Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Return to Glory-Sara Arden

Return to Glory
Sara Arden
Harlequin HQN, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779307

Former SEAL Jack McConnell returns home to Glory, Kansas a broken man.  He sits in his dress whites and pulls the trigger of a gun pointed at his head.  The click disappoints Jack as the chamber was empty.  Jack’s BFF, GPD police officer Caleb Lewis, arrives before the PTSD veteran continues with his Russian Roulette.

When Caleb’s sister Betsy was a tweener, Jack saved her life.  Since then he has been her beloved hero.  Whereas he assumes he no longer is her idol, Betsy knows she still loves him damaged goods and all; and will do anything to help Jack heal from his emotional injuries.  Though he doubts she can reach through his darkness, Jack doesn’t know Betsy; as she remains determined to save her hero from himself.

Return to Glory is an insightful contemporary romance that provides a stunned audience with a timely realistic look at a suicidal vet struggling with mental and physical war wounds, and the beloved woman (and townsfolk) giving her all to rescue him.  Character-driven by traumatized Jack, this is not an easy read starting with the opening haunting sequence.  As readers wonder if love will prove enough to save a life, Sara Arden brings needed attention on the much higher rate than the civilian population of suicides among returning veterans.

Harriet Klausner

In Your Dreams-Kristan Higgins

In Your Dreams
Kristan Higgins
Harlequin HQN, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779314

In Manningsport, New York, Blue Heron head winemaker Jack Holland rescues four teenagers from drowning after they wrecked their car.  The townsfolk rightfully consider the kindhearted Jack the hero of the Midwinter Miracle; but he remains traumatized over the boy in that accident still in a coma.

Police Officer Emmaline Neal needs a date for her former fiancé Kevin Bates’s wedding in Malibu.  Friends suggest she ask Jack to be her guest, which he agrees.  In California, Emma feels overwhelmed and not just because she is the groom’s ex; as her family resides nearby and she believes she is the lone failure of Dr. and Dr. Neal.  When she and Jack share a wonderful evening of love, Emma doubts it is more than just a one-night tryst; as a cop can’t compare to his former wife Hadley who demands a second chance with him.  However she doesn’t know Jack; as well as she thought as he wants much more than a SOCAL fling.

The fourth Blue Heron romance (see Waiting On You, The Perfect Match and The Best Man) is a charming contemporary starring two amiable protagonists and ably supported by their families and other bicoastal locals.  Kristan Higgins authors a warm droll drama as the self-doubter buries her trepidations in Skittles and chocolate cake, and the PTSD sufferer struggles with the accolades from his heroic act; neither know how to deal with falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Jilted-Rachael Johns

Rachael Johns
Harlequin HQN, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779369

A decade ago in Hope Junction, Australia, Elenora Hughes jilted Flynn Quartermaine at the altar to pursue an acting career.  When her godmother Matilda breaks her ankle, Ellie returns home after remaining in the big city as a successful soap opera star for years to care for her beloved injured senior citizen.

Ellie and Flynn share in common two things: each fears a second chance and each remains in love with the other.  The tabloids stalk the couple and other residents in the small western town; local nurse Lauren Simpson deploys a plan to finally win Flynn’s heart; and Ellie’s show producer pressures her to return to the set.  However, as Mat reveals a secret and Ellie finds joy in directing and teaching drama, she explains to the two people she cherishes with all her heart why she left Hope behind ten years ago.

Jilted is an engaging second chance Australian romance due to likable leads and a colorful local cast dealing with the big city invaders.  Although the storyline goes as expected, Rachel Johns provides her audience with a pleasant HEA Down Under contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 29, 2014

Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials-Ovidia Yu

Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials
Ovidia Yu
Morrow, Sep 30 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062338327

In Singapore, after her husband died leaving Rosie “Aunty” Lee a wealthy widow; she decided becoming the idle rich was not her thing.  Instead she opened up Aunty Lee's Delights catering business, which proved popular.  Currently she caters a gala at the luxurious home of affluent Henry and Mabel Sung; though Aunty Lee heard rumors on the street the power couple is in financial trouble.  

At the house, she overhears the hosts vehemently arguing.  Soon afterward, Mabel and her son Leonard are found dead from food poisoning.  The police consider a murder-suicide, but soon blame the deaths on Aunty Lee failing to prepare her famous stewed chicken using potentially dangerous buah keluak nuts incorrectly.  Rejecting the cops’ accusation as she has made that entrée many times, Aunty Lee looks into the deaths as a murder instead of negligible homicide.  She begins to find a connection between the Sung family and the organ donor scandal that has angered the city.

The second Aunty Lee Singapore murder investigation (see Aunty Lee's Delights) is a delightful amateur sleuth starring an energetic gutsy widow.  Once again the heroine adapts her recipe-creating skill to her inquiry as she tries to save her cooking reputation with help from her sidekick Nina who warned her about serving the apparently deadly dish.  Although the organ trafficking subplot is underplayed and contradictory to the overall brisk tone of the storyline, readers will want to join Aunty Lee’s special tour of Singapore.

Harriet Klausner

Death Takes A Mistress-Rosemary & Larry Mild

Death Takes A Mistress
Rosemary & Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works, Jul 31 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780983859758

In 1982 Bath, England, Wayne Sachs comes home from work to see the door to his neighbor Lainee Cohen’s flat open.  He mentions it to his wife Janie who is worried about the young single mom as Lainee is running late to pick up her three month old infant Ivy.  The couple enters the apartment only to find Lainee’s corpse.  The Sachs raise Ivy along with their own two children as part of the family while the homicide goes cold with the only vague clue involving a Jewish family in Annapolis, Maryland.

In 2005, Ivy heads to the States seeking to locate her paternal family with one goal in mind: find her mom’s lover (her biological father) who killed her.  Ivy obtains a clerk position at The Olde Victorian Bookstore owned and run by Dan and Rivka Sherman; and through them a room at the Widow Riley’s house, a place where Rivka was held prisoner (see Death Goes Postal).  Reluctantly Ivy admits her reason for being in Maryland.  Dan’s lawyer-friend Joel Wise obtains 1979-1983 records that list families starting a business in Annapolis.  Rivka and Dan reduce the potential number to four.  However, someone is not just unwelcoming as this person tries to kill the Englishwoman.

The second Dan and Rivka Sherman cozy is a super cold case mystery (it went frozen twenty-three years ago) wrapped inside a family drama as Ivy learns what matters in life, how fortunate she has been with people caring for and about her, and that revenge is insignificant.  The keys to this fabulous tale are the amateur sleuthing seems genuine and Ivy keeps the storyline focused as refreshingly the prime player. 

Harriet Klausner

Gutenberg’s Apprentice-Alix Christie

Gutenberg’s Apprentice
Alix Christie
Harper, Sep 23 2014, $27.99
ISBN 9780062336019

In 1450, merchant Johann Fust orders his adopted son Peter Schoeffer to come home from Paris immediately.  Though he prefers to stay in France as his work as a scribe has been thriving, Peter obeys and takes the three day journey to Mainz, Germany.  Johan explains to Peter that he has invested in Johann Gensfleisch’s project.  He wants the lad to become Johann’s apprentice in order to help him succeed and to learn a new trade that will leave scribes obsolete.  Filled with doubts and misgivings Peter works with Johann on printing the Bible with equipment that fails more than it works.  He fixes several of the bugs although his mentor proves difficult to work for; the Church and the scribe guild oppose the devil’s creation; while their family warns father and son of the danger to all of them from this heresy.  Still they persevere until they eventually create the Gutenberg Bible, which is further condemned as not anywhere near the art of the scribes.

This remarkable historical fiction describes the obstacles in developing the movable type printing press.  Like A & E's Biography: 100 Most Influential People of the Millennium naming Gutenberg number one after five and half centuries of major impact (until the digital print ended its influence), Alix Christie pays homage to the invention that changed information flow to the masses.  Peter’s mixed feelings whether to print or not to print anchor the detailed fifteenth century drama with a human impact.  Although a romance feels unnecessary and even well written family dynamics that add understanding of the lead trio come across as intrusive; the audience will be enthralled with the fascinating printing press invention main storyline.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Some Like It Hotter-Isabel Sharpe

Some Like It Hotter
Isabel Sharpe
Harlequin Blaze, Sep 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798209

While enjoying her blend of orange chamomile tea on Aura Beach, California, Slow Pour coffee shop owner Eva Meyer is bored after three years of living in nearby Carmia.  In Manhattan, Eva’s twin Chris, owner of the NYEspresso coffee shop, realizes after three years in the Big Apple she is exhausted.  The sisters chat and agree to switch places for a month.

In New York persistent customer Ames Cooke has been attracted to quiet Chris.  However, eccentric Eva likes him and unlike her somewhat reticent sibling, charges head first into his life.  He knows she is wrong for him, but also is addicted to her taste.  As the days go by, Ames belief he can handle one month of lovemaking with the wrong sister turns into needing a lifetime with this right twin, but to persuade her may prove impossible.

Some Like it Hotter is a wonderful heated romance due to the delightful opposite coastal pairing of two people falling in love over tea and coffee.  The pleasant blending of the lead couple sets a high bar for Chris’ mellow meltdown.

Harriet Klausner

Wicked Nights-Anne Marsh

Wicked Nights
Anne Marsh
Harlequin Blaze, Sep 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798193

On Discovery Island, California (see Wicked Sexy) SEAL rescue swimmer Cal Brennan struggles mentally to dive into the water after his last mission; which he knows is not good for a person co-running Deep Dive.  Piper Clark has driven Cal crazy for two decades as an “enemy combatant”.  Now the thirty years old naval instructor struggles with his desire for the nutty former internationally ranked diver, whose injured knee cost her, the Olympics. 

He knows he must think with his upper head, as his rescue and diving school, and her Dream Big And Dive shop, along with several others, compete for the lucrative Fiesta Cruise Line contract.  Knowing he still haunts her as he did when he was older than her growing up, Piper taunts Cal into a bet in which the one who wins the bid owns the loser for a night. 

The latest Uniformly Hot! Romance (see A SEAL’s Kiss by Tawny Weber) is a lighthearted, but heated Blaze as two childhood adversaries with traumas to overcome fall in love bidding for the same contract.  Although Piper’s behavior is over the top of the Sierras, she and Cal make a fine couple as opposites attracted in the water, on the land and especially in the bedroom.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 26, 2014

Martini Regrets-Phyllis Smallman

Martini Regrets
Phyllis Smallman
TouchWood Editions, Sep 23 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781771510905

After having one last drink with a friend in Miami, Sherri Travis breaks her dad’s admonition to never drive across the Everglades at night.  However, she needs gas to complete her trek through the swamp to Jacaranda, Florida where she lives with her fiancé Clay Adams and owns the Sunset Bar and Grill.  At a station, she hears a boy pleading with the female attendant to save his life.  When she refuses, he hits Sherri and takes her car.  The girl is also gone as two “swamp rats” arrive.  Sherri takes cover in a pipe and then the swamp before finding a nursery with a murder victim inside.  She recovers her car and gets home, but vows to say nothing.

Sherri learns that the nursery was burned down with a couple inside dead.  She soon has a visit from the late nursery owner’s affluent brother Ethan seeking information on a special orchard his sibling allegedly possessed.  Helping Clay with his business and coming to the bar, enables Ethan to become part of their lives though Sherri wishes he would leave.  Ethan won’t because he knows the bartender is the last living person to have been in the nursery.

The latest Sherri Travis Mystery (see Highball Exit, A Brewski For The Old Man and Margarita Nights) is a twisting thriller filled with people ready to kill to possess a rare orchard.  The heroine’s time in the Glades is incredible as we will feel lost too; while her efforts to stay out of the mess fails because obsessive collectors know where she has been.  With an unexpected shocker and a reluctant amateur sleuth, Martini Regrets is a fantastic crime drama.

Harriet Klausner

The Deep End (A Casey Holland Mystery)-Debra Purdy Kong

The Deep End (A Casey Holland Mystery)
Debra Purdy Kong
TouchWood Editions, Sep 23 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781771510936

In Vancouver, British Columbia, Mainland Security Specialist Casey Holland conducts surveillance of teen shoplifters who cleverly steal from the Gen Mart Department Store.  Her task is to follow them, but not to confront them.  Instead, the thieves mark her and attack her though she has no idea how they knew she was undercover.

Even with help from her boyfriend-roommate Lou, Casey also struggles with the behavior of her thirteen going on thirty years old ward Summer, whose mother is in prison.  Her biggest concern for the young teen is Summer’s older slimy boyfriend.

Casey also volunteers at Fraserview Youth Custody Center.  However, she is astonished when she knows one of the kids there; in trouble potentially for murder teenager Justin Sparrow, whose grandmother Amy is her friend.  The facility’s manager Mac Jorgeson suffers a fatal heart attack and too coincidental to ignore soon after another person employed there also dies.  Fearing for Justin’s safety, Casey investigates the deaths even while a third near fatality occurs.

The fourth Casey Holland Mystery (see The Opposite of Dark, Deadly Accusations and Beneath the Bleak New Moon) is an enjoyable tale starring a caring, nice (perhaps too nice) heroine who suffers bumps and bruises while working two violent cases.  Harder for Casey than the assault on her body is the “attack” on her mind by her ward.  Readers will dive into The Deep End even with no water in the pool.

Harriet Klausner

To Dwell In Darkness-Deborah Crombie

To Dwell In Darkness
Deborah Crombie
Morrow, Sep 23 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062271600

Save London’s History operatives toss a smoke bomb in the historical St. Pancras Station to disrupt a musical gala.  Instead of a harmless but frightening prank, the bomb injures a band manager Tam Moran and burns an unknown to an unidentifiable crisp.  Exiled to Camden, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid leads the investigation.  Evidence points to former cop Ryan Marsh who initially was thought to be the victim.

At the same time, Duncan’s wife Detective Investigator Gemma James believes electronics shop clerk Dillon Underwood raped and killed tweener Mercy Johnson.  However, she struggles to find concrete evidence to put this deadly pedophile away before he harms or murders some other child.

Meanwhile their children find a momma with a litter of four newborns freezing in a locked shed.  They struggle with what to do with the five cats they rescued.

The sixteenth Kincaid- James British police procedural (see The Sound Of Broken Glass, No Mark Upon Her and Necessary As Blood) is an engaging mystery in which the married cops work separate cases while the kids add a personal touch to the mix.  Kincaid’s bombing inquiry is the stronger case as Deborah Crombie weaves history and architect into the investigation carried out by the DS and familiar officers.  James’ probe is well written but not as thrilling.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hidden In The Stars-Robin Caroll

Hidden In The Stars
Robin Caroll
Abingdon, Sep 16 2014, $13.99
ISBN 9781426773600

The vicious assault against her and her mom in their home in Plano, Texas leaves Olympic-level gymnast Sophia Montgomery in an Arkansas hospital unable to speak due to larynx damage and aware her crushed hands will never allow her to compete ever again.  Police Detectives Julian Frazier and Brody Alexander lead the investigation that frustrates the victim and the cops.  Her grandmother Alena Borin visits Sophia who does not recognize the woman.  Lip reader Charlie Wallace arrives to interpret Sophia’s responses to Julian’s questions starting with the attack on her and Mamochka, and their demands that her mom give them something.  Julian tells her that her Mamochka is dead.

Worrying about Sophia’s safety as those who invaded her home thought she was dead, Julian wonders what the Russians wanted and how come the deceased was estranged from her own mother who refuses to talk about why.  Julian admires Sophia’s tenacity but denies he is falling in love.  As he and his partners work the case, Julian feels knowing what caused the estrangement is critical and clues may be found in a memorial quilt made by Mamochka.

The latest Quilts of Love inspirational (see A Grand Design by Amber Stockton and A Promise In Pieces by Emily T. Wierenga) is a terrific police procedural in which the past haunts the present and thereby impacts the future.  The cast is strong and the Russian intrigue adrenaline pumping.  The romance takes a backseat to the suspense as the hero insists the victim is a trauma patient needing protection not love; while he also struggles with his lost faith having blamed God for his late partner Eli’s death and fearing the same abandonment re Sophia. 

Harriet Klausner

Christmas At Thunder Horse Ranch-Elle James

Christmas At Thunder Horse Ranch
Elle James
Harlequin Intrigue, Sep 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373697922

In North Dakota U.S. Customs and Border Protection interdiction agent Dante Thunder Horse flies his copter to check out a farmer’s report that a snowmobile illegally crossed from Canada.  While flying solo because his copilot has the flu, Dante knows this is the third anniversary of the worst day in his life; his late fiancée Captain Samantha Olson died on this date in Afghanistan.  He spots the snowmobile and watches in astonishment a man launch a rocket propelled grenade at the helicopter.  Dante survives the fiery crash but his assassin fires shots at him.

University of North Dakota Paleontology Professor Emma Jennings is near the crash area searching for the skull of a T-Rex when she sees the inferno.  Emma rushes to the scene only to witness a person on a snowmobile firing at recumbent man wearing only thermal underwear.  Heroically she crashes into the shooter’s vehicle knocking away his gun.  The assassin flees so Emma checks on the wounded person who she recognizes.  Dante and Emma head to his Thunder Horse Ranch knowing her intervention places her in peril.

This is an entertaining romantic suspense with some gender bending action as the academic saves their butts several times.  Fast-paced throughout, Christmas At Thunder Horse Ranch is a fun thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Cali-Deborah Frazier

Deborah Frazier
Deborah Frazier, Aug 22 2013, $9.00
ISBN: 9780578128795

Rita and Mike Evans are the perfect who fell in love in high school.  Both are excited with the birth of their first child; but especially the marine, a former quarterback, who looks forward to playing sports with his son.  However, Dr. Martin informs them their newborn has abnormalities in the genitals and recommends surgery to change the boy into a girl.  Reluctantly, Mike accepts the doctor’s recommendation and persuades his wife that their son is better off as a girl.

Over the next few years Cali is raised as a girl mostly by her loving mother; her dad, filled with guilt and doubt, kept reenlisting and volunteering for deployments.  Cali prefers competing against the guys and proves a better athlete than them.  She begins receiving hormone shots, but unaware what they are; as her mom refuses to tell her the big secret and her dad abandoned his family.  Cali also feels suicidal as she hates feelings of being a boy trapped in a girl’s body.  Meghan remains her only friend and anchor even after Cali confesses to her that her brain screams male.  Becoming a psychologist to help others with similar haunting issues as hers, twentyish Cali meets and marries kind Lance but she still feels trapped in the wrong gender.

Cali is a powerful psychological thriller that cautions parents to think of the long-term consequences on their newborn before agreeing to a sex change medical procedure.  Character-driven by the protagonist’s inner turmoil of a freak in the wrong body, Cali reminds readers that even loving decisions have second order effects and that doctors are people not gods; but mostly consider the future as much as the present.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

To Hell And Gone In Texas-Russ Hall

To Hell And Gone In Texas
Russ Hall
Red Adept Publishing, Sep 4 2014, $13.99
ISBN: 9781940215334

Travis County Sheriff Clayton and his deputies barely are at the gruesome crime scene in which a father and his two adult sons were decapitated when ICE agent Jaime Avila takes over the investigation.  Soon afterward, Clayton calls his retired former sheriff's detective Al Quinn to inform him that his estranged brother Maury has been hospitalized, and the Austin City Homicide cops are treating it as an attempted murder.  Reluctantly he arrives at the hospital where his former prom date so many years ago towering Detective Ferguson Jergens guards Maury.  Having not spoken in two decades to Maury, he is stunned to see how frail his sibling is and shocked that he took three Viagra pills in spite of a heart problem preventing his obtaining a prescription.

When a second attempt at murdering Maury occurs; Al puts aside his animosity and fishing to take his brother to his secluded lakeside house.  However, Al’s home no longer is secluded as Avila arrives and insists Maury turn informant.  Fergie investigates several murders tied to sex addicted Maury and arson burns down Al's house; while the Los Zetas Mexican mob adds to the sibling tsuris.

To Hell And Gone In Texas is an exciting action-packed crime thriller with a fabulous late twist.  Quinn is the taciturn reluctant hero who knows his insides are emotionally scarred while Maury shares his DNA but passionately leaps into the inferno as he believes The Gods Must Be Crazy 2.  The support cast and locale add depth to a suspenseful Lone Star State mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Cat In A Yellow Spotlight-Carole Nelson Douglas

Cat In A Yellow Spotlight
Carole Nelson Douglas
Wishlist Publishing, Aug 22 2014, $15.99
ISBN:  9781500926205

Two and a half decades ago, the great rock band Black & White was the hottest group around as everything they did went platinum.  However, superegos fueled by excess sex and overdosing on drugs led to the band’s bitter dissolving; though the two superstars (Chocolatte and French Vanilla) had great solo careers.

Now twenty-five years since the ugly public break-up, Black & White is in Vegas to perform a reunion event at the Crystal Phoenix.  The hotel’s boss lady Van Von Rhine tells her public relations consultant Temple Barr to babysit the group; especially the critical feuding two divas, ready to rage Chocolatte and paranoid frail French Vanilla.  When a corpse related to the band is found, LVPD Lieutenant Molina investigates; while Temple’s feline protector Midnight Louie, Miss Midnight Louise and the cat crew also make inquiries, in the feline’s case to insure their favorite PR guru remains safe.

The latest Midnight Louie anthropomorphic mystery (see Cat In A Vegas Gold Vendetta, Cat In A White Tie And Tails and Cat In An Alien X-ray) is a deadly rock and roll reunion tale filled with taut twists (including Kitty the Cutter) and pop culture trivia.  Temple keeps the prime storyline focused, although the divas headline this show with their behavior; while series fans will enjoy the antics of the father and daughter feline duet working their tails off investigating the murder.

Harriet Klausner

Texas Born-Diana Palmer

Texas Born
Diana Palmer
Harlequin Special Edition, Sep 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658411

In Comanche Wells, Texas, three weeks have passed since seventeen year old Michelle Godfrey buried her father Alan next to her mother while his second wife Roberta raged at the unnecessary cost.  Irate Roberta dumped all of her late husband’s personal items in a landfill while her stepdaughter was at school and kept Michelle from attending church.  Roberta tries to sell her late spouse’s stamp collection, but Michelle intervenes and the ethical collector refuses to complete the purchase.   After slapping Michelle, Roberta still plans to place the house on sale though the market is tanked. 

Michelle meets her kind but troubled neighbor veteran Gabriel Brandon who tells her to stay calm and consider becoming an emancipated minor but definitely not accept abuse.  When someone kills Roberta, the police suspect Michelle who had plenty of motives to murder her odious stepmother.  Gabriel looks after Michelle as if she was his sibling Sara though his feelings for the teen are unsisterly.  Vowing patience until his beloved is old enough to decide what and who she wants, Michelle threatens Gabriel’s control as she may be seventeen but acts thirty.

Once the villainess dies, this Long, Tall Texans contemporary (see Desperado) is a pleasant sweet romance.  The teen is forced to be an old soul by family circumstances and the hero is willing to do whatever she needs to allow her to grow up before making his case.  Although Roberta is a caricature of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, this is a fine entry.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cry Father-Benjamin Whitmer

Cry Father
Benjamin Whitmer
Gallery, Sep 16 2014, $25.00
ISBN 9781476734354

Patterson Wells travels the country working as a tree trimmer at disasters.  Since a doctor erred on his son’s diagnosis leading to the child’s death; Wells has become a disaster.  His marriage died with his child, but his ex who lives in Taos wants to sue the medical killer for malpractice; while Wells no longer cares about anything except writing letters to his late son Justin.  His only companion is his dog Sancho.

He visits his friend Chase to go fishing, but his buddy is meth dazed and hogtied a female who upon release by Wells bashes the head of her drugged out host with a bat.  At home in Colorado, Wells meets drug runner and user Junior, son of his neighbor Henry.  Wells and Junior begin an odyssey of violence fueled by coke and meth.

This gory thriller opens up with the swings of a bat and closes with more violence after much blood and guts flow in between.  Wells is a mesmerizing sociopathic antihero as he no longer cares about life since his child died; yet keeps alive their father-son relationship through the letters he writes to Justin.  Not for anyone with a squeamish stomach, Cry Father is an extremely dark and very brutal tale.

Harriet Klausner

Last Family Standing-Jennifer AlLee

Last Family Standing
Jennifer AlLee
Abingdon, Sep 16 2014, $13.99
ISBN: 9781426768095

Jules calls her BFF Monica informing her that the newborn the latter gave up at birth twenty-five years ago is on the reality TV show Last Family Standing.  Besides looking like Monica did years ago, fashion designer Jessica Beckett holds Monica’s graduation photo.  Jess says she is close with her adopted parents but would like to meet her biological mom and have her compete with her on the show next season while failing to explain why not her mom Susan.

The next morning the show’s host Rick Wolff visits Monica, whose friends gave his staff her name and address.  Reluctantly and between crying bouts, Monica agrees to do the show just to meet her offspring even if their encounter will be filmed on a deserted island.  Adding a shocking complication is Jess’ biological father Duncan arrives to meet his daughter too.

Although there is too much Survivor in the pleasurable contest and an unnecessary but nice romance, Last Family Standing is a wonderful extended family drama.  The cast consists of likeable people connected through Jess; as a TV host and two sets of parents try to come together in a fishbowl while a national audience watch.

Harriet Klausner

Where Treetops Glisten-Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam and Sarah Sundin

Where Treetops Glisten
Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam and Sarah Sundin
WaterBrook Press, Sep 16 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9781601426482

“White Christmas” by Cara Putman.  In 1942, Abigail Turner stays home in Lafayette, Indiana while attending Purdue University and working at a candy store.  Abigail prefers no man in her life after her boyfriend Sam died at Pearl Harbor until limping Jackson Lucas rescues her from being hit by a car.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Sarah Sundin.  In 1943 Army fighter pilot Pete Turner is back in in Lafayette but struggles to adjust to the home front after his combat experiences until he meets sad six year old Linnie Kessler.  Her daddy died and his body was never recovered.  Pete wants to bring a Merry Christmas to the hurting child and her widow mom Grace who only knows him as a nasty person.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Sarah Sundin.  In 1944 in Nieuwenhagen, the Netherlands, Meredith, the younger sister of Abigail and Pete serves as a combat nurse following just behind the troops at the front lines.  However, someone seems to know her, but Merry fears this unknown person is betraying her with reminders of her broken heart or perhaps it is a Christmas miracle.

This is a spectacular WWII family anthology as three siblings are caught up in war and romance to the music of Bing.  Historical romance fans will sing Let It Snow while wishing for the Turner trio to have a Hoosier Merry Christmas in 1945.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fiction River: Past Crimes-Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Editors)

Fiction River: Past Crimes
Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Editors)
WMG Publications, Oct 1 2014, $15.99
ISBN: 9781561466061

“Stolen In Passing” by Dory Crowe.  In 1857, the slave catchers arrive at Cape Cod in pursuit of a runaway; unaware why here.

“New World Gambles” by Leah Cutter.  As the Canadian-Pacific is built, with a Tong connection Mei works tables in Victoria.

“The Bank Teller” by Jamie McNabb.  He left Puget Sound for five years, but in 1901 returns seeking revenge against those who shanghaied him.

“An Education For Thursday” by Dean Wesley Smith.  Arriving in Delamar, Idaho Angela seeks revenge against two rapists.

“The Curious Case Of The Ha’Penny Detective” by Lee Allred.  In 1923 on the Canadian Pacific, Drennen and Nevins discuss Professor Chase. 

“The Horns Of Hather” by Richard Quarry.  Decreeing all will worship Aten, the Pharaoh sends Chenzira to stop the Festival of Opet.

“Impressions” by Lisa Silverthorne.  In 1780s London, as a child he saw his first death mask; as an adult he hunts this serial killer.

“The Raiders” by Cat Rambo.  In 1858, he met the pickpocket in New York; they meet again as POWs in Andersonville.

“The Monster In Our Midst” by Kris Nelscott.  In 1918 Arkansas, Lureen sends a postcard depicting a lynching to Emerson in Atlanta.

“Blood And Lightning On The Newport Highway” by M. Elizabeth Castle.  The Revenuer returns to Knoxville with plans for the nearby moonshiners.

“Deathmobile” by Michelle Lang.  In 1977 Long Island, Mr. Deathmobile threatens Little Rocky and Tony. 

“The Stonewall Rat” by JC Andrijesdi.  Working for the mob, he and his partner seek the informer at the gay establishment when a kid arrives; soon afterward the police raid the place.

Meeting the exceptional quality of previous anthologies, this collection contains excellent Past Crimes short stories.

Harriet Klausner

The Goddess Of Small Victories-Yannick Grannec

The Goddess Of Small Victories
Yannick Grannec, Willard Wood (translator)
Other Press, Sep 9 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781590516362

In 1980, the Institute for Advanced Study sends archivist Anna Roth to the Pine Run Retirement Home in Pennsylvania to persuade obstinate widow Adele Gödel to release the papers of her late husband, brilliant troubled mathematician Kurt.  Anna says she would like to catalogue the Nachlass so that those qualified can study it.  She also explains she reads the rarely used Gabelsberger shorthand; the style Kurt employed.

Adele tells the visitor how they met in Vienna and though several years older than Kurt with his mother’s reluctant approval they married.  When the Nazis annexed Austria, Kurt and Adele fled eventually arriving in America, but treated as enemy agents due to their accents.  While she did everything to make her disturbed mate’s life easier over the five decades together, for the first time Kurt, still distressed, found acceptance at Princeton because of his brilliant work.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that focuses on the mentally tough widow and through her filter we see the great but mentally ill genius.  Although distracting from the fascinating main storyline, a well-written secondary subplot re the relationship between Adele and Anna further shows the strength of the older woman; as she encourages her visitor to be all she can be with what she wants out of life.  With real persona like Einstein; documented incidents (with footnotes) and events like the A-bombs and the Cold War to anchor time and place, readers will appreciate The Goddess Of Small Victories.

Harriet Klausner

The Language Of Silence-Peggy Webb

The Language Of Silence
Peggy Webb
Gallery Books, Sep 9 2014, $16.00
ISBN: 9781451684810

In 1976 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Ellen Blair fears her husband Wayne.  To the rest of the world Wayne is a charming businessman; but inside their home he is violent having sent his wife to the hospital with accidents caused by her clumsiness.  Knowing if she does not flee soon, her spouse will one day kill the child she carries. 

Her Great Aunt Ruth Gibson encourages her to leave town just like Ellen’s grandmother Lola did five decades earlier.  Lola joined the Great Giovanni Bros/ Hogan & Sandusky Circus as a star tiger tamer to escape family violence.  When Ellen gets to the Haven House shelter, Wayne greets her with a beating he disguises as a car accident.  Her mom offers no hope as Josie insists Wayne is a good husband if Ellen could learn the Language of Silence.  When Ruth is hospitalized in Arkansas, Ellen insists on going to the Ozarks while Wayne demands they stay home to greet his visiting Japanese client.  Leaving Tupelo, Ellen joins the same traveling circus as her grandmother did but as a teacher with her favorite student being mute Nicky.  Ruth welcomes her niece, but soon sees visions of irate Wayne coming for his runaway spouse.  With Lola’s help, the female relatives flee for their lives from a psychopathic husband.

The Language of Silence is a profound tale that looks deeply at spousal abuse during the “Stand By Your Man” at any cost even your life era.  Ironically, Wayne believes in the sanctuary of his vows enhanced by his fists.  Although the ending seems over the top of the trapeze wire, The Language Of Silence is a wonderful second chance at life if you take the risk.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sword of the Bright Lady-M.C. Planck

Sword of the Bright Lady
M.C. Planck
Pyr, Sep 9 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616149888

At first mechanical engineer Christopher Sinclair thought he was in some sort of weird dream with no electrical device anywhere and a dirty teenaged stranger named Helga sharing his bed instead of his wife.  He changes his mind about sleeping and assumes he was in a plane crash in a remote medieval part of Europe.  However, he soon realizes this is not Arizona, America or Switzerland; as somehow he “walked” into another realm.

Feeling lost and missing his spouse, Christopher begins to learn the rules of “physics” in his new world are based on tael death magic with the power hierarchy dependent on how much a person controls.  To initially survive in this war-ravaged dominion, Christopher pledges allegiance to the Goddess of Healing, the Bright Lady.  When Marcius the God of War offers the engineer a better deal he accepts performing the deity’s quests in return to going home.  Sinclair introduces a new type of magic based on guns and butter as he teaches commoners to forge steel to make weapons and household items.

Book One of The World Of Prime is a fantastic opening act in fantasy as a twenty-first century American engineer with contemporary inclusiveness ethics and a belief in physics falls through a rabbit hole into a medieval feudal land whose system is magic based and deity connected.  Much more Clark Kent than Superman, bewildered Christopher keeps the intense storyline focused by muddling through his new life as a fish out of water while dealing with enemies who relish the status quo and Doubting Thomas supporters.  He wants to go home, but the Gods refuse to give him ruby red slippers.

Harriet Klausner

A Death On Sunday-Tish Owen

A Death On Sunday
Tish Owen
Willow Tree Press/E.M.A. Mysteries, Jul 29 2014, $16.95
ISBN: 9781937778194

Maher Investigates sleuth Tessely Anne Marie Maher cherishes brunch with her extended family at her mommy’s home.  However, this time a long-distance shot is fired towards the house; Tess’ best friend Chick Donnelly falls out of a tree dead.  Near his body are drawings he made of his beloved Tess.

Although Chick’s death may have been a freakish hunting accident; Tess, her brother County Sheriff Connell Maher and their father the former sheriff believe a professional hit occurred though none of them can fathom why.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sends Agents Lyle and Boyd to take charge of the homicide inquiry based on Chick’s alleged drug dealings.  They warn the Maher family to stay out of their case or face charges of interference in an official state investigation.  Firmly believing that grieving Tess murdered her lover over drug money, the TBI cops look nowhere else for the killer.  Knowing she will be railroaded, Tess, with help from her family and friends, stealthily conducts her own inquiry seeking a motive including Chick’s business, Donnelly Repair and Restoration.

Putting aside that a family of cops and a private eye fail to obtain a lawyer with TBI focused solely on Tess, A Death On Sunday is a terrific whodunit as the homicide is personal.  Mourning her loss, Tess’ chats with the late Chick feel genuine and add depth to an engaging investigation in which the heroine works around the Knoxville stereotyped obnoxious outsiders.

Harriet Klausner

The Front Seat Passenger-Pascal Garnierr

The Front Seat Passenger
Pascal Garnier, Jane Aitken (translator)
Gallic, Sep 9 2014, $13.95
ISBN 9781908313638

After visiting his père in Normandy, Fabien Delorme returns to Paris to an empty house.  He actually is pleased though surprised his wife Sylvie is not home as their relationship has drifted apart.  Fabien soon learns that Sylvie and her lover Martial Arnoult died in a car accident in Dijon.

Instead of grief, Fabien obsesses over his spouse having a secret lover she concealed from him.  In Dijon to identify Sylvie’s corpse, Fabien notices a woman do likewise with Arnoult’s body.  Obviously he concludes she is Arnoult’s widow, Martine.  Ironically in spite of her cuckolding him, Fabien misses Sylvie who kept him anchored.  Thus he decides since Arnoult stole his wife, he will do likewise with the other man’s widow.  Stalking Martine, Fabien becomes part of her life and that of her companion.

The latest Gallic translation of a Pascal Garnier suspenseful French middle class tragedy (see Moon in a Dead Eye, The Panda Theory and How’s the Pain?) is another superb dark surrealistic novella.  Character driven by an unlikable but realistic three degrees of separation quintet, readers will appreciate the impact on their respective mates by the deaths of The Front Seat Passenger and the driver.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Broken-Tracie L. Slatton

Tracie L. Slatton
Parvati Press, Sep 5 2014, $16.99
ISBN: 9780986061158

In 1939 earth time Alia mourns the loss of Ariel by leaving Heaven to take on mortal form just before Paris falls.  A self-anointed fallen angel, the hedonistic Alia insists she cares nothing about the beleaguered Broken Parisians and even less with the evil Nazi occupiers to come.

However, Alia enjoys sex with her sweet ferocious lover, half-Spaniard, half German Jew Pedro the bullfighter, whose father abandoned him and his mom in Spain while he was still in the womb.  Archangel Michael questions Alia why here when she knows the torment to follow.  She insists she did not lose her way; that God did by allowing this mad Führer loose on his so-called beloved mortals.  Michael reminds her she has one miracle to offer, he prays she wisely uses it.  As the war intensifies and unthinkable atrocities occur, Alia meets Josef the Jewish physicist, mathematician and violinist, and soon to be her lover.  As the years pass, Alia’s day of reckoning that Michael predicted finally arrives when she must choose between continual self-indulgence and sacrifice to save the lives of her friend Jewish widow Suzanne Dubois and her child Cecile.

Though the action is somewhat muted, Broken is a great philosophical WWII drama that focuses on a fallen angel who no longer believes God cares.  The key cast is fully-developed with diverse reactions to what is happening to the Jews and not just Hitler’s Final Solution as Josef learned in Antwerp and others in Cuba and America; while real persona like Sartre adds a powerful sense of time and place.  Tracie L. Slatton provides a profound look at religion during a crisis of faith in which even angels question whether God abandoned the flock.

Harriet Klausner

Shadows on a Maine Christmas: An Antique Print Mystery-Lea Wait

Shadows on a Maine Christmas: An Antique Print Mystery
Lea Wait
Perseverance, Sep 9 2014, $15.95
ISBN 9781564745477

Lovers Will Brower resides in Maine while antique dealer Maggie Summer lives in New Jersey.  Besides the issues of a long distance relationship, the couple disagrees over adopting a child.  Will insists never; while Maggie may soon raise a little girl or two young sisters.  However, the couple agrees to share a Maine Christmas.

Maggie the obsessive anxiety queen fears when she tells her beloved about the potential adoption, he will kick her butt back to the Garden State.  She adores the way he cares for his ailing Aunt Nettie, but panics his caretaking blinds him to nurturing others.  She also frets over his desire to remain in the Pine Tree State as affirmed by Will his seeking to buy a home.  However, Maggie biggest consternation is that she lost her Will to realtor Jo Heartwood.  Needing to forget her trepidations, Maggie wonders what Aunt Nettie and her longtime friends imply criminally happened when they were much younger.  When someone murders geriatric nurse Carrie Folk; Maggie, Maine State Trooper Nick Strait and Aunt Nettie investigate especially after learning that the victim was a blackmailer.

Returning to Maine (see Shadows on the Coast of Maine and Shadows of a Down East Summer), the seventh Antique Print cozy (see Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding) is an enjoyable entry in which the secondary elderly characters especially one with dementia own the storyline.  The homicide investigation begins late though the informal inquiry into what happened decades ago starts very early; as Lea Wait provides a deep look at senior citizen mental health, abortion and adoption. 

Harriet Klausner

The Eyes Of Aurora-Albert A. Bell, Jr.

The Eyes Of Aurora
Albert A. Bell, Jr.
Perseverance: Sep 9 2014 $15.95
ISBN: 9781564745491

At the Centumviral Court, Gaius Pliny successfully prosecutes the case for his future mother-in-law Pompeia Celerina against rival defense Marcus Regulus who represented Quintus Vibius.  Pliny’s martinet mother and Pompeia host a victory celebration that includes toasting the upcoming wedding between their children though Pliny loves his slave Aurora instead of his wealthy beautiful fiancée Livilla.

Aurora recently met impoverished Crispina and her ailing son.  She persuades Pliny and his friend Tacitus to accompany her in order to help Crispina.  When they arrive at Crispina’s home, they find neither her nor her son in residence; left behind is an enigmatic word square.  The trio soon finds out that raging Regulus arrived before them and a further search of the grounds reveals a decapitated female body.  Horrified by the gruesome sight of a headless corpse, Aurora and Pliny find comfort with each.

The fifth Notebooks of Pliny the Younger (see The Corpus Conundrum and Death in the Ashes) is a twisting complicated Ancient Rome revenge thriller with additional stunning spins in the protagonist’s personal relationships.  Although the case turns overly byzantine, readers will relish traveling the Ostian Way; escorted by Pliny and Aurora.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Texan’s Twins-Pamela Britton

The Texan’s Twins
Pamela Britton
Harlequin American Romance, Sep 2 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373755356

In the middle of a field in Nowhere, Texas, Jet Baron goes to meet J.C. Marks.  However, instead of the male project engineer just hired by Baron Energies, he sees a beautiful woman.  He assumes the female is a stripper sent as a joke.  After that auspicious start, arrogant Jet continues to step into sh*t including offering to meet no-nonsense Jasmine Caroline Marks for breakfast; while she mocks his occupation of rodeo performer and scorns his skirt chasing.

Attracted to the feisty engineer, Jet learns she is the single mother of twin girls (Brooke and Gwen) whose father, her fiancé, Darren died before she gave birth.  As they work together, Jet and J.C. fall in love, but her kids come first especially when Brooke becomes ill; reminding the harried mother heartbreakingly of what happened to Darren.

The fourth Texas Rodeo Barons romance (see The Texan's Little Secret by Barbara White Daille and The Texan’s Cowgirl Bride by Trish Milburn) is a warm family novel starring a seemingly care-free philanderer and a stressed-out mom.  The strong females (his sister Lizzie - see The Texan's Baby by Donna Alward, the engineer, and the twins) make this a winning contemporary; while their male counterparts (Jet, his dad and Lizzie’s mate Chris) struggle to live up to the high standards the women and girls set.

Harriet Klausner

The Texan’s Twins-Pamela Britton

The Texan’s Twins
Pamela Britton
Harlequin American Romance, Sep 2 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373755356

In the middle of a field in Nowhere, Texas, Jet Baron goes to meet J.C. Marks.  However, instead of the male project engineer just hired by Baron Energies, he sees a beautiful woman.  He assumes the female is a stripper sent as a joke.  After that auspicious start, arrogant Jet continues to step into sh*t including offering to meet no-nonsense Jasmine Caroline Marks for breakfast; while she mocks his occupation of rodeo performer and scorns his skirt chasing.

Attracted to the feisty engineer, Jet learns she is the single mother of twin girls (Brooke and Gwen) whose father, her fiancé, Darren died before she gave birth.  As they work together, Jet and J.C. fall in love, but her kids come first especially when Brooke becomes ill; reminding the harried mother heartbreakingly of what happened to Darren.

The fourth Texas Rodeo Barons romance (see The Texan's Little Secret by Barbara White Daille and The Texan’s Cowgirl Bride by Trish Milburn) is a warm family novel starring a seemingly care-free philanderer and a stressed-out mom.  The strong females (his sister Lizzie - see The Texan's Baby by Donna Alward, the engineer, and the twins) make this a winning contemporary; while their male counterparts (Jet, his dad and Lizzie’s mate Chris) struggle to live up to the high standards the women and girls set.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lethal Seasons-Alice Sabo

Lethal Seasons
Alice Sabo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Aug 6 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781500526627

In what afterward became known by survivors as Year Zero, a maniac released a virus leaving estimates of 40% of the world population dead and all governments unable to cope with a pandemic of that magnitude.  Every summer for the next decade since Year Zero, the virus returns with a new lethal strain to continue the devastation of humanity and the end of urban centers.

Nick, who lost his loved ones to the disease, travels what is left of the United States as a census counter.  When he finds two corpses who apparently killed each other; Nick would rejoice that there is one less mercenary causing havoc; but mourns for the other dead person since child bearing age and younger females are the most critical demographic if mankind is to survive.  His mission now is to find and rescue the deceased woman’s siblings while teams of marauders stalk these youngsters and his home High Meadow is under assault.

Mindful of the Kevin Costner movie The Postman, the first Changed World post-apocalyptic thriller is an exciting but grim novel as survival of the deadliest is the way of life (outside of High Meadow) since Year Zero.  Although the key cast is underdeveloped, Alice Sabo authors a twisting tense tale of an America (like the rest of the earth) continual out of control spiral deeper into the darkest era since recorded history began, but with tiny lights of hope like Nick.

Harriet Klausner