Thursday, February 28, 2013

Murder By Chance-Pat Dennis

Murder By Chance

Pat Dennis

Forty Press, Mar 1 2013, $16.95

ISBN: 9781938473043

As the snow piles up, Take A Chance Tours arrives late to the Moose Lake Bay Resort and Casino in northern Minnesota. Most of the surely elderly passengers run off the coach to the slot machines while owner Betty Chance and bus driver Tillie McFinn realize one of their forty-four attendees failed to take a coupon book. They search for a sleeping senior only instead Tillie finds the corpse of 350 pounds Mr. Farsi with a knife protruding from his back inside a locked bathroom.

Sheriff Severson leads the investigation in which he suspects ex-con Tillie killed the victim. With the help of Tillie, security casino Tom Songbird and gambling addict Lori the CPA who rushed from Chicago to be there for her beloved aunt, Betty using skills as the ex-wife of a CPD homicide detective begins her own inquiry.

This is a lighthearted amateur sleuth starring a spunky fiftyish overweight heroine and her fascinating sidekicks. Fast-paced as the lead character deals with the mentalist performer, irate clients ready to sue over a progressive slot $13 million lost opportunity, loss of the coach due to being a crime scene, the Buffet Betty blog or the murder, fans will enjoy taking a chance on Pat Dennis’s fun mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Angel’s Gate-P.G. Sturges

Angel’s Gate

P.G. Sturges

Scribner, Feb 26 2013, $27.00

ISBN 9781476712970

In Los Angeles, former cop and now a fixer, Dick “The Shortcut Man” Henry works odd cases using any means including peeing on a barred lawyer’s plant to obtain satisfaction for his clients and a fee for services for him. Producer Melvin Shea supplies cocaine and wannabe actresses like Rhonda Carling to Ivanhoe Studios chief Howard Hogue. Vicious Director Eli Navaria thrives in this den of inequity where he can get away with abusing women. Meanwhile Ex-marine Devi Stanton watches over the young starlets as the housemother. She needs help with a nasty situation so turns to the Shortcut Man to clean the mess.

Ellen Arden has not heard from her sister in years. She hires the Shortcut Man to find her missing sibling. The cases intertwine with a questionable death on a boat several years ago.

The latest Shortcut Man caper (see The Tribulations of the Shortcut Man) is an enjoyable Hollywood studio system satire. The engaging storyline is fast-paced with plenty of humor (including some gross smelly slapstick) yet with a serious undertone involving the abuse of power of the naïve ambitious and those in charge deem that satisfying.

Harriet Klausner

The Goddess Inheritance-Aimee Carter

The Goddess Inheritance

Aimee Carter

Harlequin Teen, Feb 26 2013. $9.99

ISBN: 9780373210671

Kate Winters spent the nine months of her pregnancy in captivity. For most of her incarceration, her beloved Henry was led astray by Walter and Ava to believe Kate accompanied James searching for the missing Rhea. Kate believes her Henry finally knows the truth re her fate. Everyone seemingly wants the unborn as perhaps the most powerful being ever since Cronus the Titan claims the fetus is his (though Henry sired the child) and the Queen of the Gods Calliope makes sacrificial plans for Kate’s baby once born.

Kate knows she can do nothing against either super God as Calliope takes away her newborn Milo. Cronus offers her a deal he knows that she cannot refuse. He will spare her and her newborn Milo and limit human collateral damage in the war of the gods if she pledges her total loyalty to him. She understands the cost of committing to Cronus means Henry, her mother and the Gods will die; failure to pledge means Milo is gone forever and she, much of mankind and her loved ones will probably die.

The final Goddess Test urban fantasy (see the Goddess Test and Goddess, Interrupted) is a strong twisting ending to a fabulous series as a distraught Kate finds herself caught between the love of her family and saving the world by self-sacrifice. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans of the trilogy will enjoy the final confrontation though they will question Kate’s terrible decisions even factoring in the protagonist’s Olympus levels of stress and depression. Still Aimee Carter provides an engaging end to an entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One Night With A Cowboy-Cat Johnson

One Night With A Cowboy

Cat Johnson

Kensington Brava, Feb 26 2013, $9.95

ISBN: 9780758285386

Dr. Becca Hart loses her assistant English professor position at Vassar at the same time her boyfriend moves out. A month after the seminar ended she remains unemployed with the only vacancy at Oklahoma State University. She tells her sibling Emma she will not apply. OSU English Department Dean Mark Ross asks Becca to come to Stillwater for an interview. Emma submitted her résumé. The sisters travel to OSU. The sisters attend the rodeo and meet bull riders Tucker Jenkins and Jace Mills. Divorced army sergeant Tucker and Becca are stunned by their attraction. The foursome goes back to the hotel where Becca and Tucker take out a room.

Becca teaches at OSU while Emma returns home. Dean Ross hosts a part welcoming Becca. On the faculty, Tucker attends. Both are stunned to see each other. He is upset as she never told him she interviewed for a job and she with his not mentioning the military. Tucker’s superior officer warns him of the non-fraternization rule. Still each agrees to become friends with benefits until he volunteers to return to Afghanistan so she would not be fired.

The latest Oklahoma Nights Romance (see Two Times as Hot and Three Weeks with a Bull Rider) is a fun military academic romance in which the attraction at first sight is deftly handled as each protagonist is fully developed. The rodeo scoring rules and ROTC training are deftly interwoven into the engaging plot due to a solid support cast. Although his logic for volunteering to serve in Afghanistan seems crazy and affirms the lead couple’s somewhat infantile behavior, readers will enjoy One Night (and many more) With A Cowboy.

Harriet Klausner

How To Seduce An Angel In 10 Days-Saranna DeWylde

How To Seduce An Angel In 10 Days

Saranna DeWylde

Kensington Brava, Feb 26 2013, $9.95

ISBN: 9780758269171

Irate Falcon Cherrywood believes his punishment does not fit the crime. He admits he shot that pest Cupid in the butt with a fireball, injuring the pink-winged angel. However, he feels replacing Cupid is cruel and anti-angelic punishment since he does not believe in love. To make matters worse, he also is assigned Parole Officer duty.

His criminal is Drusilla “Tally” Tallow, who was sentenced for ten days for knocking the temporary love angel off his broom out of frustration of always finding love in the wrong places with the worst heavenly misanthropes. As Falcon and Tally fall in love, she fears the replacement Cupid will prove a pain in the ass; she’s just not sure whose.

The latest amusing “How to … in 10 Days” romantic fantasy (see How to Marry a Warlock in 10 days) is an amusing madcap tale. A lighthearted frolic, fans will laugh at the antics of Tally and Falcon; as each has strong reasons to ignore their attraction.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Blue-Light Special-Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special

Seanan McGuire

DAW, Mar 5 2013, $7.99

ISBN: 9780756407926

Though generations of her family have studied the Cryptid population and kept these “monsters” safe from the humans and visa-versa, cryptozoologist Verity Price is not a chip off the DNA block as she prefers ballroom dancing. However, Verity still proves Price blood flows through her veins when she came to Manhattan to competitively dance only to get sidetracked with the family vocation due to the snake cult (see Discount Armageddon). Still her recent caper led her to meet her maybe boyfriend Dominic De Luca although it is a star-crossed relationship as he is a monster-hunter for her family’s enemy the Covenant of St. George.

Dominic warns Verity that his bosses are coming to New York to inspect the progress he made in species cleansing and to finish the eradication of the Cryptid species from Manhattan. Putting aside her love of dance, Verity needs to prevent a bloodbath by concealing the monsters from the hunters including a traitorous blood relative seeking vengeance.

The superb second InCryptid urban fantasy is an incredibly fast-paced New York tale that except for an intrusive sidebar involving a psychic cousin never slows down as monsters, protectors, hunters and collateral damage humans converge for a Manhattan Midnight Blue-Light Special. Verity adds humor with her asides as she tries to keep a bloodbath from overwhelming the city. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this faster than the speed of light thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Earl Is Mine-Kieran Kramer

The Earl Is Mine

Kieran Kramer

St. Martin's, Feb 26 2013, $7.99

ISBN: 9781250009890

Heir to the Marquess of Brady though not his son, Lord Gregory Sherwood the architect needs a wife. However, his choice Lady Eliza has selected his best friend Dougal instead of him.

Gregory has no time to mend his broken heart as childhood friend and fellow survivor of Uncle Bertie’s parties Pippa Harrington storms back into his life as she has done several times over the years. She explains to him that she heads to Paris to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage. As she takes a detour masquerading as his valet, she always has known deep in her soul that he is the one person who could break her heart if she trusts him with her love.

The second House of Brady Regency romance (see Loving Lady Marcia) is an amusing lighthearted historical with not so subtle references to the TV show beginning with the names of the Brady Bunch and Alice the housekeeper. Readers will enjoy this amusing historical as Gregory and Pippa learn that love makes everything seem better.

Harriet Klausner

Dusk With A Dangerous Duke-Alexandra Hawkins

Dusk With A Dangerous Duke

Alexandra Hawkins

St. Martin's, Feb 26 2013, $7.99

ISBN: 9781250001382

Six years ago, Nicolas Towers became the Duke of Huntsley when his parents died. His Grandmother arrived at Telcliffe Castle to raise the child with a tough love attitude. In 1806, Hunter meets a weeping baby; the daughter of a duke with a large dowry. Grandmother tells her shocked beardless virginal grandson that he will wed two year old Lady Grace Kearly when she turns twenty-one.

After years of rakehell activities, in 1825 the time for Hunter to wed his fiancée has arrived if he wants to keep his inheritance instead of his cousin Walker getting it. Having seen her once almost two decades ago when she bit him, he does not look forward to his second encounter with Lady Grace. She also fears marriage to this dedicated Lord of Vice as she assumes he wants the heir, the spare and her nowhere near. Thus, Hunter is shocked when Lady Grace refuses to honor their families’ nuptial agreement. Hunter’s new mission is winning the heart of his former fiancée unaware he also brings danger to her.

The latest Lords of Vice Regency romance (see Sunrise with a Notorious Lord, After Dark with a Scoundrel, Till Dawn with the Devil and All Night with a Rogue) is an entertaining historical. Though the premise has been used frequently before and Grace’s abrupt change of heart never is explained though implied during the fiery climax, sub-genre fans will enjoy the delightful Dusk With A Dangerous Duke.

Harriet Klausner

Immortally Embraced-Angie Fox

Immortally Embraced

Angie Fox

St. Martin's, Feb 26 2013, $7.99

ISBN: 9780312546670

Having been drafted during the war between the Old and New Greek Gods, Army MASH Dr. Petra Robichaud, a hybrid fairy, pulled off a miracle; not the oracle prophesy she fulfilled that led to the cease-fire she fostered as the peacemaker, but instead finding love in Demi-God Commander Galen. As a reward for her valor and diligence, she becomes a part of a special MASH unit to the paranormal.

Her current patient is an over three thousand years old pregnant gorgon who fears telling her parents. After Petra informs Medusa of her delicate condition and telling her to come back for an ultrasound, Galen embarks on a needed but suicidal mission after ending their relationship. Meanwhile her former lover Mark arrives pleading with Petra to investigate a ghost causing havoc amidst the enemy. Neither is prepared for what they confront and learn nor another Oracle Prophecy.

The latest Robichaud MASH unit military urban fantasy is fast-paced from the opening scene in which the Doctor to the Gods (and wannabes) explains to Medusa that she got pregnant the old fashion way and never slows down until the final confrontation. Filled with satirical humor especially with placing the Greek pantheon in a modern day environment and loaded with action, readers will relish the adventures of the Army doctor though it helps to have read Immortally Yours to best understand the Fox mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 25, 2013

Seal Team Six: Hunt The Scorpion-Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

Seal Team Six: Hunt The Scorpion

Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

Mulholland Books/Little Brown, Feb 19 2013, $25.99

ISBN: 9780316209601

Thirty-five miles off the coast of East Africa in a busy sea lane frequented by foreign vessels, prates hijack the MSC Contessa as the ship headed to the Island of Suqutra. Captain Jake McCullom feels guilt for bringing his wife Tanya on this voyage because he concealed the dangerous risk from her.

SEAL Team Six assault leader Warrant Officer Thomas Crocker and his unit who wait for the CIA sent drone in the middle of al-Qaeda held territory in South Yemen when the mission is abruptly aborted. They were contacted and flown to the USS Carl Vinson where he learns his new mission has higher need to know priority. Pirates captured the MSC Contessa, which contained yellowcake as part of the cargo. Securing this war grade uranium before terrorists obtain it has become their task; rescuing the hostages is acceptable as long as that does not impede their obtaining the radioactive material.

The latest Seal Team Six thriller (see Hunt The Wolf) is an exciting action-packed tale from the opening hijacking to the final confrontation. Though incredibly fast-paced, readers also obtain a deep look at how complex and convoluted (outside of Congressional sound bite hearings) foreign policy is even working with allies. Fans of high octane thrillers will enjoy this Seal team Six adventures as plausibility coming from political considerations interfering with mission accomplished and blood flowing from the heroes make for an enjoyable adrenaline ride.

Harriet Klausner

Three Sisters-Susan Mallery

Three Sisters

Susan Mallery

Mira, Feb 26 2013, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778314349

Besides humiliation and pain of standing alone at the altar in front of 300 friends and family including both moms, Andi Gordon is also left paying the bills and returning the gifts. Thus three months later, Andi decides she needs a major makeover so buys one of the Queen Anne historical “Three Sisters” houses on Blackberry Island in Puget Sound with plans to open up a pediatric practice in her new home.

She meets her neighbor artist Boston King, whose husband Zeke she already met. Boston and Zeke struggle to move on after the death of their baby, but increasingly they appear to be moving on separately.

Also residing in one of the Three Sisters’ homes are Deanna Phillips, her husband Colin and their five daughters. Deanna fears Colin is having an affair. When she confronts him, he confesses but blames her; sadly she agrees with him.

The return to Blackberry Island (see Barefoot Season) focuses on three women with emotional issues bonding like the Three Musketeers with each believing in “All for one, one for all” mantra; as the trio knows they have “sisters” who have their back during their personal crisis. The ensemble cast is fully developed due in part to the rotating storyline and mostly because of the “Three Sisters” sharing their tsuris with each other and readers.

Harriet Klausner

The Garden of Stones-Sophie Littlefield

The Garden of Stones

Sophie Littlefield

Mira, Feb 26 2013, $14.95

ISBN 9780778313526

In 1978 San Francisco, someone murders fifty-nine year old Reginald Forrest in his office near his gym in the basement of the De Soto Hotel. SFPD Inspector Torre visits Forrest’s acquaintance Lucy Takeda as a witness placed someone who looks like her with her pink scarred face at the gym when the murder occurred. Lucy admits knowing the victim over three decades ago.

Lucy tells her upset daughter Patty about what happened to her when she was fourteen and to her mom Miyako. Her father just died when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Japanese Americans were taken to internment camps. Mother and daughter went to Manzanar Relocation Camp run by ruthless George Rickenbocker, who rapes and impregnates Miyako. When he targeted Lucy, a distraught Miyako scarred her daughter’s beautiful face to try to keep the guards from raping her child. She then kills Rickenbocker and herself.

Rotating between the 1978 mystery and the WWII internment in the California desert, Garden of Stones is a deep historical that shines a timely spotlight on a dark period in American history; the terrible mistreatment of American citizens rationalized by homeland security needs. The three generations of Takeda women are fully developed with Lucy connecting family and eras. Although Rickenbocker is stereotyped as a ruthless individual, he also brings a belief that the interred are not real Americans so are subject to abuse. Readers will relish this profound storyline as one must “Never Forget” the heritage horrors caused by “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one” (Benjamin Franklin).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Death, Taxes and Peach Sangria-Diane Kelly

Death, Taxes and Peach Sangria

Diane Kelly

St. Martin's, Jan 29 2013, $7.99

ISBN: 9781250023063

Treasury Department Criminal Investigation Team field operatives Tara Holloway and Eddie Bardin share a great partnership though they are total opposites. He is a married suburban dad who knows the difference between a metaphor and a simile, and a near extinct African-American Republican; she is a single white inner city woman who is the one person education left behind. However, when it comes to catching tax cheats, they are the best (see Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte; and Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure).

Tara toasts the destruction of the “Deduction Diva” especially after the cheat kneed Eddie so that his wife will be celibate for a while. The remaining three frauds involve a retired incompetent IRS auditor the “Tax Wizard”, and the owners of Beauregard Financial services and Bulls-eye Taxidermy and Tax Processing. At the office, her associates look for love at the online Big D Dating Service. She can deal with her boss “The Lobo” and the virgin Josh going on line for a date, but not her secret attraction for bad-ass Senior Special Agent Nick Pratt even if she has Brett in her life. Eddie and Tara are assigned to the most dangerous death and taxes case yet; working with CIA agents Zardooz and Wang to take down the financiers of terrorists.

The latest Tara Holloway Death and Taxes thriller is an engaging suspense with the heroine’s asides adding humor. The storyline is fast-paced while the CIT officials bring depth and jocularity to the mix. Fans will enjoy the antics of the fastest gun in the IRS as she deals with terrorists, ball-busters and obtaining a perfect Peach Sangria.

Harriet Klausner

All He Ever Desired-Shannon Stacey

All He Ever Desired

Shannon Stacey

Harlequin HQN, Feb 26 2013, $7.99

ISBN: 9780373777563

After graduating from college, Ryan Kowalski fled his hometown of Whitford, Maine when the love of his life Lauren married his best friend Dean Carpenter. The couple divorced eight years ago after she caught him cheating; their sixteen year old son Nick lives with Lauren who works as the office assistant at Demarest Insurance.

After years away from town, Ryan returns to help his family renovate their Northern Star Lodge. When he catches teenager Nick vandalizing Kowalski property, Ryan must confront the woman he loved and lost. They agree to allow Nick working for Ryan to pay for the damage he caused. Both remain attracted to one another, but each is wary of a relationship. At the wedding of his brother Mitch and Paige (All He Ever Needed), she takes the risky first step.

The latest "Killer" Kowalski contemporary romance (see Yours To Keep and Exclusively Yours) is an enjoyable third chance at love tale (he unsuccessfully tried to persuade her to take her then infant and go away with him). The storyline is the usual warm madcap mania as the extended Kowalski brood celebrates a wedding in their boisterous style. However, the key to this entertaining entry is the pace as Ryan and Lauren take their time to regain trust and faith in love.

Harriet Klausner

The Best Man-Kristan Higgins

The Best Man

Kristan Higgins

Harlequin HQN, Feb 26 2013, $7.99

ISBN 9780373777921

In Manningsport, New York, high school sweethearts Faith Holland and Jeremy Lyon are engaged. As the wedding nears, he jilts her when he realizes he is gay. Shook up by her fiancé’s revelation, Faith left town heartbroken and feeling betrayed though in lucid less emotional moments she knows she owes thanks to Jeremy for ending their relationship before they said I do. Still she trusts no man with Jeremy’s Best Man Levi Cooper the subject of her biggest scorn for failing to tell her that her fiancé was gay; using background checks that would make FBI agents envious, Faith has no faith in any man.

Several years after she left her Upstate New York town, Faith comes home to a dysfunctional family. Making matters worse for Faith is that she loathes her attraction to Levi, the town’s Police chief. He feels the same way as he wanted her when she was dating his best friend. Both are wary to take a chance as he brought back his Afghan war experience as a wounded warrior and she struggles to move passed the betrayal.

This is a fun madcap romance filled with plenty of feelings as the protagonists suffer from carrying differing emotional baggage. Although the fully developed support cast (especially Jeremy and Faith’s family including her leg-humping canine) adds overall depth, they also impede the prime romantic storyline. Still fans will enjoy the love story of the jilted bride and The Best Man.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Office Of Mercy-Ariel Djanikian

The Office Of Mercy

Ariel Djanikian

Viking, Feb 21 2013, $14.99

ISBN: 9780670025862

Three centuries ago in reaction to Malthus proven right by 59 billion residents, domed biospheres like America-Five were created. Soon after those who went inside, the Alpha release the Storm that causes pandemic destruction reducing the planet’s population to a few hundred thousand and making the surface hostile. Inside, there is abundance. To achieve their merciful vision of World Peace, Eternal Life, and All Suffering Ended, America Five established the Office of Mercy. Their mission to perform mercy killing sweeps of the starving tribes just outside their dome in order to end the suffering of these plighted poor souls.

Twentyish Citizen Natasha Wiley an Epsilon is assigned to the Office of Mercy as a tracker of the tribes who venture within fifty miles of the dome. Her boss and love interest Jeffrey a Gamma assigns her to reset monitoring sensors on her first venture outside the dome while reminding her that the key to stepping outside is to adhere to the Ethics Code especially no rapport with the tribes. However, her trek outside the dome does not go according to procedure.

This futuristic dystopian thriller is an exciting plausible tale in which the heroine finds the beliefs that she and all of Epsilon and those Generations before them has grown up with contain false premises (sort of like learning the Ten Commandments were a Genesis hoax). Somewhat a coming of age story inside a somewhat muted action storyline, readers will appreciate the 1984 logic of the America Five’s “burden” of saving the external masses by mass mercy murders.

Harriet Klausner

What She Saw-Rachel Lee

What She Saw

Rachel Lee

Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Feb 19 2013, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373278138

College student Haley Martin works as a waitress at a truck stop. She fantasizes about a consistent customer whose shirt says Devlin. Ray Liston, who she knew in high school, stops for coffee. Soon after he leaves to drive his rig, Deputies Micah Parish and Sarah Ironheart arrive to ask questions about Liston; which Haley answers without hesitation that he seemed fine to her. Ten miles from the truck stop, Liston drive his rig off the road and died.

Former MP, truck driver Buck Devlin investigates the death and other odd events impacting his firm. Already attracted to the college student, he fears her chatting with Liston places her in danger as a “loose end”. To keep her safe and besides which he needs her help to uncover the truth, he asks for her assistance by pretending to be lovers.

The latest Conrad County: The Next Generation (see Rancher’s Deadly Risk) is a taut romantic suspense thriller due to the super protagonists. Fast-paced from the moment the deputies enter the truck stop and filled with twists while never slowing down, readers will appreciate Rachel Lee’s interesting investigative romance.

Harriet Klausner

Operation Reunion-Justine Davis

Operation Reunion

Justine Davis

Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Feb 19 2013, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373278152

Chad Tucker vanished just after the murder of his parents over a decade ago. The two intertwined cases have gone cold, but Chad’s sister Kayla continues to search for her sibling. Her obsession has driven friends and family away, including her beloved Dane Burdette. He believes she is throwing away her life on the delusion that her brother is innocent and is tired of coming in a distant second to her all-encompassing quest.

At a time when she has run out of ideas, Kayla and Cutter meet. The Belgian canine escorts the distraught woman to Quinn Foxworth and Hayley Cole (see Operation Midnight). They and their team take on clients like Kayla with no one else to turn to for help. While Dane remains doubtful, but nearby, Cutter and his humans replenish Kayla’s hope.

This Cutter’s Code entry is an entertaining romantic suspense that affirms the W.C. Field’s comment “Never work with animals or children” as the delightful daring dog steals the show from the two pairs of couples. Fast-paced, Operation Reunion is an engaging story as fans will conclude that the canine knows best.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 22, 2013

One Less Lonely Cowboy-Kathleen Eagle

One Less Lonely Cowboy

Kathleen Eagle

Harlequin Special Edition, Feb 19 2013, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373657278

Thirteen years ago, Mike Reardon kicked his pregnant daughter Lily out of their home. Now with no money, the unemployed schoolteacher accompanied by her daughter Iris heads to her family Rocking R Ranch in Lowdown, Montana hoping her dad will allow her and his granddaughter to temporarily stay. Iris’ plans to work as a substitute teacher until she and Iris can get a place to stay.

Day worker Jack McKenzie works on several of the ranches though recently he is spending most of his time helping his mentor Mike. A divorcee with two kids (Becky and Wade) living with his remarried ex, Jack has heard Mike proudly talk about Lily for years. At the ranch, Lily helps out with the chores; while she and Jack feel an immense attraction though both have doubts because they do not wanting to hurt an ailing Mike.

One Less Lonely Cowboy is an engaging warm romance with a second chance at family underlying premise. The lead couple and her family make for a tender Big Sky contemporary as a small family operation struggles to survive amidst the mega corporations.

Harriet Klausner

The Right Twin-Gina Wilkins

The Right Twin

Gina Wilkins

Harlequin Special Edition, Feb 19 2013, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373657308

Aaron Walker grew up as one of the “Terrible Trio” in Texas. His cousin Casey has recently married and set up a law practice in Tennessee (see The Texan’s Tennessee Romance); his twin brother Andrew has become a successful private investigator. Only Aaron remains a “Terrible” one with debacles and screw-ups his norm.

Fleeing his family’s condemnation of his latest fiasco, Aaron travels to the Bell Resort and Marina on Lake Livingston. He is stunned when a beautiful blond greets him with an enthusiastic hug. Shelby Bell mistook Aaron for Andrew who has helped her family. She persuades him to go undercover as her pretend boyfriend to catch a thief. However, quickly both acknowledge (to themselves) that they wish the modifier was dropped from boyfriend.

The latest Walker extended family romance contains a strong investigative mystery that enhances the changing relationship between the lead couple. Readers will enjoy when Aaron sets out to prove initially to himself but soon to his beloved that he is The Right Twin for her.

Harriet Klausner

How To Catch A Prince-Leanne Banks

How To Catch A Prince

Leanne Banks

Harlequin Special Edition, Feb 19 2013, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373657292

Sophie Taylor argues with her boss Max Carter that he should meet his royal family and is previously unknown sister Coco Jordan (see A Home for Nobody's Princess); both offspring of Prince Edward of Chantaine. Unimpressed by the uproar, he insists he is too busy designing roads to visit his biological family at the Royal House of Devereaux even with his being in country on a project.

Still a reluctant Max listens to his assistant’s advice and meets the royals. His regal half-sisters know that their new sibling and his assistant are in love with each other though they also conclude he is in denial and she gave up on his inability to commit. Thus the royals play matchmaker.

The latest Royal Babies (see The Princess and the Outlaw) is an entertaining contemporary romance. The relationship premise between the protagonists has been used frequently (see the movie The Duchess of Idaho), but made fresh by the royals especially the matchmakers.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Smooth Sailing-Lori Wilde

Smooth Sailing

Lori Wilde

Harlequin Blaze, Feb 19 2013, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373797462

Affluent playboy Jeb Whitcomb spent a year in atonement to prove to his ex, marine biologist Ph.D. candidate Jackie Birchard; he earned a second chance with her. He spent one year of near celibacy while redeeming himself working on the rebuilding of St. Michael’s Island in the Caribbean.

Instead he learns his Jackie is marrying Coast Guard Lieutenant Scott Everly in Key West in four days. Jeb reacts poorly as he desperately needs to stop the wedding unless he is the groom. Jeb sails to Key West only to find an angry nurse Haley French on board. Someone attending the bash he threw drugged her. As Mr. Shallow and Ms. Irate sail together, each struggles to ignore the desire that accompanies them on their sea cruise.

The second male obsessing over Stop the Wedding (see Night Driving for Jackie’s half-brother Boone on land) of Birchard-Everly wedding makes for another zany at sea romance starring two opposites falling in love. Character driven by the lead couple, fans will enjoy the changing relationship between the hedonist playboy and the dedicated nurse.

Harriet Klausner

Sizzle-Katherine Garbera


Katherine Garbera

Harlequin Blaze, Feb 19 2013, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373797455

San Diego based Sweet Dreams Bakery owner Staci Rowland meets New Orleans chef Remy Cruzel in the elevator just before they and others vie for slots on the Premier Chef reality TV show competition. The selecting committee teams up in pairs the contestants leading to the Cupcake Girl and the Cajun Chef arguing over who should lead whom. Each makes the cut.

As the contest continues on the air, the heated attraction between sweet and spice improves both their performances. Over the weeks of the show, Staci and Remy fall in love, but he conceals his wealth as the heir to his family’s renowned Gastrophile Restaurant. When his beloved learns the truth, Remy fears she will dump him as trust in the kitchen means a lot to sweet Staci.

The Sweet Dreams sequel (see One More Kiss starring Staci’s partner Alysse Dresden) is a lighthearted culinary competitive romance. Using a chef reality show contest is not a new device, but made fresh by the lead couple who turn sweet and spicy into a sizzling sexy story.

Harriet Klausner

Where The Peacock Sings: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home-Alison Singh Gee

Where The Peacock Sings: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home

Alison Singh Gee

St. Martin's Press, Feb 19 2013, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312378783

Alison Gee lived the good life as an American journalist based in Hong Kong writing for the top magazines. Though dedicated to her work, she also enjoyed the best that Beverly Hills, Hong King and other locales offered. However, her self-perceived perfect lifestyle crashes when Alison meets Indian reporter Ajay Singh. Falling in love, he takes her to meet his royal family living in a dilapidated historical palace Mokimpur in the rural village with the same name. As his family doubts that a Southern California American “princess” has the grip to be their Ajay’s mate, she wonders also especially dealing with the plumbing. This is a terrific memoir that looks deep into what a family and a home are; made interesting by Alison Singh Gee’s ability to blend humor and seriousness into an enjoyable read. The road to the so “happily ever after” ending leads to Ms. Gee feeling bipolar with highs and lows; and readers to wonder whether his family is right that an American (even one in love) cannot slow down long enough to enjoy the peacocks singing.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Destiny-Karen Wiesner


Karen Wiesner

Karen Wiesner print, Feb 14 2013

ISBN: 978130002633

In Peaceful, Wisconsin, Christian and Elizabeth Riley, and Oscar and Yolie Albright are receiving Humanitarian Awards while both couples also celebrate their Platinum wedding anniversaries. Chris’ twenty year old daughter Destiny tells him that her boyfriend James Sparks proposed though they know each other for a relatively short time. She says she knows her parents dated forever, but Chris corrects her by saying they knew each other as church brats but did not date until they were thirty.

Chris felt stifled as a "church kid” so he moved to Los Angeles in spite of believing he loved Elizabeth Horace and she loved him back. Over the years he morally floated adrift with a flavor of the month girlfriend, but Chris always turned to Elizabeth for solace (and sex). When they make love, she becomes pregnant but wonders how God’s most beautiful blessing seems wrong. Downtown Don Juan the serial killer rapist assaults Elizabeth in a garage, but her screams brings the attendant to her. She physically survives but wishes she loved steady Oscar as she ends her dysfunctional relationship with Chris. Stunned, Chris realizes what he lost; to get her back, he needs to return to the Lord he deserted.

The latest inspirational visit to Peaceful, Wisconsin (see Family Heirlooms and the Friendship Heirlooms Series) is a wonderful romance starring a lost soul and the love of a woman destined to return him to the flock. The lead couple and Oscar make for a strong tale as love is blind but in this case not in the traditional meaning. Fans will enjoy playing Destiny Poker as Karen Wiesner provides a tender second chance at love between soul mates and with the Lord drama.

Harriet Klausner

Her Sister-Karen Rose Smith

Her Sister

Karen Rose Smith

Amazon Digital Services, Feb 19 2013, $3.99


When Clare Thaddeus was five years old, someone abducts her three year old sister Lynnie. The child never came home and their parents Amanda and Max divorced. Clare never quite recovered from her loss and subsequent family collapse; behaving wildly as a teen years.

Almost three decades since the tragedy that changed her life, single mom Clare struggles with her defiant teenage daughter Shara while musing fate is giving to her what she gave to her parents when she was sixteen. Clare’s mom calls to tell her that retired Detective Grove, who worked the Lynnie kidnapping twenty-seven years ago, thinks he has a lead. He meets with Clare and her parents at her Amanda’s Yesteryear office. The former cop says Luther Brown on death row in Texas for killing two little girls says his sister struck a deal with authorities that led to the corpses, but now dying from pancreatic cancer, she gave her sibling’s journal to the FBI. Two girls Winnie and Barbara were abandoned in Pittsburgh. A DNA test will prove whether one of them is Lynnie.

The seventh Search For Love contemporary tale (see HEARTFIRE and CASSIDY'S COWBOY) is an engaging family drama that looks deeply into the impact on people when a tragedy destroys their idyllic world. Two well-developed romances rightfully play second fiddle to the mystery of Lynnie with each affected by the kidnapping and now the DNA test. Though there may be too much tsuris as an unwanted pregnancy adds to the family issues, the character-driven strong storyline showcases how each Thaddeus deals differently to the abduction that devastated their loving home though they have a second chance at coming together after failing to do twenty-seven years ago.

Harriet Klausner

Knuckleduster-Andrew Post


Andrew Post

Medallion, Feb 1 2013, $14.95

ISBN: 9781605424934

Minneapolis war veteran Brody “Knuckleduster” Calhoun met battered Marcy a cancer victim at a community center where both slept on cots. Her boyfriend Jonah beat her up so Knuckleduster enters a bar to kick his butt. After the vigilante for hire takes care of business with his knuckleduster brass knuckles, Detective Nathan Pierce arrives to take him to the station for busting up a man’s face for the eighteenth time; both know the violence against women has been halved since he began to mete out an eye for an eye justice. Knuckleduster also needs to recharge the battery in his carotene contact lenses that enable him to see after the Molotov cocktail attack blinded him in Cairo.

Thorp Ashbury, who served with Calhoun in Egypt as peacekeepers a decade ago, invites Knuckleduster to his Illinois farm. When he arrives, Thorp tells him his kid sister Nectar enlisted over his objection. She went to Fort Reagan in Chicago for pre Basic class work training, but when Knuckleduster goes to talk to her he finds she has vanished. As the two vets search for the missing sibling, they begin to uncover a lethal mind-bending corporate conspiracy that leaves Knuckleduster wondering if he has become as crazy as his friend is.

This entertaining futuristic noir sets the tone with little interwoven activities like the electronic monetary card to exchange credits. The vigilante protagonist is a violent Daredevil butt-kicker who defends the downtrodden and paying customers (someone has to fund his expensive contacts). The exhilarating investigation grips readers with a pulp fiction excitement as Knuckleduster battles some nasty adversaries while thinking his paranoid friend is insane as there is no corporate conspiracy to wire wounded warriors.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 18, 2013

Yes, Master-Tawny Taylor, Anne Rainey and Vonna Harper

Yes, Master

Tawny Taylor, Anne Rainey and Vonna Harper

Kensington Aphrodisia, Feb 26 2013, $14.00

ISBN: 9780758287847

Stark Pleasure” by Tawny Taylor. College student Alice Barlow poses as a model for an artist. Dominant Tristan Stark sees her and wants the virgin as his sub.

“Ruby’s Awakening” by Anne Rainey. In Ohio Drake South has his choice of females except the one he covets, his neighbor Ruby; he even sends away the hot Skylar. When Ruby’s boyfriend Bryan rejects a weekend of sex, eavesdropper Drake drops in as better replacement.

“Runa’s High” by Vonna Harper. College runner Runa Mullan hopes to set the school’s female record at 800 meters. She asks Olympic silver medalist Jeff Tappe for advice. He says there is more to life than just the track. Soon, the two runners and Ken Paro run an erotic marathon with the males as her Master to help her break her mental barrier preventing her from achieving her goal.

These three heated BDSM tales contain strong protagonists who make for a fun hot time for erotica readers.

Harriet Klausner

Illicit-Opal Carew


Opal Carew

St. Martin's Griffin, Feb 26 2013, $15.99

ISBN: 9780312674625

Recently Lindsay ended her relationship with philandering Glen to the scorn of her stepmother Audrey who assumes she sucks (figuratively) in bed. Lindsay and three hunks (Erik, Connor and Travis) ride the apartment complex elevator together. She mentions seeing them to her BFF Jill who knows Connor and Travis from the swimming pool. When Lindsay receives an invitation for fun in the penthouse, she assumes Jill is playing her. Instead her three hunks welcome her for a weekend of sex.

She and Erik are attracted to each other, but once the weekend ends he leaves with no plans for future trysts. His two roommates and her best friend intercede as they know this pair has something special.

Fans who relish sex, sex, sex and more sex (of all kinds) will want to read the torrid Illicit. The four lead characters are not full-blooded (except for the males’ lower heads) and the romance feels out of place in this ultra-hot ménage a quatre. Still erotica readers will want to follow the sexploits of Lindsay and her studs as they heat the sheets with the aid of Erik’s special ability (not just that one) to know her fantasies.

Harriet Klausner

Neferet’s Curse-P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Neferet’s Curse

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

St. Martin's Griffin, Feb 19 2013, $12.99

ISBN: 9781250000255

In 1893 not every resident of Chicago enjoys the World’s Fair. Sixteen-year-old Emily Wheiler has no time for the Ferris wheels since her Mother Alice died in childbirth along with the male baby. Her angry martinet Father, Barrett, head of the First National Bank of Chicago, loathes his late wife for leaving him no male heir. He demands his daughter ignore her grief and teen girl fantasies to take over her Mother’s hostess duties to the city’s affluent and participate as a member of the General Federation Women’s Club feeding the homeless; as expected of the Lady of Wheiler House.

Frightened by her sire’s rage, she obeys her patriarch and begins the transition to replace her Mother. Emily also realizes something is wrong with her Father as he refers to her as frigid Alice. At her first hosted gala, Emily hits it off with Arthur Simpton but Father forbids her to see him or any male. Fearful of her increasingly abusive Father, she flees Wheiler House when he goes too far; only to have the Goddess of the Night Nyx, Marked her as a vampyre.

The latest House of Night Novella (see Lenobia’s Vow and Dragon Oath) uses Emily’s 1893 journal to tell the tale of her transition from female teenager to Neferet. The journey from coddled teen to Queen of the Night is well written as the Cast team enables readers to feel Emily’s changing myriad of emotions mostly depressingly pessimistic until the sly optimistic climax when she takes action. In spite of fans knowing what happens to Emily as Neferet over a century later, series fans will appreciate her “sweet sixteen” conversion as she finally reacts to her Father’s abuse.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Targets Of Revenge-Jeffrey S. Stephens

Targets Of Revenge

Jeffrey S. Stephens

Gallery, Feb 19 2013, $26.00

ISBN: 9781451688726

CIA field operative Jordan Sandor ignores the warning of his superiors to forget Venezuelan terrorist Adina, who escaped his previous attempt to end this psychopath’s reign of indiscriminate mass murdering (see Targets of Opportunity). He deploys a hand-picked team to destroy Adina’s cell and kill this maniac.

Sandor glides into the Venezuelan jungle with plans to assassinate Adina. However, though he thirst for vengeance as one of Adina’s victim was a close friend, Sandor changes his mission once he obtains facts on the ground after breaching the terrorist’s camp. Adina is not just processing cocaine for the world markets, he is manufacturing anthrax. Killing the abomination may not thwart his unknown evil scheme. Contacting his agency’s bureaucratic leaders, Sandor convinces them to set up a counter-operation to prevent Adina from deploying his latest evil. As he globetrots, Sandor finds his adversary has allies inside the American and several foreign governments to probably include the CIA and INTERPOL.

The latest fast-paced Sandor entry (see Targets of Deception) is an exciting action-packed tale as the hero risks his life to save the innocent from an amoral maniac’s plan to cause a pandemic disaster. With a contemporary Rambo-like star moving forward the storyline at an incredible clip, fans of action-packed thrillers that never takes a respite will appreciate the rematch.

Harriet Klausner

Supernatural: Fresh Meat-Alice Henderson

Supernatural: Fresh Meat

Alice Henderson

Titan Books, Feb 19 2013, $7.99

ISBN: 9781781161128

This part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains has an infamous history as here inside the Tahoe National Forest is where the Donner Party resorted to cannibalistic survival. In the present something evil emulates the Donner Party by dining on humans with a paranormal dessert. Those losing their lives reanimate while an unidentified flying monster continue unabated attacks.

After learning about the supernatural killer in the Sierra Nevada’s, evil hunters Bobby Singer and brothers Sam and Dean Winchester arrive to end the malevolent murderer’s malice. Trapped by a blizzard and trusting no one but themselves, the intrepid threesome must survive the weather while also avoiding becoming Fresh Meat for a diabolical adversary who can shapeshift into a human.

The latest super Supernatural novelization takes place in between season seven’s “Shut Up, Dr. Phil” and “Slash Fiction” episodes as Alice Henderson in her first outing deftly fits this thriller inside the series. Fast-paced from the first assault, fans will enjoy this action-packed urban fantasy as the overwhelming odds of survivor reside with evil over the outgunned hunters.

Harriet Klausner

The Arena Man-Steve Englehart

The Arena Man

Steve Englehart

Tor, Feb 19 2013, $28.99

ISBN: 9780765325006

In between his war against supernatural evil, former Vietnam grunt Max August the immortal but destructible magic practitioner and his apprentice lover Pam continue their unsuccessful search for the lost soul of his first wife Val. The pair ends their current investigation when they learn troubling information. The Necklace cabal of international magickal societal leaders and the demonic Belia’al have united. The powerful malevolent union plans to deploy Black Ops and magick to cause an attack that will gain everyone’s focus as thousands will die from their mass murder against man.

At the same time Alexsandra the diabola pretends to be the lover of the Gemstone leader of the Necklace Lawrence Breckenridge. She hides her real agenda behind her farcical tryst as her plot is to defeat Belia’al. Max takes over the identity of a dead conspirator (whose body he places in the Collective Unconscious) in order to get inside to learn what the cabal and the demon plot. At the same time, Pam seems trapped inside the Subconscious even as she needs to bring the Key to Max.

The latest Max August fantasy (see The Plain Man and The Long Man) is an exhilarating hyper-paced thriller. With a comic book style of non-stop action, series fans will relish this rousing entry as Max knows he must be a mad man playing the superhero to save those who disdain him against a seemingly invincible enemy who has the support of those same people he tries to rescue (to the PR goes the masses).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Three Graves Full-Jamie Mason

Three Graves Full

Jamie Mason

Gallery, Feb 12 2013, $24.99

ISBN 9781451685039

In Stillwater, Michigan a year and a half ago in a fit of rage, normally mild widower Jason Getty killed someone. Panicking, the office worker buried the body in the back yard. Since interring the corpse, he lives in fear of being caught as he expects the neighbor’s dog to dig up the bones though after crossing the first anniversary he logically knows the odds are statistically insignificant.

However, Jason also allowed his property to deteriorate during that same time. So to keep the complaints away, he hires Dearborn’s Landscaping to fix the front yard. Calvin the foreman and his two workers find a body buried there. Though not his haunting corpse Jason fears Detectives Tim Bayard and Ford Watts, who believe the previous owner placed the dead person under the ground, and Tessa the K9 will find another body; which they do, but once again not his.

Leah Tamblin never forgave her fiancé Reid Reynolds for running away with less than two weeks before their wedding. She needs to know if one of the dead is her Reid. The police identify Reid buried next to Katielynn Montgomery; her husband Boyd is the prime suspect.

Three Graves Full is a zany comedic twisting murder mystery as facts are not always facts when someone digs deep enough. The fully developed cast (including Tessa) makes for a fun tale as the players except for the brilliant dog seem to step in it.

Harriet Klausner

The Gin Lovers-Jamie Brenner

The Gin Lovers

Jamie Brenner

St. Martin's Griffin, Feb 12 2013, $14.99

ISBN: 9781250035936

“Gin Lovers 1.” Charlotte’s marriage to affluent William Delacorte provided her with an immediate entrance into New York high society. She wants her spouse to respect her so Charlotte tries to be his perfect (albeit bored) wife. However, when Mae, her sister-in-law, introduces her to the nightlife, she meets Jake Larkin, owner of a speakeasy where liquor, jazz and intimacy flow.

“The Gin Lovers 2: Little White Lies.” As Charlotte begins to uncover the dark side and secrets of her husband, she distrusts him, his family and his friends; leaving her kin and Jake as her only possible allies.

Told in six Gin Lovers’ parts (revealing anything else would be spoilers), readers will enjoy this episodic Prohibition Era drama as the period comes alive through the background of real persona like Duke Ellington. The engaging storyline is somewhat a soap opera as Charlotte grows emotionally due in part to her personal struggles between two men flawed by a dark side.

Harriet Klausner

Daybreak-Shelley Shepard Gray


Shelley Shepard Gray

Avon Inspire, Feb 12 2013, $12.99

ISBN: 9780062204400

For the past six months New Order Amish Viola Keim has worked at the Daybreak Retirement Home. Her favorite resident is Mennonite Atle Swartz who cherishes his son Edward; every time he receives a letter from his offspring, Atle reads it to everyone especially Viola. She cannot understand why Edward traipses around the world instead of his daed living with him at home as she would never abandon her medically needy twin sister.

When Ed makes a surprise return from his missionary work in Nicaragua, Viola condemns him for abandoning his father to strangers. He is shocked by her animosity as she seems so kind to his daed. As they become better acquainted, Viola realizes Ed is a caring son adhering to his beloved daed’s wishes. She and her siblings learn a secret about their austere grandmother that causes a family schism. Meanwhile Viola and Ed fall in love and want to marry. However, she has never left home and hates leaving behind her family especially her sister, but must decide whether to accompany him back to Nicaragua, wait for him at home or end their relationship.

The first Days of Redemption Amish family drama is an engaging tale as each Keim member has issues to deal with though Viola’s is the storyline’s prime focus. Viola has choices to make at a time when she believes her family needs her most. As it should be, the romance is straightforward; with the Keim brood struggling to deal with a shocking revelation that has Viola pondering between love of her family and love of Ed.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Fifth Man-James LePore

The Fifth Man

James LePore

Story Plant, Feb 12 2013, $14.95

ISBN: 9781611880656

Almost a decade ago, attorney Chris Massi’s father, Mafia hit man Joe Black Massi, was murdered and soon afterward his mother succumbed to a heart attack. Divorced from his Mafia princess wife, Chris feared his teenage son chose the mob path of his late grandfather that he avoided; entry meant murder. Chris met with his ex-father-in-law the Don Junior Boy DiGiglio, who tells Chris to man up as an eye for an eye is his current legacy into the family business (see Sons and Princes).

Almost a decade later, Matt attends Columbia University. A letter arrives addressed to Mr. Massi, but sent to his mom’s previous New Jersey address stating that a bin at Wall Storage owned by his late Uncle Joseph, dead eight years, will be forfeited if not renewed within an hour; not sure what is inside he directs Anna Cavanagh to renew the storage cell in Jackson, New Jersey for six months. Soon afterward, he meets with Nico Pugach the Russian in Brighton Beach who not so subtly implies he knows the family business. Soon Matt will be embroiled in the theft of valuable diamonds, murders, Secretary of State Clinton in Prague, and threats to his sister Tess and dad; as he ends up on a lethal grand tour of Europe.

The Fifth Man is a fascinating action-packed international thriller as two “Mafias” collide with a diabolical terrorist plot in Europe. Fast-paced, the son is the prime player though the dad plays a key role. Readers will enjoy the somewhat convoluted but entertaining suspense as Tess learns no one even her dad the weapon is what they appear to be.

Harriet Klausner

The Next Time You See Me-Holly Goddard Jones

The Next Time You See Me

Holly Goddard Jones

Touchstone, Feb 12 2013, $24.99

ISBN: 9781451683363

In 1993 in Roma, Kentucky, Ronnie Eastman vanishes. No one blinks; as the townsfolk expected no less of troubled Ronnie addicted to drugs, alcohol and sex. The one exception is Ronnie’s married “Sister” with a young daughter Abby, middle school teacher Susanna Mitchell who wants to know what happened to her sibling. She detests the holier than thou attitude of Pendleton the cop, friends and family including her school band leader Dale. All assumes Ronnie got what she deserved.

Thirteen-year-old loner Emily Houchens prefers role playing in the woods rather than friends. When she stumbles across a corpse, Emily decides to tell no one. Near retirement mechanic Wyatt Powell knows what it is like to be an outsider, but recently fell in love though he feels underserving. Finally Tony the black police detective, who dreamed of playing in the majors, returns to Roma after being away briefly; he investigates the disappearance of Ronnie.

Although ostensibly a mystery re what happened to Ronnie; The Next Time You See Me is more a deep look into the powerful force of what happened to Ronnie on people impacted by her disappearance. The key to this entertaining fresh suspense is that the prime characters are fully developed with each having doubts about the lives they live. Readers will enjoy Holly Goddard Jones’ engaging tale of the profound effect on the intertwining relationships when the dynamics change as the gap caused by deletion must be refilled by something or someone.

Harriet Klausner

James Madison and the Making of America-Kevin R. C. Gutzman

James Madison and the Making of America

Kevin R. C. Gutzman

St. Martin's Griffin, Feb 5 2013, $16.99

ISBN: 9781250023193

This is an intriguing but difficult read as Kevin R. C. Gutzman provides a deep look into the life especially as a leader of the paradoxical “Father of the Constitution”, but at times like our visit to the Philadelphia Convention feels overwhelming with its neutrino level detail. Founding Father biographical fans will appreciate the insightful full picture of the fourth president who thought the document he helped write would not survive very long and that the Bill of Rights he and others authored was unnecessary; though ironically Madison developed and oversaw implementation of the separation of state and church in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. With a contemporary premise, Madison thought political parties were bad for the country as their power-seeking self-interest would supersede the nation’s need. Dr. Gutzman makes a strong argument that perhaps the most long term influential of the Founding Fathers in the “Making of America” is James Madison; as even his wife Dolly was the prototype of the First Lady. This is a winning biography; just set aside plenty of time as this is not a quick read.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Truth About Love and Lightning-Susan McBride

The Truth About Love and Lightning

Susan McBride

Morrow, Feb 12 2013, $14.99

ISBN 9780062027283

In 2010 inWalnut Ridge, Missouri, single mom fiftyish Gretchen Brink lives on her family farm with her blind twin sisters when a tornado rips through the property. After the storm leaves, Gretchen goes outside to investigate the damage. She sees nuts on the ground near a fallen walnut tree that has not been fruitful in years. However, Gretchen has no time for the nutty mystery as underneath the tree is a man who sort of looks familiar.

Fearing her forty-year lie will be exposed, Gretchen wonders whether the man suffering from amnesia could be the love of her life Sam Winston who vanished in Africa four decades ago. Meanwhile her fortyish daughter Abby comes home pregnant and single; believing that she finally meets her biological father.

Rotating between different eras, Susan McBride provides a warm drama that focuses on how even a little white lie can have a snowball running down a hill gathering mass effect and what a family truly is. Although amnesia is an over used device, readers will root for the likable fully developed cast who are on the brink of either disillusioned dissolution or beautiful bonding.

Harriet Klausner

Phony Tinsel-Robert S. Levinson

Phony Tinsel

Robert S. Levinson

Five Star, Feb 6 2013, $25.95

ISBN 9781432826796

Wannabe screenwriter Charlie Dickens writes a script for Showdown at Shadow Creek. His agent Roy Balloon tried selling the script to the studios but all rejected it. After Balloon fires Dickens for his hitless batting average, the desperate author decides after seeing Cecil B. DeMille’s 1920s silent film The Ten Commandments he needs to produce his movie. As he invades the estate of the producer in the Hollywood Hills, he concludes this is like going to Heaven without dying.

However, Charlie enters the wrong mansion as he breaks into the home of producer Maxwell Moonglow. Greeting him in a sexy towel is Moonglow's wife actress Sarah Darling. Instead of concern about her uninvited guest, Sarah is used to lovers visiting her. Seductive, she persuades Charlie to execute her plan to kill Max in spite of the screenwriter struggling between two women sort of in his life. With nothing going right even Max’s filming his script seems ill-fated for key players, Charlie revises his muse to this is like going to Hell without dying.

This femme fatale 1930s twisting thriller is an enjoyable tale that will remind readers of Double Indemnity but with a comedic twist. The fast-paced lighthearted storyline is fun to read as Charlie navigates the Hollywood scene leaving behind corpses in his wake.

Harriet Klausner

Wolf Hunter-J. L. Benet

Wolf Hunter

J. L. Benet

Belfire Press, Dec 3 2012, $10.99

ISBN: 9781927580035

Aware that the Third Reich was losing the war, Himmler authorized the creation of super soldiers. In a remote part of the Forest of Rhineland at Castle Schlosshuelchrath, scientists experiment in turning into werewolves Karl “Bear” Wahlsevski, Luther “Mountain” Grutzmann, Dr. Albrecht “Spy” Pactwandler and Hitler Youth Viktor Huelen. Luther dies while the other three succeeds but as Lycan they are uncontrollable. Viktor escapes settling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

In the present, University of Michigan student Steve Williams is an obsessed genius researching the werewolf mythos with a particular interest in Dr. Worklauf's Nazi Lycanthopker experiments as he has a compulsive need driving him. At the same time, Jack the Ojibwa shapeshifter, hunting the Lycan abominations, kills a dying Albrecht in Chicago. Meanwhile, knowing what Viktor is, Steve demands the Lycan convert him; while Jack seeks to kill the werewolf and the wannabe.

Fast-paced, the gripping brisk Nazi experiment subplot affirms that war brings out the best and the worst in people as each side will have amoral people willing to do anything to gain the victory. When the storyline changes into an exciting modern day urban fantasy, the well-written horror plot becomes typical of the genre. Wolf Hunter is an entertaining though provoking thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hammett Unwritten-Owen Fitzstephen; notes and afterword by Gordon McAlpine

Hammett Unwritten

Owen Fitzstephen; notes and afterword by Gordon McAlpine

Prometheus/Seventh Street, Feb 12 2013, $13.95

ISBN 9781616147143

In New Year’s Eve 1959 on Long Island, ailing Dashiell Hammett holds a .38 and his own unfinished (and unpublished thanks to a recovery) New York Times obit from a few years ago ending with the unanswered question of why he stopped writing. In 1922, as a private investigator Hammett solved the Black Falcon murder mystery; ironically his last case as a gumshoe. He also married that same year but later divorced his wife as he began a decades-long affair with Lillian Hellman. At a police auction he bought the statuette that SFPD declared a worthless counterfeit. With the Falcon on his desk, Hammett began writing short stories and ultimately five hard boiled detective novels with his last one being The Thin Man in 1934 when the Black Falcon vanished; leaving behind the mystery of why he abruptly stopped writing. He surfaces in Hollywood and becomes a volunteer victim of McCarthy’s witch hunt.

Hammett Unwritten is a fresh meta-biographical fiction that brings to life the great mystery writer. The storyline cleverly blends known facts and real persona like Ms. Hellman and Senator McCarthy (at the hearings) with allegedly the real role models of key characters from the Maltese Falcon. Although the latter feels somewhat over the top of Nob Hill especially when the talisman seekers return years later into the Hammett’s life, the Black Falcon revisited makes for plenty of fun entertainment. Hammett fans will appreciate this bio-noir as Gordon McAlpine points out in his Afterward that 1920s mystery author and writer of this piece Owen Fitzstephen is the villain in the Dain Curse.

Harriet Klausner

The Devereaux Legacy-Carolyn Hart

The Devereaux Legacy

Carolyn Hart

Prometheus/Seventh Street, Feb 12 2013, $13.95

ISBN 9781616147044

In Rockport, Texas, Leah Devereaux Shaw buries her beloved grandma Louisa Abbot Shaw, the woman who raised her. However, Grandmother Shaw’s last letter and a much read magazine article stuns Leah who travels to Mefford, South Carolina where apparently her kin live. Her first stop in Mefford is the cemetery, which contains stones for her grandma, her parents and two years old Leah; all “lost at sea” when the New Star went down.

Leah heads to the family plantation that her grandma accompanied by baby Leah fled almost two decades ago. Her arrival is met by mixed emotions. Cousin Merrick Devereaux welcomes her; an extended family in-law Mrs. Leclerc warns her that the return of the Whispering Lady means death; cousins Cissy and John Edward Devereaux tell her to return to Texas or else; and her maternal grandmother Carrie Devereaux is stunned with a second chance to atone for her pride driving away her daughter in the 1960s. With a need to know why kind-hearted Grandmother Shaw vanished with her, Leah investigates while also attracted to Merrick.

This reprint of a 1986 Carolyn Hart romantic amateur sleuth is an entertaining tale that brings to life the author’s trademark Lowcountry setting (see the Death on Demand series). The cast is solid and the twists inside a taut suspense storyline plausible. Although the romance between the “kissing cousins” feels forced while supporting Ms. Hart’s Introduction’s contention on female mystery writing in the Reagan era, readers will enjoy this engaging “cold case” murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Omega-Susannah Sandlin


Susannah Sandlin

Montlake Romance, Feb 5 2013, $12.95

ISBN: 9781612183596

Vampire Tribunal leader Mathias Ludlam remains frustrated over his failure to destroy the Penton community established by Aidan Murphy as a haven for vampires and untreated humans to live together in harmony and a home to his traitorous son Will. However, diabolical Mathias uses his defeats as a means of winning the final fight against the Alabama abomination. He persuades the reluctant Vampire Tribunal to deploy an all-out assault on Penton for the crimes they committed against their kind; cleverly concealing his duplicity in causing their reactions.

The residents retreat into Omega, an underground bunker. Will assigned to protect the humans as his vampire allies cannot risk his symbolic capture, though he longs to fight alongside his vampire brethren. Ordered to help Will is former US Army officer Randa Thomas who was forcibly changed. She sees her partner as an elitist dilatant while an upset Will seethes over being underutilized. As the attack begins, Will and Randa prepare to fight to the death.

The third Penton Vampire Legacy (see Redemption and Absolution) is an exciting romantic urban fantasy. Randa remains a dedicated soldier as a vampire just like she was when she was human; however, Will owns the paranormal storyline (and in many ways the series) with his constant growth. With a deep look inside the heads of the key players during the Omega crisis without crimping the action, sub-genre fans will relish Susannah Sandlin super vampire mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Night Ranger-Alex Berenson

The Night Ranger

Alex Berenson

Putnam, Feb 12 2013, $27.95

ISBN: 9780399159725

Four recent University of Montana graduates (Gwen Murphy, Hailey Barnes, Owen Broder and Scott Thompson) volunteer to work for the Worldcases Children First at the giant Hagadera Refugee Camp in Kenya. Scott’s Uncle James Thompson runs the relief organization out of Houston, but is at the East African site because a Houston Chronicle reporter Pamela Hutchins is writing a story on the camps and the aid groups.

Three months later, local worker Suggs drives the volunteers for an R&R weekend at the Lamu island resort. However, to avoid a police blockade delay, Suggs uses a different route. Somali bandits abduct the four grads, but no one claims responsibility or demands a ransom. Back in the states; clamor for an invasion grows stronger every day.

The last time Evan Wells spoke to his father John, he called him a war criminal. Now a decade later, Evan contacts his dad to ask him to rescue the four hostages as he is good friends with Gwen’s sister Catelyn. Though no longer a CIA vigilante and unfamiliar with East Africa, John leaves his New Hampshire home and his lover Anne for the only person who could get him back into the field.

The latest John Wells thriller (see The Shadow Patrol) is a terrific suspense story with plenty of action. Though an excellent Wells tale, much of the superb fresh storyline focuses on the camp, the plight, the bureaucracy and the various bandit groups. Readers will believe they are on the Kenyan Somali border as Alex Berenson, like a writing wizard, provides a strong twisting rescue mission.

Harriet Klausner

Dark in the Woods-Rosemary Laurey

Dark in the Woods

Rosemary Laurey

Samhain Publishing, Oct 9 2012, $4.24

Amazon ASIN: B008TR5AX8

Alan Harrington persuades his doubting wife Cassie to move from Boston to his hometown of Andrews Meadows, Virginia; she agrees to a six-month trial in the mountain town. However, his mom makes it clear Cassie is unwelcome; his brother Tate, the only family member from his side to attend the wedding, invites them to stay at his house. Cassie finds his kin of hunters detest her while the residents across the river in Silver Grove are wary of her.

Not long after their arrival, Alan dies in what appears to be an accident. The Harrington brood ignores his widow to include funeral plans. Thinking of her marriage vows “or worse”, Cassie sneaks into the funeral parlor only to be shocked by her discovery. Deputy Sheriff David Argon investigates Alan’s murder and the subsequent killing of his sister Sherry-Ann; while also trying to keep the newcomer safe. He struggles to adhere to the advice of his Aunt Morgaine’s marital prediction for him to remain patient as she proclaimed before the then married Cassie arrived in town she was his future wife.

From the opening Aunt Morgaine’s prediction until the final confrontation, readers will appreciate this taut paranormal police procedural romance. In some ways, the exciting storyline feels like a mountainous gothic starring a heroine in peril, a dangerous remote landscape (incredibly eerie yet feeling genuine), and a hero brooding over having to be patient. Fans will believe that in the remote Virginia Mountains live the paranormal, the hunters and the mundane as Rosemary Laurey escorts her appreciative fans deep into the deadly Dark in the Woods.

Harriet Klausne

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp-Nathan Bransford; illustrated by C.S. Jennings

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp

Nathan Bransford; illustrated by C.S. Jennings

Dial, Feb 7 2013, $16.99

ISBN: 9780803737037

After losing the election for President of the Universe to his arch rival Planet Royal Mick Cracken (see Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe), twelve year old Jacob Wonderbar, Sarah Daisy and Dexter Goldstein return home on the Praiseworthy. The trio left home two weeks campaigning and saving the world. However, they are greeted by an earth that has seen five decades pass since they left and Mick is still the President. Instead of forty-something, Jacob’s mom is a nonagenarian while he remains a tweener. She tells him to find his missing father to reset the world; a task he has tried and failed to do for two years since his dad went missing.

Mick provides the trio with a time machine as he explains for them to find Jacob’s dad they must travel in time and space. Back in the Jurassic Period, Sarah’s sister Chloe greets the threesome. At the same (relative) time, the Strangers deploy a time sensitive plan of genocide eradication of the Astral self-exiled earthlings who led by Father Albert went into space. Since his father is an Astral, Jacob knows he is on the termination list as hybrids must die too. They become separated in the dinosaur age, but reconnect when an older Dexter is an advisor to Napoleon.

The third Wonderbar time travel science fiction (see Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow) provides middle school children with an enjoyable action-packed thriller that never decelerates. The storyline is amusing though never deep as science is not the objective; fun entertaining reading is and Nathan Bransford achieves his objective with this wacky tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Crook Factory-Dan Simmons

The Crook Factory

Dan Simmons

Mulholland Books/Little Brown, Feb 5 2013, $15.99

ISBN: 9780316213455

In the summer of '42, WW II is hot with spies seemingly everywhere at least according to Hoover. Of particular concern to the FBI chief is Ernest "Papa" Hemingway. To insure that the writer stays in line, Hoover sends Agent Joe Lucas to spy on the great author.

With the aid and approval of the American ambassador to Cuba, Hemingway leads an anti-submarine squad of misfits (at least in terms of soldiers) and old buddies from the Spanish Civil War. Lucas figures that all he has to do is relax amidst a bunch of drunken fishermen. However, to his amazement and chagrin, the amateur espionage group soon becomes embroiled in the real thing. Lucas wonders if a conspiracy leading back to his own government and perhaps his agency is behind the abruptly dangerous and deadly activities of The Crook Factory.

This reprint reminds readers that Dan Simmons has been a leading light of fictional biographical thrillers for years. The Crook Factory is a fabulous historical that takes real life happenings in the life of Hemingway and brings them to the reader in an engaging fictional account. Though no Islands In The Stream, this story makes the macho Hemingway seem alive as Mr. Simmons catches the literary legend's essence through a well-designed espionage thriller, packed with real people.

Harriet Klausner

Temple Of A Thousand Faces-John Shors

Temple Of A Thousand Faces

John Shors

NAL, Feb 5 2013, $16.00

ISBN: 9780451239174

In 1177 King Indravarman leads his vast invading Chams army as they attack Angkor in a bloody assault. Khmer Prince Jayavar and his number one wife Ajadevi flee into the jungle as the Cham horde devastate his overwhelmed people.

Now the king with the death of his father, Jayavar recruits thousands of troops like the fishing family of Boran, Soriya and their sons Vibol and Prak, who have witnessed the atrocities. Jayavar knows he has nowhere near the number of soldiers that the Cham claims, even fewer experienced warriors compared to their vicious adversaries; and they also lack the equipment. Indravarman’s top-level advisor Asal meets and falls in love with Khmer prisoner Voisanne. She opens his mind to the genocide and reminds him of what he prefers forgotten with the horrors he witnessed first-hand as a youth. Knowing the monarch will torture them until they die; Asal and Voisanne flee the Chams to join the Khmer resistance.

This is a profound rare look at twelfth century Cambodia as readers learn much about the Middle Age Buddhist and Hindu spiritualism and the Khmer culture; symbolized by the Angkor Wat complex. However that historical insight also tends to slow down the storyline with incredible layers of Eastern philosophical and religious depth. Fans who prefer intense passive societal deepness at the cost of action will enjoy John Shor’s perceptive look at Angkor a half of century before Thomas Aquinas’ writings.

Harriet Klausner

The Woman From Paris-Santa Montefiore

The Woman From Paris

Santa Montefiore

Simon & Schuster, Feb 5 2013, $25.00

ISBN: 9781451676686

In 2012 in the Swiss Alps, Lord George Frampton dies in a skiing accident. Ten days later in his Hampshire home, his wife Antoinette, their three sons (David, Joshua (his spouse Roberta) and Tom) and his mother Margaret grieve their loss. Also attending the funeral is Canadian Phaedra Chancellor; who David thinks love at first sight is inappropriate at his dad’s funeral.

Family attorney Julius Beecher introduces Phaedra to the Frampton family as George’s illegitimate daughter. Everyone is stunned with different reactions. Phaedra rejects her share of the inheritance, the Frampton sapphires even as her sweet kind disposition soon leads to the family warmly welcoming her. However, David wants more than just a half-sister while Phaedra feels the same way about him. However she conceals a dark secret that would rip asunder the Frampton family who she loves and due to her has come together.

The Woman From Paris is an entertaining family drama starring a fully developed ensemble cast. The Frampton clan is dysfunctional with the one person keeping them together now dead; that is until Phaedra enters their lives. Though readers will figure out Phaedra’s dark secret, love heals all types of emotional wounds.

Harriet Klausner

One Sunday-Carrie Cecil

One Sunday

Carrie Cecil

Howard/Simon and Schuster, Feb 12 2013, $14.99

ISBN: 9781451664768

Ambitious thirty-something Alice Ferguson felt she was on top of the world as with her gay business partner Amos, she edits a trashy tabloid and runs the Trashville Hollywood gossip website that consistently has her flying cross country. She recently met in Bel Air and soon married Dr. Burton Bannister II, the father of the child she carries.

However, her pregnancy proves difficult with health problems threatening her and her unborn. Alice gives up her stressful career and leaves Southern California for the Nashville area. There she feels like a fish on dry land living in suburban jail amidst the idle housewives. Adding to her frustration is realizing that Amos is doing a great job running Trashville without her. Retired NFL lineman Pastor Tim Jackson, his wife LaChelle and their two daughters are her only friends as Alice feels more like a squatter than a neighbor. However, Tim and LaChelle gently persuade the mocking doubter to show up One Sunday at their church.

Alice is a fascinating protagonist as she gives up the fast lane and what she believes is her identity to live as an outsider in the Deep South Bible Belt. Initially the coastal heathen makes no efforts to belong. Her long journey of redemption and forgiveness (of one’s self) make for a warm, at times amusing (especially Alice’s wry commentary) inspirational Christian tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 10, 2013

For Love Of Eli-Loree Lough

For Love Of Eli

Loree Lough

Abingdon Press, Feb 1 2013, $12.99

ISBN: 9781426752506

After his parents died last year, five year old Eli lives with his legal guardian maternal Aunt Taylor Bradley at the Misty Wolf Inn in Blacksburg, Virginia. Eli’s paternal Uncle Dr. Reece Montgomery blames his late brother-in-law Eliot who died as a soldier in Afghanistan for the subsequent death of his sister Margo. Reece also feels guilt for not being there for her; knowing Margo’s dying was not an accident. He especially rages over a loser like Taylor is named his nephew’s guardian when he is a pediatrician; worse he is attracted to the failure raising his last relative.

Eli and Taylor find an unfinished quilt that Margo started for her son. Taylor decides to finish the quilt so that Eli will have a precious memory of his late parents. As Reece visits Eli, he and Taylor fall in love, but he assumes she belongs to celebrity Jimmy Jacobs.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational (see A Wild Goose Chase Christmas by Jennifer AlLee, Beyond the Storm by Quilts of Love and Path of Freedom by Jennifer Hudson Taylor) is a warm family drama starring three survivors struggling with the deaths of loved ones. The engaging storyline focuses on healing as each of the trio handles their grief differently. Although the romance feels forced and uninspiring, readers will enjoy the lad’s living relatives doing for him whatever he needs because of a love for Eli and his late parents.

Harriet Klausner

Pandemonium-Warren Fahy


Warren Fahy

Tor, Mar 19 2013, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765333292

In 1917 at Corrective Camp 479 in the Kaziristani Mountains, guard Taras Demochev bullies the expendable Zek inmates into digging underground inside caverns when allegedly leaches attack. Six hours later, inspectors find one human part, Taras’ hand before poring cement in the tunnel.

In the present Pacific, zoologist Thatcher Redmond lies dead on a raft holding an empty jar that had been filled with fauna he took from recently nuked Henders Island. Crab-boat Captain Tezuka sends three sailors to check strange looking fauna when bugs kill two of them; the third returns with a captured specimen.

Russian tycoon Maxim Dragolovich modernizes Stalin’s underground bunker city Pobedograd. However, something kills his workers preventing the activation of the geothermal power plant. Dragolovich offers four million to recently married biologists Nell and Geoffrey Binswanger to change their honeymoon from Hawaii to the Kaziristani Mountains in order for them to identify the species residing in an unknown underground ecosystem filled with exotic fauna and flora. After barely surviving Henders Island along with Andy Beasley and five alien Hendros (see Fragment), the biologists have doubts, but come anyway. In Russia, the pair’s Henders Island copper-based horrors and much worse in the subterranean lake await to greet them.

The second ecosystem thriller is a terrific SF tale with an underlying horror premise of the creatures from within invading the surface (reminded me of the three versions of The Thing). The key is the use real science to support the concept of a thriving ecosystem beneath the surface. Fast-paced from the frightening 1917 scenario until the vast present day military operation, readers will enjoy Warren Fahy’s latest adventure into a unique nightmarish landscape filled with gruesome predators.

Harriet Klausner

Necessity's Child-Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Necessity's Child

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Baen, Feb 5 2013, $25.00

ISBN: 9781451638875

Clan Korval moved to planet Surebleak though Liad will always be home in their hearts. However, in their settlement Jelaza Kazone, the youngest family member Syl Vor feels worthless with no responsibilities and no friends since his cousins left for other worlds as apprentices. He believes his only importance is as a token showing his clan’s support to the newly established school that he attends. With nothing to do, Syl Vor helps a neighbor with seed planting, but failed to tell the clan so is lectured as several rogue Department of Interior agents seek their deaths.

An assassin tries to kill lifemates Liaden Val Con yos'Phelium and Terran Miri Robertson. Clan Korval searches for this killer as no one gets away with killing any of them, but especially this pair as they together are the Delm. The Bedel clan bunkers down in their tunnels until young Kezzi sneaks out with her dog. A vendor catches her stealing food but Michael Golden the Terran pays her tab. A Kompani guardian brings a comatose body to healer Silain who tries to save the coma victim. Golden follows clues that lead to her and her granddaughter Kezzi who soon meets Syl Vor at school.

Necessity's Child is an intriguing Liaden thriller that appears to be a transition to the next generation as much of the somewhat limited action focuses on Kezzi and Syl Vor. The overarching theme fails to move at all yet the plot sets up the future with an insightful look at their new planet, another culture and the young of Korval and Kompani. Series fans will have mixed feelings on Necessity’s Child, but will agree this is a clever perceptive entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Mountain Mother Cipher-N.S. Wikarski

The Mountain Mother Cipher

N.S. Wikarski

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Jan 22 2012, $9.99

ISBN: 9781468127591

Nineteen year old college freshman Cassie Forsythe suffered a horrific nightmare in which a cowboy demands the key before murdering her sibling Sybil. After someone kills Sybil, Cassie sees the cowboy flee her late sister’s apartment after finding the Granite Key. Shocked she joined Arkana seeking the Key and other ancient artifacts as she replaces Sybil as the Pythia psychokinetic reader of objects’ history.

Cassie teams up with Chief Scrivener Griffin and Security Coordinator Erik. On Crete, the trio learns of the existence of the mythological Minoan Sage Stone; to retrieve this ancient relic they must find five artifacts in a specific order. Blessed Nephilim Diviner leader Abraham plans for a third world war crusade once he obtains the Sage Stone. Arkana leader Faye the Memory Guardian fears exposure to the Blessed Nephilim; who would destroy the relics protected in their Central Catalogue vault. Thus Cassie and her teammates must find a way to steal the artifacts that the enemy own without their foes realizing what happened. They travel to Mount Ida near Troy in Turkey with the Blessed Nephilim and other unknown unsavory people seeking the same treasure.

The key to the second Arkana urban fantasy (see the Granite Key) is the cast who make the quest seem genuine. Cassie doubts she has the right stuff to replace her sister; Griffin doubts he belongs in the field as he is a librarian; Erik doubts his two mates have the heart and soul of a warrior. The support characters from both sides are also strong; and not just the leaders. Filled with action, fans will appreciate N.S. Wikarski’s Mediterranean tour.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Iscariot-Tosca Lee


Tosca Lee

Simon &Schuster/Howard, Feb 5 2013, $22.99

ISBN 9781451683769

With the death of King Herod, Jerusalem turns into a deadly tinderbox as revolutionaries take down the Eagle. However, soldiers go after those who defiled the Eagle. Six year old Judas flees with his family to Galilee as his Father was one of the conspirators. While nearing Sepphoris, they learn thousands of their Father’s compatriots were slaughtered by the new king Archelaus at the Temple. Rebellion explodes across the kingdom, but is put down with Judas’ Father dying on a Roman cross. The child vows to never follow his Father’s fate.

Judas becomes a Zealot studying the Torah. When he meets Jesus, Judas believes he met the Messiah king of the Jews who will end Roman rule. Feeling euphoric, Judas breaks his youthful commandment of never joining rebels when he becomes a disciple of the Nazarene. However, his hero rejects any religious dogma, which leads to a dispirited Judas believing he erred as Jesus is no Messiah planning to free the Jews but instead has a different plot.

This is an insightful exhilarating bibliographical biblical fiction that looks deep into the soul of the man history paints as the greatest betrayer as well as how Judas changes his opinion of Jesus and the disciples. Inside an entertaining tale that brings to life first century Judea, Tosca Lee makes the arguments that the child is the adult and that the victors write the history books (and Gospels). The childhood flight culminating in his Father’s execution haunts the adult Judas while his changing beliefs as to whether Jesus is good for the Jews is not different than the doubting denying disciples. Iscariot will leave the audience to wonder how we would have acted wearing Judas’ sandals.

Harriet Klausner

To Brie or Not To Brie-Avery Aames

To Brie or Not To Brie

Avery Aames

Berkley, Feb 5 2013, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425255544

In Providence, Ohio, Charlotte Bessette owns Fromagerie Bessette better known locally as The Cheese Shop. Carelessly she causes a grease fire in her kitchen because she was distracted by her delicious latest concoction. As usual, Charlotte has a lot going on as she and her fiancé Jordon Pace discuss marital plans; feed the cast performing in her grandmother’s production of Hamlet at the Providence Playhouse; cater the upcoming marriage between her best friend Meredith and her cousin Matthew; and create with the Igloo Ice Cream Parlor magician a Brie blueberry ice cream.

However, a new distraction pops up when the Tourist is found dead inside the Igloo Ice Cream Parlor cooler. The murder weapon is a carton of Brie blueberry ice cream. Police Chief Urso leads the investigation, but Charlotte identifies the corpse as Giacomo Capriotti, estranged abusive husband of Jacky Peterson; the only suspect. Charlotte conducts her own inquiry starting with who notified the New Jersey resident that his missing wife had become a Buckeye.

The latest Cheese Shop cozy (see Clobbered by Camembert, The Long Quiche Goodbye and Lost In Fondue) is an engaging murder mystery starring a courageous amateur sleuth. Though at times comedic, the female support cast too frequently acts more like WrestleMania participants with their back and forth shrilling rather than small Ohio townsfolk. Still series fans will enjoy murder by cheese ice cream as the Bard arrives in Providence.

Harriet Klausner

Cold Light-Traci L. Slatton

Cold Light

Traci L. Slatton

Parvati Press, Jun 27 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780984672684

The white miasma Mists burned except chlorophyll. Billions died when the Mists sucked out metals from humans and other beings on the planet during the Day. Arthur saved Emma, her young daughter Mandy and seven lost little orphans attached to her when he dispatched the Mists and brought them into his safe camp. Emma assumed her husband Haywood and their oldest daughter Beth are dead. She and Arthur become an entry while leading their settlement. However, Haywood found his wife and child in France and brought them home to Edmonton leaving Arthur behind despondent from his loss (see Fallen).

In Canada, raiders abduct Beth. She and Haywood search for their child. Clues lead them to Arthur and his townsfolk; all of whom are angry at their former first lady for leaving them. Still everyone joins in on the quest to find and rescue Beth; while Haywood and Arthur demand she choose between them as neither will voluntarily leave her. At the same time, everyone mentally prepares for the confrontation with the Mists knowing many of their loved ones will die in the final battle for survival.

The second exciting “After” post-apocalyptic thriller moves forward on two fronts: Emma’s relationships and the anticipated suicidal Armageddon Mists war as Traci L. Slatton deftly blends both subplots into a superb dystopian tale through her quality cast. The triangle participants fear the repercussions on the young at a time when nightmares are prevalent yet none of them can leave. Readers will wonder who will quote Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

Harriet Klausner