Sunday, November 30, 2008

While My Sister Sleeps-Barbara Delinsky

While My Sister Sleeps
Barbara Delinsky
Doubleday, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780385524926

Olympic level marathoner egotistical Robin Snow and her less athletic younger sister Molly the horticulturist do not get along for the most part though they share a sisterly bond especially when things go bad for one of them. Molly resents her older sibling’s fame and accompanied gloating haughtiness so refuses to run with Robin as she trains. When Robin running alone suffers a heart attack that leaves her comatose, Molly feels guilty for not being there for her.

As Robin's health worsens, Molly’s feelings of guilt rise in a negative correlation. Other family members like their brother Chris and their parents Charlie and Kathryn fail to cope with the increasingly ominous situation; Chris has a personal problem while Kathryn is in denial and Charlie turns to religion. Thus every critical decision falls on Molly’s overly burdened shoulders as the doctor begins to believe Robin will never wake up.

Fans of Barbara Delinsky will enjoy this angst-laden character driven family drama that looks deep into relationships mostly between siblings. Although the well written story line is extremely passive (which makes sense since one of the key characters is in a coma) and at times over burdened with too much personal torment that borders on hyperbolic emoting, WHILE MY SISTER SLEEPS deeply showcases how people react differently to an unexpected health crisis.

Harriet Klausner

Here Today, Gone to Maui-Carol Snow

Here Today, Gone to Maui
Carol Snow
Berkley, Jan 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425225639

In Southern California, thirtyish Jane Shea looks forward to her week long vacation with her boyfriend, Michael "Jimmy" James although the weeks just before she considers what could go wriong like the flu, food poisoning or shingles. However her fears seem for naught as Jimmy arrives at Jane’s home an hour early to take them to the Orange County Airport to fly to Atlanta to catch their connecting first class flight to Maui.

In Maui, Jimmy takes forever to get the car rental and then the Hyatt insists they never made reservations; Jimmy tells her no other hotel on Kannapolis has a room so he arranged for them to stay at a studio condo. Soon after that Jimmy goes diving, but never returns. A distraught Jane fears her boyfriend drowned, but soon finds herself in trouble she does not understand as the real Michael James stands up as someone she never knew.

Jane is an intriguing lead character as she learns that all her obsessive anxiety disorder musings pale next to the reality of the problems she suddenly faces due to the activities of her missing boyfriend. Jimmy is an enigmatic person who the heroine (and readers) begins unpeels the mystery one petal at a time. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted romantic suspense romp everything that she anticipated happening on her vacation did not occur, instead much worse did as Jane learns the hard way between worrying over possible trouble and real trouble.

Harriet Klausner

Death of a Witch-M.C. Beaton

Death of a Witch
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central, Feb 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 0446196134

After heeding the advice of his friend to go abroad on his vacation, police constable Hamish Macbeth returns from a cheap off season holiday in Spain to his home village Lochdubhof in the Scottish Highlands. All he can think of is breathing Scotland’s air after a boring disappointing trip to the southern part of the Iberian Peninsular.

However, in his short time as a stranger in a strange land, Macbeth finds the village males acting even stupider than normal, which in the cop’s mind would have been impossible as stupid male is an oxymoron. Newcomer Catriona Beldame seems to own the men as if she cast a bewitching spell on them. She sells them elixirs that she claims cure all sorts of sexual malfunctions. Macbeth learns of her dishonest past and warns her if she is peddling illegal concoctions he will get her. Just after Macbeth foolishly in public proclaims he wants to kill the flimflam con artist someone takes his threat to heart killing Beldame and burning down her residence. Knowing Inspector Blair will gleefully make him a prime suspect, Macbeth investigates, but is taken aback by the murders of three more women and a female not under investigation who has him distracted with thoughts of a kiss.

The latest Macbeth police procedural (see DEATH OF A GENTLE LADY) is a terrific whodunit as the hero will shock his fans with the key relationship question to ask or not to ask as Hamish meets women who are not suspects. Filled with the usual humor, DEATH OF A WITCH is a delightful Scottish charmer that works on the investigative level as much as on the personal level. M.C. Beaton provides her usual superior tale with the king of obstinacy Macbeth diligently working a homicide while pondering the foreign concept of romantic thoughts.

Harriet Klausner

Catopolis-Edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Janet Deaver-Pack

Edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Janet Deaver-Pack
Daw, Dec 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756405144

Feline fantasy fans will enjoy these seventeen tales of life in a magical "city of cats" that resides alongside our mundane world, but is kept hidden. Each tale is well written, but because the theme is somewhat limiting in terms of its catastrophic anthropomorphosis theme, readers should spread out enjoying the visit to Williams Lake, Wisconsin over a few weeks. The contributors are a nice blending of famous writers like Esther M. Friesner, Ed Greenwood, Richard Lee Byers, Jean Rabe and Donald J. Bingle with relatively newcomers; though some have had several short stories published. The tales range the spectrum from political to criminal to fantasy thrillers. Once again all seventeen are interesting with personal favorites being “I Am King” by Edward Carmien which has relevancy in DC right now, Lee Martindale’s “Old Age and Sorcery” as “the life of Free Cats was not without its dangers”, and “The Persian, the Coon, and Bullets (Matthew Woodring Stover) as cats learn bullets may be the means but its humans who kill. Readers will enjoy following the escapades of feisty felines like “The Guardian of Grimoire Hall" (Christopher Welsh) and the “Mentor of the Potala” (Bruce A. Heard) as CATOPOLIS is an entertaining compilation.

Harriet Klausner

Castaways-Brian Keene

Brian Keene
Leisure, Feb 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843960891

On a deserted island, a group of contestants compete for a million dollars on the reality based show Castaways. The players must live off what is on the island and battle one another in various contests that the producer arranges. The winner of the day is immune from deportation while the group votes on who is exiled. The last person standing wins the prize. The contestants and the support crew assume the island is deserted, but they will learn otherwise.

The natives live in caves, but as the show’s participants will learn they are hominid but not quite human. They are covered in fur, never wash or use tools and communicate with one another without speaking in any known language. It is also difficult for their females to become pregnant and those who are born are typically deformed. Their plan is simply one of survival.; they will eat the male intruders and rape the females keeping them pregnant until they no longer can bear their offspring. No rescue for the Castaways is in sight.

Although the tale of a reality TV show on an isolated Pacific island filled with monsters is not new (see Jaci Burton’s Surviving Demon Island), Brian Keene refreshes his version by placing his Castaway within a horror version of Christie’s And Then There Were None. Fans of Survivor will enjoy the twist as there is no getting off the island for the humans who are either sustenance or child bearers. The island paradise location adds depth to the horrific scenario confronting the show participants as Mr. Keene provides an enjoyable dark twist to reality TV.

Harriet Klausner

Night Hunter-Yasmine Galenorn

Night Hunter
Yasmine Galenorn
Berkley, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425225462

In Seattle, the three half Fae D’Artigo sisters continue to work for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. Each has personal issues as Camille the good witch struggles with being an equal opportunity multi-species hunk magnet, Menolly is still adjusting to being a vampire; and Delilah the shapeshifting were-cat tries unsuccessfully to deny she has become a Death Maiden servant of the Autumn Lord as that makes her relationship with her human boyfriend Chase the police detective seem impossible.

Meanwhile Karvanak the Raksasas demon and his associate Vanzir the dream stealer have obtained the third Spirit Seal and are after the fourth. To achieve their objective they abduct Chase, who is already in Delilah’s litter box for whispering some other woman’s name in his sleep while lying with her. With the help of her sisters Delilah hopes to rescue Chase, but the Autumn Lord has demands for her too.

Once again in this excellent urban fantasy saga, the various types of paranormal species seem genuine and the good guys do not always win so expect the unexpected as the lead role rotates this time from Camille (see DRAGON WYTCH) to Delilah. In spite of the non-stop action that never slows down for a moment and the myriad of support cast that can be a bit distracting, NIGHT HUNTER superbly builds on threads from the previous “Sisters of the Moon” books; yet can be read as a stand alone. Yasmine Galenorn provides a strong entry as the love between the sisters and the males in their lives propel the D’Artigo trio to do what they can to save Chase, but never lose sight of keeping safe the two worlds they have their feet standing in.

Harriet Klausner

Real Vampires Don’t Diet-Gerry Bartlett

Real Vampires Don’t Diet
Gerry Bartlett
Berkley, Jan 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425225646

For centuries old vampire Glory St. Claire is having a bit of a hissy fit because she is spending New Year’s Eve in Austin by herself. Her boyfriend Jeremy Blade is traipsing off on some sort of rescue mission as his daughter was allegedly abducted by radicals. She is not quite by herself though as her telepathic dog Valdez tells her to go get a life when she plans for them to share a special bonding evening with chick flicks from hell (his not so subtle thoughts).

Infant vampire rock superstar Israel Caine invites Glory to a party he hosts; she knows he is drinking, a horrific error for a turned vamp so she rushes over to save him from himself. They go out on a boat ride on his vessel the Star Snoops on Lake Travis only to rescue Aglaophonos, call her Aggie a siren. Aggie informs Glory that she owes Circe three male vampires to break a curse and now has two captured albeit one is female and can only serve as a hostage. Caine, trying to keep Glory safe, declares she is his fiancée which upsets Blade while Glory persuades Aggie to cut a deal in which she and Caine will bring to her the three vampires; she figures how hard can it be to find and capture three evil vamps in Austin.

The fourth Gloriana Real Vampire saga (see … HAVE CURVES, LIVE LARGE and GET LUCK) is an engaging urban fantasy filled with action and amusing chick lit asides. Glory is terrific as she struggles with a way out of the fiasco that Aggie has her in without alienating Circe. Fans will enjoy this fun lighthearted romp as Glory needs to deliver three vamps to lift a curse before she becomes a victim.

Harriet Klausner

Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand-Carrie Vaughn

Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand
Carrie Vaughn
Grand Central, Feb 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446199537

After being bitten by a werewolf, Kitty Norville became one too (see KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR). When her lawyer Ben, who was also bitten, Kitty, saw him through the change, their wolves’ side knew before their human half understood they belong together. As Denver’s werewolf population recognizes them as the alpha couple of their pack, they also maintain their contacts with their human family and human friends. The pair decides to marry so Kitty’s radio show producers arrange for her to do a Vegas TV show.

Kitty initially saw the Vegas trip as a working vacation, but reassess her belief as the hotel she is staying at hosts a gun show with bounty hunters of werewolves attending. She knows some of them will try to kill her because of her fame. Odysseus Grant performs an old fashioned magic act that many think is the real thing, but refuses an invitation to do his act on Kitty’s show. He also warns her to stay away from the animal act made up of shapeshifters at the Hanging Guardians run by Balthasar the King of the Beasts. When Ben is kidnapped, Kitty has a whole group of suspects to pick from who committed the crime starting with the bounty hunters where she gets a shocking surprise.

KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN’S HAND is an exciting supernatural romantic suspense. The protagonist and her mate have come a long way as they have adapted to being werewolves lifemates leading their pack while running their New Moon Restaurant, a paranormal neutral zone hang out. Though the abduction and related investigative mystery comes late, it is fun to follow as readers wonder whether Kitty will come out with a roll of a natural or craps as she tries to rescue her mate. Carrie Vaughn provides an enthralling and spellbinding urban fantasy as Kitty takes on Vegas.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Sweet in Between-Sheri Reynolds

The Sweet in Between
Sheri Reynolds
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Nov 2008, $23.00
ISBN: 0307393895

In Virginia seventeen year old Kendra "Kenny" Lugo fears the near future. Her mom died years ago of cancer and her dad is serving time. She lives with her dad’s girlfriend “Aunt” Glo who has two kids of her own (tweener Quincy and teen Tim-Tim) and her seven years old granddaughter Daphne, dumped on her by her oldest child. Glo survives her responsibilities thanks in part to prescription pain killers.

Kenny fears Glo will kick her out of her home once she becomes an adult, which is soon. The teen also struggles with identity issues especially hiding her feminine body. When their alcoholic neighbor Jarvis Stanley accidentally kills a college girl, Kenny obsesses over the deceased as her morbidity makes her believe Glo will kick her to the curb soon. Her plan is to soon become responsible and dependable; Glo will beg her to stay.

Told by the frightened Kenny, THE SWEET IN BETWEEN is a fascinating family drama starring a frightened teen filled with anger, remorse and fear. The rest of Glo’s extended family is fully developed characters who enhance the at times subtle and other moments in your face story line. However, this is Kenny’ tale as she sadly expects the worse but hopes for the best, which in this case is not being kicked out of the only shelter, albeit a relatively poor one, she knows at a time she wonders why she feels different from girls her age.

Harriet Klausner

Forever Princess-Meg Cabot

Forever Princess
Meg Cabot
Harper, Jan 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061232923

Genovia Princess Amelia is looking forward to the near future as she will soon turn eighteen, graduate high school, go to her senior prom, and attend an Ivy League School or an equivalent in Europe. Princess Amelia shows everyone her public upbeat persona especially with her kingdom about to hold their first elections.

Mia fears her make believe world is about to collapse. Grandmere plans to host her eighteenth birthday gala in a style fitting a royal, which means no fun. Her boyfriend J.P. has not asked her to the prom and for whatever dumb male reason he has not, she rationalizes though the clock is running out. Finally all those schools like Yale, Columbia and Harvard have not tendered a student seat although she has everyone think they did. Making matters more complicated is the triumphant return from Japan of her former boyfriend Michael, whose medical technology procedure has been adopted as the way to go. Finally, even her medieval romance novel (see RANSOM MY HEART) written under the pseudonym Meg Cabot has failed to find a publisher. Mia has less than one month before the big crunch implodes her world.

The tie in to the “co-authored RANSOM MY HEART is fun and cute, as Meg Cabot and Mia Thermopolis write the novel, which in the final Princess Diaries’ tale includes excerpts. Fans will appreciate the usual doubting Thomasina as Mia disparages herself for fear of failing even as she has grown from the frightened teen eleven episodes ago to understanding the significance of a strong front to hide a queasy stomach. The audience will be elated with the climatic final tale wondering if all will go right as the heroine turns eighteen.

Harriet Klausner

Star Bright-Catherine Anderson

Star Bright
Catherine Anderson
Signet, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0451225716

Knowing how lethally dangerous her affluent influential husband Peter Danning is as he has killed two previous wives and not desiring to be next when he finally goes over the edge with her, Lorraina Ann with help from her friend Janet arranges for her death on a ship at sea to fool him when he searches for her. Rainie Ann no longer exists as Anna Pritchard is born. Besides altering her appearance, Anna plans to disappear to isolated tiny Crystal Falls, Oregon.

In the small town, Anna obtains work as a bookkeeper at Parker Harrigan's horse ranch. However, Parker believes his new employee is not just hiding secrets, but concealing her identity for whatever reason. As their attraction grows, Anna fears it because she knows all she can give to her beloved employer and his extended family is death if her psychopathic spouse finds her in Crystal Falls.

The third of the five Harrigan siblings romantic suspense tales (see MORNING LIGHT and SUN KISSED) is an exhilarating tale that refreshes the theme of a woman in peril from her insane but connected husband (think of Roberts-Bergen in Sleeping with the Enemy). The story line is fast-paced from the moment Rainie Ann no longer exists and Anna Pritchard with her Elvira wig does. Fans will enjoy the latest Harrigan saga as the besieged brave woman and the readers know the maniacal predator is coming for her.

Harriet Klausner

Lone Star Woman-Sadie Callahan

Lone Star Woman
Sadie Callahan
Signet, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0451225775

In West Texas three generations of Campbell-Strayhorn blood own the Circle C Ranch. Grandpa may be the family patriarch, but his son J.D. runs the spread while his granddaughter Jude looks forward to soon take over from her dad. However, the two men in her life prefer Jude to marry and raise the next generation, preferably males.

Independent and upset with her dad and granddad, Jude buys the nearby 6-0 ranch to prove to her chauvinistic kin she can run a spread. However, she finds a stranger nesting on her new property; to her chagrin, recently divorced Brady Fallon makes her warm all over until he asserts he inherited the ranch she just bought. Brady is attracted to Jude, but he is coming off of a nasty divorce and knows better than to fool around with the daughter of his neighbor, who has given him a job that he needs to bring in money to restore the 6-0 ranch. As J.D. mentors Brady to replace him at Circle C, her daddy breaks Jude’s heart again.

LONE STAR WOMAN is a fabulous contemporary ranch romance that is kept fresh by the lifestyle depth of the three generations of Campbell-Strayhorn’s. The storyline us fast-paced as Brady struggles between loyalties and Jude by betrayal by the three men in her life. Readers will appreciate this fine Texas tale starring a strong female and three chauvinists who love her but fail to give her the chance she deserves.

Harriet Klausner

Hot Mail-Janice Maynard

Hot Mail
Janice Maynard
Signet, Jan 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 045122583X

In Statlerville, Tennessee Jane Norman has always wanted her former best friend Ethan Oldham, but he never displayed any inclination of caring for her that way. Their friendship forged as the two tallest kids in junior high school ended four years when Ethan became engaged to a gold-digging pariah. Although Jane sort of moved on, her love for Ethan remains strong.

Deciding he will never take the first step, thirty-two year old Jane decides on an anonymous inane HOT MAIL campaign to win his heart or at least intimate time with him in his bed. She begins sending him love letters so graphic he fears his hands will burn by touching them; once a week they arrive and he finds himself anxiously waiting for the next one even as he wonders who is sending them. When someone burglarizes Jane’s stationary store, Assistant Chief of Police Ethan investigates. As they renew their friendship ironically the erotic letter writer causes a triangle that leaves Jane looking on with desire while her shadow self wins his heart.

HOT MAIL is an amusing contemporary romance that contains underlying issues which strengthens the story line. The lead couple is a terrific pairing even if Ethan is ignorant to the facts while the support cast especially his older sister facing empty nest syndrome with her ex in Florida and her daughter about to attend college at U of South Florida deepens the plot. The letter campaign proves too successful opening up more problems for the heroine whose New Year’s Resolution looks dead with Valentine’s Day approaching. Janice Maynard provides a delightful humorous charmer.

Harriet Klausner

Hot Mail-Janice Maynard

Hot Mail
Janice Maynard
Signet, Jan 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 045122583X

In Statlerville, Tennessee Jane Norman has always wanted her former best friend Ethan Oldham, but he never displayed any inclination of caring for her that way. Their friendship forged as the two tallest kids in junior high school ended four years when Ethan became engaged to a gold-digging pariah. Although Jane sort of moved on, her love for Ethan remains strong.

Deciding he will never take the first step, thirty-two year old Jane decides on an anonymous inane HOT MAIL campaign to win his heart or at least intimate time with him in his bed. She begins sending him love letters so graphic he fears his hands will burn by touching them; once a week they arrive and he finds himself anxiously waiting for the next one even as he wonders who is sending them. When someone burglarizes Jane’s stationary store, Assistant Chief of Police Ethan investigates. As they renew their friendship ironically the erotic letter writer causes a triangle that leaves Jane looking on with desire while her shadow self wins his heart.

HOT MAIL is an amusing contemporary romance that contains underlying issues which strengthens the story line. The lead couple is a terrific pairing even if Ethan is ignorant to the facts while the support cast especially his older sister facing empty nest syndrome with her ex in Florida and her daughter about to attend college at U of South Florida deepens the plot. The letter campaign proves too successful opening up more problems for the heroine whose New Year’s Resolution looks dead with Valentine’s Day approaching. Janice Maynard provides a delightful humorous charmer.

Harriet Klausner

Lethal Legacy-Linda A. Fairstein

Lethal Legacy
Linda A. Fairstein
Doubleday, Jan 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 0385523998

Manhattan’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper convinces librarian Tina Barr to go to the hospital after a thief masquerading as a firefighter assaults the woman in her East Side apartment. Soon after Tina disappears without medical treatment; a female corpse appears in her abruptly abandoned apartment.

The dead body resembles Tina’s affluent landlady Minerva Hunt, but she discovered the corpse of her Romanian housekeeper Karla Vastasi. Alex and her NYPD Police Detective partner Mike Chapman investigate the Hunt family and Barr learning that the latter used to work for Minerva’s father Jasper, a rare book bibliophile and ardent collector of priceless maps. The inquiry leads to the rare book and map collection of the New York Public Library, who has had valuable items stolen and vanishing into private collections, but Mike and Coop know to stay focused though the thefts are more fascinating.

The New York Public Library depth brings freshness to the latest Coop legal investigative thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the heroine who some insist “walk on bottled water” and her cohort follow the clues into the library. Readers will appreciate this strong entry which also sets up a cold case as number twelve for the intrepid Alex to investigate.

Harriet Klausner

Bedeviled-Maureen Child

Maureen Child
Signet, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0451225767

Maggie Donovan goes over to her soon to be former fiancé’s office to return him is ABBA CDs and his classic Star Trek DVDs only to walk in on a nightmare. Something female from a horror flick is dining on poor nice Joe Erickson before turning to chow on Maggie. She grabs the bi*ch’s pendant and uses it against the carnivore, which enables her to survive the demonic assault, but inhales a strange powder that gives her astonishing powers.

Otherworld Fae warrior Culhane feels his hundreds of years waiting impatiently for the right woman which has finally occurred. He believes Maggie, who has Fae blood in her, is destined to fight and defeat the evil Queen Mab. However, in spite of her libido deserting her with her attraction to Culhane, she rejects the Fae until attacks on her human family begin. She knows she must confront Mab who has everything going for her in a one on one battle except for Maggie’s grit to keep her loved one safe from the malevolent witch.

Maggie owns this wonderful urban fantasy although some might argue she adapts to her off kilter new world disorder too easily. She is terrific as the chosen one (at least Culhane’s chosen one), which she believes only places a bulls-eye on her chest for Queen Mab to send her worms to attack her. Readers will enjoy the opening gamut as the Child universe is established in a way that the heroine feels so BEDEVILED she would empathize with Alice falling through the looking glass.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 28, 2008

Simple Wishes-Lisa Dale

Simple Wishes
Lisa Dale
Forever, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0446406899

With her failure at making it in New York followed by her mom Marge’s death, Adele Martin quits her job as an art gallery manager and leaves Brooklyn to return to the Pennsylvania mountain cottage she grew up in to consider what next. Adele and her mom had a falling out over the former leaving for the big city and now she feels guilty over their estrangement although she knows part of the problems was her mom’s secret past. Aunt Christine comes by to see her niece for the first time in years and weekend warriors the Lopresti family invites her to Korean fare.

Adele meets her next door neighbor, the only year round resident, artist “Hermit Jay” Westvelt. They are attracted to one another, but have differing opinions about Marge. As they fall in love, she begins to learn the deepest secrets about her unknown father, her mother and her aunt that make her want to flee the Pocono’s for Brooklyn and the restraining order she left behind. Jay hopes to persuade her that mountain life is good when filled with love and besides the big city of Scranton is nearby.

More a deep family drama with a romantic subplot, SIMPLE WISHES is an interesting character study of a woman who begins to learn what love is and is not after meeting Jay, Skipper the dog, her aunt and the Lopresti family. Before them love was conditional with controlling strings and IOUs; after them she begins to realize love can be unconditional just there. Although the story line lacks action with the focus on the characters’ emotions, fascinatingly, the Lopresti teen granddaughter is her prime teacher, as Adele sees history repeat the same errors she made, but will she understand in time to save her relationship with Jay starting with her real given first name.

Harriet Klausner

Promises of Change-Joan Medlicott

Promises of Change
Joan Medlicott
Pocket, Jan 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416524588

In rural Covington, North Carolina, Hannah and Max marry, but maintain their separate houses although she spends many nights at his. Her two friends Grace and Amelia who share a farmhouse with Hannah are fine with the arrangement, as is Max.

However, their marital bliss abruptly ends when Max’s estranged son Zachary accompanied by his pregnant wife Sarina, arrives from India. Hannah and her two best buddies welcome Sarina to the Tar Heel State with friendship and quickly the mother-daughter in-laws forge a strong bond while baby shopping in town together. However, the schism between their husbands remains wider than the Great Gorge even after Sarah is born, which dampens the joy of a newborn

Fans of the Covington tales will enjoy the latest escapades as Hannah’s new family issues take center stage although plenty happens to Grace and Amelia too. Hannah worries that the estrangement between her beloved husband and his son, which already huts the pair, will cause pain to others, but is unsure how to proceed to bringing about a reconciliation. Obviously for the Covington audience, this is a warm character driven entry; as all the novels are.

Harriet Klausner

The Love We Share Without Knowing-Christopher Barzak

The Love We Share Without Knowing
Christopher Barzak
Bantam, Dec 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553385649

In Ami, Japan, sixteen year old American Elijah Fulton is bored. His only outlet is running. On an isolated path he meets a red fox who seems to imply he should follow; he does and ends up in a sacred circle. Soon after still suffering ennui, Elijah without telling anyone takes the train to Tokyo. After spending the day there, he tries to find the train back to the town where he, his parents and younger sister reside, but fails; no one seems to help him until a teen calling herself Midori helps him as she is going there too. After leaving the train at Ami they walk together until she heads to her father’s farm while he goes home. Later he learns Midori committed suicide thirteen years ago.

In Tokyo, Hitumi meets Kazuko in a restaurant after each of their respective dates let them down. Soon afterward Asami and Tadashi the only male of the four form a suicide club pact that reminds Hitumi of her late friend Midori.

More a series of somewhat related vignettes rather than short stories or a novel, THE LOVE WE SHARE WITHOUT KNOWING is a deep look at loneliness and its twin need to belong to others. Christopher Barzak makes the case that the human need for companionship is a basic requirement just a notch less critical than physical survival needs like food, water and shelter. Well written with more episodes than those above, but somewhat depressing because part of belonging could lead to negative consequences like forming a suicide club pact. Fans who appreciate a powerful character study that gets into the essence of human need (think of the Maslow’s hierarchy) will relish this engaging but gloomy glimpse into the human psyche.

Harriet Klausner

Border Moonlight-Amanda Scott

Border Moonlight
Amanda Scott
Forever, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0446541354

In 1386 Edinburgh, at the altar, fourteen years old Sibylla Cavers says no to a marriage to ancient Lord Galston. A year later she is at the altar where she meets her latest groom for the first time, but says no again when he cannot even smile; he vows vengeance for her impudence. Two years later she informs her irate frustrated father Sir Malcolm she will not marry his third choice who spends all his time with his men. Her father writes her off and plans to arrange his next oldest daughter’s marriage, praying she is more biddable.

In 1391, Sibylla is riding alone when she hears a child’s scream. She sees the lass drowning in the nearby river and makes a gallant attempt to rescue the young lass from the current, but is hurt in the unsuccessful process. Laird Simon Murray returning home accompanied by a small contingency saves her while his men rescue the child. He takes the injured Sibylla home even as both recognize one another from her jilting him at the altar over three years ago. As they become better acquainted with one another, they fall in love, but trouble on the border appears ready to divide clans in a potentially ferocious war.

This is an exciting Border romance with plenty of action as strife seems everywhere starting with an abduction. The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when the intrepid Sybilla says no to the priest in front of her father and others and never slows down until the final clan confrontation. Amanda Scott fans will enjoy her latest medieval romance starring a brave female and the arrogant laird in a terrific historical gender war.

Harriet Klausner

Whisper No Lies-Cindy Gerard

Whisper No Lies
Cindy Gerard
Pocket, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781416566755

On the Vegas Strip, Crystal Debrowski works security at Bali Hai Casino. Her job is made harder because as her friend Abbie Hughes Lang puts it she is a “man magnet” due to her looks although she rejects all offers. Her latest admirer Yao Long refuses to accept her declination of a sexual encounter. The Asian crime lord pulls strings, which leads to Crystal’s arrest based on her employer accusing her of stealing by substituting counterfeit chips and other security glitches; all occurring during her shifts as security game manager; Yao pays her bail.

Abbie knows Crystal is innocent and asks her spouse Sam and his cronies at Black Ops Inc (see TAKE NO PRISONERS) to help her friend. Before he can react, Yao’s goons abduct Crystal taking her to his base in Jakarta. BOI agents led by before Texan Johnny Duane Reed mount a rescue. As they learn of Yao’s human trafficking to include the apparent sale of an American general's daughter, Yao as belied by his Komodo dragon heart belief vows a fiery vengeance on those who affronted his honor.

This action-packed BOI romantic suspense thriller focuses on the entire amoral supply and demand of human trafficking as sexual slaves are a high selling commodity more than even the romance subplot. The story line is fast-paced from the onset while the key cast is fully developed. Especially interesting is Yao who believes strongly in his dragon heart that regular humans are inferior cattle to him. WHISPER NO LIES is a strong entry with a powerful deep focus on a currently thriving even with bad global economy abomination.

Harriet Klausner

Fed Up-Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

Fed Up
Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
Berkley, Feb 2009, $$23.95
ISBN: 9780425225981

Chloe Carter’s boyfriend Josh is competing with two other chefs to win a slot on a new eight part TV cooking show. To win the contest he has to star in three episodes of Chefly Yours (as does his rivals) cooking meals for supermarket customers selected randomly by the show’s producer. When the nine shows air, the audience will vote on who will star as the chef of the new series.

Josh has to cook meals for Leo the vegetarian and his wife Francie who is a meat eater. Challenged, by the herbivore-carnivore couple, Josh makes his selection and goes to their home to prepare their repast. While dining, Francie dies on camera; others who took bites of her meal get ill. Someone sprinkled the food with digitalis from the foxglove plant. In between coordinating her best friend’s wedding and working for her parents while grad school is out for the summer, Chloe investigates the murder.

The latest “Gourmet Girl Mystery” (see TURN UP THE HEAT, SIMMER DOWN and STEAMED) is a delicious entry filled with action and plenty of humor. The whodunit is clever as there are many suspects who had opportunity and Chloe realizes what their motives are. When the killer is revealed this will make total sense to the reader as being obvious yet it is almost impossible to pick out the perp during the course of the story.. The spunky heroine is the obvious master chef keeping the story line focused while the strong support cast adds depth to a tasty amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Death at a Discount-Sharon Dunn

Death at a Discount
Sharon Dunn
Multnomah, Jan 20 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781590526910

Accompanied by her husband Earl, Bargain Hunters Network guru Ginger Solinaski and her friend BHN member Suzanne Thames travel from their hometown Three Horses, Montana to Denver because the two females will appear as guests on the Discount and Value Network. The hostess Stephanie expected to work their show fails to arrive while another Candace demands her coveted spot. A snowstorm strands everyone at the studio and its adjacent warehouse while the two BHN members become separated after Suzanne compulsively slips into a buying binge.

While Ginger worries about Suzanne praying to God to protect her, the latter is caught outside in the cold where she finds a corpse. With the power gone, Ginger finds Earl’s pepper spray flashlight handy especially after she notices blood on a cart. When Candace is found murdered too Ginger fears for the safety of her still missing friend and begins to wonder who the killer is.

This engaging entry combines a couple of apropos timely messages that in bad economic times and when one errs God is still there. The cozy story line moves a bit slow as much of the action occurs off page. However fans will appreciate the latest BHN inspirational amateur sleuth (see DEATH OF A GARAGE SALE NEWBIE and DEATH OF A SIX-FOOT TEDDY BEAR) even if only two of the four protagonists made it to Denver and they are in separate subplots for much of the tale as their friendship shines throughout.

Harriet Klausner

Fed Up-Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

Fed Up
Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
Berkley, Feb 2009, $$23.95
ISBN: 9780425225981

Chloe Carter’s boyfriend Josh is competing with two other chefs to win a slot on a new eight part TV cooking show. To win the contest he has to star in three episodes of Chefly Yours (as does his rivals) cooking meals for supermarket customers selected randomly by the show’s producer. When the nine shows air, the audience will vote on who will star as the chef of the new series.

Josh has to cook meals for Leo the vegetarian and his wife Francie who is a meat eater. Challenged, by the herbivore-carnivore couple, Josh makes his selection and goes to their home to prepare their repast. While dining, Francie dies on camera; others who took bites of her meal get ill. Someone sprinkled the food with digitalis from the foxglove plant. In between coordinating her best friend’s wedding and working for her parents while grad school is out for the summer, Chloe investigates the murder.

The latest “Gourmet Girl Mystery” (see TURN UP THE HEAT, SIMMER DOWN and STEAMED) is a delicious entry filled with action and plenty of humor. The whodunit is clever as there are many suspects who had opportunity and Chloe realizes what their motives are. When the killer is revealed this will make total sense to the reader as being obvious yet it is almost impossible to pick out the perp during the course of the story.. The spunky heroine is the obvious master chef keeping the story line focused while the strong support cast adds depth to a tasty amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Game-Christine Feehan

Murder Game
Christine Feehan
Jove, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515145809

Tansy Meadows knows her psychic gift is a two edged sword as has used it to help the police track down murderers especially serial killers, but also has left her alone as even a simple handshake causes problems. Recently injured on a climb, she told authorities she lost her skill. FBI GhostWalker Kadan Montague had heard of her when he was training at Quantico and she was a teen. Now he needs her ability to locate serial killers playing a coastal deadly competitive game in which he believes a ghost walker is involved; perhaps two of them one on each side.

He finds her sleeping naked in an isolated field. When he grabs her, she is shocked her mental skills to cause pain fail her. Reluctantly Tansy agrees to assist him in ending the lethal competition although she hides her bet with herself that she will not come out of this one sane.

This is a refreshing Ghost Walker entry due to the lead couple and their telepathic romance and the killing teams with their apparently paranormal specialists in spite of The MURDER GAME concept not being new (see Barton’s DYING GAME). The story line cleverly compares the growing love between Kadan and Tansy and the horrific violent homicidal hunts. With the return of couples from previous tales in the saga, fans will enjoy this strong thriller while wondering whether ghost hunters lead the predators and will Kadan say those three words to Tansy; assuming they survive the game they entered not meaning to be the prey.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lamentation-Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes
Tor, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765321275

Way into the distrant future in the Named Lands, the city of Windwir is recognized by most as the center of world. Much of that proclamation comes from the city being home to the Androfrancines, who are the keepers of the Old World knowledge in their Great Library; a place where science and magic mingle. This is a normal day until a metal bird flies above the city. Soon afterward darkness engulfs Windwir. When the dust settles and the sun shines through, the city is gone; left behind is a scorched plain.

Nothing will be the same inside the Named Lands from that moment when the Old World metallic weapon quoting Xhum Y'zir's Seven Cacophonic Deaths destroyed the city. Stunned warrior Lord Rudolfo of the Ninefold Forest Houses saw from a distance the smoke that is all that is left of Windwir. He heads there immediately and finds a shocked survivor apprentice Isaak sitting where the city was moments earlier sputtering references from the Seven Cacophonic Deaths; he had been just outside when the devastation occurred. The kingdoms blame each other and maneuver to take advantage of the dramatic change in relationships. Increasingly evidence points to the Entrolusian City States Overseer Sethbert as the culprit. He apparently has brought back the ancient weapons of mass destruction as war threatens to send the Named Lands back to the Stone Age.

The first Psalms of Isaak is an excellent epic fantasy that in many ways is a post apocalyptic science fiction thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the incredibly opening sequence and filled with intriguing twists that never quite allows the reader to gently peruse the plot. The world seems plausible and solid enough while the key players Isaak and Rodolfo are well developed so readers get to know them.. Fans will relish Ken Sholes’ strong opening act as war engulfs the Named Lands while mindful of nineteenth century novelist Alphonse Karr’s commentary “The more things change, the more they are the same”.

Harriet Klausner

Drood-Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons
Little Brown, Feb 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 0316007021

As novelist Wilkie Collins narrates on 9 June 1865, fifty three years old Charles Dickens accompanied by his secret mistress takes the train from Folkestone to London. In their car were three people, Charles, Ellen Tiernan and her mother. However, near the Stapelhurst railroad viaduct, a human error leads to the destruction where a bridge was under repair. Dickens and the Tiernan female pair survive.

Dickens tries to help others though it looks hopeless. Amidst the carnage, he meets another apparent survivor, morbid Edwin Drood, who survived the ordeal due to his traveling inside a coffin. Drood vanishes while Dickens follows his trail to the nastiest decadent side of London. As Collins continues his account, he wonder if Drood ever existed and whether Dickens made him to cover nefarious dealings.

This is an excellent historical thriller that looks closely at the last few years of Dickens’ life using the unfinished final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and other historical facts as a basis for this wonderful account. The story line grips the audience from Collins’ opening monologue and never slows down with readers scrutinizing clues throughout as to whether Dickens’ lost his mind, concealed his activities with the invention of Drood as the narrator believes, or if Drood lived. Dan Simmons is at his best with this insightful psychological Victorian thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine-Lauren Willig

The Temptation of the Night
Jasmine Lauren Willig
Dutton, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780525950967

After spending over a decade in India, Robert Lansdowne returns home to Sussex in 1803 to invesitgate the murder of his mentor at the Battle of Assaye. The duke’s plan is simple; he will go undercover by joining the notorious Hellfire Club where he thinks he can begin to track down the killer, espionage agent Arthur Wrothan.

However, Robert failed to consider one problem with his perfect plot. His cousin a zillion times removed Lady Charlotte Lansdowne has made him the hero of her romantic dreams that she reads in the novels. He was there when she became an orphaned child and she wants him there as her beloved husband. In spite of kisses that inflame his desire, Robert begins his quest only to have Charlotte join him over his objection and together they get embroiled in a seditious anti royal scheme.

As with the previous Pink Carnation tales Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly doing her research uncovers the latest account of a Napoleonic Era female spy while having a romantic interlude with host executor Colin Selwick. Though this reviewer has found Eloise’s modern day piece unnecessary but well written, fans will see how far she has come from Massachusetts (see THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION). However, the tale belongs to Charlotte as her adventures in espionage and in love are not anywhere near the romantic images she has of both. Fans will enjoy this fine historical undercover romance even without a flowery title (see THE MASQUE OF THE BLACK TULIP, THE SEDUCTION OF THE CRIMSON ROSE and THE DECEPTION OF THE EMERALD RING) as the real human Robert falls off the pedestal in the eyes of his spying associate even as their love blossoms.

Harriet Klausner

A Darker Place-A Darker Place

A Darker Place
Jack Higgins
Putnam, Feb 2009, $26.95
ISBN 9780399155505

A former paratrooper who fought in Afghanistan and Chechnia, internationally renowned Russian novelist Alexander Kurbsky decides to leave his homeland for the West, but believes his fame might prevent him from staying abroad. Thus, Kurbsky asks Sean Dillon and his associates who make up the British prime minister’s “private army” to abet his escape to freedom.

Prime Minister Putin warns Kurbsky about betraying his country and blackmails the author into spying on Dillon and his comrades by showing him pictures of his sister Tania, who he thought was murdered during a student protest that turned ugly; the photos prove Tania lives for now and will be paroled from her life sentence if he cooperates. Dillon and his girlfriend Lady Monica Sterling, a big fan of Kurbsky especially On the Death of Men and Moscow Nights, welcome the noted author to London. There he infiltrates the “private army” that welcomed him to England in an attempt to rescue his sibling from incarceration.

The latest former IRA operative turn British agent Sean Dillon thriller (see THE KILLING GROUND and ROUGH JUSTICE) is a superb entry as he, Monica and the others are totally fooled by Kurbsky. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action even when the plot uses enlightening flashbacks. Fans will relish A DARKER PLACE although the climax feels sudden and faster than the speed of light.

Harriet Klausner

Among the Mad-Jacqueline Winspear

Among the Mad
Jacqueline Winspear
Holt, Feb 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780805082166

On Christmas Eve 1931, Psychologist and Investigator Maisie Dobbs and her assistant Billy Beale, having finished a report for a client, are strolling on a London street to deliver their findings when another pedestrian detonates a bomb. He dies while Maisie is slightly injured, Billy is okay physically because Maisie seeing something off kilter with the culprit told him to head back to the office, which he started to do until the explosion.

The next day the Office of the Prime Minister receives the first of several threatening letters warning of terrorist activity; this note also contains the name of Maisie Dobbs. She joins a government investigation team trying to find the anonymous writer and prevent the threatened attacks.

This is a terrific Dobbs entry that as usual brings alive London at a time when the Great Depression is causing global havoc. Maisie is terrific as an early psychological profiler though some of her descritpors are based on hunches as no validated database yet exists. More a thriller than an investigative tale, series fan will enjoy the latest Maisie Dobbs psychological sleuthing case (see PARDONABLE LIES and AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE).

Harriet Klausner

Mixed Blood-Roger Smith

Mixed Blood
Roger Smith
Holt, Feb 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780805088755

In the United States, American security specialist Jack Burn worries about the impact his recent financial failures will have on his family. When he is offered a chance to stay solvent, he reluctantly accepts the terms offered him. He agrees to join a gang planning to rob a bank.

The plan was perfect; the execution a disaster. Most of the gang and a cop die. Burn escapes with millions, but is wanted by the law and the few robbers who survived the debacle. He, his pregnant wife Susan, and their four years old son Matt relocate to Cape Town, South Africa. Life seems peaceful and good until two meth users invade their home; Jack kills both, but now corrupt Police Inspector Rudi Barnard is scrutinizing the professional use of counter force inside his realm, Cape Flats.

This exciting South African crime caper will grip the audience from the moment Barnard checks on the Americans, which begins the spin out of control somewhat fueled by career felon Benny Mongrel observing his fellow American. Susan will learn she don’t know Jack as he piles lies on top of lies with her and with Barnard. With the cast divided between the innocent and the felonious, fans will enjoy Roger Smith’s tense thriller while humming Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero as increasingly none seem to surface.

Harriet Klausner

Critical Mass-Whitley Strieber

Critical Mass
Whitley Strieber
Forge, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780765322531

Contractor Jim Deutsch works for the CIA as a NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) expert whose prime specialty is nukes though he has been involved in preventing the sale or development of the other weapons of mass destruction. He learns that Islamic terrorist Madhi has obtained weapons graded plutonium that he has smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico and concludes homeland security has failed to protect the border. Mahdi announces he has nukes planted throughout the western United States.

To prove his assertion, he nukes Las Vegas. A stunned President William Fitzgerald considers nuking the Muslim world back into the stone age, globalized tension rises as the crisis seems out of control with Middle East governments considering their options and Mahdi ready to destroy another city if his demands for a Muslim fundamentalist world, Mahdi style is not met.

CRITICAL MASS is a fascinating look at efforts to counter the flow of nuclear weapons around the globe. The story line is action-packed with dedicated Jim and his Muslim wife struggling to prevent further tragedy from happening. Although the language turns oddly poetic at crisis moments which jars the reader, Whitley Strieber provides an exciting thriller based on the very plausible concept of nukes ending up in the hands of a fanatic.

Harriet Klausner

Homicide in Hardcover-Kate Carlisle

Homicide in Hardcover
Kate Carlisle
Obsidian, Feb 3 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0451226151

Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder and restorer who has recently gone into business by herself after years as an apprentice by one of the best in the field, Abraham Karastovsky. Her mentor handles what he calls her defection very poorly and they have not spoken to one another in six months. Ergo Brooklyn is nervous about attending a private showing at San Francisco’s Covington Library because she knows Abraham will also be there. When they meet at the gala, they become friends again and he invites her to look at the copy of Goethe's Faust in his workroom.

When she arrives at his workroom, Brooklyn finds Abraham lying on the floor. She goes to him and he whispers his dying words “Remember the devil.” She has no idea what his departing cryptic message means, but freaks out when Derek Stone of Stone Security declares she killed him. Stunned she faints. When she regains consciousness, the police question her, but let her go while Stone states he will be watching her. As the Covington Library chief hires Brooklyn to finish Abraham’s restoration of Faust, someone kills another book restorer. Attempts are made on her life and her house is broken into and searched. Past the breaking point, Brooklyn investigates starting with the space Abrahame made in the cover s to the tome and whether it is why someone is willing to kill to obtain the Faust.

The first bibliophile amateur sleuth showcases how dangerous the life of a book restorer is when a critic wants something. In less than a week, numerous attempts are made on Brooklyn’s life and her home and her and Abraham’s studio as well her mentor’s murder make for a fun time for readers, but a rough go for the heroine. This is an entertaining somewhat amusing whodunit as the nervous eccentric Brooklyn travels the mean streets of San Fransisco trying to restore order to her life starting with having a life.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mistress Shakespeare-Karen Harper

Mistress Shakespeare
Karen Harper
Putnam, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780399155451

Anne Whatley and William Shakespeare have been friends since childhood. On 27 November 1582 a marriage license in Latin between Anne Whateley and Wm Shaxpere is issued in nearby Worcester, England. However, their respective families object to their relationship. A few days later William Shakespeare and pregnant Anne Hathaway wed.

To escape from the reminders of her broken heart Anne flees to London. She occupies her mind with the family business. When Will comes to town, they meet up with both still attracted to one another, but he is a married man. Still Anne becomes Will’s ardent advocate of his work and though their departures are sweet sorrows their reunions are passionate.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that indirectly looks at Shakespeare’s life through Anne Whatley’s lens by combining fact and what if fiction. The story line provides a focus on the Elizabethan Era especially from the viewpoint of artists and their patrons. Although the romantic plot lacks suspense as there is only so much poetic license an author can take to fill gaps and reach the known end, fans will enjoy this solid glimpse into Shakespeare in love.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss-Ted Dekker and Erin Healy

Ted Dekker and Erin Healy
Thomas Nelson, Feb 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9781595544704

The McAllister siblings were driving together when a nasty accident leaves Shauna in a coma and her brother Rudy permanently brain damaged. When Shauna awakens from her comatose state six months later, she finds her memory impaired. Her doctor fills in some of the gaps of the accident; informing her she was the driver and her blood level at the time recorded her as under the influence of drugs; she caused the accident ramming into a semi in which her dad has paid off millions already.

Feeling remorse and guilt Shauna returns home to finish healing. Her father, running for president, treats her like the enemy while her stepmother overtly shows her loathing towards her. Only Wayne Spade, insisting he is her boyfriend though she has no memory of him, treats her with kindness. She soon learns she has developed a new skill, pilfering other peoples’ memories. Shauna decides to learn the deepest darkest truth concealed by her father so she can understand why he seems to have always hated her only now he acts more overtly. Sometimes a person is better off not knowing as ignorance will prove bliss because knowledge brings assassins coming for her.

This exciting Christian parable ironically subtly focuses on the Plato concept that to appreciate the good (in this case the light of God) one must experience the bad (the devilish dark side); inside of a suspense thriller with paranormal elements. Shauna holds the fast-paced story line together with her insistence on learning the whole truth although each revelation cuts a chunk of her soul off and leads to someone wanting her dead. Fans of Ted Dekker will relish this strong allegorical fable filled with suspense yet underlying is the theme of deliverance from the mental anguish if Shauna willingly turns to God.

Harriet Klausner

Cat Playing Cupid-Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat Playing Cupid
Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Morrow, Feb 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 9780061123979

In Molina Point, California live three special cats: Joe Grey, Dulcie and Kit. Each can talk to humans and understand human speech. The trio seems to get involved in every murder that ahs happened recently in the village. So it is no shocker when they learn from a feral feline that a human body is buried in the ruins of the Pamilion Estate. They delay their usual investigation until Joe’s friend Clyde marries Ryan and is out of the way on his honeymoon.

Another corpse is found in a treehouse in Oregon lying there for years. Lindsey Wolfe returns to Molina Point goes to the cops claiming the victim is her fiancé Carson Chappell. When the cats investigate the grave, they find a book that discuses their unique skills; they want the book destroyed before anyone who finds it reveals their secret. Lindsey’s sister brings anonymously to the police incriminating evidence that point towards her being the killer. Her lover Ray Gibbs, who was Carson’s partner, drops off something incriminating to the steps of the police station. Joe Grey begins an inquiry into them with Dulcie helping him while Kit considers whether she loves injured Sagel enough to go feral with him and leave her two pals behind.

Though on opposite coats, the Molina Point felines will remind readers of The Cat Who tales by the Brown duet. The body found at the estate is linked to the other corpse, but how and why remain a mystery that Joe Grey is determined to solve. The three talking cats are adorable even grumpy acerbic Joe Grey while fans of the series learn more about their backgrounds. Shirley Rousseau Murphy has written a purrfectly delightful anthropomorphism feline whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Dawnkeepers-Jessica Andersen

Jessica Andersen
Signet, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0451225759

Nightkeeper warrior Nate BlackHawk rejects the notion that he and his inexperienced fighting peer Alexis Gray are destined to be together although he admits to himself she stirs his rebellious blood especially when he sleeps; she knows he is the one even as he pretends to ignore her. Instead he rejoices in the recent victory the Nightkeepers gained when they prevented the demon Banol Kax from breaking through the barrier to their realm (see NIGHTKEEPERS).

However, King Striking-Jaguar begins to find evidence that an ancient enemy has arisen and poses a threat. He and others believed the evil Banol Kax lords of the underworld Xibalba were locked away from the earth twenty-four millennia ago, but they believe an effort to return has begun when an obviously powerful mage starts to acquire the seven sacred Mayan artifacts. To stop this malevolence from amassing more relics that will soon turn this deadly predator invincible and break the barrier keeping the evil Ribald horde away, the Nightkeepers must find the remaining statues. Nate and Alexis team up to do so and he can any longer ignore destiny’s pairing.

This exhilarating urban romantic fantasy saga is constructed around modernizing Mayan mythology, to include but not limited to the doomsday prophecy. Nate is an intriguing protagonist who rejects his Nightkeeper bloodline that insists Alexis is his soulmate (some readers will believe: "Me thinks thou dost protest too Much!" – Shakespeare) with his denial while she easily accepts their destiny. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the overarching Andersen mythology is wonderfully embellished with this engaging entry.

Harriet Klausner

Alpha Wolf-Linda O. Johnston

Alpha Wolf
Linda O. Johnston
Silhouette Nocturne, Jan 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618026

In Mary Glen on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, veterinarian Melanie Harding knows she has come a long way from Beverly Hills, but learns how far she has traveled the hard way when performing a good deed leads to punishment. However, she also knows she would do it again in spite of the danger to herself from being a Good Samaritan saving the life of a dog someone shot with a silver bullet.

A fervent anti-werewolf group is outraged by what the vet did. Melanie is bewildered by their hostility as everyone knows there is no such thing as werewolves except in novels and movies. The dog’s grateful owner US Army Major Drew Connell and Melanie begin to see one another. As their attraction grows, Melanie begins to see indications that there is substance behind the legend of shapeshifters.

Melanie makes this werewolf romance a fun read as her beliefs change over the course of the fine story line. She converts from her initial shock that the locals believe in a supernatural creature until she begins to accept a pack of real Lon Cheney werewolves and falls in love with one of them. Although the werewolf community lacks cultural insight and overall substance beyond the hate of the purebred humans, sub-genre fans will enjoy the story of the vet and the vet falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil To Pay-Michele Hauf

The Devil To Pay
Michele Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne, Jan 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618026

His parents, a vampire and a witch, sold his soul as an indentured servant to the devil before he was born in return for favors. When he turned twenty-one, the devil collected his due in Minneapolis. Since then the half-breed Ivan Drake has been at the beck and call of his owner, doing whatever mischief the devil demands of him. He has no hope of ever being liberated; as a realist he understands that a contract with the devil means being a slave for eternity; even in death he would be the devil’s minion for all the transgressions he committed or will perform.

His current assignment is to retrieve the legendary Grand Grimoire, a tome that includes every known spell. When Ivan meets witch Desideriel “Dez” Merovech, he is shock as he is attracted to her; he has never felt such a deep need and affinity to anyone before, not even his sell his soul parents. He begins to dream that his Dez might not only help him regain his soul, but also extract him from the devil’s deal.

This is a terrific romantic spin to the Faustian deal as Dez gives Ivan a reason to not just live, but to live with love, but he believes to do he must reclaim his soul. With a wonderful twists and a strong cast, Michel Hauf’s terrific urban romantic fantasy will have readers demanding more tales from Twin Cities’ witch-vampire war.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow’s Edge-Brent Woods

Shadow’s Edge
Brent Woods
Orbit, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0316033650

He survived as Azoth a street urchin thief in his hometown of Cenaria until he became Kylar Stern, apprentice “wetboy” to legendary assassin Durzo Blint (see THE WAY OF SHADOWS). When they became embroiled in the Godking's successful coup, his mentor and his best friend the rightful king of Cenaria Logan Gyre died though he survived again; he quits the life of a professional killer seeking a new start with his beloved Elene.

Kylar and Elene accompanied by their adopted daughter Uly leave Cenaria with its too many recent deadly memories for Caernarvon. There he opens up herbalist shop as a skill he learned as a wetboy assassin, but instead of murder, he uses it to heal. However, inside his soul, he feels pulled by his love for Elene vs. his missing the adrenalin rush of an assassination. While somewhat accepting the ennui of a shopkeeper, he hears rumors that Logan is alive and hiding in the Hole of Maw prison amidst cannibalistic and psychopathic killers. Meanwhile, the former shadow rulers of Cenaria the Sa’kage continue to rebel against the Godking, but face extinction without a miracle. Jarl asks Kylar to join them by rescuing the rightful king and assassinating the wrongful king.

Although not quite as action-packed as the opening gamut, SHADOW’S EDGE has enough escapades to avoid the mid book feel of only setting up the finish. Kylar is a fascinating protagonist as he has matured since his deadlier days, but still feels the addiction of a kill. The support cast is solid from his family who yank him with love to Jarl who yanks him with adventure and the fate of his buddy to Logan who is slowly dying in the Hole. The second book in the Night Angel trilogy is an engaging character driven fantasy as the audience expects Kylar to return to the shadowy world of the assassin, but at the same time have some doubts whether he is willing to pay the cost: his life with Elene and Uly.

Harriet Klausner

Enclave-Kit Reed

Kit Reed
Tor, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765321619

Former marine "Sarge" Whitemore renovates Clothos, an isolated island that once was a Benedictine monk monastery. The only survivor from the religious order is elderly lay brother Benny. After the reconstruction is completed, Sarge offers a deal to affluent parents with troubled youngsters. In exchange for an exorbitant amount of money, he informs them that he can save their dissolute off spring from themselves and the ugly world. Give him their kids so his “hermetically sealed private school” can “keep them safe”.

The response from bone weary emotionally shot adults is incredible as bidding wars over obtaining one of the hundred seats begin. Sarge collects the chosen hundred; tosses away their gizmos and on Destination Day takes them to the remote isle that the unhappy kids scornfully call Mount Clothos. Nothing works in accordance with the plan as the physician is a drunk, kids hack into the computer room, Benny hid an ailing friend whose illness has pandemically spread amongst the residents, and then there is the rest of the staff and the ghost.

Ironically in spite of his martinet throwback drill instructor persona, Sarge is not the champion of this intriguing story line. Instead the teens led by peer Killer Stade are the heroes as they fight to stop the virus spread and the mob mentality of the staff and faculty. Quite frankly adults are condemned (worse than in Wild in the Streets) as miscreants who fail at the ecology, at raising their kids, and at saving those stuck at the isolated island. Fans who appreciate something off beat will enjoy this satirical allegorical thriller that claims the boomers and Gen X as pathetic losers with the present teen generation the only hope to save the planet from its elders.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Desert Prince- Constance O'Banyon.

Desert Prince
Constance O'Banyon.
Leisure, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0843960078

In 30 BC, the Romans have consolidated their control of Egypt, whose ruler Queen Cleopatra lies dead with her lover Marcus Anthony. In that environs, Cleopatra’s blood relatives flee the country. Badari tribal Prince Julian is in self imposed exile on the island of Bal Forea where he learns to be a warrior and waits for his chance to return home. He especially owes his life to a friend young Sabinah, daughter of a goldsmith, who helped him escape.

When the chance comes for his return to Egypt finally occurs, the exiled DESERT PRINCE jumps at it. Sabinah risks her life again to provide him with information about a treacherous plot involving her ambitious stepmother. Julian risks his life and position to protect the girl he always respected but is now the woman he loves while also trying to keep his beloved country safe from rabble-rousers who will bring the might of Rome on the innocent if allowed.

The latest Constance O’Banyon exhilarating ancient Egypt romance (see LORD OF THE NILE and PRICE OF ROME) is an excellent tale that showcases how the Egyptians especially the royalty survived or died under Roman rule. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Julian returns home from his exile and never slows down. Yet with plenty of action, readers will feel they are crossing the Sahara and the Nile while visiting Alexandria. Fans will fully enjoy the saga of the loving lead couple who understand keeping Egyptians safe is their mission.

Harriet Klausner

The Silver Queen-Jane Candia Coleman

The Silver Queen
Jane Candia Coleman
Leisure, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0843961058

In the late 1850s Augusta Pierce and Horace "Haw" Tabor marry and leave Maine for the “Bleeding” Kansas Territory. Soon afterward gold is rumored to have been found in the Rockies so Haw with his wife join the “Fifty-Niners” heading to West Kansas Territory. For the next two decades the flexible Tabors make a living in various jobs amongst the silver-mining towns. When they were short cash, Augusta worked the mines alongside Haw; they were a team.

When they finally become the wealthiest couple in the Colorado Territory as Western Kansas is now called, Augusta remains thrifty as she remembers the bad times. On the other hand Haw relishes his affluence flaunting his nouveau riche status and becoming a successful politician. When he meets Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt, he dumps Augusta. Once their divorce is final he marries "Baby Doe". Augusta knows her soul mate dropped her, but she never quits on life; thriving without her Haw at her side.

This is a superb biographical fiction that focuses on the lives of three intriguing individuals who were major regional figures in the latter half of the nineteenth century in Colorado. The prime focus is actually on THE SILVER QUEEN, Augusta; however because much of what occurs happens with Haw and later with Baby Doe, the story line provides a deep look at their triangle. Fans will appreciate this superb Americana as Jane Candia Coleman writes an insightful look at three strong obstinate people.

Harriet Klausner

Wanted: The Texan-Bobbi Smith

Wanted: The Texan
Bobbi Smith
Leisure, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0843958510

In the 1860s bounty hunter Josh Grady decides the time to retire is now after a shootout with two killers left him wounded. He decides to buy in as a junior partner at a ranch and is grateful when Mr. Ryan allows him to do so and work at the Rocking R Ranch in Shotgun, Texas.

When his partner dies, his Philadelphia raised daughter Emmie Ryan inherits. She immediately heads to Texas to run the spread though her experience is limited to summers. Emmie is shocked to learn her late dad had a new partner whom she detests as much as she wants to kiss him. As they fall in love, Josh is declared an outlaw with bounty hunters and a killer going after him with the preference being him dead. He takes a stand alone only to have his obstinate beloved insist she has his back.

This is an engaging western romance starring two likable lead characters with opposite backgrounds that make them an unlikely couple. Although the somewhat thin plot of a prim city miss and a rough westerner falling in love has been used many times, fans will enjoy tough Emmie the Philadelphia lioness refusing to allow her Texan to fight alone. Bobbi Smith provides an engaging Civil War era romance.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss of a Traitor- Kat Linder

Kiss of a Traitor
Kat Linder
Medallion, Jan 2009, $6.95
ISBN: 9781933836515

In South Carolina, zealous Tory Wilhelmina Bellingham opposes the War of Independence siding with the British against the colonists. Believing she must act and knows the swamps as well as any person or fox, Willa decides to capture General Francis Marion. She also wants her marriage to Lord Aidan Sinclair, whom she has never met annulled. Willa assumes the former will prove easier to achieve.

When Sinclair dies in battle, rebel Captain Brendan Ford takes on his late half brother’s identity so that he can spy on the British. This also means he must court his sibling’s widow, but finds her to be quite a handful in spite of her being tinier than a wren. As he seduces Willa to win her to his cause Brendan is stunned with the change in his feelings towards the true blood Tory. Whereas he could not wait to end the masquerade and escape her, he finds he is in love, but fears she reciprocates his feelings except hers is for a dead man.

This is a terrific Revolutionary War romance that emphasizes a large segment of the colonists opposed the revolt supporting England instead. Thus, the divisiveness of the war serves as a wonderful backdrop to a fully developed lead couple who brings real meaning to the phase beloved enemy as their objectives clash. Although there is a cul de sac sidebar that feels like excess padding that never fits inside the story line, KISS OF A TRAITOR is a fabulous look at American Revolution through the loving eyes of two adversaries.
Harriet Klausner

The Warlord's Bride-Margaret Moore

The Warlord's Bride
Margaret Moore
Harlequin HQN, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373773480

In 1205 King John orders Lady Roslynn and Welsh Lord Madoc of Llanpowell to marry. Because her late spouse was condemned as a traitor, Roslynn expects guilt by association will mean her monarch dumped her on a grisly brute of a husband whose nickname as the "Bear of Brecan" affirms her belief and exiled her to the wilds of Wales as THE WARLORD’S BRIDE.

Accepting her doomed fate, when she meets her new spouse, she is pleasantly surprised that he is her age and he shows kindness to her and others. Madoc is pleased with his bride who is pretty but caring. However, soon after they exchange their vows, someone slaughters sheep with many believing the new bride involved. When Roslynn finds out about the feud between her husband and outlawed brother-in-law, she tries to intercede as Madoc assumes his sibling is behind the cruel acts while his wife thinks a clever diabolical unknown adversary is the cause.

The above two paragraphs fail to portray what makes a Margaret Moore medieval stand out from much of the rest as on the surface is a typical historical romance. The key is the seemingly effortless interweaving of early thirteenth century Wales as a backdrop so vivid, fans can picture the scenery first hand; yet as stunningly vibrant Wales comes across, the lead couple own the fast-paced story line as they struggle with their relationship at a time someone is using their newness against them. This is a fine King John era romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Renegades-T. Jefferson Parker

The Renegades
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton, Feb 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780525950950

Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs Charlie Hood and Terry Laws are driving together when the former is executed. The brass insists gang initiation or perhaps getting even with Laws who has been a veteran of the streets. Hood is a bit shook up with his new partner’s death especially since he prefers patrolling by himself with his demon (the spirit of Allison Murrieta – see L.A. OUTLAWS) to accompany him, but understands why he should not investigate it.

However, Hood is a bit surprised when he is assigned to Internal Affairs, but this also gives him an opportunity to look into who murdered his partner starting with inquiries into the life of Terry, dubbed “Mr. Wonderful”. He soon begins to find evidence that alleges Terry that was a crooked cop delivering a personal code of justice. This is something that Hood can understand as a good cop crosses the line to convey justice like in the old west as the system often protects nasty felons not because of fundamental rights that these same hoods tale away from others, but because of those working inside of it are disguised as upright citizens.

Hood is a beacon of morality in a desert of corruption in which drugs seem to own almost everyone's soul from Los Angeles to Mexico. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the throwback hero who obsesses with a need to know whether Mr. Wonderful was a bad or good cop; as defined by Hood and not some artificial law or a pompous judge with Allison inside his head as a reminder of what justice is. Fans will enjoy Hood’s Old West mentality in modern day Southern California.

Harriet Klausner

Stay the Night-Lynn Viehl

Stay the Night
Lynn Viehl
Onyx, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451412669

Still an outlaw after seven centuries of first being declared as such by King John’s merry losers, immortal Darkyn Lord Robin of Locksley knows he must intercede when the ancient mythical tome Maiden's Book of Hours is stolen and not by him; he waited for over five hundred years for this book that contains the only picture of his long lost love Marian to surface. Undercover FBI agent Christina Renshaw is appalled with the theft since she is the one who dangled the priceless book to catch a brilliant art thief. Since the thieves also have takes hostages, the FBI is even more involved. Christina and Robin meet and are instantly attracted and conflicted as to what to do; that is on recovering the Maiden's Book of Hours and saving the captives.

Robin's long time enemy Nottingham has joined forces with an obsessed deadly Kyn female. His adversary’s diabolical scheme leaves Robin with little choice, but to yank a stunned Chris into the Darkyn realm. Soon the pair is in Europe where Darkyn lords are meeting as all hell in breaking out.

Tthe overarching Darkyn saga moves forward (see TWILIGHT FALLS, NIGHT LOST and IF ANGELS BURN) while also telling the romantic suspense tale of Robin the Prince of Thieves, Lynn Viehl provides an interesting entry in her wonderful urban fantasy saga. The story line focuses on the lead couple’s search for the Renaissance Era book while also continuing the war between the Darkyn and the Brethren. With a couple of late stunning spins and a reference to Coleridge, the powerful riveting Darkyn chronicles will have sub-genre fans anxious to learn what the author will unveil next.

Harriet Klausner

The Thirteenth-L.A. Banks

The Thirteenth
L.A. Banks
St. Martin’s, Feb 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 0312368763

The fourth seal has been broken releasing the pale horse. What American cities are attacked the powers that be fear terrorists have struck again but it is really demons and vamps that Lucifer brought to the surface to kill as many mortals as possible. The media, controlled by Hell’s forces make the Neterus Damali and Carlos and her Guardians out to be terrorists; they are on the run so the Light brought them to Bermuda. They need to return to the States and get the rest of their crew and they meet Montley Sinclair who wants in on the battle and gives them a ride on his yacht.

Lucifer and Lilith are waiting for the Anti-Christ to finish gestating; plague, famine and pestilence are everywhere. Chaos rules as order has broken down. Saints and martyrs help the Neteru and the Guardians when the fifth seal is broken. The team rushes to Jerusalem to find out the home of the chosen THE THIRTEENTH who will free the bound fallen angels in the Euphrates and will lead a horde of two hundred million warriors to kill off much of humanity. Damali and Carlos need the name and the weapon that can defeat him, but with Israel on dead alert and Hell’s minion looking for them, they have little chance of surviving the skirmishes.

The Neteru-Guardian team is struggling with the End of Days yet are willing to die to fight the evil Dark that seems overwhelmingly on the verge of victory. Carlos has evolved over the course of the thirteen books from a mob boss to the chairman of Hell’s Board o a Netura who worships the Light. He has come a long way from the vice king to a hero worthy of Damali. The final excellent tale in this great saga is an exciting and evocative urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wild-Margo Maguire

Margo Maguire
Avon, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061667879

Two decades ago Anthony Maddox went on an African safari with his father and never returned to London. While his family and friends assume he died, his grandmother Lady Sutton prayed for a miracle that she would see him one last time before she died.

Shocking everyone in 1829, an adult Anthony comes home. However, he is no longer the polite behaved child; instead he is a savage who flaunts the inane rules of High Society. Unaccepted by all except his grandma and yet desired by the ladies due to that same lord of the jungle unacceptability, the WILD Lord Sutton shocks the aristocracy with his behavior. A whisper campaign insists he is in an imposter taking advantage of a foolish lonely old woman. However Lady Sutton believes he is genuine and asks her companion Grace Hawthorne to tame the beast by teaching him proper etiquette. As they see each other daily, they fall in love, but he needs to go home to Africa to enact revenge on the individual who left him ostracized; that compulsion changes when he realizes someone wants his beloved spinster dead he believes because of him.

This intriguing early nineteenth century Tarzan meets the Ton and Jane in England is an engaging historical romance. The story line is at its best when the student purposely misbehaves to impishly get a rise out of his tutor. The avenging subplot feels overdone and though understandable never quite holds up to the Tarzan-Jane prime theme that sub-genre fans will relish.

Harriet Klausner

Between the Devil and Desire-Lorraine Heath

Between the Devil and Desire
Lorraine Heath
Avon, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061355646

In 1851 Jack “Artful” Dodger knows he has come a long way from his thieving days on the streets of London to where he is now, the owner of an exclusive gentleman's club, which means aristocratic women hate him. However, his dirt poor begging days have left a mark on his soul; he wants more and more money with no entanglements.

Changes abruptly occur when the notorious rake is named guardian by the late Duke of Lovingdon of his heir, four years old Henry to the appalling shock of the child’s mom, Widow Lady Olivia. Initially Jack is bewildered with why him from a highly regarded lord and unhappy with the task as it interferes with his womanizing and money-making; that is until he begins to see the lioness lady. He wants her and plans to have her; she wants him and plans to avoid him. As they argue while taking care of her son, they fall in love. However, before they can consider a family, the identity of his parents surfaces leaving Jack to confront danger and end his hopes of marrying the duchess

The sequel to IN BED WITH THE DEVIL is another excellent adult where are they now twisting of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. The story line is character driven starting with the reading of the shocking will as Dodger and Olivia go from enemies with a common purpose to love with an even stronger common purpose. The late suspense rounds out a wonderfully passionate Victorian that does justice to Mr. Dickens’ classic.

Harriet Klausner

The Highland Groom-Sarah Gabriel

The Highland Groom
Sarah Gabriel
Avon, Jan 2009, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061234972

In 1823 Fiona MacCarran understands her late grandmother's strange will that she must meet if she is to inherit, but also believes she will not be able to meet the conditions. Her grandma wants schoolteacher Fiona to marry a wealthy Scotsman so that she leave the classroom and paint portraits of fairy.

Fiona is attracted to laird of Kinloch, whose children she teaches. However, she knows Dougal MacGregor may be a hunk but is not remotely affluent; in fact she believes he is a whiskey smuggler avoiding the excise men like her cousin.

Dougal feels drunk with desire for Fiona, but knows he must ignore his feelings. He fears what she can learn about his clan's "fairy whiskey", especially the smuggling activity that could if revealed could endanger his villagers. However, when the locals get in trouble, Fiona joins Dougal rather than her blood kin to help keep them safe.

From almost the beginning readers will see how Fiona thinks differently than her brother Patrick when they rock climb and hear a noise that she says is fairies while he insists it is smugglers. That sets the tone of a whimsical engaging historical romance with a wee bit of the paranormal and some late suspense. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the caring laird sees the beauty through the highland mists and never slows down as they fall in love while she wonders if her hunch is right that he leads a smuggling operation. THE HIGHLAND GROOM is a winner as it asks whether doing the right thing to care for the locals should supersede the law that has wider applications.

Harriet Klausner

Tempt the Devil-Anna Campbell

Tempt the Devil
Anna Campbell
Avon, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061234934

In 1826 London, Olivia Raines is the first choice of anyone wanting a courtesan. Her beauty and skills are beyond comparison as nobody does it better than she does. Surprisingly, behind her enticing smile is a woman whose heart is ice.

Earl Julian Southwood has just come home to England after time in places like Marrakech and Constantinople. Considered a rake by polite society, he persuades Olivia to be his mistress. However, he is different than those hedonistic aristocrats who desire her especially those who have had her; he wants more than her body. He wants her mind, her heart and her soul given freely to him. Julian knows he will not get them unless he can get her to confess the secret that turned her heart into an iceberg even as she begins to thaw with a desire for his lover’s touch.

TEMPT THE DEVIL is a powerful late Regency romance starring two wonderful vivacious lead characters whose role reversal refreshes the story line. He is the one who seeks much more depth with their arrangement; while she is the one whose past limits her relationship to sexual dalliances. Fans will think of Dean Martin’s tune Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime as Julian builds his campaign around expanding that theme because he needs the whole Olivia; but she distrusts passion, intimacy, and especially love. Anna Campbell provides a potent, entertaining and heartwarming historical romance.

Harriet Klausner

Batter Off Dead-Tamar Myers

Batter Off Dead
Tamar Myers
Obsidian, Feb 2009, $22.95
ISBN: 0451225929

Old Order Mennonite Magdalena Yoder, owner of the Penn Dutch Inn, has temporarily closed her businessl due to her expecting any week now. At eight and a half months pregnant running the inn is too much along with her duties as mayor and with her church; the latter two coming before making money. Still she hosts the Beechy Grove Mennonite Church Brotherhood fundraising all you can eat breakfast.

Magdalena irritates Minerva J. Jay over gluttony charges when the latter eats twenty-six pancakes and seventeen pork bellies. Shortly after her gouging, Minerva dies. The toxicologist reports states that someone added an overdose of pills into the pancake batter, making the death a homicide. Chief of Police Chris Ackerman knows Magdalena’s record for solving murder cases so he asks her to help, but she puts him off as she gave birth in her cousin’s grocery store just after Minerva died. When she begins to investigate she starts with the Church Brotherhood and quickly learns almost every member had a reason to loathe Minerva; none seem sad or suffer remorse as the glutton was blackmailing people and seducing married men. However, no one appears to be desperate enough to kill the woman who made everyone miserable.

Motherhood does not sweeten Magdalena’s acerbic nature although she obviously loves and cares for her newborn although she treats the baby in the same manner she handles adults; this leads to amusing scenes as the infant acts like some of the childish adults she knows. The mystery is well executed with an interesting group of suspects who, like her family, try to stay out of Magdalena’s way, but also like her relatives fail as she is more tenacious than a bull dog. Tamar Myers writes a delightful picturesque Pennsylvania Dutch cozy.

Harriet Klausner

At Grave's End-Jeaniene Frost

At Grave's End
Jeaniene Frost
Avon, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061583070

Married at least in terms of vampire laws, half-breed Cat Crawfield and pure bloodsucker Bones are euphoric. They were manipulated cleverly by her family keeping them apart for years. Now they live together and Bones has joined the government agency run by her uncle hunting rogue vampires.

Already the most successful team due to Cat’s unique prowess, the addition of Bones makes the unit seemingly invincible. However, the vampire world recently learned that Cat is the notorious Red Reaper making her a Scarlet letter type target to her enemy and that Bones is a traitor. While struggling to stay alive from hunter-vamps especially one who loathes Bones for dumping her, they must prevent a war of magic from devastating the world.

The latest Night Huntress urban fantasy (see HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE and ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE) series is a powerful entry as the overarching theme moves forward with increasing complexity; while also containing an action-packed story line and intensifying the lead couple’s romantic relationship. Now that Cat is outed, she wears a bulls-eye on her forehead as vampiric gunslingers know taking her down would make them into an over night superhero, not that Bones will sit idly allowing that to happen. Sub-genre fans will fully enjoy Cat’s saga, as Jeaniene Frost’s tour of the world of the “Grave” is deep yet fun to follow.

Harriet Klausner

Without Warning-John Birmingham

Without Warning
John Birmingham
Del Rey, Feb 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345502896

In 2003, WITHOUT WARNING American military forces are preparing for Operation Desert Freedom deployment when an energy field that rises miles into the sky covers much of the forty-eight continental states, Canada, Mexico and Cuba like a thick blanket. Almost every animal life including humans trapped inside is dead; in almost seconds billions of Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, and Cubans are turned into ooze.

Around the globe there is shock and fear. The only major American city to survive the carnage is Seattle, which was fortunate to be outside the massive eradication zone. Still the emotional impact leaves the city and its burbs near collapse. City engineer James Kipper tries to deliver some semblance of civilization by keeping the essential support services working although rioting is common and the military consider martial law. In Hawaii, also outside the dead zone, Admiral James Ritchie leads the powerful American navy, but against no known enemy with no command and control beyond him. Israel considers nuking its Arab neighbors since the Americans no longer are there to require restraint. France has a civil war while Britain shuts down the islands. The aftermath is civilization around the world is rapidly deteriorating as ugly incidents are everywhere as only the deviously strong will survive.

The opening act of a world reacting to an apocalyptic disaster is fast-paced and filled with action as John Birmingham’s global nightmare shows the aftermath to what begins to happen when the superpower vanishes WITHOUT WARNING. Ironically with the biblical proportions of the catastrophe, Darwinism comes to mind as survival of the fittest means the previous Americanized rules of order no longer apply. Although this is the set up for first tale, fans will appreciate Mr. Birmingham’s deep dark saga of a world in radical change due to an unforeseen calamity that has survivors reeling for cover with differing reactions.

Harriet Klausner

Apocalypse Unleashed-Mel Odom

Apocalypse Unleashed
Mel Odom
Tyndale, Feb 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 1414316364

In the not too distant future, one third of the world’s population disappeared including all children under the age of thirteen; US Army First Sergeant "Goose" Gander’s son was one who vanished. Goose is with his Rangers unit in the Mideast trying to prevent Syria from conquering Turkey. The Syrians are making deep inroads as Captain Cal Remington and his squad cannot repel the invaders.

While protecting a supply train, he notices a fire and goes inside to rescue the two teens trapped. The convoy gets ambushed because the fire was a deliberate distraction. Goose gets the men to safety, but afterward Remington places him under house arrest. That is short lived as the Syrians arrive; Goose breaks out to help in the evacuation. However, he and two other men fall behind enemy lines with assassins everywhere targeting Goose while the enemy methodically tightens its noose.

This is the long awaited final tale in the Apocalypse Left Behind Military saga (see APOCALYPSE DAWN, APOCALYPSE CRUCIBLE and APOCALYPSE BURNING); fans will feel the trial and tribulations of waiting worth the time as APOCALYPSE UNLEASHED is an enthralling pulse pumping tale. Besides Goose looking cooked, his wife Meg at Fort Bragg and other dependents of the entrapped Rangers establish a support group. Readers will learn what the CIA knows and does, and what Carpathian plans andalso who obsesses over killing the hero and why. Fans will relish the tribulations military sidebar quartet as Goose running on empty is out of time.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 23, 2008

To Seduce a Texan-Georgina Gentry

To Seduce a Texan
Georgina Gentry
Zebra, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780821779923

In 1864 Texan "Waco" McCain informs his three compadres that they are in deep trouble with the Confederacy and have been directed to travel to Prairie View, Kansas to rob the local bank and bring the loot back to the Texas rebel forces. However, their plan proves impossible as the town is loaded with Union soldiers. Instead, Waco adjusts the scheme to a ransom ploy by kidnapping the banker Godfrey St. John’s stepdaughter, Rosemary Burke.

Rosemary is frightened, but vows to behave like the courageous heroines of the dime novels she reads. She knows her avaricious stepfather sees this as an opportunity to rid himself of a pesky, plump, plain pain in the butt since he has been unable to marry her to his thug of the moment. He needs her dead so he can own the bank. When Godfrey refuses to pay the outlaws, they lower the fee. Rosemary assumes they are morons, who fail to grasp her stepdad wants them to kill her. She revises her scheme to escape by seducing Waco and use him to reclaim her inheritance as his bride; Waco has no say in the matter even as he fears the Confederates will soon come for the four failed felons.

This amusing western romantic spin of the movie Ruthless People will have the audience laughing out loud with the antics of the heroine and the gang who can’t think straight. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the townsfolk except for the banker welcome home Rosemary as a heroine while the four tall Texans arrive in a sea of blue. The relationship between Waco and Rosemary is deftly changing over the course of the abduction as he wonders just who is the captive while willingly risk his life to keep her alive. Georgina Gentry provides an amusing historical that will have readers in stitches as the ransom of Rosemary is a seductive winner.

Harriet Klausner

About a Dragon-G.A. Aiken

About a Dragon
G.A. Aiken
Zebra, Dec 2 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 1420103741

For over a decade and a half, powerful Nolwenn witch Talaith has tolerated marriage in order to keep her beloved daughter Izzy safe from harm. The goddess Arzhela has held Izzy captive using her as a pawn to insure Talaith cooperates when the time is right to use the witch's skills; hence the marriage of convenience for her.

Were-dragon Briec the Mighty sees Talaith and decides he wants her sexually (not as a snack). When he rescues her from an angry mob, he expects gratitude and sex. Instead he receives constant verbal tiradea ripping his scales off. In fact her chatter is giving him a headache whether he is in human or dragon form. Talaith makes it abundantly clear no sex without rescuing her daughter although she silently keeps to herself she would not mind riding this steed. As they argue for who is on top, neither is aware there is a dangerous scenario coming their way, which could prove fatal to both of them and much of the realm.

Returning to the Dragon Kin fantasy realm (see DRAGON ACTUALLY), G.A. Aiken provides another engaging humorous medieval paranormal romantic thriller. The jocular story line is fast-paced from the moment Briec and Talaith define tongue exchange 180 degrees differently and never slows down from one verbal battle to another. However, even with the gender war on-going, there remains a critical subplot filled with action especially deadly battles. Although Zebra states ABOUT A DRAGON was previously published as THE DISTRESSING DAMSEL, sub-genre readers will enjoy the war of words between the dragon and the witch as the foreplay of a lethal background.

Harriet Klausner

Final Justice-Fern Michaels

Final Justice
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420101881

The Sisterhood seven looks forward to their presidential pardon and the end of their self-imposed exile in Europe as they did their part of the bargain (see COLLATERAL DAMAGE). However, the pardon is delayed for political reasons when the president selects Bert Navarro as the new FBI director. No one wants his alleged abetting the Sisterhood to become the focus of the Senate advice and consent hearings.

Instead Myra, Annie, Kathryn, Alexis, Yoko, Nikki, and Isabelle are working a scenario in Las Vegas as a favor to a friend Beatrice. Her estranged daughter Marble Rose is on a roll at the casinos, which means those in charge want it ended anyway possible including murder. The Sisters and their lawyer Lizzie investigate what looks preposterous at first, but soon that turns into a network of corruption in which the betting line in Vegas is all seven and their attorney will be shortly dead.

This is an exciting entry although the overarching story line of receiving the pardon and life afterward never moves forward; many fans of the saga will be disappointed in that. Still this is a solid tale as the magnificent seven struggles through layers of obfuscation that politicians would cherish. As they dig baby dig deeper, their adversary counterattacks. In spite of some disappointment in the overall saga moving forward at a glacier pace, readers will enjoy FINAL JUSTICE wondering whether our side will lose this time as the opposition seems so much more powerful.

Harriet Klausner