Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Always a Scoundrel-Suzanne Enoch

Always a Scoundrel
Suzanne Enoch
Avon, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061456756

In 1815 Lady Rosamund Davies has no choice except to agree to marry Lord Cosgrove even though she detests him. He is the only person who can save her family from ruin so she is selling herself in unholy matrimony.

Notorious for gambling and womanizing, Lord Bramwell Johns overhears the sale of Rosamund as his alterego the thieving "Black Cat," who robs the rich. Feeling out of sorts since his best friends have recently married (see BEFORE THE SCANDAL and AFTER THE KISS), knowing her younger brother, and feeling sorry for her being sold as cattle, he decides to mentor Rose in the art of passion. However, both are unprepared for that first incredible kiss; now he wants to marry Rose, but to achieve his new objective he must prevent Cosgrove from doing so without causing a scandal.

The third Notorious Gentlemen tale is an excellent Regency romantic suspense starring two fully developed protagonists and her fiancé who has his own agenda. In a battle of wits between Bram and Rosamund vs. Cosgrove, the jury is out as the latter has all the advantages starting with his being the intended. As always Suzanne Enoch provides a wonderful historical starring likable lead characters and a vile villain.

Harriet Klausner

The Angel and the Highlander-Donna Fletcher

The Angel and the Highlander
Donna Fletcher
Avon, May 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061712982

Lord Bunnock sends Lachlan Sinclare to escort his runaway daughter Lady Alyce home. To avoid marriage to a dolt selected by her father, Alyce fled to Everagis Abbey. At the convent, Lachlan is informed that Alyce died and that the sisters are in peril from outlaws. Lachlan vows to help the nuns, but is preoccupied with beautiful Sister Terese, who acts so different than the other occupants.

To hide from her sire, Alyce took the identity of a dead nun. She fears her attraction to Lachlan will prove her undoing. Alyce also believes she and the nuns are quite capable of protecting themselves from the bandits. As they fall in what he assumes is taboo love, she must soon decide between her independence and temptation.

The newest late sixteenth century Sinclare Brothers Scottish romance (see RETURN OF THE ROGUE) is a wonderfully amusing tale as the hero struggles between desire and sin while the sassy sexy “sister: struggles between desire and independence. The story line is fast-paced and very humorous as Alyce’s web of deceit implodes by her falling in love. Fans will enjoy the latest Sinclare entry due to the lead duo.
Harriet Klausner

The Virgin’s Secret-Victoria Alexander

The Virgin’s Secret
Victoria Alexander
Avon, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061449475

In 1885 Gabriella Montini grieves the death of her disgraced brother Enrico while also plotting revenge against the Harrington siblings who she believes stole the proof of his work. Enrico claimed an ancient seal proved the existence of the lost city of Ambropia. However, the seal was stolen, his reputation tattered and before he could prove otherwise he was dead. Gabriella plans to substantiate that Nathaniel and Quinton Harrington stole the seal.

During a gala to honor a Harrington sister, Nate catches Gabriella in their library searching for something. He confronts her and swears they are innocent. Nate also vows to assist on her mission though she distrusts anything Harrington. As they begin to fall in love, her endeavor turns dangerous from someone who will kill to keep the truth buried with Enrico.

This is a terrific Victorian romance starring an intrepid heroine with a death bed request and a daring adventurer joining her quest. The story line is witty especially when the lead couple exchanges barbs and is fast-paced as the action never ends. Fans will enjoy the dangerous late nineteenth century antiquities profession in which peril comes from rivals.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Moon-Gary Disher

Blood Moon
Gary Disher
Soho, Apr 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781569475638

In Waterloo, Queensland, Australia, someone attacked Lachlan Roe, chaplain to the exclusive Landseer private school. The victim was left in a coma and has connections to the highest levels of government. Detective Inspector Hal Challis knows that political ties mean interference to expedite results at all costs to the investigation he will lead with the help of his lover, Sergeant Ellen Destry and the rest of the team. Political big shot Ollie Hindmarsh has already made a TV appearance. Lachlan’s brother Dirk manages to compromise the crime scene to Challis’ consternation.

Adding to the already visible assault case is two incidents. One of Challis’ team Scobie Sutton who breached official policy when he allowed Dirk into his sibling’s home, has received hate racist email at his police address. At a time when Challis considers benching Scobie, a murder of a public official enforcing land use rules during schoolie week adds workload pressure.

The latest Challis Australian police procedural is a super investigative tale mostly because of the interaction of the Waterloo team. The story line is fast-paced with both cases engaging the reader from the onset. However, it is the byplay between the cops especially Hal and Ellen and Hal and Scobie who make this a fun read.

Harriet Klausner

Dropped Dead Stitch-Maggie Sefton

Dropped Dead Stitch
Maggie Sefton
Berkley, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425227749

Kelly Flynn left a big DC based CPA corporation to move to Fort Connor, Colorado where the pace is slower. She lives with her boyfriend Steve and visits House of Lambspun where she has made good friends with knitters and crocheters. When one of her knitting pals Jennifer Stowe calls her at two twenty in the morning begging her to come over because she was attacked, Kelly wastes no time to get over there.

Jennifer was at a bar talking to a fellow customer when she leaves to go home. The customer rings her bell and informs her she left something behind. She opens her door only he pushes her back in, beats her up and rapes her. She receives professional help. She and the knitters go to a retreat run by her psychologist for assault victims. However, the ranch owner is Jennifer's rapist. Soon after their arrival, Jennifer’s attacker is found dead, a homicide victim. Lacking an alibi and having a motive, Jennifer is the prime suspect; Kelly plans to prove otherwise.

Kelly is a one person dynamo and when she sets her mind to something like knitting or sleuthing, nothing can prevent her from achieving her objective. She interrogates people whom she believes know something useful and has a tendency to come close to being killed. Yet she also is a friend who keeps Jennifer’s moral up. Her inquiry is terrific because she feels for the culprit whoever that is as they are probably a victim of the ranch owner too. Maggie Sefton provides an engaging amateur sleuth starring a warm caring person struggling along with readers to figure out who the killer is.
Harriet Klausner

Lover Avenged-J.R. Ward

Lover Avenged
J.R. Ward
NAL, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451225856

In Caldwell, New York, drug dealer Rehvenge is happy for his sister Bella to be married to one of the vampire King Wrath’s Black Dagger Brotherhood vampires, but he tries to remain above the fray between them and their enemies the Lessers because he fears the secret he conceals could harm his sibling and his mom. However, his dark secret is known by at least one person who uses it to extort emotional and sexual Rehvenge.

His only light in his personal storm is Havers Clinic vampire nurse Ehlena who has cared for his injuries but rejects his efforts to court her. Instead her focus remains on earning money to care for her ailing father. Responsible for her ailing father, nurse Ehlena struggles to make ends meet. However his latest visit to the clinic makes Ehlena, who hides her attraction to Rehvenge, concerned about his health as he is a victim of someone extremely nasty.

The latest Brotherhood vampire romantic suspense is an excellent entry in one of the great sagas on the market today. The story line moves forward on several overarching plots while also telling the tale of love between an antihero and an angelic vampire. Fans of the series will recognize LOVER AVENGED as one of the better stories in several books, which is saying a lot, while newcomers will be somewhat lost in the complex multifaceted thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 30, 2009

Saints in Limbo-River Jordan

Saints in Limbo
River Jordan
WaterBrook, May 2009, $13.99
ISBN 9780307446701

In Echo, Florida Widow Velma True struggles to go out her door. Her agoraphobia has been getting worse as going to the mailbox is an incredible quest that she never achieves. She traces her fear of outdoors to when her beloved Joe died.

On her birthday, a stranger arrives at her door to give her a gift that does not look like much. However, somehow the mysterious present from this baffling stranger has Velma looking back over her memories with Joe and their son Rudy. She begins to appreciate what she had and still has through her memories though her reminiscences on the river of her life include some depressing moments. She begins to find herself pulled between her desire to have what she once had before Joe died and Rudy grew up, and what she has now. Finally her adventure into her mind leaves her vulnerable to a malevolence that wants the gift and will take away what she cherishes to steal her birthday present.

SAINTS IN LIMBO is a whimsical tale mindful of It’s a Wonderful Life with the addition of a nasty essence wanting to steal her gift. Filled with regret and remorse, Velma is fabulous as she goes on her adventure inside her mind. Although to many subplots that are left unresolved detract from this overall fine thriller, readers will enjoy accompanying the heroine as she tours her soul.

Harriet Klausner

The Nude-Dorothy McFalls

The Nude
Dorothy McFalls
Five Star, May 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147678

In 1814 following the death of her husband in the Peninsular War against Napoleon, impoverished Countess Elsbeth Mercer moves into the home of her uncle, his wife and two daughters. Everything is fine until a painting of her is found. Upset, Elsbeth seeks out the artist, Dionysus, of whom she has never met, but fell in love with his landscapes years ago; he tricked her into thinking Mercer was the artist.

Marquess Nigel Purbeck refuses to divulge the identity of the artist to the demanding irate Countess who wants the artist to tell the Ton she did not pose for it. Still he is attracted to her and seduces the widow. However, his actions leave her in danger and he too from apparently a friend accused of smuggling while she struggles between her long time love of the artist and of the reclusive Marquess.

THE NUDE is a wonderful refreshing Regency romantic suspense starring two fully developed fascinating lead characters. Elsbeth is a delight as she demands the Marquess introduce her to the painter who has scandalized her. Nigel is the more mesmerizing protagonist as the audience will wonder why he is a semi-hermit with the influence he obviously has amidst the Ton. The artist comes alive mostly in the minds of Elsbeth and Nigel making for an entertaining historical triangular romance.

Harriet Klausner

Embarking on Murder-Sue Owens Wright

Embarking on Murder
Sue Owens Wright
Five Star, May 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147807

To celebrate her fiftieth birthday, Tahoe Tattler reporter Elsie “Beanie” MacBean goes on a Fourth of July cruise accompanied by her significant other Cruiser the basset hound, her boyfriend Sheriff Skip Cassidy and her adult daughter Nona who came from San Francisco to celebrate with her mom. She is having a great time sailing on Lake Tahoe aboard the luxurious Dixie Queen.

However, she is not the only one celebrating a milestone on the cruise. Frank and Ivy Diggs are on the ship with his children from a previous marriage celebrating their wedding anniversary. To Frank’s shock, Ivy informs him she no longer wants to be a trophy wife for him to show off so she is filing for divorce. Soon after her announcement, Ivy vanishes and though no one reported anyone overboard and no corpse has been found, the crew believes she fell into the lake after imbibing too much alcohol and drowned. Skip thinks otherwise as he believes a murder occurred. His belief propels Beanie to investigate with her loyal significant sidekick at her side.

This lighthearted amateur sleuth is a fun Lake Tahoe tale starring an intrepid middle aged heroine who knows to stay out of an investigation after her dangerous escapdes in SIRIUS ABOUT MURDER and HOWLING BLOODY MURDER, but dives in head first anyway. The characters drive this entertaining tale as eccentrics like Professor Blayne researching the famous Tahoe Tessie lake monster, Nona and Skip bring depth to the murder mystery. However, the tale belongs to that fabulous couple Beanie and Cruiser who navigate the enjoyable cozy.

Harriet Klausner

To Hell in a Handbasket-Beth Groundwater

To Hell in a Handbasket
Beth Groundwater
Five Star, May 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147593

In Colorado Springs gift basket designer Claire Hanover looks forward to the ski trip with her family. However, tragedy on the slopes devastates everyone when the sister of her daughter Judy's boyfriend dies in what is a homicide.

Claire vows to keep her daughter safe from the killer who knows Judy saw what happened and will come for her. However, Claire cannot prevent a murderer from killing others. As they remain alive while the body count rises, Claire knows the culprit is coming for her and her daughter, but to stop the adversary has proven difficult as he or she is one of them.

This is an entertaining amateur sleuth in which Claire risks her life to keep Judy safe. The story line is action-packed, but the serial killing becomes too obvious rather early in spite of some interesting spins. Still in her second Hanover Colorado mystery (see A REAL BASKET CASE), Beth Groundwater provides an interesting thriller as the killer is coming.

Harriet Klausner

Marine One-James W. Huston

Marine One
James W. Huston
St. Martin's, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312364311

During a nasty storm, Marine One carrying President James Adams leaves for a top secret meeting at Camp David. Not far from the White House, the helicopter begins to rip apart before crashing to the ground; no one including PROTUS survived the crash.

A stunned despondent country encouraged by politicians and the media, blame the manufacturer of Marine One, a French based company, WorldCopter. Criminal neglect charges are considered against the CEO and other key officials. WorldCoptor hires Annapolis attorney Mike Nolan to defend it against the charges. Based on a cursory investigation, Mike quickly finds other parties who could be held liable for the tragedy. However, as he tries to obtain information as to whom Adams was scheduled to meet, unknown adversaries try to kill him and the Feds warn him to back off or else.

MARINE ONE is a fast-paced, action packed legal thriller that soars with the opening sequence and never takes a pause throughout. Told with a sarcastic jocularity especially by the hero who takes in stride being demonized by the media as he understands he is a lawyer, attacked by assassins as he understands he is a lawyer and threatened by the federal alphabet soup as he understands he is a lawyer. Exciting yet amusing, James W. Huston provides a wild entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Night of Knives-Ian C. Esslemont

Night of Knives
Ian C. Esslemont
Tor, May 2009, $25.95 (hardcover); $14.95 (trade)
ISBN: 0765323699 (hardcover); 0765323710 (trade)

Every generation the isle of Malaz suffers from the convergence of the Shadow Moon when the real world becomes a shadow to other realities and these other realities come as shadows to Malaz. Rumors fly that this time will include the unique returns of Malazan Emperor Kellanved and his master assassin Dancer; neither has been seen in ages. Surly the Mistress of the Imperial Assassin the Claw ruled over the empire and is not taking any chances of losing her power so has traveled to the island to insure Kellanved and Dancer do not return.

As the moon rises, islanders stay in doors hoping to remain safe from the evil invaders, demon-hounds, walking dead and even more dreaded others things. Wanting to leave Malaz, Kiska feels joining the Imperial Forces is her only exit; battle tested veteran Temper hides from his past with a new identity on Malaz. Neither believed in the myths, but soon both become embroiled in the encroaching malevolence when a corpse asks Kiska to deliver a message as the ancient power of the Shadow Moon has arisen.

Ian C. Esslemont collaborated with Steven Erikson to create the multiple cultures of the Malazan World (see Mr. Erikson’s Book of the Fallen saga). In NIGHT OF KNIVES, he extrapolates on the prologue to Mr. Erikson’s the Gardens of the Moon to create a rich history that in the Book of the Fallen becomes mythical history. Fans of Malazan will be stunned with this super dark fantasy as Mr. Esslemont stays true to the essence of the latter years’ saga while providing a terrific tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fifty Is Not a Four-Letter Word-Linda Kelsey

Fifty Is Not a Four-Letter Word
Linda Kelsey
5 Spot, Mar 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446195904

In 2003 Hope Lyndhurst-Steele believes strongly her upcoming fiftieth birthday is no milestone as nothing will change in her near perfect life. However, just after her birthday, her world collapses. Her mom announces she is dying with just a few months to live. Hope’s husband Jack says he cannot cope with her cynicism and upside down values accentuated when she is more upset that he told their son Olly before her that he is leaving her and moves out. She is also upset to see Olly hanging around with the neighborhood tramp, the older single mom Vanessa; Hope tells her to leave her son alone only to upset her son. Hope feels no hope as she flees for Paris to reassess her relationships.

This is an interesting character study of a fifty year old woman whose world implodes and has to look closely at her set ways and decide whether changing is worth the cost. Hope is a fascinating protagonist but the use of her viewpoint abates the impact of how the others feel as we only know them through a Hope filter. Still this is a difficult read as the heroine learns fifty is a four-letter word and changing one’s spots is extremely difficult; that is if a person truly wants to change.

Harriet Klausner

Hungry Woman in Paris-Josefina Lopez

Hungry Woman in Paris
Josefina Lopez
Grand Central, Mar 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780446699419

The suicide of her cousin Luna shakes Los Angeles based Mexican-American journalist Canela to her bone marrow. She needs to escape so she leaves behind her family, her fiancé Armando and her job to find passion, something that has mysteriously vanished form her life. She goes to Paris where she enrolls in the internationally famous cooking school Le Coq Rouge and rents an apartment.

Canela has a string of lovers and makes friends with other students. Though she does not quite retain the passion that died with Luna she moves on in her grief for her cousin and feels her soul healing. Upon graduating from the culinary school, Canela returns to Southern California, but her life before Luna’s death is no longer enough.

This is a fascinating character study of a young woman who seems to have everything only to feel she has nothing and must do something about the void in her soul made self aware by her cousin’s suicide. Canela is a wonderful lead character who provides a profound first hand account that is entertaining and engaging as she uses élan and sass to hide her inner doubts. Fans will appreciate Josefina Lopez’s terrific contemporary while rooting for Canela to make it.

Harriet Klausner

5 Bodies to Die For-Stephanie Bond

5 Bodies to Die For
Stephanie Bond
Mira, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327059

Atlanta remains gripped with terror as The Charmed Killer continues to intimidate the city. Meanwhile Carlotta Wren hides at the home of her former fiancé Peter, but his late wife’s presence dominates his residence; besides his elite pals hold her culpable for sharing the DNA of her father who pulled a few fiscal stunts on them; ergo she is unwelcome.

Her body-mover friend Cooper and his assistant her brother Wesley are finding business a bit slow in spite of the antics of the Charmed Killer. In spite of the down turn in the economy causing less professional corpse transportation, as always, Carlotta finds life out of control.

The fifth body movers’ thriller continues Carlotta’s adventures as a corpse and hunk magnet as the dead pile up while police detective Jack, her former fiancé Peter, and Cooper the professional body mover want her. The overarching plot makes snail progress leading to whether Carlotta is losing her Mojo or just filler. Still the lighthearted romp retains its graveyard jocularity that is a trademark of the series while fans will wonder who the last man standing will be in the Carlotta sweepstakes.

Harriet Klausner

Darkness Under Heaven-F.J. Chase

Darkness Under Heaven
F.J. Chase
Mira, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780778326946

Concerned for the safety of foreign VIP visitors attending a conference in China, the government hires American security expert Peter Avakian to provide personal security to the international attendees. At the same time, the U.S. government hires Avakian and physician Dr. Judy Rose, who has become an espionage agent, to help obtain the release of an American gymnast incarnated in Beijing on the charge of shoplifting.

However, the worst case scenario occurs when someone assassinates the Taiwanese president. Three Chinese soldiers attack Avakian, who kills them. Judy and Peter are in trouble as they know the Chinese government plans to arrest them if they are not killed. Forced to flee Beijing, their chances of getting out of the city let alone the country alive is slim to none.

The key to this exciting action-packed thriller is China as seen through foreigners on the run. Avakian is a terrific hero who keeps the story line focused while he and Dr. Rose are called terrorists by the Communist government, which will have readers pondering over who defines a terrorist and what the parameters are. Fans will enjoy Avakian’s tour of Beijing and beyond as escape seems almost impossible.

Harriet Klausner

The Soul Collector-Paul Johnston

The Soul Collector
Paul Johnston
Mira, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0778325660

Crime writer and weekly columnist Matt Wells knows how lucky he is to have survived his encounter several years ago in London with the serial killer White Devil (see THE DEATH LIST); he even was dating the sister Sara Robbins of the deadly brilliant predator. Though the White Devil is no more, he still fears an avenging Sara even though his lover Detective Chief Investigator Karen Oaten, who once suspected he was the White Devil, swears Sara is no threat.

However, history sort of repeats it self when a renowned mystery writer is murdered; and Matt receives a message explaining that he can save the life of the next intended victim if he solves a word puzzle quick enough. As the death count rises along with the cryptic notes from the SOUL COLLECTOR, Matt knows once again he must face the devil without blinking.

This is as gripping a thriller as its predecessor. The Soul Collector is diabolical and methodical working through a death list that shakes Matt to the core. He feels like a murder magnet but knows what he must do even if Karen pleads with him to let the police handle it. Graphic and gruesomely grim, Paul Johnson writes an electrifying serial killer sequel even if predators sending taunting clues have become overused by the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner

The Betrayal-Pati Nagle

The Betrayal
Pati Nagle
Ballantine, Mar 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345503855

Eliani's spirit was shattered when her beloved rejected her after their after cup bonding. Despondent and feeling like she wasted a year and a day, Eliani enlists as an Alpinon Guard warrior, one of the most dangerous jobs an aelven can accept as death is a typical outcome but that no longer matters to her. She vows no male will ever get her heart again except her father whom she has become his top aid.

Turisan leaves Glenwhollow feeling upbeat about life as he goes to deliver a message from his father to congratulate the daughter of a family friend on her election as governor. He journeys through the invigorating woodlands but realizes someone is following him, whom he identifies as an Alpinon Guard. However, instead of an assault, he is taken to Hightstone where he receives great honors.

When he and Eliani meet they are not just attracted to one another; they share the legendary mindspeech. Both are appalled and frightened yet euphoric. Neither realizes their paranormal connection as much as their respective heart ties will be the main hope when the outlawed exiled former aelven clan Darkshore led by the bloodsucking Queen Shalr are crossing the Ebon Mountains to reclaim more than their lost status; they come to conquer and dine on the blood of their once allies.

This is an exciting romantic fantasy starring two intriguing protagonists and a solid support cast who add societal depth to the aelven clans or the vampiric alben. The reactions to the mindspeech between Eliani and Turisan are terrific as each covets the link but also fears what is going on. Fans will appreciate Pati Nagle’s appropriately titled tale and look forward to me adventures in Alpinon and beyond.

Harriet Klausner

Forbidden Moon-Elysa Hendricks

Forbidden Moon
Elysa Hendricks
ImaJinn, Mar 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 1933417218

Exiled from Dramon due to her father’s avaricious attempts to steal the throne, Laila DiSanti lives alone in the mountains distrusting everyone and killing slave raiders and bandits while rescuing good people who find themselves in trouble. She sells her services, but no one wants to buy them more than Pace Alastar, who lives in the magically hidden Andacor Valley where the residents are immortal due to crystals; they pay the price of no emotions or desires

When they meet, she believes his valley is a myth; he explains about the earthquake that led to the breaking of some of the crystals. However, the remaining crystals are failing and consequently the people are dying. Their only hope of surviving is with his daughter Aria who can return the crystals back to health, but left the valley when her mother decided to leave because immortality without feelings is like death.. Laila agrees to help him find Aria. On their quest, they meet dangerous foes including the mountains, but it is the attraction between them that is most lethal; as he begins to learn what immortality’s true price is, but to pay the fee of love means leaving his beloved as a widow.

Elysa Hendricks’s delightful updating of Shangri-La is a beautiful adult fairy tale filled with romance, danger form various sentient species, other obstacles, and a quest filled with spins and detours. Part of the tension comes from the romance as viewers of the final scenes of the classic Capra film The Lost Horizon will wonder if that is how this couple’s relationship will end. Filled with varying cultures, the return to the Hendricks Moon realm of crystals (see CRYSTAL MOON and SHADOW MOON) is a winner.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Summer on Blossom Street-Debbie Macomber

Summer on Blossom Street
Debbie Macomber
Mira, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780778326434

In Seattle at the Blossom Street yarn store, A Good Yarn, owner Lydia feels great about overcoming cancer for the second time. To celebrate and to bring in new clients she and her sister Margaret decide to start a new group “Knit to Quit”. However, Lydia also notices her sibling is extremely careful with her words, but Lydia expects that will pass soon enough.

Lydia and her spouse Brad discuss adopting an infant. In the interim, Lydia allows twelve year old Casey to move into her home with tom’s agreement. The baker Alix wants a baby too, but her spouse Pastor Jordon demands she give up smoking first so she considers joining the new class. At the advice of his doctor who is worried that chocolate CEO Hutch will suffer a stroke or heart attack if he does not slow down, he joins the group. Finally concerned bookstore owner Ann Marie needs a stress releaser so she also attends Knit to Quit so she can get away from the demands of her adopted daughter's biological father, a recovering addict, wanting to see her child.

The latest Blossom Street tale is an engaging entry due to a strong cast struggling with issues and traumas. The multiple subplots are all engaging and tie together at the Knit to Quit group. Fans will enjoy this warm SUMMER ON BLOSSOM STREET as Debbie Macomber stitches a multifaceted good yarn.

Harriet Klausner

Chin Up, Honey-Curtiss Ann Matlock

Chin Up, Honey
Curtiss Ann Matlock
Mira, May 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325581

John Cole comes home ostensibly only to attend the wedding of his son Jonny. However, he also has returned hoping to persuade his wife Emma Berry to give them a second chance. Emma has doubts, but agrees to try again with the stipulation that together they see a marriage counselor. Reluctantly John, who hates discussing issues with loved ones let alone strangers, agrees.

As the day of the marriage ceremony comes closer, Emma realizes her in-law disapprove of her son. She wants to help Johnny with his future relations so she makes an effort to change the mind of her son’s mother-in-law and show she, her husband and Johnny are good people who will be there for her daughter.

The quirky secondary cast makes for a fun lighthearted frolic. The story line lacks action and the one of the two prime premises not significant as Johnny will have to prove his worth to his in-laws with deeds not his mom’s interference. The second chance romance aspects are also somewhat muted as the differences between John and Emma are minor. Still fans will enjoy watching the antics of the groom’s mother, making two fronts worse.

Harriet Klausner

Kissing The Man Next Door-Devon Vaughn Archer

Kissing The Man Next Door
Devon Vaughn Archer
Harlequin Kimani, May 2009, $5.99
ISBN: 037386115X

In Cheri Village, Vermont, Mackenzie Reese actually feels pretty good about the empty nest when her fifteen years old son Ryan moves to Los Angeles to live with his father Brent and stepmother. She looks forward to enjoying life with no relationship entanglements especially fostering her career as a jazz singer while feeling Brent will be good for Ryan who needs a male role model.

Leaving Westport, Connecticut, Ian Kelly accompanied by Otis the Labrador move next door to Mackenzie. The DJ at KRDQ, the jazz all the time radio station, Ian is attracted to Mackenzie and likes the idea her son moved out as he never dates any female with children. As their lives are jazzed up by their attraction, Ryan returns home with am angry chip on his shoulder; he hassles his stressed out mother. His ugliness forces Mackenzie to choose between her love for Ian who reconsiders his wisdom of no child left behind with him and her son who she still cherishes but has been difficult since returning to New England.

The “triangle makes for an interesting contemporary romance as the teen nukes the relationship between his mother and his enemy next door. Ryan makes the tale as he comes home filled with anger and resentment as he takes his ire out on his mom and indirectly her lover. His actions force the lead couple to decide whether love is enough. Although Ian is never fully developed, fans will enjoy Mackenzie’s heart breaking dilemma between KISSING THE MAN NEXT DOOR and dumping the man next door.
Harriet Klausner

Silver Falls-Anne Stuart

Silver Falls
Anne Stuart
Mira, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9780778325970

Professor David Middleton persuades photographer Rachel Chapman to come to Silver Falls as his wife. He swears he will make a safe home for her and teenage daughter Sophie. After years of traveling, Rachel agrees.

However, she finds the idyllic Pacific Northwest college town depressing as it seems to rain everyday and when it is not pouring, it looks like it is about to storm. Worse, she finds David’s loving personality has turned to smothering her and her daughter. Starting to be concerned with his obsessive behavior, Rachel reconsiders whether she did the right thing in marrying the previously charming professor. When his brother, Caleb arrives in town, Rachel is stunned by her attraction him even as he mockingly rips holes in her lifestyle. When someone begins to serially murder girls who look like Sophie, Rachel fears her brother-in-law is the culprit with her terrified that her daughter will be his final curtain.

SILVER FALLS is a fast-paced suspense thriller starring a strong cast. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the newlyweds and her teen daughter arrive in town and never slows down. Although some of the “Notorious” excitement is lost because the killer is revealed early on, fans will enjoy Anne Stuart’s tale as Rachel risks her life to keep Sophie safe.

Harriet Klausner

Cursed-Carol Higgins Clark

Carol Higgins Clark
Scribner, Apr 7 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416562177

Regan Reilly is all alone in New York City while her husband NYPD Major Case Squad chief Jack Reilly (no blood relation) is in Miami attending a seminar and her parents are in Palm Beach. After being reminded to remove her property from her parents’ garage so they can park their cars inside, Regan moves her stuff into a Long Island City storage unit. On the way back to her car, she receives a call from her former apartment neighbor in Hollywood Hills Abigail Feeney.

Her former boyfriend Cody Castle borrowed $100K from her a few months ago to make a movie; he promised to pay her back in three months but instead vanished but recently was seen. She needs Regan to return to California to find him before her grandmother arrives in town to give her a condo as a birthday gift; that 100,000 is needed to pay part of the principal. Regan knows Abigail is a kind person who is a hairdresser to the stars but gives free styling at a nursing home so she agrees to help. However the case takes a spin when someone kills an old rich man she gave a haircut to and the police suspect Abigail in spite of her recent injury on a set. Regan needs to find the murderer, clear Abigail and get Cody which is all in a day’s work for the brilliant private investigator.

Regan leans no good deed goes unpunished as besides the cops seeking Abigail for questioning, a stalker believes she is married to the man who Abigail is house sitting for and tries to kill her. Abigail brings comic relief to the tense plot with her belief she is cursed by the number thirteen (read to learn why she reached her Triskaidekaphobia conclusion). Though a bit light Carol Higgins Clark provides another exciting fun to read mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Bloodline-Maggie Shayne

Maggie Shayne
Mira, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326182

When Lilith awakens, she feels confused as to where she is, how she got there, and why she is nude. Although it is cold at dusk, she feels no discomfort except for her emotional bewilderment. Somehow she knows to walk to Ethan's nearby ranch though she has no idea why that feels right or how she knows the property is near.

Ethan, who was falling in love with her when they were prisoners, informs Lilith that she like him is a vampire trained by the top secret CIA Division of Paranormal Investigations as a killing operative. Also like him, she escaped from the Farm, the DPI's top-secret facility. DPI brass wants both brought in from the cold while Lilith feels an obsessive need to free others from the Farm.

This is a superb romantic fantasy thriller starring two likable legendary escapees struggling to survive as anyone who kills either of them becomes an instant legend and anyone who brings one of them in from the cold to the CIA owns the “farm”. The story line is fast-paced, but driven by the lead couple who knows the danger they confront especially if they try to assault the Farm. Maggie Shayne’s fans will relish this fun fantasy thriller as Lilith and Ethan fall in love while taking the fight to the DPI.

Harriet Klausner

Storm Glass-Maria V. Snyder

Storm Glass
Maria V. Snyder
Mira, May 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 780778325642

In Sitia the Stormdancer clan is near panicked over some recent deadly incidents. An apparent diabolically clever traitor has killed some glassmakers and destroyed the glass orbs they were creating that is needed to catch elemental power. They know this unknown adversary must be stopped before the realm is devastated beyond recovery by the power of unabated torrents.

Master Magician Cowan assigns glassmaker and apprentice magician Opal Cowan to investigate the deadly incidents as he believes her two skills make her uniquely qualified to learn what is going on. The two males who seem interested in her, Kade the Stormdancer who grieves the death of his twin and Ulrick the glassmaker who is a long time friend, help her. None of them realize the peril they place themselves in from crafty foes; none of whom have any compunction with killing someone even a person they have known for years.

This is a terrific mystery fantasy told mostly by the unconfident Opal, who believes she is a failure due to her inability to expand her magical skills, which is ironic as she was a heroine in MAGIC STUDY. The action-packed story line is fast-paced, but character driven while the whodunit is fun to follow. Fans of the Study trilogy will enjoy returning to that world as Maria V. Snyder writes an entertaining coming of age simply superb fantasy whodunit.
Harriet Klausner

God Of Clocks-Alan Campbell

God Of Clocks
Alan Campbell
Bantam, Apr 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553384185

The King of Hell Menoa appears on the brink of achieving what would have been universally thought of as impossible over the past eons. The god appears ready to take over Heaven and therefore the universe and recreate it in his image.

Perhaps the only potential meaningful opposition comes from Menoa’s half-brother Cospinol, but he has hurt his chances of usurping his sibling as he tries to boil out the life essence of mad angel Carnival. However, the fallen angel’s former allies keep seeking a miracle as humanity as we know it will be extinct if they fail. Assassin Rachel, blood-mage Mina, demon-dog Basilis, sop god Hasp and the ghost Dill turn desperately to whom they believe is the last prayer Sabor the god of clocks who controls time. Menoa sends his invincible arconites to kill the last insurgency, but finally aware of the urgency of stopping his half brother is Cospinol, who sends his top aid to destroy the breach that will release a zombie horde; however, he may be too late.

The exciting final tale of the Deepgate Codex fantasy (see SCAR NIGHT and IRON ANGEL) is a gruesome violent finish to a fine trilogy. The story line is fast-paced, filled with bloody action, and a sense of desperation. Adding to the overall feel of violence is none of the Gods care one iota about the lesser beings except as an energy source, which seems apropos for the war of the gods. Although the ending takes a plausible but Twilight Zone twist that supersedes too much history, fans of the saga will overall enjoy the GOD OF CLOCKS.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 27, 2009

Belong To Me-Marisa de los Santos

Belong To Me
Marisa de los Santos
Harper, Mar 31 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061240287

After recognizing that LOVE WALKED IN to their lives, Cornelia Brown and oncologist Dr. Teo Sandoval married. Following a miscarriage and the 9/11 tragedy, the couple leave Manhattan for the suburbs of Philadelphia.

The urban Cornelia finds adjusting to the burbs quite difficult as the problems of the natives seem insignificant after 9/11. Cornelia cannot stand her disparaging neighbor Piper, unhappy wife to Kyle and mother of two, who is the vicious self-proclaimed leader of what is acceptable behavior. On the hand she seems to get on with single mom Lake whose son Dev believes they left California to be near his dad, an absentee father who vanished thirteen years ago. However she reconsiders her initial impressions and stereotyping the two women. Piper voluntarily becomes the caretaker for cancer victim Elizabeth and subsequently when her “patient” dies keeps providing support to the grieving family even as Kyle walks out on her. The brilliant young teen Dev uncovers the truth about his father.

Though the ending will not shock anyone, the complicated roads travel by the various support staff and Cornelia is deep with detours potholes and ruts making for a profound drama. Cornelia like readers will reassess her classifications of Piper and Lake; she sees the former proactively nurturing a neighbor and her family irregardless of the gossip, and the latter concealing truths from her son. Fans of contemporary family dramas will enjoy the big city immigrant struggling to adapt to life in a foreign land, the suburbs.

Harriet Klausner

Covenant Hall-Kathryn R. Wall

Covenant Hall
Kathryn R. Wall
Minotaur, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312375355

In Hilton Head, South Carolina private investigator Bay Tanner struggles with two difficult inquiries that are personal. Heart wrenching she needs to find rather quickly one of the long lost sisters of Joline Eastman, whose child Kimmie needs a bone marrow transplant from a suitable match donor before she dies from leukemia. Her other case is not life-threatening, but matters a great deal to her. She reads her dying father’s will in which he mentions Julia Simpson, a half-sister of whom Bay she never knew she had.

Bay is stunned when Joline’s friends and family refuse to cooperate in spite of the clock ticking on Kimmie’s life. On the other hand she is not stunned that Julia’s guardian has doubts and cocnerns about whether she should agree to the half-sister meeting. As her dad retired judge Talbot Simpson nears death, Bay also must decide whether she will actually marry her fiancé police sergeant Red Tanner, the brother of her deceased husband.

Both of Tanner’s cases hit her gut with the fury of a Tsunami. Frantic from the start she personalizes saving Kimmie’s life especially when no one who might have a clue cooperates, and obsesses over meeting Julia. Ironically though fans have waited for her decision whether to marry Red, in COVENANT HALL that feels minor and intrusive when compared to Kimmie and to a lesser degree Julia. Fans will relish Bay’s latest cases as each gets personal.

Harriet Klausner

Even-Andrew Grant

Andrew Grant
Minotaur, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312540265

In New York City, Royal Navy Intelligence Officer Lieutenant Commander David Trevellyan has completed a mission when he sees the corpse in an alley. A bum has six bullet holes arranged in fastidiously geometric order in his chest. David calls 911.

The police immediately look at David as the prime and only suspect. However, before they can investigate, the FBI takes control of the case; as the victim is the sixth undercover agent murdered in such a manner in recent months. The Feds also look at David as more evidence surfaces that tie him to the murders. He knows his British intel agency must disown any knowledge of him, as standard operating procedure requires; so David knows he must find the predator with insider information setting him up to take the fall.

This is an exciting thriller with a few super twists including tidbits about David’s past that will keep and maintain the audience's attention throughout wondering what comes next. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as David and readers rarely get a respite before something else occurs. Andrew Grant writes a fabulous tale as as the beleaguered Intel officer knows he is being set up for the fall and has no safety net from his agency; leaving it to him to extract himself from the frame before some agent decides to permanently make him the culprit by killing him.
Harriet Klausner

Father's Day-Keith Gilman

Father's Day
Keith Gilman
Minotaur, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312383657

Louis Klein and Sam Blackwell were partners on the Philadelphia Police Department. Knowing how dangerous their jobs were, they not just had each other’s back, they vowed to take care of each others dependents if something happened to one of them. Sam ultimately committed suicide while Louis left the force.

Sam’s widow Sarah begs Louis to help her. Her teenage daughter, Carol Ann has disappeared somewhere on the streets of Philadelphia. Mindful of his vow to Sam and having a free spirited daughter of his own, Louis begins the search for Carol Ann, but soon finds out some sleazy information about the Blackwell family.

Though some of the crime scenes detract form an otherwise terrific investigative Noir as they have been overused in books and movies, FATHER’S DAY will hook readers once Klein works the mean streets of the City of Brotherly Love. Klein makes the tale work as he is propelled to find Sam’s daughter as much from their joint vows as from the nightmarish thought that this could be his late partner searching for his offspring. Fans will agrees FATHER’S DAY is a worthy winner of the Minotaur Books/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel award.

Harriet Klausner

In the Shadow of Gotham-Stefanie Pintoff

In the Shadow of Gotham
Stefanie Pintoff
Minotaur, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312544904

In the summer of 1904, the steamship General Slocum catches fire in the East River. Many die including the fiancée of NYPD Detective Simon Ziele who also lost the use of his right arm. Distraught, Ziele quits the force, leaves the big city, and accepts a law enforcement position in rustic Dobson in Westchester County just outside the Bronx.

However, the quiet community is shocked with the violent murder of Columbia mathematician Sarah Wingate. The culprit in a rage slashed and bashed the graduate student numerous times in her home. Ziele's investigation is superseded by an inquiry by criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who swears he can identify the killer, but must prove it.

Readers will understand why the engaging IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM won the first Minotaur Books/MWA Best First Crime Novel award. The story line provides the audience with a superb police procedural anchored strongly in early twentieth century Westchester County with entries like the General Slocum calamity and other tidbits. Ziele is a terrific lead character still grieving his loss of his fiancee; so though he ran away from NYPD he buries himself in the investigation. Stefanie Pintoff provides a wonderful historical mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Child-John Hart

The Last Child
John Hart
Minotaur, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312359324

In rural North Carolina, twelve year old Alyssa Merrimon was going home from the library when she vanished. Police Detective Clyde Hunt led the failed investigation and marshaled the townsfolk to search for the child, but she was never found nor were any clues of foul play uncovered. The case has since turned cold with people feelings sorry for the Merrimon matriarch and Alyssa’s twin; the father simply left soon after his daughter disappeared.

Although everyone else has given up on finding Alyssa as the assumption is she is dead, her twin brother Johnny refuses to end his search though one year has passed since she disappeared. He walks every street going door to door and even confronts known sex offenders. Hunt worries the two Merrimon have lost their minds as Johnny obsesses and his mom has mentally withdrawn in a breakdown. Johnny gains renewed hope when a second abduction occurs as he believes the same culprit took his sibling.

Obstinate Johnny as THE LAST CHILD searching for his missing twin brings pathos and tension to this exhilarating small town thriller. Slowly step by step he begins to uncover secrets that place him in danger; but though he knows his life is at risk he refuses to give up his quest. Fans will not just root for the brave boy, but accompany him all the way as a small town that looks idyllically rustic conceals danger lurking behind the serene façade.

Harriet Klausner

Fatally Flakey-Diane Mott Davidson

Fatally Flakey
Diane Mott Davidson
Morrow, Apr 7 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061348136

Aspen Meadow, Colorado caterer Goldy Schulz has no time to breathe as she works on two wedding receptions. Balancing both would be tough enough, but one of the brides is out of control with last second demands. Trying to satisfy the poster girl of bridezillas is taking a toll on Goldy.

Traveling to one of the ceremonies, retired Harold "Doc" Finn dies in mysterious circumstances. Goldy considers Doc might have been murdered though she admits to herself it could have been a tragic accident. When someone attacks Goldy’s godfather Jack Carmichael, who was Doc’s buddy, the caterer feels her hunch is affirmed. While her police husband Tom wants her to remain in the kitchen, Goldy investigates anyway.

The latest Goldy culinary amateur sleuth (with some limited police procedural elements hovering sort of in the background) is an amusing yet suspenseful tale as nothing seems to go right for the caterer to the delight of her fans. The story line easily shifts gear between the humorous antics of Bridezilla (funny as long as you are not the target) and others to the whodunit. Goldy, Tom, assistant culinary assistant, Julian and the rest of the cast make for a SWEET REVENGE cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Laura Rider's Masterpiece-Jane Hamilton

Laura Rider's Masterpiece
Jane Hamilton
Grand Central, Apr 2009, $22.99
ISBN: 9780446538954

In Hartley, Wisconsin, after dozen years of marriage, Laura and Charlie Rider are comfortable with each other though their relationship has become nonsexual. They enjoy working together in their Prairie Wind Farm nursery business and especially enjoy good storytelling.

However, something subtly changes between the couple when Charlie and radio show host Jenna Faroli begin exchanging emails encouraged by Laura who thinks that will enable her to write a Jane Austen quality romantic masterpiece. Laura persuades Charlie to jointly write fanciful and flowery intimate messages to lure the town’s most famous person into "The Project". However, the game they play spins out of control when Charlie begins to desire Jenna; jealous Laura believes she is working on a masterpiece; and Jenna finds herself wanting and loathing Charlie as the “author” of those romantic emails.

This is an interesting but strange triangle as each of the prime trio has wants and flaws with a sort of modern day gender bending Cyrano take of who is writing the poetic romantic emails. Throw in Jenna’s supportive buddy Dickie into the mix to further complicate the already convoluted relationships. Amusing yet profound, LAURA RIDER’S MASTERPIECE is refreshing and original although the audience will feel Jane Hamilton could have went even further outside the conventional story line.

Harriet Klausner

Liars Anonymous-Louise Ure

Liars Anonymous
Louise Ure
Minotaur, Apr 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 0312375867

In Phoenix, Arizona, HandsOn Emergency roadside emergency service operator Jessie Dancing receives a frantic call from developer Darren Markson, whose car was rear-ended in the Tucson area, but the background noise led her to believe someone is killing him. She calls the police, but breaks company regulations by also following up on her own time by visiting his wife Emily who insists he is alive and well to her shock.

Jessie lived in Tucson until three years ago when she was arrested for the murder of cruel Walter Racine, who had abused his niece, her friend Catherine Chandliss, and apparently targeted his grand niece Katie. Jessie was not convicted in court and moved away. However, when teenager Felicia Villalobos, whom she meets at the site of the Markson accident and is a witness to the incident, dies in a car explosion, PPD Detective Len Sabin and Tucson DA Ted Dresden salivate as they have a second chance at the Queen of Liars Anonymous who they feel got away with one homicide.

Jessie makes this a vigorous unique thriller as the police and the DA plan to throw the book at her, not so much for the current homicide, but because they strongly feel she got away with murder a few years ago. Though Jessie has issues and somewhat wilts under the pressure, she also gets stronger and feistier. As the violence surges, with a great final spin Louise Ure provides an excellent tale of a woman in trouble from both sides of the law.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Keepsakes-Jane K. Cleland

Killer Keepsakes
Jane K. Cleland
Minotaur, Apr 14 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0312369441

Portsmouth, New Hampshire antiques dealer Josie Prescott becomes concerned when her always responsible assistant Gretchen Brock fails to come to work two days in a row and does not call. This is so out of character for the reliable Gretchen, an extremely concerned Josie goes to her assistant’s apartment to see if she is all right. Instead of finding Gretchen, Josie finds the corpse of an unknown thirty something bloodied male lying on the sofa.

Josie believes Gretchen is innocent of at least the homicide though she wonders about a missing valuable vase no longer in the apartment; but also realizes she knows very little about her assistant who has worked for her for four years. The police consider the vanished woman as the prime suspect in the murder. Adding to the mystery is Josie’s two friends deny knowing where she is or much about her past and the missing Meissen vase appears in the shop’s safe. Finally reporter Wes Smith claims Gretchen obtained her current Social Security number four years ago. As she traces the vase back to a Denver homicide and robbery, Josie realizes who the victim was, how that person was related to Gretchen, and who her assistant was prior to her hiring her. However, if Gretchen did not commit the homicide who did remains out of Josie’s reach.

The latest Josie Prescott Antiques mystery (see ANTIQUES TO DIE FOR and DEADLY APPRAISAL) is a superb amateur sleuth invigorated by who is the focus of the heroine’s inquiry. As always readers obtain an interesting look at antiques interwoven into the exciting story line. Josie is at her best as she believes deep in her soul that Gretchen is no killer, but the evidence is damning. As Josie connects the dots between the Meissen murder and the current homicide, readers will enjoy a strong brisk New England cozy.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Secret-Mary McGarry Morris

The Last Secret
Mary McGarry Morris
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Apr 7 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780307451279

Seventeen year old Nora Trimble spends eight dangerous days with her psychotic boyfriend Eddie Hawkins that ends in violence. Nora moves on and marries wealthy Kendall "Ken" Hammond, whose family owns the Franklin Chronicle newspaper in Franklin, Massachusetts newspaper. They have two kids and their life together is near perfect.

Twenty-six years have passed since the horrifying incident and Nora has all but forgotten it. However, her idyllic world collapses when the two men in her life hammer at her psyche with revelations. Serial killing Eddie by simply returning to blackmail her and Ken by informing her he has had a four year old affair with his teen girlfriend sweetheart Robin Gendron, the wife of his best friend. Eddie finds an additional reason to hang around as he obsesses over Robin.

This engaging family thriller is fast-paced once Eddie returns and never slows down as secrets almost three decades old and present are revealed. The cast is fully developed to the point that the audience understands them and to a degree sympathizes with every one of the key players, even psycho Eddie. Though the events and people may have changed, Mary McGarry Morris makes a case that history repast itself if one fails to learn from the previous mistake. Fans will enjoy the aptly titled THE LAST SECRET as several beleaguered souls fight to regain some equilibrium while considering Paradise Lost will never become Paradise Regained.

Harriet Klausner

Living Witness-Jane Haddam

Living Witness
Jane Haddam
Minotaur, Apr 14 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312380861

Philadelphians Gregor Demarkian and his longtime significant other Bennis Hannaford prepare for their upcoming wedding. However, in Snow Hill, Pennsylvania someone batters nonagenarian Ann-Victoria Hadley; the elderly woman clings to life, but is in a coma.

Skipping the egomaniac state police, Snow Hill Police Chief Gary Albright asks former FBI agent Gregor to investigate the attempted murder. He readily agrees so he can escape the last second wedding preparations as he did recently when he fled to Margaret's Harbor in New England to conduct an investigation (see CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE). He begins his inquiries seeking who might want Ann-Victoria dead. He learns she just became a member of the school board after she co-filed in court a civil lawsuit to prevent the teaching of intelligent design in the town's public schools. Two other plaintiffs in that lawsuit are soon killed. Gregor fears a creationist is behind the assault until additional clues make him consider a detour outside the intelligent design debate.

The prime plot, the whodunit investigation, is superb as always in this great series. This entry is enhanced by a look at the Intelligent-Design-Evolution education debate as Jane Haddam insures the arguments of both sides are lucid and each side’s supporter sharp. However, Gregor’s inquiry remains the focus even with a deep look at the dispute over what should be taught as part of a public school science curriculum.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Man's Puzzle-Parnell Hall

Dead Man's Puzzle
Parnell Hall
Minotaur, Apr 14 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312373993

Bakerhaven, Connecticut police chief Dale Harper asks crossword columnist Cora “the Puzzle Lady” Felton to solve a crossword puzzle found at the death bed of nonagenarian cancer victim Herbert Overmeyer. However Cora is the front as her reticent niece Sherry Carter is the real Puzzle Lady, but she and her husband Aaron Grant are away on their African honeymoon.

Needing help, Cora asks her friend corpulent puzzle maker Harvey Beerbaum to assist her. As he solves the puzzle, which seems to offer no help to the death, the autopsy reveals Herbert died from arsenic poisoning. Dale and Cora go to a remote cabin where they find a gun that ties Herbert to a five decade old Alabama convenience store robbery. Sherry’s former husband Dennis investigates in an effort to get his ex back, but his mouth on TV may have led to the murder of Herbert’s next door neighbor. A third related homicide also occurs.

Besides the usual fun crosswords and sudoku puzzles, the latest Puzzle Lady whodunit is one of the strongest entries in recent years as Cora seeks alternative solutions. The story line is action-packed, but driven by feisty Cora who teams up with Dale to investigate the first homicide that has ties to a crime fifty years ago and leads to more murders (complements of Dennis). Readers will enjoy puzzling through the mystery and newcomers will seek to solve previous cases (see THE SUDOKU PUZZLE MURDERS).

Harriet Klausner

The Wandering Heart-Mary Malloy

The Wandering Heart
Mary Malloy
Leapfrog Press, Apr 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780981514857

St. Patrick's College history professor Elizabeth "Lizzie" Manning is on her winter break when British Lord George F.R. Hatton asks her to assess his family’s special artifacts collected by an ancestor Lieutenant Francis Hatton who sailed with James Cook on his third Pacific exploration. Excited, Lizzie leaves Charlestown, Massachusetts to look at the collection at the aristocrat’s Hengemont, Somerset, England estate.

As she catalogues the treasure, Lizzie learns of the Hatton family curse. Every female Elizabeth Hatton commits suicide. Only George’s mentally disturbed sister Bette remains alive from this generation. As she digs deeper into the Hatton family history, Lizzie begins to find disturbing evidence that she might be a Hatton. Worse she begins to see terrifying visions that make her wonder if she is the next victim.

THE WANDERING HEART is a fabulous thriller starring a historian heroine who looks back in time over the centuries to various eras seeking what happened to numerous Elizabeth Hatton. Thus the reader obtains a modern psychological tale with strong implications of horror from an alleged curse dating back to the Crusades. As Lizzie begins to understand what has happened in each century since medieval times, she starts to believe she is the current doomed one, but readers will wonder if an artifact is causing a family curse or if it is a self fulfilling prophecy as Mary Malloy provides a terrific tense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Pleasure Dome-L.F. Hampton

Pleasure Dome
L.F. Hampton
ImaJinn, Mar 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417455

At thirty-eight years of age, Warship Captain Soledad Scott of the Icarus faces mandatory retirement. She travels to the Straits at the end of known space to visit the Pleasure Dome. Soledad is a maternity client who will be teamed up with a sex toy male with the DNA she wants for the sire who will make her pregnant. Due to worm-hole dyslexia, she misreads room 660 as 990; the hunk waiting in the wrong room is expecting a sterile female sex toy.

Sol acts as if half-breed Chakkra empath Commander Gabriel Merriweather is her sex toy and he acquiesces enjoying the role change. However, in the morning she learns of her mistake and sneaks out of his room. Most species believes that Chakkra are violent barbaric mercenaries who prefer to fight to the death than negotiate. The empath cannot forget Sol, but fears she will reject him because of the reputation for violence his Chakkra heritage has in spite of the irony that he works in the Diplomatic Corps. He uses his empath skills tring to find Sol but they fail him because his target is a tranq; a person with the ability to mute the emotions that empaths like Gabeare bombarded with. Still he is coming for the woman who ran away with his sperm and his heart.

This is a sizzling, energizing science fiction romance that takes place far into the future vividly described by L.F. Hampton to the point that readers will believe they are at the Pleasure Dome. The heroine is a brave combat veteran who displays vulnerability once she embarks on her first post-retirement deployment. Gabe is her wonderful counterpart showing the same leadership caring qualities along with a liability (in his mind) of being half-breed Chakkra. Together they bring to readers a pleasurable romantic outer space thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Mistake She Made-Linda Style

The Mistake She Made
Linda Style
Harlequin SuperRomance, Apr 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715572

In Arizona Artist Tori Amhearst is stunned when DNA proved Linc Crusoe is not the man who raped her. She is appalled as her testimony put him behind bars where he stayed for a decade. To make matters worse, just before he is to be freed, he is badly injured in a prison assault that rushed him to Scottsdale Trauma Center for emergency treatment; when he regains consciousness from the medically induced coma, he suffers from amnesia.

His only visitor is Tori who feels strongly she owes him for her wrongful accusation. He fails to recognize her so she explains she is a friend from college. As she falls in love with him, she knows she owes him the truth, but fears once aware of who she is he will rightfully end their relationship. She also knows he probably will regain his memory or someone will recognize her and tell him who she is.

THE MISTAKE SHE MADE is a fabulous romance starring a heroine who knows she cannot take back her error but wants to do whatever she can to make it easier on her victim. Linc is simplified by his condition, but the tormented Tori more than makes up for it with her anguish. The story line has a neat twist involving what really happened and a condemnation of states quick to convict with while ignoring DNA evidence as is Linc’s case (until another criminal offered additional information). Fans will relish this second chance at life between the accuser and the accused.

Harriet Klausner

The House Of Secrets-Elizabeth Blackwell

The House Of Secrets
Elizabeth Blackwell
Harlequin SuperRomance, Apr 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715596

The previous family, the renowned affluent Brewster clan who has a Baltimore street named for them, owned the dilapidated Oak Hill house. The large Brewster mansion was built in 1904 and remained used by the family for decades until a death drove them away. Perhaps the finality to her on and off for four years relationship with Brad represented by the house is the impetus, but designer Alissa Franklin is intrigued with the tale of those occupants.

Her contractor Daniel Pierce assists Alyssa on her investigation into the Brewster clan, but he hides from her his real reason in assisting her. As they fall in love, each conceals truths that if revealed could end their relationship while both realize there is a lot more to a deadly accident than they first realized while putting together the puzzle of the Brewster family and what was once their magnificent house.

This is an enjoyable contemporary romance with an engaging amateur sleuth investigation into the history of a house and its previous occupants. The story line works on both levels; that of a tale of love and secrets, and a mystery of love and secrets. Elizabeth Blackwell provides an entertaining novel as the hunk handyman and the delightful designer bring love back to the HOUSE OF SECRETS.
Harriet Klausner

Home At Last-Margaret Watson

Home At Last
Margaret Watson
Harlequin SuperRomance, Apr 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715541

Her sisters forced the third triplet jewelry designer Fiona McInnes to come home to Spruce Lake to help them with their late Pulitzer Prize winning father’s estate. This is the one place she does not want to be as she loathes her famous father and still nurses a broken heart though she denies it though she has avoided veterinarian Jackson Grant for five months while worrying and something is wrong with her business as her manager Barb has vanished apparently with her funds.

Babysitting her nephew Charlie while her triplet sister goes on a honeymoon, she runs into Jackson who comes to her family home while she is having a tirade over her father’s picture as she hated her dad. He is looking for his two kids Logan and Lindy. Jackson remains irate with Fiona who deserted him years ago to flee for New York, but admits he never got over her as he still wants her. As they consider a second chance at love, both have issues to work through and then there is Lindy.

The third McInnes Triplet contemporary romance (see A PLACE CALLED HOME and NO PLACE LIKE HOME) proves you can come home if love is there. The support cast is solid, but the tale belongs to the lead couple as Jackson must get over his ire and intense feelings of betrayal while Fiona must overcome her fears of commitments. Fans will enjoy this second chance at love due to the strong characterizations.

She Shoots To Conquer-Dorothy Cannell

She Shoots To Conquer
Dorothy Cannell
Minotaur, Mar 31 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312343392

On a foggy evening while driving along the Yorkshire moors, Ellie and Ben Haskell and their housekeeper Mrs. Roxie Malloy end up lost. They manage to reach Muckelsfeld Manor where they hope to stop for the night. French director Georges LeBois is in residence producing a reality TV show Here Comes the Bride in which six contestants will vie for the role of wife to Lord Aubrey Belfrey, owner of the estate.

A car accident leaves the show short a contestant so Georges persuades Roxie to participate. When they learn Ben is a highly regarded chef, Georges and Aubrey convince him to prepare the meals as the help cannot boil water. Aubrey is stunned by Ellie’s looks as she resembles the second wife of his late older brother allegedly vanishing with a fortune in jewels just before her spouse died. As the other ladies work on Belfrey’s affection, Ellie investigates the stolen jewels and the driveway accident that she thinks is a homicide.

This is a fun over the top of Big Ben (and perhaps across the Channel) Ellie Haskell amateur sleuth tale due a zany cast staying at aptly named Muckelsfeld Manor. The story line focuses on Ellie as her two traveling companions suddenly have jobs so she fills in her time by sleuthing. While the support mostly provides amusing asides, Ellie investigates the potential crimes though she fails to look closely at the reality show, which means Here Comes the Bride is underdeveloped. Fans of the series will enjoy the heroine’s exploits in a lighthearted romp on the moors of Yorkshire.

Harriet Klausner

Gladiatrix-Russell Whitfield

Russell Whitfield
St. Martin’s, Apr 14 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780312534882

In the first century, those opposing the ever expanding Roman Empire are either killed or brought into the arena to serve as gladiators. The spectacle does not care about gender as female gladiators are a welcomed sight.

Nineteen year old Athena priestess Lysandra of Sparta is taken prisoner after a shipwreck. She is sent to combat school to learn to fight in the arena. She soon enters the combat zone owned by slaver Lucius Balbus and proves capable winning her battles. Her goal and that of her lover Secunda Eirianwen are to win their freedom. Whereas he battles a foe in a war to the death she enters mortal combat with an equally lethal adversary.

This is an intriguing action-packed ancient Rome thriller that puts a gender bender spin to classic movies like Spartacus and Gladiator. The story line is action-packed from the opening sequence when the tall thin Lysandra defeats her short stocky barbaric opponent and never slows down. Readers will have mixed feelings towards her as at times we will root for her and in other times incidents are against her. Although a lack of a sense of being in the first century Roman Empire (minimal background information to anchor time and place) detracts from the interesting “sports” fiction, Russell Whitfield provides the audience with an exciting tale of survival in the arena.

Harriet Klausner

The Empress Of Mars-Kage Baker

The Empress Of Mars
Kage Baker
Tor, May 12 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 0765318903

After terraforming a moon colony into a mega profit, the British based Aerean Company has done likewise on Mars. However, unlike the great success on the moon, the Martian project has run into financial trouble as the profits have not been anywhere near the projections. Unable to retain the current workforce, Aerean downsizes many of the colonists, who have no alternatives once they are terminated.

Those unemployed must create work like Mary Griffith did as owner and brew-master of the only bar on the forth planet from the sun, The Empress of Mars. Others do likewise as Cochevelou forms an agricultural cooperative and Crosley establishes a casino-dental clinic. Others residing in the Martian Motel must find work as life on the aptly named Angry Red Planet for those discarded by the company is to generate a profit making cottage industry or die; Darwin is proving to be right as most of the stranded survivors know big business, Great Britain and mega religion except perhaps to the Ephesian Goddess worshippers are irrelevant.

With the Company taking a needed R&R, Kage Baker provides an intriguing look at a cast of outcasts struggling to survive, but those who do so throw away social convention (as defined by Aeran Company and Great Britain) in order to apply unconventional means. Rebellion seems impossible as the fired employees have no major market to buy weapons (this is not the Mexican cartels crossing into the United States and ironically applying their second amendment rights). The prime players have differing personalities yet share in common courage to make it; their mantra ought to be if I can make it on Mars I can make it anywhere even Manhattan. With a vast history hinted at like Luna terraforming and Great Britain winning the space race, fans will enjoy toasting these unlikely champions with a beer at the Empress of Mars.

Harriet Klausner

The Demon’s Librarian-Lilith Saintcrow

The Demon’s Librarian
Lilith Saintcrow
ImaJinn, Mar 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9781933417448

She is the librarian in Jericho City who found a secret room filled with books of magical instructions and information. When Francesca “Chess” Barnes sees a demon eating a child, she vows to do something about that. She reads the books written by the founder of the Order, an organization pledged to keep humans safe. Chess learns spells including casting a demon out and owns a magic knife called Fang that can kill hell’s spawn, which she uses to eliminate one of these ugly amoral creatures.

Two men claiming to be from the Order arrive and ask if the founder of the Order’s library is in her library and she denies it. They smell the use of sorcery and Paul the Malik,, a human mage with magical powers, and Ryan, the Drakul half demon, which makes him a second class citizen in the Order, are in the front line war with the demons. Ryan follows Chess while Paul turns to another human he believes is using magic. Ryan realizes that Chess is using magic, but is much more as a Golden almost pure Phoenicus practitioner who if she attains her full potential will be able to kill even the almost invincible demonic High Ones. To his shock, Ryan falls in love with Chess, which may be the only reason she might survive as a traitor inside the Order knowing who she is wants to give her to the Inkani demons as a sacrifice for a rare rite.

The outwardly prim and proper (and underpaid) librarian gets down and dirty when she realizes the lethal threat to schools kids as her library is a battle zone between the paranormal and the normal. Ryan is the more intriguing character as he always assumed he was tainted with bad blood and the Order enforced his lack of self esteem (outside of his fighting demons); but Chess soothes the troubled beast through love. Lilith Saintcrow has written an enjoyable romantic urban fantasy in which the book world will agree don’t mess with THE DEMON’S LIBRARIAN as she silences the evil ones.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Decision and Destiny-DeVa Gantt

Decision and Destiny
DeVa Gantt
Avon, Apr 7 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061578250

By 1837, the dysfunctional Duvoisins family struggles with inner turmoil since the death of the patriarch Frederic’s second wife frail Colette. Her twin daughters born in 1828 Yvette and Jeannette struggle with their mom’s death and the almost immediate third marriage of their father to his late first wife’s sister Agatha. Jeannette is especially hurting as she is closer in temperament to her mom than the somewhat wild Yvette. Their governess nineteen year old Charmaine Ryan has helped them adapt to their wicked stepmother as she protects them as best she can especially the youngest infant Pierre from Agatha’s abusive anger.

However, Frederic has withdrawn while his two oldest sons, both born in 1808, the illegitimate Virginian Paul and his heir from his first wife John argue over business, family, and Charmaine. With treachery from within leading to tragedy, the Duvoisins family, already split due to the late Colette’s ties to father and son, seems on the verge of total destruction; only Charmaine is the one person who might save them from themselves, but she is pulled between the two oldest sons.

The second Duvoisins historical saga (see AN OCEAN AWAY) is a terrific entry that uses humor and innocent events like a picnic or horse riding to somewhat defuse the overwhelming family strife. The story line is character driven with the ensemble cast coming across as fully developed especially their differing passions to include loathing. More of what caused the schism is revealed as the writing team of DeVa Gantt provides an interesting middle tale; however though newcomers will enjoy aptly titled DECISION AND DESTINY, they will relish the dynamic interrelationships and rivalries much more if they read the first novel.

Harriet Klausner

Spirit Horses-Alan S. Evans

Spirit Horses
Alan S. Evans
Oceanview, Apr 1 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933515250

In 1996 in Cheatham County, Tennessee Shane Carson believes he lives the perfect life. He loves his wife Jen, their preadolescent kids Jacob and Tina and the horses he raises; and loves his work as a horse trainer and has earned a well deserved reputation as one of the best

Mrs. Erickson drops off a feisty mare she bought at auction from a cranky owner. She asks Shane to “start” the spirited Mustang and when ready find the steed a home with caring people. Shane realizes the animal is part of the legendary Spirit Horse herd roaming the Shoshone reservation in Wyoming. After a tragic accident caused by a man running a light kills his wife and kids in a car crash, Shane drinks away his grief until he recalls the promise he made to his son to return the Spirit Horse to his home. He escorts the horse back to her Wyoming home and makes friends amongst the Shoshone especially Chief Tigee and his granddaughter Tara while making enemies when he helps the tribe with a danger that threatens them and the herd.

With a touch of whimsy, this is a great story of a man reeling from a sudden tragedy that wiped out his beloved family, but finds redemption with the horses he loves. The strong characterizations especially the support players like his mother-in-law and his friend a ranch hand enhance a deep look into the soul of a person who was living heaven on earth until the vehicle accident moved him into hell until he finds a second chance at life through his love of horses.

Harriet Klausner

A Year On Ladybug Farm-Donna Ball

A Year On Ladybug Farm
Donna Ball
Berkley, Mar 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425225875

Though widows Cici Burke, Lindsay Wright, and Bridget Tyndale have each other while living a gentle middle class suburban lifestyle, each feels their lives are unfilled now that their kids have moved out and their husbands are gone. The trio decides they need something different so they buy a rundown mansion in rustic Shenandoah Valley with plans to renovate and grandiose dreams centered on an art school and a winery with lush gardens. They are greeted on their dilapidated newly purchased estate by a zillion lady bugs, liberated livestock and hints of a comedic ghost

The amigas move to their new home dubbed the Ladybug Farm shocking their adult offspring with the decision. However, fixing up the house and estate proves daunting as nothing goes right. Over time each begins to have doubts about their decision to uproot their lives from comfort to disaster, but the trio sticks it out through thick and thin as they begin to learn how to live life again as empty nesters.

This is an engaging tale of three best buddies who elected seven presidents and got involved in numerous causes coming together after the last spouse dies to find a new personalized mission now that the adult children are spread around the country. Their efforts make Murphy comparatively speaking into an optimist as nothing goes right yet everything goes right as long as friends are there for one another. Readers will enjoy the three musketeer-ettes as they provide humor, pathos, and logic to one calamity after another.

Harriet Klausner

Dangerous Ties-Devyn Quinn, Jodi Lynn Copeland and Anya Howard

Dangerous Ties
Devyn Quinn, Jodi Lynn Copeland and Anya Howard
Kensington Aphrodisia, Apr 2009, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758228741

“Personal Possessions" by Devyn Quinn. During a drug deal, Nikki is shot. When she awakens she is in bed naked with nude hunk Jackson who welcomes her to his Helle.

"Captive Heat," by Jodi Lynn Copeland. The explosion knocked Leia out. When she regains consciousness she finds herself naked and tied down by vines in the underground abode of Sebastian. He plans to wakes up naked, underground and bound with vines as Leia's captor teaches her acceptance as he explores her sensual boundaries

"Liaison" by Anya Howard. Marcel tries to keep his beloved Carina safe from the ancient vampire using a magic collar; while the villagers, as they for ages, perform sexual rites to restrain the evil that resides in their monastery.

These three romantic fantasy novellas are dark well written heated thrillers, but not for everyone as the hunks in the Quinn and Copeland tales teeter on the line between mutually accepted bondage and abuse; on the other hand that also makes them seem plausible as they somewhat remain in character even when they find a love mate. This also leaves the Howard entry different as the lead male is a pure hero fighting a pure evil over the woman he cherishes. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the DANGEROUS TIES that bound the lead characters to one another.

Harriet Klausner

Man After Midnight-Devyn Quinn

Man After Midnight
Devyn Quinn
Kensington Aphrodisia, Apr 2009, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758228512

Guardian of the Light Witch Dani Wallace seduces the hunk who oozes forbidden darkness to her that she cannot resist. However, she is clueless that he is Prince Casedren who comes from an underworld where Lucifer’s offspring thrive. He teaches her passion and demands her surrender as his consort, but though tempted and craving his touch, she refuses to obey his order.

Casedren also refuses to back away as his slightest caress sends her into ecstasy and him with an out of control libido; he knows Dani will be his royal mate once he seduces her soul like he has her body. As they play their gender war of lovemaking and denial, his younger twin tries to usurp the throne from him, but with Dani and the sex magic they create, he believes they can save her world and his realm.

MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT is an excellent romantic fantasy due to the powerful fully developed star-crossed lead lovers. Dani is spirited and brave while Casedren knows what he wants and goes after her. His chip off the old block twin brings skillful sinister malice to a terrific tale that will have readers rooting for the heroes and craving for more entries in the dark paranormal romantic world of Devyn Quinn.

Harriet Klausner

Sexy Beast VI-Kate Douglas, Anya Howard, Lydia Parks

Sexy Beast VI
Kate Douglas, Anya Howard, Lydia Parks
Kensington Aphrodisia, Apr 2009, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758228697

Chanku Honor” by Kate Douglas. The Wolfpack begins to turn into a Chanku family led by Logan and his lover Jazzy Blue along with four others; as they start to discover their shapeshifting legacy and sexual prowess.

“Wings of The Swan” by Anya Howard. Deep in the northern Germanic woods, the Saxon chief sees the daughter of the Goddess come from behind a waterfall, but knows she must not be human as no mortal could be that beautiful.

“Animal Instinct” by Lydia Parks. Rachel investigates the serial killings that look like a sentient animal as the culprit. Her inquiry leads to Siberia where she works with shapeshifting Russian detective Nikolai, whom she is attracted to but fears he knows more than he is telling her about the predator.

These hot erotic paranormal romances are entertaining tales though the novella format never enables the full loving relationships to gel to the point that the fantasy elements seem real. Still series fans will relish the latest “Sexy Beast” torrid tales as once again the heat is on amidst the mystical legends.

Harriet Klausner

Santa Olivia-Jacqueline Carey

Santa Olivia
Jacqueline Carey
Grand Central, May 29 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446198172

The town of Santa Olivia lies in between the United States and Mexico in a sort of no “flag” zone except the American military owns this isolated wasteland. Santa Olivia sprung up around a military base where human reengineering and other experiments are conducted that would be illegal in both countries.

The goal of the “Wolf Man” is to genetically alter humans to make them Captain America-like super soldiers. One of these Wolf Men impregnated a normal female who gave birth to aptly named Loup Garron. To keep her safe from the scientists, her mom and brother hid her existence, but her father was forced to flee. When her mother dies, she is forced to live with other orphans at the nearby church. Though the other kids are normal humans, they not only know she is a half-breed they go out of their way to help her hide her paternal heritage. The orphans know her secret and help her to conceal it, while they also try to make Santa Olivia a better place to live. However when her brother dies in a camp boxing match, Loup vows to challenge the winner though that will surely expose who she is to the commander.

Using a Dr. Moreau like science fiction background, Jacqueline Carey provides a deep well drawn coming of age character study of a half-breed offspring of an experiment. The exciting story line finds its groove once Loup joins the other orphans, as they accept her as one of them although they recognize she is radically different and protect her secrets from the military who would exploit her. Like her “peers”, Loup seeks her mate for life; knowing the danger she places any male in especially a purebred human when the day of reckoning she expects finally comes. This is a terrific romantic sci fi thriller starring a wonderful heroine.

Harriet Klausner

The Island-Tim Lebbon

The Island
Tim Lebbon
Bantam, May 19 2009, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553384680

A secret organization consisting of a few hundred people of Noreela search out and kill Strangers who look human, but have gills on their neck and tendrils on the outside of their spine. The Strangers d not cooperate with the Core who they believe are the advances scouts before an invasion. Collateral damage of innocent people by the Core is deemed acceptable if it meant the destruction of the Strangers.

When Core agent Kel Boon observed six innocent children murdered during an attack by his side, his anguish and outrage leads to the unimaginable for a dedicate agent; he quits. He goes to the village of Pavmouth Breaks where he is known as Kell the Woodchopper and loves the witch Namior Feeron. A brutal storm hammers the coast. When the torrent ends, a new island Komadia is nearby. Kel has a bad feeling as visitors from the island arrive at the sleepy fishing village. He wants to make sure the newcomers have no gills so that the villagers he cherishes will not be harmed. No gills or tendrils are evident by the Strangers but he fears they do not belong to Noreela. He and Namior begin to learn an inconvenient truth when they visit Komadia to find out what the islanders want with Noreela; a truth that could destroy civilization as he knows it.

Tim Lebbon provides readers with a spellbinding horror-fantasy tale from the moment the ISLAND appears and never loosens its grip until the climax. His world is filled with magic as anyone can become a Practitioner, but Kel has become wary of something he does not understand. Ironically, he runs ways from a situation only to run into a scenario even potentially more gruesome. He knows he must make a stand; even his beloved expects him choose fiight over flight. Fans will be hooked wanting to know why he ran away from his Core values and like the lead couple readers will want to know what do Komadians want with Noreela. Mr. Lebbon cleverly blends two genres with a refreshing romantic subplot into a sleepless night of reading.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 23, 2009

Blood of Ambrose-James Enge

Blood of Ambrose
James Enge
Pyr, Apr 21 2009, $15.98
ISBN 9781591027362

His uncle Lord Urdhven killed his parents leaving the twelve year old heir to the throne of the Empire of Ontil, Lathmar, under his blood-soaked relative’s protection. The frightened pre-teen feels alone, expecting his ambitious Protector to kill him one day if he objects to any decisions. Dismayed and depressed Lathmar has no hope as he knows he is just an expendable puppet.

Everything changes when two of his ancient magical kin arrive at Ontil to raise Lathmar and help him one day regain the throne and depose his odious usurper. Ambrosia is calculating but reachable while her irritable companion Morlock is sinister and frighteningly unreachable. As Lathmar becomes a young man ready to claim his throne from his Protector, Urdhven revises his gory plans for his nephew; as the lad is becoming increasingly rebellious. Lathmar constantly tries to please his beloved relatives who have raised him as if he was their child; which in their mind he is.

BLOOD OF AMBROSE is a strong coming of age fantasy as the key four players in this waltz seem genuine. Urdhven comes across as a combination Lord and Lady Macbeth merged with Hamlet’s uncle while his nephew grows in confidence with maturity and nurturing from his ancient relatives. Although typical of the sub-genre, this excellent tale is worth reading as it’s the lad’s journey that makes for a superb fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Up at the College-Michele Andrea Bowen

Up at the College
Michele Adrea Bowen
Grand Central, Apr 2009, $23.99
ISBN: 9780446577755

Yvonne Fountain Copeland is distraught when her husband PH.D Dr. Darrell dumps her for his peer, arrogant as he is, Dr. Bettina Davidson; Instead of moping Yvonne turns to the Lord who helps her get through her marriage break-up and even his idle threat of obtaining custody of their kids high school aged D’Relle and middle school aged Danesha. She returns with her children to her hometown of Durham, North Carolina where she obtains an adjunct professor position at Evangeline T Marshall University.

Yvonne meets religious “Eva T” U Collegiate basketball coach Curtis Parker who enjoys his bachelor lifestyle. He had no plans of marrying anytime soon until he falls in love with Yvonne. However, as he has problems with reconciling what his work requires for him to be a success with what his soul demands, Yvonne remains at his side helping him understand what matters.

Well written with an interesting lead pairing, the overwhelming premise of UP AT THE COLLEGE is with Jesus throwing assists, you can slam dunk through life. Faith is how the audience will define Yvonne while her ex is a sort of King Solomon filled with knowledge but lacking passion. The most interesting character is Curtis who has a struggle between what his job requires and what the Lord requires of him. Although the abundance of preaching slows down the fast breaks, Christian romance readers will enjoy Michele Andrea Bowen’s fine contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

The Cardboard Universe-Christopher Miller

The Cardboard Universe
Christopher Miller
Harper, Apr 14 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061686368

The late Phoebus K. Dank was a copious author of mostly science fiction. His collective work was not highly regarded by critics as his plots were simplistic proof that the shortest distance between two points was his storylines from start to finish. Yet somehow anything Dank wrote was published and his loyal fan base would have bought his copying the Hemlock phonebook.

After his death, an encyclopedia of all things Dank and dirty appears. Primarily two men debate the merit of Dank. Professor Bill Boswell who did his thesis on Dank conducts a class in Dank Studies at Hemlock in California; Dank’s housemate Owen Hirt is renowned in Dank circles for more than rooming with the author as he is famous for murdering him. They represent the polar opposites with both sharing the thought that Dank would have abbreviated them.

This is an odd brilliant premise that satirizes the self proclaimed experts on the works of a writer, but could be any topic like TV business and financial reporters. The book has an encyclopedia feel to it as it serves in many ways more like a biography than a novel in spite of the clever murder mystery that runs throughout. Although at times the tale is difficult to read as “encyclopedia” sections require filler to insure the concept remains valid, fans will enjoy this often amusing lampoon summed up with the ironic twist that Phillip K. Dick appears in a Phoebus K. Dank story.

Harriet Klausner

Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam

Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam
Kamran Pasha
Washington (Simon and Schuster), Apr 14 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781416579915

In the seventh century in the Arabian Desert, Muhammad has surfaced as a prophet who is gaining a loyal following. He envisions a woman as his wife and arranges with her father to marry Aisha, who may be his youngest wife, but by far the most intelligent and spirited of Muhammad's dozen. She is his favorite, but loses her place when the other wives accuse her of adultery to the Prophet. She tries to prove her innocence, but he receives a revelation from God that regains her position. When Medina is attacked, Aisha’s bravery and leadership help save the day, but the Muslim men prefer docile women so she earns some respect but also perhaps more loathing. Muhammad becomes more than just a prophet as he becomes the Prophet uniting the Arabian tribes. However, God works in mysterious ways as soon after he succeeds in conquering the holy city of Mecca, Muhammad dies.

His nineteen year old youngest widow Aisha earns a position as advisor to the Caliph of Islam pushing for universal civil rights. Aisha becomes a teacher and a commander as perhaps the most powerful known female in the Muslim Empire. However, her efforts for the rights of women lead to civil war.

This work f biographical fiction is a great historical tale that brings insight to the early growth of Islam, the Muslim Empire, and the role of women in that society. Aisha is a brave person who does what she believed is morally right; which led to the “least” wife becoming the most spouse through conviction and courage. Ironically as Islamic women placed her on a pedestal as their champion, Aisha had become less confident that she chose right and suffered remorse for those who died for her cause. Readers will appreciate this excellent historical fiction that depicts the key Muslim woman during the cradle years of Islam.

Harriet Klausner

More Than Words Volume 5-Heather Graham, Candace Camp, Stephanie Bond, Brenda Jackson and Tara Taylor Quinn

More Than Words Volume 5
Heather Graham, Candace Camp, Stephanie Bond, Brenda Jackson and Tara Taylor Quinn
Harlequin, Apr 2009, $16.95
ISBN: 0373836694

“If I Were Queen Of The World” by Heather Graham. They met and shared a game of “If I was Queen or King” at the Care for the Children Hospital in Pittsburgh when she was a teen patient and he a twenty-one years old visitor seeing his sister. They both become dedicated to helping ailing kids like Toys.Calm does and meet five years later because of their passion.

“Breaking Line” by Candace Camp. Nicole starved herself for dancing, but wonders whether the price is right especially since she believes her best friend has anorexia as described by The Alliance for Eating Disorders Alliance and her love of her life shares her passion for photography.

“It's Not About The Dress” by Stephanie Bond. When the groom breaks off the engagement the bride donates her customized dress. When the groom calls on the wedding, the bride goes to retrieve her dress which is for sale by a charity like Windfall Clothing Service. She volunteers to get back her dress but falls in love with another volunteer.

“Whispers Of The Heart” by Brenda Jackson. They meet over his plans for his daughter’s party and are attracted to one another, but he rejects her concerns about his daughter’s asthmatic condition. After his daughter is hospitalized, he and his daughter join the Allergy & Asthma Network that the party planner belongs to.

“The Mechanics Of Love” by Tara Taylor Quinn. At the garage, they both come from dysfunctional families so expect to remain single. However, he begins to fall in love with her. She distrusts intimacy as a former abuse victim, but she knows he is tender and caring as a supporter of shelters like Strengthen Our Sisters.

The latest romantic homage to community volunteers is a terific anthology that focuses on neighborhood heroism with a love story to sweeten the plots. Everyone but die hard scorning Republicans will appreciate this fine salute to those who try to help others with action more than words.

Harriet Klausner

Shepherd's Fall-W.L. Dyson

Shepherd's Fall
W.L. Dyson
WaterBrook, Apr 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 1400074738

Prodigal Recovery Agency Nick Shepherd wonders how he got into his current personal mess. Besides the fact that he owns one third of a failing bounty hunter business inherited form his late dad, his two siblings Steven and Marti denote dysfunctional, his mom is in an Alzheimer’s nursing home, his former wife Jessica tortures him with her demands and their daughter Krystal is rebelling. Still his agents like Matt Connor and Rafe Constanza are the best especially with watching each other’s back

Though he has doubts about taking on the search for the runaway hooker meth addict Zeena Bantham, Nick agrees as he needs the money and the firm needs the reputation as the business is falling apart. While on the case, Nick meets Zeena’s sister, cancer victim Anne McNamara who insists on being part of the hunt. However, as he comes closer to finding the “tweeter”, someone abducts Krystal and unaware of that moment threatens Marti as Nick’s past has returned with a vengeance to disrupt his already screwed up present and probably destroy his at best shaky future.

This fast-paced crime thriller focuses on the life of a bounty hunter as his work intrudes on his family turning his once loving wife into a shrill and his once adulating offspring wondering if he will ever be there for her. Filled with action from the onset and a felon in plain sight, fans will relish this fine thriller as W.L Dyson shows she has the right stuff.

Harriet Klausner