Friday, July 31, 2015

The Calamity Janes: Lauren - Sherryl Woods

The Calamity Janes: Lauren
Sherryl Woods
Mira, Jul 28 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778317883

Only twenty-eight, Hollywood romantic comedy movie superstar Lauren Winters has had a string of critically acclaimed box office smash hits, but feels her Southern California life as shallow especially after two failed marriages and a rejection of a face lift.  She misses her family ranch (though sold by her parents at her encouragement) and her Calamity Janes’ girlfriends (Gina, Emma, Cassie and Karen); so she rushes home to Winding River, Wyoming whenever she can, which recently has been frequent.

In return for room and board, Karen and her husband Grady hire Lauren to work with fractious horses like Midnight; as she is incredible with skittish steeds.  New ranch wrangler Wade Owens almost has a heart attack when he spots Lauren rubbing dangerous Midnight though he admits to himself he also is jealous.  Unaware who she is except as a friend of his boss, Wade and Lauren fall in love.  Nevertheless, her movie fame and particularly her wealth proves an impediment; since raised by a single mom and ignored by his wealthy, married and cheating father, Wade loathes the money gentry.

The fifth Calamity Janes romance (see the recent reprints of the first four romances originally published approximately fifteen years ago) is an engaging tale of love not being enough to overcome the emotional trauma and bias Wade has towards the 1%; as the adult is the child.  Readers will relish Lauren’s storyline in spite of its predictability mostly because of Wade’s bone marrow deep distrust as well as a chance to catch up with the four other Janes.

Harriet Klausner

The Hotter You Burn - Gena Showalter

The Hotter You Burn
Gena Showalter
Harlequin HQN, Jul 28 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779697

In Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, former teen bully Harlow Glass struggles to survive as she secretly lives in a tent on the ranch her family once owned and as the pariah she has no prospects for obtaining a job.  Hungry and expecting no one home; Harlow sneaks into her former house now owned by Beck Ockley and his two foster care brothers (Jase Hollister and Lincoln West) to steal food. 

However, Beck catches her inside his house.  Although a womanizer who trusts no one except his “siblings”; Beck recognizes a lonely kindred spirit in Harlow.  As they begin a tryst, Harlow soon realizes she wants more from this man she loves.  However, Beck cannot commit to her or any female even at the same he irrationally fears her leaving him 

The latest Original Heartbreakers Sooner romance (see e-novella: The One You Want) is a pleasant contemporary that besides the main plot also updates the readers on what is happening to other key townsfolk.  The lead couple’s relationship seems similar to that of Jase and Brook Lynn Dillon (see The Closer You Come), especially Beck’s behavior; while Harlow tries climbing out of a deep crater with or without her beloved giving her an uplifting hand although I wonder why she stays in a “Town Without Pity”.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Secret Sister - Brenda Novak

The Secret Sister
Brenda Novak
Mira, Jul 28 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778317807

Paralleling her ugly divorce, Maisey Lazarow’s brother Keith attempted suicide.  Thus believing her sibling needs her (and deep down in her soul, she knows she needs him too), Maisey returns home to a place she loathes, Fairham, South Carolina.  Her mother, self-anointed city Queen Josephine, fails to meet and greet her; which Maisey is happy with after a decade old riff.

Maisey avoids her ‘royal” mom by renting a different home rather than moving back into the family place.  Next door is Rafe Romero, who she fell in love with as a teen and still finds him extremely attractive.  When Maisey finds old photos of a familiar looking girl; memories begin to surface.  Though she adheres to the belief her only sibling is Keith, Maisey and her brother have vague memories of a forgotten sister.

The Secret Sister is a suspenseful family drama starring a fully-developed cast.   The well-written romantic subplot between Maisey and Rafe (and his matchmaking preadolescent daughter) intrudes on the mesmerizing mystery; as the search for the missing Secret Sister grips the audience from the first revelation to the climatic resolution.

Harriet Klausner

Prisoners Of Tomorrow - James P. Hogan

Prisoners Of Tomorrow
James P. Hogan
Baen, Jul 7 2015, $14.00
ISBN: 9781476780658

“Endgame Enigma.”  Russia proudly constructs Valentina Tereshkova, an orbiting city space station.  However, America remains suspicious of their former Cold War enemy especially when information from reliable sources claims this is a nuclear weapon launch pad.  While the world marvel at Russia’s success, agent Lew McCain and scientist Dr. Paula Bryce arrive at the Valentina Tereshkova to confirm the claims of Russian duplicity.  They are locked in an inescapable prison even as the countdown to a North American nuclear winter begins.

Voyage from Yesteryear.”  The colony on Chiron in the Alpha Centauri sector became isolated from the mother planet when WWIII devastated the Earth.  Decades later the Earth’s three superpowers engage in a space race to renew contact with the descendants of the original Chiron colonists.  The Americans arrive first with a dictatorial dogma to impose their belief system on the people of Chiron, who adheres strongly in the belief that everyone has the right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These reprints of two 1980s science fictions showcase James P. Hogan’s ability to tell enjoyable yet thought-provoking thrillers.  Though the casts are one-dimensional stereotypes; Endgame Enigma provides an intriguing look at the Cuban Missile Crisis in planetary orbit and the Prometheus Award winning Voyage from Yesteryear timely focuses on the seemingly human need to impose one’s deepest personal beliefs on unwilling others.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lone Rider - B.J. Daniels

Lone Rider
B.J. Daniels
Harlequin HQN, Jul 28 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373788415

In Big Timber, Montana, worried Emily Calder tells her brother Jace that her boss at the Sarah Hamilton Foundation Bo Hamilton failed to return from a night of camping.  Emily says depressed Bo arranged for auditors to look into embezzlement of foundation funds.  They were to interview her; but she failed to make the meeting.

Jace prefers to stay far away from the woman who rejected his proposal, but fears something happened to Bo.  Though in the minority, he strongly believes she did not take the money nor would deliberately miss the appointment with the auditors especially since she found the discrepancies.  In the nearby mountains, fearful Jace learns why Bo missed her session with the auditors she contacted.

The second Montana Hamiltons romantic suspense (see Wild Horses) is an exciting rustic thriller.  The lead couple and the villain make for an interesting potentially deadly triangle in which the life-threatening danger rightfully supersedes the romance.  Although there are too many subplots started for future entries (in fairness there are six Hamilton siblings and their mom back from the grave after a two plus decade vanishing needing a scorecard), Lone Rider is a wonderful second chance, if they survive, contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Silent Creed - Alex Kava

Silent Creed
Alex Kava
G.P. Putnam's Sons, Jul 28 2015, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399170775

In Haywood County, North Carolina, heavy rain leads to a deadly landslide.  The precipitation continues hampering efforts to rescue trapped survivors.  Lieutenant Colonel Peter Logan contacts K-9 CrimeScents Hannah Washington; specifically requesting her partner rescue dog trainer Ryder Creed to search for forty-five missing and most likely dead people trapped in the avalanche.  Logan sends a jet to bring Ryder and his dogs like America’s favorite canine Grace to the disaster.  Ryder loathes Logan, who was his superior officer in Afghanistan, but besides the business needing the commission there might be people still alive and in need of rescue rather than recovery once the inundation stops.

At the same time Ryder flies to North Carolina, FBI Agent Maggie O'Dell comes to the scene as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency scientists are among the missing.  Having recently worked together (see Breaking Creed) Creed and O’Dell team up when they realize Mother Nature did not kill a recovered corpse; a human committed the homicide.

The second Ryder Creed suspense is a non-stop exhilarating thriller that grips the audience from the moment the protagonist arrives at the deadly avalanche site (after a leisurely paced opening) and never slows down.  Filled with twists and two types of mud (the other being flung by Congress) Alex Kava authors a winning drama starring two heroes, a sneaky vile villain (mindful of X Files’ Cancer Man) and show-stealing K9s.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lady Be Good - Meredith Duran

Lady Be Good
Meredith Duran
Pocket Books, Jul 28 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781476741376

In London, Viscount Kit Stratton worries about the lunatic threatening his loved ones.  This military hero believes Catherine Everleigh, co-owner with her brother Peter of Eveleigh’s Auction House, can lure the maniac into the open so that Kit can end the danger to his family. 

When Kit catches Everleigh Girl hostess Lilah Marshall stealing letters from her employer, he seizes an opportunity to catch the homicidal enemy.  Kit blackmails Lilah into helping him with his crusade.  Thus Lilah, who left her crime family kin behind four years ago, travels with her boss to Kit’s estate.  However, neither Kit nor Lilah expected to fall in love, which makes her the prime target of a psychopath. 

The latest Rules for the Reckless Victorian (see Fool Me Twice, That Scandalous Summer and E-novella Your Wicked Heart) is a thrilling romantic suspense filled with tension and a vibrant resilient lead couple.  The entertaining relationship hooks the audience as on the surface Lilah is from Venus and Kit from Mars, but readers know before the protagonists how much they actually have in common.  The merciless predator brings out the good and fear in the targeted prey as fans of historical novels anticipate High Noon in 1886 England.

Harriet Klausner

The Devils Seal - Peter Tremayne

The Devil's Seal
Peter Tremayne
Minotaur Books, Jul 28 2015, $26.99
ISBN: 9781250059727

In 671 Ireland, religious leaders are irate over the latest Papal decree of Rule of the Blessed Benedict.  They come to Cashel to debate over how to implement and more important ignore the dictate by the Council of Autun.  One of the attendees Anglo-Saxon Brother Egric survives a shipwreck that killed his three traveling companions.  He claims to be Brother Eadulf’s brother who the latter thought died years ago.

Before the divided discussion between the Irish and Anglo-Saxon delegates commences someone slices the throat of Saxon emissary Brother Cerdic; leaving his corpse in a position of prayer.  At Cashel, Mumen King Colgu assigns his sister (Eadulf’s wife) Sister Fidelma to investigate in hopes of preventing more homicides from occurring.  As she makes her inquiries, additional killings happen including Cill Naile steward Sister Dianaimh.

The silver anniversary Mysteries of Ancient Ireland (see Atonement of Blood) is an enjoyable medieval whodunit.  The fascinating focus on the various religious leaders’ reactions to the Papal decree anchors the novel in time and place.  Sister Fidelma’s intriguing investigation entertains the faithful, but the climax lacks the vigor of most entries (including this novel) in one of the consistently best historical series.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Death Chamber - Sarah Rayne

The Death Chamber
Sarah Rayne
Felony & Mayhem, Aug 7 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781631940507

In 1938, Dr. Walter Kane returns to Calvary Gaol for the first since he made the vow to his late dad, but as part of the staff.  .  Though he suffers doubts at times over a convict’s guilt, Walter diligently performs his execution duty even when a case haunts him.  In WWII, Walter joins the British military and after the hostilities end moves to Switzerland.

In the present, Walter's great granddaughter Georgina Grey knows nothing about his time at Calvary Gaol.  The Caradoc Society Secretary Vincent Meade informs her that her great grandfather donated to their paranormal cause and they will give her any money left after paying off debts.  This enables Georgina to flee a failed business and an ugly relationship with David the deserter to look first hand into her ancestor’s life especially when he served as the prison doctor.  Meanwhile a television show investigates abnormal energy at Calvary Gaol.  Neither Georgina nor the crew expected ghosts clamoring for their tale to be told and even worse the nasty clamoring to kill the living telling their tales.

Aptly titled, The Death Chamber is an action-packed paranormal epic.  The twisting ghost story starts off as a leisurely-paced historical starring Walter during WWI and WWII; but accelerates once his descendent and the ghostbusters arrive at Calvary Gaol to look into the past (except when Georgina to our chagrin reflects on David); unaware until it may be too late of the horrors that welcome them. 

Harriet Klausner

Possessed By The Fallen - Sharon Ashwood

Possessed By The Fallen
Sharon Ashwood
Harlequin Nocturne, Jul 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009497

Their peers at the Company of the Dead assume field agents Jessica Lark the fashion designing fey and Jack “Death” Anderson the vampire died fighting the forces of the dark.  Instead the former lovers must trust and rely on one another to enable the pivotal wedding between enemy kingdoms to occur.  Unable to move passed “fool me once, it's her fault, but fool me twice is my fault”; Jack has overwhelming doubts of teaming with the woman who stabbed him (see Possessed By A Warrior).

Their adversaries know that by preventing the marriage of Crown Prince Kyle of Vidon and Princess Amelie of Marcari, they keep alive the lethal status quo; while nuptials followed by an heir and a spare will cement an alliance the dark fey do not want.  However, the stakes intensify when the darkness abduct Princess Amelie.  More than ever Jack and Jessica need to unite to rescue the kidnapped royal.

The fourth Les Compagnie des Morts romantic fantasy is an engaging thriller in which much of the focus is on the dangerous rescue and the returns of doubting (with strong reasons) partners.  Like the previous three entries (see Possessed By An Immortal and Possessed By A Wolf), fast-paced but also highlighted by the dysfunctional relationship between Death and the designer Fey who betrayed him, readers once again feel possessed by Sharon Ashwood’s fabulous finish.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Embracing the Seasons: Memories of a Country Garden - Gunilla Norris

Embracing the Seasons: Memories of a Country Garden
Gunilla Norris
BlueBridge, Jun 9 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781629190051

At Gunilla Norris’ farmhouse, frogs announce in song the arrival of spring.  Song birds join nature’s choir celebrating the rebirthing of life with Joy to the World (Three Dog Night).  Moving forward through the months, the peonies need stakes to support them as they show that spring has given way to summer.  Displaying the warmth of this season vines grow, cicadas click and black snakes crawl until the months culminate in a harvest.  Fall takes center stage with colorful leaves depicting this quarter that climaxes with Thanksgiving.  Finally dark winter brings cold and stormy weather yet also the beauty of the sculptured naked ash trees.  Late in the season the thaw begins and wildflowers start to bloom reminding readers that the frogs and birds will sing their song of spring.

Gunilla Norris celebrates life through the cycle of the seasons in this poetic memoir; as the author offers an uplifting look at the joys she found in nature’s constant changes at a country garden.  Though similar in philosophy and method to Ms. Norris’ A Mystic Garden, fans of lyrical meditations will appreciate reflections on Embracing the Seasons and do likewise with our personal fond contemplations (like skiing and sleighing down the hills of the Bronx in the 1960s winters).

Harriet Klausner

Isolation: A Faye Longchamp Mystery - Mary Anna Evans

Isolation: A Faye Longchamp Mystery
Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen, Aug 4 2015, $26.95
ISBN 9781464204043

On Joyeuse Island, Florida Joe Wolf Mantooth worries about the behavior of his archeologist wife, Faye Longchamp-Mantooth who seems very distracted grieving over what she recently lost.  Her only focus is digging holes on their property as she neglects everything important like her health and their business; and though he urgently tries to believe otherwise their children (two years old Michael and seventeen years old Amande) and him.  He knows their perceptive teen away at camp will soon realize something is not right with mom.

Joe’s former convict father Sly arrives at his son’s Gulf Coast home.  Soon after that Micco County Sheriff and environmental inspector Gerry Steinberg arrives with a team looking into a poisonous leak that poses a health threat.  Genealogist Delia Scarsdale, accompanied by Oscar Croft, come to the Mantooth home seeking information on the latter’s great-great-grandfather Union soldier Elias Croft and Faye’s great-great-grandmother Cally Stanton who allegedly held him prisoner.  Meanwhile the murder of bar and grill owner Liz Colton and assaults on other women frighten the residents.

The fantastic ninth Faye Longchamp mystery (see Rituals, Strangers and Plunder) captures series fans throughout; starting with Joe’s opening lament.  The environmental and murder subplots are top rate, but it is the 1935 Federal Writers’ Project to record oral history (in this case a fictional account of the legend of Cally Stanton) that steals the show.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Chorus of Innocents: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery - P.F. Chisholm

A Chorus of Innocents: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery
P.F. Chisholm
Poisoned Pen, Aug 4 2015, $26.95
ISBN 9781464204623

In the fall of 1592, Sir Robert Carey and his dedicated aide Land Sergeant Henry Dodd still recover from their ordeal of less than three weeks ago (see An Air of Treason); but no time for R&R.  They are in the dangerous borderlands between England and Scotland where feuds and changing allegiances are the norm.

At the same time in Wendron, two men invade a home and kill Minister James Burn before taking turns raping his eight-month pregnant wife Poppy.  After they leave her hysterical, crying all the way Poppy rides forty miles to Widdrington Castle seeking help from Lady Elizabeth Widdrington.  The two women travel together to Wendron where Elizabeth investigates the homicide-assault that has the border clans raging with accusations at each other with hostilities imminent.

The seventh Sir Robert Carey engrossing Elizabethan mystery (see A Famine of Horses and A Murder of Crows) is made fresh by placing Widdrington as the lead instead of the series star.  Her inquiry enables the audience to understand social strata from a female perspective with the rights of women and children in the ooze below the food chain; ironically in an era ruled by a powerful queen at the top of the pyramid.  Filled with action and an awesome climax, the intelligent heroine uses her brains to navigate in a male-only world.

Harriet Klausner

Goddess of Fate - Alexandra Sokoloff

Goddess of Fate
Alexandra Sokoloff
Harlequin Nocturne, Jul 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009480

SFPD Detective Luke Mars sleepily wonders why three beautiful women with different hair color are in his bedroom debating what his fate is.  The dark and blonde agree on a warrior for Odin’s army; but red wants more for him even as he feels a rush of desire towards her.  Then the phone wakes him to a dark empty room; the speaker informs him the shipment is going down at Pier 94. 

As he drives and thinks of red, he tries to contact Lieutenant Duncan and Pepper but fails.  At the pier, he finds armed men about to kill a homeless man who had the misfortune of sleeping there.  His intervention gets him shot.  Red aka Aurora tries to save the life of a person she has cherished for years.  They have 24 hours to solve his homicide and defy his soldierly Fate via the escape of love.

Placing Scandinavian mythology in a 24 (Bauer-like) modern day San Francisco setting, Alexandra Sokoloff authors a fabulous romantic urban fantasy.  The lead couple is a delight especially his struggles with his brain’s logic vs. his heart’s passion, and her heart’s desire battling with her brain’s dutiful diligence; while her fate sisters add depth to the magical mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sex, Lies and Designer Shoes - Kimberly Van Meter

Sex, Lies and Designer Shoes
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin Blaze, Jul 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798612

Billionaire Enzo Abelli begs personal protection specialist Rian Dalton to keep his twenty-something daughter safe from those threatening to harm her if he fails to acquiesce to their demands.  Rian says no as he insists protecting CoCo is impossible since she prefers the paparazzi Los Angeles night life.  Abelli insists on the best for his beloved wild child.  Reluctantly Rian accepts Abelli as a client.

CoCo loathes having a bodyguard; especially a disrespectful hunk.  Conversely, making the best of a situation she hates CoCo flirts outrageously with antagonistic Rian.  Though he keeps reminding himself to stay professional, Rian cannot resist her lure.  They share an incredible evening that astonishes both of them.  When the threat becomes real as a killer tries to assassinate CoCo, Rian takes it personally and risks his life to protect the spoiled heiress he loves.

The second Dalton personal protection romance (see The Hottest Ticket In Town for Rian’s brother Kane’s drama) is a heated enemy combatants' contemporary.  The lead couple’s early, endless bickering exasperates the audience; but once the viable third party “matchmaking” menace arrives, the storyline turns into a delightful tale.

Harriet Klausner

Elisha Rex - E.C. Ambrose

Elisha Rex
E.C. Ambrose
DAW, Jul 7 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409272

In fourteenth century England, Elisha Barber had been a surgeon who cut hair and treated the wounds of the impoverished.  However, the deaths of his brother and his sibling’s family led to his pleading guilty to a charge of fratricide and eventually to Brigit the herbalist.  She persuaded Elisha that he is an untrained magus who she began mentoring.  He eventually killed King Hugh followed by other royal intrigue involving King Alaric and defeating Morag. Abetted by Alaric’s recently crowned brother King Thomas, Elisha fakes his death and flees to the Isle of Wight where the watery circumference protects him from enemy mages who want him dead.  Only Mordecai knows of his self-exile.

Lord Robert arrives and is shocked to find the late martyred Elisha alive.  He explains to Elisha that King Thomas and Queen Rosalynn vanished.  Knowing he must return to London to insure the safe return of the good rulers, Elisha fears the necromantic cabal who want to exploit his skills especially his link to Death.  Nevertheless, what frightens him much more is he barely defeated Morag; so believes in his heart he has no chance against this evil’s Master and Chaos (and the French) who might reign supreme.

The third Dark Apostle medieval fantasy (see Elisha Magus and Elisha Barber) is an electrifying tale in which the ethical hero prefers to remain in hiding, but believes he must save the king and his country even at the cost of his life.  Once again E.C. Ambrose uses fourteenth century England and the French-Papal alliance as a dark backdrop to a taut captivating historical fantasy.

Harriet Klausner 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Cowboy Returns - Kelli Ireland

A Cowboy Returns
Kelli Ireland
Harlequin Blaze, Jul 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798629

Failing to attend his father’s funeral, at the request of his brother Tyson claiming issues in settling the estate, Austin lawyer Eli Covington returns to Tucumcari, New Mexico for the first time in almost a decade and a half.  The tiny plane, cattle on the dirt runway, and poor cell service reminds him he does not belong on a ranch because in his mind beef is something you eat not raise a herd. 

Making matters worse is the first person he sees is bitter (at him) veterinarian Reagan Armstrong, the woman he left behind when he became “Esquire”.  Though they are unable to resist a passionate kiss, she reminds him his younger siblings Cade and Tyson need him; besides which to his chagrin her name is Dr. Reagan Matthews.  When he runs into Cade, he finds his middle brother even angrier than Reagan, demonstrating his ire with a fist.  Though he wants to leave immediately, Eli tries to do the right thing; but fumbles his return engagement with Reagan, his brothers and the neighbors.

The first Covington brother Wild Western Heat is an engaging second and third chance at love starring a fish out of water (mindful of Andrew Bird’s WWI song “How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen” Austin) and the vet who owns his heart.  Whereas the ranch romance and family drama entertain readers, the overused theme seems too predictable.

Harriet Klausner

Kansas City Secrets - Julie Miller

Kansas City Secrets
Julie Miller
Harlequin Intrigue, Jul 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698493

Six years ago someone murdered Richard Bratcher.  KCPD focused on the victim’s fiancée Rosemary March, who offered no alibi.  However, the police failed to prove she killed her abusive fiancé although their suspicion remains strong that she got away with murder, which turned her into a detested pariah. 

Adding to Rosie’s consternation of being the evil outsider is her brother Stephen resides behind bars for murdering a reporter; which he claims to his sister he did to keep her safe.  Investigating the Bratcher homicide, KCPD Cold Case Squad Detective Max Krolikowski questions Rosie, but her previous experience with the cops make her uncooperative.  When someone sends Rosie threatening notes, she turns to hard boiled Max who wants to believe the woman who got under his skin is a victim not a killer. 

The second Precinct: Cold Case (see Kansas City Cover-Up) is a thrilling romantic police procedural starring a tough gruff former Army sergeant and a woman who either got away with murder or is the fall-gal of a clever predator.  Although her turning to him seems unlikely, a great final twist climaxes a pleasing fast-paced storyline that focuses more on the case than the attraction.  Subgenre fans will appreciate this intrigue and also want to read Julie Miller’s The Precinct series (see Crossfire Christmas).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Unleashed: A Kate Turner, D.V.M. Mystery - Eileen Brady

Unleashed: A Kate Turner, D.V.M. Mystery
Eileen Brady
Poisoned Pen, Aug 4 2015, $25.95
ISBN 9781464203961

Owing a fortune in student loans, veterinarian Dr. Kate Turner accepts a temporary position at the Oak Falls Veterinary Hospital in Upstate New York.  In spite of her recent involvement in a murder case (see Muzzled), Kate loves her new job and locale. 

Kate becomes upset when artist Claire Birnham, the owner of one of her patients Toto the Cairn Terrier, apparently commits suicide.  The vet rejects the premise of Claire taking her own life; as she would never orphan her beloved Toto.  The police soon find evidence of a homicide that leads to the arrest of Eugene Spragg, Kate’s kennel worker.  Rebuffing the police premise that slow-minded Eugene killed someone and ignoring the objections and warnings of police officer Luke Gianetti, Kate looks for motives in others within Claire’s circle especially who gained from her death.

The second Kate Turner amateur sleuth is a thrilling whodunit occurring in a picturesque Hudson River town.  The storyline combines jocularity (no reader will look at a gaggle of geese in the same way) within a murder mystery in which the heroine’s retired firefighting grandfather once again adds newness with his investigative suggestions. 

Harriet Klausner

A Murder Of Mages - Marshall Ryan Maresca

A Murder Of Mages
Marshall Ryan Maresca
DAW, Jul 7 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756410278

Injured on the job, Maradaine Constabulary at Inemar Inspector First Class Loren Rainey lies near death.  Needing to feed and shelter their two children, his wife Satrine arrives at the Inemar Constabulary with forged references to enhance her credentials as a former street rat and ex spy to Captain Cinellan.  Reluctantly he introduces her to her partner, Third Class Inspector Minox Welling on a one week trial basis.

No one voluntarily teams with Welling the “Jinx” as horrid occurrences happen to anyone partnering with this Uncircled mage cop, but Satrine has no choice.  They investigate the shocking homicide of a Circled mage whose heart was removed and extremities nailed into the ground by spikes containing magic in the neighborhood where Satrine was once a rat.  Meanwhile the Circles refuse to cooperate as the mages insist they police their own.  A second corpse as hideously murdered as the first is found, but the Circles remain adamantly silent and civilians rejoice with the deaths of each mage even as an internal war of magic threatens to ignite.

The fabulous first Maradaine Constabulary police procedural fantasy occurs in the same realm as the Thorn of Dentonhill.  The excellent cast makes for a wonderful whodunit; as Satrine faces sexism for being the first female inspector; while Minox deals with mage-ism prejudice of being the first Uncircled inspector.  The people residing in the seedy Maradaine neighborhoods and the Circles reject helping law enforcement as both diverse groups share in common (an extremely rare event) a hatred and distrust of police.  With a nod to M.R. Sellars’ exciting Rowan Gant paranormal mysteries (see Harm None), Marshall Ryan Maresca authors an exceptional serial killer case.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Cowboy’s Secret Baby - Karen Rose Smith

The Cowboy’s Secret Baby
Karen Rose Smith
Harlequin Special Edition, Jul 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373659043

In Fawn Grove, California, Marissa Lopez stops at the physical therapy center to talk to her friend Sara Cramer (see Wanted: A Real Family) when she sees Ty Conroy.  To most people, Ty is a former bull-rider whose career ended with an injury; but to Marissa he is the father of her baby who is unaware he has a son.  Marissa bluntly asks him why he is at the center; he responds knee replacement.

At his family Cozy C Ranch, Jace’s Uncle Eli tells him Marissa is a single mom raising her fourteen month old baby.  Ty cringe when he realizes conception would be when they hooked up.  He visits Marissa who is wearing a T-shirt saying “Jordan’s Mommy”.  Stunned he asks why she failed to inform him; she responds rodeo cowboys cannot be fathers and besides like her dad would resent being forced to marry due to a pregnancy.  She further explains she and Jordan have made it due to the Mommy Club (see A Match Made By Baby).  Finally he insists, as Jordan’s father, spending time with his no longer secret son.  As Jordan’s parents work on the details, their attraction remains palatable.  Soon both conceal from the other they want to become a family of three and counting.

The third Mommy Club family drama displays Karen Rose Smith’s immense talent; as the author makes very fresh an overused technique due to a strong lead trio especially the mommy logic, his family particularly doubting Eli, and the club including stars of previous tales.  Character-driven, love turns The Cowboy’s Secret Baby into no secret anymore as Ty wants to shout to everyone that he is Jordan’s daddy.

Harriet Klausner

Faces - E.C. Blake

E.C. Blake
DAW, Jul 7 2015, $19.95
ISBN: 9780756409395

With her father being the Autarch Master Maskmaker in Aygrima, Mara Holdfast's future seemed predestined as his apprentice.  However, at her rite of passage ceremony, the mask her father made for her broke apart marking her as a traitor.  Stunned and despondent, Mara is banished from her upper class existence to a deadly short life at a mining camp.  Believing Mara is the key to their revolt, the Unmasked rebels rescue her so that she can create masks for them.  Though like her father Mara can see and use all the colors, her efforts crumble (see Shadows and Masks); unlike her despotic sire, she fears draining the life forces of others needed to compete her magic.

Distrusting her father to instruct her, a wary Mara turns to the only other known person with their skill level, Lady of Pain and Fire to teach her.  As she learns to use her extremely rare talent in the sanctuary of the Lady of Pain and Fire, Prince Chell’s army and the Unmasked plot to overthrow the deadly rule of the Autarch.

Targeting young teens and tweeners, the final Masks of Aygrima fantasy is a tremendous climax to an excellent coming of age trilogy.  The keys to the anticipated confrontation are the heroine and her teammates and allies suffer setbacks that amplify their already deep fears of failure and death; and doubts about the road taken and more crippling thoughts of the “Road Not Taken” (Robert Frost).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rambles into Sacred Realms: Journeys in Pen & Paint - Krish V. Krishnan

Rambles into Sacred Realms: Journeys in Pen & Paint
Krish V. Krishnan
Shanti Arts LLC, Apr 7 2015, $48.00
ISBN: 9781941830925

Rambles into Sacred Realms is a captivating inspirational memoir; as Krish V. Krishnan tells his spiritual global odyssey in “Pen & Paint”.  Containing unique visions of twelve locales on four continents, Mr. Krishnan “rambles” in paint and sketch, accompanied by explicatory articles.  The author-artist captures what he believes is the essence of “Sacred Realms” he visited in Central America, Thailand, India and Egypt, etc.  Though the essays enhance the art work, it is the visual “picture is worth a thousand words” that grips the audience who will relish stops in Jordan’s Red Desert and Hawaii volcanoes among others on Mr. Krishnan’s refreshing world tour.  Reader friendly (I enjoyed a chapter a week); perhaps the best examples are the sites familiar to most of us: sketches of Stonehenge with its “Hungry Blackbird” dining nearby and the Temple Mount behind the Eastern Wall in Jerusalem.

Harriet Klausner

Death of an Airman: British Library Crime Classics - Christopher St. John Sprigg

Death of an Airman: British Library Crime Classics
Christopher St. John Sprigg
Poisoned Pen Press, Aug 4 2015, $12.95
ISBN: 9781464204821

Visiting England, Australian Bishop of Cootamundra Doctor Edwin Marriott arrives at the Baston Aero Club seeking flying lessons so that when he returns home he can efficiently meet his practitioners spread over a large diocese that takes weeks to traverse with ground transportation.  The cheeky manager Sarah “Sally” Sackbut signs him up before introducing the Bishop to his flight instructor George Furnace.

Edwin arrives for his first lesson, but an irritated Sally tells the Bishop that George is in the air flying solo in spite of knowing of the appointment.  Suddenly the plane crashes killing George.  The official inquiry determines the plane was in excellent shape and the deceased was a great pilot.  Thus the conclusion for the death is undecided though suicide seems most likely even though those who knew him insist otherwise.  Bishop Marriott helps Scotland Yard Inspector Bray investigate the Death of an Airman.

This is an entertaining late 1930s twisting mystery at a time when tensions on the continent are heating up.  The key support cast is underdeveloped but their amusing sauciness somewhat makes up for their two-dimensional characterizations.  The wonderful teaming of the Australian Bishop and the British police inspector make for an engaging investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Poisoning Angel - Jean Teulé

The Poisoning Angel
Jean Teulé; Melanie Florence (translator)
Gallic, Jul 14 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781908313683

As Napoleon runs over the continent; back in Brittany Anne Jégado warns her curious seven year old daughter Hélène not to touch the poisonous Thunderflower; the cause of split tongues and other similar ailments.  Following that lecture, her mom begins calling her Thunderflower even as she regales her child with tales of Death’s obedient servant Ankou, the remover of the dead.

Though still a little girl Hélène dedicates her life to Death.  She tests the use of poisoning by placing lethal belladonna berries in her sister’s soup, but her first attempt fails when her mom intercedes.  However, inadvertently Anne also educates her daughter on how to conceal poison in food.  Over the next five decades in many different households employed as a cook, Anne leaves behind a trail of dead including her sister who failed to escape her second poisoning.

This dark biographical fiction of a real nineteenth century poisoner grips the audience with a macabre fascination for the increasing professionalism and creativeness of the lead.  Filled with witty asides and insights, readers will enjoy Jean Teulé’s latest; as no author turns real people and historical incidents into wickedly brilliant comedic graveyard dramas better than him (see The Hurlyburly’s Husband, The Suicide Shop and Eat Him if You Like).

Harriet Klausner

The Empress Game - Rhonda Mason

The Empress Game
Rhonda Mason
Titan Books, Jul 14 2015, $14.95
ISBN 9781783295241

The members of the Sakien Empire Ruling Council issue the galactic-wide edict to begin the tournament to fill the empty queen’s seat.  Power-brokers seek viable candidates that can win yet be manipulated.  One group recruits Kayla “Shadow Panthe” Reinumon who earns a living fighting in gory matches on a remote orb.  They appear unaware that Kayla was a princess on wyrd Ordoch until a coup killed her entire royal family except her and her brother Corinth.  These wannabes also are ignorant that their chosen puppet, like many from her former home, possesses high levels of psi skills; she does not realize that her “owners” orchestrated the assassinations of her family.

Kayla and her supporters share the same output objective, but differ on the outcome as she plans to win but use it to go home.  They also deploy cheating methods to insure their victory, but failed to account for their fighter’s independence that has them scrambling while she never anticipated any of her employers betraying her.

The opening act of the Empress Game trilogy contains an intriguing heroine who escorts readers through corrupt and literally back-stabbing political and economic systems on various worlds.  Although the prime villain seems weak once we meet him especially after a build-up and having a romance feels more a subgenre requirement, space opera fans will relish spending time in Rhonda Mason’s fascinating but “wyrd” galactic vision.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Notting Hill Mystery: British Library Crime Classics - Charles Warren Adams

The Notting Hill Mystery: British Library Crime Classics
Charles Warren Adams
Poisoned Pen, Jul 15 2015, $12.95
ISBN 9781464204807

In 1858 London, insurance investigator Ralph Henderson strongly believes Baron R murdered his wife Madame R last year; though proving the clever hypnosist killed her requires slow methodical collection of evidence to overcome the contention of a tragic accident.  Her death from drinking acid in her husband’s lab while she supposedly was sleep-walking fueled Henderson’s suspicion of uxoricide.  Henderson feels the motive is greed; as the Baron took out five-5,000 pound each life policies on his mate in different cities between late 1855 and early 1856.  Thus the Baron had means, motive and opportunity.

This reprint (to include the original drawings) of one of the first detective stories is an intriguing mid Victorian as the hero struggles to prove his assertion that the husband killed his wife to collect life insurance.  The storyline has the serialization problems of repetition, inconsistencies and boring filler to meet a weekly standard (still a problem in the internet age).  Although an over the top of Big Ben villain, The Notting Hill Mystery is a period piece for curious historical mystery aficionados.

Harriet Klausner

The Chart Of Tomorrows - Chris Willrich

The Chart Of Tomorrows
Chris Willrich
Pyr, Jul 7 2015, $18.00
ISBN: 9781633880580

To protect their infant Innocence, Persimmon Gaunt the poet and Image Bone the thief conceal their baby within the Scroll of Years.  Now a confused bitter teen who no longer remains hidden, Innocence resides in the Bladed Isles where his incredible magical abilities lead a horde of evil or foolish power-seekers craving manipulating and controlling the youngster.

Bone and Gaunt search for their offspring who loathes them for choosing his alleged destiny over him.  At the same time, Snow Pine pursues his missing daughter Joy.  The three parents fear for their respective child as the prophecy proclaims these former friends in “exile” Innocence and Joy will fight one another to the death.  To save both teens and many more, Bone and Gaunt deploy the dangerous Chart of Tomorrows traveling in time to change the inevitable.

Filled with daring dangerous deeds, the exciting third Gaunt and Bone epic fantasy (see The Scroll of Years and The Silk Map) is a magnificent magical family drama that grips the audience throughout the tremendous trilogy.  The three-dimensional cast (including the villains) makes the tale seem real; as Gaunt and Bone learn the hard way where good intentions lead.  Chris Willrich’s latest saga will be on most subgenre readers’ short list as fantasy of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Summer Of Good Intentions - Wendy Francis

The Summer Of Good Intentions
Wendy Francis
Simon & Schuster, Jul 7 2015, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451666427

Summer on Cape Cod has always been a great get together for the Herrington family.  However, this year is different as the patriarch Arthur and matriarch Gloria divorced after almost five decades of marriage.  Tensions are tropospheric even before the three sisters, accompanied by their husbands/significant other and children, and Arthur arrive at the family cottage.  At the last moment, Gloria announces she and her boyfriend will join the gathering.

The oldest offspring supermom Maggie struggles with accepting the end of her parent’s marriage and fears empty nest syndrome.  Maggie muses that she is not too old to raise a baby though she wonders how Mac would react.

Her younger twin Jess loves her job apparently much more than her husband Tim; as the unhappy couple only talks to each other when it involves their two kids.  She owes her spouse the truth, but cannot deal with how he will react.

The youngest Virgie the reporter looks forward to the vacation easing her dangerous levels of stress.  She found a man who treats her differently than the previous horde.  Her exhaustion lands her into the emergency room where the examination reveals a critical finding.

Since his mate left, Arthur feels lost.  He hopes his daughters and grandchildren will lift the fog that has his family fearing he suffers from senility.

Rotating perspective, The Summer Of Good Intentions is a well-written family drama starring a three-dimensional ensemble in which each Herrington faces major issues (though not developed equally).  Readers will like the cast who deal poorly with their personal tsuris; but the health crises that begin to reunite the extended family make the coming together a bit too easy on everyone.

Harriet Klausner

The King of Swords - Michael Moorcock

The King of Swords
Michael Moorcock
Titan Books, Jul 7 2015, $9.95
ISBN: 9781783291694

War weary and still with no respite to grieve the deaths of his family and his people from the Mabden massacre and too aware of the loss of fifteen planes to Chaos, Vadhagh Prince Corum knows it is not over.  Instead the Eternal Champion realizes the victories by him and his allies on the side of Law against The Queen of the Swords and The Knight of the Swords are preliminaries before the main event.  He, his wife Rhalina and their companion Jhary the Conel must confront the enemy leader King of the Swords Mabelode the Faceless on their deadly adversary’s turf.

Instead of a direct assault, Mabelode uses subterfuge to defeat his foe.  His supporters release a sorcery-created airborne toxin into the Eternal Champion’s encampment.  This leads to mistrust and rage as friends fight to the death.  Desperate Corum accompanied by Rhalina and Jhary enter the conquered planes to confront and kill Mabelode; but the Eternal Champion quickly concludes they cannot succeed without help.  Corum recruits other Eternal Champions to join him on a dangerous Hail Mary to save the remaining planes from Chaos and its invincible King of Swords.

The reprint of the third Corum Swords and sorcery fantasy is a terrific climax to an enjoyable trilogy as this Eternal Champion must control his need for vengeance in order to vanquish an unbeatable opponent who unlike his defeated comrades uses cunning rather than direct attacks.  Extremely fast-paced from start to finish, this reprint of a British Fantasy Awards for best novel is a fabulous finish.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 10, 2015

Little Pretty Things - Lori Rader-Day

Little Pretty Things
Lori Rader-Day
Prometheus/Seventh Street Books, Jul 7 2015, $15.95
ISBN: 9781633880047

In Indiana, Juliet Townsend works as a maid at the Mid-Night Inn; a motel one notch above z dive though spiraling towards the lowest classification as only Bargains and Desperate come to this dump.  In her late twenties Juliet is a mirror of her work place going nowhere.

To add insult, her high school friend, Maddy Bell checks in at the Mid-Night.  Juliet wanted one win against Maddy at track, but her rival kicked her butt every time they raced against each other a decade ago.  With the ring, the clothing and the demeanor, Maddy looks like she made the big time while since her dad died Juliet is stuck in loser status.  The next day Maddy hangs from the balcony.  The police suspect Juliet killed Maddy.  Realizing she never even pondered why affluent Maddy stopped here as she is neither a Bargain nor a Desperate, Juliet looks back to their days together as teens and questioning others who knew Maddy in high school in order to understand why and identify the perpetrator.

The soft-boiled captivating whodunit entertains readers especially with a stunning climatic spin.  Juliet’s reflections of her life’s pivotal failures bring freshness to this suspenseful mystery as she ponders what if.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Millionaire’s True Worth - Rebecca Winters

The Millionaire’s True Worth
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin Romance, Jul 1 2015, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373743452

Chloe begs her friend Raina to be her maid of honor at her Greek wedding, but the Maywood billionaire heiress declines because she fears the paparazzi will ruin her BFF’s special day; as she and her family are constant targets.  Raina insists she will attend and even stay at Chloe’s home when the latter is on her honeymoon.

At the wedding, Raina and millionaire best man Akis Giannopoulos meet and are attracted to each other.  He conceals his fortune from the Californian as he distrusts women who he believes covets his fortune.  As they forge a relationship, Raina learns the truth about the man she loves before he confesses; she wonders what else the Greek who owns her heart hides from her.  Still she is ready to forgive if he gives them a real chance to make it together.

Readers who ignore the Europe financial crisis will appreciate this entertaining contemporary in spite of stubborn Akis causing heartache for the protagonists.  Rebecca Winters authors a wonderful twisting romance as love may not be enough for this affluent couple.

Harriet Klausner