Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweet Tea at Sunrise-Sherryl Woods

Sweet Tea at Sunrise
Sherryl Woods
Mira, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780778328452

Knowing his baseball career is over; skirt chasing player Travis McDonald arrives in Serenity, South Carolina. He likes the small town atmosphere and decides to stay there. Travis buys a local radio station.

When he meets his neighbor single mom of two Sarah Price, Travis enjoys her light banter except for the self-deprecating comments. He hires the waitress to work his morning show as the DJ though she has no on the air experiences. As she works diligently at her new position, Sarah struggles to overcome the constant put downs of her verbally abusive former husband Walter while also falling in love with her new boss; who she knows stole her heart even if he is out of her league.

The romance remains mostly in the bleachers as the return to Serenity focuses on the stars of the previous books. Still this is an entertaining tale as Travis is a wonderful individual trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life as he is young but retired. Sarah in many ways is the more fascinating protagonist with her doubts after years of being assailed as a loser; although her epitome feels false, fans of the series will enjoy catching up with the lives of those who previously starred in the Carolina saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund-Jill Kargman

The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund
Jill Kargman
Plume, Apr 16 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452295940

In 2006 thirty-four years old Holly Talbott believes she has a happy marriage to Tim, a Wall St. hedge fund dealer and a wonderful son Miles. Although his family objects, Holly periodically meets with her best friend Kiki, a Jew from Brooklyn, who divorced Tim's brother.

However, on one of their clandestine get-togethers, Holly and Kiki observe Tim hugging tightly another woman. Instead of Tim being ostracized for cheating by his family and the community during the divorce, Holly is the one treated with contempt; as she comes from the wrong side of the tracks. The pre-nuptial agreement affirmed that perspective. Whether it is taking Miles to school or booted from a charity fundraiser, the Wall St. Hedge Fund wives and mothers treat Holly as a leper. Only Kiki still remains her friend. While Kiki dates a seemingly normal nice guy, Holly finds a series of losers.

This is an amusing witty contemporary tale that misses the bite of a satirical look at the financial meltdown as the timing seems off, but will entertain readers with the two BFFs seeking a nicer class of men. With a jocular story line, readers will enjoy this lighthearted romp of the rich and the kicked out of the wealthy club, but also believe The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund misses an opportunity to lampoon the affluent financial crowd for their egotistical excesses.

Harriet Klausner

Hannah's List-Debbie Macomber

Hannah's List
Debbie Macomber
Mira, May 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780778327806

In Seattle thirty-six year old Hannah Everett dies from ovarian cancer after a long battle. She leaves behind a letter to her beloved pediatrician husband, Michael that he is to open one year after her death.

On the first anniversary of Hannah's death, Michael reads her note to him. She pleads with him to get on with his life as he has grieved long enough. She wants him to actively seek a new wife. Hannah suggests he consider three candidates for his second spouse: her cousin Chef Winter Adams; her oncologist nurse Leanne Lancaster or eccentric artist Macy Roth. Michael goes out with each of the women but each quickly recognizes that his heart is buried with his late spouse.

Although some readers will question how fast Michael acts on his beloved deceased wife’s final request, fans will enjoy this strong look at grieving as the lead protagonist tries to move on as his spouse requested with the three women she suggested. Michael is fully developed so that the audience understands his concerns and fears while Hannah is only seen through his eyes and the letter. The tree candidates are developed to different degrees, which makes it easy to know the ending relatively early on. Michael hooks the readers throughout as he struggles with choosing from Hannah’s List because he is unsure if he can.

Harriet Klausner

Nose Down, Eyes Up-Merrill Markoe

Nose Down, Eyes Up
Merrill Markoe
Villard, Apr 20 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345500212

Forty something Gil works as a handyman at an elderly couples’ vacation home where he also resides for free. His girlfriend Sara works as an animal communication expert, which has enabled Gil to understand what his four dogs want.

He is taken aback when he realizes the top canine in his pack Jimmy the alpha is providing lessons and lectures to the neighborhood dogs on a variety of surviving with human topics. Jimmy teaches the other dogs how to properly beg especially for treats and the merits of indoor vs. outside peeing in nasty weather.

When Gil meets up with his former wife, she offers him work remodeling her guesthouse. He accepts, but Jimmy persuades him to take him with him. As he ignores Jimmy for time with his remarried former wife, Gil makes it clear to his four legged BFF that he is not his companion's biological father. Upset to know he is adopted Jimmy seeks out his biological parents especially his mother; not realizing how nearby she is.

This is a terrific pooch lit parable that focuses on what makes a family without being overly too cute. Jimmy and Gil are a wonderful pairing as Jimmy assumes the man who raised him is his daddy until he learns the shattering truth. His observations on family, love, and loyalty will obviously provide dog lovers with a charmer, but other readers will appreciate the wisdom of Jimmy’s teachings starting with the title.

Harriet Klausner

Straight Up-Deirdre Martin

Straight Up
Deirdre Martin
Berkley, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425234662

When her fiancé jilted farmer Aislinn McCafferty, she vowed no more men in her life unless they are sheep. Soon afterward her parents died in a car accident. Grieving and angry she wants to be left alone with her flock though her sister is visiting her and her elderly loyal employee remains on her sheep farm.

Fleeing the New York Irish mob, Liam O'Brien hides in Ballycraig, Ireland. When he meets the acrimonious Aislinn, he wants her but she rejects him. Cocky, he makes a bet with the local pub owner that he will get her to go out with him. However, as Liam gets to know Aislinn, he wishes he never made that stupid wager as he is falling in love even as the doubting Aislinn begins to reconsider the charm of four legs vs. two and a half legs. Still refuses him; as she expects him to return across the Atlantic back to the big city.

Straight Up is an enjoyable romance starring two initially unlikable lead characters who grow on the reader. Liam has an ego larger than the Atlantic while Aislinn has had her esteem shattered. Although the thin plot is mindful of Doc Hollywood and filled with an eccentric secondary cast who like fans take bets on the outcome as Deidre Martin provides an amusing tale of love.

Harriet Klausner

Seducing the Highlander-Emma Wildes

Seducing the Highlander
Emma Wildes
Signet, May 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451229823

“Seducing Ian". Wanting to force the hand of his enemy to drop false charges brought against a clan relative, Laird Ian McCray kidnaps the adversary’s betrothed Leanna Arlington. However, he wants her and she him, but her intended will not go away gracefully.

"Seducing Robbie". Julia Cameron offers Robbie McCray a large dowry if he marries and protects her. However, as he is ready to agree, both wants much more in their relationship as each feels the heat of desire.

"Seducing Aidan". When his betrothal abruptly ended, Adain Cameron feels depressed and lost; that is until he rescues Gillian Lorin from highwaymen who accosted her on her way to her meeting her vicious betrothed. However, instead of escorting her to her intended husband, he takes her to his clan where she asks for sanctuary and he offers much more knowing the threat to his people.

These three interrelated Highlander romances are fun tales of kick butt heroes, feisty heroines, and vile villains who come together to make an entertaining historical romantic anthology.

Harriet Klausner

A Cast-off Coven-Juliet Blackwell

A Cast-off Coven
Juliet Blackwell
Obsidian, Jun 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451230492

Lily Ivory is a bona fide powerful witch who has made a home for herself in San Francisco as the owner of Aunt Cora's Closet where she sells vintage clothing. She is promised a trunk full of clothing if she exorcises what is scaring the students. They hear ghostly noises and movements at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts. The students and faculty also hear moans and footsteps that a ghost can’t make, but nobody sees anyone walking.

She enters the building believing she is dealing with a ghost and in a sense she is right because someone committed murder at the school decades ago. When she goes to the bell tower she finds the dead body of billionaire businessman Jerry Becker. After the police rope off the murder scene and finish questioning everyone who was in the area, Lily enters the closet where the trunk is. She sees and hears something that makes her realize someone called up a demon but didn't bind it. With each new day, the demon grows stronger. While the police investigate the homicide, the demon targets humans with no defense against its assaults; only Lily stands in the way.

This awesome paranormal mystery stars a terrific heroine who for the first time in her solitary life has friends, a home, a job she loves, and a responsible boyfriend who does not belittle or assault her. The supernatural subplot does not overwhelm the whodunit because there are several human suspects who could be the killer and have summoned the demon. Lily has to figure out if she is dealing with one or two antagonists as either scenario is plausible.

Harriet Klausner

The Tulip Virus-Danielle Hermans

The Tulip Virus
Danielle Hermans
Minotaur, Apr 27 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312577865

In 2007 in London Frank Schoeller calls his nephew British painter Alec with a plea for help. Dropping everything, Alec rushes over to his beloved uncle's house. There he finds Uncle Frank brutally battered and near death. Frank tells Alec not to call the police, get out of the house and take a four century old book on tulips with him.

Alec calls the cops, but insists he found his Uncle Frank dead. He needs to know why his relative was tortured and murdered. To do that he needs to know what is the value of a book focused on the 1636 Tulip War in Holland that his uncle gave him on his deathbed.. Obtaining the help of his Dutch friend Amsterdam antiques dealer Damien Vanlint, he investigates learning more than he wants about 1636 Holland and about the danger they now face due to their inquiry.

Although somewhat a standard exciting thriller, the tulip connection to seventeenth century Holland adds a fresh spin. Fast-paced throughout, fans will root for the amateur sleuths to survive the ordeal as several adversaries, unconcerned with collateral damage or using hostages, will kill again to keep a secret concealed.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lean on Pete-Willy Vlautin

Lean on Pete
Willy Vlautin
Harper, Apr 13 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061456534

When his dad decides to start over for the zillionth time, fifteen year old Charley Thompson relocates with him from Spokane, Washington. However, shortly after moving to Portland, Oregon, Charley's irresponsible father deserts him to move in with a married woman. Soon afterward the woman's husband kills Charley's dad.

Charley obtains a job working for Del Montgomery at Delta Park racetrack. However, watching what Del does to the thoroughbreds upsets Charley more than his dad's death especially when he learns his employer plans to sell his only friend Pete to people who will kill the horse. Deciding nothing is there to keep him in Portland, Charley steals Pete to keep him safe. Together they flee the Pacific Northwest.

Although Charley seems to have incredible luck on his trek with people helping him and Pete providing money, food and shelter without asking questions of why a young teen was .on his own; when no one is there shelter still is easily available. Putting aside the realism probability (Vegas would take Charley and Pete off the board), fans will enjoy his plight and flight as readers will cheer the lad on while knowing all he wants is to be part of a loving family.

Harriet Klausner

Good to a Fault-Marina Endicott

Good to a Fault
Marina Endicott
Harper, Mar 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061825897

Forty-three years old divorcee Clara Purdy works as an insurance claims adjuster while living in the house she grew up in inherited after her parents died. Rushing to the bank so she can get back to work on time, Clara crashes into the car driven by Clayton Gage. No one is injured seriously from the fender bender, but the mother of three Lorraine learns while at the hospital she has cancer in its late stage.

Clayton vanishes, so feeling responsible while Lorraine remains hospitalized; Clara invites the woman's nasty mother and her three children to live with her. Clara also allows Lorraine's alcoholic brother to move in too. While everyone in town wonders why Clara is suddenly acting like Mother Teresa, others also help especially Minster Paul whose wife left him; he is attracted to Clara. When Lorraine recovers after receiving radical treatment and Clayton returns, Clara feels alone as the three kids go back to live with their parents. Deciding to return to her sterile life before the accident, a changed Clara dumps Paul, but will being alone be enough after having family with her.

This is an entertaining character study that mostly looks at Clara who goes from being alone to having a de facto adoption of a family to being alone again but with a new attitude. Although the profound look at how much Clara changes is a two edged sword as the plot moves at times very slowly, readers will root for the heroine as she begins to leave her self imposed shell seeking her relationship groove.

Harriet Klausner

Good to a Fault-Marina Endicott

Good to a Fault
Marina Endicott
Harper, Mar 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061825897

Forty-three years old divorcee Clara Purdy works as an insurance claims adjuster while living in the house she grew up in inherited after her parents died. Rushing to the bank so she can get back to work on time, Clara crashes into the car driven by Clayton Gage. No one is injured seriously from the fender bender, but the mother of three Lorraine learns while at the hospital she has cancer in its late stage.

Clayton vanishes, so feeling responsible while Lorraine remains hospitalized; Clara invites the woman's nasty mother and her three children to live with her. Clara also allows Lorraine's alcoholic brother to move in too. While everyone in town wonders why Clara is suddenly acting like Mother Teresa, others also help especially Minster Paul whose wife left him; he is attracted to Clara. When Lorraine recovers after receiving radical treatment and Clayton returns, Clara feels alone as the three kids go back to live with their parents. Deciding to return to her sterile life before the accident, a changed Clara dumps Paul, but will being alone be enough after having family with her.

This is an entertaining character study that mostly looks at Clara who goes from being alone to having a de facto adoption of a family to being alone again but with a new attitude. Although the profound look at how much Clara changes is a two edged sword as the plot moves at times very slowly, readers will root for the heroine as she begins to leave her self imposed shell seeking her relationship groove.

Harriet Klausner

Trusting The Bodyguard-Kimberly Van Meter

Trusting The Bodyguard
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin SuperRomance, Apr 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 978037371627

Three hours from San Francisco, FBI agent Archer Brant comes to his remote cabin only to find biotech scientist Marissa Vasquez waiting for him there. Shocked as she dumped him several years ago because she could not cope with his hazardous occupation, he has mixed feelings about seeing the woman he still loves.

Her sister Mercedes dead, Marissa and her niece Jenna need his help. The child's father is Oakland’s dangerous Oaktown Boyz drug dealing gang leader and club owner Ruben Ortiz who killed Mercedes. He wants his offspring and will kill his daughter's aunt like he did the mom to get her. Archer offers his help but also makes sure he has professional back-up from his friend Agent Hawker. He knows in court Ortiz would probably win custody, but Archer risks his life and badge for the woman he still loves.

From the opening moment that Archer sees Marissa in his cabin until the final confrontation, Trusting The Bodyguard is an exhilarating romantic suspense thriller. Filled with plenty of action, the key to the story is the frightened heroine who in spite of her fears, kidnapped the infant from the villain’s compound; she sets the tone with her courage; a trait she lacked her first time with Archer. This is a terrific thriller as the second chance at love subplot feels realistic since it does not intrude on the anticipated High Noon confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Always A Temp-Jeannie Watt

Always A Temp
Jeannie Watt
Harlequin SuperRomance, Apr 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716289

When her beloved foster mother Grace dies, journalist Callie McCarran goes home to Wesley, Nevada to attend the funeral upset that her beloved guardian never told her she was terminal. The townsfolk are angry with Callie for not being there for Grace. While home, Callie decides to see if her feelings for her childhood boyfriend, Nathan Marcenek remains as strong as ever.

Nathan, the editor of Wesley Star newspaper, came home after being injured on an investigation. He wants nothing to do with the woman who broke his heart when she left town just after their high school graduation. Realizing she still loves Nathan, Callie introspectively ponders why she ran from him until she concludes love means abandonment like her parents did to her.

This is a deep second chance at love romance starring two stubborn lead characters whose distrust of most people make for a strong tale. Jeannie Watt provides a profound look into the psyche of Callie who prefers being Always A Temp with any relationship professional and personal as she learned from her father. Nathan distrusts the woman he loves as he knows she will leave.

Harriet Klausner

Her Best Friend-Sarah Mayberry

Her Best Friend
Sarah Mayberry
Harlequin SuperRomance, Apr 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716265

Amy Parker is stunned to learn the town council has changed its collective minds about her plan to renovate the local grand Picture Theater. The Council chose a last minute bid by Ulrich Construction ignoring their verbal commitment to her. Irate as they committed to her, after she offered to buy the theater, she needs legal help.

Amy asks the unrequited love of her life, attorney Quinn Whitfield to help her. Returning home, Quinn, as an escape from his failed to marriage, agrees to assist his friend. However, he remains unaware that Amy always has and will love him though he insists on hanging out with her as he has some unfinished business with his buddy.

Though simplistic and straightforward, Her Best friend is an entertaining contemporary romance starring two liable lead characters who each as adults secretly wish to do what they did not achieve as teens. Readers will enjoy the tango of the two BFFs wanting to become best lovers forever, but both fearing that first frightening step.

Harriet Klausner

Our Burden's Light-Patrick Thomas Casey

Our Burden's Light
Patrick Thomas Casey
Dunne, Apr 13 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312533908

In the Shenandoah Valley, the murder of teenager Grant Shelley shakes his family. Only the actions of his father, Robert keep the grieving Shelley brood together as none of them understand why it happened and moving on and getting closure feels impossible to do.

Grant's teenage killer, Hayden Clyde struggles with what he did in the woods. Also not coping very well is Grant's former girlfriend and Hayden's current one Evelyn Warren. Meanwhile even as he remains the core holding the family together, Robert wonders what he could have done differently; especially as he begins to realize his late son is not quite the innocent victim paragon the Shelley brood prefers to believe; nor in many ways he knows is he not a shining example.

This is an interesting look at the grieving process when an unexpected tragic death occurs. Patrick Thomas Casey makes a strong case that everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time even with an anchor keeping all moored. Although more a series of vignettes tied together by Grant’s death than a novel, readers will appreciate this deep look at the living after a young person unexpectedly dies violently.

Harriet Klausner

A Curtain Falls-Stefanie Pintoff

A Curtain Falls
Stefanie Pintoff
Minotaur, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312583965

In 1904, New York City residents are stunned by the tragic sinking of General Slocum. Like so many locals, NYPD partners detectives Simon Ziele and Declan Mulvaney are impacted by the calamity. Simon's fiancée died with the sinking; he quit the force and left the city moving to Dobson up the Hudson. Declan stayed with NYPD until now in 1906 he is a captain.

Needing someone he trusts, Mulvaney asks Ziele, who just watched in disgust a jury set free a spouse killer, to investigate the murder of a Broadway chorus girl; the second such homicide made to look like a suicide near the Garrick Theater on West Thirty-Fifth in the last few weeks. Ziele believes a serial killer is loose. The cops arrest a suspect, but Ziele thinks the wrong man has been brought in. He and criminologist Alistair Sinclair investigate the murders.

The latest Ziele historical police procedural (see In the Shadow of Gotham) is an excellent period piece with a strong whodunit. Readers will enjoy the cankerous camaraderie between Ziele and Sinclair who respect each other professionally but also distrust one another personally especially with the former guilt-laden attracted to the latter’s widow daughter-in-law. With insight into the beginnings of the Great White Way becoming the American Theater District inside a strong cop case, Stefanie Pintoff provides sub-genre fans with another superb early twentieth century mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Time Pirate-Ted Bell

The Time Pirate
Ted Bell
St. Martin’s, Apr 13 2010, $17.99
ISBN: 9780312578107

In 1940 the Nazis invade the British Channel Islands. To repel the enemy, teenager Nick McIver teaches himself to fly an obsolete WWI fighter plane that he had found in an abandoned barn. From the air, barnstorming Nick photographs minelayers and patrol boats during the day and conducts bombing raids over Nazi airfields at night.

Meanwhile his enemy pirate Captain Billy Blood wants possession of Nick's time machine. Using his own, he travels to Greybeard Island where he kidnaps Nick's sister Kate, and takes her back to 1781 Port Royal, Jamaica; but he leaves Nick a message that in exchange for his sibling he wants the time machine. Traveling to the late eighteenth century, Nick of Time learns of a plot that could result in Washington's defeat as Blood has amassed an invincible armada.

Fighting in two wars over a century and half apart, heroic Nick hopes to be on time to save his sister and for his side to win twice. Incredibly fast-paced with over the top happenstances, this lighthearted fun teenage pulp fiction is very entertaining though not deep in either era except when blood and tomatoes mix as Nick battles The Time Pirate.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 29, 2010

Destined to Last-Alissa Johnson

Destined to Last
Alissa Johnson
Leisure, Apr 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843962529

She should be the Ton's top gem of the season, but alas Lady Kate Cole is not. Men avoid her as if she has the Black Plague out of fear of her propensity for accidents could harm them too. Kate knows she is the klutz of the century, but tries her best to avoid accidents. Yet no matter what she does, nothing goes right.

Government agent Andrew Hunter is the only exception to the male populace when it comes to kissable Kate. He wants her as his and actually enjoys the fact that she is a diamond in the rough. Andrew is assigned to watch over her at a party, an assignment he relishes. As he brings her into his smuggler's investigation, Andrew has so much material things he can provide to her; Kate only wants one thing in the world; a man who loves clumsy her as much as she does him.

The key to this humorous delightful regency is the heroine who is so different than the usual sub-genre females. Kate makes the tale with her clumsiness that has every male running away from her as she is a hazard to one’s health. The exception is the hero who is used to dangerous adventures and believes a lifetime with his beloved will prove the most satisfying dangerous adventure of them all. This is a terrific tongue in cheek historical as Alissa Johnson lampoons the perfect Regency female.

Harriet Klausner

The Jaguar Prince-Karen Kelley

The Jaguar Prince
Karen Kelley
Kensington Brava, Apr 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758238368

Callie Jordan was a newborn left at an orphanage by someone who failed to stick around to see if she was okay. She grew up depending on no one but herself. Thus working at a zoo is perfect for her.

New Symtaria Prince Rogar seeks his people's colonists and their mixed-species offspring. His goal is to bring everyone back to New Symtaria where he can insure their safety from a murderous alien. When he first sees Callie at the zoo, she cannot believe a streaker would come here to compare his parts to that of the well endowed chimps. Later he arrives at her apartment still in his birthday suit as a man and as a jaguar. He explains her heritage to her; as she considers the first hanging hunk wanting her is a head-case. While someone wants them dead neither the royal purebred shapeshifter or the orphan hybrid expected the attraction between them.

This is an amusing romantic fantasy starring two likable lead characters. The underlying premise is mindful in some ways of Witch Mountain although Karen Kelley’s plot is meant for adults. Although the villain seems feeble, sub-genre fans will enjoy the jocular frolic of ET falling in love with the perfect commoner, a zookeeper used to animal behavior.

Harriet Klausner

Love, Unexpectedly-Susan Fox

Love, Unexpectedly
Susan Fox
Kensington Brava, Apr 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758238269

Nav Bharani has wanted to change his relationship with Kat Fallon from best friend to lover. However, she has always rejected his slightest move as she insists she does not wish to risk their friendship. Now he believes he has the perfect opportunity to persuade her otherwise as they travel by sleeper train across Canada to attend her sister’s wedding in Vancouver.

To convince her they belong together, Nav masquerades as different people with diverse personalities. As he makes snail progress, he runs up against her sexual issues, grudges and commitment fears. However, he soon realizes he has his phobias too that prevent the real Nav from simply saying to his BFF that he loves her.

This is an enjoyable train ride across Canada as the lead couple begins to understand their feelings especially love and fear. Kat may seem like the one with all the commitment issues, but Nav and readers realize as he poses as “strangers” he has a major problem to confront also. With a throwback feel to the madcap romantic comedies of the 1930s, fans will appreciate Susan Fox’s fine character driven tale of Love, Unexpectedly.

Harriet Klausner

Instant Temptation-Jill Shalvis

Instant Temptation
Jill Shalvis
Kensington Brava, Apr 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758231277

In the Sierras, T.J. Wilder and his brothers Cam (see Instant Attraction) and Stone (see Instant Gratification) run Wilder Adventures, a wilderness outfitter firm. Having obtained a degree in wildlife biology Harley Stephens has returned home to Wishful, California hoping to land a research assignment in Colorado, but accepts any job for now that will lead to her achieving her goal.

T.J. and Harley knew each other in high school before she left for college. They are attracted to one another, but neither wants to explore their feelings as both fears commitment. However, when they go into the wilderness to check on her failing cameras that are studying a rare coyote breed, they cannot resist any longer.

The third Wilder wilderness romance is a fun tale of two people attracted to one another even in high school but denying their feelings. T.J. and Harley share personality traits that lead to the conclusion that unlike opposites who allegedly attract similar are parallel lines unless something forces them to converge. Although the clash between the lead couple feels minor, fans will enjoy love’s rocky ride in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Harriet Klausner

Edge of Apocalypse-Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall

Edge of Apocalypse
Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall
Zondervan, Apr 20 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780310326281

Joshua Jordan was a hero taking unbelievable chances with his life for the country he loved. When he retired from field work he became a weapon designer trying to still protect the United States from threats outside and inside the nation. In the Atlantic, a North Korean boat has nuclear missiles aboard. Due to failed communication with his superiors at home, the admiral launches the weapons a

Two of the missiles head towards New York City; Jordan has minutes to activate the Return to Sender laser guidance system that sends a missile back to its launch site. The counter operation proves successful, but the media questions the consequences while the White House and Senate demand he turn over the Return to Sender system to Senator Stratworth and his committee. When he refuses to give it to anyone outside of the Pentagon as he fears anyone else will sell it for oil and credit. The President and Congress use the media to go after Joshua. Joshua soon learns he might be a target as Iran, North Korea and Russia as well as allies want the system and will go to any length to get it.

Taking place in the near future in which America is short on cash as a new growing dust bowl threatens Midwest agriculture, corruption permeates the government, Joshua and two secret cabals try to bring back the country to what is once was. Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall provides readers with an exciting thriller as the United Sates is on the Edge of Apocalypse while the hero must deal with the possibility of biblical Armageddon and saving his nation.

Harriet Klausner

Hard Magic-Laura Anne Gilman

Hard Magic
Laura Anne Gilman
Luna, May 2010, $14.95
ISBN 9780373803132

Recent college graduate Bonnie Torres joins New York-based Private, Unaffiliated, Private Investigators (PUPIs) a forensic magic investigative firm. She and the other PUPIs practice magical spell-casting as they prepare for their first field case.

The Chicago police ruled that septuagenarian Charles and Patty Reyboern committed vehicular suicide. Their daughter Rose rejects the official determination of the causes of her parents’ deaths as each was healthy, financially secure and liked one another; no motive appears for their killing themselves. She hires PUPIs as she refuses to accept what the cops concluded. Although not ready, the inquiry is assigned to Bonnie and her team. They follow clues some of a magical variety while interviewing friends and family of the deceased. Soon they begin to agree with their client that murder made to look like suicide occurred. As they interrogate suspects, someone uses magic to take out the team, but Bonnie and company survive the spell-casting assaults.

Laura Anne Gilman explains Bonnie was a bit player in the Retrievers saga when she got a starring role in the anthology Unusual Suspects (see Illumination); Hard Magic is her first lead in a novel. She proves capable as the heroine holds the exciting private investigator urban fantasy together. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the return to the world of the Cosa Nostradamus starring a naïve rookie (total opposite of the Retriever veterans) whose investigation makes for an entertaining magical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Song of Scarabaeus-Sara Creasy

Song of Scarabaeus
Sara Creasy
Eos, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780061934735

The ultra top secret government agency the Crib deploys a "biocyph" technology to terraform the planet Scarabaeus. However, something goes terribly wrong and the planet is dying. Leadership of the Crib has no idea why and besides deploying the cover-up seeks explanations. The Crib raised orphan Edie Sha'nim because she possesses the innate talent and augmented with appropriate training and brainwashing to program biocyph seeds. Edie knows what caused the genocidal snafu.

The Rebel Fringe colonies seek their freedom from the iron fist of the Crib's clutches know of her. Agents kidnap Edie and link her “telepathically” to Finn even as they want her to help them prevent the biocyph seeds annual deactivation. Edie fears telling Finn and the Rebels what she knows as she inadvertently played a key role in the destruction of Scarabaeus.

Song of Scarabaeus is a terrific outer space science fiction romance with the emphasis on the science extrapolated from current trends. The planets add to that feeling of being out in deep space with their strange extraterrestrial surfaces while the lead coupling leashed together mentally is attracted to one another but each has to find a way to separate what their leaders programmed from what their hearts demand. Sara Creasy provides a winner with the lamenting haunting Song of Scarabaeus.

Harriet Klausner

Honeymoon Of The Dead-Tate Hallaway

Honeymoon Of The Dead
Tate Hallaway
Berkley, May 4 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425234129

Married couple bookselling witch Garnet Lacey and vampire Sebastian leave Wisconsin for the Twin Cities' airport as they plan to fly to Transylvania for their honeymoon. However, while waiting for their plane to take off, Garnet sees a frost giant sitting on the wing. Her efforts to warn authorities lead to the pair removed from the jet while Homeland Security looks at them like their crazy and perhaps dangerous.

Garnet suggests they stay in Minneapolis-St. Paul where his wife once lived. She reluctantly agrees although she left town in a hurry after stealing the boyfriend of her BFF; that guy still has her love spell haunting him. Garnet is abducted while an anti-vampire group stakes out Sebastian. This is a honeymoon in separate hells.

The key to this superb urban fantasy is Garnet’s transgressions as a youthful witch makes the heroine and, by extrapolation as the prime player of the Hallaway mythos, this book feel plausible. As her past catches up with her Sebastian has his own woes. With a great twist to the ending, fans of the saga (see Dead If I Do, Romancing the Dead, Tall, Dark & Dead and Dead Sexy) will relish Honeymoon of the Dead, forlorn and forgotten.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mr. Arkadin AKA Confidential Report-Orson Welles

Mr. Arkadin AKA Confidential Report
Orson Welles
IT (HarperCollins), Apr 6 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061689031

Just after the war, Chesterfield smuggler Guy van Stratten and his girlfriend Mily find the dying man with a knife in his back near their boat the Queenie. Marcel Bracco tells them to find Gregory Arkadin if they want to make a fortune. The cops arrive as Bracco dies, but also look on board the Queenie where they find the illegal contraband. Guy spends the next three months behind bars.

After his release, Guy searches for and finds Mily who works on board Arkadin’s ship. However, Guy also learns the great international financier has a daughter Raina and knows she is the best ticket to get to her father and subsequently a lot of money though he remains unsure how. Guy maneuvers a dance with Raina and a ride to Marseille. Guy meets Arkadin who hires him to find out who he was before arriving in Zurich in 1927 with 200,000 Swiss francs.

Although the novelization of the Welles’ unfinished movie (as described by John Parker in the forward: apparently there were several versions but none finished by Welles) is an intriguing character study starring individuals who are shady and most often on the wrong side of the law. Although the tale is slow at first, once Guy and Raina meet, the action picks up until a final confrontation. Fans of Orson Wells will enjoy this entertaining reprint of a 1950s thriller as his antiheroes work post Europe with a capitalist need at the bottom line at all costs.

Harriet Klausner

Sham Rock-Ralph McInerny

Sham Rock
Ralph McInerny
Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312582654

Because of the recession, financial adviser David Williams returns to his ala mater Notre Dame to visits his son attending classes there and to inform the university’s administration he cannot afford to finance a new building as he promised. As David visits, another alumnus sends to the school’s associate archivist a box filled with newspaper clippings and various other sundry including the confession of a murder and burial of the victim, another student from the class of 89 Timothy Quinn, who had vanished two decades ago.

The school leadership, having used retired private investigator Philip Knight to work sensitive cases before, asks him to look into the Quinn situation. With the help of his brother Catholic Studies Professor Roger Knight Philip begins his inquiry starting with a look back to 1989 when the “Trinity” of David, Timothy and Patrick were rivals and buddies. Upon digging up the corpse, the siblings realize the case is much more convoluted than they expected.

The latest Knight brothers Notre Dame investigative tale (see The Green Revolution) is one of the better entries in what is a fun lighthearted private detective series. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the archivist opens the box and never slows down as Philip with Roger assisting him begins the inquiry into what happened in 1989 only to find a much bigger case on their hands. Ralph McInerny, who died in January, provides a strong Fighting Irish academic mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Head-Rosemary Harris

Dead Head
Rosemary Harris
Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312569945

In Springfield, Connecticut, gardener Paula Holliday is shocked when the news explodes that one of her clients whom she was considering a partnership with, Caroline Sturgis, is actually Monica Jane Weithorn, who escaped from prison over a quarter of a century ago. Monica Jane had been convicted of drug dealing, but has since straightened out her life becoming a wife and mom as a pillar of society.

Now the “Fugitive Mom” is going back to prison to complete her sentence and probably more for her escape. Caroline’s stunned husband Grant tells Paula his wife is a stranger, but needs to know who turned her in to the authorities. Knowing that Paula has solved cases (see The Big Dirt Nap and Pushing Up Daisies), he hires her to investigate; she accepts as she can use the money with the economy still tanked and besides she is curious too. Her friends Police Sergeant Mike O’Malley and reporter Lucy Cavanaugh also wonder who.

Based on headlines from a few years ago, Dead Head is a terrific amateur sleuth though it is the parallel look at the life (past and Present) of the Fugitive Mom who makes this an exhilarating character driven tale. Fast-paced in both eras, readers will be as spellbound as Paula and the rest of Springfield are comparing Dead Head Monica Jane with family matriarch Caroline.

Harriet Klausner

Ghosts And Echoes-Lyn Benedict

Ghosts And Echoes
Lyn Benedict
Ace, Apr 272010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018703

Miami based private investigator Sylvie Lightner continues to grieve deaths she caused like that of Michael even if she simply saved the world (see Sins and Shadows). She knows she needs to get back to work handling paranormal cases, but that is easier said than done when you are responsible for the death of others.

Still she goes to her South Beach store Shadows Inquiries to see what havoc her partner Alexandra Figueroa-Smith caused even as her backbrain snipes at her. Sylvie rejects as clients witches, werewolves, demons and others as she has pissed off enough of them for several lifetimes. However, she reluctantly agrees to handle the case of Chicago police officer Adam Wright who shows up while she is doing surveillance. A husband and father of a six years old son, he says he is either possessed or crazy as he died but came back with an otherworld hitchhiker. She explains not her thing as she is good at breaking and destroying not surgically removing parasites from a host as her approach is kill the host and the parasite is gone. Still she agrees to help him after he mentions Anna D the succubus who hates her referred him.

The key to this terrific urban fantasy is the world of Benedict seems genuine as the heroine works the Magicus Mundi cases. Fast-paced, fans will relish Sylvie’s efforts to send that other soul back to the beyond. Readers will enjoy this fine paranormal private investigate thriller with a great late twist as the tough detective works the abnormal beat.

Harriet Klausner

Magic On The Storm-Devon Monk

Magic On The Storm
Devon Monk
Roc, May 4 20210, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463272

A Hound searching for the practitioners of illegal magic use, Allie Beckstrom continues her training with the Authority. Obviously she is one teacher’s pet as her lover and soul mate Zayvion Jones is a prime instructor in her magical skills education. Allie believes she contains a segment of her late father's soul because she hears him “speak” in her mind.

The Authority leadership concludes a treacherous magical tsunami is heading towards Portland that will destabilize magic activity; it will take a powerful cohesive team to restrain it and hopefully contain it if scattering proves impossible. Allie and Zayvion are a major part of the wildstorm counteroffensive unit; but neither the professor nor the student realizes the worst treachery is from within the Authority.

The latest Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy is a terrific entry as all magical hell is heading to Portland where the lead couple on the front prepares for the “war” while seditious acts occur within the Authority hampering the efforts to prevent the deadly perfect storm. Allie has come a long way since she learned of Magic to the Bone; as her heart and soul has found her other while she learns to control her paranormal skills. This is a strong tale, as the magical world of Devon Monk seems genuine.

Harriet Klausner

A Taint In The Blood-S.M. Stirling

A Taint In The Blood
S.M. Stirling
Roc, May 4 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780451463418

The Shadowspawn were the ancient rulers of the world before Homo Sapiens emerged with masses of numbers to overwhelm and force Homo lupiens into hiding amongst the human sheep. Although cross breeding with the enemy has watered down the species with no known purebreds left, the long term strategic goal of the Shadowspawn is to return to the top of the food chain.

Wealthy Shadowspawn Adrian Breze wants no part of his hybrid species lofty endeavor nor does he want much to do with the humans. At one time he actually fought against the Shadowspawn who rules the Lupiens with an iron claw. Now he prefers to be left alone as he loathes both sides of the civil war. However, his twin sister Adrienne, though she detests her mentally weak brother, demands he use his power to further the cause of the Shadowspawn that she is a key member of. Knowing he will refuse to join her team; near Santa Fe she abducts his only vulnerable object, his human lover Ellen Tarnowski as his sibling knows he would move heaven, hell and earth for the pathetic woman.

This is a terrific urban fantasy that starts with a strong opening scene as readers meet the two females in the lead triangle when Adrienne kidnaps Ellen and takes off from there as S.M Stirling establishes his new realm. Although Adrienne introduces herself as his “evil twin” detracts from her belief that her species even “dumbed down” by intermingling with inferior sapiens blood is superior to the human purebred, fans will enjoy the threesome do their expected deadly tango. Well written and fun to read even with nothing new added to the sub-genre landscape, fans will enjoy the action-packed opening Shadowspawn act.

Harriet Klausner

Well of Sorrows-Benjamin Tate

Well of Sorrows
Benjamin Tate
Daw, May 4 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 978-0756406028

In the landof Andover, the Twelve Families of the Court prepare for a Feud that will eventually be an all out war tearing apart the country. Citizens from each of the Families travel on ships across the Arduon Ocean to escape the fighting and to settle on land promised to them. Colin Harten and his parents travel to Portstown, which belongs to House Carente, who does not welcome the refugees from the Twelve Families war or their allies.

The Hartens, who belong to the Bontari Family, are forced to live in a city where they cannot find work. The situation gets so bad that the Proprietor ruler of the establishment plans to destroy the Lean-to city where the refugees live. He tells the residents that they can go on a wagon train to begin a new settlement trying to be created by the Family and the Church. Colin’s dad leads the wagon train knowing no one who left for the Plains ever returned. They encounter the Alvritshi warriors who warn them to go back. However, the refugees decide to continue though afraid as they have nothing to return to. The Dwarren hate humans who betrayed treaties with them attack them while the dark forest contains Shadows who kill without leaving a trace. Colin barely survives but the Faelehgre spirits of light get him the drink of Life Blood from the Well of Sorrows. He stays there for several years and is no longer human. After six decades he returns to human lands and realizes there is no place for him but he is needed.

This is a huge fantasy in which the above paragraphs fails to even come close to what is going on as the details are extraordinary. Colin obviously plays a critical role in the Colonies now called Provinces. Using the colonization of the Americas as a background, Benjamin Tate builds his own fantasized world that seems real and most critical the three prime species seem genuine. Mindful of Kate Elliot and, Terry Goodkind. Fans will enjoy this strong thriller while anticipating the next installment.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Leaving Unknown-Kerry Reichs

Leaving Unknown
Kerry Reichs
Avon, Mar 30 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061808135

In Frying Pan Landing, North Carolina Maeve Connelly is fired twice in one day. First her boss at the Gin Mill canned her for being late again; this time as they tried a new happy hour venture. Second her family gives her the boot tired of her irresponsible behavior. She cannot fault either as she vows to become responsible although she blames her misdeeds on a string of bad luck starting when she was nine.

Maeve decides to start over on the left coast where a friend lives. So accompanied by sassy Oliver the cockatiel, she heads west. Upon reaching Unknown, Arizona, her jinx strikes again with her car breaking down. To her shock, the locals welcome her and she works at several jobs feeling pretty good except for her extreme case of hypochondria while delaying her final destination the latter being caused mostly because of Noah the bookstore owning children’s author even if he apparently has a girlfriend who’s tall enough to dunk.

The second Connelly sister chick lit tale (see The Best Day of Someone Else's Life) stars an eccentric likable protagonist and a horde of nice supporting players. Breezy, this lighthearted frolic is fun to follow though takes a while for the plot to gel as Maeve the cursed seeks her groove in Venice Beach, but wonders if her true destination is Unknown.

Harriet Klausner

Indivisible-Kristen Heitzmann

Kristen Heitzmann
WaterBrook, May 4 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073092

In Redford, Colorado, the first animal mutilations were a couple of raccoons; other ghastly remains soon follow. Disturbed by the grisly sights, police chief Jonah Westfall investigates because he knows how quickly these gruesome horrors can worsen to include human mutilation. At the same time he is concerned over the rising drug trafficking that seems to have swamped the area.

Jonah has his own personal issues starting with his father’s legacy and his own history that requires abstemiousness. He also hopes to feel worthy enough to one day ask Tia Manning to share a future with him; if he has one. However, first he must end the animal mutilations that are becoming more frequent and frenzied.

This is an entertaining romantic police procedural due to the efforts of Jonah to solve the case and deserve in his mind the love of Tia, who already has given her heart to him. The culprit is not concealed so the suspense is somewhat muted and the perpetrator’s motive seems over the top of the Rocky Mountains. Still the coupling of Jonah and Tia make for a wonderful Colorado romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Death Of A Trophy Wife-Laura Levine

Death Of A Trophy Wife
Laura Levine
Kensington, May 2010, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758238450

Los Angeles freelance writer Jaine Austen accompanies her friend Neiman Marcus shoe guru Lance to the Beverly Hills estate of “Marvelous Marv, the Mattress King” as the man's wife is his best customer. However, Bunny is nasty to everyone including Jaine, but soon after sipping her martini she falls to the ground dead.

Someone put cyanide in Bunny’s martini. Since the queen of mean was universally loathed, there are plenty of suspects. However, the Beverly Hills police hone in on Lance who has an additional motive. He inherits the victim's $175,000 Maserati. Jaine knows Lance would not kill a major customer so having success in solving homicides before (see Killer Cruise); she investigates and finds several viable suspects amidst the extended family members.

This is a wild over the top of the Sierras amateur sleuth who-dome-it as the eccentric cast brings to life Los Angeles with an amusing spin. Jaine dodges the marital demands of Uzbekistani Vladimir Ivan Trotsky, which is amusing but takes the reader away from her investigation. Still fans will enjoy Jaine’s latest whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles-Ken Kuhlken

The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles
Ken Kuhlken
Poisoned Pen, May 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586976

In 1926 in Echo Park in Los Angeles, Negro Frank Gaines is lynched near the temple of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, but the two major newspapers remain silent re the murder. Dance orchestra lead Tom Hickey learns about the death of a friend from an underground paper. He asks his neighbor LAPD Defective Leo Weiss if in deed the lynching occurred and if yes what Police Chief Davis is doing about it. Leo says yes and no to the first question as Gaines was murdered, but the cops are insisting nothing happened.

Tom investigates the murder starting with a visit to Aimee Semple McPherson’s Angelus Temple. However, he soon is followed and beaten up with warnings from speakeasy owner and Klansman Leo that if he fails to drop his inquiry, his new enemies will insure he does so permanently even as he concludes local political corruption led to the lynching.

Although there is too much going on between 1926 cop-business-politician-newspaper-evangelist connections, the orchestra, the hero’s family life (especially his sister) and the investigation; readers will enjoy this fast-paced historical amateur sleuth mystery. The story line focuses on Los Angeles during the Roaring Twenties that comes to light through Tom’s eyes. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles about to be exposed by a sermon of Aimee Semple McPherson.

Harriet Klausner

Under Heaven-Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven
Guy Gavriel Kay
Roc, Apr 27 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780451463302

Second son Shen Tai has spent the last two years as the only living person amidst the forty thousand dead, burying the bones of the dead from both sides. He does this to honor his late father, Kitai Empire Left Side Commander of the Pacified West General Shen Gao who died here while leading his side to victory.

Tai’s endeavor is rewarded with the unexpected stunning gift of 250 Sardian “Heavenly Horses”, the greatest steeds on the planet. To obtain his gift, he must come in person to the Sardian Court of their former enemy so he leaves the ghostly mountain battlefield for the capital of the Kitai Empire, Xinan. Tai knows how valuable they are, but soon learns others agree as assassination attempts to send him to his late father begin even without his claiming the horses yet.

Under Heaven is a superb historical epic that builds off an ancient Chinese dynasty to tell a beautiful tale of power abused, betrayal, honor and love. The secondary characters enhance a strong sense of what the hero is going through as the audience will feel we accompany Shen Tai on his travels. Guy Gavriel Kay provides a deep saga of a hero rewarded and consequently assaulted for honoring his father by interring the remains of valiant soldiers from both sides to their ghosts can silently rest forever.

Harriet Klausner

Bewitched and Betrayed-Lisa Shearin

Bewitched and Betrayed
Lisa Shearin
Ace, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018727

Seeker Raine Benares wants to go back to just finding missing things and people, but knows that will not happen at least for now. Instead, the elf is bonded to the soul-stealing Saghred stone and complicating matters she is also tri-umi'atsu bonded with Paladin Mychael Eiliesor and goblin Tamnais Nathrach.

As she wonders how a seeker could be tied up like this, one of the six evil mages who escaped from the Saghred wants her dead so he can control the rock, but needs to re-grow his goblin body first. Thus Sarad Nukpana is killing the most powerful essences with the umi'atsu trio the last to die for him to complete his quest of becoming an evil God.

This is an exciting action-packed fantasy filled with tension and jocularity as few authors can combine. Raine is terrific as she ironically wants to hide, but knows she cannot as her bonding will not allow her to do so nor the knowledge he is coming for her as she is the only thing between his achieving his goal. Readers will enjoy Bewitched and Betrayed as High Noon is coming to the mythological world of Shearin.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon Haven-Robin Hobb

Dragon Haven
Robin Hobb
Eos, May 11 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780061931413

Expelled from the Cassarik area by the fear of the locals of the new dragon hatchlings, the beasts and their mutated human keepers continue their journey to find the fabled lost city of Kelingra with danger and starvation every step along the deadly Rain Wild River. As the dragons mature, they become powerful fully developed while their keepers remain malformed but are well adjusted for the most part.

However finding the ancient Elderings’ vanished haven proves impossible as the collective memory of the landscape fails to match what the world along the Rain Wild River has become. Instead danger from flash floods and a scarcity of food as supplies dwindle threatens the explorers.

The sequel to the Dragon Keeper is an exciting climax to a well written duology that returns readers to the Hobbs’ realm of the Liveship Traders and the Tawny Man sagas. The story line is a coming of age fantasy especially of the naive female teenager Thymara who grows in confidence as she learns who to trust and more important to distrust. Although the rest of the cast seems somewhat interchangeable as shallowly deceptive or even shallower naive, fans of Robin Hobb will enjoy the trek along the Rain Wild River.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Fleet: Victorious-Jack Campbell

The Lost Fleet: Victorious
Jack Campbell
Ace, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 978-0441018697

In the far distant future, the Alliance and Syndicated worlds have been at war for over a century. Captain John “Black Jack” Geary was in cryogenic sleep for almost that long. Since his fleet successfully evacuated from the system where the Syndicates set a trap, he is regarded as a hero by a war weary public where millions would support him if he chose to be a dictator with the military backing him up. He accepts the post of fleet admiral even though the Ruling Council fears Black Jack.

He asks the authorities that promoted him to give him permission to negotiate with the Syndics, who have lost much of their ships and military; they are in horrific shape. Granted the authority, when he arrives on the home space station of the Syndics, he did not expect the fight of his life. If he wins, they still have a common enemy; an alien race on the other side of the Syndicate space whose strategic plan is to take control of this sector and ultimately the Alliance too. Geary leads a counter insurgence to prevent this Machiavellian scheme from occurring, but he will need Syndic cooperation to succeed.

This is the sixth book in the Black Jack military space opera series and fans of the saga will relish the tale as am entertaining twist occurs. The hero is a terrific leader who understands military and political strategy but also understands he sends soldiers to their death while fat cat council leaders have a different agenda than those on the front line. Readers will enjoy Jack Campbell’s latest Lost Fleet science fiction thriller because like President Eisenhower the hero has a deep regard for life even with his first hand field knowledge that many of his troops will never go home.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 26, 2010

Almost Forever-Deborah Raney

Almost Forever
Deborah Raney
Howard (Simon and Schuster), May 2010
ISBN: 9781416599913

In Hanover Falls on November first, late at night, Bryn Hennesey plays cards with a resident at the homeless shelter, wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran Charlie Branson. Bryn feels guilty because she hasn’t told her husband that she is still volunteering at the shelter even though he does not want her hanging with criminals and addicts.

While they are playing cards, she hears a siren sound in the background, which suddenly gets much louder. It is the fire department coming to put out the fire in the shelter. As they evacuate the building, the firefighters including her husband, Adam, rush into the inferno to insure all the residents are out. After the fire is put out, the building collapses killing several firefighters including the husband of Bryn and Garrett Edmonds' wife Molly. The grieving Garrett turns to Bryn for comfort. The pair realize they have deep feelings for one another but something in her past may cause him to turn his back on her.

Besides being an entertaining novel, the story line is embedded with many moral issues that will have readers reconsider their values as respect and understanding of others are critical in any relationship. Bryn is a wonderful person who volunteers to help the needy at personal cost and risk. The survivor guilt she feels almost cripples her but time and Garrett’s empathy help her heal. Deborah Raney makes her second chance at life work because the audience believes that her lead couple is real.

Harriet Klausner

In Scandal They Wed-Sophie Jordan

In Scandal They Wed
Sophie Jordan
Avon, Mar 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061579219

In 1850 Evie Cross’ half-sister Linnie gives birth to a son out of wedlock. Linnie’s mother wants to dump the bastard and her husband is silent. Evie futily pleads with her father, but persuades her stepmother to allow her to raise the child in rusticated isolation, which destroys her chances for any marriage.

In 1854 in the Crimea, a Russian sniper kills Ian Lockhart. With his final breath, he pleads with his cousin Spencer Lockhart to make it right for his baby; whispering the name Linnie. One year later, Spencer is back in England seeking Linnie and his infant second cousin. However, upon finding her, he never expected a sniper would shoot him at home. Evie takes Spencer into her house after her Aunt Gertie shot him. He thinks she is Linnie and she does not correct him. Out of honor, Spencer proposes; Evie wants to accept as she is attracted to him and sees him as her only hope for marriage, but fears how he will react to the truth.

This is an entertaining Victorian romance starring a strong courageous heroine an honorable hero used to being deceived and a deep support cast. Fast-paced from the opening birthing scene and never slowing down, readers will relish this engaging historical wondering how Spence will react when he learns he offered to marry the wrong woman who is the right women for him.

Harriet Klausner

The True Love Quilting Club-Lori Wilde

The True Love Quilting Club
Lori Wilde
Avon, Apr 13 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061808906

When Emma Parks lived in Twilight, Texas she was called Trixie Lynn Parks. She left town the first chance she got to seek acting fame, but a dozen years later she still is seeking major roles as she kicks gonads refusing to blow them.

She is offered the lead in a production in her hometown. Needing to escape from New York after booting a Broadway director, Emma accepts the role. However, when she and Sam Creek meet, the attraction could light up Texas. Still he is a single dad with responsibility for his six year old son Charlie who has been mute ever since his mom died in Iraq and she still dreams of being a superstar actress. Chemistry needs compromise if this couple is to find consensus in love.

The strong cast makes for a deep warm contemporary romance although the plot has been done many times before. Besides the lead couple, the title club members and Charlie enhance a look at the impact of war on those left behind especially when a loved one dies. Readers will enjoy this Texas romance as Sam knows Charlie’s needs and Emma’s wishes to be an actress come before his heart’s desires.

Harriet Klausner

Stettin Station-David Downing

Stettin Station
David Downing
Soho, May 1 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781569476345

In November 1941 in Berlin, Anglo-American journalist John Russell knows Roosevelt needs an excuse to enter the war as the German armies blitzkrieg towards Moscow. To avoid censorship or worse, Russell is very careful with what he files as he knows it will take little for the Nazis to detain, kill or export him. This would leave his famous girlfriend actress Effi Koenen behind still filming propaganda movies for the Nazis’ whom she and John loath and he also would be unable to help his teenage son Paul, who lives with his former wife while belonging to the Hitler Youth group.

Meanwhile as most Berliners blindly remain loyal to the Nazis, John's Communist friends report the transporting by trains of Jews to the east. Admiral Canaris, head of Abwehr, assigns John on a mission in Prague with a promise of a passage to Switzerland. However, the mission fails, but John tries to send to his contacts that American companies in Europe are profiteering from the war by selling Zyklon B gas to the Nazis.

The third Russell WWII espionage thriller (see Zoo Station and Silesian Station) is a great entry that in many ways is more a superb historical as David Downing captures the essence of Berlin just prior to the American entry into the war. The atmosphere is terrific as the Nazis deploy the Final Solution and attack the Russians while Russell struggles with getting himself and his renowned girlfriend to safety yet not wanting to abandon his son to the Hitler Group nor ignore the sales of poison gas. Readers will feel they are in Berlin in late 1941 as Stettin Station is a timely tale.

Harriet Klausner

A Twist of Orchids-Michelle Wan

A Twist of Orchids

Minotaur, Apr 13 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312549947

In Dordgone, France, English orchid expert Julian Wood and French-Canadian interior designer Mara Dunn love one another but struggle with relational accommodations as both are set in their ways. Especially troublesome to Mara is Julian's obsessive annual hunt for the rare Lady's Slipper orchid.

As the couple struggles with compromise, Kazim, son of Turkish sweet shop bakery owners, sees a woman fall to her death from the balcony of the Two Sisters restaurant. Mara is shocked with her neighbor octogenarian Amelie Gaillard’s dying from what everyone assumes was an accident, but even more shocking is that the victim’s daughter Christine failed to come to the funeral or assist her Parkinson’s ailing dad Joseph with his grief. Soon afterward, Kazim is missing and his parents plead with Julian to search for him. As Mara looks into Galliard family secrets, she finds herself involved with the rhyming thefts while Julian's investigation has him allied with a drug dealer.

The third Death in Dordgone amateur sleuth mystery (see Deadly Slipper and The Orchid Shroud) is an enjoyable dueling investigative tale. The lead couple’s personal issues as a new middle aged couple trying to adapt to living with a lover are amusing though extremely minor especially compared with the deep look at Muslims living in France. Fans of French modern day mysteries will enjoy A Twist of Orchids as neither of the lead couple finds their inquiry as simple as expected; almost as hard as they discover living with another adult.

Harriet Klausner

212-Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke
Harper, Mar 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061561221

NYPD is at the penthouse at 212 Lafayette owned by real-estate tycoon the Sam Sparks. Inside is the corpse Robert Mancini, an employee of the Sam Sparks. Leading the investigation is Detective Ellie Hatcher, who upsets the owner with her shoes on his carpet; the tycoon seems oblivious that his employee has been shot with a zillion or so bullets. Although evidence points towards an escort being with the victim just before he was killed, Hatcher finds that too convenient and looks closer at the Sam without ruling out the missing companion. That upsets her politically devoted bosses.

At the same time Hatcher is warned to stop looking at the Sam, NYU student Megan Gunther receives threatening messages on Campus Juice anonymous website. Her parents ask the police for help, but are told nothing can be done about untraceable creeps who have not broken the law. They are irate that unless something happens to their daughter, the cops will do nothing. They prove prophetic when someone kills Meghan less than twenty-four hours after their police visit although her escort roommate might have been the target. As more corpses are found, Hatcher and her partner J.J. Rogan struggle to end a serial killing spree.

The latest Hatcher police procedural (see (after Dead Connection and Angel’s Tip) is a tense modern day timely thriller that grips the audience from the opening murder scene and never slows down although there is an abundance of bodies. The convoluted story line is loaded with action as the two cops struggle with clues that end or take them in a different direction. Fans will enjoy this deep cautionary tale as Internet stalking is a phenomenon that is difficult to deal with beyond unplugging.

Harriet Klausner

The Bone Thief-Jefferson Bass

The Bone Thief
Jefferson Bass
Morrow, Mar 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061284762

University of Tennessee’s anthropology department chairman and the head of the school’s human decomposition research facility the Body Farm, Dr. Bill Brockton and his grad assistant Miranda Lovelady open a coffin to obtain a sample for a DNA paternity test. However, the remains inside have been desecrated.

The FBI asks Brockton to assist them on ending a lucrative body parts black market operation. He agrees to play the role of a supplier though he remains preoccupied by his last case Bones of Betrayal. At the same time he struggles with an undercover role to end a chop shop, his medical examiner friend Eddie Garcia has been exposed to a dose of radioactivity that has cost him both hands amputated and likely his job unless he takes an illegal underhanded spin with his hope being Brockton.

This is an entertaining Body Farm mystery as the hero is caught in a personal value’s dilemma between helping his friend and ending the black market sales of body parts. This issue comes on top of his inability to move past the betrayal that “murdered” his heart. Although two late shaky spins detract from an otherwise solid undercover tale, forensic fans will enjoy Dr. Brockton’s moral crisis.

Harriet Klausner

A Legacy of Daemons-Camille Bacon-Smith

A Legacy of Daemons
Camille Bacon-Smith
Daw, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406035

They are upscale Philadelphia private investigators specializing in all things supernatural, but that is mostly because the three partners are part of the paranormal community. Brad and Lilly are full blooded daemons of the house of Ariton who live in their spirit form in the second celestial sphere; the one closest to the first sphere which contains earth. Evan Davis is a half-breed son of Brad, an abomination who should not exist, but for now Ariton is staying his hand and will not kill him.

Everyone is shocked when Matt Shields ( who is really a daemon) asks Evan to bid for a box at Sotheby’s. He was a daemon who was forcibly bound to the evil Donne family forced to do their biding. Now that the last Donne is dead he is still bound to the box and can’t leave the earth for home. Inside the box is another daemon who has gone mad from centuries of captivity.. Bound by the contract Evan signed and their Princes of the Host s agreed to. The trio must find the box and free the daemon trapped inside. There are many obstacles and enemies to overcome in order to get the box. Evan remains ignorant how much power he possesses to destroy his adversaries, but makes the wrong move when challenged by the Princes of Ariton and Paimon.

This urban fantasy like its predecessors (see Eye of the Demon and Eyes of the Empress) is loaded with action, but is character driven. Brad to his shock has feelings towards his offspring although he refuses to admit they exist even to him. Evan feels upbeat to learn he is not insane as his differences are due to his legacy not his brain failing him. Lilly and Evan are lovers who make a formidable pair and she is incredibly powerful as is Brad who is part of their “family” unit. Camille Bacon-Smith affirms she is a great fantasist who pioneered the urban fantasy genre.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Either You're in or You're in the Way: Two Brothers, Twelve Months, and One Filmmaking Hell-Ride to Keep a Promise to Their Father

Either You're in or You're in the Way: Two Brothers, Twelve Months, and One Filmmaking Hell-Ride to Keep a Promise to Their Father
Logan Miller, Noah Miller
It (HarperCollins), Mar 30 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780061763175

This often amusing always inspiring memoir is not for everyone as it has stretches of too much detail, but those readers who enjoy a Hollywood success story will be encouraged by the Bros to take a chance on a dream. The biography focuses on the former baseball players’ efforts to keep a deathbed promise they made to each other to make a movie about their late homeless alcoholic father who died in prison. The Miller siblings explain the obstacles to include Mother Nature and getting performers like Ed Harris, who comes across as an honest hard working performer as does the rest of the cast. Although the setbacks seem relatively minor lacking a drama queen or king and not enough discussion on their baseball careers (should have played for the Twins), fans will enjoy the quest of two Bros with no credits to their names or money pulling off the filming of their dad’s life. This will remind readers in some ways of Roger and Me with the starkness to an outsider of Hollywood replacing Flint.

Harriet Klausner

The Birth of Love-Joanna Kavenna

The Birth of Love
Joanna Kavenna
Metropolitan (Holt), Apr 13 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780805091540

"The Moon". In 1865 Vienna, obstetrician Professor Ignaz Semmelweis fails in his efforts to find the fundamental cause of deadly childbed fever though he felt sanitary conditions played a major role. He mentally falls apart from depression as the vision of all the women he failed to save visits him in his mind; leading to an asylum.

"The Empress". In 2009 London, Brigid Hayes is in severe pain from labor as she is about to give birth to her second child.

"The Hermit". Across town from Brigit, failed author Michael Stone finally is published with his work The Moon focusing on Semmelweis. However, he feels overcome with finally making it as a novelist and fearful with what next.

"The Tower". In 2153 prisoners 730004, 730005 and 730006 stand trial for treasonous behavior against the Protectors who enforce ultra sanitary conditions on a near extinct humanity. No one is allowed to do anything against the leaders keeping the species safe from itself.

Although rotating the stories through two cycles is a distracter even as that technique tries to interconnect the stories, the four well written tales are filled with timely symbolism. The book is filled with irony as those who demand less government in people’s lives demand more government in pregnant women’s lives. Each entry is solid and loaded with metaphors leading the audience to ponder the roles of do-gooder outsiders directing what pregnant women can do (past, present and future).

Harriet Klausner

The Season of Second Chances-Diane Meier

The Season of Second Chances
Diane Meier
Holt, Mar 302010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780805090819

Forty-eight years old Columbia University literature professor Joy Harkness leaves the city for a position at Amherst to escape her solitary lifestyle and her dozen years of torture at Morningside Heights for what might prove a fascinating program. She sees herself giving up little for a new start.

Joy euphorically moves to Western Massachusetts where she buys what would be kindly called a fixer upper. She hires much younger handyman Teddy Hennessy to work on her Victorian. As she eludes the campus coyotes, Joy and Teddy begin to date, but his martinet mom objects.

The Season of Scond Chances is an interesting character study of a forlorn academia as the lead jumps at starting over. The ironically named Joy begins to find herself at Amherst because the locals will not allow her space to crawl back into her solitary shell of distrust. Although Teddy’s mom comes across as a stereotype of Mommy Dearest over the top of the Berkshires, readers will appreciate the middle age professor seeking her groove.

Harriet Klausner

Relapse-Nikki Turner

Nikki Turner
One World (Ballantine), Apr. 20 2010, $14.00
ISBN 9780345511058

Her middle class father Sterling raised Beijing Lee as a single parent. However, she visited her mother Willabee and her older sister Paris who Sterling knew lived on the other side of the track and in her dad’s mind they were riding the train the wrong way. He is proven right when ignoring her conscience Paris sells ten year old Beijing to Chimp so she can buy crack. Teenager Mike intrudes on the sale and using a knife kills Chimp before warning Paris to take care of her sister better or else.

Years pass and Beijing has become a hotel concierge insuring the wealthy receive the best treatment. In Vegas, she thinks she may be in love with Lootchee, who treats her nice and gives her luxurious presents. However, he also brings with him a dark side that places Beijing in trouble even as her maternal family causes havoc in her life. However, all hell breaks loose withher life is in danger; Beijing thinks back to her last rescue and knows she could use a hero again just as Mike known as Stash is back.

This is a superb street lit tale that contains a powerful cast especially the heroine within an exciting story line. The tale grips readers immediately when the reader realizes Paris is selling her ten years old sister because the addiction supersedes everything else. That hold on the audience never lets up as her “loved ones” place Beijing in jeopardy while a late rivalry between Lootchee and Stash leave fans wanting more. This is a strong look at surviving the streets where a Relapse is the magnetic pull of your family.

Harriet Klausner

Victor-Julia Templeton

Julia Templeton
Kensington Aphrodisia, Mar 30 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758238160

Widow Lilith Winthrop chaperones her nieces around the London galas. Having suffered from an unfaithful husband who humiliated her all the time, Lilith has no interest in men. That is until she meets the virile younger Victor Rayborne, whose boudoir reputation is stratospheric; just ask his mother.

He persuades her to enter into a tryst with him. As their lovemaking is hot, they begin to fall in love. However when his former mistress makes a bid to get him back, Lilith's doubts after a lifetime with a cheat drives her from her beloved. Even after he professes he loves her, she hesitates so he burns the sheets with his beloved to show he desires her and only her and to eradicate her last doubt as only a Rakehell of Rochester could.

The latest Rakehells of Rochester Regency romance is an engaging historical starring a fascinating lead couple whose older woman premise beings some freshness to the plot. An entertaining tale, Victor’s victory fails to match Sinjinn’s sexy saga partly because fans already know mom caught her three offspring in a brothel. Still though lacking that mother originality, Julia Templeton provides a heated Regency as the younger man uses every seductive ruse he knows in order to live up to his name and win the heart (he has won the body) of the woman he loves.

Harriet Klausner

Lamb Bright Saviors-Robert Vivian

Lamb Bright Saviors
Robert Vivian
Bison Books, Mar 2010, $22.95
ISBN: 9780803213807

Mr. Gene and his assistant young Mady travel across Nebraska preaching the Lord’s word and distributing bibles. However, Mr. Gene takes ill and knows he is dying. He stops at the home of an elderly blind woman while word spreads of the preacher’s imminent demise which leads to many folks arriving.

As he babbles about God, four people are invited to hear his final confession. Each is euphoric with the chance because they seek redemption. Living inside a baseball dugout, Oly prays that one day he will coach school sports. Former convict Yarborough sought revenge against someone who betrayed him, but forgave the person after he took a pound of flesh. Tattooed all over his body, Gus uses body art to display his ire at the world. Finally Iraqi war veteran Munoz carries the head of his brother in arms killed in theater.

This profound character study is a terrific look into the souls of six people seeking redemption; ironically that includes the rambling preacher who believes if he delivers the four strangers to God he will have atoned for his sins. The novella contains a stark Nebraska atmosphere that enhances the story line for those readers will appreciate an austere reflection on the foibles of atoning for one’s life even in death.

Harriet Klausner

The Burying Place-Brian Freeman

The Burying Place
Brian Freeman
Minotaur, Apr 13 2020, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312562748

Although injured from a nasty fall, Duluth, Minnesota Police detective Jonathan Stride continues his investigation into the kidnapping of eleven month old Callie Glenn. Her father is a renowned Grand Rapids, Minnesota orthopedic surgeon Marcus and her mother Valerie were having marital problems that she at least hope the baby would resolve.

Because of the way the abduction occurred, Jonathan strongly believes someone with access to the exclusive waterfront house abducted the infant starting with the father who kicked his long time mistress to the curb and the babysitter whom he might have begun a fling with. Jonathan’s partner, Detective Maggie Bei assists him on his inquiry while leading an investigation on a serial killer. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time leads to rookie cop Kasey Kennedy becoming the psychopath’s latest obsession.

This is an exciting Minnesota police procedural starring several cops with personal issues, but the key is that the two cases remain front and center. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action throughout and a great final spin. Although the convergence of the investigations feels strained, readers still will enjoy this entertaining tale as the hero and company remain In the Dark while they stride down the mean streets of Duluth.

Harriet Klausner

The Hypnotist-M.J. Rose

The Hypnotist
M.J. Rose
Mira, May 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780778326755

FBI's Art Crime Team special agent Lucian Glass continues his pursuit of the Phoenix Foundation's Malachi Samuels. Both adversaries also seek the “Memory Tools” that enable people to look into their past-lives' memories.

A Matisse painting stolen two decades ago from the gallery of Andre Jacobs is sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art ripped to shreds. The slasher warns the museum that four more stolen masterpieces will be destroyed unless MOMA gives to the thief the fifteen century old Hypnos, a sculpture that allegedly can bestow supernatural power to a person. Lucian has never forgotten the theft because his beloved Solange, Andre's daughter, was killed during the heist. As he travels though past lives in ancient Greece and ninetieth century Persia, Lucian is attracted to Andre's niece Emeline, whom the gallery owner raised as his adopted daughter as she reminds him so much of his Solange; too much so.

The latest Reincarnationist tale novel (see The Memorist), The Hypnotist is another great entry in one of the most exhilarating fresh sagas on the market today. The past lives and the present case subplots merge effortlessly into a superb thriller held together by a stunned Lucian.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Summer at Tiffany-Marjorie Hart

Summer at Tiffany
Marjorie Hart
Avon, Mar 30 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9780061189531

In 1945, University of Iowa undergrads Marjorie Hart and Marty Garrett managed to come up with the money to take the train to and from New York; their plan is to spend the summer in the big city though that means finding work. They obtain an apartment for the summer overlooking Columbia and Tiffany's hires both of them as their first female floor sales pages running errands up and down the famous store. The pair wore special blue dresses and rings while searching for celebs like Judy Garland and her husband Vincent Minelli. In the evenings the pair hits the night spots all over town and joined the city in celebrating V-J day.

This is an entertaining somewhat fluffy memoir of what ohmygosh was the best summer of the author’s life as readers see Manhattan through the eyes of two naive teen visitors. Sweeter than the ice cream served at Schrafft's Ice Cream parlor but not as nourishing as the Automat, fans will enjoy Marjorie Hart’s look back with B&W photos to the end of WW II in New York. The year she learned the meaning to the song “How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm After they've seen Paree” (in this case New York).

Harriet Klausner

The Year It Snowed in April-Eva Bottier

The Year It Snowed in April
Eva Bottier
St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar 30 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312360603

In Harlem, his maternal grandparents raised Avery Benjamin Clarke in a protective middle class environs. Although shy by nature he was doing okay obtaining excellent grades at school and was a nice respectful child at home.

Now in 1983, thirteen years old, Avery is stunned when his mother Carla arrives at her parents' brownstone as she abandoned him years ago. She worries that her parents have ruined her son turning him gay with their over protectiveness. She has him visit her at her place where he is introduced to pot, cigarettes, and alcohol. He learns cursing is the most frequently used descriptors and modifiers. Avery takes his lessons with him as he soon gets into fights at school and in the neighborhood and shouts profanity at his caring shocked grandparents. However, his spiral downward has just begun as Carla has a mission to insure her son is straight.

The Year It Snowed in April is a fascinating character study that focuses on negative nurturing as an adult can lead a child down a path of destruction. The story line is driven by the cast especially Avery who goes from encouraged pampered child to abuse victim learning to abuse others. Although so much is dumped on Avery the pile is higher than Morningside Heights, readers will appreciate this tense tale of how a good young person is taught to be ugly.

Harriet Klausner

Family Value-Stephen L. Nelson

Family Value
Stephen L. Nelson
Five Star, May 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148736

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Didonatos and the Marshes live in a two family house at 392 Chestnut Street. Each couple has two young kids living with them. The families get along though each adult has issues as they struggle to make it.

Tony DiDonato cannot find a job as a professor of medieval literature so he is a stay at home dad refurbishing old furniture, which is his passion but will not admit it to himself or his wife as that is blue collar. His wife Laurel is a safety engineer at Jackson Products, Inc, who recently learned of illegal dumping of toxic chemicals by her firm; she was adopted and wants to learn who her biological parents are. Jay Marsh is a lawyer who enjoys doing pro-bono cases representing impoverished clients as he is encouraged by his caring adopted mom; he has no desire to learn who his biological mom is and detests his adopted father for deserting them. His wife Carol is a probation officer trying to help kids in trouble, but though she joined Adult Children of Alcoholics, she still has issues with her late mom the drunk that the house she inherited from her is a constant reminder; soon her work and what is in the basement threaten both families.

This intriguing family drama has too much going on so that none of the four adults or for that matter the four kids appear differently from each other, which in turn detracts from the personal and family crisis that the adults face. Still readers will enjoy watching each character struggle with Family Values as they want to do the right thing professionally and personally for their own sake and for that of their family.

Harriet Klausner

The Captive-Joanne Rock

The Captive
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze, Apr 1 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795383

In 885 in Wessex, Lady Gwendolyn is an independent person. Her nurturing parents educated her to insure she depended on no one but herself. When they died, she is forced to give up learning for embroidery by her guardian as being a lady activity though she is bored by the stitching. Instead she climbs castle walls and runs loose when she can.

In spite of King Alfred’s efforts to keep his Saxon kingdom safe, Norse raiders continually assault Wessex. During one of these forays, Norse chieftain Wulf Giersson spots and captures Gwendolyn. Her élan for life grips him as no woman has before and he vows to make the wildcat his. However, as her Saxon countrymen mount a rescue attempt and another Norse raider wants her, Wulf soon learns who the captive in his relationship with Lady Gwendolyn is.

This is a great Blazing Dark Ages romance starring two strong protagonists and a powerful support cast in pursuit. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Wulf sees Gwendolyn and never slows down until the final confrontations. Readers will be held captive by Joanne Rock’s superb historical.

Harriet Klausner

The Drifter-Kate Hoffmann

The Drifter
Kate Hoffmann
Harlequin Blaze, Apr 1 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795369

Outdoors journalist Charles Templeton left behind the only woman who meant anything to him Eve Kellter when he chose to follow his dreams of climbing seven continents rather than theirs. For the most part he has not looked back to Boulder where she lives, but occasionally late at night he feels regret for what he gave up.

He is coming to Boulder to lecture and begins to think increasingly of spending time with Eve as his life has proven exciting yet somehow empty especially when he muses is that all there is. When he goes to see her, he realizes the error of his ways and vows to rectify the mistake of a lifetime. However, Eve rejects him as she distrusts him to ever stay; believing instead wanderlust and not her is in his heart.

Although the theme has been used quite often, the strong lead couple make for a fun contemporary romance mindful of The Goodbye Girl but without the child or the humor. Fans will enjoy The Drifter as Charles wonders what to do to persuade Eve she is his great adventure.

Harriet Klausner

The Other Side of the Door-Nicci French

The Other Side of the Door
Nicci French
Minotaur, May 11 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780312375409

In London band singer Bonnie is stunned to find her secret boyfriend, another band member Hayden lying dead inside of his apartment. Panicking, Bonnie hides the corpse, cleans up the crime scene and erases any traces of her ever being there. She conceals she was ever intimate with Hayden because the police will know she had opportunity and her probable motive being Hayden's other women.

Afterward, as she reflects back as to what she did, Bonnie realizes the police will still look her way. However, she also begins to think lucidly about the crime scene and concludes someone else cleansed their traces from the pad.

This is an excellent crime caper as Bonnie looks back from the moment she found the body in a way that makes the audience assume she actually might have killed the victim. The story line grips the reader who will not want to put it down in order to find out did she kille him or not. Although amnesia is not part of the plot, The Other Side of the Door will remind readers of Memento with its look back. The strong support cast enhances an intriguing thriller starring a beleaguered abused heroine as the Nicci French writing duet provides a terrific winner.

Harriet Klausner

The End Game-Gerrie Ferris Finger

The End Game
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Minotaur, Apr 27 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312611552

It was supposed to be a weekend of loving and relaxing for Lieutenant Richard Lake of the Atlanta Police department and his beloved former partner Mariah Dru, owner of Child Trace, Inc., an organization dedicated to finding and rescuing missing children. However, Lieutenant Portia Devon interrupts their time alone because a fire in Cabbagetown killed Mr. and Mrs. Barnes and their foster children Jessie and Dottie are missing.

When Lake and Dru reach the neighborhood they discover a child went missing three and a half years ago and another vanished eight years ago. While they talk to the neighbors the Barnes’ house blows p because someone planted two bombs in it.. An internet tip leads the lovers to believe that the girls were snatched to be sold to a buyer with special tastes. Time is running out on the pair of girls who are cargo being shipped overseas.

Cabbagetown is an interesting neighborhood filled with fascinating characters; of whom two know a lot more than they are willing to say to authorities. If either spoke up, the attempts to kill Dru and Lake would not have happened and the girls could have been rescued within twenty-four hours of the fire. With a timely topic of the sale of sexual slaves including children in a lucrative illegal business, the lead couple is an admirable pair as they risk all to save the kids.

Harriet Klausner

2 in the Hat-Raffi Yessayan

2 in the Hat
Raffi Yessayan
Ballantine, Apr 13 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345502636

In Franklin Park, Boston police detective Angel Alves is coaching a youth football team when one his players finds a dead woman dressed in an expensive dress. After calming down the kids Angel looks around and finds a dead male wearing a tuxedo. Each is posed to match the M.O. of the Prom Night Killer, who had been quiet for so long, the police assumed he died or was inactivated in some way such as being locked up at a prison for some other crime. This serial killer case was ice cold until now.

Angel’s retired former boss Police Sergeant Wayne Mooney led the original inquiry into the Prom Night Killer murders. He provides information to Angel that eliminates the possibilty of a copycat. Mooney wants back in as he never felt good about the case remaining unsolved and is brought on as a “consultant”. Soon the pair follows leads in hope to end a psychopath's apparent second reign of terror.

This is an exciting over the top of the Green Monster serial killer police procedural. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the corpses are found and never slows down until the final spin. Fans who can ignore plausibility will want to read Alves’ second serial killer case (see 8 in the Box.).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Looking for a Love Story-Louise Shaffer

Looking for a Love Story
Louise Shaffer
Ballantine, Apr 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345502100

In Manhattan Francesca's first novel Love requires that she take a photograph by highly regarded photographer Jake Morris. They are in immediate lust followed almost immediately with a tryst in his nearby apartment. Before he returns to work he suggests they meet to marry.

Several years later, Jake divorced Francesca and has since remarried and moved to California. Adrift Francesca got their dog Annie and loneliness. Francesca meets octogenarian Chicky, who asks her to write the real love story, a biography of her Vaudeville parents Joe and Ellie. Needing to feed her and Annie, she accepts the writing memoir although she wishes her client would stop calling her Baby Doll. However, as she learns of the unlikely love story of Joe and Ellie friends for life, Francesca introspectively reflects on her own life, that of her parents and of her relationship with Jake. Her musing has her begin to move on as she struggles to find a publisher for the love story memoir she wrote.

Looking for a Love Story is an entertaining whimsical chick lit tale starring a delightfully flawed lead protagonist. Francesca is terrific as she learns so much about what makes a relationship work with the realization her best friend is Annie. The support cast enhances the complexities of the modern world as relationships are not linear but a series of interconnecting waves. Readers who enjoy a thought-provoking character study will appreciate Francesca seeking her groove, as she begins to understand thanks to Joe and Ellie the key ingredient that any relational groove requires.

Harriet Klausner

Dead in the Water-Meredith Cole

Dead in the Water
Meredith Cole
Minotaur, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312625047

She is an artist to the depth of her soul, taking first class photographs that she hopes will give her the name recognition she needs to make a living doing what she loves and enabling her to quit her day job. Lydia Mackenzie works in the office of private investigators Leo and Frankie D’Angelo. In her free time she takes photos of prostitutes working the waterfront capturing their emotions on film.

Her favorite model is Gloria; the hooker calls Lydia for help, but her answering machine picks up the plea. At the park in Williamsburg Lydia finds Gloria’s body, an obvious homicide victim. Feeling guilty that she failed to take the call, Lydia investigates. Over the next few days more prostitutes are murdered and a husband to a D’Angelos cousin. It is as if a Jack the Ripper was working Brooklyn. Lydia continues to dig but soon finds herself in danger from the last person she would suspect as she thought that gentle individual would not hurt a fly.

Dead in the Water looks deeply into the free trade life of prostitution especially their private side and how they cope with their pimps who demand they make money for or else. It is heartwarming though doubtful to watch the hookers gather together as a group The Golden Horseshoe to watch each other’s back. The heroine has some investigative skills and a desire for justice, which in combo leaves her vulnerable from a serial killer who will not mind at all adding an obit on a wannabe photographer.

Harriet Klausner

The Singer's Gun-Emily St. John Mandel

The Singer's Gun
Emily St. John Mandel
Unbridled, May 4 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9781936071647

In Manhattan Anton Waker knows he has come a long way from his days as a forger of documents although to do so he must distance himself from his family who deal in illegal activities. He is a water systems consultant in demand, has a pretty wife and an office romance on the side.

However, his past that he prefers to pretend never happened resurfaces when a routine background check proves his Harvard diploma hanging on his office wall is forged. Adding to his trepidation that life as he knows it and enjoys is over is his cousin, Aria Waker, who sells forged passports and social security cards to illegals. She demands Anton use his excellent forgery skill in what should prove a quite lucrative venture. However, a fourth woman enters his life and frightens him more than his relatives. State Department Agent Alexandra Broden is investigating a forgery ring in which she is almost ready to make arrests starting with the extended Waker brood but has not figured out Anton’s role nor that of his secretary Elena with her Arctic secrets.

This is an interesting crime caper that takes the audience to Brooklyn, Arctic Canada and Italy as an obsessed Fed goes after a family criminal ring. Overall the story line is fast-paced and contains an intriguing cast. However, too many flashbacks that explain what makes the key players (especially Anton, Broden and Elena) tick detracts from the pacing as it feels disruptive. Still this is an entertaining cross Atlantic thriller.

Harriet Klausner