Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Love You To Death-Shannon K. Butcher

Love You To Death
Shannon K. Butcher
Forever, Oct 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446510295

Reporter Elise McBride knows her beloved capricious sister Ashley is missing a card or two from the deck of fifty two, but the siblings always stay in touch in spite of the former being in Hong Kong and the latter in Chicago. However, when she fails to hear from her artistic sister for a few days and is unable to reach her, Elise becomes a bit concerned. She panics especially when CPD blows her away even after she learns of a serial killer murdering women in the Windy City. She flies home to insure her sibling is safe.

In Chicago, former police officer Trent Brady catches Elise trying to break into the home of his neighbor. She explains who she is and why she is there. Realizing how obstinate and resolute yet vulnerable Elise is, he offers to assist her while wondering what made him do so as they team up to track down and hopefully rescue Ashley.

The irony behind this tense thriller that never takes a breather is Elise and Trent are obsessive compulsive disorder types who feel a deep need to protect those they see as vulnerable, she to her sister and he to her. The story line is fast-paced as Shannon K. Butcher places her pedal to the metal throughout the tale. With the romance playing an important but secondary theme as saving the sister is paramount; LOVE YOU TO DEATH will grip readers as increasingly the evidence points towards Ashley as a victim of the serial killer and Elise a potential target.

Harriet Klausner

Rainwater-Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown
Simon & Schuster, Nov 3 2009, $23.99
ISBN: 9781439172773

In 1934 in Gilead, Texas, after her husband deserted Ella Barron and their son Solly, she supports them by running a boardinghouse. Her ten year old child has issues that make him different and requires much attention from Ella. Although she is tired from all she must do to keep the place running and her son safe Ella believes it is worth it for her Solly.

Ella agrees to take in a new boarder David Rainwater based on a recommendation from a friend she trusts. The quiet newcomer surprises her as he is more than just kind to Solly; he spends quality time with her son. Ella reluctantly becomes attracted to him and he is falling in love with his landlady and her child. However, when racial hatred led by affluent Conrad Ellis leads to violence aimed at Ella and Solly, David risks his life to protect those facing brutality.

This is a deep Great Depression Era Texas thriller as poverty ignores race, ethnic background and gender, but people don’t. Racism turns brutally ugly as Ellis and his followers are the law. Ella is a courageous individual while Solly steals hearts as the townsfolk see him as either pitiful or demonized, making him a perfect helpless target of Ellis. David will surprise readers as Solly gives him the inspiration to risk his life. Sandra Brown is at her best with this heart-wrenching one sitting Americana.

Harriet Klausner

A Measure of Mercy-Lauraine Snelling

A Measure of Mercy
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House, Oct 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764206092

In 1903 eighteen year old Astrid Bjordlund wants to be a doctor studying medicine in either Chicago or Grand Forks. However, her dream suffers a setback when her family loses much of their money. Astrid refuses a chance to go to Chicago deciding to remain home in Blessing, North Dakota studying under her sister-in-law, Dr. Elizabeth.

Joshua Landsverk left Blessing two-years ago, but has come home to stay. He was attracted to Astrid before he left and still is. She reciprocates and he courts her. However a second chance in Chicago arises, which forces Astrid to choose between her love for Joshua and her dream of big city medicine.

The first Home to Blessing historical romance is an entertaining tale due to the intriguing lead female protagonist who along with Dr. Elizabeth show women is starting to make it in previously male jobs, but have a long way to go at the start of the twentieth century. The story line is well written and entreating for fans of the Blessing saga. Newcomers will find it a bit difficult to dive in head first even though this is the beginning of a new saga. Still with a strong sense of time and place and a solid cast, fans will enjoy this fine Americana tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Gift-Deb Stover

The Gift
Deb Stover
Love Spell, Nov 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505526069

Although she blames her paranormal gift for the her loss of her job, former Chicago homicide detective Beth Dearborn knows alcohol cost her that needed edge, but she used it to numb the dreaded extrasensory feeling of a violent death. She is a recovering alcoholic, who obtained work as an insurance investigator.

Seven years ago in Brubaker, Tennessee, Lorilee Brubaker-Malone vanished without a trace. Her teenage daughter persuades her father to have Lorilee declared legally dead and file a life insurance claim with Avery Mutual Insurance. Almost from the moment she meets the father and daughter tandem, Beth senses a restless spirit. She wonders if that could be Lorilee. When a bridge collapses stranding Beth, Ty takes her in. Attracted to him and liking his children, Beth continues to dig for the truth encouraged by something or someone from beyond but knows a mortal is the one trying to kill her.

This is an exciting romantic suspense thriller starring a wonderful female protagonist who struggles with dealing with her unique gift that she believes is a curse even turning to alcohol to numb the feelings. The supporting cast in Brubaker are stereotypical small southern townsfolk who use Miss not Ms; surprisingly that enhances the plot of the exciting paranormal investigative romance filled with spins as the northern invader keeps finding clues that make Ty seem guilty of spousal homicide yet not satisfying the spirit that haunts her since she entered the Malone home.

Harriet Klausner

Death Will Help You Leave Him-Elizabeth Zelvin

Death Will Help You Leave Him
Elizabeth Zelvin
Minotaur, Oct 13 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312582661

In New York, drug dealer Frankie Iacone is found dead in the apartment of his girlfriend Luz. The police suspects Luz stabbed her boyfriend who just came out of rehab as they insist her motive is learning he had a wife and children living in Brooklyn.

Luz’s counselor Barbara, her boyfriend Jimmy and his best buddy recovering alcoholic Jimmy investigate the homicide. Bruce also struggles with his dealings with his former wife bipolar addict Laura who he still sleeps with and who tempts his addiction. Their unprofessional investigation leads the trio into trouble with the police and with associates of Frankie as they attend his funeral where they meet his warm Italian family including his pregnant wife.

In his second appearance (see DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER) Bruce and his amateur sleuth cohorts make for an intriguing urban mystery as they fumble their way through the city’s most downtrodden residents trying to find the killer. The story line is a very dark look at the mean streets of New York from the view of the undesirable forgotten. For instance Bruce’s ex spouse is a fascinating character as she uses the threat of suicide as a defense mechanism to get Bruce to come over and then either kicks him to curb or has sex with him. His confusion as to how to escape the relationship enhances a psychological look at New York’s emotionally desperately needy as the people overwhelms the whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Stranger-Susan Sizemore

Dark Stranger
Susan Sizemore
Pocket, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9781416562139

Heir to the Byzant Empire, human diplomat wearing the uniform of a naval lieutenant Zoe Pappas negotiates with the Asi. However, the enemy Hajim attacks her space ship and takes her to a prison planet in which human POWs mingle uneasily with other species dangerous to her kind.

Brigadier General Matthias “Doc” Raven leads the human POWs, demanding loyalty and no escape attempts. Zoe struggles with adjusting to captivity and her attraction to the BG. She conceals from Doc who she is and what her aborted mission was. Someone seems to know who she is and where she is; that person is willing to kill all the prisoners to get at Zoe; only Doc stands in their way.

This clever fantasy science fiction thriller is actually not part of the prime Primes saga, but a brilliant off shoot as a so-called work of fiction or perhaps a future history as the first tale in the Vampire Book Club read by several Prime characters. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action from the onset, but really takes off when Zoe and Doc meet as prisoners of war. Prime fans especially with relish Susan Sizemore’s refreshing “futuristic” entry in her terrific series.

Harriet Klausner

An Echo In The Bone-Diana Gabaldon

An Echo In The Bone
Diana Gabaldon
Delacorte, Oct 2009, $30.00
ISBN: 9780385342452

With the hostilities everywhere, it is unsafe to journey; as the rebels seem heading to certain defeat. Ironically travelers Jamie Fraser and his wife Claire Randall know the upstart colonial Americans ultimately win the war against the mother country England because she read the outcome in twentieth century history books. They travel together along with others as Clare fears for the safety of her spouse and his son fighting for the British; her schooling and history books never told her what happened to her Jamie.

In the twentieth century, their daughter Brianna, her husband Roger and their children struggle with adapting to life in the future. However, though they connect with the Mackenzie clan, another time traveler has arrived and a real threat to their well being has surfaced.

This is an exciting historical thriller that takes readers on a tour of the battlefields and Europe as people die during the American Revolution. Claire is terrific as she knows the ultimate outcome, but neither the personal outcome nor that trouble has traveled to the twentieth century. Well written with the deep characterizations, fans will relish Fraser and company’s latest tale as Diana Gabaldon overcomes the completing of all the previous major threads in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by expanding the minor left behind subplots into a great entry.

Harriet Klausner

Imager’s Challenge-L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Imager’s Challenge
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor, Oct 2009, $27.99
ISBN 9780765321268

The imager Rhennthyl has become a Maitre D’Aspect and named Liaison to the Civic Patrol of L’Excelsis by the Collegium. However his new Commander Artois is outraged with what he considers an affront and instead of going undercover to uncover seditious magical practicers, cheats and frauds among the elite as the Director of security operations Master Dichartyn envisioned, he is assigned street patrol in the worst sector.

As he works the streets serendipitously, Rhenn thought the Collegium would provide him with direction; instead they seem to want to avoid him. In fact as he makes progress on cases, the Collegium snubs him. When his inquiry leads to a High Holder with a personal grudge against Rhenn, the Collegium ignores his plea for backing. Ethical yet not suicidal, Rhenn considers his options, but ultimately refuses to back off though he knows challenging the aristocratic family without support could prove dangerous.

The Second Book of the Imager Portfolio (see IMAGER) is a fascinating political police procedural fantasy in which the secret use of magic rules. The story line at times turns reflective as Rhenn thoughtfully evaluates his options when no one in authority supports his findings. Although his reflections are insightful and timely into the abuse of power by omission and disregard, that also slows down the tale. Still IMAGER’S CHALLENGE is a deep look at the politics of neglect with timely connections to today’s world.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Christmas Secret-Donna VanLiere

Christmas Secret
Donna VanLiere
St. Martin’s, Oct 13 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780312558369

Single mom Angela Christine Eisley raises her two young children (seven year old Zach and five year old Haley), but it is not easy as she works long hours for low wages and tips as a waitress while her former spouse Brad refuses to pay child support. He insists he will pay for the kids when he gains custody of them as he knows she can’t keep paying court fees

Even as crummy as her job is Christine is shocked when she is fired for being late again as the teen baby-sitter failed to appear in a timely manner. Although despondent and fearful that she and the kids will be evicted, Christine saves the life of an elderly woman, but does not stay around for accolades. The woman works at Wilson’s Department Store whose owner sends his unemployed grandson Jason to find the angel Christy, who no longer believes in the wonderment of Christmas.

Typical of her previous warm holiday tales that bring so much hope and promise to readers, Donna VanLiere provides a charming story of people in need of the miracle of love. The ensemble cast is fully developed with only Brad being Scrooge the sole stereotype. Fans will relish Jason’s search for much more than just the Angel Christy and Angela Christine’s need for the magic of Christmas to return to her life as readers know it is no secret that Ms. VanLiere always writes a tender heart warming Christmas tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Return-Victoria Hislop

The Return
Victoria Hislop
Harper, Oct 6 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061715419

Her marriage to a much older Englishman is tedious so Sonia and her best friend Maggie take dancing lessons. When she sees pictures of her mom, Sonia decides to learn more about her maternal heritage in Spain. She and Maggie fly to Grenada for flamenco lessons to escape from the monotony and find the former’s roots.

At a café, the owner tells Sonia about his family in the 1930s. Concha and Pablo Ramirez raised four children while running a café in town. Antonio is a teacher; Ignacio is a matador; Emilio is managing the café; and their only daughter Mercedes is a flamenco dancer, who loves guitarist Javier Montero. Life is good for the Ramirez brood until the Spanish Civil War erupts.

This is a super look at Spain that fascinatingly uses the impact of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s that killed a half million people in three years on yet unique aspects of the culture survive such as a love of dance and the risk of bull-fighting. Readers will appreciate this tour hosted by the Ramirez family as Sonia finds her maternal roots and much more; symbolized by seven decades old dancing shoes.

Harriet Klausner

Paradise Rules-Beth Kery

Paradise Rules
Beth Kery
Heat, Oct 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425230121

Blues singer Ailana “Lana” Rodriguez hides her Hawaiian background because she knows first-hand from her childhood that paradise is a sham. She vowed to leave the islands the first chance she got and did. Although she prefers to never return to her home state, Lana reluctantly agrees to accompany her best friend to Waikiki on vacation after a marriage to a sleaze went sour.

Lana and local surf school instructor and celebrity Jason Koa meet with each feeling the attraction between them although she transmits icy tundra at him. However, Lana wants nothing to do with the chick magnet while he makes it clear he desires her. They soon share a vacation getaway filled with passion until pictures of the pair surface that could only mean family betrayal. She wants to flee back to the mainland, but he and his kin shower her with love.

This is a terrific look at the islands paradise from a different perspective; a native who escaped and loathes Hawaii. The relationship between Lana and Jason starts off colder than the polar region as she is Ms. Bitchy and he reacts accordingly. When it thaws, the heat melts the polar cap. However, a serpent in Eden may break up the couple as they fall in love because trusting men ended with the tune “Over the Rainbow” due to her late abusive father.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Seduction-Maya Banks

Sweet Seduction
Maya Banks
Heat, Oct 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425230695

From the first time salon owner and masseuse Julie Stanford gave him a massage to the last one with a crowning finish she has wanted Nathan Tucker. However, he either is blind or gay as he ignores her seductive endeavors even when she makes him come in her mouth. Deciding she has had enough with frustration, Julie visits the House so her sexual fantasy of doing two men can be at least satiated.

Nathan and his friend Micah make love to the blindfolded Julie. When he reveals what he did, she decides to give him a taste of female strength using handcuffs to dominate him. Gentle under her control, afterward he admits to Julie he loves her, but she flees having been hurt by love before. He will have to persuade her that they belong together one dominating but gentle stroke at a time.

This heated erotic romance is fast-paced from the opening blow job to the final BDSM seduction. Julie is a wonderful protagonist who knows what she wants though a submissive and goes out to get it; Nathan is the one who vows to never to be tamed but though a dominant Julie has him figuratively tied in knots. Although the couple’s relationship never fully gels outside the boudoirs, fans will knows it’s safe to bet the House (see SWEET PERSUASION) on Maya Banks providing an enjoyable hot read.

Harriet Klausner

Loot the Moon-Mark Arsenault

Loot the Moon
Mark Arsenault
Minotaur, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780312555764

In Rhode Island at the dog track, attorney Martin Smothers obsessively pleads with his friend former investigative journalist turned obit writer Billy Povich to look into the murder of Judge Gil Harmony. Two bit thief Adam Rackers assassinated the Judge during a car-jacking. Rackers died in the subsequent car crash, which left one survivor in critical condition Stuart Tracy. Smothers wants Povich to uncover who paid for the hit.

Povich begins his inquiry and quickly learns a local mobster threatened the judge and that his honor had a secret life in Manhattan where he kept a mistress who appears at the reading of the will. Menwhile Harmony’s legal clerk Kit Bass is beaten up at a club owned by mobster Glantz. When someone threatens Billy, his son and his father, he takes on the case with renewed vigor.

In many ways this is a noir, but the hard boiled Billy is somewhat softened with family matters especially discussions with his dad over death that seems so timely. The story line is action-packed as Billy gets into all sorts of predicaments and the final twist is superb. The secondary eccentric cast enhances the engaging plot of the investigative GRAVEWRITER who in many ways brings out the best and worst in his support crowd.

Harriet Klausner

A Princess of Landover- Terry Brooks

A Princess of Landover
Terry Brooks
Del Rey, Aug 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345458520

Former Chicago based lawyer Ben Holiday has faced many of his fire breathing enemy and all kinds of WITCHES BREW in the courtroom and in the fantasy realm of Landover where he has become the monarch and his sylph wife Willow his queen. Magical foes prove easy to deal with when he and his spouse struggle with their half-breed fifteen year old daughter Mistaya, who has been suspended from her preppy school back on earth.

Desperate to teach his rebellious offspring a lesson on behavior, he sends her in exile to Libiris the royal library for her to rusticate. Instead Mistaya rejects her father’s scheme and runs away only to end up somehow Libiris. She tries to hide from her parents, but Mistaya hears an odd voice from some creature called His Eminence begging her for help. She soon finds a dastardly plot to overthrow her parents so like any teen she charges ahead kicking demon butt in order to prevent a coup from happening.

The latest Landover fantasy is an exciting tale starring a chip off the old block teen heroine who brings freshness to the saga. The story line is fast-paced as Ben faces his greatest challenge of all: a rebellious teenage daughter. Fans will enjoy her adventures while newcomers will be able to join Mistaya’s escapade with or without reading the fun previous books in this straightforward saga so different than Shannara.

Harriet Klausner

No Doors, No Windows-Joe Schreiber

No Doors, No Windows
Joe Schreiber
Del Rey, Oct 13 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345510136

Greetings card writer Scottie Mast leaves his Seattle home to attend the funeral of his father in their hometown Milburn, New Hampshire. Already entrenched inside their parents’ home are his brother Owen and his five year old nephew Henry. A wannabe novelist, Scottie finds a partially completed manuscript The Black Wing written by his late dad buried in a shed. His high school sweetheart, Sonia Graham persuades him to stay in town to finish the horror thriller.

Scottie soon finds the location Round House that his father set the story line in. He is unsure why he rents the abode that doesn’t inspire him to finish writing the tale. At the same time he worries about Henry under the neglectful care of his drunken father. Scot begins to find information that frightens him of evil doings in the late nineteenth century and recently. When the theater where his mother and uncle died in a fire fifteen years ago is being torn down Scottie finds his muse to complete his dad’s horror thriller, but nothing seems quite what it appears.

Exciting and filled with a foreboding atmosphere of doom, NO DOORS, NO WINDOWS is an entertaining ghostly amateur sleuth. Scottie is an intriguing loser until he finds his muse only his inspiration is not quite what he anticipated. Although the atmosphere overwhelms the plot at times, fans will enjoy Joe Schreiber's horror thriller as Scottie seems to CHASING THE DEAD.

Harriet Klausner

Time Travelers Never Die-Jack McDevitt

Time Travelers Never Die
Jack McDevitt
Ace, Nov 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441017638

Michael Shelborne is a two time nominee for the Nobel Prize; a brilliant scientist in numerous fields until one day he disappeared without a trace. The mystery of his vanishing intensifies because the evidence looks as if he was home when he disappeared.

Michael’s lawyer gives his son Shel a letter that directs him to a rented mailbox where he will find three Q pods that he must destroy. Shel does not destroy them, but experiments with them to find out what happened to his dad. He learns they are tools that enable a person to travel through time. Shel decides to find his father and bring him home, but he will need to visit many lands in different eras. He confides what he knows to his friend linguistic expert Dave Dryden who he needs to help him with ancient languages. They travel back in time and see first hand major events, but finally catch up to Michael. However, the results of the reunion are nothing like what Shel or Dave expected. When Shel goes into the future, he discovers something that prevents him from returning to his time and to Helen the woman he loves.

This is a super time travel thriller that explains many of the logic paradoxes including being in the same general place at the same time, but does so in easy to understand language yet never dumbed down. That is the key to Jack McDevitt’s excellent tale filled with action in diverse eras, a strong lead pairing and a solid support cast. The search for Shel’s elusive father is enhanced by a who’s who of Western history as the hero gets a lesson in life especially when he breaks his pact with Dave and goes back to the future.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 28, 2009

Americans in Space-Mary E. Mitchell

Americans in Space
Mary E. Mitchell
Dunne, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312372453

In Boston, forty-two years old Kyle Cavanaugh suddenly died from an undiagnosed heart condition. He had been seemingly in perfect health even having a full head of hair when he passed away leaving behind a grieving stunned wife Kate, an equally shocked teenage daughter Charlotte and their two year old toddler Hunter.

Two years later, the Cavanaugh family has disintegrated as a loving unit though the surviving trio still lives together. A guidance counselor Kate remains a tired disbeliever scorning health providers for missing her lovely spouse’s condition. Charlotte stopped butchering the violin and has become a sullen angry teen who cannot talk to her mother. Hunter’s companion is Heinz ketchup bottles. The affluent techno linebacker next door kindhearted "Auntie Marge" is the only reason the deceleration into total collapse has been somewhat aborted. Deciding she needs to finally reach her two children, Kate takes them on a road show over the objection of her oldest and the bewilderment of her youngest.

Although a five tissue tear jerker, the four Cavanaugh members (Kyle through the memories of the older two) make for a profound look at grief when a relatively young seemingly healthy patriarch suddenly dies. Kate is terrific at the high school where she works and Charlotte attends but cannot communicate with her daughter without screaming and door slamming. Charlotte’s brooding and ire are overdone yet enhance the drifting apart like Hubble’s theory on an expanding red-shifting universe. However, the story line is owned by Hunter who will leave readers with plenty of empathetic tears.

Harriet Klausner

In the Falling Snow-Caryl Phillips

In the Falling Snow
Caryl Phillips
Knopf, Sep 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307272560

Keith Gordon’s parents came from the West Indies settling in England where he was born in the early 1960s. He was raised by his white stepmother and is therefore comfortable with both races. Keith married a white Annabelle, whose family excommunicated her due to her marrying him but after two decades together they have been separated for two years now.

Recently Annabelle has become increasingly worried about their seventeen year old son Laurie who will not talk to his father as if his dad is at fault for the teen being biracial. At work Keith heads the London unit of Race Equality, but the social worker is under investigation as a subordinate has accused him of harassment; not that it matters much anymore as he has begin to conclude his work is meaningless. Filled with despondency while pondering is that all there is, Keith even considers what to do about his estrangement with his West Indies’ dad.

This is a super timely look at racial identification in a changing world as the EEO question of which race you belong to seems obsolete with the increasing number of bi-racial people. Keith is a terrific character who deliberates over his identity as a second generation Englishman who stands out in the snow white stereotype picture of his countrymen. His third generation offspring feels alienated and resentful even as his dad reflects who he is and is that all there is in life.

Harriet Klausner

Detective Stories-Peter Washington (Editor)

Detective Stories
Peter Washington (Editor)
Everyman’s Library (Knopf), Oct 5 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780307272713

These are sixteen great short stories written as early 1844 (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Purloined Letter starring M. Dupin) to an early Sara Paretsky’s Warshawski. In between there is a Holmes’ entry as well as Bret Harte (if you have not read this great short story nineteenth century author you are missing one of the all time best), Chesteron’s Father Brown, Hammett’s prototype tough guy, Chandler’s Mason, and Christie’s Miss Marple. There are no clinkers as not only are the authors a virtual who’s who, their detectives are for the most part household names as the superstars of sleuthing. Although some of the selections will have been read previously such as the WWI era still timely morality classic A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell, readers will fully relish each choice as we can compare Poe to Borges and Simenon’s Maigret to Rankin’s Rebus in what is a super compilation.

Harriet Klausner

The Violet Hour-Daniel Judson

The Violet Hour
Daniel Judson
Minotaur, Oct 13 2009,
ISBN: 9780312383572

In the Hamptons, twenty-two years old auto mechanic Caleb Rakowski is all alone as his criminal bent parents and brother are dead. He lives in a dumpy apartment above the garage where he works, but is overall contented with his life as he loves working on cars and his appreciative boss Eric Carver knows the young man is a guru when it comes to auto repair.

Cal does have one friend Lebell, who is in hiding from mobsters; professional killers are aware that Cal is their target’s buddy so there is guilt by association. Also unable to mind his own business when an underdog is abused, Cal gives shelter to Heather who treated him nice when he worked as a teen at the restaurant owned by her and her abusive spouse former NFL thug Ronnie Pamona. Soon seemingly everyone on Long Island will converge on Cal to play a special version of survivor; as he wears a bulls-eye being the protector of those victimized by figuratively demons from both sides of the law, but will need to pull a rabbit preferably not a dead one out of the ball cap.

This is a zany entertaining Long Island thriller starring a likable seemingly helpless young man who becomes the defender of the downtrodden against a wave of killers. Blood will flow more often than oil does at the garage over a few days as Cal learns what happens to Good Samaritans. He can be thankful for being a chip off the old block as his DNA oozes suspicion of cops and robbers. He makes for a fun over the top of Suffolk County South Fork lighthouses tale

Harriet Klausner

Mania-Craig Larson

Craig Larson
Pinnacle, Nov 1 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786021543

Seattle Telegraph newspaper photographer Nick Wilder has always looked up to his brother Sam; who is on his way to becoming a billionaire if the drug trials for the anti-psychotic Matrix Zarcon holds up as expected. Nick currently covers the brutal murders of men so unrecognizable their family members could not identify them. He becomes part of the story when a homeless man without shoes stabs and kills his sibling.

The incident triggers in Nick flashbacks and hallucinations that make him and the police wonder if he is the vicious psychopathic killer who murdered his own brother. In a coffee shop, Nick meets Sara Garland, stepdaughter of the Telegraph’s owner Jason Hamlin. They hit if off and she helps him cope with the nasty hallucinatory incidents and horrific dreams that he fears are repressive memories. The cops question Nick re Sam’s murder and that of another victim, but let him ago as they lack evidence although Police Lieutenant Dombrowski believes he allowed the killer to leave; he plans to find proof to lock away this maniac for life.

Throughout the story line Nick struggles with his sanity as he is unable to delineate reality from dreams of events that happened to him. The audience is as unsure whether Nick is the killer or suffering from some other psychotic derangement. MANIA is a fascinating thriller that delves deep into the mind of a struggling protagonist who ponders what reality really is. Although a final spin seems over the top of the Needle fans will relish this action-packed psychological thriller starring a beleaguered hero who no longer has the mental fight to argue with people telling him what the truth is.

Harriet Klausner

The Gates-John Connolly

The Gates
John Connolly
Atria, Oct 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781439172636

Three days before Halloween in Biddlecombe, England, eleven year old Samuel Johnson of 501 Crowley Rd. accompanied by Boswell the Dachshund goes trick or treating to get a head start against the competition. At 666 Crowley Rd. Samuel debates Mr. Abernathy as to who or what or why they are trick or treating three days early than the official date.

Inside 666, using subatomic physics kicked, punted or booted (not being a scientist not sure which is the vernacular) inside a particle accelerator, Abernathy and three’s company create two giant gates that prove to be a portal between earth and Hades. All hell has broken out on the planet as the first time since the original dot 13.7 billion years or so ago exploded into the Big Bang, demons cross over in what seems to be the beginning of the small crunch. Samuel the warrior kid fights the horde but fails to persuade adults including his parents that a demonic invasion has begun.

This lighthearted fantasy is an amusing tale of good vs. evil in a world of cynical disbelievers. Samuel and Boswell battle the adversary almost alone as ironically their only ally is a low life Nurd the incompetent sub-demon. Targeting young adults with puns, hyperbole, and Abbot-Costello slapstick starting with John Connolly’s version of who’s on first, older readers who enjoy jocularity in their quantum physics will appreciate the tweener and the canine save the world; although some might wonder why bother.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars Death Troopers-Joe Schreiber

Star Wars Death Troopers
Joe Schreiber
Del Rey, Oct 13 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780345509628

The Imperial prison barge Purge is in a remote sector transporting five hundred of the most ruthless criminals ever known to their new home when the vessel breaks down. Nearby is a drifting Star Destroyer. The crew goes on board hoping to salvage parts needed to repair the thrusters on the Purge.

Not all return from the derelict ship, but those who manage to return are very sick bringing back a host of nasty symptoms that rapidly spread throughout the Purge even in the maximum confinement cells isolated from everyone and everything. The ship’s chief medical officer Dr. Zahara Cody tries but fails to contain the disease. In incredibly short order, what was once thousands of people on board had dwindled to six survivors. Cody, Captain of the Guard Sartoris, the teenage Longo sibling prisoners completing their father’s prison sentence because he died during a torture interrogation and two other inmates held in the utmost maximum confinement cell. This six are not allies as Cody and the siblings have an axe to grind with Sartoris while the other two have been kept away from people for either lethal or political reasons. The living sextet better unite because the dead crew and prisoners have reanimated and are coming for fresh meat.

Zombies in Star War space seems out of place yet it works as an entertaining thriller with connections to the original film trilogy. The story line is fast-paced and filled with tons of action even before the dead come back to life. Unique and refreshing in terms of Star Wars (zombies have become an “overkilled” species lately), fans will enjoy Joe Schreiber’s horror science fiction thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thanksgiving at the Inn-Tim Whitney

Thanksgiving at the Inn
Tim Whitney
Bancroft, Oct 1 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781890862640

Two years ago the mother of teenager Heath Wellington III walked out on him and his dad Junior. Since she left, Junior treats his son as a slave with chores all the time when the kid is not in school, which he is not having been suspended for cheating. When Junior’s dad dies, Heath realizes he cannot remember what his grandfather Senior looked like as they drive to Massachusetts for the funeral. Senior’s lawyer Lloyd explains that Junior and Heath will inherit the Sleeping Inn if they run the place for three months and take care of the residents.

Heath feels at home at the B&B with the Jamaican sage Winsted, elderly Mrs. Farrel who is giving away her late husband's fortune one letter at a time, muscular children’s author Mustang Sally, and TV news couch potato Carter. He also likes neighbor Savannah who apparently is his dad’s first love, and her autistic daughter Tori. On the other hand he loathes his father who sees the world as one endless loveless chore.

This is an engaging inspiring family drama as the son becomes the father (think of Chapin’s song Cat in the Cradle) although Senior learned too late what he did to his offspring. Senior’s legacy is letters trying to reach Junior before he repeats the mistake with the III. In light of a photo showing three generations of smiling male Wellingtons, the lack of the back story between Senior and Junior hurts any transformation that may occur. Still fans will enjoy this fine holiday tale as everyone learns to be thankful for all the good in their lives by celebrating together THANKSGIVING AT THE INN.

Harriet Klausner

Who Do I Talk To?-Neta Jackson

Who Do I Talk To?
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson, Oct 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595545244

In Chicago, Gabby Fairbanks knew her husband Philip was upset, but did not realize how much so until he kicked her to the street by changing the locks on their penthouse, ripped up her credit and debit cards, canceled her cell and vanished with their sons PJ and Paul. She is homeless along with her elderly mom and their canine Dandy. Gabby can handle a lot and is not overly concerned about where they will live as she can stay at the Manna House women’s shelter where she also works, but she is angry and despondent feeling betrayed especially concerning her kids.

Filled with grief to her bone marrow, Gabby tries to recover her sense of self worth as she now lives with her “clients”. The Yada Yada Prayer Group and the residents try their best to encourage Gabby to move on, but also go after Philip as she has rights too especially since her children need her. Still she has no one, not God, her lawyer, her two sisters or her aunt, to talk to as the big hurt is deep inside her soul and will soon worm hole even deeper.

The second Yada Yada House of Hope tale continues the life crises facing Gabby as she has temporarily answered her previous question WHERE DO I GO? Now she mentally feels like a tsunami has passed through her brain as she wonders WHO DO I TALK TO? Readers will fully relish her anguish and rage even at God as more personal catastrophes assault the beleaguered Gabby.

Harriet Klausner

Seaside Letters-Denise Hunter

Seaside Letters
Denise Hunter
Thomas Nelson, Oct 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595542601

On Nantucket, Sabrina Kincaid works at the Cobblestone Café where everyday she serves Tucker McCabe his coffee. Although attracted to him to distraction that she spills coffee, the only relationship she accepts is one in cyberspace as she was hurt badly once before when she lived in Macon, Georgia by her fiancé and her cousin.

Tucker has fallen in love with his email pen pal Sweetpea, but though he believes she is attracted to him and even sent him a photo of her; she refuses to meet him in person. He has heard that Sabrina is good at puzzles so he wants to hire her to find his Sweetpea. Sabrina knows that would be extremely easy to achieve. The hard part would be to tell her beloved email buddy that he just hired Sweetpea to find his Sweetpea as the picture he has of her is actually that of her seditious cousin; so expecting rejection if she tells the truth she schemes to conceal her identity. She is unaware that Tucker is hiding information from her.

Sabrina is a fascinating character as she feels her transgressions compound her feelings of plainness so that Tucker and God will reject her. The more lies she weaves and he by omission, the more complicated unraveling the truth becomes though her friend Renny the wannabe writer insists honesty is the only policy. Fans of inspirational romances will enjoy the second Nantucket romance (see SURRENDER BAY; not read by me) even if the island community never comes into focus. Two people in love find redemption by taking a chance on honesty with themselves, each other and God.

Harriet Klausner

The Sound Of Sleigh Bells-Cindy Woodsmall

The Sound Of Sleigh Bells
Cindy Woodsmall
WaterBrook, Oct 6 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780307446534

Since eighth grade Beth Hertzler worked for and with her spinster Aunt Lizzy in the family owned Hertzlers’ Dry Goods store. Beth like Lizzy ignored men while her younger sisters married and have had children; until she met Henry. They became engaged, but he died last year and yet she still wears the mourner’s black as she has not moved on. Lizzy worries about her favorite niece ending up lonely like she is.

Although she insists she is fine, her family and friends in the Amish community worry about Beth. However, to prove she is fine, Beth is going on a business trip accompanied by worker Gloria for the next three weeks to the store’s suppliers. When they miss a turn on their way to All That’s Amish, they stop at the next town where Beth sees an incredible wood carving of Amish children playing. She buys the piece and wants to help the Amish artist “sell” his work to the right families. When Beth returns home, Lizzy notices her niece seems to have come back to life and believes it is the woodcarving. She searches for the artist Jonah Kinsinger as she begins to think God is moving a mountain to bring two Pennsylvania and Ohio young people with emotional scars together to heal one another with love.

This is an engaging Amish romance starring a likable lead couple and two budding in out of love and concern families. Readers will enjoy the SOUND OF SLEIGH BELLS as their respective caring communities nudge (perhaps shove might be more accurate) towards each other in a wonderful Amish Yuletide tale.

Harriet Klausner

Pursuit of Honor-Vince Flynn

Pursuit of Honor
Vince Flynn
Atria, Oct 13 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9781416595168

Six days ago the country was rocked by the explosions in DC that killed 185 people and injured so many more. CIA Director Irene Kennedy orders counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp to find the three al Qaeda men responsible for the attack and bring them to justice anyway he can. However, the sophisticated way the trio vanished is a shocker as terrorists have not been very good at hiding their footprints, which to Rapp denotes some insider support to have gotten to and away from the National Counterterrorism Center one of their targets that included several senators as victims.

First Rapp has to take care of “Deep Throat” wannabe CIA IG Inspector Adams. After that he and his teammate Mike Nash struggle with clues as Congress screams for increased oversight and no more illegal activity while his employer unofficially sanctions whatever it takes to keep the nation safe. He is unaware that in Toolesboro, Iowa are Hakim and Karim hiding on a farm that the former purchased through a New York lawyer. They rusticate overlooking the Mississippi before they make their follow-up move to the success of the explosions they set in DC six days ago.

With the arrest of terrorist suspects, the latest Rapp thriller is an exciting tale as the hero struggles with his PURSUIT OF HONOR while trying to take out some nasty folks who hide behind the skirts of young girls as the innocent are expendable in order to achieve their objective Rapp running on that very thin line between morality and security comes across much stronger through Nash’s balancing act between his family and protecting his country. Ironically while the Congress and Executive Branch debate legal issues over domestic spying and torture, Rapp and Nash skirmish between personal ethics and national security as Vince Flynn provides a thought provoking gripping thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Haunting Jordan-P.J. Alderman

Haunting Jordan
P.J. Alderman
Bantam, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553592108

Jordan Marsh’s husband died in a car cash because someone cut the brake lines of his vehicle. LAPD Detective Drake believes she killed her spouse but has no evidence to prove his theory. Sick of Drake’s harassment, Jordan moves to Port Chatham, Washington; where she purchases a fixer upper Victorian, Longren House. To her surprise her new abode comes with two ghostly residents Hattie her teenage sister Charlotte.

When Hattie’s husband died, she took over his shipping business and inherited his enemies especially amidst his allies when she decides to clean up his dirty dealings. This includes resentful Mike Seavey who is a power on the docks, her late husband’s manager, and Police Chief Greeley who wants to marry Charlotte. As Jordan tries to solve who murdered Hattie back in 1890, she also has to deal with Drake who has new evidence and has come to the Pacific Northwest to see her arrested. Jordan’s lawyer refuses to allow her to be expedited back to California as the new proof would not hold up in court. Still someone wants Jordan in jail, but she has no idea who or why.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy this paranormal amateur sleuth because of the ghost who tells Jordan what happened to her back in 1890 as she tries to persuade the mortal to investigate the homicide in 2009. Looking into a cold case as a total amateur seems easy when compared to being a present day suspect in her husband’s death as Drake is like Inspector Girard of the Fugitive. P.J. Alderman writes a scintillating supernatural whodunit as the spirits connect the past with the present.

Harriet Klausner

House of Reckoning-John Saul

House of Reckoning
John Saul
Ballantine, Oct 13 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345514240

In Vermont, six months have passed since her mama died from cancer, but fourteen year old Sarah Crane has not had any time to grieve. She is too busy working on the farm while also caring for her grief stricken father Big Ed who uses alcohol to drown his sorrow. Every night he goes to bed drunk and she goes to bed praying to mama to help her.

After hours of drinking at the Fireside Tavern, Ed gets into a brawl with a man who called his late wife a whore. Ed leaves him dead before going home in his truck only to run over Sarah hurting her leg. While he goes to jail, social worker Kate Williams places Sarah in foster care with Mitch and Angie Garvey and their two teenage children Tiffany and Zach. She has almost no one as her new “family” is ice cold and treats her like a slave; while at school Sarah has become a pariah. That is except former mental patient Nick Dunnigan who hears voices and sees visions when he does not use his meds; and her art teacher Bettina Phillips, known in some circles as the witch of Shutters Mansion. The latter mentors Sarah to paint what she feels;: images of the mansion’s dark past that matches Nick’s visions and releases a power that may prove evil and vengeful.

Though nothing new except modern communication technology has been added to the story line of an outcast teen having paranormal power to enact revenge against those who hurt her yet John Saul provides an entertaining horror tale. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Ed runs over his daughter and never slows down until the final encounter. Fans will enjoy King’s Carrie meets Barrymore’s Ever After Cinderella as Mr. Saul writes a suspenseful horror thriller with several past, present, and hints at future twists.

Harriet Klausner

Guardian-Claire Delacroix

Claire Delacroix
Tor, Sep 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765359506

In 2100 The Republic classifies her as a Subhuman Atomic Deviancy Evaluation; dubbed a SHADE, but ironically near New Seattle, Twenty-three knows who she truly is as the next oracle. However, as a Shade, establishing her identity means those who defend the caste system will assassinate her. Still she must reveal her angelic blessed skill.

Fallen angel Rafe searches for the seer Delilah Desjardins. He finds her as she comes out in the open claiming to be the Oracle although the powers in new DC starting with new President Van Buren refuse at first to accept a Shade as the Oracle. Rafe abducts Delilah before she is murdered and struggles to keep her safe from killers who reject numbers as humans. He also has to contend with his need for her if he is to keep her safe from him as that would cost her ability to read the future.

“The Eyes of the Republic” see everything in Claire Delacroix’s post-apocalyptic nod to 1984 as this Brave New World is unsafe for anyone who tries to break caste boundaries; racism is the law. In fact slavery of a Shade is an acceptable practice to the point that Shades have a number not a name. The cast is solid as Delilah begins her dangerous journey to become accepted as the Oracle through a landscape of de jure and de facto racism. Readers will enjoy the stunning detail of the future of the Republic as Ms. Delacroix provides a vivid dark FALLEN earth.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Limelight-Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson
Multnomah, Oct 6 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400070824

Claudette never minded living on the edge of the LIMELIGHT as the wife to her beloved Hollywood legend, director husband Gavin Fiore. However, when he dies her heart breaks as she grieves her loss and fears being alone for the first time ever. She also learns she is bankrupt as all that money Gavin earned was misused by their thieving accountant.

Distraught Claudette tries suicide, but fails even at that. Despondent after her release from the hospital, she returns home to Silverton having no longer a house in Beverly Hills as that was sold to pay back taxes. Claudette has no skills whatsoever and being old means no longer can she use her beauty to get what she wants. She turns to her estranged sister Violet at the senior citizen home, but that proves fruitless as does her understanding Mother whose faith has never wavered. It is Gavin’s letters that inspire Claudette.

This is an entertaining inspirational tale that deeply scrutinizes religious beliefs, and personal values through the strong elderly characters. In many ways the story line is a second chance at family. Claudette, Violet, Mother and the late Gavin as well as others make for a powerful look at what matters in life is how you treat others away from the limelight as you can teach an old dog new tricks if the goal is right; for the protagonist it has become hugs in Silverton and one day hugs with Gavin in heaven.

Harriet Klausner

The Queen's Mistake-Diane Haeger

The Queen's Mistake
Diane Haeger
NAL, Oct 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451228000

As she waits in the Tower for her death, Queen Catherine Howard wonders how her life could go from a euphoric high with her love for obese King Henry VIII to where he will not receive her plea for mercy or her innocence. She reflects back on her past; thinking of her older cousin Anne Boleyn, second wife of the monarch; as her fate will prove the same. Still young, she wanted a love of a lifetime, but her naive misunderstanding of backstabbing and her youthful flirting that the King used to cherish has led her to affairs of the heart as she was betrayed by those the inexperienced female trusted; they made known to her spouse and in late 1542, she and her lovers were executed.

Although the wives of Henry VIII have starred in many books and movies, THE QUEEN’S MISTAKE is a fascinating biographical fiction that portrays Catherine Howard as foolishly naïve with her lovers especially of those of her age. By taking her peers as her lovers, she inadvertently insults the aging monarch who seeks to regain his lost youth with his young queen. Although not much new is provided in this look at one of the Tudor queens, fans will enjoy Diane Haeger’s take on sixteenth century aristocratic permissiveness.

Harriet Klausner

A Highlander's Temptation-Sue-Ellen Welfonder

A Highlander's Temptation
Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Forever, Oct 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446195300

In 1350 Lady Arabella Mackenzie argues with her father the Black Stag of Kintail (see DEVIL IN A KILT – where it all began) that she must go to her new property the Seal Isles that he bestowed on her as part of her bride price. He calls it rubbish, but she is determined to have an adventure and find her true love like her younger sisters have; her plans is to visit the legendary Giving Stone.

Vikings attack her ship during a storm, but Arabella survives due to singing seals and Darroc MacConacher who takes her to his Castle Bane. Everyone at the castle hates her father especially Darroc whose clan has had deadly incidents with the Black Stag. However, sweet caring Arabella befriends all. As she and Darroc falls in love, he struggles to balance his need for the daughter with his desire to destroy her father.

This is an enjoyable medieval romance starring a wonderful heroine and a conflicted confused lead male. The story line takes off with the opening clash between father and daughter as the Black Stag shouts, busters, and silences his way to what he wants, but loses anyway as he would do anything for his oldest daughter except perhaps make peace with the MacConacher clan. The story line is owned by Darroc who feels schizoid between his love for Arabella and his hate for her daddy. Sue-Ellen Welfonder has written a wonderful historical romance that will make readers feel as if they have gone back to the past as the scenes are so vividly colorful and realistic.

Harriet Klausner

Chosen by Desire-Kate Perry

Chosen by Desire
Kate Perry
Forever, Oct 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446541015

Carrie Wood went from San Francisco to China in order to finish her thesis that claims the Scrolls of Destiny exist. Her goal to teach at Berkley foster her ambitions so she sneaks inside a monastery to take pictures serendipitously but quickly realizes the gig is up. Instead of fleeing gently into the night, she rationalizes that she borrows with plans to return what she takes; she steals the Book of Water.

Carrie misunderstands what she purloined as the scrolls make her a target for those greedy with the need for power even as she gains some from the Book she possesses. Meanwhile Metal Guardian Max Prescott is sent to retrieves the stolen artifacts. He hires the thief to translate selections of Chinese text from his personal collection. However, he is angry at himself and her because he has no time for his deep attraction to a burglar.

The Guardians of Destiny urban romantic fantasy (see MARKED BY PASSION) is a fast-paced action thriller from the moment that Carrie questions why she is stealing the scrolls and never slows down as a mutual enemy craves what she took. Max is a fun to watch his agony of falling in love with a person he considers a lowlife academic crook. The return of the stars from the previous entry enhances an entertaining often amusing taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Long, Lean and Lethal-Lorie O’Clare

Long, Lean and Lethal
Lorie O’Clare
St. Martin’s, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943431

The fourth dead spouse leads the Lincoln, Nebraska police department to conclude a serial killer is one the loose although they have not ruled out a paid killer. Still either way they feel out of their league so the brass asks the FBI to help. The Feds send Agent Noah Kayne to assist in apprehending the psychopath. The plan is to use Lincoln PD homicide detective Rain Huxtable as Kayne’s swinging spouse to draw out the predator.

Rain loathes the role she is expected to play as she prefers being alone. However, once in the part, she does not have to act as Noah’s kisses heats her loins ands he feels the same way. Still the pair understands the mission is to infiltrate the swingers club in which four members are dead.

This Great Plains police procedural romance is an engaging tale as the lead cops fall in love while masquerading as a loving couple. The sequel to TALL, DARK, AND DEADLY (starring South Dakota) is a fun tale as the pair put on a show; however, the personal relationship never fully gels outside the mission. Still fans will enjoy the escapades of two enchanting law enforcement officials finding love while on a deadly case together.

Harriet Klausner

Urge to Kill-John Lutz

Urge to Kill
John Lutz
Pinnacle, Sep 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786018451

After being injured in the line of duty, homicide detective Frank Quinn accepted a disability retirement, but he remained a contractor available to the police force as occasionally case surfaces that require his special skills. The Police Commissioner Harley Renz has a particularly gruesome serial killer that he wants Frank to find. Men are being brutally murdered with the perpetrator taking a .25 caliber gun from the victim’s phone which is in his pocket.

Frank obsesses over finding this maniac because the culprit killed one of the detectives Joe Garlin who worked narcotics. While working this personal difficult case, another serial killer surfaces who kkills and guts his victims as if he is carving up a deer with a hunting knife. The police believe the same person has expanded his modus operendi to bring new sadistic satiation. Frank fears he will be the next victim as he offers himself up as bait to catch one perhaps two killers.

Without fanfare, the dedicated protagonist believes it is his duty to end the killing reign as police work gives him satisfaction just like slicing and dicing does to his opponent. With a great twist Joh Lutz is at his best with his latest thrilling Kill police procedural (see NIGHT KILLS and IN FOR THE KILL) as his hero and his villain share more in common than people realize. Fans will relish this fast-paced electrifying thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thirsty-Tracey Bateman

Tracey Bateman
WaterBrook, Oct 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780307457158

Veterinarian Nina Parker fled her hometown of Abbey Hills, Missouri two decades ago with no thoughts of going back. However that is before she became an alcoholic, a divorcee and a professional failure due to intoxicated negligence when she neutered a prize horse. Unemployed, sober and single she comes home accompanied by her angry teenage daughter Megan and her eight year old son Adam stays with her sister Jill the cop. Her spouse Hunt follows them.

As she stays sober one day at a time but filled with remorse for what her drinking did to her family and her former employees, Nina is ignorant that she is being watched by a male who believes he has found his desire. The two and a half century old vampire Markus stalks his new neighbor with plans for her.

THIRSTY is an intriguing Christian vampire thriller starring a broken remorseful heroine, her family, and the vampire who in many ways surprisingly steals the show. The story line focuses on second chances and redemption with a few clever spins refreshing the theme. Although shifts between the past and the present are confusing as the change seems abrupt, fans will enjoy Tracey Bateman’s fine inspirational as readers will wonder whether a vampire can have a soul.

Harriet Klausner

Caleb-Sarah McCarty

Sarah McCarty
Berkley, Oct 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425230572

In Dunnesville, Montana Allie the bakery owner has the hots for rancher Caleb Johnson. Every morning, very early, he is her first customer, but though he is nice and friendly to her he seems to ignore her efforts to even get his eyebrow raised let alone a more interesting lower body part. She has tried all sorts of seductive ruses from her body to her food to her coffee, but he seems immune to her desire and charm.

After a long day on her feet wearing a special bra that hurt physically and mentally failed to arouse her unrequited lover, Allie heads home when she hears a growl. Believing flight would not work she growls back to stay away or else as she holds her keys ready to poke out the potential assailant’s eyes. When instead of your garden variety mugger, a wolf attacks her she kicks at its anatomy. However, as a voice in her head shouts run, she recognizes the “sounds” as that of Caleb, but her rescuer is a shapeshifting vampire. Caleb saves her from a rival werewolf pack, but knows his life mate whom he hid his deep regard for will forever live in the shadowy world he and his siblings reside in.

The first Shadow Wranglers romantic rustic ranch fantasy is a terrific thriller that grips the audience even before the assault as Allie’s desire adds a human element to the mix. The story line is fast-paced and the Big Sky Country seems an ideal locale for howling in heat vampiric werewolves (must be one hell of a bite). Allie makes the tale work as she learns seducing a man may be easy, but loving a vampire-werewolf takes an extraordinary female.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 25, 2009

Angel Lane-Sheila Roberts

Angel Lane
Sheila Roberts
St. Martin’s Griffin, Sep 29 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312384821

In Heart Lake, Washington, quilt store owner Emma Swanson, bakery shopkeeper Sarah Goodwin and her niece Chocolate Bar owner Jamie Moore decide to do something nice for their small town. They organize the "keep the heart in Heart Lake” campaign asking residents to do something nice for someone else every day.

The three women plan to be role models, but not one expected the consequences of kindness. Emma’s Quilt Corner store may close; Sarah is lonely even as she gives free baking lessons and has met Sam; and Jamie has to face her fears of commitment since she met a widower single father of two, Josh the cop.

This is a fun Pacific Northwest small town tale that looks profoundly into a community and as deeply into friendship. The three amigas may have issues that make it difficult to be angels, but they each try anyway. With a warm fuzzy holiday feel, fans who appreciate an inspiring tale will know it does take a committed caring community to bring the heart to everyone.

Harriet Klausner

The Christmas Glass-Marci Alborghetti

The Christmas Glass
Marci Alborghetti
Guidepost Books, Oct 1 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780824947767

In 1940 as Mussolini brings Italy into the European war on the side of Germany, the widow Anna runs a small orphanage that quietly has given shelter to Jewish children. Although she knows she is doing the right thing by allowing the Jews into her orphanage she has one regret. Anna fears the Fascists will destroy her family heirloom given to her by her mom, a dozen hand-blown Christmas ornaments, in retaliation for housing the Jews. Refusing to allow the kids to be kicked out, she carefully wraps the precious twelve and sends them to her married cousin Filomena, mother of twin toddlers. When the war ends, Filomena and her family leave Europe for America.

Over the decades, the glass ornaments are passed around the family so that twelve different people possess one each. In 2000 octogenarian Filomena fears her family has lost its way as nothing brings them together. As the matriarch and with a nod to Anna, Filomena demands the return of the twelve ornaments to be delivered in person by the family member possessing it. This will be a Thanksgiving to remember as a lovely reunion or the end of the tenuous ties.

This is an engaging family drama that feels relevant in today’s shrinking world in which ironically extended families are moving further away from one another. The story line focuses a chapter each on the twelve possessors of the CHRISTMAS GLASS so that the readers learn what each person thinks with Filomena being the past owner. In some ways anecdotal rather than a linear plot, Marci Alborghetti provides a deep look at what denotes family just prior to the twenty-first century.

Harriet Klausner

Heat Seeker-Lora Leigh

Heat Seeker
Lora Leigh
St. Martin’s, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312945817

In Brisbane, Bailey Serborne and Trent Daylen shared the greatest night of their respective lives. Soon afterward he died in a car explosion. She grieved her loss while he mourned the only person he left behind in his previous life Bailey.

Unable to neither ignore her feelings nor obtain closure, former CIA operative Bailey searched for the employer of the killer of her beloved. She finally found him only he turned the tables and kidnapped her. Other people rescue her killing everyone but the ring leader so she went back to her quest. Bailey has closed in on the brains behind the criminal group who killed Trent, but once again is captured. Arms dealer John Vincent is unable to not kiss her; his lips confuse her; as she reacts the same way she did for Trent yet he is the enemy who killed her beloved and perhaps her parents.

Although over the top of Brisbane, Aspen and a few other locales, this Elite Ops romantic suspense thriller is an exciting tale starring two fascinating lead characters especially the male who fans will wonder if he is a rogue gone bad or a deep undercover operative. The story line is faster than a speeding HEAT SEEKER missile but similar in plotting to analogous thrillers, as Bailey seeks vengeance on the man she believes killed her loved ones only to find his kisses leave her confused and craving more. Fans of the series will enjoy this action to the nth degree thriller as the twists and spins make for an electrifying read.

Harriet Klausner

Razor Sharp-Fern Michaels

Razor Sharp
Fern Michaels
Kensington, Oct 6 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781410417602

Lily Flowers (her current name) is the madam of Happy Day Camp for Boys and Girls in Pahrump, Nevada; a brothel sixty miles outside Las Vegas. She is outraged when DC politicos in all three branches threaten to destroy her. She arranges to give copies of her records to Nevada lawyer Cosmos Cricket and threatens to expose to the world these outstanding righteous citizens who have been coming to her “summer camp” as clients for years.

However, someone took Lily’s threat personally and kills her. Her cutthroat lawyer Lizzie Fox calls in a favor from the Sisterhood who owe her big time to take a close look at the homicide. The most likely suspect is someone inside the Beltway who got away with murder; but not if they can help it. However, the magnificent seven understand the cost could be the pardon from President Martine Connor as this inquiry leads to the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court.

With a nod to the DC Madam, RAZOR SHARP is an entertaining Sisterhood thriller that is stratospherically over the top of the Washington Monument. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Lily leaves Cosmos with the sign of the V as he rightfully assumes means vengeance and never slows down. Although the key support cast is never RAZOR SHARP and the plot seemingly implausible, fans will enjoy the latest escapades of the stalwart sassy sister seven as once again friendship matters.

Harriet Klausner

Winter of Secrets-Vicki Delany

Winter of Secrets
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen, Nov 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9781441702791

Early on Christmas Day in Trafalgar, British Columbia, the SUV is found buried under ice in a river. Inside the vehicle are the corpses of best friends Jason Wyatt-Yarmouth and Ewan Williams, two wealthy males from Toronto who were on vacation with others.

Constable Molly Smith leads the inquiry of what looks like a tragic accident. However, the autopsy proves a shocker when the medical examiner insists the time of deaths for the lads is radically different and the means of death also different. In other words someone used the SUV as a coffin for two murders. The cops question the rest of the Toronto party as they backtrack what they can about the victims leading to a bed and breakfast and a ski trail, but struggles with motive and consequently a lack of viable suspects.

This is a great Canadian police procedural that will be on most short lists for sub-genre novel of the year. The investigation is top rate including a terrific logical final twist while the cast is strong. Fans will relish Vicki Delany’s delightful whodunit and newcomers will seek Smith’s back cases (see VALLEY OF THE LOST).

Harriet Klausner

Big Bad Wolf-Christine Warren

Big Bad Wolf
Christine Warren
St. Martin’s, Sep 29 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312947958

Missy Roper met alpha Silverback werewolf Graham Winter at her friend Regina’s wedding (see ONE BITE WITH A STRANGER). She has salivated over him since although they have not seen one another since the marriage gala when she ran from his sexual overtures. When they meet again during a fantasy fix-up arranged by her four BFFs, she knows the real person is even better than her dreams of him.

Graham believes Missy is his lifemate, but has problems with her being human. Thus he has conflicting issues as he must persuade his New York City clan and her they belong together or face challenges to his leadership as the alpha leader needs a wife; preferably a breeding lupine silverback as his odious cousin claims.

The latest Others' saga (See YOU’RE SO VEIN) is a wonderful urban romantic fantasy starring a beleaguered alpha facing several challenges. Comparatively speaking, his internal werewolf threats from his cousin’s challenge and from his pack’s potential rejection of his chosen outsider mate seem almost lame even with both being dangerous and real vs. persuading Missy they belong together. Fans will enjoy the heated hunt.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon Moon-Rebecca York

Dragon Moon
Rebecca York
Berkley, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425230985

Kenna the psychic crosses through a hidden portal into earth on a mission to obtain information for her owner. During a vicious storm, a soaking wet Kenna is almost killed by a tree that falls. Werewolf Talon Marshall who prefers to be alone finds her in his lupine form, but saves her in his human body.

They are attracted to one another and he fears she is his soulmate; someone the recluse can do without but knows he cannot. Kenna wants to tell him the truth about what she knows re her master Vandar the psychopathic half-dragon half-vampire, but a mental barrier will not allow her to so. He knows she hides something important from him, but has no earthly idea what; only that he does not trust her and obviously she reciprocates as she distrusts him with her secret

The latest Moon romantic fantasy displays the creativity of Rebecca York as she refreshes her werewolf-life mate plot with the enslavement spell that leaves the hero distrusting his beloved and the heroine frustrated with her inability to tell her beloved the truth. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene in vile villain Vandar’s cave and never slows down as love comes at the wrong time for this couple. Series fans will relish DRAGON MOON with a strong casting as the malevolent paranormal hybrid controls the werewolf’s life mate.

Harriet Klausner

Witch Craft-Caitlin Kittredge

Witch Craft
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin’s, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780312943622

Police Lieutenant Luna Wilder runs the Nocturne City Supernatural Crime Squad but neither she nor her unit is highly regarded by the rest of the department or for that matter the people they protect. Still the grouchy werewolf works hard on cases and expects the same from her subordinates.

Deadly arsons have Luna and company running around the city without a respite. The arsonist has successfully destroyed the homes of the supernatural residents killing the otherworldly occupants. As she works the case, supernatural killers from species who have not arrived in Nocturne City try to kill her. She and ATF agent Will Fagin team up as they try to prevent a pandemic disaster while also unable to ignore their attraction though she uncovers his darkest secret that he concealed from her.

Fans of the terrific Nocturne City urban police procedural fantasy will relish the latest entry WITCH CRAFT as the supernatural body count expands with new eerie and dangerous species surfacing to cause chaos and destruction; the city is on the brink. Luna is nastier to her allies than ever (I am surprised she remains a supervisor) as she and Will, assisted by other law enforcement, try to prevent a paranormal catastrophe. Caitlin Kittredge provides her audience with another great thriller as survival of the fittest seems unlikely for the heroic duo as they are far down the food chain.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Enslave-Cathy Yardley

Cathy Yardley
Avon, Oct 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061376092

The Bessonova family patriarch is a career criminal whose prime employment is stealing cars though selling his daughters either as mail order brides as he did Irina when she was eighteen or even whoring them out is not beneath him. His three daughters Nadia, Jelena and Irina love and hate their father though they appreciate living in Vegas and not Kiev.

However, Papa Bessonova purloins the wrong vehicle as the owner is dangerous Dominic Luder, who wants an arm and a leg literally from the thief as he did papa’s partner Roddy. Even with Papa’s wife carrying Dominic does not give a pregnant pause for what he will do to the thief who should have researched who owned the car. Her father may be afraid of the beast, who seeks to teach him a lesson, but courageous yet fearful Nadia offers her body willingly to the beast in remittance; he accepts her offer as he plans to tame the beauty.

This is an intriguing erotic take on "Beauty and the Beast" that begins gloomy as readers meet an unlikable family especially father and a seemingly despicable beast. When Nadia leaves with Dominic, the story line takes off as they battle for supremacy until love levels the paying field. The other sisters also come a long way baby as married Jelena finds her craving and Irina moves on after being dumped for the replacement teen. Although dad is a worthless dreck from start to finish, fans will enjoy the taming of the beast.

Harriet Klausner

Taken By The Laird-Margo Maguire

Taken By The Laird
Margo Maguire
Avon, Sep 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061667886

In December 1829 her guardian Viscount Stamford, knowing she will no longer be under his control in just two months and disgusted with his disobedient ward, arranges for Brianna Munro to marry the son of a duke the contemptible Marquess of Roddington. As Stamford waits for her by the altar to give Brianna away, she avoids the nuptials much by dressing up as a boy and fleeing. Her hopes lie with reaching her beloved Aunt Clare in Scotland where she will hide until she becomes legally an adult.

However, she makes the trek to her aunt only to find Clare dying. She says her goodbyes and though grieving her loss as she loves her aunt, she continues to run away from her evil appalling fiancé and her even worse guardian. After a day of traveling in a downpour, Brianna takes shelter in a dank, dilapidated castle owned by Laird Glenloch; Hugh Christie who assumes she is a thief though she insists she a maid on the lam from a lecherous aristocrat. He invites her to spend the night in his abode, but one night becomes two nights and three nights and much more as the guest and her host fall in love in his haunted run down ruins of a castle.

Readers will feel the icy cold of December in Scotland in which even shelter feels cuttingly freezing. That backdrop sets the tone of a wonderful historical romance starring two delightful lead characters, a ghost seemingly seeking salvation and some nasty villains. Although the changes in viewpoint seem abrupt especially when the nasties or the ghost take the stage, fans will enjoy Margo Maguire’s vivid nineteenth century tale just wears gloves, scarf and a sweater while keeping the hot chocolate nearby.

Harriet Klausner

When Seducing A Duke-Kathryn Smith

When Seducing A Duke
Kathryn Smith
Avon, Sep 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061340291

In 1877 Greydon Kane knows contrary to popular belief a duke cannot always get what he wants for he cannot have the woman he loves. Thus he goes to Saint's Row seeking pleasure with someone who resembles his beloved but untouchable (for him that is) Rose, whom he is charged to protect not seduce.

Rose Danvers wants one person, Grey. She goes to Saint’s Row knowing he will be there hoping to steal a kiss at the masquerade ball. When she succeeds, she hopes for step two of bed and wed with her beloved admitting he loves her like she does him. However, once he discovers her identity, Grey believes a romance between them is taboo so he will find her a suitable husband.

The cast makes this an entertaining well written Victorian romance. Out of honor, duty and the Martingale mother-daughter and outraged patriarch scandal that he caused, Grey denies who he wants most in the world because his innocent ward deserves someone better than him. Rose refuses to accept his honorable relationship and goes after who she wants. Fans will relish this engaging gender war as Rose tries to seduce her duke.

Harriet Klausner

Captured-Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins
Avon, Sep 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061547799

Dominic LeVeq has two missions that tie nicely together in terms of his heritage. As the son of a Frenchman, he enjoys being a privateer terrorizing the British shipping industry; he especially cherished sailing the sea with his father for two decades until the old man recently died in 1774. As the offspring of a black mistress he makes his life passion freeing slaves from those same vessels. He is even more enflamed by what his half-brother Eduard did to the three hundred workers on their late father’s estate in Martinique.

In 1778 he and his crew capture a British frigate. On board are a Savannah belle and her slave Clare Sullivan. He takes Clare with him to his island haven and offers her a Faustian deal; one night for a lifetime of freedom. She counters insisting one night and a return to Savannah where her children live. He considers upping the ante with a dangerous proposition.

The leading author of historical romances starring Black heroes, Beverly Jenkins proves why she is a highly regarded bestselling author with her latest tale. Captured by the lead couple readers will relish this strong late eighteenth century tale on the high seas and in Revolutionary War Savannah. Dominic is wonderful swashbuckler but has met his match in the feisty slave he wants to liberate. Ms. Jenkins provides her fans with another captivating tale (see INDIGO and TOPAZ) that captures the essence of being African and half-African in 1778 in the Caribbean and Georgia.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Crab Cakes-Livia J, Washburn

Killer Crab Cakes
Livia J, Washburn
Obsidian, Oct 6 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451228369

Her cousin Dorothy asks retired teacher Phyllis Newsom to manage her Oak Knoll Bed and breakfast in Fulton, Texas while she and her husband are in Dallas for the birth of their grandchild, the widow considers saying no as she knows nothing about a B&B. However Dorothy mentions the annual Rockport Just Desserts Competition so Phyllis says yes. Three other retired teachers, Sam Fletcher, Carolyn Wilbarger and Eve Turner join Carolyn j in the cooking contest, as she and Phyllis always enjoy competing against one another.

Sam and Phyllis go fishing off the nearby pier. Already there is grouchy B&B guest Ed McKenna. Sam taps Ed on the back and the man tumbles into the water. Ed jumps in immediately and though he struggles gets Ed to the shore. However Ed is dead and later the autopsy affirms he was murdered. Assistant Police of Chief Abby Clifton and Police Chief Dale Clifton suspect Sam and when more murders come to the Oak Knoll B&B now being notoriously dubbed “The Murder House”; Phyliss, who vowed no murder investigations by her on this trip, begins to investigate.

The forth Newsom amateur sleuth (see A PEACH OF A MURDER and THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE KILLER) is a wonder “fresh baked” mystery as Phyliss tries to stay out of the latest SLICE OF MURDER, but cannot as Sam is the prime suspect. KILLER CRAB CAKES is an entertaining whodunit starting with Sam’s gentle pat on the back that has the related cops hone in on him and the other retires. With light bantering and recipes as Phyliss and Carolyn compete in a heated cooking rivalry between BFFs, fans will enjoy Livia J. Washburn’s latest culinary homicide investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Urgent Care-CJ Lyons

Urgent Care
CJ Lyons
Jove, Oct 27 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515147056

It has been two years since Charge Nurse Nora Halloran of Angels of Mercy Medical Center in Pittsburgh was tortured and raped. She survived her ordeal and never told anyone what happened to her. Concealing her dark secret has impacted her relationship with her lover. Seth as he knows she holds back. Nora glances at the cemetery near the hospital where she sees the corpse of a woman with graffiti etched on her naked body and her eyes glued shut.

The nurse shudders not out of seeing the battered corpse, but because she knows the WARNING SIGNS that her rapist has returned as this is what he did to her. Nora must do what she failed to do two years ago by telling others especially Seth before someone else dies. She turns to her BFFs for help. However, Amanda struggles to save the life of a child; Gina struggles with living her life or that of her parents; and Lydia struggles with friendships as she uses streets smarts to keep people at a distance after an abusive childhood that included the murder of her mother and a hit man coming to kill the witness, her.

CJ Lyons has written an adrenalin pumping medical thriller that fans of Robin Cook will enjoy. URGENT CARE continues to chart the lives of the four friends at Angel of Mercy, but the focus this is mostly on this book is Nora. Each of the women have major issues and traumas they must contend with that they faced alone, but are beginning to understand they can have comrades in arms if they reach out of the darkness that threatens to engulf them. Fans will appreciate this fine tale as the four female friends face fight or flight, but supporting one another makes the choice easier.

Harriet Klausner

Out Of The Darkness-Jaime Rush

Out Of The Darkness
Jaime Rush
Avon, Sep 29 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061690365

Tattoo artist Zoe Stoker is frightened after receiving an enigmatic cautionary message from a dead person; allegedly CIA. However that seems calm compared to an assassin who tries to kill her. Cheveyo saves her life, but though she does not trust him she goes with him to a recently created support group, the Offspring; as she is one of the children of psychic parents who participated in a government sponsored experiment (see A PERFECT DARKNESS).

Rand Brandenburg also recently joined the Offspring although he preferred not to. His uncanny gambling skill made him known to those who want the Offspring under control or dead like original experimenter Gerard Darkwell. Rand feels for the wary Zoe, but she knows from her past not to allow emotion to control her as her out of control telekinetic skill sends objects flying; however she also finds him to be the first person she cannot keep outside of her heart.

The names alone are great symbols with Cheveyo, Stoker, Brandenburg and Darkwell, etc. providing hints of a dark urban fantasy landscape. This second thriller is fast-paced with the suspense building up from the first Darkness novel; leading to a hooked audience wanting the next entry yesterday. However, in spite of the terrific overarching saga, the keys to OUT OF THE DARKNESS is the lead couple as he embraced his ability for personal gain while she fled her ability out of fear mindful of the X-Men’s Rogue. Fans will root for this couple and have dark thoughts about flying bodily objects.

Harriet Klausner

Silent Night, Haunted Night- Terri Garey

Silent Night, Haunted Night
Terri Garey
Avon, Oct 27 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061582042

Psychic Nicki Styx and her lover ER Dr. Joe Bacombe hope for a quiet Christmas together as each has had their fill of demons, spirits, and possessions. However, neither get what they want most as this holiday season is paranormally insane for even this pair used to psychopathic visitors from the Dark.

Joe is under a nocturnal sexual assault from Selene the succubus abetted by her Fate sisters; their plan is to get at Nicki through her beloved. Nicki has her own problems dealing with a spirit who committed suicide and her son who make demands on the psychic. Finally as all hell breaks loose, the devil pays Nikki a courtesy call.

This is a humorous lighthearted urban fantasy as Joe probably has to believe in the Nazareth tune Love Hurts since he is an easy victim of possession by feisty paranormal females (YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I HAUNT); before he met Nicki A MATCH MADE IN HELL was metaphysical. Spirited and “Scrooged” while not yet thirty Nicki is terrific as she battles the latest visitors who assault her and her beloved while she should hum the Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down to Georgia to fiddle with the heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hypnotizing Maria-Richard Bach

Hypnotizing Maria
Richard Bach
Hampton Roads, Sep 2009, $18.95
ISBN: 9781571746238

Flight instructor Jamie Forbes was flying from Washington State to Florida when he is just north of Cheyenne and an hour from North Platte, Nebraska when he receives the panicked SOS from sexagenarian Maria Ochoa who says she thinks her husband is dead. Her spouse Juan was flying them when he collapsed into unconsciousness. Calmly Jamie talks Marie, who never flew before, through the steps to safely land the plane before finishing his own flight; as he did not stick around for his fifteen minutes of fame.

Afterward reporters question Maria, who insists a stranger entered her plane and hypnotized her into landing the plane before disappearing. Hearing Maria’s commentary leads to Jamie contemplate what is real even as he meets his own angelic guiding stranger and learns how to truly teach is to guide but allow your students to do.

HYPNOTIZING MARIA is a thought provoking philosophical character driven thriller. The story line is a fast-paced one sitting novella as Jamie (and readers) contemplates what is reality and how does one truly instruct someone else when each has there own interpretation of what they sense is real. Richard Bach soars with this cerebral tale that will leave his audience pondering metaphysical questions and challenging Jamie’s answers to them; wonderfully encouraged by the author to do just that as the right answer is personal.

Harriet Klausner

Across the Endless River-Thad Carhart

Across the Endless River
Thad Carhart
Doubleday, Sep 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780385529778

Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau was born during the Lewis and Clarke expedition in 1805; his mom was Sacagawea while his father Charbonneau was a French trapper turned translator. As an infant he made it to the Pacific; as a boy he went to school in St. Louis and at his mom’s village. He learns several languages growing up in his divided lineage.

European naturalist Duke Paul Wilhelm of Wurttemberg is in the United States analyzing and classifying North American flora and fauna. Baptiste assists him and accompanies him back to Paris where he becomes the toast of the nobles though not one of them; only the Duke’s cousin Princess Theresa understands his duality but she has a pragmatic outlook that excludes the mixed breed. Baptiste meets and falls in love with Irish expatriate Maura Hennesy. However, in his early twenties after five years on the continent he decides to go home with his Maura at his side.

This is an entertaining biographical fiction of the youngest member of the Lewis and Clarke expedition. Baptiste is a fascinating character whose bi-racial background makes him in at the highest levels of European aristocratic society and yet never really in. Fans will feel they are transported to the first half of the nineteenth century in Europe and Americas as the imagery is incredible vivid. Although more a series of anecdotal occurrences that bring to life time and place than a cohesive novel, ACROSS THE ENDLESS RIVER is a fascinating historical fiction that takes a fresh timely look at contrasting two worlds through a lead character who has a foot in both and in neither.

Harriet Klausner

Critters of Mossy Creek-Sandra Chastain, Deborah Smith, Debra Dixon, Michele Hauf, Martha Crockett

Critters of Mossy Creek
Sandra Chastain, Deborah Smith, Debra Dixon, Michele Hauf, Martha Crockett
Belle Books, Sep 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780984125821

The Creekites of Mossy Creek, Georgia love their small town, but even more so their beloved pets. Some of the animals are the significant others of humans even married couples. The Naked Bean coffee and bakery shop owner Jayne adopts a Cairn terrier as her mouser to hunt mice when Emma the cat proves to be a watcher only. An elderly canine escorts an orphaned newborn dog to a child. The Widow Peggy tries to find the jewel thief using a cam only to find insider feline thievery. Pets even lower blood pressure by a human adopting a mom and her kitten. There are others who bring joy to the residents such as the Parrot who sings and dances (if Ed Sullivan was alive) and then there are humans who bring nurturing and love to animals like the Eagle Scout who saved ironically the eagle. This is just another moment in the human-animal love affair of Mossy Creek that adds to why the small town of 1700 is special; if you don’t believe me, ask Mayor Ida Hamilton or better yet read the books for a slice of rural southern life.

Similar in tone as the previous Mossy Creek anecdotal tales, CRITTERS OF MOSSY CREEK focuses on the human-animal relationships of the residents as the people get more from the unrequited love and loyalty of their pets. Fans of the saga and pet lovers will fully appreciate the latest entry as all is well in Mossy Creek for a large part due to the animal population.

Harriet Klausner

Leaving Yesterday-Kathryn Cushman

Leaving Yesterday
Kathryn Cushman
Bethany House, Oct 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764203824

When police Detective Thompson arrives at her door, Alisa Stewart almost has a heart attack as she fears the cop is here to inform her that her only surviving son Kurt is dead. However, the officer only wants to talk with Kurt to learn what he knows about the brutal beating murder of a dealer.

Still frantic with worry, she is finally relieved when Kurt calls her to tell her he is off the street and in rehab. She feels he is turning the corner and thanks the Lord for this miracle. Meanwhile as her spouse considers a divorce, she considers an affair, but soon has to think about second chances when the police arrest a perp for the drug related murder that she begins to fear Kurt committed, but sticks to her mantra of by pretending it didn’t happen it will make it go away.

Although the trials and tribulations tests that Job faced may make him the only person ever to have more calamities tossed at them than Alisa, which can be overwhelming to the reader, LEAVING YESTERDAY is a fine family drama. Alisa holds the story line together as her worries about Kurt turn into a personal morality crisis of right vs. wrong with her fear being her son committed the killing and her concealing her belief goes against her Ten Commandment like ethics. Even her pretending he didn’t do it does not ease her mind. Although her crises with her spouse and with her potential lover feels intrusive, LEAVING YESTERDAY is a strong look at personal morality in a world in which define is holds no one culpable.

Harriet Klausner

Dance In Shadows-Karen Wiesner

Dance In Shadows
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek, Oct 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781603135672

Years ago, Angelo Pluzetti's life changed when his beloved family was murdered. He joined the Network, whose mission is to obliterate criminals. He became Head of Network Operations as his passion and willingness to die yet protect his “family” of operatives have become so renowned; his enemies from powerful Revolutionary Echelon Defenders (R.E.D). need him eliminated.

He has one Achilles’ heel, twenty-nine years old Dr. Celine Savage. She has loved him for what seems to her an eternity, but he conceals his deep regard for her from everyone especially Celine and his adversaries. However someone must somehow know because Celine is a target so he needs to keep her safe; not realizing when they are both captured by R.E.D. her inner strength gives him the extra courage he needs for both of them and their unborn to survive.

The ninth Incognito romantic suspense thriller is a great entry in a super saga. Angelo and Celine are a fabulous pairing as each is attracted to one another, but hide it for differing reasons (besides what is described above). Besides the enemy neither wants to face the wrath of their boss Shannon. Filled with action and sexual tension, fans will enjoy the lead couple as they DANCE IN THE SHADOWS rather than with the stars.

Harriet Klausner

Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio-Lisa Harris

Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio
Lisa Harris
Summerside, Aug 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781934770818

Having been jilted twice after her father Isaiah abandoned her mom, her three younger sisters depend on twenty-seven year old Catherine Morgan who vows no more men in her life. Instead she pledges to run the family general store in Revenge, Ohio as a spinster on the shelf and contradictory find decent husbands for her siblings; that if there is such a thing as a decent male.

In 1884 Sheriff Corbin Hunter arrives in town seeking a bank robbing gang; he is one of the men who dumped Catherine, breaking her heart seven years ago. His evidence points to her sister Audrey’s fiancé as the brains behind the criminal gang who killed his father. Although she wants nothing to do with the one that broke her heart the most, Catherine decides to help him with his inquiry praying her sibling does not end up heartbroken like her. Corbin accepts her help though he vows to not allow the woman who broke his heart seven years ago do so again.

LOVE FINDS YOU IN REVENGE OHIO is a wonderful warm historical Americana romance starring two strong lead characters and a solid support cast. The story line is action-packed and contains several neat twists with each spin hooking readers further. Fans will root for sacrificing Catherine, whose anger with her father and to a degree her mother makes her selfishly responsible for her sisters whether they want her to do so or not; this also leads her to assume her beloved Corbin should not be saddled with her charges. Corbin is a terrific counterpoint as his love for the woman who hurt him remains strong but is it as powerful as his need to find his father's killer. This is a great inspirational late nineteenth century romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

InterventionTerri Blackstock-

Terri Blackstock
Zondervan, Sep 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310250654

Widower Barbara Covington is worried about her addicted teenage daughter Emily and decides to intervene after her lockdown efforts fail and her offspring stole money using illegal credit cards she took out in her dead father’s name. She takes her eighteen year old child to meet with a rehab center interventionist Trish Massey. However, the counselor is found dead and Emily missing. The police for obvious reasons assume Emily killed him.

Upset and despondent, Barbara searches for her missing oldest child with her other teen Lance advising her. She vows to find Emily and the real killer before the police lock her daughter away for a homicide Barbara knows in her troubled soul her teen did not commit.

This is a super inspirational thriller that is at its best when looking into addictive destructive behavior and at the mom-older teen daughter relationship. Barbara and Trish are fully developed characters; both at the end of their respective ropes, which each might use to hang themselves or the other. Fourteen year old Lance is too wise as if he is the interventionist guiding his mom (how old was Yoda?). The whodunit is well written, but more of a supporting device to force Barbara to personally “intervene”. Fans will appreciate this profound tale while pondering whether addiction is a personal, family or even community illness as Emily’s actions impact others.

Harriet Klausner

The Fleet Street Murders-Charles Finch

The Fleet Street Murders
Charles Finch
Minotaur, Nov 10 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312565510

Amateur sleuth (Now called private investigators) Charles Lennox is busy and torn in different directions. Two men in London of 1866 are killed minutes apart. Winston Caruthers, writer and editor of the conservative Daily Telegraph and Simon Pierce who worked for the liberal Daily News are the victims. Besides working for newspapers, the only other thing they had in common is each testified against Jonathan Poole, a traitor to England. Inspector Exeter believes Hiram Smith killed them, but he dies in his jail cell in what looks like a suicide.

Exeter arrests Poole’s son, but there are people close to the case who believe the inspector has the wrong man in custody again. They ask Charles to look into the matter, but he has no time to take on the complex homicides because he is running for Minster of Parliament from Stirrington. His opponent uses dirty tricks to win by a hundred votes so Charles turns back to the case and begins to put the puzzle pieces together until he believes he knows who the culprit is, but lacks proof. Trying to catch evidence against a diabolical killer puts Charles in harms way with the distinct potential of being the next investigation for Exeter to bungle.

Charles Finch writes about the birth of Scotland Yard and how the police there change their methodology to meet their mandate. Amateur sleuths, the forerunners of private investigators, used whatever was available in mid nineteenth century London to solve cases. Charles is one of them, but works closely with Scotland Yard to bring down the shadowy puppeteer pulling everyone’s strings. This is an entertaining Victorian mystery as the audience and Mr. Lennox try to solve who is behind the homicides and why. Fans will want to read Charles’ previous investigations (see A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH and SEPTEMBER SOCIETY).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Santa, Honey-Kate Angell, Sandra Hill and Joy Nash

Santa, Honey
Kate Angell, Sandra Hill and Joy Nash
Love Spell, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527530

"Ho, Humbug, Ho," by Kate Angell. In Holiday, Florida, Judge Hathaway sentenced Richmond Rogues baseball player Alex Boxer for speeding to perform forty hours community service as Santa at Wilmington Mall; the previous user of the costume recently died. Instead of celebrating the World Series win with his teammates in Miami he is stuck with kids drooling and wishing. Of course he wants to hit a walk off homer with local torturer Holly.

"Naughty or Nice" by Sandra Hill. Jessica Jones is so desperate she enters the Piggly Jiggly Supermarket wearing a Santa suit and carrying a gun as she plans a “stick-out”. The Christmas Curse continues when her scheme fails and she takes the Brad Pitt in a Santa suit look alike Luke Carter as her hostage. He knows he could escape with ease, but tags along only to fall in love with the fruitcake that he ends up protecting.

"Christmas Unplugged" by Joy Nash. In New York, wannabe actress Emma catches her boyfriend tonguing another woman. To escape the city and her hurt, she persuades her sister, the “Minesweeper” expert to leave town on the vacation with her that she was supposed to take with cheating Todd. The siblings go to the Dutch Lodge in the Adirondacks. The sisters meet the owner’s nephews with Emma and Jake, and Casey and Matt attracted respectively to one another

These are three warm Christmas romances starring wonderful protagonists; although the Sandra Hill tale is a reprint from the 1996 anthology The Night Before Christmas.

Harriet Klausner