Saturday, May 31, 2014

Small Plates-Katherine Hall Page

Small Plates Katherine Hall Page Morrow, May 27 2014, $24.99 ISBN 9780062310798 This enjoyable nine-story anthology includes six entertaining entries starring caterer Faith Fairchild. Series fans will appreciate these terrific tales including those lacking Faith as we Have Faith in Katherine Hall Page’s to create enticing stories. The fabulous Faith Fairchild: In “The Ghost of Winthrop” Faith seeks a missing will. An escape to the Cape ends for Faith and Thomas when a terrified woman asks the couple to protect her from her husband in “Death in the Dunes.” Faith and her sister fear for the accident-prone bride in “Across the Pond.” Musing that “The Proof is Always in the Pudding,” Faith looks into her husband’s long held family “beliefs”. Sliced” takes place in a TV reality cook-off as Faith participates but not in the way she planned. The past may be haunting but to Faith the present feels uplifting in “The Two Marys”. The terrific tales lacking Faith: “The Would-Be Widower” plans to eliminate his wife so he can be the choice of the widow brigade. It is “A Perfect Maine Day” for drowning victim Myra’s funeral. Finally in “Hiding Places,” the newlywed wife begins to wonder who she married. Harriet Klausner

‘Til Dirt Do Us Part-Edith Maxwell

‘Til Dirt Do Us Part Edith Maxwell Kensington, May 27 2014, $24.00 ISBN: 9780758284648 In Millsbury, Massachusetts, Cameron Flaherty caters her first organic dinner party on her farm where she grows the products being served. The kitchen is in her barn and the dining facility placed outdoors under a tent. Her eighty guests enjoy the meal. Cam feels euphoric over her successful venture until the next morning when the body of irritable diner Irene Burr is found in a sty on her neighbor’s pig farm. The evidence proves the deceased was a murder victim and the police suspects Irene’s stepson Bobby. Fearing the impact on her business and also believing Bobby, who she knows from his work on her barn, did not kill his cranky stepmom, Cam and the suspect’s friend Simone Koyama the mechanic investigate. The second Local Foods whodunit (see A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth anchored by a strong look at the organic and local foods farm industry. Although Cam’s rationalizations for sleuthing seem unlikely, readers will appreciate this fun cozy (including the recipes especially tasty is the Sweet Potatoes Empanadas). Harriet Klausner

Death In Saratoga Springs-Charles O'Brien

Death In Saratoga Springs Charles O'Brien Kensington, May 27 2014, $15.00 ISBN: 9780758286383 In 1894, the affluent Crawford family butler Virgil Crawford hires Prescott and Associates to investigate the disappearance of their housekeeper Martha Colt’s teenaged niece Ruth who vanished a month ago. Mr., Crawford explains to investigator Pamela Thompson that the New York City police refuse to search for the missing girl because there is no evidence of a crime though the butler believes more likely due to her being black. Pamela and fired police detective (and falsely accused convict) Harry Miller follow clues that lead them to decorated Union Army Captain Jed Crake, who has an abusive history with women. Soon the sleuths believe Ruth is dead, but efforts to prove by whom lead them taken off the case by a killer who threatens to harm sixteen year old Francesca Ricci. A few months later, the wealthy but ailing from kidney failure Crake, accompanied by his once a hooker wife Rachel, heads to the Grand Hotel in Saratoga Springs. Crake is not long a guest at the affluent hotel before someone murders him. The local police arrest chambermaid Francesca, who was found with the victim’s jewelry and has a history with Crake. Pamela and Harry head to Saratoga Springs to help Francesca by seeking his killer amidst many people loathing Crake including the Crawford family. The second Gilded Age Mysteries (see Death of a Robber Baron) is an entertaining timely historical that looks closely into the “affluenza” syndrome as the rich get away with murder and rape though the 1890s purchasing power differs from today (cops and thugs vs. lawyers). The whodunit seems more of a support motif to enable readers to visit Manhattan and Saratoga Springs during the decadent “Gay Nineties.” Harriet Klausner

Ill Conceived-L. C. Hayden

Ill Conceived L. C. Hayden CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Aug 17 2013, $15.00 ISBN: 9781491215760 In South Lake Tahoe, California, the police list missing teenager Lauri Evans as a runaway. However, Lauri’s seemingly demented Grandma Louise Dietz insists to North Shore Carrier editor Rich, and reporters Aimee Brent and Dolphine Birescik she heard Lauri scream twice in the nearby woods. Later Aimee chats with Lauri’s boyfriend Gary Heely who insists she did not run away, the missing girl’s mother and other acquaintances. Police Detective Tom O’Day informs Aimee that they found the teen’s corpse in the nearby woods. Tom’s sort of partner Marie O’Day tells Aimee and Dolphine that the victim was stabbed twice in the back and once in the abdomen. Tom arrests drugged-out Gary, but Aimee feels the boyfriend did not kill a girl he cared about; so she and Dolphine investigate only to find several suspects. With Harry Bronson taking a breather (see When Death Intervenes and When the Past Haunts You), L. C. Hayden provides her fans with a fabulous journalist investigative thriller. The engaging whodunit contains red herrings and a wonderful twist leading to a second inquiry. Readers will appreciate the antics of the BFFs reporters as they land in one superbly suspenseful situation after another. Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Best Man For The Job- Lucy King

The Best Man For The Job Lucy King Harlequin Kiss, Jun 1 2014, $5.99 ISBN: 9780373179008 Celia Forrester feels good about her brother Dan’s wedding to Zoe but dreads walking down the aisle afterward arm in arm with the best man Marcus Black. Fifteen years ago, teenage Cecilia loved Marcus, but he rejected her advances. However, this time Marcus has no compunctions and openly flirts with Celia. Although she still remains mortified over what almost happened, she also realizes she still wants her brother’s best friend. Celia concludes a brief fling will rid her of her craving for Marcus. They make love, but she becomes pregnant. Both wonder what to do about their relationship with a baby soon to be in the picture. The Best Man For The Job is an entertaining contemporary in which a pregnancy radically alters the dynamics between the protagonists. Although the relationship feels emotionally underdeveloped and the storyline goes the expected path, Lucy King writes an overall enjoyable second (and third) chance romance. Harriet Klausner

Empire Girls-Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan

Empire Girls Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan Mira, May 27 2014, $14.95 ISBN 9780778316299 In 1918 in Forest Grove, New York their mom died, leaving the older sister Rose in charge of the home while Ivy remained childishly unchanged. Over the next seven years, Rose’s resentment towards her sister grows immensely while Ivy detests her sibling’s prim behavior. When their dad dies, the twenty-something sisters are stunned to learn they are penniless. However the biggest shock is that even their home Adams House went to an older half-brother Asher that neither of the sisters knew existed before the solicitor mentioned him; apparently their dad searched unsuccessfully for his first born. With a photo of Asher in front of a New York City boarding house, the sisters head to Manhattan hoping to find their brother. They easily locate the building in Greenwich Village and obtain a room in the attic so they can ask the occupants questions about Asher. Everyone they talk to insists they never met Asher though the siblings believe they are being lied to. As the sisters in different ways struggle to acclimate to the city, they begin to unravel the truth. Empire Girls is an engaging Roaring Twenties family drama based on the premise of “How ya gonna keep 'em away from Broadway Jazzin around and paintin' the town” (from "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm" (Joe Young, Sam M. Lewis and Walter Donaldson). The storyline captures the essence of the era through the rotating changing eyes of the country bumpkin sisters. The cast purposely is stereotyped to enhance the post WWI celebratory euphoria; leaving fans to enjoy visiting speakeasies to drink illegal booze and dance alongside flappers, while learning the truth about Asher. Harriet Klausner

The Lost-Sarah Beth Durst

The Lost Sarah Beth Durst Mira, May 27 2014, $14.95 ISBN 9780778317111 Lauren Chase fears the pending results of her mom’s medical tests; so instead of heading to work she just keeps on driving mile after mile. Unsure of which state she is in and after a while without any towns until she reaches Lost, Lauren is forced to stop there due to a horrific dust storm that seems endless. Lauren soon learns the diverse populace share one thing in common; an obsession into finding out what each particularly lost that trapped them here; as this town consists of the forgotten amidst long forgotten items. However, her arrival causes a radical change in the hierarchy when the Missing Man vanishes; as he is the only one who can free a dead or alive person from this village. Thus many of the trapped blame the newcomer for their losing hope of ever going home. The Lost is a wonderful metaphysical parable in which the town and its residents make for a captivating poignant tale. Although the thought-provoking storyline can turn passive with too frequent soliloquies, Lauren’s fears of being lost and alone without her mother evoke reader empathy. Harriet Klausner >

The Given- Vicki Pettersson

The Given Vicki Pettersson Harper Voyager, May 27 2014, $14.99 ISBN 9780062066206 In Las Vegas, angel-human Grif Shaw reads the Tribune story on the accidental shooting death of septuagenarian Barbara McCoy. In 1960, as he died from a knife to the gut, McCoy said “Both Shaws got what they deserved”; which led Grif to assume his wife Evie died when he did. Now the P.I. knows Evie survived his death and still lives. Although he realizes he has hurt badly his current love reporter Kit Craig with his obsession to find his spouse, Grif planned to interrogate McCoy before she died in a shooting accident. Meanwhile Kit uncovers an ugly nursing home plot while Grif knows why he was murdered. With Kit’s help, Grif investigates the rest of his personal mystery, but a horde from beyond willing to kill him try to thwart him from succeeding in learning the truth. The third Celestial Blues romantic urban fantasy (see The Taken and The Lost) is a terrific, twisting and taut thriller starring a hard boiled 1950s detective with a soft boiled heart and his loyal beloved reporter teaming up on his cold case murder. With a somewhat convoluted but exciting storyline, fans will appreciate this entry as the Bible says “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”; but not in the way Grif (or readers) anticipated. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Something to Talk About-Dakota Cassidy

Something to Talk About Dakota Cassidy Mira, May 27 2014, $7.99 ISBN 9780778316275 In Plum Orchard, Georgia Emmaline Amos’s husband Clifton, Sr. dumps her for Gina who encourages his cross-dressing lifestyle in Atlanta; as he insists his wife is a lackluster mother of their two sons (Clifton, Jr. and Gareth). The town gossips have a field day with the breakup of the Amos marriage. Her best friend Dixie Davis (see Talk Dirty to Me) hires Em to manage her thriving phone-sex company Call Girls. After a discussion with Jax Hawthorne’s young daughter Maizy who called the “girlfriend store” to get her dad a date, Em decides to be more than a boring rural mom. She chooses fuming Jax who confronts the phone sex operator for talking with his daughter; only he is taken aback when Em suggests a tryst. As the single parents fall in love, Em deals with a town without pity, her spouse’s custody threats, and her sons’ issues re their father leaving. The second Plum Orchard romance is an amusing regional contemporary in which the beleaguered heroine owns the storyline as she struggles with family, friends, gossipers and her heart while in love with a single dad and his daughter. Fans will enjoy Dakota Cassidy’s tale of a woman finding her groove by simply finding herself Harriet Klausner

A Man's Promise-Brenda Jackson

A Man's Promise Brenda Jackson Mira, May 27 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 9780778316251 Several years ago, Caden Granger and Shiloh Timmons planned to elope in Vegas. However, her martinet father Samuel sent Caden photos of his daughter with another man and though Caden waited, Shiloh failed to show up. Now Samuel’s widow Sandra visits Caden to apologize for not being there for him and his siblings fifteen years when his dad killed his mom and to set the truth straight re Shiloh. She says the incriminating pictures were Photoshop, and Shiloh failed to meet him because she was in Boston fighting for her life after being a victim of a hit and run which killed their unborn baby. Caden is shocked and ashamed as he never gave his beloved Shiloh an opportunity to explain. The second Granger romantic suspense is an exciting second chance drama although the protagonists’ conflict ends too quickly especially with how he reacted. The overarching theme moves forward with implications that what led to the Granger patriarch’s conviction fifteen years ago is not the truth. Although clearly a middle-book plot connecting the first entry (see A Brother’s Honor) to the next thriller, series fans will enjoy learning more about the two families intertwined tighter than the DNA helix. Harriet Klausner >

The Cursed- Heather Graham

The Cursed Heather Graham Mira, May 27 2014, $7.99 ISBN 9780778316268 In Key West Hannah O’Brien runs Siren of the Sea bed and breakfast, which has been owned by her family for several generations. Though her B&B struggles to survive, Hannah supplements her income with ghost tours beginning at Siren of the Sea. Following a tour, a college student couple staying at the B&B, Stuart Bell and Shelly Nicholson, see an apparent ghost holding a knife dripping with blood by the pool; terrified they leave immediately. Hannah lectures Melody and Hagen the ghosts for frightening their paying guests, but both spirits emphatically deny involvement. The next morning Hannah finds a corpse who looks like the ghost as described by the upset guests. While her cousin Krewe of Hunters Kelsey O’Brien tells her she is coming, the local cops inform FBI Agent Dallas Sampson as this homicide seems to have ties to his smuggling ring Los Lobos case and the victim was a Fed. Meanwhile the new ghost Jose Rodriguez pleads with Hannah to help him while she believes Sampson suspects her as the killer. The latest Krewe of Hunters urban fantasy police procedural (see Phantom Evil) is a terrific thriller due to a solid cast (including ghosts) and a strong haunting locale. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy touring with Hannah and Dallas as our guides Key West for ghosts and learning of sunken treasure although the audience will guess who the villain is before the cops do. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Virgin of Clan Sinclair-Karen Ranney

The Virgin of Clan Sinclair Karen Ranney Avon, May 27 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 9780062242495 In 1875 Drumvagen, Scotland, prim and proper Ellice Traylor knows she will never compare to her late sister Eudora, the perfect paragon in the mind of her shrewish demanding mother Enid. Whereas Ellice is grateful to Macrath and Virginia Sinclair (see The Devil of Clan Sinclair) for allowing her and her mom to live at Drumvagen Estate in Scotland, Enid takes it for granted due to her being a countess. Ellice secretly writes a book "The Lustful Adventures of Lady Pamela" that she hopes her friend Mairi (see The Witch of Clan Sinclair) will publish, but must find a way to go to Edinburgh. When the Earl of Gladsden visits Drumvagen, Ellice is shocked as this Ross Forster could have been the role model for the hero in her tale. As the Earl leaves for Edinburgh, Ellice hides in his carriage. When he finds her book in his carriage, he draws the same conclusion she made that he could have been the hero. Fearing others would reach the same thoughts, which would destroy his political ambitions, Ross tries to prevent the book from being published. When they are compromised, he proposes but she has doubts as real men pale next to fictional heroes; or is it the reverse. The third Victorian Era Scottish Clan Sinclair romance is an enjoyable amusing nineteenth century tale with metafiction extracts and comparisons to Ellice’s erotica adding fun. Readers will appreciate Karen Ranney’s wonderful historical; as Ellice turns to Pamela for guidance while Ross struggles to prove he, not some fictional character, is the writer’s real hero. Harriet Klausner

Avenge Me-Maisey Yates

Avenge Me Maisey Yates Harlequin Presents, May 27 2014, $9.99 ISBN: 9780373430376 Once best friends, Alex, Hunter and Austin meet every year as they have for the past decade on the anniversary of the event that turned them into shallow deniers. This time Austin shows them the letter proving his renowned (for advocating women’s rights) father Jason caused Sarah to commit suicide when he ignored her rejection of his advances. Austin feels guilty for also ignoring Sarah’s mental state just before she killed herself. The three men agree to prove Jason’s guilt in this and other female victims including two others who were very close to them. Sarah’s sister Katy received a letter from her sister explaining all to her just before she jumped off the building. Since that fatal day, she has sought evidence to destroy the man responsible for tormenting her sibling to death. At a gala Katy and Austin attend seeking to avenge Sarah’s death, they meet and are attracted to each other. Once she learns who he is, she wants nothing to do with him; while he vows to insure his father keeps his creepy hands off of her. The first Fifth Avenue romance (prequel Take Me by Maisey Yates; future pubs: Scandalize Me by Caitlin Crews and Expose Me by Kate Hewitt) is an entertaining opening act as two people fall in love while sharing a common obsession for avenging justice. Although Jason’s behavior in this age of instant media seems unlikely to not have been exposed by now especially with deaths and pay-offs; he is diabolical using his support of female causes as sheep clothing for his proclivity. Readers will enjoy strike one in the effort to destroy the vile man who devastated so many lives behind the façade of mentor. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Backwoods-Jill Sorenson

Backwoods Jill Sorenson Harlequin HQN, May 27 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 9780373778720 Though backwoods hiking is not at the top of her list, San Diego Seaside Retirement Center Director Abby Hammond accompanies her teenage daughter Brooke on a trek in the High Sierras. Abby decided to come because she distrusts her ex-husband, plastic surgeon Ray Dwyer, showing up for his daughter though he is a good father when he does his commitments. Accompanying Ray are his second wife Lydia and her college-age son Leo from her first marriage. Leo is at the cabin when mother and daughter arrive. As Leo and Brooke go for a ride on his motorcycle, recovering alcoholic former Major League player Nathan Strom comes to the cabin hoping to reconcile with his son; though his baseball career and visitation rights died after Leo uploaded on YouTube his drunken state. Abby muses that she and Nathan shares one thing in common; their respective spouses cheated on them with each other. Leo explains Lydia sprained her ankle so Ray opted out to be with her; ergo they sent him instead. As the tense quartet hike, the two teens angrily pronounce revelations re their parents. However, when Brooke vanishes, the rage turns to fear as two adults and a teen desperately search for her. The angst is higher than the range that the foursome hike as each has issues going back to the affair (though in Nathan’s case he believes alcoholism drove his then wife to another man) that changed the two families. The tension is already stratospheric when Abby’s disappearance raises it beyond the troposphere; yet it also enables the adults in their frantic search to get close. Although the ending feels wrong for this otherwise strong family drama turned thriller, fans will appreciate the hike. Harriet Klausner

Before We Kiss-Susan Mallery

Before We Kiss Susan Mallery Harlequin HQN, May 27 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 978-0373778812 Retired NFL player Sam Ridge is in Fool’s Gold, California because his PR firm Score relocated from Los Angeles. He and event planner Dellina Hopkins meet in a hotel bar and enjoy a wonderful sexual encounter until he panics in fear when he sees a room filled with wedding gowns. Score hires Dellina to host a weekend event for their clients over Sam’s doubts. Though she wanted more with Sam, Dellina relishes the opportunity to prove her competency to the newcomers, which she hopes means future bookings. Putting aside her hurt; Dellina quickly demonstrates she knows what she is doing as she plans the event. However, Sam almost has a stroke when she employs a certain sex guru; as this guest lecturer happens to be his outspoken mom. As the ex-jock and the planner work closely together they fall in love, but he obsessively distrusts that emotion since he always ends up hurt and at times even ridiculed like with his ex-wife’s tell-all autobiography. The second Score Fool’s Gold romance (see When We Met) is a fun amusing contemporary starring a hunk sacked by love and a responsible caring woman who hopes he will trust her one day with his heart. Rotating perspective between them, readers will relish this entry as his family and associates add humorous depth while her sisters enable us to understand her better. Harriet Klausner

Take My Breath Away-Christie Ridgway

Take My Breath Away Christie Ridgway Harlequin HQN, May 27 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 9780373778324 When the Inn Klein management announces a renovation project, employee Poppy Walker decides her family property could do likewise and turn it into a thriving Southern California mountain retreat. Her siblings insist the idea is inane as each believes the place is cursed with no good ever coming from this land their ancestors obtained over a century and a half ago. The single mom leaves her beloved five years old son with cousins and accompanied only by Grimm the dog begins her project. Needing money, she rents a dilapidated cabin at five times the normal rate to Ryan Hamilton who insists he needs time away to think; Poppy is unaware that her guest was a teen movie star and remains a Hollywood big shot. When a storm makes her abode unlivable and the nearby road unpassable, she moves into his cabin. As they enjoy their tryst, the paparazzi find them. Picking up her child, they hide in his mansion, but agree no sex even as their attraction grows. Leaving the Crescent Cove Beach House behind, the first Cabin Fever romance is an entertaining contemporary due to the protagonists; as both were hurt by love so each refuses to risk their heart again. The cabin time is hot while the mansion’s phone-sex fun and the leads’ chats enlightening. A late suspense disrupts the pacing and seems unnecessarily even though it forces Ryan to look at what he may lose if he fails to take a chance on love. Still fans will enjoy this entertaining tale as the lead couple makes each other lose control and take their breaths away. Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rescue At Cardwell Ranch-B.J. Daniels

Rescue At Cardwell Ranch B.J. Daniels Harlequin Intrigue, May 20 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373697649 Texas private detective Hayes Cardwell flies to Bozeman, Montana to attend his brother Tag’s wedding to Lily (see Christmas at Cardwell Ranch) and persuade his sibling from opening up a restaurant in Big Sky Country. His plane was delayed in Denver; so he stops for food when he notices a man carrying a woman towards the trunk of a car. He intervenes and rescues realtor McKenzie Sheldon from a dangerous assault though the pervert escapes. After the cops arrive, Hayes drives to the Cardwell Ranch; while rescued McKenzie Sheldon tells the police she failed to see her abductor and her plan to fire her top realtor Gus Thompson for stalking the office women including her. Hayes and McKenzie meet again because she is Tag’s realtor. He becomes her personal bodyguard when the irate fuming maniac, who attacked her in the parking lot, makes attempts to silence her and that Good Samaritan permanently in case either can identify him. This Cardwell Ranch romantic suspense is an enjoyable thriller as an obsessed psychopath rages over his first failure having abducted women before and his fear his latest chosen one or her cowboy can finger him. Although the second protagonists’ meeting comes across as a plausible but significant coincidence, readers will enjoy this twisting tale with several suspects besides Gus surfacing. Harriet Klausner

The Defender- Adrienne Giordano

The Defender Adrienne Giordano Harlequin Intrigue, May 20 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373697694 In Chicago, FBI Special Agent Russ Voight remains diligent on a humongous stock fraud case that he has worked on for over a year. At the steps of the Cook County Courthouse while Russ admires the perfect butt of defense attorney Penny “Killer Cupcake” Hennings, shots are fired at her. A reporter near Penny crumbles having been hit while Russ takes her to the ground and lies on top of her to keep her safe except from his poking erection. Later at her office, he tells the attorney that the shooter escaped. They discuss the conditions of immunity and protection for her client Elizabeth Brooks (and son) to testify against the vicious Colin Heath the prime dealer behind the massive multistate stock fraud case. As the Fed and the kick butt attorney team up, their attraction turns to love, but trust is more difficult to achieve. With a nod to 1940s detective movies like Undercurrent, but with at times Thin Man amusing banter and asides, readers will enjoy this wonderful romantic mystery; mostly because of the fun relationship between Killer Cupcake and the “sick, demented man” vowing to protect her. The Heath subplot provides the danger that serves as the impetus bringing the lead couple together in an exciting drama. Harriet Klausner

Rescue At Cardwell Ranch-B.J. Daniels

Rescue At Cardwell Ranch B.J. Daniels Harlequin Intrigue, May 20 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373697649 Texas private detective Hayes Cardwell flies to Bozeman, Montana to attend his brother Tag’s wedding to Lily (see Christmas at Cardwell Ranch) and persuade his sibling from opening up a restaurant in Big Sky Country. His plane was delayed in Denver; so he stops for food when he notices a man carrying a woman towards the trunk of a car. He intervenes and rescues realtor McKenzie Sheldon from a dangerous assault though the pervert escapes. After the cops arrive, Hayes drives to the Cardwell Ranch; while rescued McKenzie Sheldon tells the police she failed to see her abductor and her plan to fire her top realtor Gus Thompson for stalking the office women including her. Hayes and McKenzie meet again because she is Tag’s realtor. He becomes her personal bodyguard when the irate fuming maniac, who attacked her in the parking lot, makes attempts to silence her and that Good Samaritan permanently in case either can identify him. This Cardwell Ranch romantic suspense is an enjoyable thriller as an obsessed psychopath rages over his first failure having abducted women before and his fear his latest chosen one or her cowboy can finger him. Although the second protagonists’ meeting comes across as a plausible but significant coincidence, readers will enjoy this twisting tale with several suspects besides Gus surfacing. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014-Kij Johnson (editor)

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014 Kij Johnson (editor) Pyr, May 20 2014, $18.00 ISBN: 9781616149017 The Nebula Awards Showcase annual collection is always an entertaining anthology that provides readers with those tales selected by the by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as the best, in this case of 2012, in the two genres. Included are the enjoyable short story winner sci fi tale “Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard and two of the other five finalists (“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” by Ken Liu and “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” by Cat Rambo). The Best Novelette (fascinating survivor saga of “Close Encounters” by Andy Duncan) and the Best Novella (excellent eco-thriller “After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall” by Nancy Kress) are strong entries. Fans will read excerpts from the Best Novel (taut terraforming “2312” by Kim Stanley Robinson) and the eerie winner of the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (“Fair Coin” by E.C. Myers). Finally the great Gene Wolf received the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master recognition; with his short story “Christmas Inn” and two essays paying homage to this superstar by Michael Dirda and Neil Gaiman added to the anthology. Rounding out the compilation are 2012 Rhysling Awards, Best Short Poem (“The Library, After” by Shira Lipkin) and Best Long Poem (“The Curator Speaks In The Department of Dead Languages” by Megan Arkenberg); and the 2012 Dwarf Stars Award went to Marge Simon for “Blue Rose Buddha”. With a list of past winners as well, this is a great book though I personally would prefer more of the complete shorter works that many of us do not get a chance to read rather than extracts from the longer winners. Harriet Klausner

Closed Doors-Lisa O'Donnell

Closed Doors Lisa O'Donnell Harper, May 20 2014, $26.99 ISBN: 9780062271891 On Rothesay west of the Scottish mainland, eleven year old Michael Murray lives in a new house that his Ma thanks Prime Minister Thatcher for building while his Da loathes the PM for caring only for the rich as he insists her excursion in the Falkland Islands proves. One day his Ma comes home with a severely bruised face. She tells her concerned son she fell while fleeing from a flasher. The tweener initially accepts this explanation, but as time passes something seems wrong because his Ma seems too depressed for just a bad tumble running from a naked pervert and his Da displays temper he never had before; their fights frighten the child. Knowing the only way a child can learn the truth from concealing adults is by clandestinely listening while they argue behind closed doors. He hears his irate Da insisting they tell the police what really happened because the townsfolk believe he physically abused his wife; while Michael’s Ma refuses as she does not want to become labeled a foolish victim who got what she deserved. Bewildered Michael struggles to know what changed the demeanor of his parents. Closed Doors is a tense Thatcher Era Scottish family drama in which a dark pivotal moment radically changes the relationship dynamics. Whereas the adults go out of their way to hide the incident from their son because they believe he is too young to deal with the harrowing truth; the lad goes out of his way to uncover what really happened to his Ma. Readers will empathize with Michael as his fear-driven imagination of the unknown running out of control wild; and his family poorly coping with victimization following a heinous assault. Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cold Shot-Mark Henshaw

Cold Shot Mark Henshaw Touchstone, May 20 2014, $24.99 ISBN: 9781476745572 In the Gulf of Aden, the USS Vicksburg recovers a lifeboat containing a tortured dead African. Not long after that, CIA analysts using satellite imagery notice the Iranian freighter Markarid missing a lifeboat secretly sailing towards Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Knowing that President Diego Avila covets possessing WMDs add to the suspicion of what the ship may be carrying. CIA Red Cell desk analyst Kyra Stryker returns to the field to gather on the ground Intel in Venezuela, a place where she had issues years ago. Red Cell analyst Jonathan Burke joins her as they videotape Venezuelans with illegal nuclear distributer Hossein Ahmadi, and workers becoming ill from what might be radioactivity exposure. American President Rostow demands 100% proof that the Iranian is selling nukes to the Venezuelans; thus Stryker infiltrates the facility, but nothing goes right as all hell explodes around her and her partner. Filled with incredible depth and a strong cast, the second Stryker-Burke CIA tale (see Red Cell) may be the espionage thriller of the year as the action never slows whether at sea, data crunching at Langley or in country. Readers will enjoy this action-packed entry as early on Iranian Sargord Elham sets the table when he keeps to himself that the Tehran-connected Ahmadi made an unnecessary and foolish minor mistake in the Gulf of Aden; that seemingly harmless error enables the Americans to follow falling dominos starting from the dead African. Harriet Klausner

Live In Person- Lynda Fitzgerald

Live In Person Lynda Fitzgerald Crystal Dreams Press, Apr 17 2014. $15.95 ISBN: 9780971565821 A lot has happened to Allie Grainger over the last year. Her beloved Aunt Lou died, but left her the house and estate while still talking to her inside her head. Working as a reporter for the Brevard Sun, Allie investigated the suicide of the wife of county Sheriff Cord Arbutten; Lou loved Cord and believed him innocent while his son, Allie’s her now beloved Rand, believed his dad killed his mom (see Live Ammo). Allie’s idyllic life crashes when she returns to her home to find her angry obnoxious brother Len greet her with a demand of half of their aunt’s two-million dollar estate in spite of his scornful treating of Lou when she lived. She refuses, but soon afterward Rand vanishes with Allie the only suspect. At the same time, convicted psychopath former Brevard County Deputy Sheriff Sidney Finch escapes incarceration. He deploys his avenging plan to regain all he lost starting with killing the nosy reporter and those who abetted her; leaving him a cripple and cost him the respect of his beloved father figure Cord. The latest Sunshine State Grainger mystery (see Live Ringer) is an exciting tale in which the heroine fights a two-front war. The support cast is fully developed with Rand being her caring lover; next door neighbor Libby adding eccentricity; Grainger’s family offering ridicule and threats; and the return of insane Sidney preparing to finish the job he failed at last year. Lynda Fitzgerald provides another strong entry in a fabulous series. Harriet Klausner >

Riding High-Vicki Lewis Thompson

Riding High Vicki Lewis Thompson Harlequin Blaze, May 20 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373798032 After he caught his fiancée sleeping with his best friend and partner, six months ago veterinarian Regan O’Connelli moved from Virginia to Shoshone in the Jackson Hole area where his sisters live. He joined the veterinary practice of his brother-in-law Nick Chance (see Wanted) at the Last Chance Ranch. Nick does volunteer work at the overcrowded and rundown Peaceful Kingdom Horse Sanctuary recently bought by brilliant free spirit Lily King. He asks Regan to help, which he agrees to do. When Lily and Regan meet for the first time, each fells an incredibly strong attraction like neither ever felt before. As they fall in love, he hesitates having been burned not too long ago; but she wants to take a chance that they belong together. The latest engaging Sons of Chance Wyoming ranch romance (see The Heart Won't Lie and Cowboys & Angels) stars another O’Connelli sibling (see Ambushed) matched with an eccentric genius. Freshness comes from Harley whose relationship with Wilbur is precious; as this mischievous pig upstages the lead characters to their everlasting joy by proving WC Fields’ wrong when he said “'never work with children or animals”. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Shades Of Virtue- Jack Whitsel

Shades Of Virtue Jack Whitsel Paladin Timeless Books, Apr 15 2014, $17.95 ISBN: 9781606192252 Almost two years ago a half of century of peace in the Hugue ended with the incursion of the feral beasts of the Harhn of Vol Thaldane. Led by a diabolical sorcerer and allied with the Darkfey, the Harhn invaded the Hugue at a time when most of the Order Knights were far away and unable to protect humanity. Due to the heroic efforts of Lord Protector of the Land Duke Baudouin and Dragon Maiden Lady Lucia, mankind survived though the war has left behind devastation especially for those who work the land as the fall harvest yielded little (see Shadows of Kings). As he leads his armies against the Harhn Hordes and other enemies, Lord Yannic tries to persuade the humans that divided they fall while united they triumph. He pleads with the fiefdom leaders to join Shyrlandia. Meanwhile a jousting tournament at Kilgan draws many desperate individuals as well as experience champions to compete for the hand of Lady Basina and becoming influential throughout the lands. To insure fair play as this contest has far reaching impact, the Council sends Lady Lucia accompanied by her novices (Dragana and Tallya) as observers with instructions to interfere if, as expected treachery or malevolence, surfaces; and to uncover who defiantly defies the Order Knights causing potential destruction. The fast-paced second Dragon Rising fantasy magically transports engaged readers to a medieval setting that enables fans to believe in wizardry, beastly hordes, dragons and much more. Filled with high drama and a delightful tournament of champions, Shades of Virtue is a terrific tale of yore lacking only a needed regional map of Shyrlandia, Vol Thaldane and Hugue. Harriet Klausner

Black Lake-Johanna Lane

Black Lake Johanna Lane Little, Brown, May 20 2014, $25.00 ISBN 9780316228831 As his family has lived in isolated overlooking the Atlantic Dulough Castle, Ireland since it was constructed in 1857, John Campbell is heartbroken and feels like he betrayed his ancestors though he sought employment in nearby Donegal. He also thought of a flat in Dublin, but decided against dividing his family. Thus, unable to pay the exorbitant bills, John converts Dulough into a museum for tourists to visit. Depressed John, his grieving wife Marianne and their two mortified children (twelve years old Kate and eight years old Philip) move into a nearby cottage. The despondent foursome watches the renovations to what was home to the Campbell clan past and present; each change batters the current members’ psyches as none of them adapt to being banished from their home. The move was traumatic enough, but a more harrowing tragedy leaves the family on the brink of complete disintegration. Rotating perspective mostly between the Campbell’s (including past residents), this insightful leisurely-paced storyline looks deeply at voluntary displacement due to economics on a small scale. Readers will appreciate this profound, gloomy yet with a flicker of hope family drama; as the Campbell family feel lost in the wilderness. The audience extrapolates the Campbell sense of exile and loss to mass displacements by refugees forced to leave homes in combat zones and ethnic cleansing especially in the Middle East and Africa. Harriet Klausner

Need You Now- Debbi Rawlins

Need You Now Debbi Rawlins Harlequin Blaze, May 20 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373798056 In Blackfoot Falls, Montana, high school teacher Melanie Knowles knows she lives up to the image of a virtuous life expected from Pastor Ray’s daughter by volunteering for many local activities, especially at the Safe Haven Animal Shelter. Dedicated Prison Reform Now representative Lucas Sloan arrives in Blackfoot Falls. He hopes to persuade Melanie and Shea Monroe to house over a hundred horses at Safe Haven in which his group will pay for feed and vet services as part of their Wild Horse Training Program. Starting with his shirt off as he changes a school bus’ flat tire and by the way he ogles her butt has the saintly good girl thinking wicked thoughts about the visiting hunk. As they begin a tryst, Lucas feels guilty knowing his past if revealed would change her reputation to fallen angel. This Made in Montana romance (see Alone With You, From This Moment On and No One Needs To Know) is an entertaining contemporary starring two seemingly opposites falling in love. Though readers will guess his secret early on and the pace slows down in the middle, series fans will enjoy visiting Big Sky Country. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Single Dad's Second Chance-Brenda Harlen

The Single Dad's Second Chance Brenda Harlen Harlequin Special Edition, May 20 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373658190 In Charisma, North Carolina, Buds and Blooms florist Rachel Ellis hates Valentine’s Day except that is a major moneymaker. That holiday is also one of three days annually (November 22 and August 10 are the other occasions) that Andrew Garrett buys white roses. Lonely Rachel stops at Valentino’s for takeout, but her owner friends make her sit and eat in the kitchen. Andrew arrives for pasta takeout, but the owners make him sit down and dine with Rachel; as they insist no one should eat alone on Valentine’s Day. He tells her the woman he bought the flowers for, his wife of five years Nina, died three years ago. His first grade daughter Maura would like to attend a wedding by Christmas with her sad dad as the groom. When Maura meets Rachel, she writes in her diary that she wishes the nice flower lady was her mommy. Brenda Harlen fans will rejoice with the return of Those Engaging Garretts! (see the New York branch in From Neighbors … to Newlyweds, A Very Special Delivery and His Long Lost Family) as the North Carolina cousins take center-stage. The lead couple is a delightful pairing while precocious (at times too much so) Maura and her Dear Diary entries enhance the second chance romance between a florist who gave up on love and sleepless in Carolina. Harriet Klausner

The Blonde-Anna Godbersen

The Blonde Anna Godbersen Perseus/Weinstein, May 13 2014, $26.00 ISBN 9781602862227 In the outer rim of Los Angeles County, due to a lack of funds, Norma Jean’s mother and “aunt” took in boarders. One of them Perry warns pretty but shy Norma Jean not to trust men and that one day soon he promises to teach her to defend herself from brutes. Not long afterward, Perry not only shows her how to use a gun; behind the scene he turns Norma Jean into the star actress, Marilyn Monroe. A dozen years after he launched her career, Perry comes to collect. He asks her to gather information on Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy, a rising political star. To sweeten the pot, Perry says he will arrange for Monroe to meet her father. Monroe leaves New York for Chicago, where she meets Kennedy at a restaurant. They begin an affair as he runs for and wins the White House. However, his ascendency changes Monroe’s mission into destroying the JFK presidency with the tryst and much more ending in Dallas. Although the premise of MM Soviet sleeper agent seems over the top of the Hollywood sign as the execution fails to come across as plausible, readers will enjoy The Blonde due to Anna Godbersen capturing the Hollywood-DC complex and the portrayal of lonely Marilyn Monroe. The support cast is solid (in both locales) while The Blonde, pretending to be a naive moron to hide her true intelligence, keeps the entertaining storyline focused even as Camelot takes a super hit. Harriet Klausner >

A Season Of Change-Lynette Sowell

A Season Of Change Lynette Sowell Abingdon Press, May 20 2014, $14.99 ISBN: 9781426753558 Still grieving the losses of his wife Hannah and their third child during childbirth; yet also knowing his two other young kids need a change as the three mourn deeply, Amish widower Jacob Miller takes them from Ohio to Pinecraft in Sarasota, Florida where he has family. However, his brother Ephraim pressures Jacob to consider Betsy Yoder as a wife since two children need a maam. The family’s fun of ice cream at Christmas time ends when a car hits his daughter Rebecca; so Jacob’s Florida stay will extend into next year while his offspring heals. Twenty-five years old Englisher Natalie Bennett’s aerial artist days ended with a severe knee injury. Now she performs as Bubbles the Clown at the children’s corridor of Sarasota General Hospital. There she meets Rebecca, her brother Zeke, her aunt and uncle, and Jacob. The widower and the clown are attracted to each other and he offers to help Natalie find her maternal Amish roots when she mentions her mom left her family and community years ago. However, as they fall in love, both believe nothing can come of their relationship as each resides in polar different worlds. The first Seasons in Pinecraft Amish romance is an engaging family drama starring a solid cast who bring alive this real place where Amish Snowbirds come for the winter. Although readers know how this will end, this is an enjoyable storyline as the two adults struggle to find common ground besides love while knowing there is no compromise solution. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monday Monday-Elizabeth Crook

Monday Monday Elizabeth Crook Sarah Crichton Books/FSG, Apr 29 2014, $26.00 ISBN: 9780374228828 On a hot day in August 1966 as the Mamas and the Papas sing Monday, Monday, Marine veteran Charles Whitman carries weapons to the top of the bell tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Using his high ground position as a sniper, he begins shooting at those on the plaza below; killing sixteen people and wounding over thirty more before the police shoot Whitman dead. Student Shelly Maddox watches a person she knows die near her while she is shot in the breast and arm. In class, Wyatt Calvert hears the shots and looks out the window to see the blood and gore. He calls his wife to tell her to stay where she is before rushing out, and joined by his cousin Jack, to rescue those injured including Shelly, but Wyatt takes bullets in his legs. That fatal day forges a bond between the cousins and Shelly; as each struggle with emotional traumas, and Wyatt and Shelly with physical scars. Over the next four decades, the trio finds their lives changing, but each knows that Monday Monday in 1966 remains the lethal pivotal moment that shaped who they became. This is a powerful epic that makes a strong case that survivors of a mass shooting never fully connect with others except for those who were there and never move; as even those like the cousins who displayed courage under fire remain haunted. Over forty years before the Virginia Tech tragedy, Elizabeth Crook captures the harrowing impact of the Texas Tower mass murders that becomes imprinted in the souls of those who lived through it and the loved ones of those who did not. Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Hydra Protocol-David Wellington

The Hydra Protocol David Wellington Morrow, May 13 2014, $25.99 ISBN 9780062248800 On Rikard Island in Eastern Siberia, Spetsnaz trained Russian spy Nadia Asimova finally obtains the Soviet State Secret report she sought. She knows she must warn the Americans in order to prevent a nuclear winter so heads toward Japan and from there the States. At the Pentagon, Chapel’s superior Hollingshead tells him the 1980s Soviet Dead Hand program never was shut down. Also there is Nadia who explains what she found in Siberia about Dead Hand or what her side called Perimeter. If specified conditions occur that leads Perimeter to conclude Russia is under attack; the program will activate by firing missiles at the United States and cause a global nuclear winter. Although still ailing and now heartbroken after Julia Taggart ended their relationship in Brooklyn, Chapel joins Asimova heading to locate and disable Dead Hand while understanding this doomsday machine is a Hydra that reacts to a head cut off by activating a new deadlier head. With nods to Star Trek (The Doomsday Machine) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (Vendetta), the sequel to the exciting Chimera is a superb twisting “Cold War” thriller filled with distrust and triple crosses as nothing except Angel is what he or she first appears. Feeling isolated except for Angel, Chapel struggles with determining who his allies are and who his adversaries are. Fast-paced from the onset, but accelerating even more so when Chapel and Asimova meet for the second time (after a brief encounter off Cuba), readers will appreciate this save the world from a relic only an insane lunatic would create. Harriet Klausner

The House On Blackberry Hill-Donna Alward

The House On Blackberry Hill Donna Alward St. Martin's, Apr 29 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 9781250045164 Nova Scotia elementary school teacher Abby Foster inherits the Foster estate in Jewell Cove, Maine from Aunt Marian. Though she never heard of her late aunt or even knew she had any recently living relatives, persistent lawyer Ian Martin persuades her to finally come to the coastal town and decide what she wants to do with the dilapidated estate that was ignored for years after Marian became ill. Her plan is to sell The House on Blackberry Hill ASAP and return as quickly as she can to her Canadian home. Contractor Tom Arseneault wants to renovate the Foster estate. However, after an ignominious first step meeting, he convinces a reluctant Abby to hire him. Distrusting her new contractor and for that matter all the townsfolk, Abby knows firsthand the venom of small towns. Still Abby cannot resist learning about her ancestors as she and Tom find hidden photos and letters, but it is a ghost who teaches her what family love is all about. The first Jewell Cove romance is a wonderful tale that emphasizes the importance of familial relationships though not necessarily made up of blood relatives. The storyline is character driven by the strong pairing of the Canadian and her local contractor ably supported by locals including the ghost and the heroine’s ancestors (through the documents found in the house). Fans will enjoy visiting Coastal Maine as Abby finds her roots. Harriet Klausner

Return To The Beach House-Georgia Bockoven

Return To The Beach House Georgia Bockoven Morrow, May 13 2014, $14.99 ISBN: 9780062195241 California beach house owner Julia hires her college bound teenage neighbor Grace to keep her property in tip top shape and take care of the renters. In June, Widow Alison and her college bound grandson Christopher arrive. Over the month, Christopher teaches Grace to ride horses and she mentors him on surfing while his grandma meets Kyle who makes her forget her decade long feeling of loneliness. In August, Danielle, Bridget, Carrie and Angie come to the beach house to spend time together. Danielle, Carrie and Angie are upset with Bridget for concealing she underwent chemo because each wanted to be there for her, but all vow to spend the month together renewing their friendships while revelations threaten to break their bond. Due to work commitments, war photographer Lindsey and wildlife photographer Matthew struggle to see each other though both desire this very deeply. They agree to spend January together at a beach house near Monterey with each believing this is a farewell finish to their affair and friendship. The Return To The Beach House is a fun sequel (see Beach House) as each of the entertaining three relationship dramas star fully developed cast members in engaging storylines that for the most part (with some revelatory exceptions) follow the anticipated path. Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bone Dust White-Karin Salvalaggio

Bone Dust White Karin Salvalaggio Minotaur, May 13 2014, $24.99 ISBN 9781250046185 Eleven years ago, the corpses of four Eastern European females were found in Collier, Montana. The prime suspect Leanne Adams vanished leaving behind her six year old daughter Grace. The murders were never solved and Leanne never found. In the present, a fearful Grace recovers from a heart transplant when someone comes to the door of her home. Peeking out of a window she watches a knife-yielding man assaults and kills a woman; who turns out to be her mom whom she had not seen in over a decade. The police are delayed answering her frantic 911 call, but paramedics Peterson and Carson arrive at the harrowing scene. Soon to give birth to her first child, Montana State Special Investigator Macy Greeley looks into this homicide that appears tied to the cold case in Collier though she prefers out of the investigation besides shortly being due, Leanne was her sister-in-law. Additionally, the cop fears Grace could be next so though she prefers no involvement, Macy wants to protect the teen while making inquiries in a town with no compassion. Bone Dust White is a strong grim Big Sky police procedural as readers get a close look at a town whose last thriving industry is meth production. Character-driven by for the most part the uncaring local residents, readers will appreciate this entertaining whodunit though we ironically will solve the case much earlier than the pregnant detective and her “partner” Peterson. Harriet Klausner

The Man With The Lead Stomach-Jean-François Parot and Michael Glencross (translator

The Man With The Lead Stomach Jean-François Parot and Michael Glencross (translator) Gallic, May 13 2014, $15.95 ISBN: 9781906040123 In 1761, gunshots are heard by family and staff inside the locked bedroom of the son of the Comte de Ruissec. Although the evidence overwhelmingly points to a suicide, recently promoted to Commissioner (due to his excellent handling of the Lardin affair; see The Chatelet Apprentice), Nicolas Le Floch believes a homicide occurred by a brilliant killer who brilliantly staged the death. Comte de Ruissec refuses to cooperate with the police inquiry into his son’s death, but he uses his being part of Princess Adelaide’s retinue to try to end the investigation or at least thwart the inquiry. Though there is pressure on Le Floch to stop the case, his boss Sartine warns him to tread extremely carefully as he deals with the non-cooperating or misinforming aristocracy in Versailles and less so amidst the brothels and theaters of Paris. When the Commissioner learns the deceased owed an exorbitant gambling debt that forced him to end his relationship with an angry actress in order to become engaged to a wealthy older woman; he ponders whether the motive lies somewhere in the victim’s recent relationships. The second Le Floch eighteenth century French police procedural is a strong investigative historical starring a wonderful protagonist who has come a long way from his country bumpkin start. Readers will enjoy Le Floch’s inquiry into what appears to be a suicide though the cop and his assistant Inspector Bourdeau lean towards a locked room murder. Harriet Klausner

The Heart’s Pursuit-Robin Lee Hatcher

The Heart’s Pursuit Robin Lee Hatcher Zondervan, May 13 2014, $15.99 ISBN 9780310259275 In 1873 bounty hunter Jared Newman, accompanied by a prisoner, arrives in Twin Springs, Colorado on the same day that charming rat Bob Cassidy jilted Silver Matlock. Silver’s father Gerald explains to his disbelieving arrogant second wife Marlene and his fuming daughter that business has been poor lately and though lacking legal proof he believes Cassidy stole a large sum of their money from a land sale that was to pay off the mortgage and other debts. The runaway fiancé left the Matlock family teetering on the brink of financial ruin with no options left. Sheriff Cooper introduces Silver to Jared as a person he can recommend to her. Cooper persuades Newman to help Silver though the bounty hunter’s motive is to collect a small fee while waiting for the money due him from his prisoner; deep in his gut he knows the murder of his sister back in Tennessee is why he accepts the commission. Over his objection, Silver joins Jared as he hunts her former fiancé. While on the trail together in Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada, the daughter of the town’s leading family and the bounty hunter fall in love. The Heart’s Pursuit is a wonderful inspirational western romance as two apparent opposites share in common a thirst for avenging justice and eventually love. Although the storyline goes as expected with the exception of a lad they meet on the trail, readers will feel we are traveling with the lead pair during the Reconstruction Era in the Rocky Mountains Old West that comes vividly to life in this entertaining tale of forgiving one’s self. Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 16, 2014

Queen of the Dark Things-C. Robert Cargill

Queen of the Dark Things C. Robert Cargill Harper Voyager, May 13 2014, $26.99 ISBN 9780062190451 In Austin, Texas Colby Stevens suffers from PTSD after he and his BFF Ewan successfully escaped from the Fey’s Limestone Kingdom only to have to fight and defeat the fairy horde’s invasion from their realm. However, the cost was exorbitant with the death of Ewan and the knowledge that others know of his skills (see Dreams and Shadows). Thus six months later, Colby has become a semi-recluse. At the same time while the American grieves and broods, in Australia tweener Kaycee accepts that the mundane normal world ignores her as a loser due to physical disabilities and blemishes. However, in the dreamworld, no one dares ignore powerful Kaycee. Diabolical demons use their respective rush to fight attitudes without data to cause Colby and Kaycee to confront one another; while also ignoring their real adversaries who threaten both of them, Austin, America and the world. The second Colby thriller is an enjoyable urban fantasy filled with deep metaphysical debates on life and death, and other conditions. Having tasted death, aware that evil exists and feeling alone since his abductee peer and BFF died, brooding (until the escapades begin) Colby is much grimmer and darker than he was in his debut. Readers will appreciate the action-packed Queen of the Dark Things while wondering along with the protagonist who this ethereal monarch is. Harriet Klausner >

How’s The Pain?- Pascal Garnier and Emily Boyce (translator)

How’s The Pain? Pascal Garnier and Emily Boyce (translator) Gallic, May 13, 2014, $12.95 ISBN: 9781908313034 Elderly Simon Marechall has spent a lifetime as an exterminator, but knows killing vermin is a young person’s game. With bodily aches and much more persuading him it is time to retire; Simon has one last commission in Cap d'Agde to complete before he hangs up his guns permanently. When Simon becomes ill on the way to his final job, he stops in Val les Bains. He meets twentyish Bernard Ferrand as both sit on a bench. Bernard explains he is in town visiting his mom while on medical leave recovering from an accident that cost him two fingers at work. Simon hires Bernard to drive him to Cap d'Agde so he can complete his last mission though the exterminator also accepts he will die hopefully not before he closes out his last vermin contract kill. Readers will relish the late Pascal Garnier’s graveyard humorous dark French noir. The traveling companions are an odd coupling of a dying mentor instructing his young chauffeur that exterminator and vermin have multiple connotations. Fans will enjoy their road show as nothing goes in accordance with Simon’s farewell tour plan. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Oath Of The Brotherhood-C. E. Laureano

Oath Of The Brotherhood C. E. Laureano Think/NavPress/Tyndale, Apr 18 2014, $14.99 ISBN: 9781612915876 King Galbreath of Tigh wanted nothing to do with his heir so ordered Lord Labrhas to raise his son. Labhras sired the lad as if Conor was his biological offspring training him to be a scholar. However after nine years of no contact, Galbreath demands his seventeen year old child see him at his fortress Glenmallaig. The monarch is disgusted to learn Conor’s time was wasted on worthless languages and history instead of sword fighting, and proclaims Conor is not his son. Diarmuid the Druid tells the distraught teen when he is ready come to him for answers. Fearing an invasion from the Sofarenden seafarers of the Northern Isles crossing the Amantine Sea, Galbreath wants to seal an alliance with his equally threatened Isle of Saire neighbor to the east Faolin; so he exiles his worthless son as a hostage to King Calhoun as a sign of good faith. At Calhoun’s court in Lisdara, Conor and the monarch’s sister Aine fall in love. While he is away receiving special training, war breaks out threatening the four nations on the Isle of Saire. The first Song of Seare coming of age fantasy is a fabulous saga because the Laureano world seems genuine and the lead couple a brave wonderful duo. The storyline starts slow as terms and names are introduced making the glossary a reader’s best friend but also providing a sense of a different setting. Once the audience adjusts to the vernacular, readers will appreciate Conor as a scholar warrior defending his faith and people, and Aine leading her nation in an insurgency against the evil who took over the kingdom. Harriet Klausner

The Baron’s Honourable Daughter-Lynn Morris

The Baron’s Honourable Daughter Lynn Morris FaithWords, May 6 2014, $15.00 ISBN: 9781455575596 When the Earl of Maledon suddenly died, his estate unraveled while his widow grieved alone in her chambers and his six year old son seemed lost with his new responsibilities. Realizing someone had to take charge, the new Earl’s eighteen years old stepsister Valeria Segrave began giving orders to the household and others working on the estate. However, though she knows she can do the job, the males universally reject her being in charge because of her gender, youth and lack of a blood tie to the late Maledon. A relative of her deceased stepfather, Lord Alastair arrives. Though attracted to the newcomer, Valeria feels unworthy of him as she thinks he deems her lacking in the social graces of a lady. In London for a season, her actions seem to affirm his first impressions. However, not one to back down from a challenge, Valeria takes on Alastair in a gender battle of wits and love. This engaging Regency romance is an entertaining historical that showcases the lack of support for a young female trying to do the right thing for her family and employees. Readers will root for spunky Valeria who makes the tale fun; as she believes in herself in spite of overwhelming sexism and other biases, with an “anything you (Alastair) can do, I can do better (from Annie Get Your Gun) attitude. Harriet Klausner

Always Emily-Mary Sullivan

Always Emily Mary Sullivan Harlequin SuperRomance, May 6 2014, $6.75 ISBN: 9780373608478 Over a decade and a half ago in Accord, Colorado, young teenager Emily Jordan fell in love with her twenty-year old BFF Salem Pearce; though attracted to her too, he knew she was too young for him so did nothing. Instead of waiting for her to grow up, he had sex with Annie, a girl his age. When she became pregnant, Salem married her. Four years ago, Annie died leaving him a widower single dad to their children. Thirty yeas old archeologist Emily goes off on another dig, but this time returns home suffering from malaria and framed by her boss-lover Jean-Marc for stealing a prayer book that she took from him. As he slanders her name all over the Internet especially within their field, Emily feels a deep need to take the tome back to the rightful owners the National Museum of Sudan and also decides to commit to Salem and pray he does likewise to her though she accepts his daughters must come first. However, as the pair struggles with love, the uncovering of human remains leads to Salem’s arrest at a time when she must make one last sojourn overseas this time to Khartoum. This is a strong contemporary romance as the lead couple deals with complex issues in an attempt to forge a permanent relationship while secondary players also have tsuris like cyberbullying. Character-driven by the protagonists and a fully developed support cast (including the arrogant nasty Jean-Marc), readers will enjoy this second chance at love. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mirror Sight-Kristen Britain

Mirror Sight Kristen Britain DAW, May 6 2014, $27.95 ISBN: 9780756408794 In a confrontation inside the primordial Blackveil Forest, Sacoridia Green Rider Karigan G’ladheon manages to dispatch malevolent Mornhavon the Black into another age, but the wicked magic released by their duel also sends her two centuries away. She awakens inside a fully sealed stone tomb with her air supply rapidly running out. Karigan escapes to learn that magic seems to have all but vanished as the Serpentine Empire has crushed her beloved kingdom. She also finds out her fate; as the myths record a Green Rider named Karigan G’ladheon disappearing without a trace within the Blackveil Forest while on King Zachary’s quest to defeat Mornhavon the Black. As Karigan struggles to adapt, she knows she must find a way home to her time, but first obsesses over liberating her kingdom’s descendants from the tyranny of evil essences; of whom she knows most, firsthand from previous encounters with them many decades ago. The fifth Karigan epic fantasy (see Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb) is a terrific entry made fresh with the heroine in a new era and though it is her homeland, she is A Stranger In A Strange Land (Robert A. Heinlein}. Although fans should at least read Blackveil to better understand how the protagonist became a future legend due to mysterious vanishing, fans will appreciate the return to Sacoridia; albeit a future even darker place than the one we and the protagonist are very familiar with. Harriet Klausner

Cavanaugh Undercover-Marie Ferrarella

Cavanaugh Undercover Marie Ferrarella Harlequin Romantic Suspense, May 6 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373278695 Brennan Cavanaugh’s career as a DEA undercover operative ended when he blew his cover to save the life of Aurora former police chief (and family member from a side he never knew existed) Andrew Cavanaugh. Punished by exile to desk duty, Brennan quits DEA to accept a position with APD as an undercover detective. His first assignment is to infiltrate a sex-trafficking ring. San Francisco CSI detective Tiana Drummond arrives in Aurora seeking information on her missing sister Janie who she believes is incarcerated by a sex-trafficking ring. When Tiana meets Brennan in the dive he is staying in, her first reaction is a hunk who works for the nefarious traders selling females like her sibling. As Tiana begins to fall in love, she learns Brennan is undercover working the same case as she is. Although she accepts he is on the side of the good guys, her father’s abuse leaves her wary of all men while insisting to herself rescuing her sister remains her heart’s only mission. The latest fast-paced Cavanaugh Justice romantic police procedural (see Cavanaugh Baby) is an exciting undercover thriller; as this Cavanaugh Hero needs to forget undercover work having been exposed again by doing what he believes is morally right. As Tiana and Brennan fall in love, both know the priority remains ending the sex-trafficking ring’s selling of women on a “commodity” exchange while also rescuing Janie and other female prisoners. Harriet Klausner

Home To Hope Mountain-Joan Kilby

Home To Hope Mountain Joan Kilby Harlequin SuperRomance, May 6 2014, $6.75 ISBN: 9780373608461 Melbourne-based architect Adam Banks moves to Hope Mountain as a single dad to his fourteen years old daughter Summer. Bushfires left many dead and the town severely devastated. While making a pitch to a Japanese contingent, Summer’s school interrupts Adam. Summer was arrested for shop lifting earrings that she tells her stunned dad she took to give to her mom Diane on her birthday. Widower Hayley Sorensen mourns the death of her husband and several of their horses due to the inferno. To help herself heal and provide comfort to despondent neighbors, Hayley runs a clinic allowing people to ride her surviving steeds as a form of therapy. Desperate, Adam turns to Hayley to help his troubled teen. As the two adults fall in love, they learn her late spouse and his former wife had an affair; leaving both with major relationship trust issues. Home To Hope Mountain is an emotional Australian contemporary as the traumatized townsfolk struggle with survivor guilt and paralyzing grief with evidence of the tragedy everywhere leaving little escape. The spousal affair feels unnecessary except to add an unneeded roadblock to the lead adults’ romance as they already have plenty of scars to deal with. Still readers will appreciate this angst-laden tale paying homage to the real Horses for Hope program that focuses on “therapeutic healing of the mind, body and soul …” Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Silk Map- Chris Willrich

The Silk Map Chris Willrich Pyr, May 6 2014, $15.95 ISBN 9781616148997 Odd couple adventurers, upper class poet Persimmon Gaunt and cursed thief Imago Bone, saved their son from evil by dispatching their offspring to a secret dimension; likewise Snow Pine the bandit did the same with her child (see The Scroll of Years). Now the even odder trio team up to bring home their respective children, but need a powerful ally who can tell them how to reach the Scroll. Thus the desperate threesome cut a deal with Great Sage; the monkey goddess incarcerated by essences on a distant mountain, who assigns them a quest in exchange for her help. Gaunt, Bone and Pine must obtain the rarest of species, the alien Iron Moths, who spin cocoons made of ironsilk. They expect the journey to be dangerous, but none of the parents are prepared for competing against lethal rivals who possess pieces of the Silk Map that provides directions over the thousands of miles populated with predatory creatures not known to exist anywhere else to the Iron Moths. If they or their competitors make it to the nesting locale, ready to greet them is a murderous cult who lives to protect the Iron Moths. The second Gaunt and Bone (and now Pine) Chinese fantasy is a fabulous franticly-paced quest adventure though fans should first read The Scroll Of Years to better understand why the bickering couple and their new partner banished their beloved children into another dimension. The Silk Map is an exciting action-packed thriller; as the protagonists never obtain a respite from deadly just as obsessed with possessing the moths’ opponents, harrowing nasty creatures greeting them with murderous intent on the road and finally the killing anointed defenders. Harriet Klausner

Traitorous Attraction-C.J. Miller

Traitorous Attraction C.J. Miller Harlequin Romantic Suspense, May 6 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373278718 Intelligence database analyst Kate Squire intrudes on retired Sphere assassin Connor West when she arrives at his isolated cabin. He wants her to leave until she says she was a friend of Sphere operative Aiden. Though Connor assumes she was his sibling’s friend with benefits, Kate upsets him when she insists his dead brother Aiden is alive and held by Armed Revolutionaries in the troubled South American country Tumara. Even a sliver of hope has Connor ready to travel to Tumara although he expects nothing except life-threatening danger will come of this foolish venture. Accompanied by Kate while distrusting her out of paranoiac belief she is a Sphere tool, Connor enters Tumara with his former comrades in arms in murderous pursuit. Traitorous Attraction is an action-packed romantic suspense thriller as two strangers connected by his “late” brother enter a hellish scenario in what may be an inane rescue attempt. Connor makes the tale fresh with his attitude of “… just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face.” (Jim Butcher) attitude while desk jockey Kate adapts too easily to the rumble in the jungle. The unwanted feelings of love enhance an engaging quest. Harriet Klausner

Boiled Over-Barbara Ross

Boiled Over Barbara Ross Kensington, May 6 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 9780758286871 Residents of Busman’s Harbor, Maine prepare for the annual Founder’s Day gala that brings summer visitors to their town. As always the Snowden Family Clambake Company plans to enjoy the festivities while also serving up New England style seafood. However, Julia Snowden and others notice a human foot sticking out of the family claminator oven; at the same time new employee Cabe Stone flees from the scene. Local rookie cop Jamie Dawes takes control of the crime scene until State Police Lieutenant Binder and Sergeant Flynn arrive from Augusta. The victim is Founder’s Day committee member Stevie Noyes, owner of Camp Glooscap RV Park and the prime suspect is the vanished Cabe. Julie believes Cabe is innocent, but wonders how to prove her assertion. The second Maine Clambake murder mystery (see Clammed Up) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth as Julia’s inquiry leads to her uncovering the secrets of several residents including Cabe though some of her findings turn out to be red herrings re the case. Although subgenre fans will have to accept the former successful Manhattan venture capitalist feeling a deep need to investigate, readers will appreciate this Maine Island cozy with several delicious recipes. Harriet Klausner

Traitorous Attraction- C.J. Miller

Traitorous Attraction C.J. Miller Harlequin Romantic Suspense, May 6 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373278718 Intelligence database analyst Kate Squire intrudes on retired Sphere assassin Connor West when she arrives at his isolated cabin. He wants her to leave until she says she was a friend of Sphere operative Aiden. Though Connor assumes she was his sibling’s friend with benefits, Kate upsets him when she insists his dead brother Aiden is alive and held by Armed Revolutionaries in the troubled South American country Tumara. Even a sliver of hope has Connor ready to travel to Tumara although he expects nothing except life-threatening danger will come of this foolish venture. Accompanied by Kate while distrusting her out of paranoiac belief she is a Sphere tool, Connor enters Tumara with his former comrades in arms in murderous pursuit. Traitorous Attraction is an action-packed romantic suspense thriller as two strangers connected by his “late” brother enter a hellish scenario in what may be an inane rescue attempt. Connor makes the tale fresh with his attitude of “… just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face.” (Jim Butcher) attitude while desk jockey Kate adapts too easily to the rumble in the jungle. The unwanted feelings of love enhance an engaging quest. Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dragon Princess- S. Andrew Swann

Dragon Princess S. Andrew Swann DAW, May 6 2014, $7.99 ISBN 9780756409579 Mediocre thief Frank Blackthorne fled Grunwald after a failed theft that has cultists seeking his head and also leaving behind a master debt to the Thieves’ Guild after the money collector vanished with his fee and that of others. He reaches Lendowyn; a kingdom in which most people are passing through like he wants to; except Frank ran out of cash with an ocean between him and his destination. With a choice between volunteering for sea duty that ends in death or chains, walking the coastline that never ends, or getting drunk hopefully that never ends; he chose some local poison. While intoxicated, the Kingdom of Lendowyn Court Wizard Elhared the Unwise offers the drunken Frank an offer if sober he would refuse. Elhared hires Frank to rescue Princess Lucille from a minor dragon in return he will receive money and safety from the stalking cult. However, when the thief catches up with the not as advertised humongous knight-eating dragon and the royal prisoner, misused magic leads to undesirable body swapping. Frank resides inside of Princess Lucille; she land inside the dragon; and you don’t want to know what happened to the thief’s body. To return to normal (though Frank wants a bit more pampering), the fuming fiery Princess and the soused thief need each other in their pursuit but the path is cluttered with no allies and many cutthroat enemies including the Dark Lord Nâtalc. This is an amusing lighthearted quest fantasy that uses the concept of movies like Freaky Friday to tell a fun tale through the filter of a mediocre thief. Though the premise is not new, readers will enjoy this Visa Versa body swap tale due Frank’s frank reflections. Harriet Klausner

One Hundred Names-Cecilia Ahern

One Hundred Names Cecilia Ahern Morrow, May 6 2014, $15.99 ISBN: 9780062248633 Journalist Kitty Logan struggles with emotional trauma partly caused by her errors when she falsely accused Colin Maguire of sexual harassment. However, the brunt of her despair comes from the death of her beloved mentor and boss at Etcetera magazine Constance; though some also derives from her recent breakup with her boyfriend at a time she needed reassuring hugs not finger pointing condemnation. Etcetera magazine staff decides to pay homage to a beloved Constance with a special memorial edition. Kitty suggests they use Constance's special list of One Hundred Names to enable readers to see what they all saw in their heroine. Thus Kitty begins her quest to interview the list to learn who they are besides a database name and what Constance saw as their connection. She finds ordinary people, but cannot fathom why Constance kept this roster. This is an entertaining tale with a fascinating premise that ironically the audience figures out long before the protagonist. The individual stories are interesting vignettes, but Kitty, who keeps the storyline focused, comes across very shallow and unworthy of Constance’s belief in her. Still One Hundred Names is an intriguing drama as Kitty slowly begins to understand what made Constance considered great by so many people (including a depressed reporter) mourning their loss of a close friend. Harriet Klausner

Out Of The Ruins-Karen Barnett

Out Of The Ruins Karen Barnett Abingdon, May 6 2014, $14.99 ISBN: 9781426780578 In 1905 San Jose, California, Dr. Greene informs the family of Cecilia Fischer that she is dying from leukemia. Her distraught sister Abby prays to god for a miracle, but also threatens the Lord with never speaking to him ever again if he allows her sibling to die. While their Mom Clara struggles with accepting the death of one of her daughters as moms should pass away before their children; their despondent Papa Herman calls Cousin Gerald who says doctors in San Francisco are experimenting with a potential cure. Gerald and Dr. Robert King drive to San Jose in the former’s new car to conduct a physical of their new patient. However, Gerald sees how weak his cousin is and has little hope for a cure as he believes they are too late. Still the family and the researchers agree to try. In San Francisco, Robert uses the recently discovered X-ray as a treatment, but Cecilia dies anyway. Attracted to Robert, a grieving Abby needs time away from him; but an earthquake devastates the city stranding her alone struggling to survive and God not answering her prayers (from the fiery trenches). The first Golden Gate Chronicles is a wonderful inspirational historical that asks the question why God allows bad things to happen to good people. The background look at experimental medicine and road conditions for cars before the quake, and the city during and after the deadly tremors in the first decade of the twentieth century are powerful. Although the drama feels like two related novellas rather than a cohesive storyline, readers will appreciate this enjoyable tale. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Treasure Planet-Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox

Treasure Planet Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox Baen, May 6 2014, $15.00 ISBN: 9781476736402 In Thoma'stown on Wanderland, since the lessocks killed her husband, human Widow Cartwright owns and runs Lord Templemount Inn with some help from her son Peter. One of the inn’s guests is elderly Skel, who enjoys the rum and telling bloody tales of yore. Skel hires Peter to keep him informed when strangers come to the bar. A telepath enters the Lord Templemount demanding Peter, setting up alone, tell him where Skel is. Peter’s friend Kzin young one, Marthar Riit, enters and orders the telepath to leave, which the intruder does. The telepath accosts Skel who takes care of business. Soon afterward, a blind Kzin arrives and gives Skel something. After the Kzin leaves, Skel dies without paying his room, board and bar bill. Inside his room, Peter finds an encrypted map to the banned world Garth; an orb allegedly filled with technological gizmos worth a fortune on the black market. Marthar’s dad Orion obtains a ship and crew, and with his daughter, Peter, Dr. Lemoine, Judge Jorg von Thoma and human scientists set off to this Treasure Planet with pirates led by infamous K'zarr the Kzin, hated by both sides in the recent war, in pursuit. Placing Treasure Island inside the Larry Niven Man Kzin universe some years after the hostilities on Wanderland are officiously over leads to a wonderful outer space adventure. Although readers will know what happens next; as Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox pay homage to the Robert Luis Stephenson's classic with close adherence to the original storyline though with a fresh locale, Treasure Planet is an entertaining unique Man-Kzin thriller. Harriet Klausner

Muzzled-Eileen Brady

Muzzled Eileen Brady Poisoned Pen, May 6 2014, $24.95 ISBN: 9781464201844 Owing a fortune in student loans, veterinarian Dr. Kate Turner accepts a temporary position at the Oak Falls Veterinary Hospital in Upstate New York while Doc Anderson travels around the world. The Long Islander visits the Langthorne home to check on the health of the 27 Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Only she finds the dogs running wild inside the home and the owners Vivian and Thomas Langthorne dead. The police believe a murder-suicide occurred, but Kate disagrees as either of the obsessed couple would have first taken care of their beloved pampered canines before committing a spousal homicide and killing themselves. The deceased’s adopted daughter Pippi does not wait for the graves to be cold when she sells all of the prized dogs with the top gun Charles Too purchased for a million dollars. With a theory of her own, Kate, in between caring for a menagerie while dealing with their human pets, investigates only to find many people with strong motives wanting the despicable Langthorne couple dead and also uncovers questions of pedigree. The first Kate Turner, DVM, Mystery is an engaging amateur sleuth that combines an enjoyable whodunit enhanced with veterinary and grooming tips, and a picturesque Hudson River town. Although Kate’s detecting is typical of the subgenre, her retired firefighting grandfather adds freshness with his investigative suggestions. Harriet Klausner >

The Disposables-David Putnam

The Disposables David Putnam Oceanview, May 6 2014, $26.95 ISBN 9781608091188 Once a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Violent Crimes Team superstar, Bruno Johnson served time behind bars, but recently was paroled. He works at a liquor store on Long Beach Boulevard, but Bruno knows some of his ex-peers want him gone probably in a casket or back in prison as they constantly taunt him trying to goad him into doing something stupid. Meanwhile Bruno’s goal is to obtain money (legally or not) so he and his beloved Marie and the abused kids they help can flee to start over. Not long after a robbery at the store that goes bad with the unnecessary shooting of a Disposable high on meth, Bruno’s former police partner Robby Wicks calls in a debt that the ex-cop/con owes him. He demands Bruno help him find the psychopath(s) committing violent homicides before someone else brutally dies. The first Bruno Johnson “police procedural” provides readers with a powerful dark landscape as the disgraced cop works the meanest streets of Los Angeles. The key cast is made of genre stereotypes yet fans will not care as the aptly titled The Disposables is a strong entertaining urban jungle thriller. Harriet Klausner >

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Alien Collective-Gini Koch

Alien Collective Gini Koch Daw, May 6 2014, $7.99 ISBN: 9780756407582 During a peaceful protest against an anti-alien presidential candidate, the cops detain in a paddy wagon American-Centaurion Ambassador Kitty Katt-Martini, her mother-in-law, her child, several Alien Dazzlers, Culver, Representative Gagnon-Brewer and several humans mostly males. Instead of a holding cell, they end up receiving a warning that a deadly gas threat imperils those at the Centaurion Embassy. Kitty believes the attacks on the A-C immigrants has arisen again because the favorite to win the presidency Senator McMillan selected her husband appointed New Mexico Congressman Jeff Martini as his running mate. Besides having to behave like a potential Second Lady, Kitty fears the persistent media and the opponents’ researchers will dig up dirt on the A-C populace, her husband and her. She also worries that her enemy the unidentified Mastermind remains free seeking allies amongst the Yates brood that Kitty must locate first but lacks vital information since their data base was hacked and destroyed. Even worse, a super powerful being has arrived as a judge, jury and executioner to determine whether the populace proves worthy of life. Starting with a scene reminiscent of the Marx Brothers cabin scene in A Night At The Opera and throughout combining mirth with mayhem, the ninth Alien science fiction (see Alien In The House and Alien Research) is a zany thriller. Fast-paced, series fans will enjoy the escapades of Kitty and her mixed retinue as they close in on the Mastermind (mindful of Agents of Shield’s super villain The Clairvoyant), a judgmental deadlier threat, and even more perilous to the heroine exposure as wife of a VEEP candidate. Fans will enjoy this amusing over the top of the Washington Monument tale. Harriet Klausner

Murder And Mendelssohn-Kerry Greenwood

Murder And Mendelssohn Kerry Greenwood Poisoned Pen, May 6 2014, $24.95 ISBN: 9781464202469 In 1929 in St. Kilda, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson loathes asking for the help of the Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher with his investigation into the murder of orchestra conductor Hedley Tregennis, but knows he is out of his league when it comes to noticing little things at a musical rehearsal. A fan of Mendelssohn, Phryne agrees to escort the DI to the Scots Church Assembly Hall where the Melbourne Harmony Choir and the Occasional Orchestra will practice. Meanwhile Rupert Sheffield has the city and cops hopping with his attitude, looks and his science of deduction lectures. Phryne's WWI in the trenches friend Dr. John Wilson acts attracted to Rupert who Phryne fears is a person seeking danger to himself and anyone within his circle. Further complicating her inquiry besides Robinson demanding she remain on the sidelines as a consultant and Sheffield’s arrogance is M16. The terrific twentieth Phryne Fisher historical whodunit (see Unnatural Habits and Dead Man’s Chest) is a great entry as the brilliant independent protagonist works the multifarious Mendelssohn murder mystery competing in several ways with Sheffield. Part of the fun is comparisons between the heroine and her conventional companion Dot, with Sheffield and with Robinson. While Mendelssohn plays in the background, Kerry Greenwood’s long running saga remains fresh as one of the best early twenty century detective series on the market. Harriet Klausner

All My Belongings-Cynthia Ruchti

All My Belongings Cynthia Ruchti Abingdon, May 6 2014, $14.99 ISBN 9781426749728 In Willow Lake, ashamed of the notoriety caused by what her reprehensible father did to her ALS-suffering mother that led to her testifying against him in court; twenty-seven year old Jayne Dennagee begs the nursing program director Patricia Connor to let her continue her studies. The nontraditional student explains that she understands money is tight in spite of her also working two jobs but her grades have been good. Instead Connor suggests that she start over somewhere far from her family. Her friend and mentor Geneva Larkin offers Jayne a job to help her beloved dying from Alzheimer’s sister Aurelia live to the fullest as long as possible in Oceanside. Accepting the position and using the name Becca Morrow, Jayne travels across much of the country. Becca likes her patient and is attracted to Aurelia’s businessman son Isaac Hughes, but expects nothing to come of her feelings for him. Her effort to reinvent herself falls apart beginning with her father pleading that he needs her and followed by Aurelia’s questionable death in which Becca is the prime suspect. She has no time to grieve her latest losses, which she assumes includes her BFF Geneva and the love of her life Isaac. All My Belongings is a strong inspirational drama that stars a person who feels like a modern day female Job being tested by God yet also finds the strength to embrace the Lord. Her role as caretaker brings out the emotional and physical rewards and stresses of work that can be simultaneously uplifting and down-spiraling. The romance feels in some ways unnecessary but also adds a third positive relationship (along with God and Geneva); as readers will relish this entertaining profound drama. Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 9, 2014

This Private Plot- Alan Beechey

This Private Plot Alan Beechey Poisoned Pen, May 6 2014, $24.95 ISBN: 9781464202407 In Synne, children’s author of Finsbury the Ferret as O.C. Blithely, Oliver Swithin chases after his girlfriend police Detective Effie Strongitharm in a very public place including the village maze while both are naked except for his used hanky. Their sojourn is interrupted when his maternal Aunt Phoebe and her husband Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Directorate Detective Superintendent Tim Mallard arrive in the same state of garb. Oliver’s brother Toby set up both couples, but he did not include the fifth wheel as the writer finds the corpse of one time popular but retired children’s radio star “Uncle” Dennis Breedlove. Whereas the local constables and Tim lean towards a suicide; the latter focuses more on the Theydon Bois Thespians amateur acting group performance of Hamlet than the case. Oliver disagrees believing Uncle Dennis was murdered. Though ordered by Tim to stay out of the investigation, Oliver and Effie make inquiries. The latest Oliver Swithin whodunit (see Embarrassment of Corpses and Murdering Ministers) is a great English village mystery that effortlessly combines humor and tension. Filled with twists (including personal) and red herrings, readers will appreciate this fabulous amateur sleuth as blackmail, murder and the banana theory of man (proving Thomas Carlyle’s Philosophy of Clothing, or lack of) make for a super read. Harriet Klausner

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell-Nadia Hashimi

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell Nadia Hashimi Morrow, May 6 2014, $25.99 ISBN: 9780062244758 In Kabul, three Afghan sisters (Shahla, Parwin and Rahima) are walking home from school when a boy on a bike stalks them. They lack male protection with the only man in their lives, their father, often away fighting the Taliban at the side of his Warlord Abdul Khaliq while also addicted to opium. Thus, they can no longer go off by themselves; school is over for them. Their spinster Aunt Khala Shaima tells her nieces the story of their ancestor Shekiba who worked the field alongside her father. Due to a cooking accident, her face was scarred so when her father died, she was placed with her family where they treated her with disdain and taunts until they sold her as a slave. Shekiba wore male garb when she was young because the acceptable bacha posh tradition allowed a young girl to cross-dress until she begins to turn into a woman when a family had no boys. Rahima follows Shekiba’s practice until her father offers her and her siblings in marriage to his Warlord and his cousins. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a profound look at acceptable Afghan customs through two blood relatives a century apart. The American influence proves limited in spite of constitutional changes to provide for women’s rights as it “Looks like nothing's gonna change; everything still remains the same” (Otis Redding’s "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay). With a strong support cast and terrific protagonists, fans will appreciate Nadia Hashimi’s deep comparative tale of female life in Afghanistan, at the turns of the last two centuries Harriet Klausner

One Night In Texas-Linda Warren

One Night In Texas Linda Warren Harlequin American Romance, May 6 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373755189 Teenager Angie Wiznowski fell in love with Hardison Hollister (see The Sheriff Of Horseshoe, Texas in which they were secondary players). They shared one great night, but he left for school and she stayed behind carrying his child. She never told him he sired a child; instead Angie married someone else, but that ended in divorce so she raised her daughter Erin as a single mom with help from her family. Eight years later, Hardy returned to Horseshoe, Texas where, pushed by his powerful father the judge, he becomes the D.A. Though Angie knows she owes the truth to Hardy and Erin, two years pass with her remaining silent. When Erin runs into the street, Hardy has no time to brake and hits her. Horrified, Hardy does what he can for the tweener until he learns who sired Erin. Though the premise is not new, the characterizations and execution make for a strong tale as the protagonists and their families behave as expected when the secret is revealed. Angie fears for her daughter’s wellbeing and the loss of control. Irate Hardy is confused except for his demand to be in his daughter’s life while ignoring for the first time the objections of his raging father who wants to bury the scandal and his nasty girlfriend Olivia who wants him to forget the child. Erin’s maternal relatives add depth with their indignation towards the Hollister brood especially the latter using their influence to bully them. This deep cast makes for a super second chance at family drama. Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Expecting the Prince’s Baby-Rebecca Winters

Expecting the Prince’s Baby Rebecca Winters Harlequin Romance, May 6 2014, $5.99 ISBN: 9780373742882 Nestled on the Riviera, the Principalities of Arancia and Gemelli rejoice that Crown Prince Vincenzo Di Laurentis and his wife Her Royal High Princess Michelina Cavelli soon will become parents after she suffered three miscarriages. The regal couple accepts their marriage lacks caring intimacy as it was an arranged expediency between the kingdoms. He especially is grateful to the generosity of Rhode Island native and longtime friend Abby Loretto who agreed to carry their child. However, soon after Abby becomes pregnant, Michelina suddenly dies. The nations mourn their loss, but six weeks later, some normalcy returns to Arancia with the Lemon and Orange Festival. The daughter of the Chief of Security, Abby has been a close friend of the prince for years. She worries about the child growing up without a mother and for the prince being a single dad while also having royal duties. Vincenzo insures the surrogate mother is well taken care of and visits her a lot. As their friendship between them turns to love, both know the prince cannot marry a commoner. The first Princes of Europe duet (see the upcoming June release Becoming the Prince's Wife) is a fun royal contemporary although the unloving relationship between the prince and his late wife enables him to move on too easily. With thoughts on the abdication of King Edward VIII, readers will appreciate Vincenzo’s dilemma as he must choose between forbidden love and being the heir to the throne. Harriet Klausner

The Sea Without A Shore-David Drake

The Sea Without A Shore Baen, May 6 2014, $25.00 ISBN: 9781476736396 On the Bantry Estate on Cinnabar, Intelligence Service Chief Bernis Sand orders CIS Cyberspy Adele Mundy (accompanied by Tovar) to travel to dangerous Corcyra to keep the spymaster’s troublesome son Rikard Cleveland safe while he hunts for rumored ancient treasure. Mundy’s friend Republic Cinnabar Navy Captain Daniel Leary (backed by the Sissies) goes with her. Before they depart, Daniel's sister Deirdre Leary also asks a favor of Mundy pertaining to her brother. Various rivals want control of the mines on Corcyra. Hostilities have made the planet unsafe for anyone but especially the foolhardy risk takers like Cleveland with a war seemingly imminent for possession of the valuable mining deposits. Though Leary has no official mission as the Cleveland scenario belongs to his friend; nonetheless he and Mundy struggle to broker a peace. The tenth RCN Saga (see What Distant Deeps) is an entertaining outer space thriller starring two polar opposites in personalities. The freshness comes from the greater focus on fascinating Mundy as her soliloquies on death, life and relationships (with Leary, Tovar, Miranda and those the spy killed) are insightful. Although the efforts on Corcyra seems lightweight compared to the war and keeping the peace with the Alliance (see The Road of Danger), readers will appreciate the brisk role switching as Leary supports Mundy on a planet about to implode. Harriet Klausner

Nantucket Sisters-Nancy Thayer

Nantucket Sisters Nancy Thayer Ballantine, Jun 17 2014, $26.00 ISBN: 9780345545480 Emily Porter and Maggie McIntyre met on the beaches of Nantucket when they were five years old. They became BFFs in spite of their financial differences and their residency diversity; as the former resides with her wealthy family mostly in Manhattan while Maggie and her comparatively poor kin live year round on Nantucket. Over the years as tweeners, teens and adults they remain best friends though there have been relationship issues when each discovers boys and eventually men starting with college as Emily is attracted to Maggie’s brother Ben and Maggie breaks off with her boyfriend Shane. After graduating from college, each wants handsome Wall Street trader Cameron Chadwick, but eventually Emily marries him. The women enter their thirties with each raising a child as a single mom and having a persistent suitor; steadfast Tyler wants to always be there for Maggie and her daughter and Ben still desires Emily and being a caring stepfather to her kid. This is an enjoyable lighthearted epic that follows the lives of two close friends over two decades. Although, the storyline never goes very deep, fans will enjoy Nancy Thayer’s breezy return to Nantucket (see Island Girls and A Nantucket Christmas). Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From Single Mom to Secret Heiress-Kristi Gold

From Single Mom to Secret Heiress Kristi Gold Harlequin Desire, May 6 2014, $5.25 ISBN: 9780373733132 In Boulder, Colorado, single mom Hannah Armstrong knows she lacks the funds to pay for the plumber, but has no choice. The widow mistakes hunky cowboy Logan Whittaker as the plumber, but he explains he is a Cheyenne lawyer settling the estate of the late J.D. Lassiter. She reacts by saying she does not know any Lassiter, but he tells her that her deceased mom Ruth Lovell did. Logan claims she is an heir to the Lassiter fortune with her inheritance valued at five million, but must adhere to family stipulations. Hannah angrily she says the usual BS from those with more money than the National Debt like her North Carolina in-laws who has seen their granddaughter Cassie once. Attracted to Hannah, Logan feels a deep need to assist her adaptation from working poor to wealthy so offers to house mom and daughter on his Wyoming ranch. Coveting to learn what she can about her biological father whom she never knew even his name before Logan’s visit, Hannah accepts his offer. As they share the same abode and conduct research into her paternal kin together while chaperoned by her young daughter, they fall in love. However, he conceals his scarred past from her although he also knows that is a relationship breaker after her dad failed to legitimize her until he was dead. The lead couple is a nice pairing of two people who must overcome their respective histories if they are to make it. Although the climax feels disappointingly soft and at times the pace slows down, overall the first Dynasties: The Lassiters tale (see Dynasties: The Jarrods and Dynasties: The Kincaids for previous miniseries) is a warm contemporary. Harriet Klausner

Mom’s Night Out-Tricia Goyer

Mom’s Night Out Tricia Goyer B&H Books, Apr 22 2014, $15.99 ISBN: 9781433684821 Allyson tells her husband Sean that she is living her dream of being a stay at home mother to their small children, but though she cannot explain why she feels unhappy. He wisely says she never takes a timeout to pamper herself and suggests Allyson and her BFFs enjoy a Moms’ Night Out. Mother of twins, Izzy learns she’s pregnant; but instead of euphoria she is depressed. Izzy knows her husband Marco can’t cope with their two children so will take the news poorly of another rug rat. Izzy looks forward to a Moms’ Night Out. Pastor Ray’s wife Sondra hides her true feelings from her husband and his flock, and she thinks even herself. She believes her teenage daughter is the only who sees through her masquerade. Sondra looks forward to a Moms’ Night Out. The three amigas hit the town, but in spite of planning that the Pentagon would envy, nothing goes as expected starting with the wrong reservation date and Bridget’s baby Phoenix vanishing while inside a tattoo parlor. For the three stay at home amigos watching the kids during the Moms’ Night Out, nothing goes the way they thought it would. This novelization of the movie is an amusing yet at times profound look at family dynamics summed up by Allyson and Sean kissing passionately when one of the kids interrupt their interlude. Fans will enjoy this engaging lighthearted frolic; as Robert Burns wrote in To The Mouse: “the best laid plans of mice (moms) and men often go astray"; while in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller: “If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” (life). Harriet Klausner