Friday, April 30, 2010

Open Country-Kaki Warner

Open Country
Kaki Warner
Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234303

In 1871 at the suggestion of her sister’s doctor, nurse Molly McFarlane travels from Atlanta to Savannah to see her sibling Nellie who is dying from lung disease. Molly’s brother-n-law Daniel Fletcher is nasty to her; telling her to go home. Nellie pleads with Molly to run off with her two preadolescent children from a previous marriage, as she fears for them under Daniels martinet abuse.

As Molly flees with her niece and nephew, in nearby Jeanerette, Rustin lectures Daniel for failing to find what his late father-in-law hid as the wealthy man plots a second Southern rebellion because war is money. Meanwhile, out west a train wreck leaves Patrick Henry “Hank” Wilkins near death, remorseful but desperate Molly marries him so she can inherit at least an insurance claim to take care of the kids and hide from her odious brother-in-law’s operatives. Instead Hank recovers, but is clueless re marriage and a train wreck. He takes his wife and her wards to his family ranch in the New Mexico Territory where his family embraces the newcomers. As they fall in love and his memory returns, her Georgia roots are arriving.

The second of the Blood Rose trilogy (see The Pieces of the Sky) is a wonderful historical tale starring a strong ensemble cast. A key fresh premise is the push for a new Confederacy revolt as personal economic gain due to war motivates Rustin and his cohorts, who stole gold from the south several years ago. With an intriguing lead couple whose marriage is shaky as he knows part of the truth in spite of two frightened children needing them and the rest of the Wilkins, fans will appreciate this superb Reconstruction Era romance.

Harriet Klausner

Amandine-Marlena de Blasi

Marlena de Blasi
Ballantine, May 18 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345507341

In 1931 in Krakow, Poland, an unmarried aristocrat gives birth to a female. To protect her foolish unwed daughter, her mother the Countess lies by telling the new mom that the baby died. The grandmother sends her newborn illegitimate granddaughter to a convent in Montpellier, France run by Abbess Mother Paul and raised by a governess Solange Jouffroi, who names the infant Amandine Gilberte Noiret de Crécy.

Mother Paul detests Amandine while the other sisters are wary of her; only Solange loves her ward. Over the years Amandine wonders why her mom and grandma abandoned her and why the abbess overtly displays her loathing. When scarlet fever ravages the convent, Solange takes Amandine with her to stay with her family as the Nazis blitzkrieg of France turns the two day journey by train into a dangerous odyssey.

This is a wonderful historical tale with a nod to Maslow’s Hierarchy; as once the basic biological needs are met, Amandine seeks self actualization by wondering where she belongs. Except for Solange whom she loves as her mom, she fears something is wrong with her for so many to abandon her or loathe her. That sense of identity lost before it is even set make for a strong thriller further anchored in time and place during an era of Nazi atrocities as war engulfs Europe.

Harriet Klausner

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People-Farahad Zama

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People
Farahad Zama
Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234242

In Kapu, India, Mr. Ali tried retirement only to find it tedious. Needing something to do as the ennui is fossilizing his brain, the bored Muslim opens up a marriage bureau. Mr. Ali is surprised to find his endeavor successful as clients seeking a mate that meets their stipulation flock to him. He hires Aruna, a single young woman from an impoverished Brahmin family.

Mr. and Mrs. Ali struggle with their activist son Rehman, who believes in human rights while Aruna tussles with an increasingly hostile situation at home. Ironically Aruna would prefer to be a client and knows who she wants, but being penniless that is a bitter unrequited dream becauseas the Romanian doctor accompanied by his family seeks a more suitable match.

This is a very reflective contemporary drama that digs deeply into modern India’s struggles with religious, gender and caste egalitarianism when the country has an institutionalized history of inequality. Yet even with these powerful topics, it is the cast who make the relationships work; as for instance Mr. Ali looks forward to his next fight with his son. Although many of the problems between people are resolved too easily and rapidly, fans will enjoy Mr. Ali’s pragmatic solutions to the age old problems of love vs. tradition.

Harriet Klausner

Husband and Wife-Leah Stewart

Husband and Wife
Leah Stewart
Harper, May 4 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061774508

Feeling some guilt, novelist Nathan Bennett confesses to his wife Sarah Price that he slept with another woman. She is stunned by his confession, which changes her priorities from which dress to wear at a wedding would make her look less fat to what to do about her relationship with Nathan; factoring in their two young children, Mattie and Binx.

Whereas Nathan feels remorse, Sarah feels anger. She considers her options by looking at her past through a decision analysis of what could have been her life if she chose a differentpath. She ponders leaving her spouse and taking the kids with her of course while her anger grows as she gave up poetry writing and wants to be known as a poetess again. Then there is to consider her friend Rajiv, who has loved her forever.

This is an interesting family drama in which an extramarital one night stand has shattered the trust between Husband and Wife. The lead couple feels genuine especially their emotions. However, it is the tense intriguing look back by Sarah who deeply examines lost opportunities when she made pivotal choices who makes the story line profound. Although the ending seems off kilter as a throwback to Austen’s Regency era, fans will still appreciate this deep character study of one major indiscretion which has incredible relational costs.

Harriet Klausner

Intercept-Patrick Robinson

Patrick Robinson
Vanguard, May 11 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593155841

The two Western educated childhood friends became al-Qaeda terrorists killing military and civilians until Ibrahim Sharif and Yousaf Mohammed were captured by US Navy SEAL Team 10 in a small village in the Hindu Kush mountain region of Afghan. They were taken to Guantomino Bay where they were held prisoners but refused to cooperate; not even providing their names to the military tribunal.

A few years later, the court system demands habeas corpus applies to the detainees. With Saudi money to buy Epstein’s law firm, the two terrorists and two other cohorts are free. However, neither the law firm nor the terrorists realizes that the CIA and Mossad are tracking them. The quartet plots an act at a school in Connecticut with plans after that to return to the Hindu Kush for further activity against the hated west. Retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Commander Mack Bedford, who led the first sweep that captured the pair, leads another operation against them with deadly force not just authorized but required.

This is an exciting action packed thriller as Bedford returns to active duty to go after the same terrorists he caught the last time he was in Afghanistan. The story line is fast-paced throughout, but also has an accusatory tone blaming liberals and leftists for being soft on terrorism and arguing to keep Gitmo open. These premises ignore that a right wing administration took its eye off al Qaeda and that the courts system has locked away in federal pens some nasty terrorists; none of whom have escaped. Still readers will be hooked from the moment that the espionage agency Intercept the electronic traffic as Bin Laden and the CIA-Mossad agents know the importance of Yousaf and Sharif.

Harriet Klausner

Vicious-Kevin O’Brien

Kevin O’Brien
Pinnacle, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780786021369

For over two years in the Seattle area, the “Mama's Boy” kidnapped and killed mothers while the children were left where he kidnapped the mothers and left the child some battered toys. The police never found him and never could explain why he abruptly stopped.

Widow Susan Blanchette whose husband and older son were killed, drives with her four year old boy Matthew to meet her fiancé medical supply salesman Allen Meker in Cullen, Washington. Allen, who adores Susan and cares about her toddler, has a great weekend planned for them. When they reach the place he rented, Susan believes there is a prowler, but Allen sees no one. While at a store, Jordan Prewitt, whose mom was killed by the Mama’s Boy, kidnaps Allen. He intends to torture the man until he confesses he is the serial killer. While Susan searches for Allen, two psychopaths hijack her.

Kevin O’Brien provides an intense, perhaps too emotional, but electrifying thriller. Several characters share the lead including the three above and Jordan’s friend Les while a strong support cast enhance the growing tension. The key to the plot is the reader keeps changing his or her mind as to who the killer is although that is a two edged as at times because needless subplots that adds nothing is applied to trick the audience to go down a sidebar. Still with terrific twists, fans will wonder who the Mama’s Boy serial killer is.

Harriet Klausner

Who Fears Death-Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears Death
Nnedi Okorafor
Daw, Jun 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406172

The world may have been shattered by a nuclear holocaust, but mankind continues to fight one another; just on a smaller scale. In post-nuclear Sahara, genocide is the norm as the followers of the Great Book ethnically cleanse the region. Thus the Nuru believing God is on their side, hunt and eradicate the Okeke. In one village, the lone survivor is raped by the exterminators. She escapes into the desert eventually giving birth to a girl who the mom knows is unique. Using an ancient forgotten African language she names her offspring (from the brutal sexual assault) Onyesonwu, "Who Fears Death".

As a shaman raises Onyesonwu, the genocide continues unabated. However, new hope arises amidst the embattled Okeke that a savior has come. Onyesonwu has been learning about her magical power to end the murderous cleansing. However, she must study evil to understand evil before she can sacrifice herself in death so that the Okeke can live.

Using a futuristic fantasy base, Nnedi Okorafor provides a great but grim realistic drama that focuses on genuine problems in Africa today. Through the escapades of the heroine, the story line disturbingly examines ethnic and religious cleansing, racism, sexism, female genital mutilation and sex slavery as humanity is inhumane to each other. Who Fears Death is superb as Ms. Okorafor provides a powerful post apocalyptic thriller with strong ramifications in today’s on the Eve of Destruction world.

Harriet Klausner

The Ambassador’s Mission-Trudi Canavan

The Ambassador’s Mission
Trudi Canavan
Orbit, May 18 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780316037839

The Magicians’ Guild had always feared that one day during their annual sweeps for rogues that a commoner with untrained power would surface. Their worst trepidations occurred when Sonea the commoner displayed talent. She was quickly brought into the Magicians' Guild, but her ancestry made her a pariah until she has become a Black Magician of Kyralia with one foot tentatively inside the ruling Guild establishment and the other deeply embedded in her heritage.

Her son is a chip off the rebellious block, but more volatile than his mother. Lorkin resents the bias towards him and his family. Thus Lorkin joins the support team of powerful Lord Dannyl who is Guild Ambassador to the enemy Sachaka for two reasons. First he wants to get away from the prejudice shown to commoner mages and second he hopes to influence behavior in a place run by abusive black magicians with slaves. No one in Imardin trust the Sachakans whose belief is that the Black Magicians should rule the world and those of Sachaka should rule the Black Magicians. When Sonea learns Lorkin vanished, she fears for her offspring, but knows if she leaves the city she cannot return as that is Guild law. She promised her concerned friend Cery to investigate a recent slew of homicides as a serial killer using magic as a weapon assassinates the leaders of the Thieves Guild though no one knows why or who, but Sonea has some internal fears about what she will learn.

The latest Black Magician fantasy is a super tale filled with several great twists that make the second tale in the prequel saga (see The Magicians Apprentice) a standout. The story line is fast-paced with two well written prime subplots starring mom and son. This is a terrific magical whodunit where mom the Black Magician amateur sleuth investigates the killings and readers are shown a deep look at the culture of magically dominated Sachaka as seen through the lens of the missing son. The audience will relish this strong entry into the world of Trudi Canavan.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wanted!-Vicki Lewis Thompson

Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze, Jun 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795482

After two years keeping control of her impulses by being Herman’s girlfriend, photographer Dominique Jeffries decides enough. She dumps Herman and leaves for Wyoming to find the old Dominique.

Veterinarian Nick Chance is fuming at his brother for ordering him to dig postholes in a rocky area. Shirtless, he meets Dominique who has a ribald self deprecating sense of humor. They each like what they see and agree to a short term tryst. As they fall in love, Nick struggles to conceal his desire for her to be with him forever while she struggles between wanting to be with him forever and her need to find the independent feisty Dominique who went into hiding the last couple of years.

This is an entertaining ranch romance starring two likable individuals and a solid support cast. The story line focuses on both internally insisting to themselves “I’m not in love” while wanting the affair to go on indefinitely. Although the “I’m in love” revelation is so abrupt, it catches the lead pair off guard and the audience will initially discredit it; still fans will enjoy a trip to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming where the Last Chance Ranch welcomes readers.

Harriet Klausner

The Sexy Devil-Kate Hoffmann

The Sexy Devil
Kate Hoffmann
Harlequin Blaze, Jun 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795505

In high school Angela Weatherby fell in love with star athlete Max Morgan, who was a player. Now she is authoring a book on “Smooth Operators: A Woman’s Guide to Avoiding Dating Disasters”. However, she has hit a snag when two womanizing hunks reform and marry her friends although she insists they are inside the margin of error.

Based on posts to her website, Max, now a professional baseball player, deserves his own chapter as the epitome of The Sexy Devil. Angela decides to look him up assuming that as an adult she will be immune to his curveball. Instead she learns the error of her ways as she still wants him. He is in love too, but what will happen when he learns she classified him as another unfeeling male creep.

This is a fun lighthearted contemporary frolic as the baseball player and the writer steal each other’s heart but struggle to complete the game of love. Although the story line is a bit thin, fans will enjoy the fun tale as Angela begins to wonder how many devilish hunks belong outside the breaking a woman’s heart “norm”.

Harriet Klausner

A Most Sinful Proposal-Sara Bennett

A Most Sinful Proposal
Sara Bennett
Avon, Apr 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061339172

In 1837 at Miss Debenhan’s Finishing School, Marissa Rotherhild, daughter of two avid botanists, tells her Husband Hunters Club friends that she has chosen her husband, the Honorable George Kent of Surrey. Known as a rake, she believes she can change the womanizer.

Marissa goes to meet George at the family country estate, but instead encounters his reclusive older sibling, Lord Valentine Kent, who she finds attractive and his obsession with roses makes her feels close to home. However, his quest for the most likely extinct Crusader's Rose excites her almost as much as does Valentine.

The latest Husband Hunters Club early Victorian romance (see Led Astray by a Rake) is an enjoyable tale starring two fascinating lead characters linked by desire for one another and knowledge of botany that Sara Bennett deftly interweaves into the plot. The story line starts a bit slower than usual, but once Valentine and Marissa begin the search with a rival of his stalking them to steal the find if they make it, the plot moves rather quickly and entertainingly. Sub-genre fans will join the trek for the rare rose as A Most Sinful Proposal is worth reading.

Harriet Klausner

Sex, Lies And Secret Lives-Thea Devine

Sex, Lies And Secret Lives
Thea Devine
Gallery, Apr 27 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416562658

Twin sisters Jillian and Justine Durant always knew they could depend on only each other during a traumatic childhood. They even set up their own SOS “Just in time” as a safety survival mechanism. As adults they moved beyond their harrowing youth in radically different ways; but shared in common a deep belief that neither would ever accept poverty again.

In the middle of the night the text fail safe message arrives from Jillian to Justine after the former sees her last lover Oliver Bayard on CNN, a murder victim. Knowing her twin needs her, Justine leaves her research job to insure her sibling is okay, but Jillian is missing. Justine quickly learns her globetrotting model sister uses the name Justine Dare as a paid companion to the affluent. Desperate she masquerades as her sibling after a wealthy customer arrives at her sister’s place and assumes Justine is Jillian. The men keep coming like Zach, but who is an ally is and who is the enemy is remains elusive while Justine as Jillian searches for her missing twin.

Twins switching in a romantic suspense tale is not a new device (see Switch by Sandra Brown) although Thea Devine somewhat refreshes the plot by having one sibling disappear though that has been deployed less frequently (see Double Take by Brenda Joyce). The story line is fast-paced with plenty of sexual encounters, although the characters are not that deeply developed but Justine gets deep into the role of Jillian while researching her sister’s disappearance. Fans will enjoy the ultra heated aptly titled Sex, Lies, and Secret lives.

Harriet Klausner

The Rule of Nine-Steve Martini

The Rule of Nine
Steve Martini
Morrow, Jun 1 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062008534

The events in nearby Coronado are nuked into every cell of his brain as San Diego based attorney Paul Madriani still reels from the near tragedy (see Guardian of Lies). The near nuclear disaster has him looking at the bigger picture of terrorism. The FBI warns Madriani to keep his mouth shut or face a lifetime locked away in a place he never heard of under the Patriot Act enforcement. On the other hand weapons expert Joselyn Cole demands he go public so a repeat can be averted.

While Madriani struggles with coping and what to do, an aging 1960s radical believes the time has come to destroy the DC right wing government-industrial complex. This former member of the Students for a Democratic Society expects to die like a Middle Eastern suicide bomber and unlike the cowardly western right wing terrorists who kill people from a safe distance. The plan will make 9/11 look like a minor incident and the first deadly steps come from the American right wing form of terrorism.

The Feds tie Madriani to a murder of a DC staffer as law enforcement believes "the Mexicutioner" Liquida assassin is the killer. Madriani rusticates with his family as he and Cole fear the Feds are missing the big picture again as they believe two insane murderers, the ancient Weatherman and the Mexicutioner have joined forces in what apparently involves the mysterious deadly “Rule of Nine" gamut.

This is an exciting over the top of the Washington Monument thriller that grips the audience from the onset and never let’s go until the final dramatic confrontation. The story line is action, action, and more action that will have Madriani fans salivating for another superheavyweight bout starring the Southern California lawyer and his sidekick Cole vs. archenemy Liquida; that is if everyone rides away from this round.

Harriet Klausner

The Palace of Impossible Dreams-Jennifer Fallon

The Palace of Impossible Dreams
Jennifer Fallon
Tor, Jun 22 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765316844

Intrepid but obstinate Arkady remains married to Stellan, the heir to the Kingdom of Glaeba, but their relationship for practical purposes is in name only. She focuses on one issue; destroying the immortal nasty Tide Lords, who have one objective: rule the world.

Arkady’s strongest ally in her attempt to end the Tide Lords constant intrigue is spymaster Declan Hawkes; though his prime motive for supporting her is not altruistic but instead he admires and desires Arkady. Ergo he tries one failed attempt after another to bring down the Tide Lords. At the same time, Declan stubbornly makes his tries to win Arkady by defeating her enemy; ironically his rival for his lady is not her husband but Tide Lord Cayal who courts Arkady while also considering suicide if an immortal can kill himself; as he sees her as his only anchor to live. Inside the Time Lord haven, their human-beast slaves the Crasii plot revolt from their masters as they want freedom.

The third Tide Lords fantasy (see The Immortal Prince) is an engaging entry although as with The Gods of Amyrantha the overarching theme does not move forward very much. The story line is loaded with subplots in which the best ones involve the big power control schemes of the three prime groups competing for dominance. Some fluff events especially in the harem feel more of a detractor, but the fascination remains with comparing the mortals, the human-beasts and the immortals as they share so much in common yet continue as enemies because each wants to own the world. Fans of the saga will enjoy the return to the Fallon mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Super Human-Michael Carroll

Super Human
Michael Carroll
Philomel, May 13 2010, $16.99
ISBN: 9780399252976

Five millennia ago, the Super Human Krodin became the ruler of Egypt. He literally led his army against the powerful Assyrians destroying the enemy as he could read minds and possessed strength beyond a hundred mortals. After Assyria, other nations fell to Krodin’s might.

In the present, the populace become ill in a horrific pandemic outburst. The Helotry has begun its plot for world domination with spreading a disease and bringing Krodin to modern times as their adulated leader who will be dictator of earth. An insurgency surfaces that seems laughable; but shockingly they gain victories over the Helotry. This small group thwarting the powerful Helotry is teens with superpowers led by telekinetic Roz Dalton.

This is an entertaining save the world thriller that pays homage to the Teen Titans of DC. Action-packed throughout, young adult readers will relish the teenage heroes battling the ruthless villains while their parents are ailing. Although the villains fail to live up to their reputation as callous and cold-bloodedly cruel (no Joker in the pack) and a romance seems more of a requirement (pet peeve of mine –others might like the relationship sidebar), this is a fun good superhero vs. bad supervillains.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Evangeline-Ben Farmer

Ben Farmer
Overlook, Apr 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9781590200438

In 1755 the British army ruthlessly marches through one of their colonies Acadia to evict the unwelcome French citizens from their homes and loved ones. Families are torn apart without regard as ethnic cleansing of the French Catholics is the regal policy.

As part of the royal eviction, lovers Evangeline Bellefontaine and Gabriel Lajeunesse are separated, deported, and sent to different areas in the colonies that leave them several hundred miles from one another. Evangeline makes a concerted effort to find the love of her life. Her trek is dangerous but she believes it is worth it though he may be in the lower English colonies, out west amidst the French colonies, or as far away as the Louisiana bayous where many Acadians ended up after the “Great Expulsion”; she chooses Louisiana on a decade odyssey accompanied by trapper Bernard Arseneau and priest Father Felician.

Ben Farmer provides an intriguing novelization of the classic Longfellow poem. The story line brings to life the French-British conflict in North America as it intrudes on colonial existence. Although the history overwhelms the cast even the title character, readers will enjoy Mr. Farmer’s detailed impressive look at the impact of the hostilities between the French and British had on the North American colonists and the regional Indian tribes

Harriet Klausner

Welcome to Harmony-Jodi Thomas

Welcome to Harmony
Jodi Thomas
Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780425235102

Although they named the town they established Harmony, the three Texas families who founded the place should have named it acrimony as the McAllen, Matheson, and Truman brood detest one another. They compete with one another over who should run Harmony while Sheriff Alexandra McAllen goes on drinking binges every Saturday night with fire chief Hank Matheson always nearby to clean her up

Teen Reagan worked in a nursing home where she enjoyed hearing elderly resident Beverly Truman tell stories about her hometown of Harmony. When Beverly dies, Regan decides to relocate in Harmony; borrowing the late woman’s surname. Beverly’s brother Jeremiah realizes almost immediately upon meeting Reagan that they do not share bloodlines, but decides not to expose her. Instead he allows her to keep her ruse as he welcomes her into the family.

However, the divided town must come together as a prairie fire bears down on it. Especially the three leading rival families or Harmony will be no more.

This fine small-town portrayal will remind readers of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Grove although Harmony has its own stamp, that of talented Jodi Thomas. The story line is mostly a sweet concoction of townsfolk welcoming outsiders like Reagan and readers. The prairie fire and the Sheriff’s drinking problem add tension and issues to an engaging but otherwise sugary portrait of a small Texas town.

Harriet Klausner

Simply Insatiable-Kate Pierce

Simply Insatiable
Kate Pierce
Kensington Aphrodisia, May 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758241382

Married couple, Lady Jane and Lord Blaize Minshom, has lived separate lives for seven years. She stayed at one of their country estates rusticating; he remained in London womanizing at Madame Helene's Pleasure House.

However, Lady Jane decides the time has come to regain her marriage as she misses the sexual intimacy they once shared. On the other hand, Lord Minshom wants her to leave the city so he can continue with his depraved lifestyle that includes male sexual encounters as well as other women at the House of Pleasure. When he fails to drive her away, he sends her away. However, his bed feels tundra cold without Lady Jane in it and he rages when he watches her flirt and who knows what else with men at the House of Pleasure until she decides he is pathetic and leaves. Now he follows her to the countryside to win back his wife.

This is an engaging Regency erotic romance that runs much of the gamut’s several pleasures as Kate Pierce reruns her fans to Madame Helene's Pleasure House (see Simply Wicked). Jane is terrific as a brave brazen woman who wants her spouse back although the seven year itch seems questionable. Minshom has issues that drive him to destroy loving relationships. His dark side makes the tale fresh as he seems neurotic with a relationship phobia; of which two key ones are resolved too nicely with the depth of psychological traumas. Putting that aside; readers will relish Simply Instable as the author pierces the Regency subgenre veneer with a refreshing second chance tale.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Harvest-Anitra Lynn McLeod

Dark Harvest
Anitra Lynn McLeod
Kensington Aphrodisia, May 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758235343

In the Onic Empire, Sterlave the Harvester has been prepared for one year for virginal initiation until the time comes to select his bondmate; now he chooses Princess Kasmiri as his bondmate. Haughty, Kasmiri rejects Sterlave as being beneath her class. However, he ignores her denial of their attraction and soon has the virgin wanting his touch as she enjoys their sexual activity.

When her mother the Onic empress dies suddenly, Kasmiri replaces her. However, her hold on the throne is shaky as evil from without and rebellious betrayal from within threaten the new empress. Her only hope to survive resides with Sterlave, whom she kicked aside when she replaced her mother.

The second Onic Empire romantic fantasy (see Wicked Harvest to better understand the sexual hierarchy) is an interesting tale as sexual depravity is the norm with rape and torture a way of life regardless of the victim’s sex. Anitra Lynn McLeod cleverly keeps much of the violent assaults off-page using the aftermath emotions to tell the molestation. Ironically Kasmiri is a bi*ch, but her haughty nastiness seems right for her lofty position in this empire although more insight into the caste system (especially the sexual) would be appreciated.

Harriet Klausner

Taste of Temptation-Cheryl Holt

Taste of Temptation
Cheryl Holt
Berkley, Jun 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425235140

In 1814 Philippe Dubois sells desperate Helen Hamilton the Spinster’s Cure that he insists will have her wed in four weeks. Since she has no money he accepts her payment after she is married.

Thirty years old Tristan Odell warns his eighteen year old half brother the Earl Michael Seymour not to mess with the servants. Illegitimate Odell struggles with what is best for Michael and his twelve year old half sister Rose as he wonders why his father whom he never recognized him named him their guardian. He seeks a governess though Michael’s cousin Maud Seymour insists they do not need one. She plans for Michael to wed her daughter.

Helen applies for the job, but Odell rejects her because she is beautiful. She begs him for the sake of her sisters eighteen year old Jane and twelve year old Amelia as they were kicked off their estate. When Michael grabs her, Odell accuses her of being a hooker. Thirsty she drinks the elixir and tells him she cursed him with the Spinster’s Cure

Helen visits Madam Lauretta to arrange a mistress position for her. Odell escorts Michael there hoping to reduce the earl’s sexual prowling of the staff. He is stunned when Lauretta introduces Odell to Helen. He hires her as Rose’s governess and welcomes her two sisters into the mansion. Odell begs her to lift the curse. Michael and Jane are attracted to each other while Maud is outraged by the hussies honing in on her and her daughter’s turf.

The Regency Cinderella plot lines are fun with their adult spins while the cast is extremely strong yet diverse in personality though three extended families make up the storyline. Although the story line is too similar in many key ways to the first tale though refreshed somewhat by a second romance, sub-genre readers will look forward to more Promise of Pleasure tales starring the Spinster’s Cure.

Harriet Klausner

Spooky Little Girl-Laurie Notaro

Spooky Little Girl
Laurie Notaro
Villard, Apr 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345510976

Lucy Fisher was looking forward to her vacation in Hawaii, hocking her life to be able to go. The dream vacation was a disappointment. When she comes home, she finds her possessions all over the lawn as her fiancé Martin tossed them randomly out the door. Bad comes in three as Lucy learns when her boss accuses her of trying to steal money and drugs before firing her. A stunned Lucy moves in with her sister Alice.

On her way to the unemployment office, Lucy learns what bad luck really is when a bus runs her over. Now she is a student at Ghost School where if she completes her assignment she will move into the State of after-death. Lucy diligently applies herself as she wants to go back to earth not so much as to haunt her former fiancé, but to learn why he kicked her to the curb and why no one, not even her sister or the bus driver attended her funeral. Only Tulip seems to miss her.

This clever paranormal chick lit is a fun tale though the serio-comic story line never turns as profound as it could have been; opting more for a winking jocularity that in some ways will remind readers of the movie Over her Dead Body. The beleaguered heroine is likable so that fans will root for her as grandma has made living in the State of the dead precarious for both of them and Lucy knows you only get one chance at it.

Harriet Klausner

Dragon Soul-Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett

Dragon Soul
Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
Spectra (Bantam), Jun 8 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553807691

The war (see Havemercy) is at least for now over as the two sides agree to a truce. However, neither the Volstov nor the Ke-Han trust one another. Both know it would not take much for hostilities to reignite as the magic weaving Volstov and the dark sorcery of Ke-Han remain diligently wary and weary.

Thom believes the tentative peace is a good time to bond with his despondent brother Rook. However, the grieving Rook, the most volatile yet successful warrior in the recent combat, has no interest in this or anything else. He still struggles with his Havemercy and the other great dragons dead; their bodies spread in small pieces across Ke-Han. Still he agrees to travel with Thom but the siblings are stunned to learn someone is paying good money to buy the remains of the fallen dragons. They soon realize that the beasts may be dead, but their magic lingers; in the wrong hands a new war could explode and there are several operatives seeking the means scattered all over Ke-Han.

Although somewhat different in tone than the great military fantasy Havemercy as that tale told the cost of a war on anyone within the sphere; this time the quest is less militarily epic for the most part but could turn rather quickly. The siblings are a terrific lead as Rook is a fierce warrior in aguish over the death of his equally feral dragon while Thom is a scholar who prefers to ride a book rather than a beast. Together, these opposites make for a strong saga as they follow the Marines’ credo of no one left behind in their search for the soul of Havemercy before enemies or allies possess the heart of the brave dragoness warrior.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Get What You Give-Stephanie Perry Moore

Get What You Give
Stephanie Perry Moore
Kensington Dafina, May 1 2010, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758234469

Like her older sister Hayden, Hailey Grant matriculates at Western Smith College. However, unlike big sister, Hailey has doubts about pledging with Beta Gamma Pi as the sorority rejects her best friend Teddi Spencer.

When Teddi runs for Student Government Association President against Covin Randall, Hailey has a problem as she is attracted to the hunk, but feels a loyalty to her BFF. Enflaming the strained friendship is Hailey’s belief that Covin is better suited for the council leadership position than her roommate is although she is Teddi’s campaign manager. When a fire breaks out in their dorm, Hailey risks her life to save orphaned Teddi's family memorabilia. Her courage impresses Covin who starts to date the sophomore.

Get What You Give is a fine Beta Gamma Pi entry as the heroine learns the meaning of relationship and friendship, leading and independence vs. sheepishly going along, and faith that God is there when you need him. Targeting young teens, Stephanie Perry Moore provides a strong entry as Hailey learns to adhere to her values not drift from them.

Harriet Klausner

An Honorable Man-Darlene Gardner

An Honorable Man
Darlene Gardner
Harlequin SuperRomance, May 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716364

Almost two decades ago, Alison Blaine fell to her death while in Indigo Springs in the Pocono Mountains. Everyone assumed her death was a tragic accident, which is what her then twelve year old son Ben Nash was told and accepted.

Now a Pittsburgh Gazette investigative reporter Ben Nash has no reason to think otherwise about his late mom’s tragic death nineteen years ago until an e-mail arrives strongly implying that Dr. Ryan Whitmore should have been investigated but was not; the tone implies a homicide occurred and not an accident as he believes. Ben has no reason why anyone would kill his mom or why someone would send an email with Blaine in the address at this time or as a sick joke. Unable to ignore the implications, Ben goes to Indigo Springs to learn the truth. When he meets the late doctor’s daughter Dr. Sierra Whitmore, his attraction to her makes him reconsider whether he needs the truth at the cost of their growing relationship. She feels the same way as he does, but also wants to also protect her deceased dad’s reputation.

The key to this complicated investigative romance is the lead couple’s needs involving their respective parents. Ben obsesses with knowing what happened to his mom while Sierra fixates on protecting her father’s reputation. Each comes across as real with genuine desires, which makes for a fabulous contemporary drama as both characters and readers become consumed with knowing what happened nineteen years ago.

Harriet Klausner

Until He Met Rachel-Debra Salonen

Until He Met Rachel
Debra Salonen
Harlequin SuperRomance, May 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716333

When her marriage ended, accountant Rachel Grey took only the Porsche and left Trevor in Denver while relocating to Sentinel Pass in the Black Hills. There she plans to run a web-design business.

When Rachel meets local artist Rufus Miller, she hopes to persuade him to let her design a website for him. Rufus refuses at first, but she remains persistent until he reluctantly agrees because he is attracted to her and her energy. As she works with him on his website, Rachel realizes Rufus’ hesitancy is caused by his past that he prefers to conceal; as he is the famous underwear model R.J. Milne. He wants his work taken seriously and not because he posed.

This is an enjoyable contemporary romance starring two likable lead protagonists who seem so contrary fans will assume they have no chance as an entry. He is a hermit with good reasons for withdrawing form society while she is an extrovert with good reasons for bringing him back into society. Readers will enjoy the Spotlight on Sentinel Pass as Debra Salonen writes delightful tale of opposites-attract.

Harriet Klausner

Still The OneRobin Wells-

Still The One
Robin Wells
Forever, May 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446555982

In Chartreuse, Louisiana Kate Charmaine and Zack Ferguson spent the greatest and worst summer of their lives together. They were in love, but he was unable to commit to her. She became pregnant and depressingly gave up her child for adoption.

Seventeen years later, Zack returns to town accompanied by pregnant teenager Gracie, who is the daughter Kate gave up for adoption. Her adoptive parents are dead and her guardian demands she remain with Zack with the stipulation he shares custody with Kate. Stunned by the turn of events, Kate, a widow since her spouse died in Iraq two years ago, is euphoric to meet her biological daughter, looks forward to being a relatively young grandma, but has doubts about Zack who hurt her the first time around.

The return to Chartreuse (see Between the Sheets) is worth the time as Robin Wells provides a poignant often amusing family drama. The lead triangle is solid as each is fully developed with flaws and problems. Readers will enjoy the second chance contemporary while rooting for a finish from the Bard: “All’s well that ends well”.

Harriet Klausner

The Maverick-Jan Hudson

The Maverick
Jan Hudson
Harlequin American, May 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753116

In Austin, Texas Cassidy Outlaw enjoys jogging especially when hunk Griffin “Tight Buns” Mitchell is right in front of her wearing hip hugging shorts. In her mind he has the perfect butt and other well carved body parts that she can see while her imagination fills in the rest. The view gets too close when he abruptly stops and she crashes into him skinning her knee.

However, when she learns he is a lawyer, she immediately decides she wants nothing to do with him. Having been nuked by an attorney she planned to marry, Cass has outlawed the legal profession when it comes to personal relationships. Yet she cannot stop admiring and thinking of him. They begin dating, but he conceals his reason for going out with her is to buy property from her, but now that he is falling in love he questions his method.

The seventh Texas Outlaws contemporary romance is a fun tale starring a twin (Cass’ sister Sunny’s tale was the previous entry The Twin) and Tight Buns. The family members, who have led previous dramas, rally around kicking Griff to the Oklahoma border except for her daddy the senator. Griff knows he behaved unscrupulously so has quite a trek to regain the trust of the woman he betrayed. Although the resolution seems too easy, fans of the Texas Outlaws will enjoy the romance of the second twin.

Harriet Klausner

Dream Daddy-Daly Thompson

Dream Daddy
Daly Thompson
Harlequin American, May 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753123

In Serenity Valley, Ian Foster and the human race are barely on talking terms. In fact his preference is not to speak with anyone except the sheep on the ranch and to a lesser degree his brother Daniel. However, he has no choice but to discuss with an accountant his business books as he has an IRS audit scheduled.

He hires Tansy Appletree to clean up, organize and prepare his records. She is attracted to the misanthrope because she believes his gruff exterior hides a vulnerable heart. He grumpily considers her Miss Sunshine though he conceals he likes her energy and enthusiasm. When she asks him to participate in a winter carnival she is helping organize, he wants to say yes but tells her no; an answer she refuses to accept as she sees how nurturing he is with Daniel’s foster child.

The immovable object meets the irresistible force as the accountant and the rancher collide head on in a terrific contemporary romance with the IRS serving as matchmaker. The battle lines are drawn with Ian’s heart being the front as readers will enjoy this fun gender war.

Harriet Klausner

Stealing Kathryn-Jacquelyn Frank

Stealing Kathryn
Jacquelyn Frank
Zebra, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420109849

Adrian serves as a middle man who steals dark energy from the nightmares people suffer and delivers if to his masters. However he has paid a high price for his servitude as the once handsome hunk has been converted into a beast due to the dark forces he absorbs.

Known through history as Sandman, Morpheus and other aliases, Adrian visits Kathryn intent on doing his job, but finds he needs much more from her. Obsessed with owning her, he abducts her to add to his bounty inside his castle. Shocking him, Kathryn is repulsed by the creature that kidnapped her. Shocking her, she is actually attracted to the fiend although she abhors being his prisoner. Still with his sister explaining who he is, she begins to see the diminishing flicker of light that still glimmers inside his heart and plans to make it shine with love.

Stealing Kathryn is a terrific dark romantic fantasy starring a fascinating villain and the female who redeems his soul. Although Adrian is an intriguing energy collector, Kathryn’s seeming flightiness makes the tale as she falls in love, but her doubts about her beloved’ redemption lead her bouncing back and forth between flight (from him) and fight (for him). Jacquelyn Frank’s second Gatherers’ novel (see Hunting Julian) is a wonderful character driven tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 26, 2010

Line Of Fire-Jo Davis

Line Of Fire
Jo Davis
Signet, May 4 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451229786

When his brother a marine died in combat, University of Alabama All American quarterback Tommy Skyler quit playing football though he had a promising pro career. Instead as homage to his late sibling he decided to become a first responder so he joined the fire department. He is assigned to work at Station Five.

Tommy is attracted to nurse Shea Ford, an older woman who rejects his forward pass attempts as she feels he is too young for her. When he is injured during a high story scaffolding rescue mission, they meet up at the hospital. She shocks him when she agrees to go out with him. She enjoys her time with Tommy and him with her. However, after suffering another on the job injury at a warehouse fire caused by an arsonist, Tommy ends their relationship upsetting Shea who has fallen in love with the younger firefighter. Depressed as his second career firefighting appears over but also missing the woman he loves, Tommy begins to believe someone wants to end his relationship with Shea and collateral deaths are acceptable

The latest Firefighters of Station Five (see Under Fire and Hidden Fire) romantic suspense is loaded with plenty of action as the heroic first responders fight fires, investigate arson, and mount rescues. The return of recurring firefighters and their loved ones add to the sense of danger as each risk their lives. The lead couple is a likable pairing, but the age issue is never delved into beyond Shea’s rationale not to date Tommy. Still, fans of the Station Five saga will enjoy the exciting Line of Fire.

Harriet Klausner

Fade to Midnight-Shannon McKenna

Fade to Midnight
Shannon McKenna
Kensington Brava, Jun 1 2010, $20.95
ISBN 9780758228659

For almost two decades, everyone who knew Kevin McCloud had thought he was dead. Even his three brothers have all but given up hope. However, instead of dying he suffered a traumatic injury from being tortured that included total amnesia.

Preventing a drowning leads him to emergency brain surgery. As a consequence, his memory has recently started to return. Kevin Larson is the name Kevin McCloud has used since the brutal torturous beating. He begins to piece back what happened to him eighteen years ago and before. He recalls the mind control work of insane scientist Christopher Osterman, but has not figured out his link. He learns the man is dead, but his associates try to draw Kevin back into their evil mind controlling scheme. As he struggles to remember he meets graphic novelist Edie Parrish at her book signing. She has a past with Osterman and McCloud, as she is convinced the former is the supervillain and the latter the superhero prototypes of her graphic novels.

The latest McCloud brother action-packed thriller is character driven by Kevin whose memory recall triggers the story line. Fast-paced from start to finish with intriguing unexpected twists, Fade to Midnight is a strong McCloud entry that series fans will relish. However, new readers will find references difficult to assimilate so should peruse the previous tales in the saga (see Edge of Midnight, Behind Closed Doors and Standing in the Shadows)

Harriet Klausner

Rock Paper Tiger-Lisa Brackmann

Rock Paper Tiger
Lisa Brackmann
Soho, Jun 1 2010, $25.00
ISBN 9781569476406

Iraq War combat medic veteran Ellie Cooper suffers from post traumatic stress disorder following her theatre tours of duty. Currently she is in Beijing trying to figure out what next as she hangs around the growing art world. Also in China is her former Army interrogator husband private security consultant Trey who recently dumped her. She has replaced Trey with artist Lao Zhang and Percocet but neither helps her forget Iraq or Trey.

Zhang accompanies an unidentified person until they vanish, American and Chinese officials wonder where they went. Each nation looks deeply at Ellie because of her relationship with the missing Zhang. Forced on the run, Ellie eludes cops, suits, and thugs while gathering information on line through a multiplayer game from Zhang's friends.

This is an exciting China thriller starring a resilient kick butt heroine who readers will admire for her courage. The Chinese subplot is action-packed as Ellie takes readers on an exhilarating tour. The back story of what she and Trey was directed to do in Iraq is harrowing and heartbreaking. Mixed together nicely by excellent Ellie, the two subplots make for a terrific brisk thriller that brings China alive

Harriet Klausner

Forbidden Fruit-Kerry Greenwood

Forbidden Fruit
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Jun 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590587386

In Melbourne, while everyone seems to prepare for Christmas, Corinna Chapman says bah humbug to the holiday and to the heat gripping the city. However though she prefers to leave town, she and her assistant baker Jason get to work as the customers of Earthly Delights will be arriving soon.

Meanwhile her boyfriend private investigator Daniel follows clues as he seeks two teen runaways. Late trimester Pregnant Brigid has fled her family with the help of Manny. He is helping her run from her family, who has been keeping her captive as part of the religious sect they belong to. Corinna assists Daniel as he search searches to no avail. The teenagers trust no one since Brigid’s so called loved ones and their religious affiliation kept her incarcerated in their home. Then there are the enigmatic suits who seem everywhere the sleuth and baker are, but reveal nothing especially why they diligently seem to be after Brigid or Manny.

With help from an eccentric crew to include his energetic girlfriend the baker, Daniel searches for the missing teens. The tone is set with a cast like Meroe the witch and Serena the donut eating donkey enabling the audience to see deep inside to the heart of the caring heroine. Readers will enjoy this entertaining investigative entry and its Aussie predecessors (see Trick or Treat) filled with food and sleuthing as eccentricity led by witty Corrine seems to be the wave in Melbourne.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Song-Cat Adams

Blood Song
Cat Adams
Tor, Jun 8 2010, $14.99
ISBN 9780765324948

Los Angeles bodyguard Celia Graves protects her wealthy clients from the supernatural. Currently she guards Prince Rezza of Rusland, a small kingdom in between Poland, Ukraine and Czechoslovakia. Natural gas has made the tiny nation strategically significant to the apoplexy of the Russians. They are ambushed by vampires with Celia bitten and anticipating death with her last thought being dying sucks.

However, she survives the biting assault, but has become an Abomination as she has been partially converted. Celia knows she must understand the limitations of her new powers and not assume anything. However, at the top of her list is execution of the vampire who transformed her or become his unwilling slave. As she learns more about her new nature, Celia realizes that a conspiracy of epic proportions is going on with her being expendable.

This is a superb political urban fantasy that will have readers believing in vampires, ghouls, demons and alas Abominations. Celia keeps the story line focused while she also lightens the dark tale with her amusing often darker asides. Although kick butt female Noir heroines are flooding the market, fans will appreciate Celia’s grave quest to kill her master before he either finishes the job by sucking her dry or enslaving her.

Harriet Klausner

The Machinery of Light-David J. Williams

The Machinery of Light
David J. Williams
Spectra, May 25 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780553385434

In 2110, the assassination of the American President Harrison leads to a military takeover of the United States. Ignoring the Treaty of Zurich of 2105, the American Generals seize an opportunity and quickly launch an attack against the Eurasian Alliance led by the Russians and Chinese in an attempt to destroy their space-aerial defenses. WW III has been lunched (See The Mirrored Heavens and The Burning Skies).

The Eurasian Alliance launches the top secret mega-spaceships to destroy the enemy and its fleet. Meanwhile the Autumn Rain commando unit begins a seemingly suicidal desperate maneuver on Luna just ahead of the Eurasian joint fleet but behind the squad’s creator. At the same time super cyborg Claire Haskell the Manilishi post-human implements the programming of her designer-creator Matthew Sinclair. He is several steps closer to achieving his goal as he has deployed project Armageddon.

Fasten your seat belts as the latest dystopian military science fiction thriller starts at hyperspeed and accelerates from there. The action overwhelms the key characters, but no one (except bewildered stunned first time riders) will care as The Machinery of Light is an exhilarating action-packed futuristic twister in which reality is blurred at best. Readers will appreciate David J. Williams’ fast-paced but extremely grim twenty-second century earth-moon sphere of operations.

Harriet Klausner

Distant Thunders-Taylor Anderson

Distant Thunders
Taylor Anderson
Roc, Jun 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780451463333

The reptilian Grik continue their assault using any sort of mass weapons of destruction against the Lemurians whose strongest supporter are the dimensionally displaced U.S. Navy Captain Matt Reddy and the crew of the USS Walker. The American navy desperately is trying to move forward the Bronze Age Lemurians into at least an Industrial Age and preferably past that too especially with their ship badly devastated in the last encounter (see Maelstrom). That is the only hope for the allies against the overwhelming superiority of the invading Grik.

Reddy and his unit make some progress using paddle-wheel steam frigates developed in New Britain as the Americans free cities in the west from the previously invincible conquerors and give new hope to their allies. However when word reaches Reddy that the enemy has captured New British Princess Rebecca Anne McDonald, he rushes back east on the renovated USS Walker to mount a rescue of a key symbol.

The latest Destroyermen science fiction thriller, Distant Thunders, is an action-packed entry with strong relevant moral questions about the rules of combat engagement running throughout the adrenalin pumping story line. Reddy ponders whether negotiations with a species apparently seeking genocide are feasible as the enemy seems resistant to a peaceful solution although the displaced hero recognizes some of the beliefs on both sides may be bogeyman propaganda. He also wonders whether are any weapons of mass destruction include biological, chemical or nuclear in their arsenal that will be used especially on the brink of perhaps extinction acceptable? Taylor Anderson is one of the best at military science fiction as his plots combine cerebral thought provoking issues within a great adventure tale; the alternate realm of the Destroyermen saga is worth the journey.

Harriet Klausner

Darkling Fields of Arvon-James G. Anderson and Mark Sebanc

Darkling Fields of Arvon
James G. Anderson and Mark Sebanc
Baen, May 11 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781439133538

The world of Ahn Norvys is turning increasingly dark as a tyrant runs the nation with an evil iron hand. The serenity and prosperity of the Harmonic Age of King Ardiel is practically over.

The only hope of dethroning the usurper and returning to the affluence of the Harmonic Age rests with the recently deigned High Bard Kalaquinn Wright and his rebellious band of miscreants. However, though he keeps the faith in what hew must do, Kal has doubts as he feels he is too young for the mantle of savior and his team too odd to succeed against the growing malevolence sweeping across the land. Still they know what must be done and set out to do so in spite of their lack of confidence. They seek the missing rightful heir to the ancient throne the missing Prince of Starigan and relight the Sacred Fire. To achieve this they must first find the Talamadh magical harp that maintains the peace across Arvon.

The second entry in the Legacy of the Stone Harp (see The Stoneholding) is an entertaining quest fantasy that sub-genre fans will fully enjoy. The story line offers nothing new and the champions are never fully developed beyond their fear of failure. Yet Kal and company are likable with their youthful energy at times leading to mistakes but also surmounting their deficiency in experience and belief in themselves. Darkling Fields of Arvon will hook the reader throughout as it is a fun tale in which the audience will join Kal and his team on the save the world mission.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spontaneous-Brenda Jackson

Brenda Jackson
Harlequin Blaze, Jun 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795420

Former cop now a private investigator for the past three months Duan Jeffries rushes from a case in Atlanta to attend his brother, the once “Holy Terror” Terrance, wed Sherri Griffin (see Temperature Rising). He muses about the family’s rash of marriages as his sister Olivia recently wed Senator Reggie Westmoreland (see Tall, Dark and Westmoreland) and his father to his devoted assistant. He is happy for all of them as he feels they deserve the best and they got the best.

During Terrence’s reception, Duan and Sherri's friend ER nurse Kimani Cannon sneak away to make love. As they get to know one another, he is appalled when she mentions to him who her four failed marriages mom is now engaged to. When he was a cop, he thought strongly that Edward Villeros killed his two wives, but could not find proof. He vows to save her mom from a fatal mistake while Duan and Kim fall in love; however with her mom’s track record Kim rejects happily ever after leaving Duan to wonder if the last Jeffries standing will remain a bachelor.

This is a superb hot romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience from the moment Kim mentions the name of her future step father and never takes a breather afterward. The mystery of Edward is well designed so readers are unsure whether he is a black widower or a bad luck husband. However, the tale belongs to the lead couple as Kim has relationship issues that make Duan wary to confess she makes him whole.

Harriet Klausner

Blazing Bedtime Stories Volume V-Leslie Kelly and Jennifer LaBrecque

Blazing Bedtime Stories Volume V
Leslie Kelly and Jennifer LaBrecque
Harlequin Blaze, Jun 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795413

"A Prince of a Guy” by Leslie Kelly. In the Kingdom of Grand Falls on another planet, vain widow Queen Verona sends the Captain of the Amazonian Royal Guard warrior Olivia Vanderbrook to Earth to bring home the heir to the throne Prince Ruprecht. She has few clues beyond fast food warnings and San Francisco. Her inquiry leads her to carpenter and rock musician Rafe Cabot, who could be the royal’s twin although Olivia believes he is the real deal in more ways than one.

"Goldie and the Three Brothers" by Jennifer LaBrecque. Ardmore Winery is run by three brothers while marketing is done by Goldie Dawkins. In the Georgia mountains she is to meet one of the trio Chad “workaholic” Malone at the remote cabin. The hike is strenuous and the storm make sit worse, but she arrives at the remote cabin only to find Jake Malone there to greet her. Attracted but keeping their distance, the pair cannot avoid one another as lust and perhaps love wins over caution.

Though different subgenres, these are two amusing well written but heated (they are Blazes at bedtime) romances.

Harriet Klausner

Strong Justice-Jon Land

Strong Justice
Jon Land
Forge, Jun 22 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765323361

Caitlin Strong knows that being a Texas Ranger is part of her DNA. She is the fifth generation of her ancestry to serve. Her current inquiry deals with the illegal selling of Mexican girls as sex slaves mostly to wealthy Americans although she takes a side trip causing a mess to clean up a bigger mess in El Paso.

Law enforcement on both sides wants nothing to do with the deadly traffickers; rationalizing these girls are better off anyway. Instead Caitlin whose gonads are considered by her compatriots and superiors as the biggest in Tex-Mex border law enforcement finds an ally in outlaw Cort Wesley Masters. They also follow leads of a nasty serial killer working the uncontrolled border. Finally the clues take them to Sweetwater, the place where her grandfather during the Depression fought his version of a last stand; and Pearsall where water has made the town into a war zone and Cort an outlaw.

This may be the most complicated and convoluted police procedural of the year as the body bag industry is booming due to the homicides that depopulate most of the myriad of subplots. Jon Land affirms his strong skills as he is able to keep each subplot running smoothly and actually have an additional one re the attraction between the ranger (see Strong Enough to Die for her previous tale) and the outlaw. With ghosts from the past of both leads smoking up storms, fans will appreciate this complex thriller that focuses on the violence and economics of the Tex-Mex trading in guns, drugs, and girls (who do you think employs illegals in Arizona).

Harriet Klausner

Without Hesitation-Mark Rosendorf

Without Hesitation
Mark Rosendorf
L&L Dreamspell, Feb 2010, $17.95
ISBN: 9781603182126

After the mercenary Duke Organization liberated her from Brookhill Children's Psychiatric residence leaving behind a trail of corpses, Clara Blue felt she finally had a family who accepted her. Then that punk mercenary Jake Scarberry took them down killing her hero Rick Rasner (see The Rasner Effect). Now she is back at Brookhill and still hating the joint, but her attempts to escape fail. Instead she increasingly becomes delusional as she spends her time in the padded cells.

While Jake works as a bouncer, Rasner’s co-leader and girlfriend, Jennifer Duke, daughter of the founder of whom she and her dead lover killed, arrives at Brookhill. Clara feels Jennifer has come to take her out of the zoo, but instead the woman accepts a job as a therapist and begins to arm the inmates while encouraging her mentee to avenge those who harmed her in her second stint. Jennifer obsesses over one goal: to kill Jake. So a a second bloodbath occurs she demands he be sent inside Brookhill. Although a civilian, Jake readily agrees as the Duke Organization killed his brother years ago so sending one more to hell is all the motivator he needs.

This is an exhilarating action-packed blood and gore thriller that never stops for a moment until the final confrontation. As in the first tale, fans will root for the hero while looking forward to the High Noon war of revenge between Jake and Jennifer as much of the fascination is how similar their needs are though hey are adversaries who loathe each other. With a strong cast especially inside the facility and once again with a nod to Clockwork Orange, fans will relish the return to Pennsylvania while newcomers will want to know what the deadly Rasner Effect was.

Harriet Klausner

Whiplash-Catherine Coulter

Catherine Coulter
Putnam, Jun 15 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399156533

Yale Professor Edward Kender has colon cancer in which the drug Culovort he receives as part of his treatment seems to be working when he is informed production by German firm Schiffer Hartwin is nonexistent. Stunned he assumes the pharmaceutical industry is playing death squad to drum up profits. He hires private investigator Erin Pulaski to make an inquiry into the firm. She breaks in and enters the head office of the American subsidiary in Stone Bridge, Connecticut in order to hack into the files of the local CEO Caskie Royal. She finds info on plans to stop the Cartwright Labs in Bartonville, Missouri from manufacturing the drug; as well as stopping it in Spain in favor of a French firm Labortoires Anconder’s drug Eloxium. However, Royal and production manager Carla Alvarez arrive and discuss what they are doing with the firm and then have sex..

The next day she learns that the firm’s troubleshooter was murdered near where she downloaded computer data that made no sense to her. Meanwhile, the FBI sends married couple Agents Sherlock and Savich to Stone Bridge to assist FBI agent Bowie Richards with the homicide. They begin to find troubles with the pharmaceutical company while Pulaski wonders what to do with her illegal download; Pulaski becomes their prime suspect. Savich also investigates the poisoning of a lobbyist whose real target may have been aimed at a US Senator.

This is a great timely entry in the long running S&S FBI police procedural series due to the pharmaceutical connection as much as the freshness brought forth by Richards and more so by Erin who knows her B&E was stupid but felt strongly that they needed to expose true death squad bottom lines. Fast-paced from the onset, the second case takes somewhat of a back seat though it is well written and quite exciting too. Fans of the series will relish this strong entry while newcomers will find Whiplash a winner too.

Harriet Klausner

Magic Bleeds-Ilona Andrews

Magic Bleeds
Ilona Andrews
Ace, May 25 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441018529

Kate Daniels pays her lost bet to the Beast Lord Curran with a meal she prepares. However, when he fails to collect, Kate becomes outraged by his affront and humiliated as she wanted to see him. Fuming, she declares war on Curran; leading to not talking, emailing or twittering one another.

However, a truce is needed when a “Steel Mary” plague carrier arrives in Atlanta planning to kill shapeshifters; collateral damage of the innocent being acceptable. The Order of Merciful Aid assigns Kate to hunt down the lethal Steel Mary using whatever force is necessary to end the deadly plague. However, as Kate, with Curran’s reluctant help, closes in on the deadly visitor, she fears she knows who macabre murdering Mary is.

The latest marvelous “Magic” urban fantasy (see Magic Bites, Magic Burns, and Magic Strikes) is a terrific entry filled with a deadly dangerous inquiry balanced by jocular domestic pandemonium. Kate is kissable and killable as she works the Steel Mary plague case as well as her personal hostility with Curran. She and readers will wonder which side is the more dangerous combat to the heroine as Ilona Andrews provides another powerful Magical Mystery Tour of Atlanta.

Harriet Klausner

From Hell With Love-Simon R. Green

From Hell With Love
Simon R. Green
Roc, Jun 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451463326

Eddie Drood reflects on the changes in his life since becoming family head as he wallows is self pity, but sill leads the charge of protecting humanity from creatures mankind prefers to pretend do not exist. The ingrates treat the Droods like mental lepers. Currently Eddie’s prime assignment as the temp in charge is to discover who killed his predecessor the family Matriarch though he knows the Drood broods bet on either him or his girlfriend Molly to figure it ouh; Eddie’s wager is on Molly as he knows he did not kill the old hag.

Eddie attends a minor auction of priceless magical artifacts when Doctor Delirium steals and escapes with the Apocalypse Door. The portal can be used to enable the denizens of hell to enter this world. Eddie must prevent this from happening because once the beasts cross, it will prove impossible to end the apocalypse. However, he soon concludes that diabolical dastardly Doctor Delirium decrees death to Droods so he and his violent volatile malevolent allies can cross over and destroy the world.

The fourth Secret Histories save the earth urban fantasy (see The Spy Who Haunted Me, The Man With The Golden Torc and Daemons Are Forever) is a fun thriller; as Eddie raps to the only person who listens to him (himself) and that Kermit is almost right as it is not easy being Drood. The story line is fast-paced in spite of a series of battles that have an interchangeable sameness feel to them. However, it is Eddie’s introspection on Marmalade Reflections of My Life that make for a deep satirical spin skewing espionage and supernatural thrillers as only a Drood could and would.

Harriet Klausner

Insatiable-Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot
Morrow, Jun 8 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9780061735066

In New York, Meena Harker writes scripts for the soap opera Insatiable. She enjoys her work and is diligent with hopes to obtain a promotion. However, she is hurt when the boss selects Shoshona Metzenbaum the 00 sized treadmill walker with family connections like super director aunt and uncle for the position. Things get even worse when Shoshona directs Meena to write a vampire storyline for the TV show. Having the “gift” of sight that enables her to see who will shortly die; Meena detests the vampire craze and especially loathes her soap following the parade not leading it.

In the apartment building where she lives with her brother and Jack the dog Meena meets Romanian Prince Lucien, who is visiting neighbors. She likes the fact that for the first time she has encountered a person whose death she cannot foresee. However as she falls in love with the sophisticated East European Meena is unaware of why she fails to be able to foresee his death; the reason being he is dead as befitting the offspring of Dracula and is in town due to his being the ruler of the vampire community.

This is a jocular tongue in cheek urban fantasy romance that takes a bite out of the sensual vampire craze. Closer to George Hamilton than Bella Lugosi or Christopher Lee, Insatiable is an amusing lampooning of the craze that those who would dine on us care about us as equals not cattle. Although at times the verbiage turns verbose as if Meg Cabot targets the Princess Diaries crowd rather than the older audience this story line is fun and readers will enjoy her humorous Love At First Bite romantic comedic satire.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Marrowbone Marble Company-M. Glenn Taylor

The Marrowbone Marble Company
M. Glenn Taylor
Ecco, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061923937

In 1941 in Huntington, West Virginia, eighteen year old orphan Loyal Ledford works as a furnace tender at the Mann Glass Company factory while also attending college. He likes his boss’ daughter Rachel and persuades her to go out with him. When the war breaks out, Loyal joins the Marine Corps.

After major combat tours, he comes home to a hero's welcome. He marries Rachel, they have two kids and he returns to the glass manufacturing factory. However, he suffers from the trauma of battle until he meets his cousins, the Bonecutter brothers. They form a partnership, The Marrowbone Marble Company and a company village that welcomes all races and proves successful over the couple of decades until the civil rights movement marches through the area threatening his business, his village and his family.

This super historical epic returns to the land of The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart as The Marrowbone Marble Company focuses on a man who is ahead of his time re race relations only to be threatened by those trying to catch up. After serving in some of the Pacific’s more harrowing battles, Ledford suffers from PTSD until he meets his relatives and their land, which turns him into a visionary. Readers who relish a profound historical tale will appreciate the life and times of the battle fatigued dreamer in the Mountaineer State as he keeps the insightful story line mostly focused although some meandering in the foothills occurs.

Harriet Klausner

Girl in Translation-Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation
Jean Kwok
Riverhead, May 4 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594487569

Eleven years old Kimberly Chang and her mom left Honk Kong looking forward to “Minhaton” and the Liberty Goddess, but her Aunt dumps them into an unheated roach hell dump in a nasty part of Brooklyn. Mother and daughter survive by working at a Chinatown sweat shop while Kimberly struggles to learn English.

Ashamed, Kimberly conceals her home life from her affluent classmates including her only friend Annette. Over the years in spite of having to work she tries her best at school as she knows her only hope out of abject poverty for her and her mom starts with a college scholarship.

This is a fascinating inspiring contemporary fiction starring a wonderful girl who conceals her impoverish life from her schoolmates and friends though she feels guilty doing so as her mom works so hard (as does Kimberly) to give her somewhat a life. Character driven, fans will feel empathy for the young heroine while rooting for her to make it to the Ivy league and to give her mom one day a piano. Adults and high school teens will appreciate the powerful Girl in Translation.

Harriet Klausner

Men Of Danger-Lora Leigh, Red Garnier, Alexis Grant and Lorie O'Clare

Men Of Danger
Lora Leigh, Red Garnier, Alexis Grant and Lorie O'Clare
St. Martin’s, May 2010, $$7.99
ISBN: 9780312576363s

"Hannah's Luck" by Lora Leigh. Due to his late wife’s infidelity, Sheriff Rick Grayson ignores his attraction to Hannah Brookes until a break-in at her home occurs.

"Reckless" by Red Garnier. Seven years ago her father was murdered and Paige Avery was injured. Still suffering from amnesia, she returns to the site of her nightmare to confront Detective Zach Rivers with a plea for the whole truth; not recalling his sweet kisses.

"Tempt Me" by Alexis Grant. Popular rapper Anita Brown is tired of her family leeches who live off of her hard earned money so she turns to her equally hard working security chief Zachary Mitchell for solace, not expecting his soul.

"Love Me 'til Death" by Lorie O'Clare. Detective Ashley Jones makes it clear she is dissatisfied with FBI Agent Chase Reed intruding on her homicide investigation; she also makes it clear that she would be very satisfied if he would intrude in her personal life.

These are four entertaining romantic suspense tales that showcase how wide the range the sub-genre contains with the best being Red Garnier’s strong whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets of the Tudor Court
D.L. Bogdan
Kensington, May 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758241993

Mary Howard would do anything to gain her father’s approval. Thus when he directs her to stay near and assist King Henry’s latest love Anne Boleyn, she does. Doing this makes Mary feel bad as she feels for the kind hearted Queen Catherine rather than the arrogant Anne, but she needs daddy’s appreciative thanks so she obeys his wishes.

Over the years, Mary finds the monarch’s court filled with backstabbing as one queen replaces another. She hides her heart from everyone out of fear anyone who knows who she loves will use it as a weapon including her worshipped father the Duke of Norfolk, who would disown his daughter as he has ambitious plans for his daughter.

Using Mary Howard as a lens to look deeply at the court of King Henry VIII and his myriad of queens, readers obtain a somewhat fresh perspective on what has to be the zillionth historical fictional account of the monarch and his merry wives. Mary is an intriguing narrator who, until she finds love, lives to obtain her father’s approval. Though very well written with a fascinating lead, only fans of the Henry VIII saga will enjoy Secrets of the Tudor Court.

Harriet Klausner

Haunting Warrior-Erin Quinn

Haunting Warrior
Erin Quinn
Berkley, May 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234143

Rory MacGrath works at night at the Low Down bar, a dive in which only cockroaches frequent as the place is near the Pacific yet far enough that one cannot smell the ocean. He is haunted at night with recurring dreams that happen even when he dozes while watching ESPN. A woman whose attire looks like it comes from an Irish museum keeps shadowing him and his late grandmother pleads with him to go home.

Finally unable to cope with ghosts and never the same since his dad vanished into the ancient tome The Book of Fennore, he heeds his grandma’s plea and travels to Ireland to the very place where his father disappeared. However, instead of modern Ireland’s castle ruins, he goes back in time to medieval Eire where he meets the woman of his dreams, Saraid. As they fall in love, both fear their destiny is death, not being together.

This is an interesting Irish time travel romance with a strong support cast in both eras and in the mortal and supernatural realms. The overall enjoyable story line feels unnecessarily stretched in the middle, but fans will still enjoy Rory’s adventures; as he meet the Haunting Beauty of his dreams only not in his body but that of her fiancé while evil prowls waiting to destroy both of them and their respective families.

Harriet Klausner

Death Echo-Elizabeth Lowell

Death Echo
Elizabeth Lowell
Morrow, Jun 8 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061629754

She left her field CIA work for what she assumed would be a much safer position. Thus former agent Emma Cross now works at St. Kilda Consulting in what has to be an easier job than being caught in the crossfire of tribal combat as she previously was.

St. Kilda looks into a simple incident of a vanished yacht the Black Swan that probably was stolen. The mission is to get on board the Black Swan’s identical twin Blackbird as the insurance company thinks the second vessel is actually the missing ship. Emma and former special op officer Mackenzie Durand are in charge of the assignment. He trusts no one as he believes the CIA betrayed his team on a dangerous mission five years ago in which he was the only survivor. In spite of his attraction to his partner, he prefers going alone as no one has his back. Still as he takes control of the Blackbird, Emma must overcome her instincts of also distrusting everyone if she is to learn what is going on; neither expected to fall in love or be back in the CIA’s deadly outreach.

Death Echo is an action-packed romantic suspense espionage thriller that remains at an incredibly high speed yet enables the audience to understand what motivates the powerful distrust in the two lead characters. That pairing of two classic misanthropic skeptics whose similar pasts come back full throttle makes for a taut St. Kilda thriller (see Blue Smoke and Murder, and The Wrong Hostage).

Harriet Klausner

Broken-Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte, Jun 22 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385341974

Four years ago, in Heartsdale, Grant County’s popular police chief Tolliver was murdered; the case remains unsolved. His widow Dr. Sara Linton was the county coroner and ran a children’s clinic, but left after her spouse died. She is back in town visiting her family on Thanksgiving yet is still thirsting for her husband’s homicide to be resolved although she is positive that Officer Lena Adams is at the center of her husband’s homicide.

At the same time, Special Agent Will Trent is also in Grant County to investigate a questionable death oif a prisoner. Not surprising, he finds the local police officers circling the wagons protecting each other form the intruder. Will concludes that Police Officer Lena Adams is concealing something, but is not sure what or why. As he struggles with the uncooperative cops, he is taken aback when Dr. Linton asks him to look into her husband’s murder, a cold case. Trent is being pulled by two women in opposite directions of the Blue Line that keeps him outside in spite of being law enforcement too.

This is an intriguing Grant County thriller (see Faithless, Undone and Blindsided) as Will instead of Sara holds the story line together with two females yanking him in opposite directions. The insightful look at the learning disorder agraphia augments the taut tale as it showcases how an individual learns to conceal a problem with some form of over compensation. In a starring role, Will brings freshness to the plot as he investigates two deaths that cast the Grants County Police Office in a shroud of darkness.

Harriet Klausner

Stealing Fire-Jo Graham

Stealing Fire
Jo Graham
Orbit, May 25 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780316076395

The Macedonian world conqueror is dead and his strongest supporters struggle with what to do in the aftermath as Alexander the Great was a man of epic proportions. Lydias of Macedon was with Alexander as he defeated all opponents, but he learns quickly that nothing will be the same as he leaves behind his ruler’s corpse fleeing for his life.

Lydias joins the side of one of Alexander’s top officers, General Ptolemy, who heads to Egypt to take control of the African nation. In country, Lydias meets other expatriates who pledge loyalty to Ptolemy. However, the Macedonian is shocked from those who come from beyond as the dead and the gods abet the general and his supporters in bringing Alexander’s corpse and spirit to Egypt as his final resting place. However the biggest stunner for the honest Lydias is what Isis bestows on him.

This is a great ancient historical fantasy that brings to life the era just after Alexander’s sudden death within a strong Egyptian mythos. Diogenes would have ended his search if he met Lydias who with a strong support cast serves as the center of the story line even as the real General Ptolemy begins a dynasty in Egypt. Stealing Fire is a terrific BC Egyptian thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Marrowbone Marble Company-M. Glenn Taylor

The Marrowbone Marble Company
M. Glenn Taylor
Ecco, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061923937

In 1941 in Huntington, West Virginia, eighteen year old orphan Loyal Ledford works as a furnace tender at the Mann Glass Company factory while also attending college. He likes his boss’ daughter Rachel and persuades her to go out with him. When the war breaks out, Loyal joins the Marine Corps.

After major combat tours, he comes home to a hero's welcome. He marries Rachel, they have two kids and he returns to the glass manufacturing factory. However, he suffers from the trauma of battle until he meets his cousins, the Bonecutter brothers. They form a partnership, The Marrowbone Marble Company and a company village that welcomes all races and proves successful over the couple of decades until the civil rights movement marches through the area threatening his business, his village and his family.

This super historical epic returns to the land of The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart as The Marrowbone Marble Company focuses on a man who is ahead of his time re race relations only to be threatened by those trying to catch up. After serving in some of the Pacific’s more harrowing battles, Ledford suffers from PTSD until he meets his relatives and their land, which turns him into a visionary. Readers who relish a profound historical tale will appreciate the life and times of the battle fatigued dreamer in the Mountaineer State as he keeps the insightful story line mostly focused although some meandering in the foothills occurs.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Knight’s Persuasion-Catherine Kean

A Knight’s Persuasion
Catherine Kean
Medallion, May 1 2010, $7.95
ISBN: 9781605420967

In 1213 his father, the legendary Moydenshire's Lord Geoffrey de Lanceau, sends Edouard on a mission, but the lad stops when he sees a badly wounded woman whom he recognizes lying in a river. Edouard fell in love with Lady Juliana de Greyne and wanted to marry her, but made a foolish wager involving a kiss that ended their relationship when he mistook her sly sister for her. He pulls the woman he still loves to safety and takes her with him so he can drop her off in a safe place.

When they reach his destination, his father’s enemies wait for him and quickly incarcerate the two travelers in the castle tower. Juliana suffers partial amnesia unable to recall recent events while Edouard plots for them to escape so he can complete his sire’s quest and insure his beloved is safe while also uncovering who wants her dead and why.

The exciting latest Knight’s medieval romance (see A Knight’s Temptation and A Knight’s Reward) is another great “Kean” historical tale. The story line hooks the audience with the opening wager that costs the hero more than just a bet and continues to grip readers as Edouard champions his beloved keeping her safe from an insidious killer while also doing his father’s mission and hoping to persuade her they belong together. Although amnesia has been used a lot in romance, this early thirteenth century tale is filled with action and a strong cast (trademarks of Catherine Kean); as such fans will feel transported to the early thirteenth century accompanying the lead couple on their dangerous trek.

Harriet Klausner

It Had To Be You-Francis Ray

It Had To Be You
Francis Ray
St. Martin’s, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312365073

Music’s number one producer is R.D. (Rolling Deep), who can make anyone with a modicum of alent into a superstar. He believes classical violin virtuoso Laurel Raineau can achieve mega status with her next album if she will heed his advice.

Although her recordings do not sell as well as she would prefer, Laurel rejects Zach’s offers, a first for the egotistical producer as everyone wants R.D. She even refuses to meet with him as she detests his public relations media approach, which means commercialization superseding the music. Deciding to use his real name of Zachary Alright Wilder, he tries a duplicitous ruse to just meet the talent who has rejected him. He arranges to see her under his real name at a resort she is visiting. When they fall in love, Zach knows he owes her the truth, but fears losing Laurel as he will have lost her trust. Still he informs her of his deception and she ends their relationship. Desperate he turns to an orchestra of friends and family to get him an encore performance with Laurel before the curtain comes down on their relationship.

The latest Grayson Friends (see One Night with You and Nobody but You) contemporary romance is an entertaining tale of two people from different musical philosophies making them almost seem like star-crossed lovers. Although the key plot device of concealing who you are has been used before, Francis Ray keeps it fresh by showing how wide and diverse the music world is. The ensemble as always in a Ms. Ray tale is on top of the charts, but the lead duet own the story line as each understands the Lovin’ Spoonful’s mantra “the magic is in the music and the music is in me”, make that us.

Harriet Klausner

The Poet Prince-Kathleen McGowan

The Poet Prince
Kathleen McGowan
Touchstone, May 25 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780743299985

Researcher Maureen Paschal has diligently probed the “Confraternity of Saint Mary Magdalen”. She finds some racy information referencing the Libro Rosso and the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. After learning this she heads to Florence to follow up with Destino, her ancient teacher.

Destino explains to his favorite student that much is known about The Poet Prince Lorenzo de Medici as he was the guiding light in the Renaissance. However, even more is unknown. Lorenzo secretly married Lucrezia “the Colombina” Donati, who was a star model of Botticelli. As she learns more about de Medici, Maureen also becomes heartbroken when she learns a former lover of her beloved Scottish oil mogul Berenger Sinclair accuses him of siring her baby at a time the duet were researching his family links back to de Medici and further back to Roman Longinus Gaius, who used the infamous Spear of Destiny to stab Jesus on the cross.

The third Magdalene Line thriller is an enticing gripping but somewhat convoluted tale as Maureen struggles with what she has learned about her beloved: a modern day Poet Prince. The heroine also begins to believe she knows who Gaius, doomed to walk the earth for eternity, is. Fans of the saga will relish this enthralling entry while newcomers should start with the previous two entries (see The Book of Love and The Expected One) for a better understanding of the increasingly complex McGowan Magdalene mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Supreme Justice- Phillip Margolin

Supreme Justice
Phillip Margolin
Harper, May 18 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780061926518

In Oregon, former cop Sarah Woodruff is on death row having been convicted of killing her lover, John Finley. Her appeals are running out with her last chance being the Supreme Court. Her lawyer has filed the papers to get a delay and a hearing.

However, there are those who do not want her plea to go before the highest court because most likely criminal activity inside the CIA will be revealed. A vacancy enables the behind scenes operatives to reject her request for a hearing. However, to anchor this position, the assassination of a justice is ordered. Private investigator Dana Cutler and law clerk Brad Miller are in the middle of preventing a Beltway murder from happening.

The latest Cutler-Miller DC thriller (see Executive Privilege) is an ultra fast-paced tale that hooks the audience with a need to know the identity of the conspirator(s) as another Oregon death row case has ties across the country. Although much of the cast, especially the DC crowd is stereotyped out of headlines news, readers will appreciate the latest Oregonian-Beltway hook up. A Pacific Northwest private investigator and legal clerk try to prevent a travesty orchestrated on the other side of the country from happening.

Harriet Klausner

The Starlet-Mary McNamara

The Starlet
Mary McNamara
Simon & Schuster, Jun 8 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9781439149843

In Los Angeles at the posh Pinnacle Hotel, Juliette Greyson heads public relations. However to get away from the coddled rich and famous, she is on vacation in her maternal family’s country Italy. In Florence, Juliette is stunned to watch druggie Mercy Talbot, an actress missing from a movie shooting in Rome, dive into a fountain. The paparazzi are too busy taking pictures to help Mercy out of the water; so Juliette pulls her out of the fountain.

Juliette takes Mercy to her family estate Cerreta just north of Florence. There the young woman seems less frantic so the filmmaking is relocated to Juliette’s estate. That is enough to irritate Juliette who needs rest on her vacation, but now Mercy’s shrew of a mom arrives demanding posh hotel treatment; as do much of the Hollywood crowd. However what is worse for Juliette is her former lover movie superstar Michael O'Connor is on location at her estate too at the same time someone is killing the pampered celebs.

The latest Greyson over the top (this time the Italian Alps rather than the Hollywood Hills - see Oscar Season) thriller is an amusing tale that lightly lampoons celebrities and their “ambulance’ chaser paparazzi. The story line is a frantic fun frolic as Juliette hopes to survive the movie world invasion of Italy that she thought she left behind in L.A.

Harriet Klausner

Under The Eye Of Kali-Susan Oleksiw

Under The Eye Of Kali
Susan Oleksiw
Five Star, May 19 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148712

Kovalam, India is a popular tourist town as people come from around the world to visit sites like the Balabhadrakali Temple. American Anita Ray stays in the city not to sightsee, but to help her Auntie Meena run her eight-room Hotel Delite.

One of the guests, middle aged American Jean, vanishes on the same night her friend Marge is taken to the Anandabudhi Hospital after she contracts food poisoning at the Bamboo Village restaurant where Anita and her Brahmin boyfriend Anand also dined. Other guests ignore the duet as they go about their itineraries. Pam plans to visit the Suchindram Temple; Candy treks to Trivandrum; Emily wants to know more about Kali. However, Anita is concerned about Jean, who illegally was going to bring medical supplies into Myanmar. Deciding to investigate, she asks youthful assistant Peeru to watch over the photo shop she owns so she can explore the rice paddies until she learns what happened to Jean and then she must decide what to do next.

The location is excellent as this South India city comes alive to anchor this enjoyable amateur sleuth tale. Anita, apparently the star of short stories not read by me, is an obstinate American working in the land of her family, who cannot stop herself from investigating in order to catch a killer. This strong whodunit also contains a deep underlying message to embrace your heritage and not turn your back on your roots. Filled with suspense, readers will relish a trip to India during tourist season.

Harriet Klausner

Chaos Bites-Lori Handeland

Chaos Bites
Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s, Apr 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312366032

Her dead lover Navaho Skinwalker Sawyer, whom she killed, (see Apocalypse Happens) visits Liz Phoenix every time she dozes off. His nocturnal appearances gives her hope she may be able to raise him from the dead though she has no idea how to bring him back to her and his shapeshifting baby that she is raising and protecting from malevolent forces.

Liz turns to her acrimonious former lover Jimmy Sanducci to help her find a magical tome protected by spells and beasts who no one in their right mind would want to encounter or tangle with. Her job of keeping the baby safe makes their mission all the more difficult. Their trek is dangerous as there are many things out there that prefer the end of the world.

The latest Phoenix Chronicles (see Doomsday Can Wait and Any Given Doomsday) is an exhilarating urban fantasy as the prime triangle continues their escapades with Sawyer reaching out to his beloved from the grave. Fast-paced throughout, the aptly titled Chaos Bites is a great run through a gauntlet of death as apocalypse now continues to happen overwhelming the heroine who also has a baby to contend with (shades of Willow).The Haviland mythos is creative and a great place for readers to visit.

Harriet Klausner

Speak To The Devil- Dave Duncan

Speak To The Devil
Dave Duncan
Tor May 25 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765323477

On the world Dobtov, the power of the nobles is fading due to a rise of nationalism and growing technology replacing magic as obsolescent. Still many of the aristocracy like those in Jorgany retain power and use mercenaries to add to their own soldiers when battles take place

Cardinal Zdenek orders Lancer Anton Magnus to come see him immediately. Anton is fearful that he may be accused of heresy for a ruse he arranged with his brother Wulfgang pretending to use magic or trysting with married aristocrats. Anton is not a fool to leave the Cardinal waiting so he quickly leaves the warm embrace of Baroness Nadezda Radovan to ride helter smelter to see what the powerful Cardinal demands of him.

Fearing an invasion from the Wends, Zdenek shocks the Lancer when he offers him an earldom Cardice through marriage to the previous late lord’s daughter Madlenka if he takes charge of the strategic fortress Castle Gallant and thwarts the invaders. Ironically the opportunity was made by the Cardinal because he believes Anton is a magic practitioner. He does not correct Zdenek’s misconception, but instead Anton discusses the situation with Wulfgang, who encourages him to take command of the fortress and the people; anything else would leave him with a powerful enemy rather than a powerful supporter.

Although Dave Duncan places his saga on planet Dobtov, the author makes his setting appear to be medieval Europe though he imagines a new nation in the midst of a tumultuous period of dramatic change. As technology has begun to supersede magic and altering religious belief systems as a consequence, the Speakers remain hidden in plain sight and still talk with saints or the devil depending on which dogma they believe in but Wulf believes it is the Saints who help him travel through limbo and gives him certain powers that the Church believes are Satanic. The changing of the old guard refreshes the tale. Anton is the focus of the story line, but Wulfgang steals the show as a seventeen year old in love with his new sister-on-law and recognized as a powerful Speaker by many, which places his life in jeopardy. Mr. Duncan showcases his world-building, character development and plot creativity in this entertaining fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Life and Times of Homer Sincere Whose Amazing Adventures are Documented by His True and Trusted Friend Rigby Canfield

The Life and Times of Homer Sincere Whose Amazing Adventures are Documented by His True and Trusted Friend Rigby Canfield
Nathaniel Lande
Overlook, May 13 2020, $25.95
ISBN: 9781590203286

In 1946 in the French Quarter of New Orleans preadolescents Rigby Canfield and polio-stricken Homer Sincere meet over a game of marbles. The two youngsters become friends although the former comes from affluence and the polio-stricken tweener comes from poverty. They soon begin filming their neighborhood with an 8mm camera.

When Homer’s mother dies, he is dispatched to La Vielle Maisona foster home run by Father Rivage. An ex-con, the Father funds the facility with art forgeries and cider sales. He gets intelligent Homer interested in the classics and encouraging the lad to become a “Soldier of the Word.”

The two friends meet again in Manhattan when both obtain work at Time-Life. However as they travel the world, they fall in love with the same woman Daisy, but their first dream of Hollywood filmmaking remains strong and binds them together.

This is an interesting slice of Life that uses real persona and events to anchor time and place, but stars two intriguing lead characters and to a lesser degree the woman who loves both of them. The historical Americana tale is driven totally by Rigby and Homer, though the former tells the tale of how extraordinary the latter, best friends forever, was. Although the story line never fully gels as in many ways it feels more like vignettes, fans will relish Rigby Canfield’s biographical fictional account of his BFF.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Frances-Janice M. Van Dyck

Finding Frances
Janice M. Van Dyck
Winston-Higgins, Apr 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780982614006

Suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that makes breathing difficult, Frances is ready to join God. When her latest attack occurs, she lies down calmly waiting for God to embrace her and does not call her spouse Bill who remains in denial and would call 911. However, when death fails to come right away and the pain turns excruciating, she manages to get Bill to call 911.

Frances needs emergency surgery to remove the infarcted bowel, but though she prefers to say no intrusive operation, she needs professional care that will be covered by insurance at the hospital but not at home. Frances pleads with her son William to allow her to die although she knows her husband and her other children will refuse. When the operation fails, her doctor wants a second try, but Frances says enough; she chooses a death with dignity decision opting for hospice care rather than hospital treatment, but her family wants her to reconsider.

Avoiding melodrama, Finding Frances is a great family drama that looks deeply at the impact on everyone when a loved one is dying. Frances is the most adjusted due to her belief in the afterlife; her husband and three adult children cannot let her leave them without fighting for her to keep trying. Making a strong case for end of life counseling for a family, readers will appreciate Janice M. Van Dyck’s insightful drama; as spending time with Frances and her family provides a profound timely look at dying.

Harriet Klausner