Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Irish Country Village-Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Village
Patrick Taylor
Forge, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765316240

In the 1960s having decided to practice medicine in Balleybucklebo, Northern Ireland, (see AN IRISH COUNTRY DOCTOR) Barry Laverty begins his “apprenticeship working for Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, a local legend. He finds the wide range of patients with their diverse problems fascinating and keeps him attentive. Barry also quickly learns why his mentor is a superstar amongst the working class and he admires the grumpy Fingal. This is not so much due to his medical healing but more because he gets involved in the social affairs of the villagers.

Currently Fingal battles the council who want to change the Black Swan pub from a popular local establishment into a touristy thing to bring in more money. Barry also finds his attraction for engineering student Patricia Spence growing even as he fears yet hopes she will soon go to Cambridge. Finally he faces a malpractice lawsuit from a widow whose husband he misdiagnosed.

This warm sequel to AN IRISH COUNTRY DOCTOR is an entertaining tale that brings to life a small village in the 1960s. The storyline is character driven as the eccentric locals bring time and place to the foreground. Dr. Fingal is somewhat the stereotype of the grumpy caring aging doctor, but no one will care as he brings extra heart to the mix. Fans will enjoy the continuing saga of Dr. Barry Laverty as he holds the insightful tale together while growing into the heir apparent to the village doctor.

Harriet Klausner

Island Heat-Sarah Mayberry

Island Heat
Sarah Mayberry
Harlequin Mediterranean Nights, Mar 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373389698

Alexandra's Dream Caribbean cruise ship hires chef Tory Fournier to provide guest lectures to their patrons. Tory looks forward to this all expense paid ten days in the sun while her New York home is buried under snow; plus she is getting paid to do this. However, her enthusiasm For St. Bart etc. dies when she is on board and learns that her former lover Ben Cooper has been hired to join her as her co-chef instructor.

They start off a bit uncomfortable, but the lectures are top rate. They soon share more than just the podium as they make love. However, when she insists that once the cruise ends they end too, he becomes unhappy as he wants much more from the chef he loves in and out of the kitchen.

The latest Mediterranean (Caribbean) romance is a second chance at love between two likable fully developed chefs. When the story line focuses on their battles in the kitchen and bedroom the story line is smooth sailing. However, the numerous sidebars take the audience away from the relationship between Tory and Ben. Still fans will enjoy cruising with this couple.

Harriet Klausner

Spies, Lies And Naked Thighs-Jina Bacarr

Spies, Lies And Naked Thighs
Jina Bacarr
Harlequin Spice, Mar 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373605224

In the Syrian Desert, her local associate framed her for murder and betrayed her to local authorities before running off with the precious artifact she found. Archaeologist Breezy Malone lingered in prison while thinking of a zillion ways to rip off Sharif’s skin one inch at a time. The FBI arranges for her escape from incarceration and recruits her to work for them.

Breezy begins her search for Sharif, but as she gets closer to her target, she meets enigmatic One-Eyed Jack; at least that is what she calls him due to his eye patch. He seems in her way, but though attracted to the man of mystery and has some doubts that they are on the same side, she remains steadfast in her pursuit of Sharif.

Breezy is the right name for this heroine who provides readers with an entertaining look at espionage especially the final crushing confrontation (probably every female has had that desire at least once in their life. Filled with action, SPIES, LIES AND NAKED THIGHS is a fun chick lit thriller with a touch of romance to add spice to a fun tale of intrigue. Hopefully Jina Bacarr will provide her fans with more Breezy thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

When Zeffie Got A Clue-Peggy Darty

When Zeffie Got A Clue
Peggy Darty
Waterbrook, Mar 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073337

In Florida, eight year old Zeffie Adams brings an old worthless jewelry box into the I Saw It First junk shop because the kid needs money to pay some of her grandma’s bills. Co-owner Christy Castleman (along with her Aunt Bobbie Bodine) gives Zeffie a lot more money than the box is worth.

However, to her surprise Christy finds an appraisal slip in the box’s lining that she believes gives her a clue to the cold case murder of Kirby Strickland who was shot to death when jewels belonging to Annabel Strickland that were once in the box were stolen. Knowing she owes Kirby who saved her life, published mystery writer Christy ignores the admonition of her police officer boyfriend and investigates the homicide not realizing the danger she places herself in with her inquiries.

This entertaining regional cozy returns Christy and company for a second mystery (see WHEN BOBBIE SANG THE BLUES). This time the mystery writer works a cold case that is very personal to her and others. The cast is solid as Christy leisurely investigates the link between the jewel robbery and the homicide.

Harriet Klausner

The Sudoku Puzzle Murders-Parnell Hall

The Sudoku Puzzle Murders
Parnell Hall
Dunne, Apr 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312370909

In Bakerhaven, Connecticut, Cora Felton, the nationally recognized Puzzle lady, is standing in the parking lot when Japanese publisher Hideki Takiyama comes up to her and introduces himself. He says she is famous in Japan and he wants to write a Puzzle Lady Sudoko puzzle book. She refers him to her niece Sherry Carter who negotiates all her contracts. Later Sherry goes to sign a contact only to learn she signed with Hideki’s rival Aoki Yoshiaki who is married to the lovely Reiko.

Cora is at the sheriff’s office when a call comes in that there has been a murder. At the crime scene, Cora sees a man with his face sliced in half and it becomes obvious he was dumped here. They find out he was a private investigator from New York. A few days later, Cora sees Sherry’s ex following Aoki and Reiko who are followed by another investigator form New York. The second New York private investigator is found dead very near where his predecessor was dumped with a samurai sward in him. The sheriff asks Cora to help him figure out what is going on; since she loves a puzzle, she agrees to assist him.

The fun of the Puzzle Lady mysteries starts and finish with the aptly nicknamed heroine who never takes herself seriously. She is a smart-mouthed sassy broad who does her own thing regardless of what others think. Her antics and asides bring humor into a serious complex whodunit that leaves readers spinning in admiration.

Harriet Klausner

No One Heard Her Scream-Jordan Dane

No One Heard Her Scream
Jordan Dane
Avon, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061252785

Five months ago, San Antonio Police Detective Rebecca "Becca" Montgomery’s younger sister, Dani, vanished without a trace. Distraught, Becca keeps “shadowing” the case led by dedicated professional Detective Paul Murphy who wants her to stay out of his investigation. To somewhat occupy her mind and to get her away from fighting her peer, Becca’s boss Lieutenant Arturo Santiago assigns her to look into the humans ashes found at a burned down theater.

Becca knows why her boss assigned her this case, but plans to conduct a professional inquiry. At the inferno sight, Becca glances at the crowd of curious on-lookers, but only one person seems out of place. The human remains are that of a female skeleton with only an expensive locket nearby; the victim was walled inside a “prison” during the last renovation with evidence she was interred while she still lived. Becca learns the out of place stranger is Diego Galvan, who works for allegedly corrupt businessman Hunter Cavanaugh. Diego informs Becca to be careful with her investigation as her case touches Cavanaugh and his nasty Matt Brogan

This is a superb police procedural with enough of a romance between Becca and Diego to enhance the investigation. Becca is a strong protagonist who knows she is over the edge over her sister, but cannot stop herself from wanting to break Murphy’s nose. Ironically readers know Diego’s intentions while Becca wonders whose side is he on. Fans will enjoy the exciting first “No One” tale as the lead pair each has hidden agendas that come before any feelings they might have for one another.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Reason to Sin-Maureen McKade

A Reason to Sin
Maureen McKade
Berkley, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425220597

In 1868 Rebecca Colfax thought her marriage was perfect until her spouse emptied all their assets and vanished. Broke, she vows to hunt him down and confront him as she needs to know why. However she needs to eat so she accepts work as a saloon singer at the Scarlet Garter in Kansas using the stage name of Glory Bowen.

Former espionage agent Slater Forrester works as a faro dealer at the Scarlet Garter. He worries that the newcomer is out of place at the saloon and vows to keep her safe although he plans not to act on his attraction as he is unworthy of her love. Glory realizes he makes her forget she is married, but also sees he has an inner turmoil that is eating at his soul; she hopes to provide him with solace through her love for him.

The final Forrester romance (see A REASON TO LIVE and A REASON TO BELIEVE) is a superb historical romance starring two strong lead characters. The story line is fast-paced but it is Rebecca whose courage to love makes her believe she can heal Slater no matter what transgression he believes makes him unworthy. Maureen McKade is simply marvelous

Harriet Klausner

Catch a Shadow-Patricia Potter

Catch a Shadow
Patricia Potter
Berkley, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425221198

In Atlanta as the hit and run victim is dying he pleads with emergency medic technician Kirke Palmer to deliver an envelope to someone named Mitch Edwards. Reluctantly she agrees to this death bed wish. However, she may have reconsidered her granting the final favor if she knew the trouble she lands in from a corrupt lethal former CIA operative.

In 2000 when the South American special op mission failed, Jake Kelly thought he was the sole survivor. He took the fall for the incident though he is unsure what he could have done different and spent time in jail. Now he is free only to receive a call from Del Cox, who allegedly died during that last deadly mission. He rushes to Atlanta to find Del dead and he soon meets Kirke whose letter might clarify what really happened on the day his life was ruined. He vows to keep her safe, but soon realizes the advantage of having a paramedic at his side.

Kirke is a terrific damsel in distress as she learns no good deed goes unpunished when she tries to carry out the death bed wish; she also carries the story line with her. Readers will join her and Jake as they tour Atlanta trying to stay one step ahead of their deadly enemies while seeking who inside leaked his fatal mission.

Harriet Klausner

The Third Circle-Amanda Quick

The Third Circle
Amanda Quick
Putnam, April 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399154843

Dressed in men’s formal attire, Leona Hewitt sneaks into Lord Delbridge’s home while he hosts a party for his male friends and their courtesans. Leona works with the energy of crystal helping heal troubled souls; she currently is seeking the Aurora Stone that belongs by rights to her family although it has been stolen periodically for its alleged power. When she finds the museum room, Leona sees a man looking at the body of a dead woman lying on the floor. Thaddeus Ware also looks for the Aurora Stone, which he intends to return to the Arcane Society as the gem is as much a heaing tool as it is a deadly weapon.

Leona finds the stone but Thaddeus takes it; triggering a poison that will drive him insane and eventually kill him. Leona saves his life by using her Aura Stone to heal the hypnotist. Delbridge plans to retrieve the stone because that is his entrance ticket to the THIRD CIRCLE of the Order of the Emerald Table, a cabal within the Arcane Society, a group dedicated to finding the Founder’s formula that will enhance paranormal powers. His desire places Leona in danger because she is the only person who can safely use the Aurora Stone; Thaddeus understands her value to the Third Circle and vows to keep her safe even if she rejects his protection.

THE THIRD CIRCLE is Amanda Quick at her mesmerizing best with an enchanting historical romantic suspense that contains a rousing romp, an intriguing mystery, and a touch of the fantasy that come together nicely in a cleverly crafted story line. The quirky cast is fully developed with a couple of the support players seemingly capable of carrying out their own adventures. However, Leona owns this tale as she defies the rules of society to do what she believes is right.

Harriet Klausner

The Third Circle-Amanda Quick

The Third Circle
Amanda Quick
Putnam, April 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399154843

Dressed in men’s formal attire, Leona Hewitt sneaks into Lord Delbridge’s home while he hosts a party for his male friends and their courtesans. Leona works with the energy of crystal helping heal troubled souls; she currently is seeking the Aurora Stone that belongs by rights to her family although it has been stolen periodically for its alleged power. When she finds the museum room, Leona sees a man looking at the body of a dead woman lying on the floor. Thaddeus Ware also looks for the Aurora Stone, which he intends to return to the Arcane Society as the gem is as much a heaing tool as it is a deadly weapon.

Leona finds the stone but Thaddeus takes it; triggering a poison that will drive him insane and eventually kill him. Leona saves his life by using her Aura Stone to heal the hypnotist. Delbridge plans to retrieve the stone because that is his entrance ticket to the THIRD CIRCLE of the Order of the Emerald Table, a cabal within the Arcane Society, a group dedicated to finding the Founder’s formula that will enhance paranormal powers. His desire places Leona in danger because she is the only person who can safely use the Aurora Stone; Thaddeus understands her value to the Third Circle and vows to keep her safe even if she rejects his protection.

THE THIRD CIRCLE is Amanda Quick at her mesmerizing best with an enchanting historical romantic suspense that contains a rousing romp, an intriguing mystery, and a touch of the fantasy that come together nicely in a cleverly crafted story line. The quirky cast is fully developed with a couple of the support players seemingly capable of carrying out their own adventures. However, Leona owns this tale as she defies the rules of society to do what she believes is right.

Harriet Klausner

Gambit-Karna Small Bodman

Karna Small Bodman
Forge, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765319289

Computer scientist Dr. Cameron "Cammy" Talbot has little time to sit on her laurels following the CHECKMATE technology she and her team created that prevented war between India and Pakistan. Recently a terrorist has developed a missile system that has shot down commercial aircraft; Mr. President, Vice President Jayson Keller, and their top National Security advisor Austin Gage wants her and her Bandaq Technologies team to create an antimissile gizmo to place on planes so that the cock pit can be aware of a deadly incoming and destroy it.

She visits her associate Dr. Wen Hu at MIT for assistance, but soon afterward someone kills him and destroys his lab. She realizes that she is next and a few somewhat amateurish but potentially lethal assaults occur. Cammy turns to her former lover, Special Assistant to the President for Arms Control and Strategic defense Lieutenant Colonel Hunt Daniels for protection while few fly and more die who do.

More a romantic suspense (even the VEEP wants Cammy) than a thriller, readers will enjoy this race against the clock each day means more deaths and less air traffic. The story line grips the audience as the enemy technology seems plausible. Although the romantic subplot is well written it feels out of place as the excitement is with stopping the adversaries soonest.

Harriet Klausner

Shifter-Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day and Virginia Kantr

Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day and Virginia Kantra
Berkley, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425220351

"Mad Dog Love" by Angela Knight. In 2450 Rance was a prisoner before he became Zarifa’s slave and then her lover. Now they must work together outside the boudoir to save the Lorezostellar Empire from her vicious fiancé.

"A Jaguar's Kiss” by Lora Leigh. When Natalie was chosen to teach the Breed children in Buffalo Gap, she thought this was the greatest thing that happened to her until she meets her attractive domineering jaguar-shifting bodyguard Saban.

"Shifter's Lady” by Alyssa Day. Marie of Atlantis visits her brother In Florida only to meet and fall in love with shifter Ethan.

“Sea Crossing," by Virginia Kantra. On a sea voyage to escape her lover Paul Canada, Emma's ship sinks, but Griffith rescues her and takes her to his remote island homeland where he hopes to persuade her to teach the children and much more.

These four shapeshifting romances share in common lighthearted fun entertainment with women in peril and heroic men to their rescue while the settings are radically different. Romantic fantasy fans will appreciate these fine tales.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Warrior-Karen Kay

The Last Warrior
Karen Kay
Berkley, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425221006

The Lost Clan tribal bands are cursed to live in the ephemeral realm between life and death because their ancestors killed four of Thunderer's children. Two days a year the Chosen One will live on the mortal plane as he is the tribe's only hope for them to escape the curse, but the crosser must perform a heroic sacrificial deed by the time he is thirty or the tribe remains locked in the shadows.

In 1892 Black Lion as the Chosen One joins Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show touring England. Backstage he meets Suzette Joselyn, the daughter of opera singers. They are attracted to one another, but fail to act on their feelings because she is engaged to another. He returns to America heartbroken but with more resolve to save his people as his quest comes before his heart. When her fiancé dumps her a pregnant Suzette crosses the big pond hoping to find her loved one.

Karen Kay completes her Lost Clan saga with a delightful final entry that will elate fans of the series (see RED HAWK'S WOMAN, THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF and THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR). The story line is action-packed as the couple falls in love but each has reasons to ignore what their heart is telling them. Using Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show provides uniqueness to this superb brisk Indian romantic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Biting the Bullet-Jennifer Rardin

Biting the Bullet
Jennifer Rardin
Orbit, Feb 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316020589

The CIA assigns its top operative Vayl the vampire and his crew including Jaz Parks to team up with a special ops unit headed by Jaz’s twin brother Dave to stop deadly vampiric necromancer the Wizard. The squad will need to stealthy penetrate Iran where the adversary hides while performing seditious terrorist acts against the United States and its allies.

The straightforward but difficult case proves much more complex because the fundamentalist Reavers hunt Jaz, as she was recently demonized. Worse someone on their joint team is giving away battle plans to the enemy; allowing the Wizard to constantly be ahead of them. Jaz's spirit guide Raoul is acting more like a blithering idiotic Oracle while Vayl seems uninterested in their mission as he focuses on what appears to his top aid and bodyguard. Unless something dramatic or miraculous occurs like exposing the enemy from within, Jaz knows their mission will fail and they easily could be permanently dead.

In her third CIA chick lit urban fantasy (see ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST and ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY) Jaz Parks is at her cheeky amusing yet exhilarating best. The story line told from her mocking viewpoint is fast-paced as she manages to make the paranormal elements and species seem genuine and the mission essential and dangerous. Fans will appreciate her latest tale as she argues with her spirit guide to get with the program, battles with her superior to stay focused, and debates with her brother who’s in charge. About the only thing she is not arguing is who’s on first because she knows that’s her as she struggles with completing the mission and staying alive.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blue-Eyed Devil-Lisa Kleypas

Blue-Eyed Devil
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin's, Mar 2008, $19.95
ISBN 9780312351649

The daughter of a Houston energy tycoon, Haven Travis was born with a golden spoon. Hardy Cates is her opposite having grownup in East Texas poverty. They meet and sparks fly, but she is engaged to marry Nick Tanner, who her dad believes is not good enough for his beloved daughter in spite of his affluent background.

When Haven elopes with Nick her father cuts her off without a cent. An angry Nick blames Haven and batters her. She flees for the safety of her home where she finds her father and Hardy squabbling over a business deal. Hardy offers her comfort as they fall in love, but she fears commitment following the beatings Nick gave her and the estrangement with her family especially her father.

The key to this entertaining strong contemporary romance is the lead female character who has issues with her family, her abusive spouse and herself that show up at her job and even in bed. Readers who appreciate reality in their romances will want to read this insightful look at the aftermath impact of abuse long after the physical wounds have healed; love and passion do not necessarily heal the mental trauma even with the nurturing passionate care of a loving person.

Harriet Klausner

A Cold Dark Place-Gregg Olsen

A Cold Dark Place
Gregg Olsen
Pinnacle, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780786018307

In Cherrystone, Washington, the tornado touched down on the Marin home. Former Seattle homicide detective Emily Kenyon goes to see if her neighbors are okay; besides the storm devastation that razed the house, she finds three brutally murdered corpses. It is who she does not see that concerns her; the fourth member of the Martin family, Nick is missing.

As Emily wonders whether he could be a vicious mass killer, she learns her teenage daughter Jenna has run away with Nick; apparently Jenna plans to help him prove his innocence. Worried for her daughter’s safety from either Nick as a stone cold killer or an unknown predator, Emily hopes to find them before someone else is hurt. However, she remains clueless that the homicides tie back to two decades of killings and the tragic case that led to her leaving SPD.

A COLD DARK PLACE is an exciting action-packed investigative thriller that is much more complicated than the simplified description above. Emily keeps the tale focused as she goes from one horror to another starting with the tornado, the three homicides, the missing son, and culminating with her daughter running off with potentially the killer. Fans will enjoy Greg Olsen’s fabulous whodunit as he escorts the audience back and forth between the present and twenty years ago in a strong mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Deceptions-Linda Lael Miller

Deadly Deceptions
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN 9780373772568

In Cave Creek, Arizona private investigator Mary Josephine “Mojo Sheepshanks” Mayhugh knows she lacks experience, but her ability to communicate with ghosts gives her edge to overcome her sleuthing naïveté. Mojo is adamant that her mission in life is to help those unable to move on find peace by resolving what keeps them hanging around the moral plane. At the same she depends on these otherworldly assistants to help her with her mortal cases.

Following a ballet lesson, seven-year-old deaf-mute Gillian Pellaway is strangled; her stepfather is accused of the crime as he was taking her home; Gillian pleads with Mojo to help prove his innocence. Soon after that someone kills womanizing Alex Pennington; Mojo’s wannabe boyfriend homicide detective Tucker Darroch arrests the victim’s wife Greer, Mojo’s adopted sister.

The second Mojo paranormal private investigative tale (see DEADLY GAMBLE) is a terrific tale filled with dead and live red herrings, plenty of twists, and ghosts who demand the heroine solve their case. Mojo with her mumbo and moxie makes DEADLY DECEPTION fun to follow as she uses spiritual assistance to find hard proof that Greer is innocent in spite of her having the means, motive, and opportunity. With two Mojo mysteries so far, Linda Lael Miller appears to have a hit series for fans to appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

A Stranger's Game- Joan Johnston

A Stranger's Game
Joan Johnston
Pocket, Mar 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9780743454384

Ten years ago Merle Raye Finkel was convicted of killing her abusive father Austin police detective Big Mike; something she dreamed of doing many times when he assaulted her or her stepmother or flushed her live turtle down the toilet to punish her, but she never did. When she was freed from an Austin youth facility, she changed her name to Grace Caldwell and began a quest to uncover the identity of the true killer.

Her clues begin to point towards FBI Assistant Special Agent Vincent Harkness, whose current assignment is security for the president’s visit to the University of Texas at Austin. Grace meets FBI Supervisory Special Agent Breed Grayhawk, who she hopes will provide her insider info about his superior. As they fall in love, he hides her when he realizes the Feds are gunning for her; especially when he knows she is innocent yet accused of planning to assassinate the president.

This is an interesting Bitter Creek FBI romantic suspense starring an intrepid heroine and the gutsy hero who risks his career and his freedom for the woman he loves and believes in even when the evidence condemns her. The storyline is action-packed and filled with entertaining twists. Although a spin involving a Texas Ranger is more a set up for the next tale and feels out of place in A STRANGER’S GAME, series fans will appreciate this dynamic entry.

Harriet Klausner

Chasing Cans-Laura Crum

Chasing Cans
Laura Crum
Perseverance press, Apr 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781880284940

Nobody is more surprised than Gail McCarthy is that her veterinarian career that meant the world to her now takes second fiddle to raising her one years old son Mac. She was supposed to return to her practice soon after giving birth, but keeps putting it off; preferring to be a stay at home mommy. The only fly in the ointment is her new neighbor Lindee Sloan who owns and operates a barrel racing training establishment. Gail becomes incensed when Lindee blackmails her neighbor Joan into leasing her pasture where the vet keeps her horses.

Gail goes to have a chat with Lindee, but sees her enemy on a horse that balks at the third barrel before tossing her rider and crushing her. To Gail, it seemed as if Lindee pulled the horse on top of her in what looked like a bizarre accident. Not long after that deadly incident, a trainer rides a horse when the woman falls unconscious and the horse kicks her in the head. Gail reconsiders her opinion on Lindee’s death as the two lethal events seem unlikely unless someone caused it. She investigates naively unaware of how dangerous sleuthing can be for her and Mac.

Laura Crum’s love of horses shines through her mysteries. In this case the key to the whodunit is that everyone who met Lindee quickly despised her including the usually tolerant Gail. However, it is the second incident that makes Gail wonders if someone hated the two riders so much he or she killed them; the probability of two accidents or an accident/suicide seemingly insignificant. Lead Police Detective Jeri feels Gail’s insight is helpful and asks her to join the investigation into the deaths of two riders. CHASING CANS is a terrific puzzler starting with murder or not.

Harriet Klausner

Winter Haven-Athol Dickson

Winter Haven
Athol Dickson
Bethany House, Apr 2008, $18,99
ISBN: 9780764201646

Siggy was fifteen years old when he left home; his sister Vera Gamble blames herself for his disappearance. She believes she suffers from hallucinations, but outgrows them as she got older because she no longer thought of her vanished severely autistic brother who only spoke in biblical quotes. One day while she at work she receives a call that Siggy’s body washed up on the Maine barrier island Winter Haven.

As she approaches the island by boat, the fog that engulfs it gives Winter Haven an eerie appearance. When the constable shows her Siggy’s body, Vera is shocked as he has not aged at all; he still looks like the teen who left home years ago. When she mentions this to the constable, the cop refuses to allow Vera to take the body home. Vera rents a room at a B&B and explores the island. She hears strange thumping noises like an axe splitting wood and sees with her peripheral vision a dark figure who disappears before she can fully focus. In town it rains black stones on her only and she hears hissing sounds that no one else seems to hear. Vera wonders if she is going crazy or is there a logical explanation to the happenings.

WINTER HAVEN is a good old fashion gothic mystery complete with a brooding love interest for Vera even though her landlady warns her against getting involved with him. Vera is a fine character who believes she is ungodly and part crazy. Life on a small island is vividly described especially how the residents thrive on their isolation, which adds to the eerie atmosphere. Fans will enjoy stopping at Winter Haven as long as Athol Dickson guides us.

Harriet Klausner

Mad Kestrel-Misty Massey

Mad Kestrel
Misty Massey
Tor, Mar 2008, 14.95
ISBN 9780765318022

Led by their Ageless King, the Danisoban Brethren control all magical usage by abducting children who display the mage abilities of a Promise; parents are killed especially if they try to intercede. Thus young Kestrel is turned into an orphan by the Danisoban, but she manages to escape hiding in the streets as a ragged young beggar. Eventually she learns the way to neutralize magic is water so she becomes a sailor to hide herself from the Danisoban.

Although not formally trained, Kestrel has the skill to control weather while learning to live at sea. After meeting roguish pirate Captain Artemus Binns, she signs on as one of his crew. When Artemus is arrested for piracy, Kestrel pursues him planning to rescue her leader. Instead she finds herself caught in a family civil war between the Ageless King and his seditious offspring Prince Jeremie, who is tired of waiting for his sire to die.

This swashbuckling adventure in a fantasy realm makes for a wild enjoyable one sitting read. The story line is fast-paced as Kestrel gives chase to rescue her hunk of a captain; she is the center that keeps this fine thriller afloat. Although not much is provided on Misty Massey’s magical realm beyond the Danisoban control and the deterrence of water, fans will appreciate this spirited adventure saga wondering who is the modern day female Errol Flynn to play MAD KESTREL.

Harriet Klausner

The Houses of Time-Jamil Nasir

The Houses of Time
Jamil Nasir
Tor, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765306104

Attorney David Grant has spent much of his adult life chasing women, but as he turns middle aged he finds chasing skirts becoming tedious and wonders if that’s all there is in life while recently thinking of his paragon of the perfect female. He signs with the Trans-Humanist Institute where he hopes Dr. Thotmoses can guide him to fantasize about the perfect woman in a dream state as he has given up ever finding his ideal in real flesh.

However, Grant is shocked when he falls in love for the first time with Thotmoses' daughter Kat. He pursues her in a variety of dream realms as he learns to control his fantasies. Thotmoses persuades him to defend him and his family to God. As he begins to believe he has lost his mind, Grant questions with his womanizing history whether he is worthy to present a defense when God is the judge, jury and executioner.

This is a fascinating New Age look at God through the mind of a person who feels inadequate due to his cavalier treatment of women. David can live his life as the supreme being of his dreams or the reality of a failed maniac in an aging body wondering what if. Although too much time is spent on his doubting Thomas belief that surpasses in length Wayne and Garth making them seem worthy of Alice Cooper, THE HOUSES OF TIME is an interesting look at what is God in the information age.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 28, 2008

Private Arrangements-Sherry Thomas

Private Arrangements
Sherry Thomas
Bantam, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780440244318

During late Victorian England, ten years ago Lord Tremaine, Camden Saybrook and Lady Gigi Rowland met and fell in love at first sight; they married, but instead of happy ever after, the next morning Camden learned of his new bride’s schemes to become his Lady Tremaine. Feeling betrayed and a dupe, he left for America.

He finally returns to England still filled with animosity towards Gigi, who has filed for divorce so that she can remarry trite Lord Frederick. He agrees to free her if she meets one stipulation. She must birth his heir in one year. Although she fears her future spouse will learn of her sexual activity with her present spouse and she knows she still loves Camden who deserted her, Gigi accepts his terms.

PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS is a well written Victorian second chance at love starring two likable protagonists. Gigi is terrific as her Machiavellian maneuvers matched only by her mother showcases the limited options high society allows to a woman even with Victoria on the throne for decades. Camden internalizes the hurt that he was just a pawn who was out flanked by his wife. Their return engagement scores on all levels as both come across as intelligent injured party still deeply in love with one another in this excellent historical.

Harriet Klausner

Man of the Hour-Diana Palmer

Man of the Hour
Diana Palmer
Harlequin HQN, Mar 2008,
ISBN: 9780373773275

“Night of Love”. In Wichita Steven Ryker and Meg Shannon were falling in love when his photo with his former mistress Daphne hit the papers; she fled for ballet class in New York. Now years later, they have run into each other; he believes she chose her career over him while she believes he chose another woman over her. However, as they work through their feelings as both remain in love with one another; they are caught up in a mysterious foreign secret agent plot.

“Secret Agent Man”. Former secret agent operative Lang Patton struggles with his return to civilian life although his only regret is ending his engagement to Kirry Campbell, whom he still loves. He feared his occupation would bring danger to his beloved. Now Kirry needs his help as someone is stalking her. Lang vows to keep her safe even if he is still physically and mentally recovering from the assignment that brought him out of the cold into retirement.

These two tales are reprints of entertaining early 1990s “Man of the Month” second chance at love romantic suspense thrillers with plenty of desire and a touch of espionage.

Harriet Klausner

Mystic Horseman-Kathleen Eagle

Mystic Horseman
Kathleen Eagle
Mira, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780778325147

Monica Wilson-Black persuades part-Sioux TV producer Ella Champion that her former spouse’s Wolf Trail Ranch would be the perfect project for the latter’s highly regarded and very popular TV show Who’s Our Neighbor? Monica also knows that convincing Ella was the easy part of this concept of hers; now she must get her ex husband Dillon Black Bear to agree to a makeover of his ranch

Dillon worries about saving his dilapidated South Dakota ranch as his Mystic Warriors Horse Camp summer program for at-risk Native Americans could die without at least safety improvements; he reluctantly agrees to Ella’s offer. However, he never expected his former wife r Monica who hides her cancer from him and their two children, veterinarian student Emily and D.J. to come to South Dakota.

MYSTIC HORSEMAN is an entertaining union of Hollywood and Lakota in South Dakota; although at times the match seems stretched wider than the Northern Great Plains. Still fans of Kathleen Eagle will enjoy the fine story line filled with an interesting spin to the typical second chance at love theme as few writers can bring to life contemporary Lakota life as this author consistently does (see Ride a Painted Pony).

Harriet Klausner

Every Move You Make-Carla Cassidy

Every Move You Make
Carla Cassidy
Signet, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780451223432

In Kansas City, Annalise “Dollmaker” Blakely continues to make the two dolls a year that her mother started thirty years ago with the first “Annalise” doll to honor her daughter’s birth. Since her beloved mom recently died, Annalise struggles 24/7 to keep her mom’s business from going bankrupt. Worse her estranged dad wants back in now that her mom is dead; she does not trust the man who sired her to do anything but siphon funds for his personal use.

Meanwhile her best friend, PR guru Danika wants to date homicide detective Tyler King. Instead Tyler prefers courting Annalise. However, their attraction is put on hold when a serial killer begins strangling women to death before turning them into looking like an Annalise doll. She is the prime suspect even as the killer gloats that he/she is the Real Dollmaker.

This is an enjoyable serial killer romance starring two likable protagonists and a stereotypical psychopath. The story line is fast-paced with the relationship between the sleuth and the doll maker cleverly designed so that he has some niggling doubts as to whether she is the killer. Fans will enjoy Carla Cassidy’s latest romantic suspense thriller as Annalise and Tyler make a fine couple

Harriet Klausner

Poison Pen-Sheila Lowe

Poison Pen
Sheila Lowe
Obsidian, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451223692

She is a graphologist forensic handwriting expert whose clients range from business people who want to check out job applicants to police who use Claudia Rose as an additional tool in their crime investigations. Both divergent groups agree she is always on the money with her assessments.

Claudia and her friend Kelly attend the funeral of their childhood friend Hollywood publicist Lindsey Alexander, who allegedly committed suicide leaving behind an explanatory note written in block letters. Her business manager Ivan does not believe Lindsey killed herself and hires Claudia to prove it. The handwriting is suspicious since Lindsey always wrote in cursive not print although the deceased’s sleazy brother gives Claudia photos to prove otherwise as Lindsey printed on them. The pictures do make it quite clear that Lindsey was a victim of child sexual abuse. Ivan is going to makes an out of town trip and finds some incendiary evidence amidst Lindsey’s belongings. He asks Claudia to come over to his house to look at them; she does, but when she arrives she find him lying dead. She takes the flash drive lying under him home to find it contains a spread sheet of high profiles people into kink. Claudia learns Lindsey was blackmailing them so now has a motive for homicide, but whom. Soon someone shoots at her and her house is broken into and is somewhat trashed. Obviously an unknown adversary wants the case dropped.

Claudia is a strong willed independent person who persists even while skeptics scoff at her profession as being voodoo forensics. The romance between her and the lead detective adds a personalized dimension to the story line without intruding on the inquiry. Among Lindsey’s clients are DC and California politicians and Hollywood superstars with the power and money to hire a pro to make it look like a suicide, but who remains just out of reach.

Harriet Klausner

Murder of a Chocolate Covered Cherry-Denise Swanson

Murder of a Chocolate Covered Cherry
Denise Swanson
Obsidian, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451223685

In Scumble River, Illinois it is time for Grandma Sal’s Soup-to-Nuts Cooking Challenge. School psychologist and police consultant Skye Dennison reluctantly enters the competition along with her brother and honoree uncle because her mother May wants to win this year and her family is using recipes she created. Mrs. Cherry Alexander is getting on everyone’s nerves with her caustic commentary and her dirty tricks, but no one expected her to be murdered for her nasty personality.

Skye is asked by her boyfriend Police Chief Wally Boyd to help on the case; she hesitantly agrees. She is also concerned that one of her students Ashley is missing. She had an unauthorized article written in the school paper that claimed she had sex with the entire male basketball team. Everyone insists that Xenia who wrote the article kidnapped Ashley. Skye works both cases unaware they are linked to one another.

Denise Swanson has written a wonderful small town cozy. The eccentric locals provide much humor yet that enhances the seriousness of the two investigations by bringing a reality of distance from the homicide and missing teen case. Skye wears two hats that she normally balances, but this time they overpay as trouble has come to idyllic Scumble River.

Harriet Klausner

Dark of the Moon-Susan Krinard

Dark of the Moon
Susan Krinard
Harlequin HQN, Mar 2008, $6.99
ISBN 9780373772582

In 1926 New York City, Vampire Enforcer Dorian Black saves intrepid (he insists inane) reporter Gwen Murphy from drowning in the East River. He is shocked by his attraction to the human who thinks he suffers from a mental illness and vows to help him as she always pays her debts.

However, though he wants more than a nip from Gwen’s delicious looking neck, Dorian has greater concerns than his appetite. Having to kill his master vampire, the Enforcer finds a vampiric civil war between the supporters of Christoff and those of Kyril for control of the city’s nightlife. Meanwhile Gwen continues her investigation into the murders of gangsters, whose bodies contain no blood and soon uncovers a vast cell of Manhattan vampires, who learn she could expose them to the newspaper’s daylight.

Although the Roaring Twenties New York does not come to full life, readers will appreciate this delightful vampire historical romance due to the lead couple especially Gwen who only Rosalind Russell could play her. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Mr. Black saves the life of Miss Murphy and never slows down as she keeps digging and he keeps enforcing especially after he meets with the Pax. Fans will appreciate this strong paranormal historical as Susan Krinard cleverly includes a caution against religious extremism in which one way is the only way to God with cleansing being the path.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Heart Remembers-Kim Vogel Sawyer

My Heart Remembers
Kim Vogel Sawyer
Bethany House, Mar 2008
ISBN: 9780764204937

In 1886 New York City, the tenement fire killed Ma and Da Gallagher, leaving their three offspring orphaned. The oldest eight year old Maelle has no time for grief as she watches adults split the trio into different families. She gives the new parents of baby Molly the family bible; and she gives her brother Mattie the family photo. She vows to them to one day find them even as everyone calls her Mike as her short haircut leaves her looking like a boy.

In 1902 Louisiana, traveling photographer Mike Watts continues her search for Mattie and Molly. Mattie has spent a lifetime being discarded by one family after another as he currently lives in Texas. Teenaged Molly was too young to remember the fire, her siblings, her biological parents, or even her birth name as the only family Isabelle as she is called ever had was the Standlers of Kansas City and they just died; but her older Standler brother scornfully informs her who she truly is.

Although the plot device of having siblings separated via the orphan trains with one eventually seeking the others has been used a lot, Kim Vogel Sawyer refreshes it in MY HEART REMEMBERS by rotating the story line between the three lead characters. Thus the audience obtains a deep look at what happened to the trio a decade and a half after the fire radically changed each of their lives. Historical fiction fans will appreciate the saga of the three Gallaghers.

Harriet Klausner

Hidden in Havana-Jose LaTour

Hidden in Havana
Jose LaTour
St. Martin's, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312375676

Two Canadian tourists Sean Abercorn and his wife Marina Leucci jog the streets of Havana when they realize they did not bring enough water with them. To avoid dehydration, they ring the bell of an apartment occupied by siblings Pablo and Elena Miranda. Elena, a special education teacher, lets them in so they can cool off and gives them water.

Pablo is upset with his sister for allowing the strangers into their home as he suspects they cannot be trusted; he ponders what their real intent is. Soon after their encounter, someone murders Pablo. The Department of Technical Investigations Captain Felix Trujillo leads the official inquiry. Although connections between the victim and an illegal but money-making pornography scam surfaces, Trujillo thinks the link is to Pablo’s imprisoned father, who was a key figure in the overthrow of Batista back in the late of 1950s. What he remains ignorant of is the New York Viet Nam links.

Although the focus is mostly on the two tourists rather than on the more typical honest cop working a case within the bounds of a corrupt broken system, readers will appreciate HIDDEN IN HAVANA as the Cuban capital comes alive through the eyes of the outsiders. The story line is fast-paced even with ties back to the pre-Castro era. Fans of international crime capers with somewhat of a foreign police procedural to anchor it will relish Trujillo’s case while wanting him to return for more Cuban investigations.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Is Binding-Lorna Barrett

Murder Is Binding
Lorna Barrett
Berkley, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425219584

The town of Stoneham, New Hampshire is considered the safest place in the sate because it hasn’t had a murder in sixty years. However, Stoneham is ironically also a dying town until the President of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of Kelly ERealty Bob Kelly lured several used specialty bookstore owners to open shops on Main Street.

One of the newcomers is Tricia Miles who opened her mystery bookstore. When she visits the cookbook store, Tricia finds proprietor Doris Gleason dead with a knife in her chest. The rare cookbook that Doris purchased is missing. The female sheriff has taken an instant dislike of Tricia and is determined to find enough evidence to prove she killed Doris; she looks nowhere else for motives. When the victim’s twin sister arrives to take over the cookbook store, Tricia is shocked that the newcomer has no interest in who killed her sibling. Tricia begins her own inquiries to clear her name and soon finds an elderly woman committed to a nursing home due to dementia but seems quite lucid when they talk. As local businessman Mike shows he is interested in her as does the sheriff for different reasons Tricia keeps digging to uncover who killed Doris.

Stoneham seems so real that readers will regret when they recall it is fictional as it seems like a heavenly place to foliage for books. The townsfolk are friendly and helpful to Tricia and other newcomers, but in the heroine’s case that somewhat changes when many assume she is the killer; their logic is impeccable as why else would the sheriff consider her a person of major (and only) person of interest. Fans of regional amateur sleuth cozies will want to visit the bookstores of Stoneham guided by Tricia as she learns first hand that MURDER IS BINDING.

Harriet Klausner

French Pressed-Cleo Coyle

French Pressed
Cleo Coyle
Berkley, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780425220498

Clare Cosi, manager of the famous Village Blend Coffeehouse, is having dinner at Manhattan’s Solange French cuisine restaurant with her former mother-in-law. Her daughter Joy works as an intern in the kitchen; Clare is concerned because Joy is violating the cardinal rule of restaurant employment having an affair with the married chief chef Tommy Keitel, who is also three decades older. To keep a closer eye on her offspring, Clare cuts a coffee deal with Tommy that enables her entrance to the vaunted kitchen. Inside she sees Tommy’s second in command looking like she wants to kill Joy.

Later Joy calls her mom and tells her she found her friend Vinny dead in his apartment with a knife in his back. The police interrogate Joy as they consider her a viable suspect. Later, she becomes the prime suspect in Keitel’s death because earlier that night he broke their affair publicly and he was dispatching her to another restaurant to complete her internship. Clare who has solved other homicides begins an inquiry into both homicides with the help of her boyfriend Detective Mike Quinn to prove her daughter is innocent.

French cuisine, specialty caffeine, and cozy lovers will find FRENCH PRESSED a delicious tasty mystery, but do not read on an empty stomach. The whodunit is cleverly constructed so that fans will not only fail to figure out who the culprit is but begin to think Joy did it. Quirky Clare has come a long way since she went THROUGH THE GRINDER and made her first cup of coffee, but remains a strong caring independent woman. She makes this perky series so good that readers can smell the coffee.

Harriet Klausner

Raine: The Lords of Satyr- Elizabeth Amber

Raine: The Lords of Satyr
Elizabeth Amber
Kensington Aphrodisia, Mar 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758220400

In 1823, the Elseworld Faery King Feydon makes a dying demand of the three scandalous Satyr siblings known for their endless sexual appetites; he orders them to marry his three illegitimate daughters. With no choice the trio heads respectively to their European destiny.

The middle brother Raine was married once before and though that ended in failure as his spouse could not deal with his satyr needs, he stoically goes to meet his bride, the King’s second daughter, Jordan in Venice. His plan is simple; hide his sexual needs from Jordan for as long as possible so that maybe they will bond before his lower head takes command of his body. However when they meet for the first time both is filled with desire as the attraction is heated. Jordan tries to hide her deep craving to be constantly caressed and loved by a man who loves her as she fears she will drive him away with her sexual needs. As they fall in love, Raine and Jordan continue to conceal what they want although in his case it is a bit harder (pun intended) to hide that seemingly eternal flag pole.

The second Lords of Satyr tale (see NICHOLAS) is a heated historical romantic fantasy that make the audience believe in satyrs (who never need Viagra) and the half-breeds who satisfy their constant craving. The lead couple shares in common: lust, love, and lies of omission as both hide their deepest needs and desires so as to not run the other off. With one erotica to go, sub-genre fans will appreciate the sexual encounters of the Regency world of Elizabeth Amber (surname seems tepid for fiery red hot romances).

Harriet Klausner

Betrayed-Jamie Leigh Hanson

Jamie Leigh Hanson
Tor, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780765357205

Nine lifetimes, nine attempts, nine deaths, nine rebirths, nine failures; if Kalyss fails this last time to rescue her beloved Dreux from the statue prison that holds him before her brother-in-law Kai murders her again, she will move on to eternal emptiness without him. However, with each reincarnation, she does not remember the past, her spouse or his brother until it has been too late while Dreux has seen each time the horror of his blood killing his love.

This time two enigmatic strangers intrude on her cycle of life and death by gifting her; some might say cursing her; with the knowledge of her past lives. Still as she eludes her constant predator surviving his assault for the first time in their millennium contest, she still has to figure out how to break the curse that has left her dead nine times and Dreux locked away in a prison.

This engaging romantic fantasy uses flashbacks to tell what happened in the past so that the audience obtains a strong tale in which through nine lifetimes hate has proven stronger than love. Readers will believe angels populate the earth; all seeking redemption with some of them being evil. BETRAYED is a superb battle in a war between good and evil fought on a battlefield of undying love.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 26, 2008

One More Sunrise- Michael Landon, Jr. and Tracie Peterson

One More Sunrise
Michael Landon, Jr. and Tracie Peterson
Bethany House, Jan 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764203626

In 1941 Kansas, Joe Daley dreams of becoming an Army Air Force fighter pilot. However he never achieves his aspiration when he fails his physical. He settles for being a dust cropping pilot. However, he never moved past his failure, which has permeated his life and his marriage to Meg.

In 1958, Luke Ramsey, who courted Meg in high school, offers a lot of money to the local farmers as the Vanguard corporation he represents wants to buy up all the land; Joe has doubts that the big farm firm cares about the locals and decides to oppose the venture. Meanwhile his plane hits a large bird and begins to dive towards the earth; Joe thinks of Meg and their two kids as he prays for a chance for ONE MORE SUNRISE with them.

This entertaining inspirational historical fiction enables the reader to fully understand the hero who lost his zest fro life when he failed the military physical. Between his passion to prevent the Vanguard takeover and realizing the failure of his life is not that physical but his relationship with Meg and his kids as his plane falls, Joe prays for a second chance with his family. Fans will enjoy this fine redemption tale as Joe finally moves on, but it appears too late for him to tell Meg, Danny, and Christy.

Harriet Klausner

Compromised-Kate Noble

Kate Noble
Berkley, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9780425219645

In 1829 the Alton sisters return to London for their delayed debut season after spending several years abroad with their father Sir Geoffrey, an ambassador. The siblings see the upcoming galas differently though they agree that their new stepmother Romilla is a pompous flit. Beautiful Evangeline looks forward to the balls while way too tall and intelligent Gail fears she will be ridiculed.

Needing time by herself, Gail sneaks out for an early morning ride. However instead of serenity, Viscount Fontaine accidentally knocks her into the lake when he fails to reign in his horse. To her shock and outrage, Maximilian blames Gail for her soaking. Later she catches this arrogant rogue kissing and COMPROMISING Evangeline, whom he apparently feels will meet his father’s criteria of a wife. If he doesn’t marry someone his father approves of he will be or disinherited in three months. However, Max has one problem; the amusingly brilliant future sister-in-law is all he can think of making love to even when he steals a kiss with her sister.

COMPROMISED is an amusing historical romance with Romilla stealing the show from the onset as she explains to her dolt of a stepdaughter that in London people spy on their neighbors. The humorous story line is fast-paced from the early morning teas to the gossiping Ton to the final scandal of the month. Readers will appreciate this lighthearted late regency romp.

Harriet Klausner

Bound-Sally Gunning

Sally Gunning
Morrow, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780061240256

With the family patriarch in the colonies, the rest of the Coles travel from London to the New World to join him in 1756. During the harsh sea voyage, seven year old Alice watches her mom and brothers die. In Boston her father rids himself of the burden of raising her by indenturing her for the next eleven years to the Morton family of Dedham.

Alice does housework, but is treated like a daughter for the most part by her Morton owners. She and ten-years-old Abigail "Nabby" Morton become friends. When Nabby marries Emery Verley of Medfield, her parents transfer her indenture contract to their new son-in-law. However, she is treated with disdain and abuse so she runs away. She makes it to Cape Cod where Lyddie Berry (see THE WIDOW’S WAR) and her companion Eben Freeman shower her with kindness and give her a home and a job. Everything looks good until Alice realizes she is pregnant.

BOUND is an insightful look back at the horrors of the late colonial period’s indentured servant system that included selling children into servitude. Readers will be stunned by the horrors of what happens to Alice in her second assignment. In many ways a cautionary tale that claims economics often trumps freedom especially for impoverished people, Sally Gunning provides a well written thought provoking mid eighteenth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade-Nicole Galland

Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade
Nicole Galland
Harper, Feb 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9780060841805

The nomadic musician left Britain to tour the continent, but when he reaches Venice he decides to join the Fourth Crusade. There he meets resolute believer Germanic knight Gregor of Mainz, the intrepid warrior’s father-in-law the leader of the crusade Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, and in disguise as an Arab Princess Jewish healer Jamila of Alexandria, whom the wanderer rescues.

However, a lack of capital slows down the crusaders from achieving their goal to retake Jerusalem. To keep their quest alive, they first sack the Christian city of Zara and surround Constantinople. As the musician, Jamila and Gregor try to perform good deeds; the crusaders have other desires enflamed by Boniface, who plans to use his expendable force to gain increased power and wealth.

CROSSED is entertaining historical thriller that looks deep at the way leaders manipulate their supporters for avaricious reasons. The musician without a name and Jamila are developed enough to bring the thirteenth century to life. On the other hand Boniface seems so one dimensional and a cruel nasty sort, one must wonder how he lined up support. Gregor steals the show as he changes from idealistic zealot to disillusioned realist.

Harriet Klausner

Cheating at Solitaire-Jane Haddam

Cheating at Solitaire
Jane Haddam
St. Martin's, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312343088

In Philadelphia Gregor Demarkian and Bennis Hannaford are planning to marry after seeing each other exclusively for quite some time. However, the wedding preparation demands are driving the sleuth crazy. He considers eloping, but his beloved Bennis is looking forward to the ceremony celebrated with their family and friends.

Thus when he has an opportunity to escape to New England to work on a high visibility homicide, he does not need a second invitation; Gregor informs Bennis that whatever she does re the nuptials in his absence is acceptable by him as he leaves town immediately for Margaret's Harbor. Famous celebrity Arrow Normand and her boyfriend of the moment Mark Anderman were filming on location when she was murdered during a nasty nor'easter. Normand was arrested for the murder.

CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE is a terrific whodunit as the hero struggles with a case involving pseudo and 15 minute celebrities; a sub-species he does not understand. Gregor’s difficulties with what makes the shallow in-crowd tick turn this into a superior entry in a strong series, as he cannot find a reliable motive for the homicide while also working a couple of other investigations.

Harriet Klausner

Separated at Death-Sheldon Rusch

Separated at Death
Sheldon Rusch
Berkley, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425219485

On the day she became engaged to Brady, Illinois State special agent Elizabeth Hewitt is assigned to what will prove to be one of the most horrific cases of her career. She and the daughter of her mentoring Captain has is daughter Jen Spangler job shadowing her. They are sent to the house of Rita Vandermause. There they find her body in a pool of blood, but her head is nowhere around. The obvious first suspect is the victim’s estranged husband Joe, but he is found dead with his head missing too.

A second couple is soon discovered dead with their heads missing. Elizabeth and Jen seek the common threads and learn the latest pair was estranged and like the first duet went to Big Shoulders Therapies for marriage counseling; the other commonality is psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Boccachio. Matters turn bizarre when pictures of the dead couples dressed up for a wedding are sent to Mundelein Dispatch owner Byron Biffle, whose father was murdered several years ago in a still unsolved case. Elizabeth has quite a list of suspects so she sends Jen to interview the person she considers least dangerous; her assessment will prove wrong.

SEPARATED AT DEATH is an exciting police procedural showcasing an experienced cop mentoring a criminology student who starts off shadowing her but eventually persuades her teacher to allow her some independent field work. Both women are believable as bright and independent role models. There is plenty of action in this complex mystery, but the heart of the tale is the strong cast because this makes for a credible and terrific investigation by the two dedicated sleuths.

Harriet Klausner

Seduced by Darkness-Delilah Devlin

Seduced by Darkness
Delilah Devlin
Avon, Mar 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061161247

In present day Bayou St. John, Nicholas Mountfaucom worries about the damage the flood is doing to the Morel mausoleum because inside is locked away a monster that he fears might escape. Nicholas decides to go underwater to inspect the damage when mage Simon arrives to assist him.

Converted vampire Nicholas visits Born vampire Chessy Tomas who he has sex with but pretends he is not concerned about her needs. He hides how much he cares for her because Chessy only thinks of her former police partner Rene who vanished with Natalie the vampire INTO THE DARKNESS. Nicholas warns Chessy about the monster’s escape before he dominates her with more sex. Soon after Chessy meets her new partner Alex but she hopes to get rid of him as she only wants Rene as her partner. They seek nests of rogue vampires crossing the blood line by killing their host. After killing a few rogues, Chessy seeks sex from a willing partner and finds “Breadman”. Alex joins them but he insists on no biting.

Meanwhile in the river lies the bodies of cops whose hearts have been torn out. The “Devourer” has escaped from his prison crypt. Nicholas is angry when he sees Alex touching Chessy and smells his sex all over her. Alex and Nicholas make it clear that they both want Chessy even as they know the recapture of the Devourer comes first.

The Devlin mythos filled with demons and Born and Created vampires seem genuine while the investigation and erotic subplots are well written but be aware there are explicit bondage scenes. Although the heroine has sex at moments when she is in trouble slowing down the non sexual subplots and the anticipated climax is a bit of a let down, readers will enjoy this hearted erotic romantic police procedural fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 25, 2008

Wife Goes On-Leslie Lehr

Wife Goes On
Leslie Lehr
Kensington, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9780758222411

In Los Angeles four women who share in common failed marriages meet for the first time at a furniture store. They become close friends. In spite of two young children, Diane ended her marriage due to her spouse’s gambling addiction. Lana’s relationship to a Hollywood hunk died while the tabloids and late night TV turned her into a dumb joke as he publicly cheated on her. Former homecoming queen Bonnie remains married to a martinet husband still reliving his football glory days until he bucks their marriage leaving her with two children in holy singleness.

Diane learns that Annette resides in the house her ex gambled away. Bonnie nearly emotionally collapses while choosing a coffee table with Lana’s help. Soon the foursome turns to one another for mental support and little favors.

WIFE GOES ON is a compassionate look at female survivors of the divorce war forming a bond of sisters. Each member of the quartet is unique with divergent issues, but is there for one another. Although the selfish childish husbands come across as one dimensional deserving of being raw meat at a vampire convention, fans will enjoy this often amusing but always deep look at the aftermath of ending a for worse only relationship as life for the ex wife goes on

Harriet Klausner

The Memory of Water-Karen White

The Memory of Water
Karen White
NAL, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN 9780451223036

After being away from her hometown for almost a decade, Arizona school teacher Marnie Maitland returns home to McLellanville, South Carolina. She only came back to the Low Country because her former brother-in-law Quinn begged her to help her nine-year-old nephew Gil whom she has never met.

As Marnie and Gil connect and to a lesser degree she with Quinn, her sister Diana resents her intruding in the life of her son and for that matter hers. Marnie realizes her sibling is angry with her and assumes the reason is the boating accident when they were kids that killed their mother while they survived. Whereas Marnie recalls little of that fatal day, Diana has tied the accident to the “Maitland Curse” that has haunted the family for decades.

THE MEMORY OF WATER is a strong family drama due to the four prime players feeling real especially their flawed interrelationships. The story line smoothly changes viewpoint between the quartet so the audience sees different looks at the same event or issue; especially how the sisters interpret their mother’s death. With a final plausible yet surprising twist, readers will be LEARNING TO BREATHE while waiting for her next tale.

Harriet Klausner

Nightshade-Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, April 2008, $23.95, 304 pp.
ISBN: 9780425219560

Recently, China Boyles learned she had an illegitimate half-brother Miles sired by her father on his secretary Laura who worked in his law firm. He never knew the man he called uncle was really his dad until his biological father died leading to Miles finding letters written to his mother. They implied he was in danger and so were Laura and Miles. Miles believes that the car accident that killed his father was in reality a murder.

China is not interested in reconnecting with her past to find out if her father was murdered but her husband McQuaid, now a private detective, is very interested for numerous reasons. When Miles thinks he located the car that his father died in, he asks McQuaid to meet him at a designated spot. When he doesn’t show up, China and McQuaid learn he was killed in the garage where he parks his car for work. McQuaid is determined to carry on with the investigation and when he goes to the location of where the car is supposed to be the woman who is holding on to it looks like she is dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. McQuaid is sure that it was attempted murder and when he pools his information with the info on the tape Laura made that China found, they go to confront someone who might have the answers not knowing that China is in danger of getting shot.

NIGHTSHADE is one of the best books in the China Bayles series. The story is told in the first person POV from the perspectives of China and McQuaid allowing fans for the first time to understand how he thinks. They will love what they learn especially how he sees his wife and his feelings about her that he is too macho to articulate. The mystery is well thought out and the killings in the present have roots in the past. Susan Wittig Albert always delivers a fantastic mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Chasin’ the Wind-Michael Haskins

Chasin’ the Wind
Michael Haskins
Five Star, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146381

At the Key West Sail Club, three men batter Tom Hunter. His pal reporter Liam “Mad Mick” Murphy finds him and just before he goes unconscious Tom whispers Gusanos, Cuban exiles. Whereas police Chief Richard Dowlry assumes the upcoming Key West Havana Boat race brought some angry Cuban exiles to the Keys from Little Havana, Mad Mick learns otherwise. A bartender overheard three Cubans bragging about roughing up someone.

Mad Mick learns they are Jose Lopez, Carlos Gonzales and Pepe Fernandez and that the Feds are protecting these hoodlums. When Tom dies, Mick and others want justice, but the American government turns its back on the law so led by Mick, the Conch Republic eccentrics seek help from Cuban police officials.

With an obvious twist on who’s the good guys and who is the bad guys, CHASIN’ THE WIND is an engaging crime thriller that will have readers (with the exception of those who still expect to find the WMDs) rethinking the relationship with Cuba. The story line is fast-paced as the Feds protect the killing Gusanos while the locals demand justice from their government but turn elsewhere to achieve it. Fans will ponder did Mick and crew commit treason by going to Cuba and did the Gusanos commit murder since the government “sanctioned” them and the government makes the law. Michael Haskins provides an offbeat entertaining thriller that will remind ancient boomers of Phil Ochs’ Ballad of William Worthy whose refrain is “You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay”.

Harriet Klausner

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden-Rhys Bowen

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden
Rhys Bowen
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312349431

In 1902 in snowy Central Park Molly Murphy and her sweetheart suspended New York City police Captain Daniel Sullivan (see OH DANNY BOY) are walking together enjoying the moment. However their idyllic stroll abruptly ends when they see a scantily clad woman half buried in a snow drift. They rescue the near dead but obviously traumatized young lady.

Molly is outraged that someone could do this to another human. She vows to learn the identity of the still in shock woman and uncover who coldly left her to die. At about the same time, actress Blanche Lovejoy hires Molly to investigate the spiritual mischief that is devastating her production of a play scheduled to open shortly but is in trouble due to the ghostly vandalism. Although her time is already tight, Molly agrees to make inquiries into the vanished nephew of a wealthy client, who wants to know if her relative disappeared to avoid a homicide prosecution or is the victim of foul play.

Molly’s business is booming so she hires an assistant, an out of work cop who is dating her. Fascinatingly, the cases tie together in the theater leading to Molly going on stage to solve the mysteries. Readers will appreciate the latest entry of the unsinkable Molly Murphy as she continues to prove that she can make it in Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

Witch Blood-Anya Bast

Witch Blood
Anya Bast
Berkley, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425220436

Water Witch Isabelle Novak flirts outrageously with Dustkoff Warlock chief Stefan Faucheux until they are alone in his limo. Suddenly she grabs his balls and begins freezing the liquids inside his body as she seeks to kill him as his demon killed her half-sister Angela. Fire Witch coven Chief Thomas Monahan prevents Isabelle from finishing the act. He has Adam Tyrell and Jack McAllister take Stefan to Gribbon prison where magic does not work so that he can be interrogated. Though drawn to Thomas, Isabelle angrily vanishes disobeying her leader’s insistence they talk.

The next day Isabelle explains to Thomas that since she cannot find the demon that killed her sister, she went after the man whose late father brought him here. Coven archivist Micah asks Stefan why the demon has not gone home after so many years here. He explains there are four types of demons in their world with no one wanting this type of demon to come home. Stefan also says that he must kill four witches to rape their power in order to open a portal to the demon realm. Finally he gives Micah access to his demon library in exchange for his swift death.

Isabelle and Thomas kiss and begin stripping when they are interrupted by Mira who says she heard whispered the name Simon Alexander. They keep him under surveillance, but he shows no sign of power. Simon meets an earth witch Melanie and her daughter Katie when the demon arrives, but in spite of being hurt by Isabelle, he escapes. As Thomas and Isabel work together to stop the demonic killing, they fall in love.

The sequel to the bewitching WITCH FIRE is a terrific romantic fantasy in which (pun intended) the key paranormal species Witch, Warlock, or Demon seem genuine; especially fascinating is the types of demons residing on Demon World. Fans will appreciate this strong tale although a late escape feels anti-climatic. Still the romance is strong set in the superbly developed Bast universe where the unreal feels real.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Twist-Colby Hodge

Colby Hodge
Doechester Shomi, Feb 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527486

In the Chicago area Abbey Shore works hard renovating houses in order to pay for college where she hopes to study architecture like her late dad did before his fatal accident. She is on the job and tired when a wall crumbles revealing a hidden room behind it. Inside is an odd object that suddenly begins to rotate. Before she knows what happened in what seems like a blink, Abbey is one century into her future.

There she sees Dr. Shane Maddox, whom she met in her present at the Sacred Heart Emergency Room when she needed stitches due to an on the job injury. He holds her culpable for his becoming what he has become when an alien stalking her over a hundred years ago took him instead. These aliens have since destroyed humanity but with the arrival of Abbey he has renewed hope.

Told from Abbey’s perspective, TWIST is a superb apocalyptic thriller that from the moment her karate class is canceled until the final Tick never slows down as the heroine confronts one crisis after another in a future devastated by pandemic disease and a nasty predator. Abbey is terrific from the onset as time never stands still or moves linear; instead Colby Hodge asserts its one TWIST after another until the circle is either broken or complete.

Harriet Klausner

The Philosopher's Apprentice-James Morrow

The Philosopher's Apprentice
James Morrow
Morrow, Mar 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061351440

A Philosophy PH.D candidate withdraws his application after losing a heated argument re his dissertation; the only thing left for him to obtain his doctorate. Mason Ambrose accepts work tutoring seventeen year old Londa Sabacthani, who suffered a severe head injury that destroyed her morality. Her brilliant mother molecular geneticist Edwina wants Mason to help her daughter regain what she lost.

Mason travels to Edwina’s home on Ilsa de Sangre of the Florida Keys to work with Londa, who tells him she is an only child. Soon after he arrives Mason finds on the next estate five-year-old Donya living with two tutors trying to help her regain her lost "rectitude" following a brain injury occurring from a bicycle accident. Donya insists she is an only child whose mother is Edwina. The three tutors share notes and conclude after some other snooping that Edwina is a female Dr. Frankenstein.

This is an excellent satirical look at American ethics re business, science, politics, and the family with seemingly nonsensical actions yet retains its feasibility. This is mostly because the solid cast rings genuine especially the kids. For instance Londa takes her new learned ethics to the business community. Fans who appreciate something different but entertainingly well written and thought provoking will want to follow the teaching escapades of THE PHILOSOPHER'S APPRENTICE.

Harriet Klausner

Forgive Me-Amanda Eyre Ward

Forgive Me
Amanda Eyre Ward
Random House, Feb 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780345494474

Thirtyish international journalist Nadine travels the hot spots of the globe in pursut of the story. However, when she journeyed to a small village outside Mexico City to interview the parents of twelve recently murdered young boys, two thugs battered her breaking ribs and more. When Nadine regains consciousness she finds herself in the Cape Cod B&B owned by her estranged father and his fiancée. Dr. Duarte provides her needed medical care.

Nadine feels this is the last place she wants to be while healing. She reads in the paper an article on a local couple traveling to Cape Town, South Africa to attend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. The pair needs to hear why a black woman killed their white son in 1988. Nadine feels a deep need to cover the story so without official backing, she flies to Cape Town, a place where she lost the love of her life. She meets grieving Americans; who give her their late son’s boyhood journal.

FORGIVE ME is an interesting morality drama starring an interesting protagonist who believes the story comes before her safety although her Mexican incident has left her with doubts. The tale cleverly uses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings to spotlight Apartheid, but could have been any prejudicial ism especially state sponsored. The journal that the parents give Nadine leads to her reflecting back on her failed relationships with her father and her soulmate. Although some spins feel forced and false, fans will appreciate Amanda Eyre Ward’s deep look at motivation of individuals and countries.

Harriet Klausner

Names on a Map-Benjamin Alire Saenz

Names on a Map
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Harper, Feb 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780061285691

In 1967 El Paso, insurance salesman Octavio Espejo is happily married to Lourdes as they raise three children together. However, the blight in his mind to his American lifestyle is his Mexican roots; Octavio has not been back or seen his family ever since he was ferried across the Rio Grande as a child.

However, his children begin to reconsider their national identity. Teenager Gustavo has received the certified “Greetings” letter directing him to report to basic training; which in the Chicano border communities means tours of Viet Nam. He does not want to go as he is becoming aware of freedom fighting in America not Southeast Asia. His twin sister Xochil still struggles to overcome her anger and acrimony over being raped when she was twelve years old. Both wonder if America is where they belong.

This is a strong timely historical character driven thriller as Benjamin Alire Saenz enables the reader to look deep into the Espejo family whose members each struggle differently with assimilation at a time of women’s liberation, civil rights especially the growing Chicano awareness, and cutting across all is Nam. NAMES ON A MAP is insightful as the children reconsider and resist Americanization understanding the nightmare while their parents have doubts but embrace the dream.

Harriet Klausner

Unknown Means-Elizabeth Becka

Unknown Means
Elizabeth Becka
Hyperion, Feb 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 9781401301750

Cleveland Medical Examiner Evelyn James knows her life is full between work and her personal relationships. A single mom Evelyn struggles not to murder her glowering teenage daughter Angel and tries to separate her romance with homicide detective David Milaski from their work together.

The current case involves the murder of twenty-eight years old affluent Grace Markham in her locked apartment inside a secure building. Not too long after the homicide, Metro General Hospital ER Doctor Bailey calls her at two in the morning because someone assaulted her friend Marissa Gonzalez, who lives in the same building as Grace did. Another similar homicide occurs. Evelyn, David and his partner, Bruce Riley investigate trying to find the link between the victims at a time the case load starting with the Lake Erie underwater explosion affirms to Evelyn that twenty-four hours is not enough time in a day.

The anti Kay Scarpetta (personality that is), Evelyn holds this strong police procedural together. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Evelyn and the police team look for clues at the Markham crime scene and never slows down even when she investigate the Lake Erie explosion while almost crapping in her underwear out of fear. Readers will like this forensic police tale and seek Evelyn’s previous appearance (see TRACE EVIDENCE).

Harriet Klausner

Twist-Colby Hodge

Colby Hodge
Doechester Shomi, Feb 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780505527486

In the Chicago area Abbey Shore works hard renovating houses in order to pay for college where she hopes to study architecture like her late dad did before his fatal accident. She is on the job and tired when a wall crumbles revealing a hidden room behind it. Inside is an odd object that suddenly begins to rotate. Before she knows what happened in what seems like a blink, Abbey is one century into her future.

There she sees Dr. Shane Maddox, whom she met in her present at the Sacred Heart Emergency Room when she needed stitches due to an on the job injury. He holds her culpable for his becoming what he has become when an alien stalking her over a hundred years ago took him instead. These aliens have since destroyed humanity but with the arrival of Abbey he has renewed hope.

Told from Abbey’s perspective, TWIST is a superb apocalyptic thriller that from the moment her karate class is canceled until the final Tick never slows down as the heroine confronts one crisis after another in a future devastated by pandemic disease and a nasty predator. Abbey is terrific from the onset as time never stands still or moves linear; instead Colby Hodge asserts its one TWIST after another until the circle is either broken or complete.

Harriet Klausner

Deluge-Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Del Rey, March 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780345470065

On the sentient planet Petaybee, the Company Corps has made a serendipitous landing, hoping to catch the natives off guard so they can round them up easily and send them to the prison planet Gwinnet. They arrive to find an empty village, the inhabitants hiding in the communal cave where they speak to Petaybee. The Corps is trapped in their ship by a terrific storm the planet sent their way.

The Selkie twins Ronan and Muriel have convinced the ship changing aliens who usually take the form of sea otters, to use their city-ship and take them to Versatile Station owned by their influential friend Marmie. She has been sent to the Gwinnet prison planet by corrupt officials bringing false charges against her. The twins want to contact Marmie’s influential friends to talk to them about her imprisonment and the invasion of Petaybee. They can’t use Petaybee’s com because of bad weather conditions. They reach the station ahead of the Corps and they send a message just before the Corps takes over. They and the inhabitants of the station are taken to Gwinnet where the twins old enemy professor Mabo is waiting to conduct painful experiments on them to figure out how they change into seals when in water

DELUGE wraps up the Twins of Petaybee trilogy and all the questions are answered and all the loose ends are sewn up. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this fantastic space opera with its fast pacing, action scenes and the interaction of humans and shape-shifting life sentient aliens. There are plenty of villains from corrupt prison officials to power hungry men and women of the Company Corps to a mad professor; readers will thoroughly enjoy the tale in hope they get what they deserve, especially those that are irredeemable.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Lady of Hidden Intent-Tracie Peterson

A Lady of Hidden Intent
Tracie Peterson
Bethany House, Mar 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764201462

In 1850 in Bath England, Catherine Newbury has lived a luxurious lifestyle without a care in the world. Her idyllic life ends when she learns the police are coming to arrest her father Nelson for co-owning a slave ship. Knowing he is innocent, Nelson refuses to run. However, he wants his beloved daughter safe while he corrects the mess.

Five years later in Philadelphia, Catherine is a popular dress designer who desperately needs to find a way to prove her father is innocent and get him released from prison; only her belief in God keeps her going. American architect Carter Danby, whom her dad introduced to her on her last party night in England, sees her when he escorts his mother and sister for a fitting, but does not recognize her. Still he desires her and wants to help her as he believes by her demeanor that she is carrying a dark mystery, but though she finds him attractive, she refuses to reveal her secret as she trusts no one except God since her father was incarcerated falsely.

A LADY OF HIDDEN INTENT is an entertaining inspirational Victorian romance. Catherine holds the story line together as she changes from pampered debutante to self sufficient designer while never losing sight of her objective or her faith in God not man. Sub-genre readers will appreciate this fine heartening historical.

Harriet Klausner

The Blue Star- Tony Earley

The Blue Star
Tony Earley
Little, Brown, Mar 2008, $23.99
ISBN 9780316199070

In 1941 in Aliceville, North Carolina seventeen year old high school senior Jim Glass loves fellow student Chrissie Steppe, but can do little about his attraction. Chrissie has a boyfriend, Jim’s buddy Arthur “Bucky” Bucklaw who joined the navy; complicating matters for Jim is her family owes his family a lot of money. Still he vows to one day make Chrissie his girlfriend.

He turns to his paternal models for advice; his Uncles Coran and Zeno coach Jim on winning the heart of a girl. However, everything abruptly changes December 7, 1941 in which his quest seems childish when compared to Bucky being stationed on the USS California which was hit by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. For that matter Jim, like many of his peers, wonders if staying in school to play baseball until he graduates is more important than fighting for his country immediately.

Seven years have passed since the adventures of JIM THE BOY (not read) as he has matured from a precocious ten yea old to a still growing up high school student in love when WWII intercedes. Patriotism becomes a key theme as an odd triangle forms. Readers will appreciate the true sacrifice (not the DC pandering) the military makes to serve. However, it is the impact on Jim and his high school peers who are of an age to join and feel the need to do so that makes the sequel a strong look at America going to war.

Harriet Klausner

Right Here, Right Now-HelenKay Dimon

Right Here, Right Now
HelenKay Dimon
Kensington Brava, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758222237

Reed Larkin informs his girlfriend Gabby Pearson that he no longer wants to see her. He further explains in the restaurant that “It’s not you, it’s me”. She is shocked as she thought they were making it and his trite general rationale stinks. Gabby shows her appreciation by dumping her drink on his head before leaving; her prime regret was they never slept together.

Reed accomplished the hardest task of his life when he ended his relationship with Gabby, whom he wants with every cell in his body. Making matters worse within moments of receiving a wine shower, his handler informs Reed that he is to seduce Gabby who allegedly has the information they need. He has one day to persuade her to join him on the sheets, but Gabby is beyond outraged with him and he has to agree she has the right to be..

This is a fabulous romantic suspense thriller as operative Reed cannot believe that just after his head tastes her wine, his handler orders him to seduce Gabby. That premise makes for an entertaining battle of the sexes as the clock is ticking and he has to undo the damage he caused when he dumped her. Making things even harder for Reed is that he is halfway in love with Gabby. HelenKay Dimon provides a fun gender war in which the prime suspense element comes appropriately late as RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW is a two person combat tale.

Harriet Klausner

Cross- Ken Bruen

Ken Bruen
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312341428

In Galway detective Jack Taylor feels his past has caught up with him as the years of boozing has wracked his body. A loner due to his alcoholism, he is emotionally shattered when his apprentice Cody was shot when Jack was the intended victim. Jack decides it is time to cross the pond and start anew in America.

While Cody remains in the hospital, Jack’s solo friend lesbian Gardai Ridge persuades him to help her on a monstrous series of murders. The first victim was crucified alive followed by the burning at the stake of his sister. Jack’s investigation leads him to a grieving twenty year old woman screaming for fire and brimstone against those involved in a hit and run that killed her bible thumping mother.

The Jack Taylor Irish thrillers are some of the most exciting tales on the market, but CROSS may be the best yet as Ken Bruen plays brilliant word games with connotations, denotations, and implications of the title word. The story line is filled with action yet enables the reader to know Jack who personally understands crippling grief as he believes suffering is as Irish as stew.

Harriet Klausner

The Price of Blood-Declan Hughes

The Price of Blood
Declan Hughes
Morrow, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780060825515

In Dublin, Father Vincent Tyrrell hires private investigator Ed Loy to find missing jockey Patrick Hutton. The case is made complex by the fact that his client offers only a name and that Hutton disappeared about a decade ago. Loy wants to say forget it as he figures he has little chance of finding the man, but the fee is too good to ignore.

Loy knows he must tread the streets very carefully as the Halligan family plan to rough him and more because they hold him culpable for one of them residing behind bars. As he makes inquiries on another case involving a homicide that leads back to Father Vincent’s brother affluent business mogul F.X. Tyrell, Loy soon finds himself investigating two other related homicides connected to the Tyrell family. Beaten severely and told to back off or else, Loy keeps digging until the trail takes him to the four-day Leopardstown Race-course Christmas Festival.

In his third appearance (see THE COLOR OF BLOOD and THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD) Loy does what he does best: gets tattered and threatened but keeps on ticking. The story line is fast-paced from the opening request and though filled with neat twists never slows down until the final altercation. Bruised, battered and beaten, Loy still conducts intelligent inquires whose link is F.X. Private investigative fans will enjoy Declan Hughes’ strong Irish mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Heat-Joel C. Rosenberg

Dead Heat
Joel C. Rosenberg
Tyndale, Mar 2008, $24.99, 384 pp.
ISBN: 9781414311616

President James Macpherson is on his way to Los Angeles to give a speech at the Republican National Convention at the Staples Center. His intelligence team killed a terrorist they has been hunting for years but in his computer they find a map of the Staples Center. They think the terrorists are targeting the president but are confident that they have him protected. The Secret Service is proven wrong when container ships launch scud missiles with nuclear warheads at D.C., Seattle, Manhattan, and Southern California killing the president and many others.

Vice President Oaks is now the president and he and his advisors are in a bunker deep underground. He intends to make the country who launched the bombs pay for killing millions of Americans but he has no idea what country it is. North Korea is prepared to invade the South and could have done it as they had the means. The new president of Iraq who makes Saddam Hussein look like a choir boy hates the Americans and is in league with the U.N. Secretary-General. He is prepared to go to war to prevent the Kurdish providence from succeeding and joining the new Kurdistan. Israel builds the Third Temple to the consternation of other nations. It looks like intelligence is needed to figure out who killed America and since the infrastructure is destroyed, the US must depend on its allies and what little intelligence they have from contact with the field.

Joel C. Rosenberg writes a political thriller think is based on today’s headlines and most of the events in DEAD HEAT could conceivably happen. The action is non stop from the very first page and the politicians and elected officials feel lifelike. It is interesting to see what happens when a first strike hits America and how the country reacts to most of its land made wasted. Mr. Rosenberg is fantastic writer whose chilling and exciting novels make him one of the best thriller authors writing today.

Harriet Klausner

Dragonborn-Jade Lee

Jade Lee
Love Spell, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780505527547

The emperor has outlawed dragons and dragonborn ordering them killed though he has bonded with a dragon. Natiya is the surviving daughter of two dragonborn whom the emperor had murdered. She dreams of avenging the deaths of her parents while hiding the queen dragon egg she is carrying hidden in plain sight as a naval jewel; one day that Unhatched dragon will live in a sacred bond with her.

The emperor’s dragon hunter Kiril believes that dragon hatching destroys the human essence as happened with his cousin. He believes killing the host and parasite is critical to save humanity from this insidious bonding. Then he meets and begins to fall in love with Natiya, but believes she is concealing something probably connected to her dragonborn parents. At the same time the emperor knows a threat exists to his century long reign and plans to snuff it out before it can incubate. His efforts lead him to Natiya.

This is a superb romantic fantasy starring a coming of age heroine who is learning the hard way that with power comes responsibility and accountability. She is a fundamentalist who is beginning to understand there may be other valid opinions. Natiya and Kiril are natural enemies as she has a grudge and needs to avenge her parents and he has a grudge to avenge his cousin; perfect enemy combatants falling in love. As always in a Jade Lee tale, her world of enchantment seems real to the delight of her grateful readers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Forbidden Attraction-Marisa Carroll

Forbidden Attraction
Marisa Carroll
Harlequin NASCAR, Feb 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373217854

On the NASCAR circuit Justin Murphy looks like a promising driver with quite a future ahead of him if he can control his risk taking activity. When he is injured by an outraged fan, nurse Sophia Gross tends to him. They are instantly attracted to one another, but their families have a bloody history.

Whereas her pedigree is NASCAR royalty with her father a legend and her brother the current champion, his is a dead dad. He and his family believe her dad caused the accident that killed his father. Still they fall in love in spite the obstacles their feuding families toss at them with their abrasive whispering campaign.

Although the NASCAR romances are relatively knew, the Romeo and Juliet theme of feuding families has been used too frequently. Thus the well written and entertaining FORBIDDEN ATTRACTION has a lot to overcome yet Marisa Carroll does so with a fine tale of love between two wonderful lead players who deserve a chance together if their families would only let them be instead of a whisper campaign worse than that used to destroy McCain in 2000 South Carolina. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this spin around the tack.

Harriet Klausner

In High Gear-Gina Wilkins

In High Gear
Gina Wilkins
Harlequin NASCAR, Feb 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373217847

NASCAR Nextel Cup series champion Kent Grosso and renowned wedding photographer Tanya Wells are in love. Kent plans to propose to her. However, he is stunned when he receives an email threatening to expose him as a cheat in college. Still ashamed, he knows this will devastate his parents who think the world of him. Worse it will upset ethical Tanya and her honest parents.

Tanya thought she knew her beloved, but she is stunned to learn he hid his youthful indiscretion from her. Kent tries to make it up to his Tanya, but the blackmailing e-mailer sends him something much more disturbing; the person claims Kent’s mother got away with running over a member of the rival NASCAR Murphy family years ago.

This engaging NASCAR contemporary romance stars two fine protagonists whose relationship is harmed perhaps permanently when Kent failed to tell his beloved his college mistake. The story line is at his best while he struggles to explain only to have a more powerful incident to nuke his well-being and test his resolve to tell Tanya the whole truth. Although the blackmailer scenario is not resolved leaving fans to wonder why not; IN HIGH GEAR is a fast trip around the oval.

Harriet Klausner

Sin No More-Kimberla Lawson Roby

Sin No More
Kimberla Lawson Roby
Morrow, Feb 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780060892500

In Mitchell, Illinois, fortyish Reverend Curtis Black has atoned for his adulterous sins; he has asked God and his wife to forgive him for his five year affair with Tabitha. Thirty-one years old Charlotte has agreed to reconcile and give their marriage a chance on the condition that he must never see Tabitha or their infant daughter. He accepts her stipulation.

Outraged by being dumped and the father of her child ignoring his offspring, Tabitha pesters Curtis by threatening to expose him to his flock as an irresponsible sinner and stalks Charlotte. Realizing that the scandal would destroy her spouse and harm their thirteen years old son Matthew, Charlotte decides to confront Tabitha personally. While a nasty cat fight appears imminent, Pastor Tolson is jealous that Reverend Curtis is back at the pulpit as he relished the spotlight while his rival was away; since he knows some of his unethical side dealings and he plans to expose the man of God to the public. Finally David wants full custody of Matthew who he, Charlotte and Curtis believe he sired.

SIN NO MORE continues the travails of Reverend Curtis (see THE BEST KEPT SECRET, CASTING THE FIRST STONE and TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING). The story line is an engaging look at small-town living, backstabbing and religious politics. The story line is character driven as the lead couple has three adversaries wanting to destroy them for different motives. Although too much time is spent on how they got to this point (great for newcomers, but repetitive for long time fans) readers will appreciate the latest devilish goings-on in Illinois.

Harriet Klausner