Friday, December 31, 2010

Marrying Daisy Bellamy-Susan Wiggs

Marrying Daisy Bellamy
Susan Wiggs
Mira, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778329251

In Avalon, New York, wedding photographer Daisy Bellamy continues, as she has for years, strugglling to choose between two wonderful men who love her. She adores both hunks. Julian Gastineau could never live by Willow Lake while Logan O’Donnell could.

However, everything changes between the trio when Daisy gives birth to Logan’s offspring Charlie. Yet nothing changes as in spite of having a child with a man who wants to raise a family with her, Daisy still has wet dreams involving Julian. She knows one day she will have to select between two lovers; one safe and nurturing while the other is wild and carefree.

The latest Lakeshore Chronicles (see Snowfall at Willow Lake and Summer at Willow Lake) is a profound character study that looks deeply into the souls of three protagonists. Daisy understands responsibility but desires running around the world as a crisis photojournalist. Julian offers her the freedom to soar anywhere; Logan offers her a safe haven to raise their child. Readers will enjoy this complicated relationship drama summed up by the Roy Orbison and Joe Melson song Running Scared.

Harriet Klausner

Off Kilter-Donna Kauffman

Off Kilter
Donna Kauffman
Kensington Brava, Dec 28 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758250896

On the Scottish island of Kinloch (see Some Like It Scot) businessman Roan McAuley cannot understand why he agreed to pose in the monty as he must drop his kilt for the 'Men of the Highlands' calendar even if the cause is worthy; he muses that he should have donated money not nudity. Adding to his displeasure is the irritating iceberg photographer Tessa Vandergriff who he assumes is a centerfold fluff taker until he learns she is a highly regarded award-winning war coverage photojournalist who volunteered her time to raise money.

Tessa suffers from post traumatic stress disorder from the cruelty she witnessed while covering war. She thinks Roan is a jerk until he shows his caring other side to her. As they fall in love, although he has personal issues too, she must overcome her fear of death that began as a child and affirmed as an adult if they are to forge a permanent relationship.

The romance plays second fiddle to the strong character study of a shell-socked woman healing due to the patience of a kind hearted man. Readers will enjoy the relationship drama as first impressions prove false as Roan revises his re the cold photographer and Tess alters her re the philandering hunk.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets and Shadows-Shannon Delany

Secrets and Shadows
Shannon Delany
St. Martin’s Griffin, Feb 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312609153

Jessie Gillmansen struggles to adapt to all she has recently learned about what she thought was were beings from horror movies and novels being real. This new reality occurred when she discovered werewolves exist. She and Pietr Ruskova are apparently a mated pair but she has no time to pursue what that means as she has bigger issues than howling male hunks to contend with.

Jessie tries to negotiate a deal between the Ruskova werewolf pack and the CIA. Her efforts seem futile, as progress is snail slow. However, she is taken aback when Pietr begins behaving as if he no longer wants her. Not one to be left out in the cold, Jessie debates whether to give Pietr one more chance or turn to Derek. She is soon in danger when the CIA apparently betrays her with only one male protecting her.

This is an engaging fast-paced young adult werewolf urban fantasy starring a heroine who has come a long way since entering Pietr’s world (see 13 to Life). Though with all that has happened to her readers would expect a besieged Jessie to show more moxie rather than the Perils of Pauline. Yet she still holds the entertaining tale together as she feels pulled from all sides with no one to turn to while dealing with agents, beasts and a boyfriend.

Harriet Klausner

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter-Jana G. Oliver

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter
Jana G. Oliver
St. Martin’s, Feb 1 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312614782

In 2018, Atlanta is like much of the country and the world in economic ruin. The residents follow the Golden Rule of do unto your neighbor before they do unto to you as survival is the only game in town. Adding to the misery index is Lucifer’s demonic minions are everywhere causing pain and suffering.

Seventeen years old Riley Blackthorne understands how miserable life has become. Her mother died from cancer while she and her dad Paul owe so much they have no chance of escaping their debts. However, like her father, Riley becomes a demon trapper joining the guild as an apprentice (while also attending school); as a way of bringing in income though from her hard childhood she always wanted to join her dad on the job. However, when a demon kills him, she has no choice but to keep working handling Grade One demons. However a Grade Five hellish killer attacks her as Lucifer targets Riley when she is most vulnerable while she grieves her loss.

This is a great opening urban fantasy as Jane G. Oliver deftly blends the creation of her mythos with non-stop action. The fast-paced story line starts at an incredible pace and never decelerates as the armchair audience needs to wear seatbelts. However, even with this faster than light speed, Atlanta and the heroine are fully developed while the support cast (a peer she romantically likes, her father, other trappers and demons) enhance the setting or the star. Readers will enjoy a joy ride around Atlanta escorted by The Demon Trapper’s Daughter.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss At Your Own Risk-Stephanie Rowe

Kiss At Your Own Risk
Stephanie Rowe
Sourcebooks, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402241956

It is one week and counting before Trinity Harpswell will finally break the Black Widow Curse. Nothing will stand in her way as she feels a sense of relief with the countdown occurring.

Blaine Underhill and three friends (Nigel, Jarvis and Christian have been tortured in the Den of Womanly Pursuits by Death’s evil Granny Angelica the witch for a century and a half. They escape, but Christian fails to get away as his lover betrayed him to the malevolent witch. Believing the motto no comrade left behind and fearing the level of torture Christian will face, Blaine wants to mount a rescue, but he knows for him and his comrades that is suicide. They turn to Trinity to balance the odds. Trinity wants to say no as this is a bad time for her; worse she is attracted to Blaine, which she knows activates the curse that leads to her murdering her beloved and joining Angelica on the dark side; that is if she doesn’t kill the evil witch too.

The first Soulfire jocular urban fantasy is an over top satire that hilariously lampoons the sub-genre (including Stephanie Rowe’s own comedic Goblet of Eternal Youth tales – you will never look at a pretzel the same way) with amazing cross-breeding species, killing star-crossed lovers and trained killer warriors relaxing with knitting. Fast-paced readers who appreciate humorous urban fantasy will know already Ms. Rowe is one of the best as affirmed by her latest tale of love and misdeed.

Harriet Klausner


Kristen Britain
Daw, Feb 1 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756406608

On the surface Sacoridia seems like a powerful country ruled by the just benign King Zachary. However, appearances can be deceiving because there is danger from within and without. To the north in the lands not occupied by Sacoridian troops, descendants of Arcosia led by Mornhavon the Black invade as a first step in preparation for their war on Sacoridia. They now call themselves Second Empire.

The D’Yer wall has been breached, enabling the evil denizens from primordial Blackveil Forest to enter Sacoridian. Before the Long War Blackveil was once known as Argenthyne, home to the immortal Eletians who now live in Eletia. Besides kingdom headaches, Zachary and Green Rider messenger Karigan G’ladheon love each other, but know they have no future as he must marry his betrothed Lady Estora out of duty to his county.

Six Eletians want to return to the Blackveil to see their former home. Zachary wants six Sacoridians to accompany them; Karigan is one of the chosen. The Eletians are on the same mission that Second Empire is on; it will be a disaster if their leader Grandmother prevails. Meanwhile the King is poisoned and a conspiracy begins by someone close the throne.

The latest Kariagan epic fantasy (see Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb) is a terrific entry loaded with subplots that provide the reader with both the big picture of the world of Kristin Britain and the small scale happenings that impact the larger scope. The key to this grand epic is the movement back and forth between the Second Empire threat, the Eletians, the danger to the Sacoridians in Blackveil and to the king is done smoothly although few of the subplots are completed. With a strong diverse cast (a trademark of Ms. Britain), fans will welcome the return to Sacoridia as the focus is on evil oozing Blackveil.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 30, 2010

After Dark with a Scoundrel-Alexandra Hawkins

After Dark with a Scoundrel
Alexandra Hawkins
St. Martin’s, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312381264

In 1823 Lord Hugh “Dare” Mordare, the second son of a Duke, is a close friend of Frost Bishop. Through him he has known Frost’s sister Lady Regan for years, who is an honorary member of Nox’s Gentlemen’s Club. All changes when Dare and Regan kiss as both are stunned by their reaction; that is far from sibling-like.

She is shipped off to Miss Swann’s Academy for Young Ladies boarding school while he returns to being a rogue. Five years later Regan comes back to London with plans to drive Frost crazy and to seduce Dare. Frost is ready to pull his hair out with his sister’s antics while Dare remains resolute to keep Regan away from the Lords of Vice like he is. However, she proves a worthy adversary and soon they marry. As she learns of his dark secrets, she finds herself in the midst of madness.

The latest Lords of Vice (see Till Dawn with a Devil and All Night with a Rogue) is an engaging Regency gothic romantic suspense as the brave heroine finds herself in peril; perhaps from the man she loves. Fast-paced from the moment they kiss even before she is exiled, After Dark with a Scoundrel grips the reader as Alexandra Hawkins’ fans will think of Hitchcock’s Suspicion placed in an early nineteenth century milieu.

Harriet Klausner

Absolutely, Positively-Heather Webber

Absolutely, Positively
Heather Webber
St. Martin's, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946159

Lucy Valentine knows she is the odd duck in her family as everyone else has the ability to play Cupid matching people up. Her talent is to find lost things. Lucy’s current task is to locate a man who may be near death if he even still lives and to find a former criminal for a client of her family’s firm Lost Loves.

Lucy and her private investigator boyfriend Sean Donahue work on both cases. However, their efforts are turned complicated by the masked Lone Ranger who at the Commons throws money into the air before vanishing. As Lucy and Sean conduct inquiries, she has an attraction to the masked hombre until she suffers a horrifying vision of her boyfriend lying lifeless on the street.

No one will care that the third Valentine tale is similar in tone to Truly, Madly and Deeply but, Kemo Sabe brings freshness to the mix. Though over the Green Monster yet filled with quirky family humor and a touch of the paranormal readers will Absolutely, Positively find Lucy’s latest bodacious Boston brouhaha desperately zany yet truly scrumptious.

Harriet Klausner

Heartbeat Away -Michael Palmer

Heartbeat Away
Michael Palmer
St. Martin's, Feb 2011, $27.99
ISBN 9780312587529

American President James Allaire begins the annual State of the Union address. Small containers explode releasing a viral WRX3883. Over seven hundred people inside the House Chamber are infected by the toxin. The impact is disastrous as those hurt include the President, leaders of Congress, the Vice President, the Supreme Court judges, and cabinet leaders. Allaire takes charge of inside the chamber, locking it down.

The Director of the Department of Homeland Security is the selected “survivor” who remained in Minnesota during the calamitous speech. He is the leading government official outside of the quarantine zone. As the country seeks a cure for the infections disease, a domestic terrorist group Genesis on the “Fourth Day” demands the repeal of the Patriot Act and the end of surveillance on Americans or further terrorist acts will follow. Allaire led the WRX3883 virus development team and knows who he must turn to for help. Virologist Griffin Rhodes who is designated as a terrorist under the Patriot Act was placed in solitary confinement although he has no idea why he was locked away in a maximum federal pen.

Though over the top of the Capital Building as the Genesis motive along with their insiders seem inane for even an extreme group, Heartbeat Away is an exciting action-packed biological terrorist thriller. Fast-paced, readers who can ignore the plausibility of key events and linear characterizations will enjoy Michael Palmer’s entertaining State of the Union.

Harriet Klausner

I Dream of Genies-Judi Fennell

I Dream of Genies
Judi Fennell
Sourcebooks, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402241895

Her three thousand year anniversary of confinement is arriving soon with no end in sight. Eden has begun feeling more than just claustrophobic living inside a bottle for almost two millennia though her abode is quite comfortable. Her problem is watching the hunk run past her everyday from the window of Murphy’s Antiques as she wants him with an uncontrollable lust.

Matt Ewing is a nice person who believes his perfect brother has all the Luck of the Irish; whereas Matt, irritated by the comparison, lives under a dark cloud. Eden wishes to escape at the same Matt wishes his luck changed. When she lands in his lap unconscious, he thanks the Lord for dropping the lovely miracle on him and considers receiving her with a kiss. However, he soon believes his luck remains twisted; as the woman he now cherishes turns out to be the world’s most incompetent genie, but in his mind the world’s greatest lover.

I Dream of Genies is a terrific romantic fantasy that pays homage to the TV show that made belly buttons in NASA. The story line is brisk lighthearted fun with seemingly incompetent boobs as the lead couple who prove that a minus times a minus equals a positive. The support cast (including her BFF Wilson the tree outside named after a stowaway volleyball) adds to the endearing romantic comedy.

Harriet Klausner

Taken-Lilith Saintcrow

Lilith Saintcrow
Harlequin Nocturne, Jan 18 2011, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618538

In Jericho City, Sophie Wilson is a free woman though her abusive ex husband Mark still refuses to accept the divorce as he stalks her. Her BFF Lucy persuades her to go to a club. However, something kills Lucy and forces Sophie on the run with vampires pursuing her. She fears her fate will be like that of her murdered friend until the Carcajou shapeshifting werewolves take the purebred human under their protection; keeping her safe from the blood sucking Upir who killed Lucy.

The Carcajou believes Sophie is their shaman who will save them from becoming wild animals. One of the pack members Zach realizes Sophie is his life mate. He vows to keep her safe. Meanwhile the vampires dispatch a new convert to kill her; he was chosen because he knows Sophie’s weaknesses being her abusive former husband who manipulated her vulnerabilities.

Readers will be taken into the exciting world of Lilith Saintcrow with this fast-paced urban romantic fantasy. The story line is non stop action from the murder of Lucy until the final anticipated confrontation. Although the plot is somewhat linear, readers will appreciate the transformation of Sophie.

Harriet Klausner

Vampire Sheikh-Nina Bruhns

Vampire Sheikh
Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Nocturne, Jan 18 2011, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618521

With her two sisters missing Gemma (see Shadow of the Sheikh) and Gillian (see Lord of the Desert), a desperate Josslyn Haliday charges into the last known place they were seen, the underground stronghold Khepesh. This is the bastion of vampiric demi-god Seth-Aziz.

When she meets Seth-Aziz, she offers herself up in exchange for the freedom of her siblings. He finds her amusing as if she could just walk away if he says no. However, he is bewildered by the strength of character she shows as humans normally fear him, but she shows no trepidation though she trembles at his touch. Meanwhile Joss is confused by her attraction to the beast who she knows took her siblings. When rival vampire demigod Haru-Re abducts the pair, Seth-Aziz admits to Joss he has fallen in love with her.

Though somewhat similar in tone to the previous Immortal Sheikhs vs. the Haliday sisters, the third desert romantic fantasy is loaded with action, sexual and otherwise, as Joss takes on Seth in a paranormal gender war. Fast-paced throughout, readers will enjoy the final tale of modern day Americans taking the respective hearts of Ancient Egyptians.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Every Little Thing-Pamela Klaffke

Every Little Thing
Pamela Klaffke
Mira, Jan 18 2011, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778329237

In San Francisco, although she loved her mom Britt dearly, Mason McDonald knows her notorious late mother’s scandalous newspaper column was a constant source of embarrassment. Still in spite of feeling abashed, she knows she will miss her beloved mom who left everything to her cherished daughter.

Mason goes home to attend her mom’s funeral and grieve her loss. However, her two stepbrothers Aaron and Edgar, who were part of her early childhood in Sonoma when their dad married her mom, want to renew their acquaintance with her. Instead of mourning her mom’s death, Mason inadvertently steps into her shoes as the step-siblings’ actions lead her into a scandalous fiasco that probably has Britt the “scandal whore” smiling at her daughter. However, they also have a more significant second order effect when she vows to take charge of her life just like her mom did.

Every Little Thing is a big thing entertaining chick lit tale starring a somewhat caustic pathetic woman finding herself when she steps into her late larger than life mom’s high heels. In many ways the deceased Britt brings the freshness with her loved ones looking back at her crude, rude and lewd lifestyle; a sort of outrageous Auntie Mame. Readers will enjoy Mason seeking her groove as she begins to believe scandal is just another gene in her DNA makeup.

Harriet Klausner

Turn Up The Heat-Isabel Sharpe

Turn Up The Heat
Isabel Sharpe
Harlequin Blaze, Jan 18 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795994

In Milwaukee Event planner Candy Graham has enough trying to make it in her chosen vocation so has no time for her former boyfriend Chuck’s crap. In spite of their dating for five years, she hangs up on him. Her three BFFs at a Women in Power lunch insist she needs to date again.

Not wanting to be alone on Valentine’s Day, Candy signs up on her friend Marie’s, a dating website. She creates four profiles emphasizing a different aspect of her personality. Reporter Justin Case believes the four profiles add up to a con artist. He asks her out planning to expose her. Instead he falls in love with the complete Candy who reciprocates Justin’s deep feelings.

This is a warm romantic comedy that in spite of the internet matchmaking has a throwback quality to the amusing 1930s Cary Grant movies. The jocular story line is filled with and thruway puns as this sharp tale in deed turns up the humor and heat for Valentine’s Day in Wisconsin or wherever the reader is.

Harriet Klausner

The Wild Card-Rhonda Nelson

The Wild Card
Rhonda Nelson
Harlequin Blaze, Jan 18 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795987

He says goodbye while playing poker with his mom while she dies and tells him her final wishes., Seth McCutcheon leaves the military he loves to be there for his abandoned sister and nephew. He obtains a job at Ranger Security providing personal protection.

On his first assignment he masquerades as a boy friend to Atlanta based wedding planner Penelope Hart in order to protect Orlando Mustangs football player Trent McWilliams from a stalker who has threatened to wreck the star quarterback’s wedding ceremony to Nella Francis. He obviously does not want to be here, but he made that death bed pledge and vows to do the new job right. However, his biggest fear starts with the photo of his “girl friend” he has not yet met.

Seth and Penelope are instantly attracted to one another though each understands their feelings must not interfere with the mission. However, though both comprehend the rule of taking care of the client first, each has a problem keeping their hands to themselves as love blossoms between them.

This is an entertaining family drama that starts off with the gripping scene of Seth and his mom playing cards. The support cast especially his family, her partner and the wedding party (and crasher) enhances a fun tale. Although the romance is slow to boil, that enhances the relationship as the audience will believe in the attraction between the wedding planner and the security specialist.

Harriet Klausner

Officer Daddy-Jacqueline Diamond

Officer Daddy
Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American, Feb 1 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753482

In Safe Harbor, divorced Dr. Nora Kendall and police officer Leo Franco meet at his brother’s wedding. He assumes she is high maintenance, which he loathes in a woman, and she has doubts about any man even the best man after her ratty ex Reese dumped her for a younger model. Still they share a great night after the ceremony.

However, she concludes he would be a keeper except he is not ready for a long term relationship. Nora files Leo away as a wonderful one night. However, the obstetrician is pregnant carrying Leo’s child. He admits he is attracted to her, but not ready to commit to a family. Besides, he spends all his energy on obtaining a promotion at work. Nora goes back to her first assessment of Leo that he rejects commitment; yet he wants to be a responsible daddy.

This is an engaging Safe Harbor Medical contemporary romance (His Hired Baby and The Holiday Triplets) starring a wonderful doctor and a respectable ambitious cop. Although the story line contains too many subplots with some not needed, the prime theme is a charmer as he goes from commitment phobia to desperate to get his beloved to commit. Even with a too quick sudden wrap up, fans will enjoy this fun tale.

Harriet Klausner

His Valentine Surprise-Tanya Michaels

His Valentine Surprise
Tanya Michaels
Harlequin American, Feb 1 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753475

In Braeden, North Carolina widower Mark Hathaway’s six year old daughter Vicki wants a mommy by Valentine’s Day. She is angry at Santa, as he recently failed her when she asked him at the mall for a mommy for Christmas. She knows her dad will not pursue dating so she must act to achieve her objective. Her eleven year old cousin Bobby suggests they find someone to date his uncle. Using her Aunt Dee’s computer, Vicki sends an email to all the members of the Woodside Elementary School PTA asking for someone to date her father on Valentine’s Day.

Mark is upset and humiliated by his daughter’s email. He feels it is hard enough being a single dad. The principal Shay Morgan finds the incident humorous. She informs Mark that he needs to spend some quality time with his precocious offspring. At the Up A Creek store Mark manages, owner Bennett Coleridge informs him he may close it if profits fail to increase; he also offers Mark a position in his more successful Colorado store. Besieged on all sides, Mark knows the worst of all is falling in love with the principal.

This is a fun amusing Valentine contemporary romance with a solid cast anchored by a lead couple with professional and personal issues that seemingly will keep them apart. The story line is brisk and jocular as Vicki makes the tale with her obsession that surface with the first line when she says she hates Santa. Although she is too precocious, fans will not care as the little matchmaker works on obtaining a mommy for Valentine’s Day.

Harriet Klausner

Delirious-Daniel Palmer

Daniel Palmer
Kensington, Jan 25 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9780758246646

In Massachusetts, software engineer Charlie Giles, who works at SoluCent, develops InVision, a quantum technical leap ahead in automobile entertainment systems. Charlie is excited as the firm’s top management arranges to meet with General Motors on a deal to standardize InVision in their cars.

However, he is stunned when a SoluCent employee Anne Pedersen informs Charlie that his boss Jerry Schmidt will nix the GM deal. Fuming and out of control, Giles crashes into an executive meeting where he confronts Schmidt. Thinking his employee is insane; Schmidt insists he supports the deal with GM. Giles apologizes but explains marketing employee Anne Pedersen fed him the crap. Charlie is shocked when he learns no Pederson works for the firm. In spite of his creative skills, he is fired. Meanwhile Giles fears he suffers from mental illness just like his father and brother. His trepidation being besieged by his failing mind is further exasperated when he finds a note written by him naming those SoluCent executives who must die. He wonders if he needs to join his sibling in a ward lock up before he hurts someone; that is if has hasn’t already.

This is a super psychological thriller that enables the reader to get inside the apparent sick mind of a brilliant technician who fears he has become as Delirious as his family and ergo a dangerous threat to others. The story line focuses on Giles’ deteriorating mental state leaving the audience to wonder what is real and what did he imagine as real. Although the climax is a major let down for such an otherwise strong thriller, mindful of the Hoffman movie Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? fans will appreciate Daniel Palmer’s exciting spotlight on mental health.

Harriet Klausner

Much Fall of Blood-Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer

Much Fall of Blood
Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer
Baen, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439134160

The Byzantine Empire shuts down the trading route between the Mediterranean and the east by closing the Dardanelles. Golden Horde leader Jagiellon invites the western states to use a Roman land route. Accepting the invitation, Prince Manfred with his bodyguard Eric of Iceland leads diplomats from the Holy Roman Empire and the Venetian city-state to meet the Golden Horde leader. On the trip they encounter exiled Khan Mongol and his warrior sister Bortai.

Countess Elizabeth Bathody pretends to befriend Prince Vlad of Valhalia after liberating him from his incarceration by King Emeric of Hungary. However, when the opportunity is right, she plans to use his blood to enhance her already vigorous demonic power and as bait to capture the inhuman beasts lurking nearby. Instead these werewolves enable Vlad to escape from the malevolent female who he rejects as evil. Vlad and his dragoons unite with Manfred and his Knights of the Holy Trinity, and Bortai and her Mongol horde to fight Jagiellon and his Golden Horde; while immoral Hungarian King Emeric and his magical forces wait to take out the winner. The demon god Chernobog encourages deadly chaos with the only hope for Manfred and his allies rests with blood magic that Vlad fears though is enticed.

The third Heirs of Alexandria alternate historical fantasy (see The Shadow of the Lion and This Rough Magic) is a terrific entry as humor and romance enhance the magic and military prime themes. The story line is fast-paced with multiple subplots that deftly come together over the course of the tale although to much good luck happenchance on the hero’s side as the continent seems very small detracts from an overall fine entry in a wonderful saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To Serve a King -Donna Russo Morin

To Serve a King
Donna Russo Morin
Kensington, Feb 25 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780758246813

In the sixteenth century, King Francis I of France killed the parents of Genevieve Gravois. Her acrimonious aunt raised the orphan with one thought: how to hate the monarch across the Channel. She loathes the French ruler, which fuels her thirst for vengeance by training in male activities like using a bow.

King Henry VIII of England believes the girl is a perfect tool to assassinate a rival across the Channel. He encourages her to be the best agent and she swears her loyalty to her liege. Believing the time is right, he sends his top trained spy to France to preferably kill his royal rival or if that is not possible to provide valuable information to the English ruler. However, instead of an amoral despot, Genevieve, who obtains a position as maid of honor to the royal mistress Anne de Pisseleau, finds the French king honest, fair and pushing the renaissance across a court filled with art and artists. The king feels the Renaissance movement will be good for all of Ftamce. The English spy feels a dilemma as the king she pledged loyalty to turns out to be an immoral beast while the king she vowed to murder is a benign ruler.

This is a fascinating look at a rarely seen Tudor rival, King Francis (Francois) of France who pushes the Renaissance to enlighten France. The glimpse at his court is refreshing as sixteenth century focus is normally on the Tudor monarchs (see Robin Maxwell’s Mademoiselle Boleyn). However, Genevieve’s conflict between royals is not on a par with the French court background; as the King of France comes across as a heroic enlightened ruler while the King of England comes across as a villainous avarice despot.

Harriet Klausner

Pride and Pleasure-Sylvia Day

Pride and Pleasure
Sylvia Day
Kensington Brava, Jan 25 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9780758231727

Eliza Martin prefers staying on the shelf rather than marrying some bonehead only interested in her money. In fact the heiress prefers rusticating alone than partying with the Ton. However, her guardian uncle keeps introducing Eliza to suitable suitors who want to control her fortune. She keeps rejecting these fortune hunters.

Recently Eliza has been a victim of a series of accidents that the intelligent woman suspects is not coincidental. She hires thief-taker Jasper Bond to go undercover as another suitor in order to protect her and to expose who she is trying to harm her and why. She is attracted to her bodyguard, but believes he is too big and handsome for her. Jasper conceals he is another member of the Ton wanting her though he wants to steal her heart not her money.

This is an exciting Regency romantic suspense as the lead couple falls in love as they investigate the incidents. Fast-paced, Jasper tries to never ignore his client’s safety while also hoping to win her love. Although the motive for the accidents seems preposterous, readers will enjoy Pride and Pleasure as the hero not only vows to keep his beloved safe, but overcome her prejudice towards him.

Harriet Klausner

Wild Man Creek-Robyn Carr

Wild Man Creek
Robyn Carr
Mira, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778329312

The helicopter crash left Colin Riordan severely injured. While his body heals, he paints wildlife scenes to help his mind mend too. Seeking inspiration he wanders onto property rented by public relations expert Jillian Matlock, who is also healing but her pain is from a broken heart and a probable second order effect of a broken career. To heal, she is working a garden.

Jillian and Colin are attracted to each other and agree to a tryst while they heal in Virgin River. Once either returns to their previous world, the affair is over. However, as they spend time together each learns the answer to How To Mend a Broken Heart (Bee Gees) is love that could let them live again if they take a chance.

The latest Virgin River romance focuses on love as a major healer, a theme used in previous series tales like Whispering Rock. The entertaining straight forward story line contains two likable leads needing emotional and mental recovery from recent trauma. The census aside, seemingly the fastest growing area in the country, Wild Man Creek is a fine tale that Robyn Carr’s Virgin River readers will enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

Against The Fire-Kat Martin

Against The Fire
Kat Martin
Mira, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778329305

In Texas Gabriel Raines is a successful businessman who knows he has made enemies. However, he is unsure what has triggered a serial arsonist targeting his new real estate development firm. He feels relief when he and his friend separately pick out seventeen year old Angel Ramirez from a line-up as being near the arson scene; the teen has a record for setting a fire. The police arrest Ramirez for the crime while Gabe assumes his life will go back to normal.

He will quickly learn how wrong he was when it comes to normal. Architect Mattie Baker knows Angel from her volunteer work at the Family Recovery Center for abuse victims. She rejects the notion the teen is the arsonist. Instead she challenges Gabe who reluctantly agrees to investigate the fires with her. As they begin to fall in love, which she ignores as she wants no man in her life, evidence begins to mount that Angel is innocent but the unknown guilty person remains elusive as does the motive.

The second Raines of Wind Canyon (see Against the Wind) is a terrific entry as another of the no account siblings proves his worth. Dedicated Mattie is Gabe’s equal as she lights his fire. Together they make a dynamic team inside a fast-paced thriller; as Kat Martin is two for two with her no account Raines boys’ trilogy.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Stains-Sharon Sala

Blood Stains
Sharon Sala
Mira, Jan 18 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780778329411

In Montana, the three Shade sisters bury their rancher dad Andrew. Their late dad’s lawyer gives them a video to watch. Andrew explains that he loved his three daughters but that none of the trio is his offspring and they are not sisters by blood.

The deceased rancher informs Maria he adopted her when she was four years old after she witnessed her prostitute mother’s murder; Maria heads to Tulsa in search of justice for her mom. In Oklahoma, Maria meets detective Bodie Scott, who agrees to help her solve the two decade old homicide. Neither is aware that the killer knows Maria is in town and preparing to have the daughter join her mother.

Although once the three Shade siblings learn the truth about their respective ancestry, the linear story line focuses on Maria’s attempts to uncover who killed her mom. She and Bodie make a wonderful pairing as they fall in love while investigating the cold case homicide. Though there are no twists or stunners in this entertaining romantic suspense, fans will look forward to the next Searchers seeking her Blood Ties.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 27, 2010

Once Upon A Scandal-Delilah Marvelle

Once Upon A Scandal
Delilah Marvelle
Harlequin HQN, Jan 18 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775453

In 1824, teenagers Viscount Jonathan Pierce Thatcher and Lady Victoria Jane Emerson were in love. Both wanted to marry, but were too young. He proposed anyway but he left for Venice before she could say yes. Over the next few years they exchanged letters when abruptly he stopped sending them though she continued for a while longer until heartbroken she also stopped.

In 1829 Victoria Jane needs a husband to protect her and help her take care of her father who is going mad. Three men are chosen to court Victoria Jane, including Jonathan who has just come back to England after years away. He realizes he hurt her so badly that her heart has turned to stone. He tries to reach her, but she rejects his attempts; so Jonathan turns to seducing his beloved’s mind, body and soul. However, Jonathan realizes even if he succeeds at that he still has to overcome his neglect.

The latest marvelous Regency Scandal (see Prelude to a Scandal) is a super second chance at love tale starring two protagonists in love as teens and still in love five years later. Jonathan is a romantic at heart so when he stops corresponding he hurts his beloved even more because Victoria Jane knows he is. This makes his effort to re-win her that much more complicated as he already owns her heart, but not her trust.

Harriet Klausner

His, Unexpectedly -Susan Fox

His, Unexpectedly
Susan Fox
Kensington Brava, Jan 25 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758259295

Jenna Fallon is driving to her sister’s wedding on the coastal California highway to Vancouver. When her car breaks down she needs a ride. She stops at a diner where she meets Dr. Mark Chambers. They have a lot in common when it comes to their families, but not with each other. He wants to save the planet and works out of his camper to do so one tiny spot at a time; she prefers being a carefree wanderer with no responsibilities. He agrees to drive her north.

Jenna enjoys teasing the straight laced scientist as she takes no one or anything seriously. He knows she ridicules his adherence to rules attitude, but laughs at her throwback hippie lifestyle. While she teaches him to stop and look around beyond the data he collects, but she fails to see the one majestic tree in the forest. He knows they have more in common than she realizes, but also believes she has to come to that conclusion too if they are to be more than a series of one night stands.

The latest Fallon sister contemporary romance (see Love, Unexpectedly) is a charming tale of two seemingly total opposites falling in love. Although the story line contains numerous environmental warnings, even industrialists will enjoy the road show as love may not be enough for this couple, especially with Jenna, to remain together once the drive ends.

Harriet Klausner

Save The Date-Jenny B. Jones

Save The Date
Jenny B. Jones
Thomas Nelson, Jan 5 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595545398

Lucy Wiltshire thought her boyfriend Matt Campbell was going to propose. However, instead he ended their relationship by taking a job in Dallas. He blames her insisting she has no time for anyone except her clients at her shelter. Stunned she says Saving Grace is a not for profit residential home.

Two years later, even more dedicated to Saving Grace, Lucy struggles with the recession as her prime benefactor Sinclair Hotels will reduce their funding by forty percent. That cut will close her residential home. She will be at the annual gala where she hopes to speak with former NFL quarterback Alex Sinclair who runs the hotel chain. Lucy knew him at college where he treated her and other size tens like her with scorn as the big man on campus could have anyone. She prays for a miracle before the dinner. Although they have disdain for one another, he makes a proposition. She pretends to be his fiancée as he runs for Congress and he will provide her the money. Reluctantly she agrees as Saving Grace comes before saving her integrity and ultimately her heart.

Save the Date is an engaging contemporary inspirational romance with plenty of jocularity and social issues to enhance the changing relationship between the lead couple. The engagement of convenience story line is character driven, but not just by the lead protagonists; as support cast like Marinell and Jose adds depth to a string tale.

Harriet Klausner

Icebreaker-Deirdre Martin

Deirdre Martin
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239797

The daughter of the Wild Hart pub owners, Sinead O’Brien is the only female partner at her law firm. Her parents worry about their offspring who is all work and no play as they dub her ethic as “workalholism”; she insists she is dedicated to her clients.

The New York Blades hire Sinead to defend defenseman Adam Perry who has been charged with a count of assault due to a hit during a game. Her first reaction to her client is that he played hockey without a helmet. She soon realizes he is as dedicated in his field as she is in hers. As an attraction grows between them, she breaks her rule about no dating the clients, but insists they conceal their relationship. Losing sight of his goal the Stanley Cup, Adam wants more than a secret tryst as he wants her skating at his side

The latest Blades hockey romance (see Body Check, Fair Play and Chasing Stanley, etc.) is a delightful entry starring two workaholics falling in love. Adam is the one in this relationship who wants it in the open as he believes they have a future together. However, Sinead hip checks their romance as she prefers to hide what they are doing rather than face a game misconduct for scoring assisted by her client. Sports romance fans will enjoy Deidre Martin’s latest run for the Cup.

Harriet Klausner

Tales from the Treasure Trove Volume VII-Carrie S. Masek, Jane Toombs, Janet Lane Walters, Karen Wiesner

Tales from the Treasure Trove Volume VII
Carrie S. Masek, Jane Toombs, Janet Lane Walters, Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Press, Feb 2011, $18.95
ISBN: 9781603133944

"Topaz and the Lucky Seven" by Carrie S. Masek. Zaida the Seven has always kept safe Princess Alma. However, she falls in love with Tarik the bodyguard to one of Alma’s suitors Prince Dale. When almost everyone succumbs to food poisoning, Zaida must decide who gets the lone antidote. A great tale..

"The Turquoise Gown" by Jane Toombs. Obese with poor skin, Theodora expects to remain single. Her stepmother promises her that a magical gown will lead to true love. Theodora visits her Great Aunt, who catches typhoid. This leaves Theodora running the estate, which brings confidence and much more to her. Delightful..

"The Amber Tower" by Janet Lane Walters. The witch enchants Prince Rafel before bringing him to Lamau. He learns his only escape from the amber tower is to marry one of the kingdom’s two princesses. Pragmatic, honest but reticent Jalese competes with beautiful, flirting but treacherous Cyna for the imprisoned prince. Magical.

"Moonlight Becomes You" Karen Wiesner. Lance Shaussegeny rejects his mate Heather who gives birth to their son. She struggles to regain her health while their baby becomes ill too. To save their child’s life, Heather believes she must travel to Woodcutter's Grim where the strange world of the Shaussegeny clan darkly differs from what she has experienced. A wonderful story..

These are very imaginative refreshing romantic fantasies. Well written and entertaining in spite of the novella format limiting somewhat the impact of the setting, readers will enjoy finding true love in the Jewel of the Quill realms.

Harriet Klausner

Reaper’s Justice-Sarah McCarty

Reaper’s Justice
Sarah McCarty
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425236680

The Civil War may be over but the unit of werewolf soldiers Shadow Reapers trained to kill and survive has not been able to simply embrace the peace. Reaper Law tries to control these half beasts, but that allows plenty of room for the code of the wolf.

One of the soldiers Isaiah Jones knows he is an unwanted half-breed who is not wolf or man. His sole link to humanity is Adelaide Cameron who his inner wolf desires too. However, Isaiah knows he can never have her as that is taboo but stays near his beloved to keep her safe.

Thus when she is abducted his wolf howls in rage while his human side claims vengeance if she has even the slightest injury. Meanwhile the renegades who kidnapped Adelaide plans to sell her pretty sassy tail. She heeds her cousin Cole’s advice to pay attention in order to gather information to give to her family when they find her. Isaiah catches up only to realize one of the bandits is Billings another Reaper, who shockingly helps Adelaide escape. When Isaiah finally catches up to Adelaide, he tries to escort her home. The wolf senses her attraction to him, wants her and will not be denied. However, danger remains from the Council as he broke the Reaper Law with their forbidden love.

This is an exciting post Civil War werewolf romance. The star-crossed protagonists supported by a strong cast including Blade the Reaper who is a friend assigned to hunt them down. Known for her modern day Wrangler paranormal romances Sarah McCarty moves back in time with the same quality as her tales of Caleb and Jared with a strong 1860s Americana werewolf romance.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Heartwood-Belva Plain

Belva Plain
Delacorte, Feb 8 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385344128

Family matriarch Iris Stern feels she has had a happy marriage and a great late career as a college professor. When her husband Theo suffers a massive heart attack, Iris knows she loves her spouse and her adult children, but the needs of her kids are not hers and their decisions are definitely not hers.

In California Robby McAllister loses his college teaching job due to cutbacks. He and his wife Laura, Iris’ daughter returns to New York to be near her family. As he fails to land a position, she thrives with a fixer upper Victorian and a catering business. An upset Robby flees to his family home and store in Ohio, but Laura remains in New York with their daughter and meets Nick. Iris has her own issues with an ethical question of what is right in accordance with her deep Jewish faith vs. what Theo desires as well as how to handle a secret he concealed from her.

The late Belva Plain takes her readers back to where it all began with Evergreen as she provides a profound look at the Stern family. The cast is strong, but remains true to their personalities yet the character driven story line can stand alone. Ms. Plain, who died in October, pays homage to herself with a depth few authors ever achieve.

Harriet Klausner

Here to Stay-Catherine Anderson

Here to Stay
Catherine Anderson
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232410

At Bronco Bart’s watering hole in Crystal Falls, Oregon, Zach Harrigan surveys the females who all look identical with breast implants and bleached hair as if a virus struck. A ruckus occurs when a cowboy tries to pick up a thin brunette who is with a blind man. The cowboy trips up the blind person. Zach calls the man a moron, so the brute punches him in the face; Zach kicks back. The cops arrest Zach who thinks of a magazine article about training tiny horses though if he decides to do so he will have to do it quietly to avoid ridicule from his older brothers.

Two years later, Zach has trained Rosebud the miniature horse to serves as guide for the blind. Twenty-eight year old Mandy Pajeck wants Rosebud to help her nineteen year old blind brother Luke. Zach agrees if Luke and Rosebud come together as a team. Instead Luke is petulant and only his attraction to the teen’s sister has kept Zach from pulling the plug. Zach begins to learn the childhood traumas that shape the relationship between the siblings, he knows he loves Mandy, but she has vowed to never marry.

Here to Stay is an engaging Harrigan contemporary romance (see Star Bright) starring a former hellion and a woman loaded with phobias from her childhood. The support cast is powerful especially Luke and Rosebud, but also Zach’s extended family. A cold case investigation into what happened to the siblings’ mom years ago adds tension, but the freshness comes from training guide horses (even with Rosebud pooping in the pharmacy) as Catherine Anderson provides a profound look at training including the link between the steed and the person. This is a special work by a talented author.

Harriet Klausner

On the Hunt-Gena Showalter, Shannon K. Butcher, Jessica Anderson, and Deidre Knight

On the Hunt
Gena Showalter, Shannon K. Butcher, Jessica Anderson, and Deidre Knight
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232434

“Ever Night” by Gena Showalter. When she turned eighteen, Rose Pascal magically leaves her bedroom with its electronic gizmos for a world of thicket woods. There she meets nasty Vasili who calls her a mouse before explaining she is a Dimension Walker. He sends her home though he normally kills Walkers. Over the years on her birthday she returns while her parents think she is crazy. Eventually his little mouse becomes a roaring lioness that Vasili falls in love with; but he and his people hunt her kind.

“The Collector” by Shannon K. Butcher. In St. Louis, demon Hunter Neal Etan meets antique dealer Viviana Rowan when she agrees to give him an artifact that allegedly will cure his friend’s paralysis. They touch and each feels the attraction. However, her life becomes threatened when the artifact vanishes.

“Crystal Skull” by Jessica Anderson. In the Mexican rainforest, archeologist Natalie Albright finds her excavation abruptly stopped by officials because they fear she has demons. She is stunned by what she considers superstitious inanity until strange beasts arrack her after she and her team find the crystal skull. Only her ex husband JT can possibly keep her safe from the ancient evil that stalks her.

“Red Angel” by Deidre Knight. Nightshades demon team leader Jamie Angel has had problems with his family’s acceptance of Kate Rabineau, a freaking vampire, who is now engaged to Dillon Fox. Thus when he falls for Kate’s best friend Sunny Renfoe, Jamie is aghast because he knows she is not human, but what “Sunshine” is he has no idea.

These are four well written exciting romantic fantasies though the novella format limits lead couple development.

Harriet Klausner

Blood of the Rose-Kate Pearce

Blood of the Rose
Kate Pearce
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451232489

In 1530 Rosalind Llewellyn is part of a Druid family of royal loyalists protecting King Henry VIII from the vampire threat. Her actions on their last mission to kill a rogue vampire led to her engagement to Druid slayer Lord Christopher Ellis (see Kiss of the Rose) over the ire of her companion Rhys Williams and others in her clan.

She planned to avoid the court where she almost died and to stay away from her betrothed as she has succeeded for a year, but is called back as a new more seditious threat to the monarch has arisen. Anne Boleyn has bewitched King Henry and shockingly Christopher too. Rosalind fears that the two powerful men are enchanted by a vampiress. She must act to break the spell out of loyalty to her King and out of love to her man, but must proceed with caution as she has no proof whether the apparent next Queen is a social butterfly compared with the pious Spaniard she apparently will replace or Undead.

The latest Tudor Vampire Chronicles is an engaging second chance at love historical thriller. The story line is driven by the heroine who is pulled into two directions by her Druid dallying beloved and her Druid family. However, the fresh entertainment comes from the real personage as the lead couple, her family and readers will wonder whether Anne and her brother George are vampires and if yes will she be staked or crowned.

Harriet Klausner

Siren’s Surrender-Devyn Quinn

Siren’s Surrender
Devyn Quinn
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232922

Gwen Lonike rejected her mermaid heritage as she prefers to run her By the Sea Hotel in Port Rock, Maine though she laments to the Goddess over the lack of good help. FBI Special Agent Blake Whitaker arrives as a guest for at least one night. The Boston based Fed was obviously a local at one time as he wants to get to Little Mer Island where Gwen’s sisters and one brother-in–law Ken Randall reside. Following a seemingly paranormal lead, Whitaker wants to question Randall over the disappearance of archeologist Jake Massey leading an undersea expedition and what happened in the Mediterranean last month (see Siren’s Call).

Jake survived his former fiancé Tessa Lonike’s attempt to kill him. He seeks revenge ignoring what he planned for her and her sisters that led to her assault. Instead since Tessa accidentally opened the sea-gate, Queen Magera has crossed over. She wants the gate reopened so her army can cross when she takes over the Mediterranean, but only Tessa can do that. Gwen knows she must help her siblings with the threat while also preventing Whitaker from knowing what they are.

The second Dark Tides romantic fantasy is a terrific thriller that will have readers heeding the Siren’s call. Although Jake remains a weak caricature of a villain, the regal demanding Queen brings counter depth to the strong lead couple and her family. Readers will relish this engaging coastal Maine tale as besides the action, the romance seems doomed as each has issues with his relationships with his ex and his son at the forefront.

Harriet Klausner

Visions of Magic-Regan Hastings

Visions of Magic
Regan Hastings
Signet, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232465

Although not at fault as it was an avaricious coven that almost destroyed the world in their power grab centuries ago, Torin the Eternal Guardian and his peers were forced to wait centuries impatiently for the magic to reawaken so that he would finally be with his reincarnated witch. Like a cosmic joke the Reawakening has begun a decade ago in Long Beach, California. A warrior he seeks his mate.

The power seekers use the reemergence of witches as a social divide issue. Witches are hunted and burned as obscene pariahs. Lincoln Middle School teacher Shea Jameson’s aunt was executed as a witch, so her niece scampers from one locale to the next. Upset by what one of her students said happened to her mom, when a mugger tries to steal her purse using a knife, she reacts by calling for fire. Immediately, those in the school parking lot become a mob calling her witch. Torin saves her but she is now hunted. He knows she is his destiny, but as they team up with other such pairings, they must erect a potentially lethal artifact while the government leaders send mercenaries to hunt them down.

The first Awakening urban romantic fantasy uses the premise that government and other patriots act by ignoring the First Amendment rights under the guise of national security; which in real American history has occurred. Using that theme of a race hunted down i.e., Japanese-Americans sent to camps during WWII), Regan Hastings provides a powerful but dark thriller. The story line is fast-paced with deep characterizations that make the Awakening of magic seem real. However, it is the underlying social issue of burning the Bill of Rights that makes this a terrific cautionary tale; mindful of Benjamin Franklin’s warning: “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security”.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Amish Midwife-Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould

The Amish Midwife
Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould
Harvest House, Feb 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780736937986

Just outside of Aurora, Oregon, three weeks after baby number 244 is born, her dying widower adopted father informs twenty-six years old midwife Lexie Jaeger with the rest of the truth that he and his late wife concealed from her. He tells her to never forget how he and her adopted mom loved her and finally admits his Montgomery County, Pennsylvania biological maternal grandma sent her a carved box. When her beloved dad dies, Lexie looks inside the box.

After helping 245 enter the world, Lexie decides to travel to Pennsylvania to meet her birth family and learn why she was given away. She leaves behind James who she has been seeing for several years as she obsesses with a need to know her kin. In Pennsylvania, she meets the family and assists Aunt Melia the lay-midwife accused of manslaughter when her Amish patient and baby died during delivery. However, as Lexie begins to learn about her roots, she finds secrets that her biological family feels are An Inconvenient Truth. She considers leaving for home, although she knows God would expect her to forgive those who let her down as a baby.

The first Amish Clark and Gould collaboration is a strong family drama that focuses on a person’s bone-marrow deep need for a specific indent in which he or she believes they belong. With action provided especially by midwife responsibilities in light of the manslaughter charge and a supporting romantic subplot, The Amish Midwife is a terrific character driven tale as Lexie learns you can and cannot go home.

Harriet Klausner

Love Is Blind...And It Don’t Pay the Bills Either-Karen Wiesner

Love Is Blind...And It Don’t Pay the Bills Either
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press, Jan 2011, $18.95
ISBN: 9781611600018

Briar's Point Police Department Detective Orlando Bateman has not moved passed private investigator Sylvia Price’s rejection of his proposal as she said he is her brother in Christ. Instead she married his rival for her affection private investigator Den McHart. Still he knows his belief in the Lord will help him though he also prays he did not destroy their friendship that began when she was a cop on the force too; yet he has not answered the wedding invitation.

Den accompanies Keeya Nilson and Blair Sayer to the station to talk with Orlando and his partner Ty Shaw. The unpublished works of Keeya’s famous Blues grandfather Old denim Blues has gone missing as has $1200 withdrawn from an ATM. Additionally Keeya’s boyfriend Lance Smith vanished two weeks ago. Orlando sends Ty off on his fishing weekend. Thirteen years ago the two females survived a plane crash that killed her parents and Blair’s dad; and left both women disfigured and Keeya visually impaired; her recently deceased granddad, her Uncle Pax and Blair were there for her. However she distrusts God and males except for her family, as each beau has used her.

This is a super romantic Christian police procedural starring two people who if they can let go of recent relationship hurts can have a wonderful future together. Orlando is shocked by his attraction to Keeya as he ponders how the Lord works in mysterious ways. Keeya is more complicated as she feels fickle that she is attracted to the police detective, but has only Blair to remind her of men she liked who let her down; in Keeya’s mind this includes God. With a delightful late twist, readers will appreciate the second Denim Blues Mystery (see Retired and on the Rocks).

Harriet Klausner

Loose Ends-Tara Janzen

Loose Ends
Tara Janzen
Dell, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440246107

Six years ago, Special Defense Force soldier J.T. Chronopolous died during a field operation (see the Crazy tales). His SDF team mates stunned by his death, still grieve their loss as that is the only dark mark on their illustrious record. Recently they are further shocked to learn J.T. lives (see Breaking Loose); using the name Conroy “Con” Farrell; his mission destroy SDF.

A black ops group captured and experimented on J.T. in order to turn him into a supersoldier. Desperate to bring him in, SDF operatives capture Scout, who Con tenderly treats like his daughter, to use her as bait to lure in their agent. Their trap works as Con is coming for Scout. However, a woman from his amnesiac pre torture days Jane Linden is caught in the middle of the pending hostilities between SDF and the supersoldier. He does not recall his catching her pick his pocket when she was a teen though she seems familiar. With her in a ’67 GTO, Con’s memory begins to return as desire is a strong impetus to the brain. Neither, he, Jane or SDF realizes someone else was also a test dummy, but that victim turned into a killing psychopath who is coming to complete the mission.

The apparent last romantic suspense SDF thriller (see the six Crazy tales and the previous five Loose novels) is a great finish that ties up major threads including one that the saga fans will go gaga over. Fast-paced and loaded with action, some over the top, what makes the SDF thrillers so good is the great characterizations; this one may contain the best yet. Not only is Con/J.T. fully developed so is Jane and several remorseful SDF buddies like Hart and Kid who know never to leave one behind. This is a super finish to two strong series.

Harriet Klausner

Bonded by Blood-Laurie London

Bonded by Blood
Laurie London
Harlequin HQN, Jan 18 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373775446

For a living motorcycle riding Mackenzie Foster-Shaw searches for appropriate off-set movie locations. The film scout currently is in the Pacific Northwest seeking a special old looking cemetery. After four previous locales that seemed wrong, she reaches the remote Bear Creek Pioneer Cemetery. Kenz thinks this is the right spot, but as she takes her first of several photos, she notices the stone has no name. Thinking of Munch’s painting she hears a noise and searches for the animal that appears hurt; only to find a wounded man.

Human predatory Darkblood vampires shot Guardian Dominic Serrano with a silver bullet. Dominic realizes that the photographer is special due to her rare sangre dulce blood type that is like cat nip to vampires. Dominic ponders how to keep his healer safe from vampires and his enemy Lord Pavlos who plans to use those whose veins flow with sangre dulce. He knows he must also keep his distance since they are Bonded by Blood but takes her to his team’s Underground Seattle headquarters.

Vampire romance readers will embrace author Laurie London with her first Sweetblood urban fantasy as the audience will easily believe in the paranormal living under Seattle. Action-packed with two strong protagonists and a solid support cast especially the villain; fans will enjoy a trip to London realm as this is a sensational opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Captive Heart-Anna Windsor

Captive Heart
Anna Windsor
Ballantine, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345513915

FBI Agent Jack Blackmore, assigned temporary to lead New York's Occult Crime Unit, has battled paranormal serial killers including demons, but working along side the obstinate Sibyls is much more difficult. He especially finds his blood boiling whenever he thinks of former NYPD cop turned tidal wave Andy Myles as he wants to drown her though he is not sure whether he would use waterboarding or kisses.

Andy, a water sibyl, is unsure whether to drown the Fed in a tsunami as she has almost done twice or with kisses though she still grieves the death of her lover. She is part of a fighting sibyl quartet who recently defeated the horrific Rakshasas, but also is the only trained water sibyl who works with creating a Motherhouse to mentor rookies.

Samuel Griffen and his coven experiment with Rakshasa blood and DNA in order to create supervillains. Griffen and his sister Rebecca have conducted successful tests on powerful eastern Europe mobs. Jack needs Andy so is in Greece he beg her and her quad mates to help end the horrific plan that would destroy the world as the Fed and ex cop know it including the reemerging sibyls.

The third Dark Crescent Sisterhood tale (see Captive Soul and Captive Spirit) is fast-paced from the moment Jack and Andy meet in Greece with thoughts of drowning in each other’s head and never slows down until the final confrontation. Loaded with action yet driven by the water sibyl and the cop, fans will appreciate this enjoyable romantic fantasy that uses the classic boy meets girl; boy and girl loath each other; and boy and girl fall in love as a backdrop to a global science fiction induced paranormal threat.

Harriet Klausner

Heart of the Exiled-Pati Nagle

Heart of the Exiled
Pati Nagle
Del Rey, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345503862

Having been betrayed by her lover after a cup bonding, Alpinon Guard warrior Eliani meets Turisan while each is on a mission; their ability to mindspeak to each other stuns both as that is rare. However, after helping the aleven tribes defeat the renegade vampire clan Darkshore led by Queen Shalr (see the Betrayal), the pair wed.

Meanwhile the Bitter Wars left weakened the aelven tribes. A Council convenes at Turisan’s home in Glenhallow to discuss the rising threat from the brutal berserker Kobalen who are behaving out of character as the normally brainless beasts are using rational thought out plans to gather their forces. The enemy’s numbers are astronomic while the Governor of the Fireshore tribe has failed to attend the council meeting. Because of her mindspeak link with her beloved mate, Eliani is assigned to learn why. However, the source behind the Kobalen will stun Eliani who mentally must be severed from her beloved so that the Heart of the Exiled can reclaim what she knows is her right.

The second Blood of the Kindred epic fantasy is an engaging thriller that grips those who read The Betrayal from the moment just after Eliani and Turisan “marry” as she says goodbye to begin her mission. Newcomers will be confused as to the cultural differences and similarities within the aleven tribes as they seem interchangeable; this is critical to understand what is going on in Fireshore, with the Kobalen and the third party behind the latest acrimony. Eliani keeps the exciting story line focused with able assistance from her mindspeak beloved as Pati Nagle provides an exhilarating tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Warlord's Legacy-Ari Marmell

The Warlord's Legacy
Ari Marmell
Spectra, Jan 25 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553807776

Corvis Rebaine earned his name as the Terror of the East though he insisted what he did when he slaughtered countless innocents as collateral damage was justice. Others who watched helplessly the massacre of beloved to the black armored, skull helmeted Rebaine and his army thought he was the devil. Rebaine with his cutting words would disagree, but no one would argue against his demon axe as he has twice destroyed Imphallion claiming each time he pursued a better society.

Rebaine lives alone after his wife Tyannon and their two children Lilander and Mellorin left him. He has learned violent change fails so he works from within the Guild system that he loathes. However, he watches with disdain as Cephira invades Imphallion while the Guilds fail to respond to the assault. Rebaine is tempted to pick up his axe, but fears history will repeat itself. While he hesitates someone, apparently wearing his infamous warrior garb, leads a bloody counterattack that makes Rebaine’s actions look tame. Also two enemies seek his death. First his children’s Uncle Jassion abetted by Kaleb the sorcerer stalks him and second his most dangerous foe of all his estranged daughter Mellorin apparently wants to kill him. His choices are death or the Terror of the East.

Containing the same overwhelming but keen cynicism as the antihero’s first engagement (see The Conqueror’s Shadow); The Warlord’s Legacy is a timely amusing epic fantasy. The jocular story line is action-packed yet raises questions about a country’s homeland security values. Corvis and his entourage make the tale as they are sly, slick and stalwart although he ponders whether another turn as the Terror will return his family to him. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Rebaine’s efforts to go home.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 24, 2010

Juno's Daughters-Lise Saffran

Juno's Daughters
Lise Saffran
Plume, Jan 25 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452296732

On the San Juan Island in Puget Sound, single mom Jenny Alexander raises her two daughters, seventeen years old Lilly and thirteen years old Frankie. Jenny left her physically abusive husband Monroe while still nursing her youngest. She does need a man permanently in her life; though local carpenter David would like her to reconsider, as Monroe’s beatings still linger in her mind.

Every year the Islanders host a summer theater festival. This year The Tempest is the main event with a cast of professional actors from New York, Los Angeles and Ashland, Oregon. Jenny and Lilly are attracted to Andre the New York actor. Frankie has her own issues, but is tired of the family version of the Tempest. She runs off to Seattle, which turns the Alexander raging storm into a monster.

With super interwoven nods to the Bard, Juno’s Daughters is an excellent family drama that explores some of the themes of the classic play in a modern context. For instance, the relationships between mom and daughters are brilliantly scrutinized with each holding certain power over the other, but Jenny as the adult rules. The cast makes the tale as the Alexander family star in a terrific contemporary as a “tempest in a teapot” is brewing.

Harriet Klausner

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks-C. Alexander London

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks
C. Alexander London
Philomel (Penguin), Feb 22 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9780399254871

The eleven-year-old Navel Twins (Oliver and Celia) prefer armchair traveling rather than physically explore the world. However the tweeners are the offspring of the Lower east Side Explorers Club’s top guns; who drag them around the globe for smelly adventures in Mongolia and Africa, and islands not found in an atlas. In fact, the pair is the only children who attend the annual club gala.

Recently their mom disappeared and their dad wagered with evil rival Sir Edmund S. Tithletorpe-Schmidt III that he will not only find her but they discover one of the greatest finds ever. He anteed with his fifth graders, who if their dad fails, will be Sir Edmund’s servants until they graduate high school. However, when dear old dad becomes ill in Tibet after meeting poison witches; sneering Sir Edmund demands remittance. Thus the kids now know a fate worst than adventure awaits them; so giving up TV and other electrons, they fly to Tibet to rescue their dad and then their mom and by the way discover that great historical find. If they save the world and not get chewed by a humongous yak that would be wonderful but only if the cable is working in the Himalayas.

Targeting the middle school crowd, We Are Not Eaten by Yaks because they are herbivores while yetis are not is an exciting adventure thriller filled with satirical lighthearted humor. The stars are couch potatoes who are forced into the wild without a remote as they now know is a fate worse than an Accidental Adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Nightshade-Michelle Rowen

Michelle Rowen
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780425239827

In San Diego, Jillian Conrad works as an office temp at am investment firm. She is returning to work following a coffee break when a man accosts her; he injects her with a syringe containing serum. Half-vampire Declan Reyes shoots and kills Jill’s assaulter.

Jill is so sick she feels like she is going to die. Reyes informs her she has been inoculated with chemicals that make vampires covet her blood though it is also a toxic to the undead. Concerned about Jill’s safety and wanting to insure no further public incident occurs; Reyes escorts the ailing woman to a hidden remote lab where purebred human collaborators including scientists work on killing a rogue vampire king. Declan and Jill become lovers during her moments when the nausea and headaches subside and she is not on call as bloody bait.

This is an engaging romantic fantasy starring a bewildered ailing human and a hybrid in heat. The story line is fast-paced with an interesting underlying premise. However, the sex feels gratuitous as Jill is very sick; perhaps puking once or twice on his lower head would have brought realism to the lusty encounters. Still sub-genre readers will enjoy Michelle Rowen’s entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Lust-Charlotte Featherstone

Charlotte Featherstone
Spice, Jan 18 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373605521

The despondency of those at the Unseelie Court grows exponentially as the hopelessness is like a shroud burying the dark fey. The only chance anyone of the condemned Fey has is for their virtue to free them from their sin.

Thane the Dark Fey knows his wickedness is lust. He has no hope of ever overcoming his depravity. That is until he is riding when he meets his virtue hope, Chastity. Stunned Thane knows upon first sight who she is and what she means to him. However, her father the Duke “sold” his daughters’ virtues to the Seelie Court. When she meets Thane, she has the same heart-felt reactions as he does; a deep desire that he is it and a fear that he is it.

The Sins and the Virtues erotic romantic fantasy is a fabulous tale starring a wonderful lead couple filled with Lust and love. The keys to the story line are the fully developed cast and the powerful interrelationships between them as this brings depth to a cross-fey romance. Sub-genre readers will appreciate Thane who has found his groove, but now has to find a way to keep her with him.

Harriet Klausner

Uprising-Sean McCabe

Sean McCabe
Signet, Feb 1 2011, %9.99
ISBN: 9780451413062

In Constanza, Romania the sailors load the cargo on their ship. They sail to London but many become sick and all live in fear. The Czech-Romanian crew is relieved as if they dumped the devil when the cargo is placed on an aircraft for delivery to Crowmoor Hall near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire where Seymour Finch awaits.

Not long afterward, Declan follows his angry girlfriend Kate who runs off to Crowmoor Hall. There he sees two vampires arguing over who drinks Kate’s blood. He informs the cops who think he is a lunatic except for Detective Inspector Joel Solomon who believes the undead live amongst humans. Soon the first grisly homicide occurs. More murders as horrific as the first follow.

The World Vampire Federation’s Vampire Intelligence Agency undercover enforcer Alex Bishop travels from the Carpathian Mountains to England to kill the rogue vampires. However, the VIA agent finds herself caught in the beginning of a vampire civil war as conservatives want a return to the tradition of stalking and killing humans rather than the fear driven “must never” rules. The rogues insist vampire is the dominant species, but the WVF says surveillance technology has changed the world order. Alex teams up with enlightened Joel. They try to prevent the war of the Undead.

This is an exhilarating vampire investigative thriller as increasingly vampires who hid in plain sight are coming out in a bloody way. The lead law enforcement pair is a delightful coupling as they work a ghastly serial murder case and ignores their mutual attraction as she knows the three “must never” rules make anything but a professional relationship a WVF law breakers. Fast-paced with a wonderful opening nod to Stoker, readers will appreciate the first act of the Vampire Federation saga because Sean McCabe makes his undead realm seem genuine.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Walker-L.A. Banks

Shadow Walker
L.A. Banks
Leslie Esdaile Banks LLC, Dec 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780615421506

Neterus Carlos and Power Angel Damali Rivera kill, with the help of the Guardians, everyone in hell besides Lucifer the Anti-Christ. When the rapture occurred, the Neterus and the Guardians were left behind; not because they were rejected, but due to earth needing them. It is up to the next generation of Guardians and Neterus, Sarah and Alejandro Rivera and their team to battle the devil and Anti-Christ. To succeed they need training. Thus the Rivera twins attend Temt Tchaas Academy better known as Neteru Academy in Appalachia where they learn to be Guardians of the Light.

Everyone assumed extrovert confident Al would be the stronger warrior, which is fine with Sarah who since early childhood has watched Shadows that no one else apparently sees; she not only does not want to be a warrior, she fears the dark. This in spite of her roots with her mom a Neteru Warrior Angel and her dad a Hell Council Vampire. The only shadow she likes is hiding behind that of her brother. However, fears, fangs and friends force her into the light when students vanish and only the hesitant Sarah can sees the Shadows in the dark that show where the missing might be if she can get past agents of the Dark.

This is the last group of Neterus and Guardians to be trained by their parents as the battle is coming that will determine the final outcome between light and dark. At school, the sacred students and frightened faculty prepare for Lucifer’s next move knowing some will not make it. Besides that angst, Sarah’s unique power adds to her queasiness as she prefers not to battle the Shadows, but cannot idly stand by while friends and perhaps her family will die. Although paranormals attending school is so Potterish, targeted young adult readers and older fans who enjoy the works of Rowling and Sabin (see a School for Sorcery) will want to enroll in the Neteru Academy.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gryphon-Charles Baxter

Charles Baxter
Pantheon, Jan 11 2011, $27.95
ISBN: 9780307379214

This engaging twenty story collection from one of the best authors of the short format includes seven new tales and sixteen entries from his previous anthologies. The tales all look closely at ordinary people living mundane lives yet each character possesses a jocular quirkiness that sets him or her just outside the norm. The entire compilation contains all solid tales with a few of the reruns being super and new tales for the most part excellent. “Gryphon” (see Through the Safety Net) stars a fourth grader musing about a substitute teacher providing special reading and times table lessons. The art dealer knows 9/11 changed him forever in enigmatic “Royal Blue” (see The American Scholar). The stranger enters her house and announces to the frightened woman they are soulmates, but she will soon learn what soulmate means to him in “Ghosts” (see Ploughshares). “Fenstad’s Mother” lectures him when he visits her adamantly insisting that he just tries to be good, but his daughter Sharon is the real thing. The "Poor Devil" is actually a couple beyond the edge of divorce. As always Charles Baxter provides a strong insightful look at everyman; often through a surreal Dali like eye.

Harriet Klausner

At Hidden Falls-Barbara Freethy

At Hidden Falls
Barbara Freethy
Pocket, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439176498

Isabella Silveira, sister to the Angel’s Bay, California police chief Joe, drives to town only to be in a car accident. Nick Haley saves her from certain death when her vehicle began sliding down a cliff. However, the accident is not as disconcerting to her as seeing Nick in person for the first time. He is one of the stars in her dreams in which her sibling is in trouble. She came to town to warn Joe.

Not quite as stunning to Isabella is her attraction to Nick; he reciprocates which he loathes at this time. Nick is trying to reconcile with his teenage daughter Megan who he had not seen in years. Joe investigates a missing mother who left her newborn behind and hopes to identify the father too. When Isabella helps at the theater, the puzzle pieces begin to come together, but may be too late for the people she cherishes.

The latest Angel's Bay paranormal romantic suspense (see In Shelter’s Cove Suddenly One Summer) is an exciting thriller that enables the reader to learn much more about the founding families especially through degrees from the lead couple. The story line is entertaining from the moment Isabella recognizes her rescuer and never slows down as each takes turns saving the other (and his daughter). Although the villain proves pitifully pathetic, fans will enjoy the latest adventures in Angel’s Bay.

Harriet Klausner

To Tempt A Rake-Cara Elliott

To Tempt A Rake
Cara Elliott
Forever, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446541305

Having sailed around the world for her vocation, American botanist Katharine Woodbridge travels to England to end her estrangement from her grandfather, the staid Duke of Cluyne. Kate’s biggest fear upon arrival amongst the shocked Ton (re her behavior) is not with reconciliation with her relative, but from the Italian Conte of Como, Marco Ghiradelli, who might expose her.

Marco enjoys baiting Katharine as they have witty word wars. However, he cannot understand why he thinks he knows her though he cannot fathom from where or when. His work disallows what he wants to do, make love with the frisky intelligent American. All bets are off when someone frames Kate for murder and an assassin threatens the Vienna peace conference. As Marco works both with Kate at his side, a traitor sets in motion a deadly counter plan.

The third Circle of Sin thriller (see To Surrender to a Rogue and To Sin with a Stranger) is an exhilarating historical romance starring a serious scholarly scientist and a seemingly worthless wastrel. Their pairing make for a fast-paced tale especially when the local switches to Vienna on the eve of a historical conference. Although the traitor seems inept except for hiding behind a veneer of aristocratic polish, readers will enjoy dancing at this waltz.

Harriet Klausner

Notorious Pleasures-Elizabeth Hoyt

Notorious Pleasures
Elizabeth Hoyt
Vision (Hachette), Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446558952

In 1737 caring kindhearted sister to a duke, Lady Hero Batten, believes her prim and proper fiancé Thomas, Marquis of Mandeville is her ideal mate. However, she is stunned when she meets the brother of her intended Lord Griffin Remmington in St. Giles.

Hero is not shocked to see financial genius Griffin in the worst part of London as she knows he conducts business there and that he is a man with Wicked Intentions; her reaction to seeing him is out of character for her. On the other hand Griffin is flummoxed by finding any Lady in St. Giles, especially his future sister-in-law. He escorts her to the orphanage she supports. On the way each enjoys their witty battle of words, but he believes she is too good for him or for that matter his family; and she is engaged to the right brother in temperament at least that is what her mind says, but her heart differs.

The latest Maiden Lane Georgian romance is an enjoyable historical because of the strong passionate lead couple. Thomas is jealous of his brother’s high esteem in their mater’s eyes and some rivals of Griffin add tension, but the bottom line is this exciting story is a tender gender war between Hero and Griffin.

Harriet Klausner

Notorious Pleasures-Elizabeth Hoyt

Notorious Pleasures
Elizabeth Hoyt
Vision (Hachette), Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446558952

In 1737 caring kindhearted sister to a duke, Lady Hero Batten, believes her prim and proper fiancé Thomas, Marquis of Mandeville is her ideal mate. However, she is stunned when she meets the brother of her intended Lord Griffin Remmington in St. Giles.

Hero is not shocked to see financial genius Griffin in the worst part of London as she knows he conducts business there and that he is a man with Wicked Intentions; her reaction to seeing him is out of character for her. On the other hand Griffin is flummoxed by finding any Lady in St. Giles, especially his future sister-in-law. He escorts her to the orphanage she supports. On the way each enjoys their witty battle of words, but he believes she is too good for him or for that matter his family; and she is engaged to the right brother in temperament at least that is what her mind says, but her heart differs.

The latest Maiden Lane Georgian romance is an enjoyable historical because of the strong passionate lead couple. Thomas is jealous of his brother’s high esteem in their mater’s eyes and some rivals of Griffin add tension, but the bottom line is this exciting story is a tender gender war between Hero and Griffin.

Harriet Klausner

DOWN THE ROAD-Bowie Ibarra

Bowie Ibarra
Permuted Press, Dec 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 0976555980

The illness struck New York City first then quickly spread to the entire country. Everyone who contracted it died but the latest rose up as undead zombies eating human flesh and spreading the disease through bites. George Zaragosa is determined to leave Austin and return to his hometown of San Uvalde to be with his family, but getting out of town isn’t easy as he has to avoid and kill the zombies by smashing their brains in; that’s the only guarantee that they don’t rise again.

In addition to avoiding the criminals who add to the chaos, George must also avoid Homeland Security and FEMA who are forcibly putting the disease free people in camps where rape, murder and enforced segregation is the norm. He is caught and put in a camp but he escapes when the zombies break through. He finds refuge in a makeshift shelter run by a drug lord and his police allies. Escaping means more killing but when George finds out what the leader of the group did, he feels it is his mission to take him out. In a world gone mad, it is not only zombies that are killers but humans exterminating one another.

Horror fans who want a real zombie killer thriller that pulls no punches, is full of action scenes, blood and gore, and violence that fits easily into the plot will want to get a copy of DOWN THE ROAD. The FEMA Camps are not so far fetched as many victims of Hurricane Katrina who stayed behind know first hand. The protagonist is a passive young man who reacts to events but never really takes charge and that character trait leads him into more trouble.

Harriet Klausner

Storm of Reckoning-Doranna Durgin

Storm of Reckoning
Doranna Durgin
Tor, Feb 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765361653

Reckoner Lisa “Garrie” McGarrity knows her crew (Lucia Reyes the spiritual empath, Drew Ely the ethereal historian and Quinn Rossiter the supernatural researcher) will be there for her through thick and thin especially when encounters from beyond occur. She believes that even with Drew leaving the team to work with his new girlfriend in San Diego.

They travel to Sedona, Arizona to deal with out of control spirits, but humans interfere with their investigation. However, also Garrie wonders about the odd bounty hunter Trevarr who is in Sedona and his even more curious Abyssinian cat Skylane. She thinks he conceals something from her. She wonders why he refuses to leave especially when he has to know how obstinate Garrie can be on an inquiry. Yet he remains with her and her BFFs.

Ironically Garrie has been in the haunting business for over fifteen years (see The Reckoning for more background), but is still learning on the job especially what she cannot do. Part of her doubts comes from recent assignments but also Trevarr from entering her life. He teammates are fully developed especially Lucia as this exciting energetic cavernous fantasy leaves the audience breathless with the heroine and her crew struggling with a paranormal battle when they need R&R while she is somewhat distracted by Trevarr. Stay tuned for there is more to come.

Harriet Klausner

Leviathans of Jupiter-Ben Bova

Leviathans of Jupiter
Ben Bova
Tor, $24.99
ISBN 9780765317889

Two decades ago physicist Grant Archer and his team encountered the Leviathans of Jupiter in the worldwide ocean (see Jupiter). When one of these beasts saved his life and that of his crew as their ship sank, he knew they had to be sentient. However, one anecdotal incident does not prove scientifically his assertion as true.

Now as director a research station on Jupiter, Grant plans to prove his hypothesis that the city-sized oceanic leviathans are intelligent. His supportive crew includes biologist Deidre Ambrose; deep brain expert Andy Corvus; Dorn the cyber who fought in the Asteroid Wars; and engineering physicist Maxwell Yeager. Meanwhile International Astronomical Authority expert Katherine Westfall heads to Jupiter. Her mission is to shut down Archer and his team by concealing her motive behind finances.

Fascinatingly, the leviathans easily steal the show as Ben Bova brilliantly gets inside their head displaying their perceptions of reality. Comparative anthropology leaves the humans flat especially a forced romance that feels more like a requirement than a key subplot. Still fans of the Grand Tour will relish the entertaining Return to study the Leviathans of Jupiter.

Harriet Klausner

Raven's Quest -Anya Bast

Raven's Quest
Anya Bast
Berkley, Feb 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780425238806

Duplicitous Magnus seizes the Dragon Throne of Numia, killing his royal family in the process. However, his nephew the heir Gallus Lucan survives the vicious assault. Lucan escapes. For the next fourteen years, Lucan prepares for a counter attack to remove his odious uncle from the throne. He has gathered an army of loyal soldiers.

The Raven of Tir na Ban High Branna ta Cattia knows the time is right to free her people from the oppressive rule of malevolent Magnus. Thus, the High Priestess journeys to Numia to meet the stranger who haunts her dreams; and to obtain an alliance to help liberate their respective people. When Branna and Lucan finally meet outside of her dreams, they are attracted to one another, but their goals differ. She wants to free their respective people while he wants revenge at any collateral cost. Their feelings for each other remains concealed as love intrudes with their need to defeat their mutual enemy, an abomination willing to kill anyone to keep his power.

Although the story line is straighter than I-80 through the Bonneville Flats and the villain is out of standard casting for an evil ruler, the lead couple makes for an engaging romantic fantasy as she must persuade her beloved that vengeance will harm his people. Each needs the other in more ways than just the alliance against his uncle, but both has doubts as she believes his heart is overrun with rage while he thinks she is an inane do-gooder without a plan or a prayer. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Anya Bast’s exciting tale; previously published in 2004 under the name Joanna King.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How To Woo A Reluctant Lady-Sabrina Jeffries

How To Woo A Reluctant Lady
Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket, Jan 18 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439167557

In 1806 nine year old Minerva Sharpe fell in love with Giles Masters when he held her hand as she struggled with the funerals of her parents; the papers insisted her father murdered her mother before he killed himself. Ten years later, Minerva still loves Giles, but he rejects her overture. She vows to never marry.

In 1825, on the shelf, Lady Minerva refuses to wed anyone because she knows no respectable husband will accept her profession as a gothic novelist. However, the writer has a major problem. Her grandmother demands her Hellions of Halstead Hall grandchildren marry or face disinheritance.

Barrister Giles Masters has loved Miranda forever though he knows he fumbled badly when she came to him almost a decade ago. He proposes, but instead of saying yes or no, Miranda concocts a scheme for them to pose as an engaged couple to trick her grandmother. Giles agrees as he sees an opportunity to court and win the heart of his beloved. However, although Minerva falls in love with her fake fiancé, his secret life and her obsessive need for honesty smash their relationship to bits in Calais; even as they become entangled in a dangerous seditious plot due to his clandestine activities.

The third Hellions of Halstead Hall Regency romance (see The Truth About Lord Stoneville and A Hellion In Her Bed) is a wonderful pairing of a couple who has a two decade history. Fast-paced with a strong support cast, fans will enjoy the female Hellion finding, losing and re-finding love.

Harriet Klausner

Forest Moon Rising-P.R. Frost

Forest Moon Rising
P.R. Frost
Daw, Feb 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780756406554

Fantasy writer Tess Noncoire a Celestial Blade Warrior, her personal imp Scrap and their allies plugged the faery leak (see Faery Moon). However, something new is in Portland committing violent crimes against women. Tess vows to take down the evil psychopath who has crossed over but the Celestial Blade Warrior is unsure of from where as the leaks seem to be everywhere.

At the same time Tess finds herself overwhelmed with other issues. First she feels like a babysitter responsible for a horde of half-breed demons who are attending a local convention. Second she is the backup for renowned Celtic-folk singer. Third she needs to write a book. Finally she needs time to persuade her beloved they are fated; but is it Gollum or Donovan?

The latest Moon over Portland urban fantasy (see Moon in the Mirror) is an entertaining sword and sorcery thriller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Tess and Scrap take on a malevolent dangerous chauvinist. Although the heroine at times seems to be the star of a fantasy game in which whenever she needs a new skill she obtains it seemingly instantly but also uses her new talent as a seasoned veteran rather than struggling to understand what she newly possesses. Still this is a fun entry as Tess the Celestial Blade Warrior and her sharp “sidekick” Scrap fight evil doers.

Harriet Klausner

Unseen-Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine
Roc, Feb 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463838

Cassiel and Luis recently saved his niece Isabel from her murderous djinn sister Pearl (see Unknown). However, both are concerned with what they learned during the rescue. First Isabel is too young to display her otherworldly power yet she has. Second there were a horde of other abducted kids with her.

Pearl and her followers have kidnapped the offspring of deceased Wardens. They brainwash their prisoners before raising the powers of the children. Cassiel and Luis fear what will happen to the kids as obtaining power before puberty leads to a significant chance of dying. Wanting to prevent Pearl’s plans from fruition, Cassiel infiltrates one of her compounds hoping to uncover her sister’s diabolical scheme. However what she learns frightens her with what her evil sibling has set in motion.

The latest Outcast Season (see Unknown and Undone) thriller is an entreating Warden fantasy. The story line focuses on the collateral damage caused by the misuse of power, but loses the opportunity to profoundly dig into why and how the sisters mentally and emotionally traversed different roads (nature vs. nurture). Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with action as readers anticipate round three between Cassiel and Pearl.

Harriet Klausner

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages-Tom Holt

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages
Tom Holt
Orbit, Feb 21 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780316080026

Real Estate solicitor Polly Mayer fears she is losing her mind. First there is her coffee that someone else apparently drinks. Then there is her party dress at the dry cleaners; only problem is that the dry cleaning store is no longer at the spot where she swears she dropped off her dress. At work, someone has been counseling her clients and keeping her files current.

Desperate Polly talks to her brother Donald the jingle writer who boiled water for pasta but has an empty box. After wishing his neighbor upstairs would leave, the pest abruptly goes away. He next meets chickens arguing that they are human and a sow searching for her missing offspring, Donald muses like Sherlock Holmes until he concludes magic exists, but has run wild. With his stunned sister, he investigates the pasta fiasco only to find experts trying to control the chaos as if pigs could fly; chauvinist sows and porkers attending Harvard or Oxford are attainable except the species is so picky as to the company they keep.

This is an engaging irreverent slice of beef (don’t say slice of pork, sausage or bacon unless you are in Congress) satirical fantasy. The story line contains too many subplots that fail to gel into a cohesive tale; yet readers who appreciate something different will enjoy the insanity of Tom Holt’s chaos. Placing Gulliver’s Travels in Animal Farm, Mr. Holt provides a Theater of the Absurd as the siblings learn pigs might fly.

Harriet Klausner

A Brush of Darkness-Allison Pang

A Brush of Darkness
Allison Pang
Pocket, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439198322

Six months ago, Abby Sinclair’s life changed when her mother died in an accident. Instead of grieving her loss, Abby manages a magical mall and has a unicorn using her underwear as bedding inside a drawer. Adjusting to that was easy thanks to her special enchanted gizmos that Apple would envy. More complicated is when Moira the Faery Protectorate informed Abby. She will replace her mother as their Touchstone; the mortal needed to enable the others to cross realms.

However all hell breaks loose when Moira vanishes. Abby is abruptly in charge of trying to hold the gate in place while finding her boss in OtherWorld. Brystion the incubus penetrates her dreams as he investigates the disappearance of his succubus sister. His intrusion angers Moira's number two Robert whose rage shocks Abby. However, complicating the potential disaster is demons for hire. She believes she can handle incubus, daemons, angels and other ilk; anything except cat piss and whatever the unicorn is doing to undies.

Pang’s OtherWorld comes across as real due to Abby who is a sort of caustic Alice in a not so Wonderland. Her acerbic asides add humor though at times the jocularity feels out of place. Still fans will enjoy Abby’s awesome adventures as she mounts a rescue of her boss and of her heart (she learns what everyone knows form puberty to never give your heart to an incubus) as Allison Pang provides a fun urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Incubus-Janet Elizabeth Jones

Janet Elizabeth Jones
Harlequin Nocturne, Dec 21 2010, $$5.25
ISBN: 9780373618514

He agreed to the radical medical experiment in hopes of saving vampire-kind from extinction. The alchemist changed vampire Meical Grabian, but not in ways he wanted. When he awakens several months after the transformation was performed, Meical finds he has become an incubus who needs extreme levels of passion for sustenance.

Meical saved Caroline Bengal the empathy from a psychopath just as he began the experimental conversion. In the Poconos he does not remember doing this, but feels an urge to reach out to her. Caroline is confused by her attraction to the incubus, as she feels this obsessive need to help Meical; he, in turn, feels a deep gut need to have her by his side. However, a third party wants Caroline and is willing to kill to take her.

The strength to this deep romantic fantasy is the yin and yang interpersonal connection between the lead couple. The other member of the triangle adds tension to the exciting story line. However, the relationship between Meical and Caroline brings profundity to the entertaining plot as each wonders if his need for her is chemically induced or heart felt.

Harriet Klausner