Saturday, February 28, 2015

I Loved A Rogue - Katharine Ashe

I Loved A Rogue
Katharine Ashe
Avon, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062229854

In 1807 Cornwell, in a rage and abetted by two others, Squire Shackleford’s son Thomas beats up Taliesin Wolfe the Gypsy lad for his audacity with the vicar’s oldest of three adopted daughters.  Though Taliesin loves Eleanor Caulfield and believes she loves him too, he leaves town for her sake.

Over eleven years later, having never forgotten the woman he left behind, Taliesin returns to his beloved Eleanor while she attends her father’s marriage.  Fated to wed royalty, Eleanor remains in love with the rogue who deserted her.  Having survived a shipwreck along with her siblings when they were babies, Eleanor plans to begin a quest to learn who her biological family was.  Encouraged by the persistence of his beloved’s sisters (see Ravenna in I Adored The Lord and Arabella in I Married A Duke) supposedly to keep her safe, Taliesin agrees on traveling with his (he hopes) Eleanor. 

The final Prince Catchers regency is an electrifying twisting suspense in which the terse intrigue supersedes the wonderful romance.  I Loved A Rogue is a gripping drama that answers the overarching mystery within an excellent second chance historical.

Harriet Klausner

Vanilla - Megan Hart

Megan Hart
Mira, Feb 24 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778318040

Elise Klein loves being a Dom to her male subs with her latest partner being Esteban; while her mother and older sister loathe her lifestyle especially the BDSM photo-shoots.  While modeling at an exhibit, Elise meets her twin brother Evan’s co-worker Niall Black.  To her astonishment she is attracted to him although she never moved past the one who abandoned her several years ago.

Reciprocating Elise’s desire and well aware of her sexual appetite from the gala where they just met, Niall explains to her he is uncomfortable with the thought of being her submissive.  Their relationship seems dead until they see each other again at her nephew’s bar mitzvah.

Complex Elise turns Vanilla into a beautiful BDSM relationship romance with her acting on, in spite of family scorn, what she wants; yet ironically she remains obsessively attached to a person she cannot have. That is until Niall shows her the true meaning of loving intimacy while he also struggling between his and her desires.  Whereas the meandering storyline moves at a leisurely-pace, erotic romance readers will cherish this heated character-driven (by the protagonist and enhanced by a three-dimensional support cast) contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Cooler Than Blood - Robert Lane

Cooler Than Blood
Robert Lane
Mason Alley Publishing, Feb 24 2015, $14.99
St. Pete Beach, FL.
ISBN: 9780692223932

Billy Ray Coleman drives south heading to Fort Myers Beach carrying $284,000 that he expects will soon send his brothers after him.  His first and last thought about the Sunshine State is that he never had sex there.  Thus he feels euphoric when he spots, selects and assaults eighteen year old Jenny Spencer on a Fort Myers Beach

With his girlfriend Kathleen on board, Jake Travis sails the Gulf on his boat the Impulse when his cell rings for the second time, which like the first time he ignores Susan Blake’s desperate call.  An attractive acquaintance Susan tests his loyalty to Kathleen as she begs him to find her missing niece Jenny since local police ignore her plea insisting the teen likely ran away since she recently did just that.  Jake and his P.I. partner Garrett Demarcus search for Jenny, who apparently killed her attacker and unbeknownst to the sleuths ran off with his money.  However, the inquiry becomes muddled when the investigation leads to a link to Kathleen’s one-time mob-ties and soon afterward even more obfuscated. 

The second Jake Travis mystery (see The Second Letter) is a superb suspenseful private investigator noir.  Jake is a sensational sleuth as he keeps the exhilarating storyline focused while pursuing the teen and dodging mobsters.  Kathleen and Susan add depth to the inquiry, but also challenge the protagonist’s efforts to remain monogamous.  Although Jenny comes across more as a jaded adult similar to the other two females tormenting the hero than a teen, Cooler Than Blood will elate the subgenre audience.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Where Secrets Sleep - Marta Perry

Where Secrets Sleep
Marta Perry
Harlequin HQN, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779604

Interior designer Allison Standish plans a week away to clean up the affairs of her recently deceased grandmother she never met and sell her inheritance Blackburn House.  However, when she sees her boss sleeping with her boyfriend, Allison leaves Philadelphia immediately for Laurel Ridge. 

In the Amish town, Allison finds Blackburn House filled with stores and offices; and that her grandma’s will includes a stipulation that she successfully manages the house for a year before she inherits the property outright to dispose of it anyway she wants.  Allison befriends quilt shop owner Sarah Bitler; and is attracted to Mayor Nick Whiting a carpenter.  However not every local welcomes the big city outsider with an unknown using any means to drive Allison back to Philadelphia.

Moving from her “Watcher In The Dark” trilogy (see Abandon The Dark, Home by Dark and Search The Dark), Marta Perry authors a delightful romantic intrigue anchored once again in Amish country (see the Plain series).  Allison keeps the storyline focused as she makes new friends, finds love and wears a bull’s-eye that someone targets.  Although the suspense is somewhat low-keyed, Where Secrets Sleep is a pleasant thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Hush Hush - Laura Lippman

Hush Hush
Laura Lippman
Morrow, Feb 24 2015, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062083425

Twelve years ago, Melisandre Harris Dawes left her infant daughter to die in an overheated car.  The jury accepted her postpartum psychosis defense and found her not guilty by reason of insanity.  Divorcing her husband Stephen and legally giving him custody of their two other children (five years old Alanna and three years old Ruby), Melisandre moved overseas.

With a camera-person poised to film her, Melisandre returns to Baltimore allegedly to reconnect with her teenage daughters while also creating an insanity defense documentary.  Through attorney Tyner Gray, Melisandre hires hesitant Tess Monaghan and her partner Sandy Sanchez (see After I'm Gone) to provide personal security.  While many locals starting with the ex, his wife and her kids fume over an infanticide killer’s return; someone demonstrates their rage over the injustice by threatening to harm Melisandre and her security team.

The twelfth Tess Monaghan Private Investigator mystery combines an insightful family drama from the maternal viewpoint (including Tess’ concerns re her toddler and Melisandre’s need to reconnect), a profound complex look at the insanity plea and an appealing mystery.  Series fans will appreciate Tess’ latest winner (see The Girl in the Green Raincoat).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First Time In Forever - Sarah Morgan

First Time In Forever
Sarah Morgan
Harlequin HQN, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373785049

The late Hollywood superstar Lana Fox named her half-sister Emily Donovan as guardian to her six years old daughter Lizzie.  Angry with her deceased sibling for saddling her with responsibilities she feels inadequate to deal with starting with her niece and worse the paparazzi feeding frenzy, Emily and her charge flee to Puffin Island off the Maine coast.

Following the deaths of his parents, as the oldest offspring Ryan Cooper gave up his youth to raise his younger siblings.  Once his responsibility ended, he fled Puffin Island; vowing to be a globetrotting journalist with no emotional attachments and never returning home.  However, the Pulitzer Prize winning Ryan is back on the island seeking escape. 

When Ryan and Emily meet, each is attracted to the other.  However, though he empathizes with the over her head single “mom” and likes the vulnerable little girl, Ryan tries to keep his distance from both; but his heart begs to differ.

The first Puffin Island contemporary romance is a wonderful family drama starring three hurting individuals who reluctantly find comfort and emotional support with each other.  Character-driven by the lead trio, readers will cherish their fumbling efforts to come together.

Harriet Klausner

Fiercombe Manor - Kate Riordan

Fiercombe Manor
Kate Riordan
Harper, Feb 17 2015, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062332943

In 1932 London, twentyish Alice Eveleigh falls in love with a married man.  Their tryst leaves her pregnant and except for her ashamed parents alone since he lied about a divorce.  To save their foolish daughter’s reputation, they tell everyone that Alice is a recent widow and exile her to her mother’s friend Fiercombe Manor housekeeper Mrs. Jelphs in the Cotswold.

At Fiercombe Manor, Alice finds the diary of Lady Elizabeth Stanton, an ancestor of current heir Tom Stanton.  In 1898 pregnant Elizabeth prays her second child is a boy to satisfy the unyielding demands of her domineering spouse who scorns his firstborn Isabel for being the wrong gender.  As Alice and Tom become friends, the visitor wonders what happened at the end of the last century to Elizabeth and her two offspring.

Though the mirrored decades-apart subplots technique has been used a lot in recent years, Kate Riordan’s execution is lively with the unsympathetic Mrs. Jelphs as the link between the sympathetic mothers.  The historical roles of women in 1898 and 1932 make for a mesmerizing comparison while on the other hand the mystery fails to flow as nimbly as their plight.

Harriet Klausner

The Dhulyn and Parno Novels Volume One - Violette Malan

The Dhulyn and Parno Novels Volume One
Violette Malan
DAW, Feb 3 2015, $9.99
ISBN: 9780756410469

"The Sleeping God."  The Mercenary Brotherhood assigns psychic Dhulyn Wolfshead and former noble Parno Lionsmane to escort orphaned Mar-eMar to her royal relatives at Tenebro House in Gotterang, Imrion.  The pair expects no trouble, but the supernatural magical Marked have reasons known only to them to prevent them from succeeding.  The zealous New Believers think that the Marked are conjuring a way to awaken the Sleeping God and consequently destroy the world. They want Parno and Dhulyn stopped. Neither adversary nor the Brotherhood knows the Green Shadow is playing on everyone’s fears.  Aware their mission could prove lethal; Parno and Dhulyn risk their lives to keep Mar safe.  

“The Soldier King.”  At the Valley of Limona battlefield the war ends with the Nisveans accepting the surrender of Tegrian’s Prince Edmir.  Though on the winning team, Dhulyn and Parno quickly become appalled when their side’s leadership violates acceptable battlefield practices and the surrender agreement with a plan to use the prince as a hostage.  Accompanied by Edmir, Dhulyn and Parno flee camp to escort the young royal to his kingdom only to find the Blue Mage has made the prince’s home unsafe.

This omnibus reprint of the first two Dhulyn and Parno fantasies (respectively published in 2006 and 2007) contains sensational sword and sorcery tales.  Both are fast-paced and anchored by the heroic pair’s trusting camaraderie of only each other.  Although somewhat typical of the sub-genre and the lead duet do inane things out of character, fans will marvel at the adventures of Dhulyn and Parno who know years before The Black List’s Redd that your enemy's enemy is most likely also your enemy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wild Horses - B.J. Daniels

Wild Horses
B.J. Daniels
Harlequin HQN, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779567

In Montana Olivia Hamilton and Cooper Barnett are in love, but the engaged couple also vehemently argue too much.  During a heated fight, angry Olivia drives off in a snowstorm, but has an accident.  A stranger saves her life only to drug and rape her.

Soon after her harrowing experience, someone blackmails Olivia; she believes the extortionist is her sexual predator.  Pregnant she tells her fiancé of the assault and that the fetus may not be his.  Stunned and depressed, Cooper reacts poorly to Olivia’s revelations.  He comes to his senses when Cooper realizes the danger his beloved faces.  Turning to the law to find the rapist, Copper relies on himself to keep his Olivia safe.

Moving from the Beartooth saga, B.J. Daniels provides a satisfying Montana Hamiltons' opening act.  The storyline is at its touching best when it focuses on the bickering yet loving lead couple.  However, the romantic mystery loses some momentum when the plot falls to a first book syndrome by veering into the lives of several other characters (many of whom I assume will headline future dramas).  Still Wild Horses is a solid Big Sky novel.

Harriet Klausner

All Hail The Queen - Meesha Mink

All Hail The Queen
Meesha Mink
Touchstone, Feb 24 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781476755359

In Newark after avenging the murder of her son with street justice (see Kiss the Ring), Naeema Cole retires her alter-ego Queen she hopes permanently.  However, the relationship between Naeema and her husband Tank is currently off which she says is permanent.  Though she knows to stay out of it, Naeema gets involved with a young teen female Mya who she hopes to save from the boys’ serial sexing her, her mother ignoring her, and her stepfather abusing her.

After booting Tank’s lover out of his life, Naeema attends a gala headlined by Fevah with Tank and his crew providing the rap superstar protection. When Tank goes to open the limo for her to step out of the vehicle, shots hit him.  As Tank fights for his life in a New York hospital, Naeema, realizing who the real target was, reincarnates Queen to determine who of three suspects tried to kill her beloved spouse; but also faces perilous exposure by someone who knows her and her man.

Though All Hail The Queen contains a similar overarching premise to its prequel, the storyline remains fresh as Queen works the inquiry in her unique way.  Fast-paced throughout, urban-lit fans will hail the return of the Queen.

Harriet Klausner

A Confederation of Valor - Tanya Huff

A Confederation of Valor
Tanya Huff
DAW, Feb 3 2015, $16.00
ISBN: 9780756410414

“Valor's Choice.”  150 years ago, the Others attacked the nonviolent Confederation.  None of the Confederation species could fight back as killing sentient beings goes against their nature.  Instead they welcome three semi-feral species (Humans, Taykan and the Krai) to join them as their protectors.  In the present on the Confederation vessel Berganitan, Sh'quo Company Sergeant Torin Kerr leads a unit guarding a multi-species diplomatic delegation heading to negotiations with the warrior Silsviss.  However, on the Silsviss planet, a transport is shot down over a Silsviss Wilderness Preserve where deadly native teen adolescent males fight for survival against each other and intruders.  To rescue the beleaguered Dornagian diplomats, Kerr leads a counterattack, but instead of retreat from the superior force the local horde charges at the off-worlders relentlessly.

 “The Better Part of Valor.”  Sergeant Kerr is proud to be a marine fighting the Others, a race that covets Confederation territory while refusing to negotiate. General Morris assigns her a top-secret mission to investigate a spaceship that is neither Confederation nor Other in a far corner of the galaxy. When Kerr boards the alien ship, she learns the hard way that it is sentient and doesn't like anyone inside it. Trapped on board the ship with a group of the Others, Torin must escape or die. 

These reprints from 2000 and 2002 respectively of the first two Valor military science fictions are exciting thrillers with a courageous intelligent heroine keeping the plots centered and moving forward. The key remains the genuineness of the various three-dimensional species.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Real Prince - Debbie Macomber

A Real Prince
Debbie Macomber
Mira, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778315513

“The Bachelor Prince.”  San Lorenzo is in financial trouble due to the nearby strife in the Balkans shutting down the only close international airport and thus keeping tourists away.  Heir to the throne his family has kept for seven centuries and a Duke University grad, Prince Stefano Giorgio Paolo travels to America seeking a very wealthy bride to keep the country from declaring bankruptcy.  His secretary selects shipping magnate’s daughter Priscilla Rutherford as the bride.  However, in the States the royal falls in love with Hope Jordan who can save his heart, but not his kingdom.

“Yesterday's Hero.”  Septuagenarian department head Dr. Brewster explains to marine biologist Leah Talmadge that the Diamantina Islands leadership has a long history of Puritan ethics and will not allow opposite sex singles to share a room.  Thus she and photographer Cain Hawkins agree to a marriage of convenience that they agree ends when they finish their whales’ expedition.  On the islands neither expected to fall in love.

These reprints of 1994 and 1986 romances respectively are likable tales that follow the most likely courses.  Due to the background, ironically each reads like a historical.

Harriet Klausner

Taking Fire - Lindsay McKenna

Taking Fire
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373785056

In the Hindu Kush, hermitic Marine Corp Sergeant Khatereh Shinwari observes the Taliban setting up an assault on a SEAL team of four.  Her handler tells her no help is coming; at the same Petty Officer Michael Tarik learns from his Camp Bravo home base no immediate air rescue is available.  Though she risks her safety by exposing herself, Khat the sniper begins killing the enemy.  In spite of her efforts, Michael is injured in an RPG explosion while his three companions flee.  Khat brings Mike into the safety of her cave where she works on his head wound and a broken arm.  As he heals, Khat and Mike forge a bond until his air rescue arrives.

Khat arrives at Camp Bravo where she and Mike continue to fall in love.  However, she soon retreats to her mountain sanctuary, but Mike arranges for her to use Camp Bravo for supplies.  He soon joins her on the mountain seeking geographical Intel until they separate when she targets the Taliban.

The seventh Shadow Warrior military romantic thriller (see Never Surrender and Breaking Point) is perhaps the best entry in an awesome series due to courageous “Krazy Khat” who makes a strong case for women in combat.  Mike proves her equal as he works on the most difficult task of his life; overcoming his beloved’s penchant for solitude.

Harriet Klausner

Canary - Duane Swierczynski

Duane Swierczynski
Little Brown/Mulholland Books, Feb 24 2015, $26.00
ISBN: 9780316403207

In Philadelphia, college honors student Sarie Holland writes to her dead mom informing her with what is going on in her life.  Thus she tells her late mother that she attended a party in which drugs and alcohol were prevalent.  When one of the revelers D. needed to get a book, he enlisted the only sober person at the gala Sarie to drive him.  While she sat in her car waiting for D. to return, PPD Narcotics cop Benjamin Wildey arrived and inspected the vehicle, finding drugs.  To escape jail; time for possession, Sarie agreed to become Wildey’s criminal informant.

Sarie proves a quick learn of the illegal drug trafficking market with astonishingly uncanny instincts.  However, seeing her as his ticket for advancement, the ambitious impatient Wildey rushes the teen in a lethal situation.  Law enforcement and killers stalk Sarie sharing the same goal of executing CI 1373.

Canary is an exhilarating police procedural that is over the top of the Liberty Bell as the metamorphosis of the college student into a superheroine CI seems extremely unlikely though the audience will root for her to survive and successfully counter.  Sarie’s actions and reactions on the mean streets make for a wildly enjoyable crime drama.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 22, 2015

White Gardenia - Belinda Alexandra

White Gardenia
Belinda Alexandra
Gallery Books, Feb 17 2015, $16.00
ISBN: 9781476790312

Having fled their homeland after the Tsar abdicated, many White Russians settle on the border in Harbin, China.  There Victor Grigorovich Kozlov and Alina Pavlovna meet, marry and have a child Anya.  When Anya turns thirteen her father dies in an accident.  Not long after his death, Russian Communists take control of Harbin from the Japanese occupied Chinese; severely mistreating their former countrymen.  Incarcerated Alina returns home to Mother Russia to most likely die in a labor camp and abusive Tang possesses Anya.  Family friends smuggle her out of Harbin.

In Shanghai Anya stays with Moscow-Shanghai nightclub owner and opium addict Sergei and his avaricious wife Amelia. When their ward turns fifteen, she begins to work at her guardian’s nightclub where she meets manager Dimitri.  A year later, Anya and Dimitri marry.  Her husband deserts her when the Communists seize Shanghai forcing all foreign devils out of the country.  Anya manages to get to The Philippines where she makes new friends amongst the Russian exiles in a Tubabao refugee camp before relocating in Australia.

This reprint of a mid-twentieth century epic grips the fans with a profound look at what happened to White Russian expatriates decades after they fled their homeland.  The storyline starts vivid yet fast-paced; slows down in the middle though retaining the vibrancy; and accelerates with an exhilarating climax.  Real events and a strong support cast anchor Anya’s saga; as she struggles to survive in a seemingly ever changing but ever cruel world while craving one impossible dream: reuniting with her mother.

Harriet Klausner

Covenant’s End - Ari Marmell

Covenant’s End
Ari Marmell
Pyr, Feb 17 2015, $17.99
ISBN: 9781616149864

After being away from home for just under a year in self-exile, Widdershins the thief, accompanied by her god Olgun whom no one else worships, begins the journey back on an eerily empty road to Davillon.  In town she expects most, if not all her friends, to shun her for deserting them. 

After sneaking into her hometown, Widdershins finds out her adversary Lisette also is back.  Lisette is much stronger than ever; fueled by her vendetta against Widdershins and a Faustian deal she made.  Widdershins quickly realizes her enemy has powerful partners inside the ruling class and worse the supernatural realm.  To defeat Lisette, she and Olgun desperately need allies; but most of her friends distrust her and remain angry at her for leaving without them.

The fourth and final fantastic Widdershins fantasy (see Lost Covenant, Thief's Covenant and False Covenant) brings the heroine, her god and her antagonist home for an excellent climax that resolves the major subplots.  The protagonist’s trademark schizophrenic debates with her deity add biting satirical humor especially when she overhears casual phoniness and transgressions.  Readers will relish Widdershins to the rescue of those who scorn her but wonder who, if anyone besides Olgun, will have her back.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Search and Seduce - Sara Jane Stone

Search and Seduce
Sara Jane Stone
Harlequin Blaze, Feb 17 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798391

A year and half has passed since SEAL Darren Benton died in combat.  Though still mourning her loss and needing to honor her late spouse, his grieving war widow Amy is finally ready to move on.  Her plan is to open up a facility to breed and train military war dogs.  Family, friends and her deceased husband’s military cronies see her as a grieving widow with no chance of success. 

The only exception is Darren’s best friend Air Force pararescue jumper Mark Rhodes, who from a Theater distance encourages her to go for it.  Over videos, the widow and the jumper begin to fall in love.  However, both fear losing their friendship when they meet in person for the first since the funeral as Mark arrives for her grand opening.

This Uniformly Hot! military romance (see Command Performance) is an interesting contemporary starring two fully developed protagonists and the memory of the beloved person who connects them.  Although the premise is not new, Sara Jane Stone provides a pleasing rendition.

Harriet Klausner

Someone To Watch Over Me - Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Someone To Watch Over Me
Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Minotaur Books, Feb 17 2015, $25.99
ISBN: 9781250051479

In Reykjavík, Jósteinn Karlsson retains attorney Thóra Gudmondsdóttir to appeal the arson homicide conviction of his Down’s syndrome friend Jakob Porbjarnardóttir.  Karlsson insists Jakob’s previous lawyer failed to use key evidence that pointed to someone else as the fiery killer of five people.

Taking on the case, the attorney quickly finds two oddities.  First an unknown source sends her texts that lead Gudmondsdóttir to proof of rape and unwanted pregnancy, and several financial felonies; which provide two potentially radically different motives for the deadly inferno than what convicted Porbjarnardóttir; however those in the know fearfully refuse to testify.  Second Karlsson seems to pop up everywhere her inquiry takes her.

The fifth Thóra Gudmondsdóttir mystery (see The Day Is Dark, Ashes to Dust, Last Rituals and My Soul To Take) is a terrific legal thriller that brilliantly uses the horrific impact on the lower classes by the country’s financial implosion to tell a tale of cover-up, avarice and arson.  Although the storyline is overly complicated leading to stretches of passivity, Someone To Watch Over Me is an absorbing Icelandic tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Wide World’s End - James Enge

The Wide World’s End
James Enge
Pyr, Feb 17 2015, $18.00
ISBN: 9781616149079

The sunkillers continue to deplete the sun’s energy.  Their solar draining begins to freeze the planet leading to deadly confrontations caused by food shortages.  Inside the Wardlands, the Graith of Guardians assigns Morlock Ambrosius to stop the sunkillers from killing the planet.  Reluctantly leaving his beloved mate Aloê Ojai behind; Morlock, accompanied by his sister Ambrosia Viviana, his dwarf friend Deor and Kela the former enemy combatant Khnauront, set forth on a mission to save the sun before their rock turns totally frozen.

At the same time the Graith of Guardians task Aloê to investigate the assassination of family friend, top of the hierarchal Earno.  Her inquiry places her and her loved ones who remain inside the Wardlands in peril as increasingly the evidence points to the Graith of Guardians.

The third A Tournament of Shadows early years fantasy (see A Guile of Dragons and Wrath-Bearing Tree) is a fantastic finish to the trilogy prequel as the saga fits deftly with Morlock the Maker latter years (see The Wolf Age, Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way).  Rotating perspective between the prime two well written sword and sorcery subplots (and tossing in the hero’s dad Merlin), series fans will relish knowing why Morlock chose self-exile from all he cherished.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Conard County Baby - Rachel Lee

A Conard County Baby
Rachel Lee
Harlequin Special Edition, Feb 17 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658725

Carrying her fiancé’s child conceived when he raped her and receiving no support from her wealthy parents who disown her for ending her engagement, Hope Conroy fled Dallas with no plan except escape.  She applies for a nanny position on a Conard County, Wyoming ranch.  Though Cash Cashford has doubts the beautiful Texan can handle his angry thirteen years old daughter Angie as she seems more like a runaway debutant, he hires her out of desperation.

Surprising herself as much as Cash, big city Hope fits in somehow in the rustic environ.  She especially gets along with Angie; or at least as good as anyone can.  As the two adults fall in love, both tacitly agree her unborn and his teen come before their desire.

The latest Conard County: The Next Generation (see The Widow of Conard County and Reuniting with the Rancher) is a pleasing character-driven contemporary starring a three-dimensional trio; especially the traumatized heroine who lives up to her name by never giving up Hope.  Fans will appreciate Rachel Lee’s fine ranch family drama.

Harriet Klausner

The Never-Open Desert Diner - James Anderson

The Never-Open Desert Diner
James Anderson
Caravel Book/Pleasure Boat Studio, Feb 15 2015, $25.00
ISBN: 9780912887104

Owned and solo operated of Desert Moon Delivery Service, thirty-something Ben Jones drives his rig as a subcontractor making deliveries to people he knows along desolate Utah Highway 117.  His business is failing as there is not a big call for packages amongst the eccentrics residing on this relatively deserted desert road.  Thus when he notices a stranger, he is stunned.  Even more shocking to Ben is the naked squatter playing a cello that has no strings.  Over “music” Ben and Claire meet.

Claire’s arrival reminds locals of a four-decade old gruesome crime that occurred at The Well-Known Desert Diner (locally referred to as The Never-Open Desert Diner) that all prefer to forget, but no longer can.  Ben, the diner’s acrimonious owner widower Walt Butterfield, Preacher John doing seemingly eternal penitence with his large cross, Fergus and Duncan Lacey and pregnant teen Ginny react differently to the stranger whose arrival ends their sanctuary.

With a captivating barren landscape anchoring this riveting desert noir, armchair readers will feel they are riding with Ben in his van visiting places on 117 like the diner.  The gripping desolate atmosphere mindful of the film Petrified Forest and a fully-developed cast make for a terse thriller in which the past resurrects itself with the arrival of the naked cellist. 

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Tell-Tale Heart - Jill Dawson

The Tell-Tale Heart
Jill Dawson
Harper Perennial, Feb 10 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062348807

Fifty years old university lecturer Patrick spent decades of debauchery until his doctor tells him he has no more than six months to live due to a severely damaged heart.  Patrick receives a second chance when a healthy fifteen years old boy dies in a tragic accident.  At Papworth Hospital using the beating heart technique, doctors successfully transplant the lad’s organ inside Patrick.

Once recovered from the surgery, Patrick finds what pleasured him for years now leaves him ennui.  He discusses this with his doctor who insists no evidence exists that cellular memories from the donor comes with the organ.  Needing to know about the lad, Patrick learns he has Littleport resident Drew Beamish’s heart beating inside him.  With an obsession to learn who was this teen who gave him a second chance, Patrick looks into Drew’s life and that of present and past relations including the early eighteenth-century relative Willis involved in a bread riot. 

The engaging Tell-Tale Heart is an enthralling story that provides readers with perspectives from the recipient, the donor and the ancestor.  There are two intriguing overarching themes: that the austere Fens has a thriving beautiful ecosystem for those looking beyond the bleak; and whether it is cellular or not a transplant changes the recipient’s outlook (think of Ghost Whisperer’s episode Mended Hearts) in many ways including a degree of separation to the late donor as close of not more than twins share.  Although the Willis subplot adds depth to the premise of expanded memories beyond one’s experiences; it also interferes with the more appealing contemporary subplots.

Harriet Klausner

Rough Justice - Sarah Castile

Rough Justice
Sarah Castile
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Feb 3 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250056603

In Montana Sinner's Tribe Motorcycle Club leader Jagger Knight emphasize strict adherence to the rules that he expects the membership to follow just as he does.  He also avoids emotional attachments ever since his beloved was assassinated as part of a failed coup d’état.

Arianne Hunter is the first daughter of volatile Viper, the divine right chief of the Black Jack MC.  After a lifetime of fearing what her father especially knowing what he did to her mother, she wants out of the lunatic testosterone milieu; but cannot leave behind her addicted brother Jeff, who will do anything for paternal approval. 

Arsonists burn down the Sinner’s clubhouse and shoot a member Gunner in the leg; but they capture one of the intruders.  Axle wants the arsonist dead to send a message, but are stunned when their prisoner is female.  Jagger and Arianne are attracted to each other, but both ironically know he must kill her or face open hostility from fifty bikers.  She insists she did not set the fire and his heart wants to believe her, but this enemy combatant was caught right there.  Even as Arianne remains the prime suspect, Jagger concludes a member cut a Faustian deal that betrays him and the club.

The first Sinner's Tribe Motorcycle Club is a contemporary West Side Story set in the world of the Friends of Anarchy.  Sarah Castile cleverly interweaves club rules into the narrative, which enables the audience to better understand the subculture.  Fast-paced from the opening inferno and never slowing down until the final confrontation, readers will feel transported inside a dangerous environs where loyalty is the prime commandment.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cookie's Case Andy Siegel

Cookie's Case 
Andy Siegel 
Mysterious Road, Feb 10 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781497662766

Neurosurgeon Dr. McElroy performs surgery while singing Stairway to Heaven.  OR Nurse Molina becomes concerned when the surgeon working on the C2 vertebrae nicks the C4 vertebrae causing an unchecked fluid leakage.  Molina voices her fears, but McElroy reacts by throwing her out of the OR. 

Personal injury and medical malpractice attorney Tug Wyler and criminal lawyer Henry Benson meet with former neurologist Mickey Mack at Manhattan’s Jingles Dance Bonanza.  The attorneys watch in amazement as extremely popular erotic dancer Cookie’s performs in a halo brace and stilettos.  They learn from her about her slipping on a banana peel and the subsequent spinal surgeries leading Mack to speculate that the physician screwed up.  Cookie also says her boyfriend Major a doctor sent her to McElroy and malpractice lawyer Chris Charles.  To Tug’s chagrin Henry takes on Claudette “Cookie” Krumke as a client for both of them.

Tug receives a call from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome investigator (don’t call him bill collector) Robert Killroy over paying fourteen dollars and change to Wang’s Dry Cleaning for ruining a seven hundred dollar suit.  When Robert howls in pain due to a van running over his ankle, Tug thinks he has a new client. 

The latest Tug Wyler Mystery (see Suzy’s Case) is a delightful legal thriller due to a solid three dimensional cast.  Tug represents two fascinating clients; deals with a personal perjury charge brought by a third client; receives torture by a pair of female shrews respectively at home and in the office, and further blows to his psyche by his three children.  Told with tongue in cheek humor, readers will enjoy the antics of wisecracking Wyler whose musing asides enhance the storyline.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Infernal - James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

Blood Infernal
James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
Morrow, Feb 10 2015, $27.99
ISBN: 9780062343260

Assisted by the Sanguinists Christians who drink wine instead of blood, the Woman of Learning archaeologist Dr. Erin Granger, the Warrior of Man U.S. Army Sergeant Jordan Stone and the Knight of Christ Father Ruhn Korza continue their battle against the blood drinking Strigori.  As the world turns increasingly ugly, Dr. Granger struggles to interpret the Blood Gospel written by Christ. 

At the same time, Lucifer appears ready to escape his eternal incarceration, his Strigori minion, a demonic horde and worse continue to cause world-wide havoc.  With the Apocalypse doomsday countdown imminent, Granger, Stone and Korza search for the last hope for salvation, the missing for over a for millennium Chalice that the trio believes either is possessed by a Legion the demon at the gates of the Vatican or trapped in Hell.

The third Order of the Sanguines thriller (see Innocent Blood and The Blood Gospel) is an action-packed exhilarating thriller that explores the price of salvation; even the truest believers tussle with dogmatically accepting the cost that can supersede their faith in a heavenly outcome.  The heroic threesome pursues their quest in spite of suffering numerous wounds, injuries and fatigue that would falter Job and the Man of La Mancha as each of the threesome is “… willing to march into hell for that heavenly cause” (“The Impossible Dream").  Fast-paced from the start and decelerating, this is a fabulous finish made stronger by a terrific late twist.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Amherst - William Nicholson

William Nicholson
Simon & Schuster, Feb 10 2015, $26.00
ISBN: 9781476740409

Wannabe screenwriter Alice Dickinson finds information on the nineteenth century married brother of Emily Dickinson.  She leaves her English flat traveling to Amherst, Massachusetts to learn more about then fiftyish Austin’s affair with his married neighbor; twenty-something Mabel Loomis Todd.  Alice plans to write a script on the illicit duo abetted by Emily the enabler whose home served as the rendezvous haven between her sibling and a professor’s spouse.  As Emily and Mabel get to know each other, they also connect in a way that survives the death of the poetess.

Friends arrange for Alice to reside at the home of Professor Nick Crocker.  They soon begin a tryst that mirrors the older man younger woman entanglement of whom the visiting Englishwoman is researching.

The absorbing historical subplot provides captivating glimpses into a little known part of the late poetess’ life with the addition of written documents augmenting this segue but also slowing down the pacing.  The present day tryst comes across as intrusive since readers want more Emily, Austin and Mabel, and much less Alice and Nick.

Harriet Klausner

The Forgetting Place - John Burley

The Forgetting Place
John Burley
Morrow, Feb 10 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062227409

After graduating from John Hopkins five years ago, psychologist Dr. Lise Shields has worked at Menaker State Hospital, just south of Baltimore.  The thirtyish woman accepts her patients are sent to this Maryland facility to be forgotten by family and society as incorrigibly insane, but still likes her job.

However, her latest patient Jason Edwards is different than all the others she has treated as he arrives without the usual advance notice or medical information; her superior Dr. Charles Wagner explains Jason suffers from a violent trauma.  As Lise begins to doubt Jason belongs at this institution, she remains the good bureaucrat except for efforts to learn why he was sent here; which Wagner thwarts.  The FBI accosts her and Lise fears either she inherited mental illness from her Uncle Jim or someone wants her dead.

Although the key late twist seems obvious relatively early, this is a tremendous psychological suspense that makes a solid argument that truth and realism are in the eye of the beholder.  The engaging storyline hooks the audience with its dark melancholy atmosphere mindful of the TV show Bedlam (sans ghosts), Lise’s troubled first person account and Jason’s haunted history. 

Harriet Klausner

The Diabolical Miss Hyde - Viola Carr

The Diabolical Miss Hyde
Viola Carr
Harper Voyager, Feb 10 2015, $16.99
ISBN: 9780062363084

In Victorian London, Lizzie Hyde detests hiding in the shadows while her Eliza Jekyll works the homicide crime scene with hoity-toity Inspector Harley Griffin.  The late Dr. Henry Jekyll’s daughter is a chip off the old block; as a forensic practitioner of legal medicine investigating serial killing and other horrific cases, and having a feral inner “partner” Lizzie share her body.

Eliza examines a dead victim whose limbs are nowhere in sight.  She concludes the lunatic used a bayonet to commit the murder and a saw to remove the body parts; in other words the maniac planned the kill in great detail and precision.  The “Chopper” leaves behind more corpses minus body parts.  Captain Remy Lafayette of the Royal Society joins the duet on their search for the Chopper, but Eliza, knowing he hunts the “unspeakable” like the Fae who have gone aground, fears he has a hidden agenda re her alter ego.

The Diabolical Miss Hyde is a rousing steampunk police procedural starring a lead who engages the reader in both her personas.  The opening crime scene investigation sets the tone as Eliza diligently does her job while Lizzie with her asides yearns to be in charge.  Although there is a lack of depth to aspects of Viola Carr’s London such as not enough on the unspeakable and the royal government censorship of magic and science, the first Electric Empire whodunit is a terrific Strange Case of Miss. Jekyll and Miss Hyde.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Cat, The Devil, The Last Escape-Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Pat J.J. Murphy

The Cat, The Devil, The Last Escape
Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Pat J.J. Murphy
Morrow, Feb 10 2015, $24.99
ISBN: 9780062269102

Though he blames that darn ghost cat Mistro for his failure to snatch the soul of a descendent of “escapee” Russell Dobbs whom he lost a wager to decades ago; frustrated Satan remains diligent in tempting non-dangerous sexagenarian convict Lee Fontana.  On the opposite coast, Mistro also tries to guard (from the devil) his former human pet preadolescent Sammie Blake whose dreams are omens of what to come.

Satan’s henchman Brad Falon commits a lethal robbery, but insures the evidence leads to the arrest of Sammie’s father Morgan to get him out of the way when he takes the man’s wife Becky.  With Mistro guiding them, Lee and Brad meet inside Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.  Experienced with life inside prison, Lee mentors Brad on survival.  Soon the pair plots a scheme after a breakout that requires conning the devil, protecting the newbie’s two beloved women and finding proof that frees Blake and convicts Falon.

The second soul wars conflict between The Cat and The Devil (see The Cat, the Devil, and Lee Fontana; and Mistro’s debut in the Joel Grey saga Cat Bearing Gifts) is a wonderful supernatural thriller due to a fully-developed cast.  This time the audience understands why Mistro believes enigmatic Fontana is worth saving.  Readers will figure out early on the connection between the cat, the child and the convict; but relish the convergence of the past, present and future when the cat, the convict and “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” (The Charlie Daniels Band).

Harriet Klausner

The Foundling’s War-Michel Déon

The Foundling’s War
Michel Déon; Julian Evans (translator)
Gallic Books, Feb 10 2015, $16.95
ISBN: 9781908313713

In the summer of 1940, the French psyche is devastated but with the party must go on attitude in spite of the Nazi blitzkrieg leading to the abject surrender at Vichy.  At a “victory” parade in Clermont-Ferrand honoring Sergeant Tuberge with the Croix de Guerre, an irate Palfy the con artist shouts out that the recipient is a coward and other epithets.  Patriots are irate at the interruption while the cops go to arrest Palfy and his companion twentyish Jean Arnaud.  They flee the scene with Palfy musing one day having the sergeant’s guts and Jean fantasizes about having just met one of the women of his dreams (along with Chantal and other mademoiselles) Claude. 

After hiding in a brothel, the trio flees Clermont-Ferrand for Paris where they find the city keeping the lights on during the German occupation.  In the former capital, they meet the gamut of black market entrepreneurs, but it is Claude who carries danger with her that places the two buddies and her in life threatening situations.

The sequel to The Foundling Boy is a unique intriguing glimpse into French endurance especially embraced by the less scrupulous during the Nazi occupation.  The likable leads make the tale as still somewhat innocent Jean and his unflappable roguish mentor Palfy never take life serious even when trapped in a perilous situation.  Their penchant for diving head first into the fire is over the top of the Eifel Tower, but also enables the reader to understand survival of the fittest, which rarely is the most moralistic or altruistic, during an oppressive reign.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wolf Born-Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Wolf Born
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne, Feb 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009398

Though off-duty, purebred Wulf Miami police officer Colton Killion responds to a shooting of a cop when he is stunned to smell an extremely rare full-blooded female Lycan mentally calling to him.  Though he knows he will regret this afterward, Colton ignores his every instinct screaming at him to run to her; instead he continues his race to help the officer down.  At the scene he learns of the mass murder of the Connelly family of four whom he knows having recently helped build a swing set for the two now dead kids.  In Florida with her dad, female Lycan Rosalind Kirk sadly controls her powerful desire to follow the Wulf who rejected her invitation into the park. 

Not long after their “meeting”, a vampire assault on a Lycan residential street leaves Colton’s family dead.  The violent attack affects Rosalind who was staying nearby by activating her banshee heritage and grieving Colton who has become the extremely uncommon ghostly werewolf.  Now all the paranormal want her for her banshee power’s ability to use the skills of any Other species she touches.  Attracted to Colton, Rosalind chooses flight over fight to keep her beloved cop safe; but she underestimated the need a male Wulf has to protect his mate.

Leaving the Vampire Moons saga (see Immortal Obsession and Guardian Of The Knight) Linda Thomas-Sundstrom returns to the Wolf Moons series (see Blackout, Red Wolf, Wolf Bait and Wolf Trap) with an captivating romantic urban fantasy that also include previous headliners.  The lead couple is an interesting pairing whose relationship and their respective reactions to the vampire attacks bring realism to the Others species.

Harriet Klausner

The Long And Faraway-Gone Lou Berney

The Long And Faraway Gone
Lou Berney
Morrow, Feb 10 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062292438

In August 1986 at the Pheasant Run Twin Theater in Oklahoma City, a man with a stocking over his face and carrying a shotgun demands manager Bingham tell him how many employees are there and to open the safe.  Bingham asks the robber to leave his staff alone, but the man and his cronies round them all up and place them face down on the floor.  The killers execute the employees, but for some unknown reason let one of them Wyatt Rivers live.

In September 1986 sisters Julianna and Genevieve Rosales enjoy the Oklahoma State Fair.  Leaving behind at the fair her twelve year old younger sibling; Genevieve walks away never to be seen again.  Though the case is unsolved OCPD assumes she was murdered.

In 2012, a case returns private investigator Wyatt to the city he never wanted to come back to; as he remains haunted with a need to know why him since the mass murders over twenty-five years ago.  Nurse Julianna also remains fixated on 1986 with an obsession to learn what happened to Genevieve.  After a quarter of century of no progress, Julianna finally finds hope for closure from an online posting of that fatal night at the fair.

This great drama grips the reader with a need to know almost as strong as the traumatized protagonists.  Rotating perspective between the PI and the nurse in the present, The Long And Faraway Gone looks at the long term impact of trauma on people suffering from PTSD, survivor guilt and an over two decade unfulfilled need to know why bad things happened to innocent people like they were before the respective tragedies, but not to them.

Harriet Klausner

The Swimmer-Joakim Zander; Elizabeth Clark Wessel (translator)

The Swimmer
Joakim Zander; Elizabeth Clark Wessel (translator)
Harper, Feb 10 2015, $27.99
ISBN: 9780062337245

Retired and passively rusticating in Virginia, the guilt-ridden widower explains to his late wife why she died.  In the summer of 1980, they and their baby lived in Damascus where his real work was that of an undercover CIA field agent.  He was holding their child and looking out their apartment window as his spouse entered their car and turned on the ignition when it exploded.  The horrified husband knew he was the intended victim.

In the present at Sweden’s Uppsala University Ph.D. candidate Mahmoud “Moody” Shammosh researches the privatization of war for a book he is writing.  His brother in arms comrade Lindsman offers to sell him damaging documents from his CIA contractor days.  Moody, accompanied by the widower’s baby European Union Swedish aide Klara Walldéen, heads to Paris.  Obtaining proof of War, Inc. (nod more to the movie than the game) Moody and Klara flee for their lives.  However, those chasing after the couple failed to account for a reanimated father willing to die and kill to keep his baby safe (similar to Liam Neeson’s character in Taken).

Rotating perspective between the widower’s first person account of his activities that eventually killed his mate and his soul, and the present day third person viewpoint of the pair on the run, The Swimmer is a fascinating leisurely-paced thriller filled with surprising twists.  Each subplot is well written enabling the reader to understand the widower’s regret, guilt and need for redemption, and the peril the graduate student and the aide are in for from those wanting the contracting of war crimes kept secret.

Harriet Klausner