Sunday, August 31, 2014

Irresistible Force- D.D. Ayres

Irresistible Force
D.D. Ayres
St. Martin’s, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250042170

One month ago, someone kidnapped Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD Officer James Cannon’s K9 partner Bogart.  James followed leads in search of his missing police dog until he sees Bogart with a woman in an isolated cabin just outside of Raleigh. 

Shayla Appleton fears her former boyfriend, outwardly charming to the world but abusive to her. Eric Coates refuses to accept it is over between them.  Thus she “adopted” dumped for death Prince from the local animal shelter where she volunteers.  James confronts her for abducting his canine Bogart, but Shay says she saved him from execution as the woman who dropped him off demanded they do.  After Shay dials 911, Chief Deputy Sheriff Ward arrives to take control of the scene.  Shay describes the woman wanting her Prince to die; James recognizes his crazy former girlfriend Jaylynn Turner.  Both already in love with Prince Bogart and with help from their dog, James and Shay deal with their respective monstrous previous significant others, her childhood and worse love.

The first K-9 Rescue police procedural romantic suspense is an exciting action-packed tale that deftly combines falling in love (due to the efforts of a matchmaking dog) with the nefarious activities of the two over the top of Mount Mitchell exes (neither have a redeeming quality).  Prince Bogart steals the show from his human partners as D.D. Ayres provides a terse opener.

Harriet Klausner

The Way You Look Tonight- Bella Andre

The Way You Look Tonight
Bella Andre
Mira, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780778317302

Seven years ago Rafe Sullivan left the police to open up a private investigator firm.  His office proved very successful and many in Washington believe he runs the best in the state.  However, jaded Rafe also knows the downside as 100% of those he or his staff investigated were up to no good.

His sister Mia the realtor tells him the lake house near Seattle that they used to visit as children is on the market.  Knowing he desperately needs a getaway R&R place, Rafe buys the rundown cabin.  To his pleasant surprise, staying next door at her late grandparents’ house is no longer cute but instead beautiful Brooke Jansen, who aged perfectly.  Having left Boston, Brooke is thrilled that her childhood crush is within reach.  However, though as attracted to her as she is to him, Rafe hesitates as he has seen so many more relationships die though he admits his extended family have proven the exception.

Having left the San Francisco Sullivans in forever loving relationships, Bella Andre heads north for the first sexy Seattle Sullivans saga.  Although the location changes, the quality of the leads remains strong even if their romance starts too quickly.  Series fans will find the pleasant opening act very enjoyable and look forward to Mia who’s next on deck.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Locker Rooms-Patty Lesser

Locker Rooms
Patty Lesser
iUniverse, Dec 4 2013, $16.95
ISBN: 9781491713365

In Dundas, Canada thirty-eight year old Alida wins 10 million dollars in the lottery.  After collecting her check in nearby Toronto, Alida buys the Michael house, which is near the home where her parents live in Dundas.  When she cleans out the fireplace, Alida finds a tunnel behind it.  Stepping inside, Alida locates three rooms filled with lockers.  Opening one locker, a voice begs her to help free them from the boite.

Stunned and frightened as the voices warn her of Shad who locked them away, Alida escorts Barbara to her grave so that her soul can move on.  She takes two others to their final resting site while wondering why these good people who suffered sad deaths were locked away like sinners.  As Shad tries to kill her with a train derailment, a plane accident and a taxi’s breaks failure, and goes after her mind through her parents; Alida believes God watches over her.  Her fourth rescue Oliver asks to stay with her for a while.  As Alida and Oliver fall in love, her only hope to save these souls resides with Lucifer.

Locker Rooms is a refreshing, very creative look at the afterlife through the eyes of a courageous bi-polar (though that illness is downplayed) heroine, those victims she rescues and a devil who makes Lucifer seem heavenly.  Character-driven, readers will enjoy this leisurely-paced good, innocent and evil thriller especially as we learn a little about those souls Alida saves.  I would like to read more about those trapped inside the boite in perhaps a prequel short story collection.

Harriet Klausner

The Winter Guest-Pam Jenoff

The Winter Guest
Pam Jenoff
Mira, Aug 26 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9780778315964

In 1940 in Biekowice, Poland the Nowak patriarch died in a cart accident while the matriarch was hospitalized with severe injuries.  Though acrimonious rivals with diverse opinions about the German invasion; the oldest children, twins Helena and Ruth take charge of their younger siblings (Michal, Dorie and Karolina) even as the Nazis blitzkrieg Poland.  

Though she knows she should ignore the wounded foreigner, Helena rescues Jewish American soldier Sam Rosen.  Initially telling no one about him she hides the paratrooper as he heals.  When Helena and Sam fall in love, jealous Ruth reacts with bitterness; while opportunistic neighbors plot against the family. 

The latest Pam Jenoff WWII Poland thriller (see The Kommandant's Girl and The Diplomat’s Daughter) is another excellent historical as readers obtain a vivid sense of life during the Nazi occupation.  The strong cast makes for a powerful drama enabling us to see the deadly era through the eyes of the five Nowak siblings (especially the diverse bias of the twins) and Sam.  As the truth fails to set them free, The Winter Guest is a fantastic 1940s war novel.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil In Denim-Melanie Scott

The Devil In Denim
Melanie Scott
St. Martin’s, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250040428

Maggie Jameson believes her father mentored her for years to replace him as the owner of the New York Saints baseball team.  Thus when her dad sells her beloved Saints to three former college jocks (Alex, Lucas and Mal), Maggie feels betrayed; made even angrier when she learns of the Judas sale at the purchasing contract signing.

Alex Winters and his two friends saw their college baseball careers go up in smoke when they were injured rescuing people from a fire.  Being from Queens, Alex wants to turn around the fortunes of the Saints; but understands that for the players to accept him and his partners, they need the support Maggie who has the team’s sympathy.  Irate Maggie loathes the upstart and considers a better offer (at least for her) that would make her the team’s CEO by using the league’s Executive Committee.  As Alex tries to convince Maggie to join the new management team, the former college catcher and the previous owner’s daughter fall in love.

The series opener is an exciting baseball romance that cleverly combines on field action, boardroom action and bedroom (also locker room) action into a terrific sports tale.  Fans will enjoy the gender war between opponents in love as Melanie Scott provides a winning game one.

Harriet Klausner

The Winter Guest-Pam Jenoff

The Winter Guest
Pam Jenoff
Mira, Aug 26 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9780778315964

In 1940 in Biekowice, Poland the Nowak patriarch died in a cart accident while the matriarch was hospitalized with severe injuries.  Though acrimonious rivals with diverse opinions about the German invasion; the oldest children, twins Helena and Ruth take charge of their younger siblings (Michal, Dorie and Karolina) even as the Nazis blitzkrieg Poland.  

Though she knows she should ignore the wounded foreigner, Helena rescues Jewish American soldier Sam Rosen.  Initially telling no one about him she hides the paratrooper as he heals.  When Helena and Sam fall in love, jealous Ruth reacts with bitterness; while opportunistic neighbors plot against the family. 

The latest Pam Jenoff WWII Poland thriller (see The Kommandant's Girl and The Diplomat’s Daughter) is another excellent historical as readers obtain a vivid sense of life during the Nazi occupation.  The strong cast makes for a powerful drama enabling us to see the deadly era through the eyes of the five Nowak siblings (especially the diverse bias of the twins) and Sam.  As the truth fails to set them free, The Winter Guest is a fantastic 1940s war novel.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 29, 2014

Stone Cold Lover- Christine Warren

Stone Cold Lover
Christine Warren
St. Martin’s, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250012661

As she breaks into the Abbaye Saint-Thomas l’Apost in Montreal, art restorer Felicity “Fil” Shaltis thinks of ending in prison , but also reflects back to when she helped her friend Ella Harrow with the now missing Vancouver Art and History Museum stone gargoyle (see Heart of Stone).  As she illegally enters the museum, obsessed Fil, with no witnesses around, needs to understand why she finds a stone gargoyle attractive.

The Darkness sends evil to kill Fil.  The malevolence fires energy bombs at her, but the assault awakens Spar the gargoyle who Fil desires.  After Fil flees to safety, Spar explains he is one of seven Guardians created to keep mankind safe from the Darkness.  As the couple fusses, fights and falls in love, they must overcome a curse and save mankind.

The second Gargoyle romantic urban fantasy (see Heart of Stone) is a fabulous paranormal starring an intriguing lead couple with totally opposite personalities.  Whereas normally he is stone cold logical (Fil’s entry into his life ends his dispassionate persona); she is impetuous and impatient to charge head first by taking the fight to the enemy.  With a strong support cast (that range from the good, the naive and the evil), Christine Warren authors an awesome novel.

Harriet Klausner

Harbor Island-Carla Neggers

Harbor Island
Carla Neggers
Mira, Aug 26 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9780778316534

In Dublin FBI Agent Colin Donovan proposes to his partner Emma Sharpe, who agrees to marry him (see Declan's Cross).  Now home, following a jog Emma returns to their apartment while her fiancé is out when she receives a mysterious call from Rachel Bristol.  The filmmaker asks the Fed to meet her on Bristol Island in Boston Harbor.  Rachel promises to provide Emma with info related to a cold case art theft tied to the investigation her small FBI unit and her family-owned Maine-based Sharpe Fine Art Recovery are conducting in New England and Ireland. 

Ignoring her boss Yankowski’s warning for her to be extremely cautious since she is a Sharpe, Emma arrives at the rendezvous location only to find Rachel dead.  In the victim’s hands is a cross that Emma knows is a replica of the first theft by a clever thief who leaves these mementos behind to remind the agent of the unsuccessful pursuit by her and her grandfather for years.

The fifth fabulous Donovan and Sharpe FBI art restoration romantic thriller (see Heron's Cove and Saint's Gates) is a suspense-filled terse entry.  The action starts immediately and never slows down while the expanding cast continues to enhance the drama though one needs a scorecard.  Included with Harbor Island is the first printing of previously released as an e-novella Rock Point starring Father Finian who arrives in Maine where he and FBI agent Colin Donovan meet as the priest learns of violent smugglers using his family's distillery.

Harriet Klausner

The Best Kind of Trouble-Lauren Dane

The Best Kind of Trouble
Lauren Dane
Harlequin HQN, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780373779345

In Hood River, Oregon librarian Natalie Clayton stops at Common Grounds for coffee on her way to work when Sweet Hollow Ranch rocker Paddy Hurley arrives in need of caffeine.  Before even turning around, Natalie identifies by the voice a man she shared two weeks of love-making a lifetime ago.  When Paddy sees her he recognizes her mouth from the greatest two weeks of his life.  She denies being the tattooed pixie who worked at a dive in Portland; as she muses to herself that was a different Natalie.

Every morning when Natalie stops for her coffee, Paddy greets her by asking her to go out with him.  Though she declines he refuses to quit asking.  After consistent rejections, Paddy erodes some of her resistance and Natalie agrees to go on a date.  As they fall in love, Paddy knows he must somehow break down the remaining protective barriers Natalie constructed as a means to escape her ugly childhood, but errs in his efforts.

The first Hurley Brothers romance is an engaging second chance at love romance starring two to nice protagonists.  The leads come from polar opposite types of families in which his nicely supports him and hers, especially daddy dearest, mostly trashes her; the townsfolk particularly her roommate Tuesday Eastwood have become her surrogate loving “family”.  Although the storyline follows the most obvious path, The Best Kind of Trouble is falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Getaway God: Sandman Slim- Richard Kadrey

The Getaway God: Sandman Slim
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager, Aug 26 2014, $24.99
ISBN: 9780062094612

James “Sandman Slim” Stark still feels relief that he no longer has the Lucifer gig; even if he realizes he soon must deal with the raging creators Angra Om Ya Old Gods demanding their previous place in the universe before some upstart newbie conned them out of the lofty top spot.  However, the hybrid human-angel expects that confrontation to save heaven, hell and all sorts of sh*t  in between from the Old Gods reengineering the future back to their glorious ancient past is for another day.

Golden Vigil lectures Sandman Slim to hunt down the murdering machine Wildfire Ripper who is devastating Los Angeles.  Instead of killing the predator as he desperately wants to, Sandman Slim learns he needs this destructive psychopath to save more than just L.A.; as apparently the insane Ripper is the only essence (besides the plotting deities) who knows how to prevent the planet and beyond from a nasty Big Crunch; he apparently can no longer delay the Old Gods confrontation.

The sixth Sandman Slim irreverent humorous urban fantasy (see Kill City Blues, Devil Said Bang, Aloha From Hell, Kill the Dead and Sandman Slim) is an amusing over the top of the Hollywood sign thriller as once again the universe is at stake.  Fast-paced as always, Stark and his allies (very loose definition) team up based on Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest requiring normally serial and mass killing adversaries to unite against a mutually stronger and crazier enemy with a kick the universe butt attitude. 

Harriet Klausner

To Die Fur-Dixie Lyle

To Die Fur
Dixie Lyle
St. Martin’s, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250031082

Eccentric (most would say crazy) billionaire Zelda Zoransky hosts a gala attended by affluent animal collectors interested in purchasing Augustus the rare white liger ZZ owns.  Her “Gal Friday” Deidre “Foxtrot” Lancaster put together the party and in reality actually “hosts” the event.

However, to the horror of everyone except for a killer; in ZZ’s private zoo someone murders Augustus.  Deidre wonders who would slay the rare animal since allegedly none of the guests seemingly had a motive; all of them supposedly wanted to buy the liger not kill him.  Receiving assistance from the live animals in zany ZZ’s zoo and those not breathing while resting in Zelda’s cemetery; Foxtrot, accompanied by her two fur buds (Whiskey the canine shapeshifter and the late Tango the feline telepathic ghost) investigates the Linger homicide.

The second Whiskey Tango Foxtrot paranormal cozy (see A Taste Fur Murder) is a jovial lighthearted paranormal whodunit due to the farcical furry frolics of the cast.  The antics of the unlikely bumbling amateur sleuths, their living and dead menagerie of supporters, certifiable ZZ and the visitors make for a charming cozy.

Harriet Klausner

No Limits-Lori Foster

No Limits
Lori Foster
Harlequin HQN, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780373779048

Supreme Battle Championship fighter Cannon Colter returns to the States following a victory in Japan for some needed R&R after the tough brawl.  However, hometown attorney Cannon asks him to come to Warfield, Ohio to discuss the property and funds that he inherited from the recently deceased Tipton Sweeney.  Stunned Cannon cannot understand why any inheritance is going to him; as all should have went to the late pawn shop owner’s granddaughter Yvette; the one female he desired but avoided as she was too young for him when he left to join the SBC.  From the grave Tipton needs Cannon to take care of his beloved Yvette; giving him joint ownership of half the estate to do so.

Unsure what type of greeting he will receive from Yvette who ran away to California after his “rejection” and the trouble they and her grandfather faced three years, Cannon attempts to comfort Yvette, but she rejects his condolences.  Distrusting him for two reasons now, Yvette tries to hide her feelings of love by keeping her distance from Cannon; while he hopes to earn her trust as he believes he has her love and to honor Tipton’s belief in him by keeping the woman they both cherish safe.

After the wonderful Love Undercover quartet, Lori Foster returns to her SBC world (see My Man Michael, Hard to Handle Causing Havoc and Simon Says) with round one of the Ultimate contemporary romance.  The leisurely-paced second chance at love subplot takes a somewhat typical track though the fully developed leads and the townsfolk like Cannon, and the suspense make for a fine Buckeye drama.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wanted: Wild Thing-Jessica Sims

Wanted: Wild Thing
Jessica Sims
Pocket Books, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781476753973

A decade ago, the fortune-teller informed then fourteen year old Ryder Sinclair she was a changeling who if still a virgin by twenty-five, the monster inside would replace the outer bubbly human façade.  Since then Ryan has sought unsuccessfully to meet her “One” true love, but has failed to find the male who can prevent the monster inside her from taking over her outer appearance when passionate.  Even working at Midnight Liaison dating service for the supernatural has proven futile.

Finian the Fae accompanied by a giant he introduces as “unimportant” arrive at the office.  The arrogant Fae calls Ryan a Changeling, which shocks her as no one knows what she is.  He also explains her biological parents were breeders he hired in order to own the offspring.  Before leaving, Finian assigns his gigantic companion Hugh to insure his asset remains a virgin so that he can collect on his investment by selling his merchandise to the highest bidder when the monster inside of Ryder takes control.  Ryder’s only hope is to seduce her humongous hunk.

This Midnight Liaisons romantic urban fantasy (see "Out with a Fang" from the Undead In My Bed anthology, Must Love Fangs, Claws and Effect, Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter, and Beauty Dates The Beast) is a jocular chastity belt tale starring a frustrated “owned” couple.  The storyline starts off leisurely-paced, but accelerates as readers meet all the players (including those from previous books and the primordial).  Although why Finian waited until the final countdown to guard his valuable virgin (and in hindsight should have chosen a female or a eunuch), this well-written novel stars the ugly changeling and her Wild Thing falling in forbidden love

Harriet Klausner

No Time To Die-Kira Piekoff

No Time To Die
Kira Piekoff
Pinnacle, Aug 26 2014, $9.99
ISBN: 9780786034895

Though Zoe Kincaid is a twenty years old college student, her ultra-petit body looks like that of a young teenager; some would say a male tweener.  While her parents insist she accept her condition and stop obsessing over it, Zoe urged by her Gramps turns to Manhattan medical geneticist Dr. Ray Carlisle who explains her unnamed condition; her entire body even her teeth stopped aging at fourteen.

Zoe sadly agrees to allow research scientists to conduct tests on her in order to learn how her DNA shut down the aging process.  However, opponents want the “amoral” studies stopped and will do anything to end it.  At Panax Pharmaceuticals in DC, someone releases test chimps that kill Dr. Eliot Shipley in his lab.  Columbia University biochemist Dr. Helen McNair vanishes.  Meanwhile in DC Justice Department Bioethics Committee Agent Les Mahler notices the trend of 27 unresolved vanishings except for the Shipley corpse.  Now Zoe disappears.

No Time To Die is a mesmerizing medical suspense as Kira Piekoff deftly balances a timely deep look at the ethics of genetic research; this case involves using a human guinea pig for the well-being of others inside of an action-packed twisting biological thriller.  With a solid cast, readers care about what happens to Zoe.

Harriet Klausner

Mercy-B.J. Daniels

B.J. Daniels
Harlequin HQN, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780373778959

Six months ago, Rourke Kincaid failed to follow procedure and a civilian almost died.  He was pulled from active duty; eventually assigned to cold cases.  After reviewing several files, U.S. Marshal Rourke Kincaid notices a serial killer pattern in the files; Beartooth, Montana waitress Callie Westfield was photographed at various Sweetgrass County crime scenes.  He wonders why she keeps showing up but instead of supporting his premise, his supervisor suspends him again.

Unauthorized Rourke goes rogue and in Seattle meets with his medically retired former SPD partner Laura Fuller to illicit her help.  Laura hopes he came to see her to tell her he loves her like she does him; but instead he asks her to assist him on a serial killer case in Beartooth.  In the Montana town, undercover Rourke meets Callie at the Branding Iron Café where she works.  However, as the evidence mounts that Callie is a cold-blooded murderess, mortified Rourke knows he fell in love with a serial killer. 

The fifth Beartooth Mountains thriller (see Atonement, Unforgiven, Forsaken and Redemption) is a pleasing Big Sky romantic suspense.  Although readers will solve the case much earlier than Rourke does, Mercy is a fast-paced, action-packed murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Slimy Underbelly-Kevin J. Anderson

Slimy Underbelly
Kevin J. Anderson
Kensington, Aug 26 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781617731143

In the Unnatural Quarter the weather wizards (Alastair Cumulus III and Thunder Dick) compete for the bragging rights of top weathermancer; which leads to chaotic conditions from blistering heat to a whiteout blizzard in an hour.  Private investigator Dan Shamble of Chambeaux and Deyer gets to the office where his girlfriend (and office assistant) Sheyenne the ghost lectures him for being out in a snowstorm.  Shamble’s partner Robin Deyer the human lawyer completes the Recompose Spa case for Mr. Lurmm the frog demon.

Supervillain in training and junior mad scientist, twelve year old Jody Caligari, Jr. needs their help but says his payment will make them feel good for doing it pro bono.  The lad explains his slumlord evicted him from his sewage lab and kept his experiments based on his being a child. Irked Robin says that is age discrimination and accepts the case over Shamble’s objection; he has doubts about a client who only reads graphic novels.  Meanwhile something underground has caused deaths, bad plumbing and horrific smells above ground.  With his neighborhood turning into a cesspool, Dan’s inquiry leads to Ah'Chulhu.

The latest Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. paranormal investigation (see Hair Raising, Unnatural Acts and Death Warmed Over) is as always a terrific timely satirical thriller as Kevin J. Anderson amusingly lampoons values in which feuds are the weird norm.  Whereas Jody is a great client, the usual suspects help the hero work the inquiries.  Included is a short story (previously published as an e-book) in which the sleuth conducts a Stakeout at the Vampire Circus where performers do their final act.

Harriet Klausner

Death of a Dog Whisperer: A Melanie Travis Mystery-Laurien Berenson

Death of a Dog Whisperer: A Melanie Travis Mystery
Laurien Berenson
Kensington, Aug 26 2014, $24.00
ISBN 9780758284556

In Fairfield County, Connecticut, Bob tells his former wife Melanie Travis the canine lover that he recently met friendly dog whisperer Nick Walden.  Not long after their chat, Melanie learns her Aunt Peg and many other affluent owners think the world of Nick until he translates dog-speak to them.

When someone murders Nick in his home, his sister Claire pleads with Melanie to look into her sibling’s homicide.  Though she has no time to sleuth as she mothers her eight kids (two human and six poodles) Melanie makes inquiries into the murder in which the cops peg her aunt as one of several suspects.

The seventeenth Melanie Travis canine mystery (see Gone with the Woof, Hounded to Death and Doggie Day Care Murder) is a jocular amateur sleuth due to the heroine’s targeted mirthful mocking retorts to characters like Bob and amusing asides to the audience.  Readers will enjoy the dog shows (professional and otherwise) and the Death of a Dog Whisperer amateur sleuthing.

Harriet Klausner

The Benedict Bastard- Cate Campbell

The Benedict Bastard
Cate Campbell
Kensington, Aug 26 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758292308

In 1923 Seattle, Dr. Margot Benedict continues to practice medicine at the Women and Infants Clinic.  Driven by Mr. Blake and accompanied by Nurse Sarah Church, Margot arrives at The Ryther Home to inspect the place before applying for government funds to assist the children’s home.  After being nasty towards Margot’s two Negro companions, Mother Ryther objects to the doctor’s insistence that she allow her and Nurse Church to vaccinate the orphaned or abandoned kids residing there.  When Margot meets the young charges, she is taken aback by a little boy who could have been her demented brother Preston’s twin (see Benedict Hall).

Stunned Margot seeks the truth while at the same time Bronwyn Morgan searches the city for her lost three years old son sired by Preston when she was sixteen.  As Margot seeks proof that she has an illegitimate nephew whom she hopes to take to Benedict Hall; she and her Pater visit psychopath Preston at the asylum where he is held in a drugged state; and family matriarch Edith brings Bronwyn into the home.

The third Benedict Hall historical family drama (see Hall of Secret) is an enjoyable glimpse at bygone era in which a changing America still feels the impact of WWI.  Now married to Frank, Margot keeps the interesting storyline focused as her inclusive beliefs remain decades ahead of her time.  Charlie’s paternity issue enhances Cate Campbell's entertaining glimpse of the Roaring Twenties in the Pacific Northwest.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 25, 2014

Keepers Of Runes And The Tower Of Shadows- Andrew D. Cratsley

Keepers Of Runes And The Tower Of Shadows
Andrew D. Cratsley
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, May 1 2014, $15.98
ISBN: 9781494365530

Though his student is over a century old, Tessius the master worries that newly promoted to Knight Corinth is too egotistical and overconfident in his magic and sword-fighting skills.  Thus Tessius sends Corinth away from Enzlintine supposedly to end the trouble caused by Khalid but mostly for the pupil to learn more of the vast complex world out there. 

On Corinth’s trek, Aventis the swordsman and Nadine the siren join the knight.  With other allies, they consistently succeed and triumph; adding to the knight’s belief he can beat anyone.  When Mortiscet the elven necromancer captures the trio, Corinth mentally struggles with his first setback.  Mortiscet forces the trio to abet his daughter Rieka regain a magical book.  However, Rieka has a different agenda as she wants freedom from her despicable father; so she persuades her companions to rebel against the evil necromancer.

Keepers Of Runes And The Tower Of Shadows is a fabulous Tolkien epic fantasy due to the vivid Cratsley world filled with fully developed species.  Although nothing new is provided, subgenre fans will take immense delight in this enchanting opening act as the “young invincible” and his cohorts taste “   the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat...” (ABC's Wide World of Sports).

Harriet Klausner

The Mystery of the Trinity-Richard Gid Powers

The Mystery of the Trinity
Richard Gid Powers
Caravel Book/Pleasure Boat Studio, Sep 1 2014, $19.95
ISBN: 9781912887012

In New Orleans during mass at St. Patrick Church, someone shoots and kills controversial traditionalist Father Stan Klaves, who has demanded a return to the Faith of Our Fathers.  New York Timothy Cardinal Ryan gives the eulogy at Father Stan’s funeral.  NOPD claims the assassin committed suicide.

Like her late father, Ann Grayce provides benefactions to Cardinal Ryan who worries his most generous supporter will take over leading the Klaves’ movement.  Ann and her beloved Jack Logan (whom has drawn the wrath of the Cardinal for his work on neuroscience and spirituality) meet with excommunicated Sister Patricia Sullivan and National Christian Reporter journalist Peter Newland who witnessed the assassination.  Cardinal Ryan joins them; insisting that the Church will die if it supports a “culture of death” as Klaves demanded.  Not long afterward in Alexandria, Louisiana, a gunman tries to kill Ann; but instead murders a cop.  A Greek monk murders the captured gunman, but escapes back to Mt. Athos, Greece.  This leads to Ann and her allies on a global quest to uncover a Church conspiracy of death that includes the killing of Father Romero.

The Mystery of the Trinity is an intriguing thoughtful drama that concentrates on the modern day Catholic Church; especially the schism between the traditionalists who want to return to the strict past and those who believe this return denotes a “culture of death” leading to papal suicide.  The use of famous people, social media and locations enhance the overall realism of the intense theme.  Not for everyone since the stimulating storyline contains a lot of passive religious debate (that I personally esteemed); Richard Gid Power authors a mesmerizing Catholic Church conspiracy thriller.

Harriet Klausner

A Match Made By Baby-Karen Rose Smith

A Match Made By Baby
Karen Rose Smith
Harlequin Special Edition, Aug 19 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658374

In Fawn Grove, California, his frazzled former stepsister Tina dumped her two-month old daughter Erica on the infant’s Uncle Adam Preston who had been home for a week.  The international environmental geologist did his best to quiet his niece, but finally admitted failure.  Desperate he calls the Mommy Club for help with the screaming baby. 

Volunteer pediatrician Dr. Kaitlyn Foster comes to his home shocking Adam with her arrival.  As she calms down Erica, Adam explains that he came home from Africa stunned to find he had a niece as he never knew his much younger stepsibling was pregnant.   Both adults think back to their encounter when they first met last year in Cape Town and each currently denies to their own counsel that their attraction remains robust.  As they nurture the child, the couple begins to fall in love.  Nevertheless, Kaitlyn and Adam agree nothing can come of their desire since she is a stay at home doctor and he is a nomadic globetrotting geologist.

The latest Mommy Club romance (see Wanted: A Real Family) is a wonderful contemporary with an underlying supporting focus on the overwhelming responsibility of single motherhood.  Character driven by a vigorous cast, A Match Made By Baby is the usual great family drama by always dependable Karen Rose Smith.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Agincourt Bride-Joanna Hickson

The Agincourt Bride
Joanna Hickson
Harper, Aug 19 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 978000744697

In fourteen years of marriage to “Mad King” Charles VI of France, Queen Isabeau already has given birth to four boys and five girls when a sixth worthless female Catherine pops out.  Royal nursery boss Madame La Bonne is pleased that the fifteen years old Parisian baker’s daughter Guilliamette Dupain gave birth to a stillborn.  Given no choice, Mette becomes Catherine’s wet-nurse.

Over the years Princess Catherine keeps Mette at her side during her childhood and into adulthood.  Though a commoner, Mette guides the child through the chaotic courts of her insane father and her ambitious brother King Charles Dauphin; both whom plan to marry her off to forge an alliance.  The powerful Duke Philippe of Burgundy also has an agenda for this princess.  However, after the forces of Henry V win at the Battle of Agincourt, Catherine becomes either a greater asset or liability for the ambitious plotting to use her or get rid of her.  Only Mette, risking her life, protects her until the royal sibling must choose between two monarchs, her brother the French King and English King Henry V.

This is a vivid historical biographical fiction tale that brings to life early fifteenth century France (at court, in Paris and the countryside) and to a lesser degree England through the eyes of Catherine’s prime confident.  Though not for the casual reader as the storyline can be overwhelming in the depth of background, The Agincourt Bride is a very fresh entry in the often told tale of Catherine of Valois (see The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien and The Queen's Secret by Jean Plaidy).  The pleased audience will return for the continuation of Catherine’s saga (see The Tudor Bride; not yet published).

Harriet Klausner

Dead Man’s Curve- Paula Graves

Dead Man’s Curve
Paula Graves
Harlequin Intrigue, Aug 19 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373697847

FBI Agent Ava Trent arrives in Johnson City, Tennessee to investigate the kidnapping of Gabe and Alicia Cooper (see The Man from Gossamer Ridge).  The Feds’ interest involves Alicia’s late brother Sinclair Solano, who had been on their Most Wanted List until he died five years ago.  At the motel where the abduction occurred, a stunned Ava sees a very alive Sinclair; a man she was falling in love with on Mariposa eight years ago. 

Worried for his sister, Sinclair believes someone in Sanselmo realized he did not die in the Tesoro Harbor warehouse explosion that killed several; and that means El Cambio’s lieutenant Cabrera knows he betrayed them, most likely as a federal double agent.  His sibling is a pawn to bring him out into the open where terrorists and law enforcement have a bulls-eye on his back.  Now he must persuade Alicia to give him time to rescue his sister though the agent sarcastic retort eliminates him telling her the truth.

The first Gates romantic suspense is a high octane thriller with an angry enemy targeting a steadfast Solano as he risks his life to save Alicia while his FBI sidekick devastates his normally singular mission focus.  With a connection to the Cooper saga, Dead Man Curve is a terrific tense opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Snow Blind-Cassie Miles

Snow Blind
Cassie Miles
Harlequin Intrigue, Aug 19 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373697861

Due to the mysterious death of nonagenarian client Virgil Westfield, Denver-based Samuels, Sorenson and Smith sends twentyish legal assistant Sasha Campbell to represent the law firm with the Arcadia Ski Resorts’ investors.  She stays in her boss Damien Loughlin’s luxurious condo.

Though she shouldn’t voyeur, using Damien’s binoculars, Sasha looks out the window into other condos until she horribly witnesses a man seemingly kill a woman at the Gateway Hotel.  She calls 911, but the operator thinks she is drunk.  Summit County Sheriff’s Deputy Brady Ellis answers the 911 call.  Though they find no body or any evidence of a homicide, Brady believes Sasha’s story due to her mentioning Chinese food which he faintly smells when they enter the alleged crime scene room.  Now Brady fears the killer, who may be one of the four investors she is meeting with, will try to eliminate the witness.

Cassie Miles’ latest Colorado romantic suspense (see Snowed In) is a thrilling tale in which rightfully so the investigation and intrigue supersedes the falling in love subplot.  The exciting storyline never slows down as there are plenty of suspects among the investors and their families with one needing to silent the “voyeur”; thus turning Snow Blind into a delightful Rocky Mountain whodunit.

Harriet Klausner 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Vampire’s Curse-Mandy Rosko

The Vampire’s Curse
Mandy Rosko
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Apr 23 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9781489521125

In Griffon City, with her mom ill, Jackie Moore the witch does a double shift at her mother’s business Patty’s Potions N’ More.  After closing the shop, Jackie walks home in a snowstorm when a male body lands at her feet next to a prone female; several vampires lay unconscious while others stand nearby.  When Jackie goes to help the man on the snow near her, he apologetically tries to bite her; but instead she kisses him and flees.

Kyle McCane is stunned with the results of that kiss.  Somehow the female turned him back to human.  However, the next night the curse returns as he reverts back to vampire.  Thus he seeks the witch who temporarily cured him.  As they kiss every night, the pair searches for a more permanent cure though each likes the lips-locking; at the same time they investigate who or what is killing feral vampires.

The first Things In The Night paranormal investigative romance (see book two The Legend of the Werewolf and book three The Shepard's Agony) is an amusing lighthearted fantasy starring two fascinating protagonists.  Whereas she is The Worst Witch (not the star of the 1980s children movie) except for her healing lips; he is the reluctant part-time vampiric outsider (mindful of the adult leads in Ladyhawke) who no longer belongs in New York City as his family fears that one night soon he will bite them.

Harriet Klausner

Shark Fin Soup-Susan Klaus

Shark Fin Soup
Susan Klaus
Oceanview, Aug 19 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781608091232

Christian and Allie Roberts enjoy sailing the Caribbean on their sloop Catalina.  While near the Bahamas, Christian becomes irate when he observes fishermen illegally mass murdering sharks.  He upsets them when he challenges what they are doing and threatens to expose them to the authorities; they retaliate by killing Allie.

Filled with remorse that he provoked the incident that led to his beloved wife’s death, he is well aware FBI Agent Dave Wheeler believes depressed Christian killed his wife.  Initially turning to drugs and booze to numb his anguish; Christian eventually snaps out of his stupor when he remembers Allie’s last words: “save the sharks.”  Though still downloaded with guilt, grieving Christian begins his quest to honor his late mate’s deathbed wish though well aware the growing demand for shark-fin soup makes success unlikely.  To pay homage to his spouse, the widower believes he owes it to her to try; so as Captain Nemo he terrorizes those terrorizing the diminishing shark population.

The second Christian Roberts thriller (see Secretariat Reborn) is an intriguing cautionary ecological tale in which Susan Klaus warns that the exponential growing demand for Shark Fin Soup trends towards species extinction and consequently destroying critical habitats, reefs.  With the shocking beginning leading to the protagonist becoming a born again eco-terrorist, readers will relish his over the top of The Great Barrier Reef efforts to save the sharks.

Harriet Klausner

Stripped Down-Kelli Ireland

Stripped Down
Kelli Ireland
Harlequin Blaze, Aug 19 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798186

In Seattle Preservations CEO Cass Jameson and her team diligently worked on water preservation and soil erosion at the site of the proposed Chok Resort on Lake Washington.  When the EPA approved their proposal, Cass plans to present it next week to the resort builders, Sovereign Developments.

Eric Reeves feels good that his company Sovereign Developments won the bid for the Chok Resorts project over his more powerful established rival David Jameson.  He keeps his nocturnal life as popular Beaux Hommes stripper Dalton Chase apart from his day time CEO role except for the former funding the latter.  When Cass hires him to strip at her BFF Gwen’s bachelorette party, neither knows of their project connection as they share a week of Pleasure Before Business intrudes.

The first Pleasure Before Business heated romance is a fun frolic though the concept of both unaware of their business link after a week together feels like a throwback to the 1961 Rock Hudson-Doris Day movie Lover Come Back but with plenty of sex and no Pillow Talk.  The leads are likable ambitious individuals who fall in love just before they learn who their tryst partner truly is.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 22, 2014

Never Mind Miss Fox-Olivia Glazebrook

Never Mind Miss Fox
Olivia Glazebrook
Little, Brown, Aug 19 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9780316242899

Martha and Clive met while attending Oxford.  He fell in love immediately and felt fortunate when he persuaded her to join his Barkes family Easter vacation in France.  Clive’s brother Tom’s special friend Eliot Fox joined them. 

After years away from England, Eliot Fox comes home to London.  One of her students Eliza Barkes informs her parents (Clive and Martha) that her piano teacher knows both of them.  Whereas Martha relishes the coincidence, Clive panics as Eliot was his series of indiscretions over the years.  Fearing she will expose his betrayal to his wife, Clive tries to keep the piano teacher away from her; but Eliot knowing the power she has over her occasional lover refuses to back away from the Barkes.

Appealingly rotating between the present relationships and past illicit trysts, this is an absorbing character study that looks at the impact an eccentric other woman has on her former lover and his family.  The quartet is three dimensional making the cause and effect of his cheating seemingly genuine.  Although the encounters over the years come across as well written but improbable happenchance, the trouble Miss Fox’s return to England causes to the Barkes’ seemingly happy family makes for an appealing novel.

Harriet Klausner

Incense & Peppermints-Carole Bellacera

Incense & Peppermints
Carole Bellacera
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, May 2 2014, $16.00
ISBN: 9781497355637

In 2011 Memphis, sexagenarian nurse Cindy Sweet receives a Facebook message from her fiancé Ryan Paul Quinlan, who allegedly died in Vietnam over four decades ago.  Stunned she thinks back to 1965 when idealistic Cindy voluntarily joined the military as a nurse assigned to the 24th Evacuation Hospital at Long Binh.  She faced death and maimed victims on her first day and every day afterward while serving in Nam.  Cindy still sees the face of her first dying soldier; a youngster from South Carolina whose last wish she could not grant.

Cindy also reflects on her first innocent love before she volunteered Gary McCartney; her passionate second in Nam with Ryan; and her calm final one with Sergeant David Ansgar whom mentored her as she adjusted to the frantic existence at the 24th.  Though encouraged by her husband David, this hesitant grandma must decide whether she wants to meet Ryan at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

This is a reflective Vietnam War tale starring an innocent growing up rather quickly when faced immediately with dying and severely wounded young soldiers; just the title (from the Strawberry Alarm Clock song) will remind boomers of the sixties furor.  Carole Bellacera provides a gripping storyline due to the support cast (patients and staff) who bring a timely haunting message that the cost of war is not just in combat dollars, but also the impact on those fighting and their loved ones; that lingers on for decades after the last soldier came home.

Harriet Klausner

Behind Closed Doors-Debbi Rawlins

Behind Closed Doors
Debbi Rawlins
Harlequin Blaze, Aug 19 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798162

Beth Wilson wonders about her sanity when she gave up her career that enabled her to see the world to open up a boarding house in Blackfoot Falls, Montana even if she originally came from Billings.  She also tries to help her seemingly out of control teenage niece Liberty.  When Jorgenson sends her lumber order to Nathan Landers, she tries calling the rancher but he ignores her before she visits him to plead her case.  The widower delivers the lumber to her.

Liberty attends school, but also works for her aunt to make restitutions to victims of her art wall including Nathan.  As Beth and Nathan begin seeing each other and fall in love, Liberty sabotages their relationship since she has a crush on the rancher and a greater fear of abandonment.

The latest Made in Montana tale (see Need You Now, Alone With You, From This Moment On and No One Needs To Know) is an entertaining contemporary made fresh by Liberty’s issues.  Although the adult relationship is the prime plot; it takes a backseat to saving Liberty.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Grand Design-Amber Stockton

A Grand Design
Amber Stockton
Abingdon, Aug 19 2014, $13.99
ISBN: 9781426773471

On a dare from her BFF Libby, Alyssa Denham entered the Bride Magazine contest to win a romantic getaway for two on Mackinac Island, Michigan.  Home to her grandma, Alyssa used to visit the island when she was a child until an incident shattered her heart and when her dad died she never returned.  When Bride informs Alyssa she won the vacation, she struggles with whom to take with her as she has no man in her life.  She sadly muses she can’t even find a date for the June weddings she attends; so persuades Libby to join her as the contest says “two” not “couple”.

The two BFFs delight in working with Alyssa’s grandma on an heirloom quilt and enjoy the Lake Huron island immensely especially since they have access to places outsiders are banned from visiting.  Meanwhile local Scott Whitman and Alyssa are attracted to each other, but her heart must let go of what happened several years ago to her and her family on Mackinaw Island so that their love can fill the vacuum.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational (see A Promise In Pieces by Emily T. Wierenga and A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare) is a warm coming of age contemporary in a wonderful setting starring a fascinating protagonist who spent years hiding in plain sight from what happened.  Although the romance is rather straightforward, Alyssa’s rapid maturity makes for an endearing tale.

Harriet Klausner

Bittersweet-Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough
Simon & Schuster, Aug 19 2014, $26.00
ISBN: 9781476755410

In Corunda, New South Wales, Australia, St Mark's Church of England Reverend Thomas Latimer sires twins (Edda and Grace) with his first wife, but their mom dies in childbirth.  The church rector mourns his loss, but soon marries his stern housekeeper.  Two years after the birth of his first children, Thomas sires another set of twin girls (Heather and Katherine).

By 1926, Thomas encourages his four young adult daughters to leave their home to attend the nearby new Corunda nursing school though each has different BHAGs in mind.  Edda wants to become a doctor though she understands the bias against female physicians.  Her twin Grace’s objective is more acceptable by Australian standards as she wants to be a wife and mother.  Tufts, as Heather’s siblings call her, wants freedom mostly from the demands of her parents.  Finally Kitty wants acceptance for her brain instead of her beauty.  Now as each begins their own unique adventure in independence, the quartet knows there are two sure things in life: death and through thick and thin they can always rely on her sisters to be there when it really matters.

Bittersweet is a great family epic that provides readers with a profound absorbing glimpse at Australia especially during the twentieth century decades between the World Wars.  Each of the lead sisters is fully developed but also possesses differing personalities and diverse desires as to what they want out of life.  As their respective lives bounce back and forth between sorrow, happiness and feelings in-between, the four siblings remain steadfast in their belief that they always have each other when the going turns ugly or simply Bittersweet regardless of distance and other relationships.

Harriet Klausner

One Kick-Chelsea Cain

One Kick
Chelsea Cain
Simon & Schuster, Aug 19 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9781476749785

When Kit “Kick” Lannigan was six years old, she became the unwanted star of an Amber Alert.  Five years after her abduction the FBI rescued the tweener from her “caring” capturer.  Over a decade since her liberation, Kick remains emotionally damaged and particularly loathes the reminders of the worst moments of her life: her mom who still uses her bestselling memoir re the kidnapping for fame and fortune, and the high internet traffic into her life.  Her only friend remains James who shared her childhood kidnapping as a fellow victim of the same adult. 

Residing in Portland, Oregon twentyish Kick obsesses over child abductions with a powerful need to rescue the kidnapped kids.  Private security agent John Bishop asks Kick to assist him find and rescue missing Adam Rice and Mia Turner.  Hesitantly she agrees; though this means for her to envision what Adam and Mia face returning to a time and place when she answered to the name of Beth.

As the dysfunctional dance partners Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell obtain a breather, Chelsea Cain begins a new suspense series starring a kick butt heroine who has cause for her damaged psyche.  The riveting taut storyline mesmerizes the audience especially the harrowing dysfunctional Stockholm Syndrome relationship between Kick and her childhood kidnapper, and an astonishing exposé into child porn.  One Kick will be on the short lists as 2014 best suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Must Love Fangs-Jessica Sims

Must Love Fangs
Jessica Sims
Pocket Books, Aug 27 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451661828

Marie knows she is dying from the same disease that killed her mom.  Her only hope to live is for one of the supernaturals to turn her into one of them.  Since she works at Midnight Liaison, the dating service for the supernatural, Marie comes in contact with vampire and shapeshifting hunks.  Thus she thinks: Wanted: Wild Thing (next series entry) to change and save her.  Alas as with Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, shifter, shifter everywhere but not a bite in sight since a recent bad conversion put a halt to this species performing the deed.

Thus her only hope resides with the vamps and she has two possible candidates.  However, were-cougar Joshua Russell has been attracted to Marie since he first met her at Midnight Liaison though she constantly rejected his advances offering back only polite ennui professionalism.  Josh campaigns to be her one.

This Midnight Liaisons romantic urban fantasy (see "Out with a Fang" from the Undead In My Bed anthology, Claws and Effect, Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter, and Beauty Dates The Beast) is a graveyard jocular tale starring a no-nonsense human female and an all-fun shifter male.  Whereas Marie has no time for courting, flirting or loving; Josh has plenty of time for courting, flirting and especially loving.  Though “cougars can’t laugh”, readers can and will delight in the amusing, somewhat angst, Must Love Fangs.

Harriet Klausner

Season Of The Dragonflies-Sarah Creech

Season Of The Dragonflies
Sarah Creech
Morrow, Aug 12 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062307521

Serena Lenore found a rare flower overseas that she brought back to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  For decades since Lenore women have created an extremely expensive rare perfume from that flower to sell to selective clients though many want to be their customer.  This magical perfume they produce enables the chosen ones to succeed in whatever vocation they desire.  However, Lenore, Inc. may be in trouble as the key ingredient, that special flower, is nearing extinction and a troublesome individual begins an extortion scheme.

Additionally, current president Willow recently has shown her age as she suffers from amnesiac gaps.  Her daughter Mya, whose ambition has been to run the family company, begins to think the time for her to take charge is now; but hesitates as she does not want to hurt her mom.  Her opportunity becomes threatened when her only rival her sister Lucia, who never displayed the special Lenore talent, returns to the Blue Ridge Mountains after being away for years.  If the siblings compete, the firm dies; if they merge their skills the firm survives (for now) and may even thrive.

Season of The Dragonflies is a pleasant female family fantasy.  The women are three dimensional even with their special skills; as their troubled relationships and the impact on the firm is the prime storyline ingredient.  Though the perfume, its special potent flower and the chosen beneficiaries (with one notorious exception) are under-featured (suggest an anthology starring customers), this is an appealing drama.

Harriet Klausner