Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Duke but No Gentleman - Alexandra Hawkins

A Duke but No Gentleman
Alexandra Hawkins
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Jun 30 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250064721

Though best friends, their competiveness at everything also makes the Duke of Blackbern and Marquess Norgrave heated rivals in which all third parties beware of the fallout.  By 1792 Norgrave fears he lost the game to his long-time foe. 

They never competed for the innocent until now.  Desperate to regain the edge he believes he lost, Norgrave bets Blackbern that he will have sex with virgin Lady Imogene Sunter first.  Though he has some qualms about this amoral wager, Blackbern reluctantly accepts the bet as he cannot allow his buddy to win.  As the wastrels seduce Imogene, she finds both attractive.  However, Blackbern does the unthinkable when he falls in love with the stake while Norgrave obsesses over “owning” the stake.

Though bets have been used too frequently in historical romances, in this Georgian it feels fitting as an impetus of love; and psychopathic rage of rape and beating (of innocent Lady Charlotte).  Not for everyone, as the villain, who makes the Lords of Vice seem like aristocratic paragons, “do not go gently into the good night” (Dylan Thomas).

Harriet Klausner

Redemption Bay - RaeAnne Thayne

Redemption Bay
RaeAnne Thayne
Harlequin HQN, Jun 30 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373785063

Five years ago, following the death of his father and just before he left his hometown permanently Ben Kilpatrick shut down his family factory in Haven Point, Idaho.  Two hundred residents lost their jobs.  Current Mayor McKenzie Shaw knows her beloved Haven Point has not recovered economically from what the pariah did.

His techie partner Aidan Caine (see Snow Angel Cove) insisted affluent businessman Ben return to a place he hates almost as much as the townsfolk loath him.  Though he doubts this is the right spot, Ben considers whether Haven Point should be the locale for their new hi tech venture.  Reluctantly McKenzie must eat her spittle and sell their town to the man who nuked the economy.  After their opening war of words, neither McKenzie nor Ben expected to fall in love, but two dogs knowing no human boundaries thought otherwise.

The latest Haven Point Gem State contemporary is a delightful small town drama due to the colorful locals like the former Mayor.  Though the storyline starts slow, once the cast is set and the gloves come off; the bout between the protagonists balances jocularity with serious economic and social issues, and romance.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 29, 2015

Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Beth K. Vogt

Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Beth K. Vogt
Howard/Simon and Schuster, Jun 30 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781476789781

Though she prefers her current home Denver, Hawaii or just about any other place, Vanessa reluctantly acquiesces to marry Ted in Destin, Florida where he will attend a pediatric emergencies medical conference.  Nessa also agrees to take time off from work to leave before Ted to arrange their Panhandle destination wedding.

In Destin, storm-chaser Logan Hollister has never moved on from the end of his marriage to Vanessa.  If he ever sees her again, Logan believes they can make it work as he feels they were too young and immature as a teen couple.  As a hurricane hammers the Panhandle, he and Vanessa meet for the first time since their divorce eight years ago.  Resolute Logan campaigns for a second chance, but she is in town planning her wedding to Ted and besides has stormy gale-sized memories of when they were married.

Although the initial happenchance is over the top of Britton Hill, the first Destination Wedding is a well-written second chance.  A large segment of the storyline occurs when the leads were teen newlyweds, which provides an appealing perspective but also limits the audience understanding of how far each has emotionally grown or shrunk as adults since they initially split.  Still overall Beth K. Vogt authors an interesting contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil Wears Spurs - Soraya Lane

The Devil Wears Spurs
Soraya Lane
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Jun 30 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250060082

At a Texas rodeo, used to getting his way with women and horses, following the title run ultra-wealthy star performer Ryder is stunned when Chloe rejects his asking her out.  However, her drunken friend Shelby gives him Chloe’s number.  Chloe tells “the hottest cowboy in Texas” that she might change her mind if he plays his cards right.  Not long afterward, he informs his older brother that he just accepted a challenge from a non-groupie.

In that same evening, Ryder loses his ranch in a poker game.  In shock as he always wins, Ryder is in disbelief at two strikeouts.  Thus he accepts Chloe’s proposal that she win back his spread in return for his paying her law school costs.  Chloe and Ryder head to Vegas where the daughter of a professional card-player prepares for high stakes games of poker and love.

The first Texas Kings contemporary is an entertaining romance that takes readers from an earthy rodeo and ranch to the glitter of the Vegas night lights.  The lead couple’s jocular bluffs and calls make for a fine read; as the protagonists are unaware that the real ante in the game of love is the king and queen of hearts.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hope Harbor - Irene Hannon

Hope Harbor
Irene Hannon
Revell, Jul 7 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780800724528

Since the death of his wife eighteen months ago, Michael Hunter wallows in self-pity and loathing of God.  Taking two months leave from St. Joseph Center not for profit, Michael drives almost non-stop from Chicago to his seaside destination, his late spouse’s hometown Hope Harbor, Oregon.  Tired and frustrated to learn his motel is closed due an electrical fire, when he steps onto a street without looking Michael causes a cyclist to crash to avoid hitting him.  At Charley’s food truck, Anna Williams thinks the stranger looks remarkably like someone she has not seen in two decades; thus the sexagenarian offers Michael a place to stay.

Bruised from her bike crash caused by the daydreaming pedestrian, Widow Tracy Campbell blames God for the death of her late husband and ignoring her furtive prayers.  At her family’s 80 acres farm Hope Harbor Cranberries, Tracy, works alongside her uncle on the 20% of their spread dedicated to cranberries.  She also provides accounting services and volunteers at Helping Hands.  After their first encounter, the widow and widower find commonality in their anger towards God and their grief.  With help of townsfolk like Anna, Charley and her uncle; Michael and Tracy begin to move on from their respective deep loss as their broken spirits mend and restore their trust in God and in love.

This leisurely-paced inspirational second chance at faith, life and love is an engaging contemporary ironically due to the newcomer’s invigorating impact on the townsfolk though they affect him even more than he does them.  Containing humor mostly from Floyd the seagull and mysteriousness (Charley’s perceptiveness and Anna’s past), readers will enjoy visiting coastal Oregon with mostly Michael, Tracy and Anna as our guides.

Harriet Klausner

Antidote to Venom: British Library Crime Classics - Freeman Wills Crofts

Antidote to Venom: British Library Crime Classics
Freeman Wills Crofts
Poisoned Pen Press, Jul 7 2015, $12.95
ISBN: 9781464203794

Birmington Zoo Director George Surridge fears his life is near collapse.  His marriage appears to be dying; he owes too much money; a disease threatens the animals in his care; and he loves Nancy Weymore. A  desperate Surridge considers various options out of his spiraling worse quagmire while praying his elderly rich aunt dies. 

New Scotland Yard Inspector Joseph French (see The Hog's Back Mystery) leads the investigation into the murder of a pathology professor.  French believes he knows who the culprit is and the weapon; but cannot prove the prime suspect killed the victim in spite of a timetable that affirms the opportunity.  French also struggles with how a venomous viper escaped from its Birmington Zoo totally sealed cage.

Told initially by the person who abetted the murderer and ultimately by the inspector, readers know very early on in this 1938 crime mystery the killer’s identity, but not how the homicide was executed.  Though the climax feels forced (in fairness part of the era’s approach to justice), the tremendous storyline grips the audience as we learn the methodology.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In Too Deep - Kira Sinclair

In Too Deep
Kira Sinclair
Harlequin Blaze, Jun 16 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798568

Jackson Duchane, his girlfriend Lorelei Lancaster (see Under the Surface), Asher Reynold, and Knox McLemore filed with the US Government salvage rights to the Civil War wreckage Chimera near the Bahamas.  However, Anderson McNair claims their vessel is not the Chimera, but instead another ship so that he owns the salvage rights.  All parties involved in the dispute agree to allow a nautical archaeologist determine whether this sunken ship is the Chimera or not.

From the moment Knox sees the expert he feels the heat but relies on his SEAL experience and training to conceal his desire; especially since he assumes Dr. Avery Walsh works for McNair so he distrusts her almost as much as he hates his treacherous body’s reaction to her.  Using her icy demeanor Walsh also hides her attraction to McLemore.  Knox takes Walsh to their ship the Amphitrite in the Caribbean.  They soon become embroiled in a drug drop that leaves the pair alone on a deserted island.  As they wait rescue and give in to their passion, they each keep secrets that when revealed will nuke their relationship before love can fully blossom.

The latest SEALs of Fortune contemporary is a pleasurable High Seas adventure romance.  Leisurely-paced especially with revelations, readers will root for the Doc and the SEAL to reveal their souls on their “Blue Lagoon” retreat.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Dog Like Me - Max Davis

Dead Dog Like Me
Max Davis
Worthy Publishing, Jun 23 2015, $15.99
ISBN: 9781617955242

Megachurch pastor Nick Gregory blames himself that his son Philip committed suicide, his daughter Carlee hates him and his wife Abbi left him because he lost his way.  Adding to his mental disarray, his Grace Life Church flock wants to abandon him as he did them and likewise he believes God did the same to him.  His publisher demands the book they paid a hefty advance and he cannot sleep without nightmares.  Wallowing in guilt and despair, Nick considers joining Philip, but hungry Deuce intervenes with a need for food.  However, not paying attention, Nick runs over Deuce who had the sin of loving him and his family; just one more reason for Carlee to hate him.  Unable to cope Nick drives his Escalade into a cement pylon.

When he awakens, he no longer is in twenty-first century DC; or even in his body.  Instead his mind resides inside King Saul’s crippled grandson Mephibosheth, circa 800 BC.  Mistreated by guards, who bring him to King David, a confused Nick begins seeing parallels between his life and that of his current host, a broken lost soul; leading Nick to think Mephibosheth is a “Dead Dog Like Me.”  That is until he wakes up confused from an induced coma in a hospital.

Dead Dog Like Me is a remarkable Christian drama that looks at how far a person can fall when they lose their way (faith), and seek atonement and a merciful second chance with God, family and believers.  The juxtaposition of Mephibosheth and Gregory make for a captivating tale though more insight into the life of Saul’s grandson would have enhanced the plot; hopefully Max Davis does a sequel reversing who morphs into whom.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Melody Lingers On - Mary Higgins Clark

The Melody Lingers On
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster, Jun 23 2015, $26.99
ISBN 9781476749112

Just when his investment con collapses, hedge fund billionaire Parker Bennett vanishes while sailing the Caribbean.  He leaves behind a stunned widow Anne and an equally shocked adult child Eric.  Angry investors who lost five billion and law enforcement believe Parker’s grieving survivors especially his son were partners in his nefarious schemes and perhaps murdered him to distant themselves from Parker if he is even dead.

No longer able to live the lifestyle of the Greenwich 1%, Eric buys a condo in Bergen County, New Jersey for his mom.  They hire Manhattan interior designer Glady Harper to fix up her new home.  When Gladys’s thirtyish assistant and single mom of a five old, Elaine Harmon and Eric meet, each feels an attraction.  While the Feds hound Eric to reveal where his father hides and to confess his own role in the scam; he employs a firm to prove his innocence.  Filled with rage over Parker’s swindle but unable to get even directly; recently widowed Ranger plans to murder Eric and Anne.  At the same time undercover FBI agent Russo becomes Anne’s neighbor.

This is a captivating suspense in which the audience wonders what Parker’s plan is (readers will assume he lives) and if Eric abetted him in his scheme.  Although none of the key players feel fully developed or likable, Mary Higgins Clark’s fans will appreciate her latest thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Year’s Best Military SF & Space Opera - David Afsharirad (editor)

The Year’s Best Military SF & Space Opera
David Afsharirad (editor)
Baen, Jun 2 2015, $15.00
ISBN 9781476780580

“Codename: Delphi” by Linda Nagata.  The handler directs the unit in a war 5000 miles away.

“Persephone Descending” by Derek Künsken.  Sabotage forced the crash on toxic Venus.

“The End of the Silk Road” by David D. Levine.  The P.I. returns to Venus for a client he hates who married the woman he loves.

“Picket Ship” by Brad R. Torgersen.  Schumann needs to warn Earth the mantis queen ordered human extermination.

“Decaying Orbit” by Robert R. Chase.  The Dominion finds an abandoned TransHumans vessel.

“Morrigan in the Sunglare” by Seth Dickinson.  LaPorte and Simms struggle mentally to adjust to fighting “monsters”.

“Light and Shadow” by Linda Nagata.  Sakai refuses to wear the skullcap that dulls war’s horrors.

“Icarus at Noon” by Eric Leif Davin.  Obsessed Santiago wants to beat the robots to Icarus.

“Soft Casualty” by Michael Z. Williamson.  Two U.N. soldiers eat at a Freehold of Graine diner until they realize what the meat is.

“Palm Strike’s Last Case” by Charlie Jane Anders.  Palm leaves Earth for a new home that needs his superhero skills.

“Brood” by Stephen Gaskell.  On Mars Lena never believed the Slicers existed until she meets them in a hellhole.

“Stealing Arturo” by William Ledbetter.  Kooper hopes to end slave labor on an asteroid starting with a child.

“Rules of Engagement” by Matthew Johnson.  The implants keep hybrid warriors from wrongful acts in combat; but the soldiers are home.

“Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (the Successful Kind)” by Holly Black.  As a smuggler you learn your parents were right that there are bad things off Mars.

“War Dog” by Michael Barretta.  Reverend-Inspector threatens the veterans in love.

This is an interesting anthology containing exciting, enjoyable entries including several thought-provoking.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Lawman Lassoes a Family - Rachel Lee

The Lawman Lassoes a Family
Rachel Lee
Harlequin Special Edition, Jun 16 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658961

A little over a year ago in Texas, Vicki Templeton’s husband died in the line of duty.  Recently, her persistent Aunt Lena Winston persuades her grieving niece to move in, along with Vicki’s four year old daughter Krystal, to her home in Conard County, Wyoming. 

Lena’s next door neighbor Conard County Sheriff’s deputy Dan Casey meets the two female newcomers when he helps unload their van.  Vicki is attracted to the kind lawman, but refuses to act on her feelings out of guilt for her late husband and fear what could happen to Krystal if the child gets too attached to Dan whose job places him in peril.  Widower Dan understands why Vicki hesitates, but can’t comprehend why he wants her (and her daughter) in his life.

The latest Conard County: The Next Generation romance (see A Conard County Baby, The Widow of Conard County and Reuniting with the Rancher) is a charming rural contemporary starring two adults whose spouses passed away.  The key to this wonderful Wyoming family drama is the leads place the needs of Krystal before their own desires even as their relationship nicely matures.

Harriet Klausner

The Hog's Back Mystery: British Library Crime Classics - Freeman Wills Crofts

The Hog's Back Mystery: British Library Crime Classics
Freeman Wills Crofts
Poisoned Pen Press, Jul 7 2015, $12.95
ISBN: 9781464203817

Thirty miles from London at the Ash Train Station in Surrey, Julia Earle welcomes two visitors (her sister novelist Marjorie Lawes and their friend Ursula Stone) she has not seen in years.  Not long after the trio call on another school mate Alice Campion.

Soon after their arrival, Julia’s husband retired doctor James vanishes from their St. Kilda home near the Hog’s Back Ridge.  Arriving by train, Scotland Yard Inspector Joseph French leads the investigation into what he assumes is a domestic dispute most likely due to infidelities.  He revises his first impressions when Superintendent Sheaf explains that only the two siblings were home when James failed to return from a walk.  Soon after others also disappear before the first corpse is found.

This is a reprint of a terrific 1933 rural British police procedural.  Most of the storyline centers on French’s inquiry as he struggles to find motives and breaking alibis while slowly putting together a timeline (reminds me of Canadian Constabulary Detective Murdoch’s chalkboard).  The convoluted whodunit and why make for an interesting read although the storyline’s intriguing methodology also keeps readers at armchair’s length from the mostly off-page action.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Best Man…With Benefits - Nancy Warren

Best Man…With Benefits
Nancy Warren
Harlequin Blaze, Jun 16 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798582

At the Hotel Messina on a Southern California barrier island, Amy and Seth are getting married.  Her Maid of Honor BFF Lauren Sanger and his Best Man and BFF Jackson Monaghan simply detest each other in spite of the bride and groom pleading with them to play nice.  Others in the wedding party led by Willie and the Frat boys, well aware of the animosity, pull a prank in which the best man and the maid of honor share the same hotel room with only one bed. 

Instead of killing each other, the enemy combatants share a tryst that has both stunned by the intensity.  Lauren and Jackson continue their benefits even after they go home to their different towns while concealing their rendezvous from everyone who knows them.  As they fall in love, tremors shake the perfect HEA marriage between Amy and Seth when pragmatic realism supersedes sexual idealism.

As Nancy Warren states in the forward of Best Man…With Benefits this is her riff on Much Ado About Nothing.  Filled with humor and shrewd comparisons of relationships, this Wrong Bed entry (see Just One Night) is a delightful contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Beyond Redemption - Michael R. Fletcher

Beyond Redemption
Michael R. Fletcher
Harper Voyager, Jun 16 2015, $15.99
ISBN: 9780062387035

Geborene Damonen High Priest Konig has begun the final countdown to creating a God who obeys only him.  Fearing Doppels will pull a switch Konig directs his followers to protect Morgen the child he prepares to sacrifice into the Afterdeath and convert into his obedient deity.

A thief compelled to steal; a once mighty warrior seeking atonement through a final robbery; and a charismatic psychopath always ensnaring followers to destroy kidnap the future God-child.  However the trinity differs on what to do with the abductee.  Irate by the affront to the God-making priest by these infidels, raging Konig sends his deadliest horde (the arsonist Hassebrand, shapeshifters and the dead) to assassinate the heretics and bring the lad back for the conversion.

With a timely nod to Dante’s Inferno, this extremely dark satirical theocratic fantasy grips readers to “… Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” with a grim world vision filled with lunatics running the asylum; as the pursuit of delusion supersedes reality.  Numerous forms of mental illness run prevalent but exaggerated to a shocking extreme.  This enables the most insane dedicated true believers to go solo or collective with fellow righteous pilgrims to seek powers ultimately to rule the Afterdeath heaven (or hell). 

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor - Melanie Dobson

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor
Melanie Dobson
Howard, Jun 16 2015, $14.99
ISBN 9781476746142

In 1954 Clevedon, England, yachtsman Elliot leaves behind pregnant Maggie Emerson.  Though she comes to the docks in wintry weather, her lover never returns.  When newspaper editor Walter Doyle proposes, Maggie accepts.  Though many of the locals believe she was carrying before her wedding, Maggie persuades her husband that he sired their “premature” newborn tiny Libby.  The family relocates to a servant’s home at the Ladenbrooke Manor in Gloucester where Maggie becomes the housekeeper and in town Walter obtains a position as a postman. 

Libby grows up as a free spirit who loves to paint butterflies while dreaming of being as free to fly as her subjects.  In 1969 she and Ladenbrooke Manor family teenager Oliver Croft have sex.  Soon afterward he drowns in the nearby river while she becomes pregnant though her parents hide her delicate condition.  Nine months later Libby gives birth to Heather, whose grandmother raises her as her late in life second child since her first daughter cannot.

After a quarter of a century away from her home, divorced Heather Toulson leaves Portland Oregon for England to prepare her late parents’ home for sale following the death of her estranged widow father Walter.  She uncovers shocking secrets about her family, a cold case murder, and the man she loved and lost twenty-five years ago.

Moving effortlessly between three generations, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is a superb family drama as with each new revelation Heather uncovers further makes her believe that the truth will set you free is a bold lie.  Though the wrap-up is too perfect for this convoluted family, the mysteries grip the audience with a need similar to that of Heather and her married daughter Ella to know more.

Harriet Klausner

The Last True Vampire - Kate Baxter

The Last True Vampire
Kate Baxter
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Jun 2 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250053763

Hundreds of years ago, claiming the Fate ordained their extinction mission, the Sortiari hunters committed genocide of the Ancient Ones after torturing each of their enemy.  The brutalized Last True Vampire to die from the stake Mikhail instead survives when the sharpened spike fails to strike directly into his heart.

In present day Los Angeles, Michael Aritsov remains tormented by what happened centuries ago to his species.  Wallowing in self-pity and abject loneliness, Michael gave up on life and ignores his duty to the hybrid Dhampir who desperately need him and though he pretends otherwise he needs them too. 

On her own since she was sixteen, Claire Thompson works as a waitress who reluctantly supplements her income with pickpocketing and pool hustling.  Needing cash to pay the rent on her dump after giving away her money to her young neighbor, Claire selects Michael as her target.  Instead he marks her as his savior mate from the first sniff of her blood.  While most Dhampir rejoice, the horrified Sortiari realize a true Vampire exists.

The first Last True Vampire urban fantasy romance is a terrific opening act that introduces the audience to Kate Baxter’s awesome paranormal spin of Southern California.  The First Couple’s behavior leads readers wanting to kick both their butts until he finds her (relatively early) and she finds acceptance of him (much later); their relationship eventually endears them to the subgenre audience and most Dhampir.  However, it is Baxter’s world with its competing final solutions that make for an exciting thriller with more to come.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 19, 2015

Judgement Day - Andrew Neiderman

Judgement Day
Andrew Neiderman
Pocket Star Ebook, Jun 15 2015, $1.99
ISBN 97814767929341

In New York City, the Simon and James law firm names superstar attorney Warner Murphy a partner though he has been with them just a few years.  The young lawyer plans to celebrate with his wife and daughter.  However, he is alone in their luxurious Upper East Side apartment when a delivery person arrives.  The newcomer forces Murphy to jump from the twentieth story patio in what looks like a suicide.

Not long after Murphy’s deadly leap, John “Satan” Milton obtains a legal position at Simon and James as their new hotshot.  Milton deploys his plans for the city, starting with his new job of defending the guilty and winning every time.  Meanwhile, everyone else insists this is a tragedy for the Murphy family; NYPD Detective Matthew Blake finds anomalies, starting with a lack of a motive to kill himself especially at the victim’s happiest moment. 

As this is the prequel to The Devil’s Advocate focusing on the pre steps leading to the establishment of the John Milton & Associates law firm, readers obviously know the outcome from having read the first novel or seen the Pacino movie.  Still, Andrew Neiderman displays his talent as he turns the storyline into an electrifying good (Blake) and evil (Milton) urban fantasy legal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Queen Of The Swords - Michael Moorcock

The Queen Of The Swords
Michael Moorcock
Titan Books, Jun 2 2015, $9.95
ISBN: 9781783291670

After defeating the Knight of the Swords Arioch, but also grieving his loss of family due to the Mabden massacre, personal mutilation at their evil hands, and a body part replacement with a Silver Hand; Vadhagh Prince Corum wants to spend the rest of his life in peace with his Rhalina.  However Chaos will not allow the Eternal Champion any respite.  Instead Arioch’s sister the Queen of the Swords Xiombarg is expected to destroy Corum, Rhalina and anyone allied with them.

The Eternal Champion's companion Jhary the Conel warns Corum that he cannot rest on his laurels, but instead must take the fight to the Queen of the Swords to save his world.  Thus Jhary, a weary Corum and Rhalina enter hellish regions where Chaos has superseded the order of Law; lands dominated by Xiombarg.

The reprint of the enthralling middle Corum Eternal Champion sword and sorcery thriller is a Dante-like journey.  The gripping freshness comes from the perilous trek into what Chaos has wrought though the confrontation is similar to that of the first novel. 

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Detective - Adrienne Giordano

The Detective
Adrienne Giordano
Harlequin Intrigue, Jun 16 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698479

While on medical leave from CPD, Chicago homicide detective Brodey Hayward reluctantly agrees to help his Hennings and Solomon private investigator sister Jenna with solving the Jonathan Williams’ murder that another cop has lead.  He visits Williams’ vacant house where the homicide occurred.  There he runs into interior designer Alexis Vanderbilt; hired by the widow and mother of three Brenda to renovate the house. 

Brodey persuades Lexi to delay her modifications and instead assist him on solving the case.  However, determined Lexi fails to heed Brodey’s warning of take no risks when she begins sleuthing on her own.  This places her in the crosshairs of a cold killer with no compunction to murder a pretty, foolish but intelligent interior designer.  Revising his mission from solving a murder to keeping the woman he loves safe, Brodey has never felt this scared even when he worked the nastiest streets of Chicago.

The latest Hennings romantic suspense (see The Marshal, The Defender and The Prosecutor) is an enjoyable investigative novel.  The leisurely-paced storyline entertains the audience especially once the inane heroine goes rogue. 

Harriet Klausner

Beyond The Cut: Sinner’s Tribe Motorcycle Club - Sarah Castile

Beyond The Cut: Sinner’s Tribe Motorcycle Club
Sarah Castile
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Jun 2 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250056610

In Conundrum, Montana, three years have passed since Dawn Delgado was no longer Devil’s Brethren MC biker Jimmy “Mad Dog” Sanchez’s old lady.  For the safety of her kids she left the man she once thought saved her from the street; but he proved more abusive and dangerous to her and the girls than those she knew from her previous outdoor lifestyle.  Though physically she escaped from Mad Dog’s hell, he uses her unhappy seven years old twins (Maia and Tia) to control her; while his odious sister Shelly-Ann demands money for Dawn to see her children.

Sinner tribe MC Cade “Raider” Tyson observes an incident involving Dawn, the kids and the former sisters-in-law at the twins’ school.  He becomes irate when Shelly-Ann uses the kids as pawns to extract money from financially strapped Dawn.  Attracted to Dawn, as she is to him, Cade wants to protect the three females; but also knows the price could be his Sinner’s Tribe status.

The second Sinner’s Tribe Motorcycle Club (see Rough Justice) is an exciting Big Sky biker romantic suspense.  The characters make for an appealing tale; as the good “bad” biker (Cade) confronts the bad wicked aunt (Shelly-Ann) and the ugly biker (Jimmy) over three damsels in distress.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beauty & The Beast: Some Gave All - Nancy Holder

Beauty & The Beast: Some Gave All
Nancy Holder
Titan Books, May 26 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781783292202

As her relationship with J.T. Forbes teeters, NYPD Captain Tess Vargas focuses on the mauled deaths of six people that appear to be beast related.  Tess’ lead detective on the serial killings case Catherine Chandler accompanies her lover Dr. Vincent Keller on a visit to dying Maurice Riley who recently buried his daughter Roxanne Lafferty, Delta Force soldier who died in Afghanistan.  While chatting with the grieving Maurice, Tess contacts Cat to tell her to get to the scene of the seventh victim.  Maurice shows the pair a letter he received from the Freedom Fighters of New York that claims Roxanne is alive but incarcerated by a nefarious group whose experiments changed her into a monster.

In the Bronx, Cat investigates the murder of eight year old Aliyah Patel’s guardian Aunt Indira by a “monster” who invaded their home.  The traumatized child has become mute and unable to cooperate.  Cat feels an affinity to the frightened tweener as she knows firsthand what she child is going through.  Vincent personally knows what it feels like to turn into an out of control berserker beast; speculating he asks his friend J.T. if he thought Lafferty is behind the rage homicides.

The second Beauty and the Beast urban fantasy mystery (see Vendetta) is an entertaining adaptation of the TV series in which relationships and even somewhat the title characters’ adversaries take a back seat to the investigations.  The cases engage the audience and the metamorphosis of veteran Keller, especially summed up by a late threat, adds tension. 

Harriet Klausner

Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson’s Worlds - Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois (editors)

Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson’s Worlds
Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois (editors)
Baen, Jun 2 2015, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476780597

This excellent anthology achieves its objective of paying homage to one of the great twentieth century speculative fiction writers whose works crossed into science fiction, fantasy and a combo.  Well written earnest essays like those authored by his widow Karen Anderson on how they met at an early 1950s convention and his son-in-law Greg Bear on entering his life through marrying his daughter humanize the late grandmaster.  Thirteen short stories provide readers with a return to Mr. Anderson’s myriad of mesmerizing worlds.  I enjoyed the Anderson realms starting with a visit to Hugo Award winning “The Queen of Air and Darkness” (see “Outmoded Things” by Nancy Kress and “The Fey of Cloudmoor” by Terry Brooks); and accompanying the Time Patrol (see “A Slip in Time” by S. M. Stirling and “Christmas in Gondwanaland” by Robert Silverberg).  My personal favorite is Eric Flint’s “Operation Xibalba” with its dissimilar tone from the other entries but like the rest honors Mr. Anderson. 

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 15, 2015

Re-enter Fu-Manchu - Sax Rohmer

Re-enter Fu-Manchu
Sax Rohmer
Titan Books, Jun 2 2015, $9.95
ISBN: 9780857686145

In London Peter Wellington hires American Brian Merrick to work under Sir Denis Nayland Smith who is away on a dangerous overseas mission.  Ebullient Merrick looks forward to the job having met Nayland Smith at his father the US Senator’s home two years ago.

In a much lesser of two evils Hobson’s choice, Nayland Smith’s current objective is to prevent the apparently resurfaced after years in hiding Fu-Manchu from achieving his first step to world domination: gaining control of China from the Communists.  As the trail leads to Egypt and Manhattan; Wellington, Merrick and their American allies fear Nayland Smith has been out in the cold too long in his obsessive pursuit to stop Fu-Manchu or has been diabolically replaced by their fiendish adversary. 

Though over the top (as usual for this series), this Fu-Manchu early Cold War thriller (see The Shadow of Fu Manchu) is an exciting pulp fiction that provides an intense glimpse of a world on the cusp of nuclear winter.  Fast-paced from the moment Merrick obtains the job, the story line never slows down until after the final confrontation.  Series fans will appreciate this entertaining entry as Fu-Manchu’s foes abandon the official Kennan’s containment policy while fearing their field leader is an enemy replacement.

Harriet Klausner

Oathkeeper - J.F. Lewis

J.F. Lewis
Pyr, Jun 9 2015, $18.00
ISBN: 9781633880542

The Eldrennai created the Aern as slave warriors to defend the master race against the feral Zaur.  Over seemingly endless time, the Aern eventually became freed but also remained Grudgebearers sworn to their oath to protect the Eldrennai.  

Six centuries of peace between the races end when war breaks out between the Zaur and Eldrennai; at a time when the latter’s oathbearer defenders rage at the recent affronts by their former masters.  Whereas the Zaur remains with the same leadership; Rae’en replaces her late father Kholster as the Aern First knowing the Oath no longer exists with her father’s passing enabling her to avenge his death against the Eldrennai; who also has a new leader Prince Rivvek if he completes the Test of Four.  Each race seeks outside allies to strengthen their position with hostilities heating up between them.

The second Grudgebearer science fiction tale is a terrific thriller that augments the already superbly constructed Lewis realm with additional profound layers.  The cultural and political interactions within a race and between the races and other parties make for an outstanding middle novel though it behooves newbies to start with the first act (see Grudgebearer) to better understand the grudges and oaths of a complex world.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Bomb Maker's Son: A Parker Stern Novel - Robert Rotstein

The Bomb Maker's Son: A Parker Stern Novel
Robert Rotstein
Prometheus Books/Seventh Street, Jun 9 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781633880443

In 1975 in Playa Delta, California, anti-Vietnam War advocates blow up the Veterans Administration building.  Four people die in the domestic terrorism act.   Four decades later, one of the accused Ian Holzner remains on the FBI fugitive list when he suddenly surrenders to authorities. 

Ian insists he was not the leader of the deadly bombing in his home town although charged as such.  He refuses a deal opting for a trial even with the evidence against him astronomical and demands attorney Parker Stern defend him in court.  In spite of his mom’s begging him to take on Ian as a client, Parker holds steadfast to his no until she informs him that Ian is his biological father and that he has a teenage half-sister.  Though Parker wonders if his mother, the lying head of the Church of the Sanctified Assembly, is crapping on him again; he reluctantly agrees to mount a defense for his alleged dad for the sake of his sibling.  Parker finds it impossible to defend his client who seemingly conceals something important.  At the same someone uses deadly force to tamper with witnesses and the media is having an incest feeding frenzy.

The third Parker Stern legal thriller (see Corrupt Practices and Reckless Disregard) is a fantastic drama that uses a modern day trial to look back to the last year of the Nixon Presidency at a time when the final moments of the antiwar movement occurred.  With several stunning twists especially an awesome climatic spin, Robert Rotstein authors a powerful look at that 1970s tumultuous era through the lens of forty years passing since the deadly incident happened.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon in Exile - Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Dragon in Exile
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, Jun 2 2015, $26.00
ISBN 9781476780719

On Liad, in spite of Clan Korval saving the world, the Council of Clans argues over the proper punishment for the convicted Dragons.  Longtime rival clans and enemies within the Liaden Department of the Interior demand mass executions of the Dragons, but allies prevail.  Thus banished Clan Korval leaves their home planet for Surebleak, an orb known for felonious activity.

Though the transition proves somewhat difficult, many members of Clan Korval have traveled to much worse hellholes.  The adjustment begins with the Dragon forcing the locals not just to accept their culture, but to adapt to their lifestyle or face terrible consequences.  However, as rebellion against the outsiders’ domination and strict enforcement of Liaden on Surebleak arises, Clan Korval stunningly learns their on planet foes have an insidious supporter.

The eighteenth Liaden outer space thriller (see Trade Secret) is an extremely complex science fiction that series fans will welcome as Sharon Lee and Steve Miller add depth to recent subplots, while also resolving some minor ones and beginning new threads.  The lead Dragon frequently changes with Miri, Val Con and Rys serving as the prime players but others also take lesser moments on center stage.  This is a terrific entry as Clan Korval reacts to their new world as if they never left Liad.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Crooked Herring - L.C. Tyler

Crooked Herring
L.C. Tyler
Felony & Mayhem, May 21 2015, $14.95
ISBN 9781631940569

Crime writer Henry Holiday informs his friend novelist Ethelred Tressider that he remembers two things about New Year’s Eve.  First he was very drunk while making the rounds in Sussex with his equally intoxicated crime writer friend Crispin Vynall; and second he believes he killed his drinking buddy.  An upset Henry says his efforts to contact Crispin failed.

Calmly Ethelred asks where Vynall’s body is, but Henry insists he has no idea as to where he may have left the corpse.  Reluctantly Ethelred agrees to follow unobtrusively Henry’s holiday binge with much less emphasis on imbibing.  Leaving London, Ethelred’s literary agent domineering Elsie Thirkettle visits him and warns him not to get involved.

The fifth Ethelred and Elsie amateur sleuth (see The Herring in the Library and Herring on the Nile) is a very amusing investigation into what the protagonist expects to be Much Ado About Nothing.  Part of the jocularity comes from Elsie’s wry journal; while much more from Ethelred’s bumbling inquiry that has him in trouble with the law, and finally from the Amazon U.K. reviews of his novels.

Harriet Klausner

Clockwork Crown - Beth Cato

Clockwork Crown
Beth Cato
Harper Voyager, Jun 9 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062313980

Fleeing through the treacherous Kingdom of Caskentia, Medican Octavia Leander feels euphoric that she so far survived the assassination attempts and have not seen a killer in a few days, and her lover Alonzo Garrett the former Clockwork Dagger rides with her.  On the other hand she fears what is going on in her life as her growing magical power feels out of control; assassins relentlessly pursue her to kill her before she crosses into the most southern part of the peninsula the Southern Nations where Garrett’s family reside; and her beloved placed his life in peril for her.

However before seeking the safety of the Southern Nations the pair also searches for information re the Lady and her Tree, the source of Octavia’s new found and rapidly increasing power.  They know the answers Octavia needs probably lies in the extremely hostile Dallows better known by everyone as the Waste one should never voluntarily enter; a province where rebellion against the Kingdom of Caskentia has been brutal.

The second Clockwork fantasy (The Clockwork Dagger) is an exciting twisting entry with a gripping, major surprising spin.  Beth Cato deftly balances insight into the beleaguered Medican’s growing skills with a bloody rebellion, and old and new adversaries.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 12, 2015

Watch The Lady - Elizabeth Fremantle

Watch The Lady
Elizabeth Fremantle
Simon & Schuster, Jun 9 2015, $15.99
ISBN: 9781476703121

In 1581 pushed by her scheming mother who wants the family to regain their positon of influence, Penelope Devereux becomes a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth.  Beautiful and brilliant, Penelope manages to excel in the dangerous court filled with backstabbing intrigue to become one of the monarch’s favorite; as does her brother the Earl of Essex.  Only Robert Cecil seems to distrust the siblings.  Penelope and her childhood betrothed Sir Philip Sidney remain in love, but Elizabeth marries her to Lord Rich.  The couple makes a convenience deal in which she provides him with the heir and spare and he stays out of her life.  However her brother’s bungling ambition places them in jeopardy unless she intercedes before it wrecks her much more clever treacherous scheme.

The third Tudor tale (see Queen’s Gambit and Sisters of Treason) is an enjoyable Elizabethian drama that focuses on the last decades of the Queen’s long reign through the rotating viewpoints of enemies Penelope and Cecil.  Although there are some incidents that feel like forced overdramatic padding into an interesting storyline, historical fans will relish watching the scramble by those of the inner circles and wannabes competing for power before the anticipated vacuum causes a free for all. 

Harriet Klausner

Masterminds - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG, Jun 9 2015, $18.99
ISBN 9781561466252

The Peyti clones of the mass murderer PierLuigi Fremont committed two deadly suicide bombings on Anniversary Days four years apart killing thousands and crippling the Moon.  The terrorism has frightened residents and left authorities scrambling to prevent a third devastation that everyone expects soonest as the Mastermind(s) remain free to complete their mission. 

Evidence collected by Moon’s chief security officer Noelle DeRicci, Retrieval Artist Miles Flint, Police Detective Bartholomew Nyquist and Armstrong’s shady business mogul Luc Deshin lead to the horrifying conclusion that countdown to another imminent terrorist attack to destroy the remaining functional domes has begun and that the leaders are Earth Alliance VIPs.  However, the plot began decades ago in the Frontier, inside an alliance prison and beneath the moon’s surface.

The eighth and final Anniversary Day Saga science fiction completes a fabulous thrilling saga.  The key subplots tie together in a way that has the appreciative audience following the countdown as seen through different people’s minds but in a Bauer 24 like adventure.  Fast-paced, this is a tremendous climax to an electrifying series that newcomers need to start at the beginning to fully appreciate Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s talent (see A Murder of Clones, Blowback, Anniversary Day, Search & Recovery, The Peyti Crisis, Vigilantes and Starbase Human).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Once Upon A Summertime - Melody Carlson

Once Upon A Summertime
Melody Carlson
Revell, Jun 2 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780800723576

Anna Gordon’s goal used to be to manage a major Manhattan hotel.  Although she obtained her Masters in Hotel Management thanks to her Grandma, dumping her dream Anna is far from the Big Apple as she runs the Value Lodge in her hometown Springville.  She runs into her best friend Marley Ferris who took leave from her international flight attendant job to help her parents manage Lou’s Café while her mom recovers from back surgery.  Marley sends a text to her brother Max to ask Vincent Newman if he would hire Anna to work at the Rothsberg of SoHo Hotel.  Her decision to go or stay is out of hands when the Value Lodge owners dismiss her for doing her job when she fired their worthless nephew and his girlfriend.

She realizes during the day manager position interview that Vincent will not hire her as she just lost two years of references and has limited experience otherwise.  In the bathroom, Anna meets Vincent’s wife Denise who hires her as the housekeeping manager.  Soon after that Anna meets the new head manager Sean O’Neil who also comes from Springville.  As Sean and Anna work together, they fall in love; but fraternization is against the hotel’s rules.

This New York romance is a pleasant contemporary starring a competent caring female, a very nice capable male, the hotel staff and the City.  Readers will appreciate the first Follow Your Heart tale although the climax seems sudden.

Harriet Klausner

The Islanders - Pascal Garnier

The Islanders
Pascal Garnier; Emily Boyce (translator)
Gallic, Jun 9 2015, $13.95
ISBN 9781908313720

Just a few days before Christmas in -17 degrees weather, Olivier Verdier’s mother dies in Versailles.  All the recovering alcoholic could think of is that she still is a pain in the ass even in death as her burial must wait until after the holiday; while he wants to return home to his wife in Nice.  A snow storm adds to Olivier’s misery. 

While at his mom’s pad, Olivier runs into neighbor Jeanne Mangin, a schoolteacher for two decades.  Twenty-five years earlier in Le Chesnay when they were teens, the cops considered Olivier and Jeanne as the prime suspects in the murder of a child she babysat.  She tells him that her mother and the twins died in an accident, and she lives with her blind brother Rodolphe whose only respite from his internal rage is the Louvre.  At the same time that the déjà vu relationship dynamics boil over, needing shelter from the unbearable weather, homeless Roland Toutin enters the out of control orbit.

This translation of a Pascal Garnier French middle class tragedy is another superb character-driven dark novella from an author who consistently provides insightful looks at the underbelly of human interactivity.  Filled with mocking graveyard humor and anticipation that things will only turn worse, this like in his previous works I read (see The A26, The Front Seat Passenger, Moon in a Dead Eye, The Panda Theory and How’s the Pain?) is why Monsieur Garnier has become one of my favorite auteurs.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Silver Spurs - Miralee Ferrell

Silver Spurs
Miralee Ferrell
David C. Cook, Jun 1 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780781411134

Due to extended unemployment, teenager Kate Ferris’ parents moved the family from Spokane to her late maternal Grandpa Cooper’s farm in ODell, Oregon.  In her new home, her dream of A Horse for Kate soon comes true.  Now, Kate wishes that her BFF Tori Velasquez also obtains a horse of her own.

To raise money for Tori’s horse, Kate, assisted by her best friend, takes on boarders.  The work is difficult, but made exponentially more stressful when the school’s queen of mean Melissa brings her horse to stay at the Ferris barn and compete in a contest in which the winner receives Silver Spurs.

Tweeners, especially those who previously read A Horse for Kate, will relish the second Horses and Friends inspirational tale because each of the lead female trio comes across as genuine with differing personalities emphasized by how they relate with one another and with their horses.  Kate keeps the plot focused as she pursues what she wants now while asking God to intervene or at least guide her to her goal; but Melissa steals the show.

Harriet Klausner