures from myths real. People use magic even when technology works as the latter is rare.

Kate Daniels, a liaison between the Mercenary’s Guild and Guild and the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, is a mercenary willing to do anything for a fee a long as it is on the side of good. Shapeshifter Derek asks her to deliver a note to a combatant in the Arena where gladiators fight one another for glory. Derek is caught by the Reapers and is tortured and left for dead. Jim, Chief of Security for the Alpha Beast Lord of Atlanta, maneuvers it so his team must fight in the Arena to obtain vengeance for Derek. Kate joins with a need to fight the Reapers. She will do what is necessary to kill them but not before learning who is behind the Reapers because she thinks it is someone close to her in blood, a person she needs to murder.

Ilona Andrews has written a compelling urban fantasy filled with intrigue, magic and action in a world in which technology collapsed under the tsunami of magic. The heroine is a kick butt person who fights for what she believes in no matter the odds because failure to do so means her adversaries triumph. Thus she has no qualms about battling the most powerful foes especially the deadly Reapers. Fans of Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison will want to read MAGIC STRIKES.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 21, 2009

If Tomorrow Never Comes-Marlo Schalesky

If Tomorrow Never Comes
Marlo Schalesky
Multnomah, Mar 17 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781601420244

They met as kids and though she came from a stable house headed by a pastor and him from a home in which his mother died early and his father went to prison, they fell in love. Kinna Hollis and Jimmy Henley married and planned to raise a family. She became a nurse and he went into construction work. For the next dozen years they tried to have children, but she was infertile though they tried almost everything.

Their love teeters on the abyss as Kinna has become obsessed and Jimmy feels like a failure. She steals fertility medicine from the hospital she works in as a nurse. However, when he failed to run the machinery to rescue an injured worker, he is fired; when the hospital catches her theft she is fired. Jimmy is depressed when he returns home, but all Kinna wants is his sperm. He walks out on her. Stunned she rescues an elderly woman Thea from the nearby sea and soon that senior meets Jimmy and gives him a dog. As the despair deepens, Thea keeps showing up until an accident at the construction site forces Jimmy and Kinna to look at their relationship before the sea takes back their sand castle dreams.

The story line starts a bit slow as readers struggle to understand the lead couple; Kinna is initially hard to like with her obsessive impulsive behavior and Jimmy has withdrawn fearing failure like his dad. Once Thea enters the plot and keeps showing up with locket in hand at odd moments, the plot takes off as a deep inspirational character study as Kinna learns that sometimes dreams and goals must be dropped. With a strange whimsical twist on the merged themes of God works in mysterious ways but is there for everyone making everything even the impossible possible, Marlo Schalesky provides a strong metaphoric inspirational.

Harriet Klausner

Through Black Spruce-Joseph Boyden

Through Black Spruce
Joseph Boyden
Viking, Apr 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 0670020575

In Moose Factory, Ontario, Cree Indian Will Bird lies comatose in the hospital after a beating. While he ”dreams” of his life as a bush pilot amongst other things, his niece Annie , a hunter, has come home after an eight-month search for her runaway sister Suzanne who has become a popular model in Manhattan, to be at her uncle’s side. Annie knows she has more in common with her uncle as a proficient hunter than she does with her younger “urbanized party going sibling who is connected to the ruthless Netmakers drug smugglers.

Will struggles for his life through his memories while Annie struggles to move past her efforts to connect with Suzanne. Annie’s boyfriend semi-hermit Gordon helps in his way. However the brave female hunter reconsiders her walking away from New York as she ponders hunting two-legged animals to rescue her sister and provide homage to dying Will who also has a nefarious link to the Netmakers.

This deep family drama contains two powerful contrasting story lines that ultimately converge. The cast is fully developed with the three Birds as the key players who come across as genuine; while the support casts enhances understanding of their personalities or the locale of Ontario or Manhattan. Although the probability of the ending occurring would have the odds of the Detroit Lions winning the next Superbowl, fans will relish the rustic stories of Will and Annie and to a lesser degree Suzanne in the city.

Harriet Klausner

Romantic Notions-Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler

Romantic Notions
Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler
Swimming Kangaroo Books, December 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 1934041009

In Wisconsin Falcon's Bend Police Department police officers Amber Carfi and Warren Jensen are a team at work and are now lovers off-duty; although they hide their new relationship from the brass especially Chief Sobcynzski, who loathes fraternizing. However, concealing their love for one another is proving difficult as any sleuth can see the lingering glance the pair shares.

Elderly Mrs. Frederick calls her neighbor Amber informing her that her daughter Erin Daughtry was just murdered. Amber and Warren check the locale and find the naked corpse of a young woman posed in a virginal way on her bed with a bullet through her heart, a rose between her breasts and an attached gold wedding band. They call for the homicide team and Lieutenants Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent arrive to take charge of the crime scene. Even eerier than the posed body is the accompanying note: “What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil." Posing as Callista, Amber goes undercover to ferret out a killer focusing on the cheating boyfriend of the deceased; only to have FBI Agent Robert Lock arrive boasting he and Amber were an entry at one time.

This is an intriguing small-town police procedural with a romantic subplot between two of the cops. The investigation and its subsequent undercover operation engages the audience who like Amber will suspect the victim’s boyfriend though other individuals have motives; while ironically the concealing of their romance by Amber and Warren seems to have failed as not just readers can sense the attraction. Fans will enjoy this fine cop thriller that contrasts a loving love with a lethal love.

Harriet Klausner

A Visible Darkness-Michael Gregorio

A Visible Darkness
Michael Gregorio
Minotaur, Apr 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312544355

In 1808, Prussia is a cesspool of corpses as the French army has devastated the locals. In that environ, Prussian magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis, heeding the advice of his late mentor Immanuel Kant, tests the impact of the dead rotting in fields on the health of the living. He believes the populace including the invaders faces health risks and plans to use empirical evidence to prove his case so the French will clean the environment.

French Colonel Antoine Claudet asks Stiffeniis to investigate the murder of Kati Rodendahl, a Prussian woman collecting amber to sell to the occupying army because Napoleon wants it. With a child due shortly and wanting to be with his wife and their family, Stiffeniis reluctantly agrees. With able assistance he begins his inquiry, but more homicides follow that leaves the Prussian knowing he will miss the birth of his child while the bureaucracy wants the case dropped in a charged atmosphere of hate and distrust between the occupiers and the occupied.

The third Stiffeniis police procedural (see CRITIQUE OF CRIMINAL REASON and DAYS OF ATONEMENT) is a superb historical piece that brings to life (and death) Prussia under French occupation. The story line has themes that apply today in the Middle East as Stiffeniis believes the motive is to assassinate those people considered traitors for seeming to support the occupiers even if it is just to feed your family. Readers will relish this powerful tale that resonates with its gloom and doom that once again parallels early nineteenth century Prussia with 2006 Iraq.

Harriet Klausner

Ages of Wonder-Julie E. Czerneda and Rob St. Martin

Ages of Wonder
Julie E. Czerneda and Rob St. Martin
Daw, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0756405432

This anthology collection is based on the premise that there are other eras besides the medieval and the modern periods in which fantasy can thrive. The collection is broken into six categories as follows: the Age of Antiquity with four entries; the Age of Sails contains four tales; the Colonial Age includes three stories: the Age of Pioneers provides three submissions, the Pre-Modern Age includes three stories; and the Age Ahead contains two. All nineteen contributions are new and well written with this reviewer’s favorite period being the Pre-Modern Age with the awe of new technologies and major scientific advancements. Within each age the tales radically differ and even more so between the sections so that a reader can choose to go in placement order (chronological at the section level) or as I did rotate between sections. Fresh, AGES OF WONDER is an intriguing fantasy collection that lends itself to a fascinating “Age” comparability as the reader can determine which era is best suited for “myths, magic, and monsters”.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue-Cheryl Brooks

Cheryl Brooks
Sourcebooks, Mar 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 1402217625

Queen Scalia of the remote planet Darconia hires Upper Sandusky, Ohio resident Kyra Aramis to teach her daughter Princess Zealon to play the piano. The Queen assigns slave Tycharian to cater to whatever the earthling needs while she stays on the arid reptile dominated world.

Ty informs his “mistress” that he comes from the destroyed planet Zetith, and Scalia saved him and his brother Trag when she bought them at a slave auction. He also tells her he can smell her “scent of desire”. As they begin to fall in love, Trag becomes jealous while Ty turns possessive and Kara confused. However, there are bigger issues on the planet as some of the more traditionalist reptiles object to the Queen’s efforts to assimilate their world into the greater galaxy starting with the piano teacher and subsequently a McDonald’s.

The third Cat Star Chronicles science fiction romance (see WARRIOR and SLAVE; neither read by me) is a terrific character driven thriller as the piano teacher and the slave fall in love on a third world. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Trag introduces himself to his “scent of desire” and never slows down as plots against the Queen balance nicely with the romance. Fans will enjoy ROGUE and look forward to Trag’s thriller as he wants what his brother got, his own “scent of desire” and some more daring readers would also like a certain assertive female reptile’s tale told.

Harriet Klausner

The Repossession Mambo-Eric Garcia

The Repossession Mambo
Eric Garcia
Harper, Mar 31 2009, $$7.99
ISBN: 9780061802836

In the future, the implantation of artificial organs (artiforgs) is big business with corporations selling them in malls. Theoretically, a person can be almost totally man-made if you have the money to pay the exorbitant monthly fees. If one becomes delinquent, a Bio-Repro operative will tear into the person to take back the organ to be resold on the market.

One such person who does this for a living is the unnamed narrator who fell into the Bio-Repo job due to his lack of skills besides tank driving in the African theater of operation. He proves to be one of the best, but is weary and needs a change; his preference is a transfer to sales, which occurs. However, circumstances force him to need an artificial heart, but to pay for it he returns back to his former repo job. He is to retrieve the kidneys of a delinquent female, but he snaps and ends up on the lam and on his firm’s most wanted list with his best friend assigned to the retrieval.

This book is going to be a movie and if it retains the ironic excitement of the novel, it should be a great film. The selling of artificial organs with a force to repossess the goods from the delinquent buyers is a satirical spin on several acceptable principles of current society. THE REPOSSESSION MAMBO is a fabulous science fiction noir starring a bone weary antihero who in some ways will remind the audience of Logan (Logan’s Run). Readers who relish something different will appreciate this deep extrapolation of twenty-first century America’s health industry’s hypocritical corpocracy.

Harriet Klausner

All the Pretty Dead Girls-John Manning

All the Pretty Dead Girls
John Manning
Pinnacle, Apr 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0786017988

She lived under her grandparents’ thumbs as long as she can remember; her grandfather especially was a martinet as he very successfully controlled her thoughts and her activities. They are her guardians as they explained to her that her mother is dead. Sue Barlow is ecstatic when she obtains an iota of freedom by going to the mostly female Wilbourne College in Upstate New York.

Her first impression of the school is a serene tranquil place where nothing bad could occur. Her first inkling that the school was not as peaceful as she thought is when a student vanishes by the college gate with blood engulfing her bike. Soon afterward Sue sees the face of a screaming young woman in Room 323 in Bentley Hall. She learns two decades ago a student was raped in that room and the perpetrator was never caught. People all over the globe are seeing visions of the Virgin who has a message for them; one they can only share with their priest. Two more students disappear and whatever Sue wishes happens. All of these seemingly unconnected events tie together to a twenty-year cycle in which students vanish, but this time the Evil One forces the dark plan of Revelation upon an unsuspecting world; Sue must choose which side she joins as the foci who will determine the fate of humanity.

John Manning’s tense tale starts off as a seemingly simplistic abduction thriller, but turns into a horror saga similar in tome to the early works of Stephen King. Sue is a fascinating lead character as she ponders what her grandparents mean to her after isolating her for so long. She struggles with relationships especially caring friendships. Her childhood of segregation from her peers let alone adults add to the audience sense of dread as we wonder which side she will select when she takes her “Stand”. Readers will enjoy Mr. Manning’s taut horror thriller due to secluded Sue.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spring Breakup-Stephanie Hale

Spring Breakup
Stephanie Hale
Berkley, Mar 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425225929

During spring break at Comfort Community College Aspen Brooks, her boyfriend Rand Bachrach to go to Vegas; her BFF Angel and Angel’s boyfriend Lucas join them. At the hotel the quartet is staying at is also hosting the Miss Teen Queen Pageant.

When Miss Illinois vanishes without a trace, Aspen puts away the suntan lotion though she wonders with the heavy lights if she might need the strongest dose with some asbestos to reinforce it to represent her home state at the pageant though she lacks the necessary surgical corrections. Her plan is to go undercover to learn what is going on while she worries about her BFF who apparently broke up with Lucas. Rand is a bit peeved as she has no time for him while working the Strip.

The third Aspen Brooks teen character study (see REVENGE of the HOMECOMING QUEEN and TWISTED SISTERS) is an intriguing mix of Miss Congeniality meets Sydney White as the heroine has become a couple thimbles deeper than in her past shallower tales.. The lighthearted frolic is fun especially when Aspen goes undercover as an amateur sleuth. The BFF-BFF's BF battle is a silly distraction of a couple who fail to make the weight. Fans of Our Miss Brooks (sorry Eve Arden – couldn’t resist) will appreciate her latest escapades on spring break.

Harriet Klausner

Spring Breakup-Stephanie Hale

Spring Breakup
Stephanie Hale
Berkley, Mar 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425225929

During spring break at Comfort Community College Aspen Brooks, her boyfriend Rand Bachrach to go to Vegas; her BFF Angel and Angel’s boyfriend Lucas join them. At the hotel the quartet is staying at is also hosting the Miss Teen Queen Pageant.

When Miss Illinois vanishes without a trace, Aspen puts away the suntan lotion though she wonders with the heavy lights if she might need the strongest dose with some asbestos to reinforce it to represent her home state at the pageant though she lacks the necessary surgical corrections. Her plan is to go undercover to learn what is going on while she worries about her BFF who apparently broke up with Lucas. Rand is a bit peeved as she has no time for him while working the Strip.

The third Aspen Brooks teen character study (see REVENGE of the HOMECOMING QUEEN and TWISTED SISTERS) is an intriguing mix of Miss Congeniality meets Sydney White as the heroine has become a couple thimbles deeper than in her past shallower tales.. The lighthearted frolic is fun especially when Aspen goes undercover as an amateur sleuth. The BFF-BFF's BF battle is a silly distraction of a couple who fail to make the weight. Fans of Our Miss Brooks (sorry Eve Arden – couldn’t resist) will appreciate her latest escapades on spring break.

Harriet Klausner

Then Comes Seduction-Mary Balogh

Then Comes Seduction
Mary Balogh
Dell, Mar 24 2009, $6.99
ISBN 9780440244233

The drunken rake Jasper Finley bet he could have sex with innocent Lady Katherine Huxtable within a fortnight. However, when he sobers up the Baron knows he stepped over the line even for a rogue like himself so he claims he failed to win the wager.

Three years later Jasper and Katherine run into each other at a gala. Though still an innocent she makes it clear she is attracted to the rake. He wants her so he offers her a wager seduce him into falling in love with her. Knowing failure would mean probable scandal and a definite broken heart, Katherine stuns Jasper and agrees to his bet as his wife; now she must get her husband to fall in love with her like she is with him.

The second Huxtable sister Regency romance (see FIRST COMES MARRIAGE) is a charming tale starring two delightful lead characters who gamble on love. Jasper and Katherine are a perfect pairing as each raises the stake in what turns into a scandalous love affair enhanced by overarching family issues. Mary Balogh is two for two with one sister left to come seduce the author fans and perhaps a younger brother who deserves that magical Balogh historical touch.

Harriet Klausner

Hittin' It-Amie Stuart

Hittin' It
Amie Stuart
Kensington Aphrodisia, Mar 2009, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758228567

"Screwed: Will and Sabrina”. In Texas professional hit man Will breaks the most important rule of his profession by agreeing to help Sabrina. However, he soon finds himself hiding from a hit taken out on him. When he retires, he and Sabrina hook up at his party.

"Hooked: John and Tish”. Professional hit man John breaks the most important rule of his vocation by making a hit personal. However, his thirst for revenge is put on hold by Tish, who demands he escort her to a wedding. There her mob chief father persuades John that love not war is the way to live a long prosperous life.

The latest Collier brothers’ tales are fun satirical contemporary romances starring two tough hombres NAILED like their sibling Wynn was. Both stories are well written with plenty of wry irony as the professional hit men take hits in their respective hearts, but in spite of being an Aphrodisia, the sheets are less explicitly soiled than usual for this imprint.

Harriet Klausner

Texas Men-Delilah Devlin

Texas Men
Delilah Devlin
Kensington Aphrodisia, Mar 2009, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758228734

“Bound and Determined”. When her friend Cody is up for bid at a charity auction, bar owner Tara buys him for the night. She ties him to her bed with plans to ride him all weekend.

"Breezy Ridin'". The judge’s daughter Sarah is on her motorcycle well over the speed limit without a stitch of clothing on. The deputy sheriffs Logan and Joe pull her over, but she offers them a ménage a trios. Although Logan is a master at domination and tutors the other two, it is Joe who attracts the running wild woman.

"Night Watch“. Schoolteacher Amy accidentally sees deputy sheriff Logan through his open bedroom window and likes what she sees. Logan plans to convert the accidental voyeur into a willing sex partner using his masterly style.

These three BDSM tales are well written and contain full blooded lead characters who run the range of tyro to master and several bondage levels in between. Although Sarah’s early behavior requires a muzzle and velvet rope, fans will enjoy these erotic tales of TEXAS MEN and women starring in domination-submissive stories.

Harriet Klausner

The Trail of the Wild Rose-Anthony Eglin

The Trail of the Wild Rose
Anthony Eglin
Minotaur, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312365479

Recently returned from a horticultural visit to China, Peter Mayhew is driving his motorcycle when he is run off the road. The other driver does not stop and Peter is rushed to an Oxford hospital in critical condition, The victim rambles incoherently about the Asian journey so a colleague ask retired botanist Lawrence Kingston to talk with Peter and see if he can make sense of what the man is saying.

Kingston learns the expedition was seeking wild roses, but soon afterward someone murders Mayhew in his hospital room. Thames Valley Detective Inspector Sheffield leads the police investigation into the homicide while Kingston interviews the other people who accompanied the victim to China. However, the cops and Kingston are stunned when Mayhew’s half-sister Sally comes to to the morgue to identify her brother only to insist that the cadaver is not him; she also says Peter allegedly died in a fall in China. As the retiree digs through the mud, he begins to uncover fraud, double crosses and murder as more members of the quest die.

The fourth English Garden mystery (see THE WATER LILY CROSS, THE BLUE ROSE and LOST GARDENS) is an engaging amateur sleuth that showcases the world of historical botanist hunters seeking obscure exotic plants around the globe; mindful of Darwin’s trip on the Beagle. The story line is fast-paced once Sally makes her assertion and never slows down although the ending seems to easy and intermittently Kingston’s life intrudes on the plot. Still this is a fun modern day meeting of Darwin and Agatha Christie in And Then there Were None.

Harriet Klausner