Monday, March 30, 2015

The Virgin - Tiffany Reisz

The Virgin
Tiffany Reisz
Mira, Mar 31 2015, $14.95
ISBN 9780778317975

On the eve of their wedding in Scotland, dominatrix Nora Sutherlin the novelist and Father Søren, joined by Kingsley, chat about the year that changed everything.  During that pivotal period in their lives, twentyish Elle (Nora’s nee name) and Kingsley left New York; each fleeing from their heartless master Søren.

Elle stayed with her mom at the latter’s convent in Upstate New York where she soon enjoyed a sexual relationship as the dom with a sub virgin nun Kyrie that led to the emergence of the author and dominatrix.  Kingsley went to Haiti where he liberated Juliette from the French ambassador and fell in love with her.

The third Original Sinners: The White Years (see The Saint and The King) is a must read for series fans (see The Red Years) as The Virgin fills in the backstory of what happened during that critical year of change.  The delightful Kingsley-Juliet subplot adds complexity to both characters especially the female; while the Elle-Kyrie segue lacks that same level of intensity perhaps because the much more mesmerizing mother-daughter relationship overwhelms it.

Harriet Klausner

Normal - Graeme Cameron

Graeme Cameron
Mira, Mar 31 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9780778318507

He methodically prepares for teenager Sarah.  When he decides the time is right, he enters the eighteen-year-old chosen one’s house and murders her.  Once his deed is done, the killer thoroughly cleans the home to insure he left behind no evidence that he committed the lethal home invasion.  Everything went perfect until he goes to his van to leave the scene; his keys are locked inside.

Sarah’s executioner soon bumps into his victim’s friend Erica; whom he captures and incarcerates in his secret basement under the garage.  As he improves his skills with his mantra practice makes perfect, the serial killer has his first major setback when he goes to buy food for his latest and meets Rachel the grocery store clerk.  Stunned the predator knows he loves Rachel, but struggles with making the triangle work leading to errors that could end his career.

This is a dark jocular serial killer contemporary romance that amusingly satires both subgenres.  Obviously not for everyone, those who embrace the premise of a psychopath suffering from the “Normal” emotion of love will want to read Graeme Cameron’s black romantic comedy.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Closer You Come - Gena Showalter

The Closer You Come
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Mar 31 2015, $7.99
ISBN 9780373779628

In Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, Brook Lynn Dillon has spent a lifetime getting her older sister Jessie Kay out of one trouble after another.  So she is not surprised to learn that intoxicated Jessie Kay is at the flat shared by three roommates (Jase Hollister, Lincoln West and Beck Ockley).  Without causing further problems, Brook Lynn extracts her drunken sister from the bachelors’ pad though to her astonishment she is attracted to Jase.

An ex-con who spent years behind bars for manslaughter, starting over Jase is even more amazed that he wants seemingly straight-laced Brook Lynn.  He weighs asking her out against staying single; as he begins his new life without commitments except for his vow of no criminal activity.  Rationalizing she will reject him the moment she learns of his deadly past, Jase tries but fails to ignore his feelings.

This Original Heartbreakers Sooner romance (see e-novella: The One You Want) is an appealing contemporary as the audience meets the prime series cast and the small-town when Brook Lynn crashes Jase’s residence like infantry charging the enemy with a rescue in mind.  The key to this superb second chance at life is the depth of the intermingled and somewhat mangled relationships between the protagonists, her sister and his roommates; especially to the delight of fans how love befuddles Brook Lynn and Jase.

Harriet Klausner

Part Time Cowboy - Maisey Yates

Part Time Cowboy
Maisey Yates
Harlequin HQN, Mar 31 2015, $7.99
ISBN 9780373779598

A decade ago, as an out of control teen with a record Sadie Miller left Copper Ridge, Oregon for good.  Now ten years later, Sadie returns home hoping to start over.  On her first day back in town, Sadie runs into the one person she planned to avoid at least until she settles in; Deputy Sheriff Eli Garrett, the rigid rancher who arrested her just before she fled Copper Ridge. 

Having enough tsuris to last several lifetimes from his siblings, Eli has no doubt the bad seed remain the same felonious troublemaker she was as a teen; but frustrated by his attraction to Sadie in spite of his upper head warning him not to.  Making matters more difficult on his already out of control libido is Sadie has taken over the B&B on his family ranch.  Likewise Sadie loathes her yearning for the by the book cop to kiss her.

This Copper Ridge Oregonian romance (see e-novella Should Have Been A Cowboy) is an entertaining contemporary gender war between two amiable opposites in love.  The storyline starts leisurely enabling readers to meet the key series players and the rustic locale, but once we learn who’s who, the pace accelerates into a warm humorous drama.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 28, 2015

African Equation - Yasmina Khadra

African Equation
Yasmina Khadra; Howard Curtis (translator)
Gallic Books, Mar 17 2015, $15.95
ISBN: 9781908313706

In Frankfurt, Dr. Kurt and Jessica Krausmann share a loving relationship.  Thus when she unexpectedly commits suicide, Kurt mourns fiercely while also paralyzed by guilt compounded by being an MD for failing to see the signs.  He is further shocked when he learns his beloved killed herself over a promotion that Jessica felt she earned, but someone with less credentials received.

Kurt’s friend Hans Makkenroth persuades the grieving widower to join him on a humanitarian mission to the Union of Comoros archipelago off East Africa.  Sailing the Mediterranean for several weeks proves healing for Kurt.  However in the Gulf of Aden, pirates violently take their vessel and incarcerate the two men and others as hostages.  Over the next few weeks the guards abuse their prisoners with Joma personally targeting Kurt until Chief Moussa intervenes saving the German’s life.  Depressed from feeling helpless Kurt struggles to keep Hans from dying from a saber wound.  Kurt’s giving up on life until he meets Bruno from Bordeaux who gives him hope while explaining the anger of Africans towards their so-called White Man’s burden benefactors.

African Equation is an intriguing look at the continent from the perspectives of the pirates whose overall attitude is the hostages are flies trapped in a spider’s web while their leaders sees a cash crop, and stunned Europeans re their harsh mistreatment except enlightened Bruno.  The storyline starts leisurely but allows the reader to understand Kurt before hyper-accelerating once the pirates capture the good sanitarians.  Although the pirates change dramatically from feral warriors to intellectual philosophers over the course of the plot, readers will relish this profound look at how different Africans and Europeans perceive their dysfunctional relationship.

Harriet Klausner

The Dead Play On - Heather Graham

The Dead Play On
Heather Graham
Mira, Mar 31 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9780778317739

After three tours in Afghanistan, saxophonist Arnie Watson returned to New Orleans as a civilian only to die of a drug overdose.  His grieving mom gave her son’s sax to his best friend musician Tyler Anderson.  Using the sax at a gig, Tyler has visions of Arnie’s fatal last night that leads him to believe his buddy was murdered.  Tyler retains Danni Cafferty to investigate Arnie’s death.

NOPD Detective Jake Larue leads the investigation into the recent deaths of musicians that strongly imply a serial killer culprit.  He asks former cop turned private investigator Michael Quinn to help with the official inquiry.  Partners Danni and Michael compare notes as each believes possession of Arnie’s sax is the motive for the murders.

The third Cafferty & Quinn urban fantasy (see Waking The Dead and Let The Dead Sleep) is an interesting paranormal whodunit anchored by a haunting atmospheric New Orleans.  The mystery entertains the audience though the paranormal is somewhat downplayed compared to the usual novel by the queen of supernatural investigations Heather Graham.  Readers cheer on the brave protagonists especially when they join the band as bait making for a taut exciting tale

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Manhunt - Tyler Anne Snell

Tyler Anne Snell
Harlequin Intrigue, Mar 17 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698295

Culpepper, Florida Police Detectives Braydon Thatcher and Tom Langdon lead the investigation into missing Amanda Alcaster, whose mom filed the missing person’s report.  Cal Green the mechanic calls the station to report his conscientious secretary Trixie Martin has not come to work in two days.  In his office, irate out-of-towner Sophia Hardwick demands Braydon find her older sister Lisa.  Sophia explains Lisa failed to visit her to celebrate her birthday and the latter’s boyfriend Richard Vega called her asking if she was with her; they believe that flighty Lisa was too happy to run away.

Braydon realizes the three females seem to share nothing in common except vanishing and that this case eerily reminds him of what happened over a decade ago.  As the cops make inquiries, Braydon makes grilled cheese for two.  However, Braydon fears for Sophia’s safety and what will happen to the vanished trio if it not too late already.

This is an exciting romantic suspense starring two wonderful protagonists whose first meeting is awesome.  Even as we know who the culprit is long before the cops do, the police procedural Manhunt grips subgenre fans from the moment the she-cat rips skin from the detective and never slows down until a terse confrontation. 

Harriet Klausner

The Tomb: A Novel of Martha - Stephanie Landsem

The Tomb: A Novel of Martha
Stephanie Landsem
Howard Books/Simon and Schuster, Mar 17 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781451689129

Everyone respects Martha as the paragon of Jewish women who looks over the well-being of her family, and is kind and considerate to neighbors and strangers.  However, Martha conceals the secret of when she sinned.  At her sister Mary’s wedding, she met and fell in love with Isa the musician; they shared an intimacy with his promise to return to her, but he never did.

Seven years has passed since Martha’s transgression that only her brother Lazarus knows how she fell from grace.  The family patriarch Lazarus knows he is dying and wants to insure he meets his death bed vow he made to his dad to take care of Martha.  Thus he arranges a marriage between his sibling and pious Pharisee Simon because he believes the latter will forgive Martha.  She wants to beg the alleged Messiah her cousin Jesus to save her brother, but fears Simon’s holy wrath starting with threatening to reveal her wrongdoing, a stoning sin.  At the same time near the Galilee, Jesus miraculously heals Isa from the demons that have tormented him for years.  Isa heads to see Martha praying that he is not too late.

The third Living Water biblical series (see The Thief and The Well) is a terrific tale that focuses on the trials and tribulations of Lazarus’ sister Martha.  Driven by the nurturing yet haunted lead female who risks her life and soul to save her brother, readers will appreciate this entertaining drama as Stephanie Landsem enables the audience to visit first century Judea through the eyes of pious Martha and to a lesser degree her siblings.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Night Night, Sleep Tight - Hallie Ephron

Night Night, Sleep Tight
Hallie Ephron
Morrow, Mar 24 2015, $26.99
ISBN 9780062117632

Screenwriters Arthur and Gloria Unger were considered among the elite in their profession; but by 1985 the divorced couple could only be involved in a where are they now script.  Gloria moved into a desert Buddhist retreat near Twentynine Palms while Arthur kept their Beverly Hills home, but no longer can afford the place.  Their crippled (from a car accident) adult daughter Deirdre drives up from San Diego to help her dad sell the house.  Instead of her father’s greeting; she, her brother Henry and his two Rottweilers find Arthur dead in his pool.

Over two decades earlier teenager Deirdre’s BFF Joelen Nichol confessed to killing her actress mother Bunny’s abusive boyfriend Tito Acevedo.  As the paramedics and cops arrive, Joelen comes insisting she has an appointment with Arthur.  Detective Martinez leads the investigation into the unaccompanied death; Deirdre also seeks the truth.

Hallie Ephron writes a gripping whodunit filled with viable twists especially an award winning final spin.  As the audience obtains a taste of 1980s and older Hollywood through the key players, the subplots cleverly converge into one of the best mysteries of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Cursed - Lisa Childs

Lisa Childs
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009411

In Copper Creek, Michigan frightened Raven calls FBI agent Seth Hughes insisting she is in danger from Maria Cooper.  Seth rushes to the town knowing that whenever Cooper reads someone’s future they die very soon afterward.  The Fed questions Maria, as the only suspect in a series of homicides.

To his astonishment as he arrived in Copper Creek believing she is the stone cold killer, Maria persuades him that she is not a serial killing witch hunter and in fact fears the psychopath targing her too; even as she poorly conceals her fear from the agent that he might be this maniac.  Teaming up, Maria and Seth seek the deadly culprit while also starting to fall in love.  At the same time her worried sisters (see Haunted, Damned and Persecuted), whom she fled from in order to keep them safe, search for her.

The first Witch Hunt tale in almost eight years will thrill fans of the siblings.  The characters are top-rate especially the lead couple and the action never slows down until the final confrontation.  Cursed is an enjoyable urban romantic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 23, 2015

Raintree: Oracle Linda - Windstead Jones

Raintree: Oracle
Linda Windstead Jones
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009404

After years of failing to control her always too late to help others visions, PTSD sufferer Echo Raintree the “Prophet” decides she needs help from an outside expert after her clan’s attempts failed.  Thus she leaves her North Carolina Mountain sanctuary for Cloughban, Ireland to plead with Ryder Duncan the wizard to train her on how to turn her curse into a gift. 

Struggling to find the remote village that GPS fails to locate, Echo, after several wrong turns, arrives in Cloughban.  She enters the Drunken Stone Pub where at first sight Rye knows the outsider will destroy his blissfully predictable life.  He wants this Raintree to leave him and his eleven year old daughter Cassidy alone.  After discouragement from the wizard, Echo leaves the pub only to encounter and receive encouragement from Cassidy.  When Echo reenters the pub, she collapses into a visionary fit.  As the “Stray” and the “Princess” work on her affliction and at the pub, other visitors monitor the pair while planning to use Cassidy’s skills for their evil intent.  In love with father and daughter, the Raintree Prophet risks her life to keep both safe.

After a several years hiatus, the return to the Raintree clan (see Inferno by Linda Howard, Sanctuary by Beverly Barton and Haunted by Linda Winstead Jones) is a charming romantic urban fantasy set in a terrific Brigadoon-like locale (though Ireland instead of Scotland).  What makes the tale engage the audience is the fully-developed cast consisting of the magical lead trio, the eccentric villagers, malevolent meanies, and in very small roles her concerned clan. 

Harriet Klausner

Apparition Island - Jenifer LeClair

Apparition Island
Jenifer LeClair
Conquill Press, Mar 21 2015, $15.00
ISBN 9780990846109

Still on medical leave after being shot and her partner killed while on duty several months ago, Minneapolis Homicide Detective Brie Beaumont works as a second mate on the Schooner Maine Wind sailing with passengers and crew along the New England coast.  When the torrential rains and winds of Hurricane Ivan begin to blow in force off Maine, Captain John DuLac sails for Apparition Island

As they near their anchoring locale, Brie shouts “man overboard!”  John notifies the Coast Guard while they bring a deceased female onboard.  On Apparition Island, Brie, who also helps the Maine State Police, learns the victim was reporter Claire Whitehall.  She also finds out that the dead journalist was researching the Outer Banks “lobster wars”.  Though the islanders remain uncooperative and taciturn, Claire’s investigation leads her to the 1958 cold case death of Blythe Danes Whitehall and consequently threats on her own life.

The fourth Windjammer mystery (see Rigged for Murder, Danger Sector and Cold Coast) contains a fabulous police procedural located on a temporarily locked down Maine island.  Fans will believe they are visiting the isolated picturesque location made bleaker by the hurricane and meeting its reticent residents.  Jenifer LeClair provides her fans with another thrilling investigation in a consistently excellent series.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Killshadow Road - Paula Graves

Killshadow Road
Paula Graves
Harlequin Intrigue, Mar 17 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698257

Gates operative Nick Darcy has been placed on administrative leave while an inquiry occurs into whether he leaked info that placed another agent in peril.  Wounded and being hunted by the Blue Ridge Infantry and the Feds, FBI undercover agent McKenna Rigsby seeks help from a trusted old fling Nick.

She explains to her host that either her Knoxville field office boss Darryl Boyle or her partner Cade Landry betrayed her to the militia group she had infiltrated.  As she heals from her wounds and his boss gives him tacit approval to guard her, Nick and McKenna realize they have been in love with each other for eight years; but first must deal with who inside the FBI wants her dead and why; as well as the militia.

The fifth Gates romantic suspense (see Deception Lake, Boneyard Ridge, Crybaby Falls and Dead Man Curve) is an entertaining contemporary.  The lead operatives contain polar opposite attitudes; he is rigidly a SOP-hound always by the book and she ignores rules preferring freelancing.  The protagonists’ growing relationship makes for an engaging entry but also leaves the action much more diminished than usual.

Harriet Klausner

Mist of Midnight - Sandra Byrd

Mist of Midnight
Sandra Byrd
Howard Books, Mar 10 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781476717869

In 1858, Rebecca Ravenshaw grieves the loss of her missionary parents Sir Charles and Constance Ravenshaw killed during a Mutiny.  Accompanied by her newly hired chaperone Mrs. MacAlister, she leaves Bombay to return to her homeland England for the first time in two decades.  A couple of months later in England, Rebecca meets with her father’s solicitor Walter Hightower, but he and others think she is a cruel charlatan as the real Rebecca recently committed suicide at the family estate Headbourne; even her companion doubts who she is.  She also learns that a stranger Captain Luke Whitfield has taken residence at her family estate.

Highmore interrogates her and says the London Missionary Society will send someone in a few months to prove the preposterous imposter’s claim is false.  Whitfield allows Rebecca to stay at Headbourne until he assumes her scam is exposed.  The staff treats her with contempt and incidents targeting Rebecca begin happening.  Falling in love with her host who she fears might have killed the fake and soon her too, the beleaguered Rebecca turns to the Lord and her late mom for comfort and guidance. 

Mist of Midnight is an exhilarating Gothic romantic suspense.  The impact on the three-dimensional heroine by the identity theft is brilliantly executed as Sandra Byrd authors a taut Victorian thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid - Suzanne Enoch

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid
Suzanne Enoch
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Mar 3 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250041623

Eighteen year old Rowena MacLawry proclaims her infatuation with clan chieftain Viscount Lachlan MacTier is over.  No longer will she try to get the oaf to notice her as a mate rather than a younger sister; as she has one warden already, her brother Ranulf (see The Devil Wears Kilts).  Thus she goes to London for the Season where she takes immense pleasure in the men wanting her as their woman instead of a pesky sibling.

When Rowena returns to the Highlands with numerous suitors desiring her, Lachlan realizes he is one of them but fears he is too late.  Ranulf hosts a tournament to assist his sibling in selecting a husband; Lachlan plans to win it and her.  However, when someone abducts Rowena, an anxious Lachlan vows to rescue and marry his beloved.

The third Scandalous Highlanders historical romance (see Rogue With A Brogue) continues the adventures in love of the MacLawry brood with a likable female family member as the lead.  The Highlands’ economic crisis during the late Regency provides depth to an enjoyable, at times humorous, but always straightforward tale. 

Harriet Klausner

The Pharaoh’s Daughter - Mesu Andrews

The Pharaoh’s Daughter
Mesu Andrews
WaterBrook, Mar 17 2015, $9.99
ISBN: 9781601425997

Daughters and sisters of Pharaohs, Anippe and Ankhe are different in outlook as the former is much sweeter than the acrimonious latter.  Anippe knows her personality was shaped when as a small child she witnessed her mother die giving birth, which taught her how fragile life can be as Anubis can take anyone without warning.  The siblings are horrified when General Horemheb announces that their ten years old brother King Tut will marry his twenty-something half-sister Senpa and be separated from them. 

With no say in the matter Anippe becomes the chosen bride of Captain Sebek.  Afraid that Anubis and the other Gods will snatch her in the birthing room, Anippe works on a ruse to fool her husband.  Taking advantage of Pharaoh’s orders to drown the Hebrew slaves’ first male born, Anippe abetted by the midwives rescues Moses as the baby floats in a handbasket on the Nile.  She renames him Mehy and with help from her sister and the slaves including her infant’s biological older sibling Miriam, raises him as her son.

This Treasures of the Nile biblical thriller fills the gap between when The Pharaoh’s Daughter adopts Moses and God orders Moses to free his people.  Ironically the storyline is timely with the recent reelection in Israel in which PM Netanyahu reversed the fear of the ancient Egyptians re the Hebrew slaves when he stated “Arab voters are streaming in huge quantities to the polling stations.”  Though the danger and opulence of royal life create a rich background; the cast makes this storyline seem real; starting with the title character who loves her adopted son she raises as Egyptian royalty, but also fears what the Gods might turn him into.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 20, 2015

Deep Focus - Erin McCarthy

Deep Focus
Erin McCarthy
Harlequin Blaze, Mar 17 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798469

At O’Hare, with an opportunity for a shoot at the airport, photographer Ian Bainbridge places his upset girlfriend public relations rep Melanie Ambrose on the plane to Cancun with a promise he will catch a later flight and join her.  He also assigns bodyguard Hunter Ryan to accompany Melanie on her vacation flight and on Cancun.

Awaiting Melanie in Cancun is a Dear Jane letter from Ian.  She fumes that he not only dumped her long distance, but lacked the guts to tell her to her face.  Melanie also realizes that her room contains one bed that she planned to use for multiple orgasms with Ian; and Hunter the hunk has no room with none available.  Thus Melly invites him into her bed.

The latest From Every Angle heated contemporary (see Close Up and Double Exposure) is a pleasant rebound romance headed (pun intended) by leads who adapt too easily to their situation.  Still this is an entertaining blithe affair until love threatens to nuke the carefree relationship.

Harriet Klausner

Good With His Hands - Tanya Michaels

Good With His Hands
Tanya Michaels
Harlequin Blaze, Mar 17 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798452

Months before their wedding, while in Helsinki on business for several months Tate Malcolm meets Ella.  He ends his engagement to Atlanta realtor Danica Yates and elopes with Ella.  Tate leaves his former fiancée with a not used wedding dress, no honeymoon on Maui and a need to escape the annoying platitudes and well wishes from friends and family.  Besides wishing Tate early baldness, Danica decides to follow her previously barely controlled desires for a fling with Hot Architect.

Danica makes a move on Hot Architect.  Sean “Gray” Grayson is ecstatic as he wants the Hot Realtor.  However, he soon realizes her heated passions are not for him, but aimed at his twin Bryce.  Though he knows he owes her the truth, he fears she will hop out of his wrong bed for his brother’s apparent right bed.

The latest Wrong Bed torrid romance (see Cabin Fever by Jillian Burns) is an amusing, lighthearted Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare) contemporary.  The protagonists are an appealing pairing caused by mistaken identity, while her BFF and his twin enrich the plot.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Decent Proposal - Teresa Southwick

A Decent Proposal
Teresa Southwick
Harlequin Special Edition, Mar 17 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658787

Sydney McKnight and her married bothers (Alex and Ben) learn their widow dad Tom has been seeing Mayor Loretta Goodson for several months.  However, though the owner of McKnight Automotive wants to take his relationship to the next level, Tom hesitates because he worries about his single daughter having no one. 

Once burned Sydney had been involved in a long relationship  When resort-developer Burke Holden arrives at the auto shop, Sydney introduces term relationship with Charlie that she thought was forever, but instead he married her bestie Violhim to her dad as her boyfriend.  Amused Burke plays along with the beautiful woman though with reservations; as the single dad whose son Liam, already emotionally scarred by a mother who does not care about him, comes first.

The third Bachelors of Blackwater Lake romance (see One Night With The Boss and Finding Family ... And Forever?) is a humorous warm Big Sky Country family drama.  Character-driven by the obviously the leads but fully supported by family and friends, this is an endearing straightforward contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Less Than Hero - S. G. Browne

Less Than Hero
S. G. Browne
Gallery Books, Mar 17 2015, $16.00
ISBN: 9781476711744

Although he has a degree in marketing, for the last five years thirtyish Lloyd has earned money panhandling in the Manhattan parks and as a professional pharmaceutical Phase One drug trial subject to determine side effects.  He, like his peers, gains no health benefits from the assorted cocktails they test.  Recently Lloyd noticed an increase in drowsiness that causes people near him suddenly to fall asleep and rashes in places where most men prefer none to surface, among other manifestations.  Checking with his card playing crash dummy cronies, Lloyd concludes he and his merry band of guinea pigs have superpowers that they all agree to use as a team of superheroes fighting crime.

At the Carnegie Deli, patron Brad begins screaming of shark attacks and at a Starbucks customer Debra strips while screaming she is on fire.  Similar incidents lead Lloyd and his team to believe the guinea pigs cause “normal” New Yorkers to hallucinate.  As they have some success dealing with the felonious dregs, robbers mug residents and visitors, but also eradicate the victim’s memory of the theft.

With a nod to the films Mystery Men and Sicko, Less Than Hero is a super (pun intended) satire that stars superhero guinea pigs who mock and condemn an immoral pharmaceutical-government complex and the American exceptionalism health care system.  Readers will want to join Lloyd’s stunning tour of New York; as long as he does not cause us to hallucinate, sleep or suffer memory loss and rashes.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Under the Channel - Gilles Pétel

Under the Channel
Gilles Pétel; Emily Boyce (translator) and Jane Aitken (translator)
Gallic, Mar 17 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781908313669

While Great Britain struggles with the impact of the financial crisis, Scottish estate agent John Burny decides to escape by train to Paris for an upper class getaway weekend vacation though he feels the strain of the failing economy.  He struggles to make it to the last train of the night on time and becomes further frustrated when inside the Chunnel his train breaks down for ten minutes before continuing on to the French station.  All the passengers disembark except John; someone on-board murdered him.

French Police lieutenant Roland Desfeuillères leads the investigation into who garroted the visitor.  Getting nowhere and seizing an opportunity to escape his personal life tsuris temporarily, Desfeuillères heads to London to learn more about the victim.  Checking in with his British counterparts, Desfeuillères is taken back by their irrelevant attitude, but remains motivated to find who had the motive and opportunity to kill John Burny. 

This is a captivating French police procedural as the protagonist walks several kilometers in a dead man’s shoes, but learns as much about whom he is as he does the late Burny.  Filled with dark satirical humor, fans of offbeat crime investigations will want to join Desfeuillères’ tour of London.

Harriet Klausner

The Peyti Crisis: Anniversary Day Saga - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Peyti Crisis: Anniversary Day Saga
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG, Mar 10, 2915, $18.99
ISBN: 9781561466160

Five decades before the horrific Anniversary Day terrorist attacks on the moon; at an Earth Alliance Prison employee Didier Conte enlists the help of reluctant coworker Jhena Andre.  He asks Jhena to bring evidence bags to the containment cell so that Didier can remove something of value from mass murderer PierLuigi Fremont, who just committed suicide rather than remain incarcerated isolation.  Didier plans to sell what he took to Fremont’s fanatic followers.

On the moon’s fourth Anniversary Day, a wave of bombings leaves thousands dead.  The Moon's head of security Noelle DeRicci partially thwarts a follow-up by suicide bombing Peyti lawyer clones to kill millions more though many of the attorneys’ clients die alongside them.  She works with Retrieval Artist Miles Flint and Detective Bartholomew Nyquist in search of the terrorist leadership and logistical support cells.  At the same time frustrated and angry over how close his beloved wife and child came to dying, powerful Luc Deshin also investigates using sources unavailable to the law.  He concludes that he, Flint and DeRicci need to team up to expedite efforts to uncover who planned and oversaw the terrorist execution. 

The fantastic fifth Anniversary Day Saga science fiction continues the superb monthly releases (see Search & Recovery, Anniversary Day, Blowback and A Murder of Clones) that brilliantly push forward a completed climatic storyline while also adding depth to the overarching theme.  Filled with action and a strong cast especially the lead threesome, Kristine Kathryn Rusch enhances her plot with a timely look at whether a clone should be considered a citizen.  This outer space tale is another triumphant entry in one of the top science fiction sagas in recent years.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 16, 2015

Darker Than Desire - Shiloh Walker

Darker Than Desire
Shiloh Walker
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Mar 3 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250032423

Two decades ago David Sutter fled abuse in Madison, Indiana to hide amidst the welcoming Amish as Caine Yoder, taken in by Abraham who recently died.  Though he feels unworthy of love, Caine is attracted to Sybil Chalmers.  Even as she has own issues such as raising her sister’s nephew, Sybil has loved David ever since they first met ten years ago.

Motivated by a mission to shut down his late father’s Cronus Club permanently and feeling no longer needing to hide, David tells Sarah he is going home where half the town considers him a freak and the rest classify him a monster.  In Madison, David visits old Max to learn the truth from the man who helped him flee twenty years ago and cleaned up the mess the then teen left behind.  As he finds out more about his vile heritage, someone kills Max.  Grieving for the old man, he misses and worries about his beloved Sybil and her ward.  Still David adamantly refuses to act on his feelings knowing she deserves better than an emotional cripple like him.

The latest Secrets & Shadows novel (see Sweeter Than Sin and Deeper than Need) is the best entry so far (including three e-books) due to a profound firsthand look at the long term effect of paternal depravity on a teen victim.  As before, this is not an easy read due to the subject matter though even more heart-wrenching than previous works.  Even as the killer’s identity seems over the top of historic St. Michael the Archangel Church, Shiloh Walker authors a compelling romantic suspense that leaves readers once again to root for an HEA between two PTSD sufferers.

Harriet Klausner

Contract City - Mark Falkin

Contract City
Mark Falkin
Bancroft Press, Mar 15 2015, $22.95
ISBN: 9781610881449

By 2021, allegedly to reduce costs, Tulsa contracts out all governmental work to a private firm Free Force Tulsa (FFT).  Those services inside the “Zone” not providing enough of a profit to FFT including schools for the impoverished and hospitals caring for the indigent are shut; forcing for instance the ER outside the Zone to provide combat-like emergency care.  Patrolling the Zone are armored vehicles, which makes the city look more like a military occupation.

T. Boone Pickens High School student Sara Paige Christie hopes that the UCLA film school accepts her as a student, but needs an edge against the fierce competition for admissions.  Using a school camera she borrowed, the wannabe filmmaker documents her privatized city with a focus on graffiti like “the fucking terrorists fucking won” and other entities signed by “WH2RR??” that have popped up in City Hall, the politically connected Chosen Hill megachurch she and her parents attend, and other civil and private locales.  While the FFT police target Sara and her family, she continues to learn more about WH2RR??; while also fearing that she and her beloved parents could be locked away in a privatized cell.

Contract City is a thought-provoking corporatocracy thriller that extrapolates current trends to privatize government functions; for instance firefighting only occurs in neighborhoods where residents can pay the surcharge..  The insightful storyline depicts what happens to services when bottom line efficiency based on a flexible performance work statement supersedes bureaucratic effectiveness efforts to accomplice the mission IAW rigid laws.  Though Sara’s escapes seem unlikely even with insider protection, she and the graffiti artist propel this action-packed tale that will have readers reconsider whether contracting out is the right thing for every governmental task.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What The Fly Saw - Frankie Y. Bailey

What The Fly Saw
Frankie Y. Bailey
Minotaur Books, Mar 3 2015, $25.99
ISBN: 9781250048301

In 2020 Albany, New York, as a snow storm rocks the city an unknown archer shoots an arrow that kills funeral director Kevin Novak in the funeral parlor he runs.  Leading the murder investigation, APD Detectives Hannah McCabe and Mike Baxter learn from Kevin’s family that he grieved the death of his BFF and feared Luanne Woodward the psychic though they do not know why.  The minister, a shrink and congregation of the church the deceased attended avoid directly answering the detectives’ questions.  Still the two cops fail to find even one slightly possible suspect with a viable motive as the innocuous victim seems to have had no enemies nor caused the tiniest confrontational ripple. 

More deaths follow, complicating the case.  Meanwhile Medium Olive Cooper hosts a séance attended by McCabe, Baxter and Novak’s family and friends.  Not long after a stunned McCabe realizes a new death ties the Novak homicide to another murder inquiry she is struggling to solve (see The Red Queen Dies).

The second Detective Hannah McCabe near future and alternate Albany police procedural is an engaging whodunit though the background seems more like 2015 in the New York State capital than a few years from now in a similar but parallel word.  Still the exhilarating murder mystery entertains fans as the marvelous protagonist struggles with this case, her previous case and her family; not in that order. 

Harriet Klausner

The Danger Of Destiny - Leigh Evans

The Danger Of Destiny
Leigh Evans
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Mar 3 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250035110

Hedi Peacock and her mate Robson Trowbridge go through the portal to Merenwyn on dangerous quests.  The former thief hopes to save her twin Lexi from the Mage who owns his soul; while the Alpha wolf plans to have Hedi’s back but also attempt to liberate the Raha’ells Weres from bondage.

Each understood going in that they probably will not get out alive let alone achieve the objectives.  However, Hedi and Robson quickly conclude they underestimated badly the chance of success as “Strangers in a Strange Land” (Heinlein) prove much more dangerous than either expected.  The only hope to rescue her brother and the Raha’ells while also getting out alive resides within Hedi who completely must accept her hybrid duality as a wolf and fae.

The final Mystwalker fantasy (see The Problem With Promises and The Thing About Weres) is a marvelous finish to a delightful coming of age saga as Leigh Evans deftly ties up the major threads by having her reluctant heroine and her sidekick cross over to the other side.  Told mostly from Hedi’s perspective, series fans will agree she considerably matured from when she first fell into the were-fae “rabbit-hole” (see The Trouble With Fate). 

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Harvest Of Hope - Lauraine Snelling

A Harvest Of Hope
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House Publishers, Mar 3 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780764211058

In 1905, Blessing Hospital nurse trainee Miriam Hastings goes on a leave of absence to return home to Chicago where her widow mom is dying.  After her mom’s death, her mentor allows Miriam to finish her training in Chicago so that she can take care of her grieving younger siblings, but also insists her pupil come back to Blessing, North Dakota to complete her one-year contractual obligation very soon.

In Blessing, Trygve Knutson misses his beloved Miriam and prays for her safe return.  He begins construction of a house that he plans to live in with Miriam when he marries her.  However when Miriam finally arrives in Blessing, Trygve knows something is different beyond her mourning her loss.  Underestimating the love that Trygve and the Lord have for her, Miriam refuses to tell her suitor why she will not marry him or pray for guidance.  As he struggles to learn her motive, Miriam accepts her heart must be broken and that God abandoned the Hastings family.  Accepting her responsibility to take care of her brothers and sisters; Miriam feels burdening Trygve would be unfair to him.  Desperate but still hopeful, Trygve prays to God for a Christmas Miracle.

The second Song of Blessing (see To Everything A Season) is an engaging inspirational historical romance.  The leads are a delightful pairing, but it is the support cast in Blessing and Chicago who turn this into a terrific early twentieth century tale.

Harriet Klausner

John The Pupil - David Flusfeder

John The Pupil
David Flusfeder
Harper, Mar 3 2015, $24.99
ISBN 9780062339188

In 1267 in a Franciscan Monastery near Oxford, Friar Roger Bacon assigns his most trustworthy student young John on a pilgrimage; accompanied by two Franciscan Brothers Bernard and Andrew.  While the two novices are unaware of the true nature of the task, John’s actual mission is to deliver his Master’s Opus Majus and several scientific inventions to Pope Clement IV in Viterbo, Italy.

Keeping a chronicle of their trek, John the Pupil and his companions hike to the first leg of the journey Canterbury; there the travelers encounter Simeon the Palmer, a scoundrel thief.  Sailing the Channel into France, the trio reaches Paris, Reims and other stops in the kingdom.  Crossing into Italy they take a respite at Cavalcanti’s palace in Bellosguardo where sirens tempt them.  By the time they reach their final destination, John has experienced the holy devout, the pragmatic common and the downfallen sinful.

John The Pupil is an intriguing historical fiction that ironically mocks and challenges the subgenre to raise the accuracy.  The storyline is filled with real persona (the footnotes are worth reading to learn more about the cast) and a profound timely look at the relationship between science and religion just prior to the former (and Bacon) becoming heresy.  The protagonist’s chronicles of the pilgrimage contains plenty of action and is loaded with insight into the legends of the Saints; as John tries to emulate his hero Saint Francis.  Subgenre readers will appreciate this extremely complex but rewarding medieval coming of age fable.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 13, 2015

Jaded - Varina Denman

Varina Denman
David C. Cook, Mar 1 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434705457

Thirteen years ago in Trapp, Texas, Daddy Hoby Turner deserted his wife Lynda and their seven year old daughter Ruthie.  The townsfolk led by the church the family attended blame Ruthie’s Momma for Daddy leaving them; as they accept she committed adultery with one of the elders without a second thought.  The good Christian flock shuns Momma for breaking one of the Commandments and her guilt by association child.  Over the years Ruthie placed a fierce shield around her heart and soul to distance the religious accusers from further hurting her; though the constant mistreatment of Momma from their Good Christian former friends bothers her.

Arriving from Fort Worth, Dodd Cunningham, accompanied by his high school senior brother Grady and their mother, arrives in Trapp as the new pastor.  Distrusting Christians as two-faced phonies, Ruthie keeps her distance from the Cunningham family, especially Dodd.  However, the new pastor and his sibling ignore her desires that they and their false God leave her alone; instead the Cunningham siblings begin to breach her barriers.

The first Mended Hearts Christian romance is a pleasant inspirational showcasing a bitter woman and a true-believer pastor reaching out to her; though he never quite understands until very late how the love of his life feels about being a pariah.  Although elements seem over the top of Guadalupe Peak, subgenre fans will appreciate this tale of first comes love (of God and man) and then comes redemption.

Harriet Klausner

Angels At The Gate - T.K. Thorne

Angels At The Gate
T.K. Thorne
Cappuccino Books Publishing, Mar 5 2015, $22.50
ISBN: 9783906196022

In 1748 BCE, Zakiti the merchant raises his fifteen summers old daughter Akira as a boy.  Akira loves the freedom a male has; which a female can only envy.  After meeting two strangers (Mika and Raph) that the tribe believes are God’s messengers, Akira finds she is attracted to one of them; an emotion that confuses her.  Meanwhile her fretting father regrets he failed to ask his sister-in-law Sarai to raise his teenage daughter as a female instead of giving her a male’s run of the caravan he leads; especially knowing what will happen to her if she is found out.  Reluctantly he informs Akira she must claim her birthright as a woman.  Stunned Akira prefers the independence of a boy; as she knows her freedom ends once she comes out of male garb.  With Nami the dog protecting her, Akira begins a journey of self-discovery that leads her to tribal patriarch Abram’s nephew Lot in Sodom.

Filled with a remarkable interwoven detailed look into the culture of Abram’s tribe and life in a trade caravan, the second mysterious woman of the bible dramatization (see Noah’s Wife) provides a fascinating look at who Lot’s wife was before she turned into the Pillar of Salt.  The key to this entertaining biblical novelization is T.K. Thorne provides a plausible background that explains why Lot's wife would disobey the angelic warning not to look back.

Harriet Klausner

The Daughter - Jane Shemilt

The Daughter
Jane Shemilt
Morrow, Mar 3 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062320476

In 2009 Bristol, England, doctors Ted the neurosurgeon and Jenny the family medical practitioner raise their three teenage offspring (seventeen years old twins Ed and Theo, and fifteen years old Naomi) in an affluent happy household.  To friends, neighbors and even Ted and Jenny, the five Malcolm’s have the perfect family. 

In her school’s production of West Side Story, Naomi stars as Maria.  Near the end of a successful run, one night after the curtain came down Naomi fails to come home.  The police searched for the missing teen without any success as she seemed to just vanish in thin air.  As the months pass with no news, the interrelationships between the Malcom family members implode.  Looking back at the traumatic pivotal moment after a year passed makes Jenny feel guilty for ignoring the signs of help her daughter sent to her and her husband.  This leads her to analyze what she knows about her other children and spouse from her Dorset cottage where she no longer resides with Ted, Ed and Theo.

The Daughter is a cautionary family drama that warns parents don’t become complacent wearing comfortable blinders when it comes to truly seeing family members especially your children.  Jenny is a memorable protagonist as she examines the signs she missed hidden behind a veneer of materialistic normalcy.  Enigmatic Naomi purposely remains somewhat in the shadows adding further fall-out tension to her mother’s already nuked existence.  The remaining three exist only in relation to the matriarch or the missing daughter.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Real Cowboy - Carla Cassidy

A Real Cowboy
Carla Cassidy
Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Mar 3 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373279098

Divorcee Nicolette Kendall, accompanied by her six year old son Sammy, leaves New York for Bitterroot, Oklahoma to stay on the ranch her best friend Cassandra Peterson recently inherited from Cass Holiday who died when a tornado touched ground.  Holiday Ranch cowboy Lucas Taylor sees the New Yorker for the first time; and to his astonishment he immediately is attracted to Nicolette and likes the positive energy of her child.

However, someone wearing a ski mask and using a ladder looks into Sammy’s second floor room.  To insure Sammy’s safety, Lucas sleep in the other bunk in the lad’s bedroom.  As he and Nicolette become better acquainted, they fall in love, but someone has other plans for the mother and her son.  

The first Cowboys of Holiday Ranch is an engaging romantic suspense starring two likable protagonists and a deep bench who protect the three newcomers like a horde of momma and poppa grizzlies with their cubs.  The relationship between Lucas and Sammy allows the audience to appreciate further the caring cowboy while also marveling over the honesty that comes out of the mouth of babes.  Although readers will guess the identity of the stalker early on, A Real Cowboy is a fine opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Til Summer Comes Around: Adventures in Amethyst - Karen Wiesner

Til Summer Comes Around: Adventures in Amethyst
Karen Wiesner, Feb 12 2015, $13.95; Writers Exchange E-Publishing
ISBN: 9781312373792

In Amethyst, Wisconsin, Quinn Rutledge and Summer Rosales meet for the first time near Lake Amethyst.  Over the summer they fall in love.  As their vacation ends, Quinn and Summer make pledges to each other before going their separate ways.  However, over the next few years, Summer failed to return as promised, breaking Quinn’s heart as he waits for her.

Unbeknownst to Quinn, just before Summer headed off to law school, as a lark her best friend wealthy Apple Wooten committed a theft of an expensive diamond bracelet.  However the police arrest Summer as Apple knowing she was seen dumped the jewelry in her friend’s purse letting her take the fall.  Convicted, while in prison another inmate assaulted her; causing her to lose Quinn’s baby and scarring her face.  Released due to Apple’s belated confession to her parents, Summer finally went to law school.  Now she returns to Amethyst where she assumes the love of her life will not be there and if he is Summer fears she cannot deal with his certain rejection; unaware of his heart’s obsession and writer’s block.

With a nod to the classic Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr An Affair to Remember, the fifth Adventures in Amethyst (see Adventures in Amethyst Series Collection, Volume 1 (Books 1 – 4)) is a delightful second chance contemporary romance.  Readers will root for the warm lead couple to make it; while booing the amoral 1% Wooten siblings (Summer was married to Apple’s brother Clay).

Harriet Klausner