Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Plague of Doves-Louise Erdrich

The Plague of Doves
Louise Erdrich
Harper, May 12 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780060515133

The massacre occurs on a farm near Pluto, North Dakota. Only an infant daughter survives. The white community is outraged and in a fevered pitch, a posse acting more like a mob search for Ojibwe Indians whom they blame for the horrific incident. When the posse finds several Indians, they hold them responsible without evidence and hang them; one of them Seraph “Mooshum” Milk survives.

Over the next few decades, the families involved in the lynching incident intermingle. Mooshum's granddaughter Evelina Harp is raised on a nearby reservation in the1 960s and 1970s. As a teen she falls for bad-boy Corwin Peace and is friendly with a nun, who unbeknownst to her is descendents of the lynch mob; in fact she is too as part of her family come from that vigilante mob. Evelina attends college and work at a mental asylum Corwin becomes a felon.

In some ways this excellent story is a series of vignettes that are told in a non-linear manner; a technique that adds depth to what happened in 1911 and how by the 1970s the descendents of those involved in the two murderous incidents have intertwining lives. The complex story line is made even more complex by the many fully developed and important characters although Evelina as the narrator keeps the plot sort of focused. This is a winner as fans learn through a lot of seemingly irrelevant and apparently unrelated clues the truth of that tragic year once the big picture becomes complete. Louise Erdrich is at the top of her game with this terrific tale.

Harriet Klausner

Man of Fate-Rochelle Alers

Man of Fate
Rochelle Alers
Kimani, Jun 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373831609

Somewhat distracted as she is driving to an emergency meeting with a client, social worker Ava Warrick crashes into the vehicle driven by attorney Kyle Chatham. Instead of seeing her client, Ava ends up in the hospital with a concussion. Kyle takes responsibility to insure she gets the best care though he did not cause the accident. He believes fate led to a fender bender meeting, but Ava scoffs at his kismet theory.

Ironically, neither wants a relationship, but both are attracted to one another. Soon the attorney and the social worker begin to fall in love. However, whereas his feelings accentuate his belief they are destiny’s darlings, she has doubts; he must persuade his beloved that he is her MAN OF FATE.

The first Best Men tale is a terrific contemporary that starts with a bang as Kyle and Ava learn a basic physics 101 lesson that two objects sharing the same place is a fender bender. As their relationship changes, they learn advanced physics in which two hearts beat as one. Clearly character driven (even inside his Jag), Rochelle Alers provides her audience with a fabulous contemporary New York romance and the anticipation that Kyle’s best friends and brownstone partners Duncan and Ivan will soon follow.

Harriet Klausner

Deep Down-Karen Harper

Deep Down
Karen Harper
Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326458

In the Appalachia side of Kentucky, Sheriff Drew Webb of Deep Down calls Jess Lockwood to tell that her mom Mariah has disappeared. Only for Mariah would Jess come home as does not want to remember how much she once loved Drew.

Apparently, as part of the job her daughter got her several years ago Mariah was searching for Sang, a ginseng that is on the endangered species list. In the midst of her work, she vanished. Although Drew has no proof that foul play occurred, he quickly finds suspects who might harm Mariah as he and Jess believe her mom’s being missing is linked to Sang. As they investigate together, their previous feelings ignite, but first there is finding Mariah with neither suspecting how dangerous their inquiry will soon prove.

DEEP DOWN is an action-packed, fast-paced police procedural romantic suspense. The keys to the super story line are the fully developed lead couple as the audience will feel Mariah’s dichotomy of emotions of love and fear, and the location that adds a gloomy sinister ambiance. Readers will appreciate this exciting thriller as the heroine learns you can go home perhaps to die.

Harriet Klausner

Dangerous Lies-Anna Louise Lucia

Dangerous Lies
Anna Louise Lucia
Medallion, Jun 2009, $7.95
ISBN 9781934755082

Following the death of her father grieving twenty-four year old Englishwoman Marianne “Mari” Forster vacations in Rabat, Morocco so she can visit her paternal roots as her grandfather lived in the city. Nearby in the Sahara, thirtyish Alan Waring removes a smart card from a laptop held securely by a corpse. When worldly Alan and naively Mari meet, the attraction could light up the entire Atlantic coast of the country. After they make love, he leaves for home to deliver the smart card; only he grabs her bag instead of his.

Soon after he is in the air realizing his blunder, terrorists kidnap Mari. They rendition her taking her to Algeria as they seek the smart card. Meanwhile Alan has returned to North Africa seeking Mari and the card.

This engaging desert romantic suspense is a fun tale especially when the lead couple heat up Northern Africa. The story line is fast-paced when Mari and Alan couple, but slows down when they are apart even when she is held hostage. Thus fans who enjoy a fun contemporary romance with elements of intrigue will enjoy DANGEROUS LIES, but also need to understand the thriller elements never take charge nor anchor the plot, and in some ways feel more a detractor. Still the lead pair make for a fine African romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret Speech-Tom Rob Smith

The Secret Speech
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central, May 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446402408

In 1956 at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev claims Stalin was too paranoid leading to unnecessary fears throughout the country. He wants to loosen the controls so people can breathe without fear of being sent to a Gulag. However, THE SECRET SPEECH gets out and soon angry people retaliate against those who harmed family; mostly security officers.

One of those who knows he deserves assaults from those harmed is former MGB security officer Leo Demidov. He hopes his work as a homicide detective will give him some redemption, but he also believes he cannot ever make up for the atrocities he committed or allowed. Still using the success of catching a serial killer (see CHILD 44), he obtains official blessing to form a homicide police unit. As his peers from the Stalin days of torture commit suicide rather than face vigilante justice, Fraera the wife of a priest Leo sent to Siberia, abducts his daughter Zoya as a hostage and informs the cop release her spouse from the gulag or have his child returned dead.

Based on a real event that Gorbachev acknowledged in 2007 was the first courageous step away from Stalin’s brutal totalitarian reign, THE SECRET SPEECH is a great Soviet historical police procedural. The cast is strong especially the remorseful hero whose beloved daughter has become a pawn in a dangerous game and his and outraged enemy. As with the CHILD 44 case, Tom Rob Smith provides a deep Cold War era mystery in which 1950s Soviet Russia is the star; as readers will travel on frozen solid prison ships and underground Moscow to see a side of the nation the Communists hid.

Harriet Klausner

Back To Life-Linda O. Johnston

Back To Life
Linda O. Johnston
Silhouette Nocturne, Jun 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618132

During an assault with four other Angeles Beach SWAT officers, Trevor Owens is shot in the neck. The murder suspect Jerome Marinaro somehow escapes seemingly vanishing in thin air. K9 officer Skye Rydell saves his life by using her Valkyrie powers on Trevor because she senses he must complete something still on earth.

Skye knows she is also attracted to the SWAT officer, but avoids him because she fears he suspects his life was saved by paranormal means; something she keeps secret. However, Trevor has not forgotten his angel nor her dog (Bella) whom he knows saved his life somehow. He also believes he has things left to do on earth starting with following up on his attraction to that mysterious female.

Fans of paranormal romantic suspense thrillers will enjoy this engaging police procedural due to the actions and reluctant reactions of the lead couple towards one another. In fact Skye’s mixed feelings of wanting Trevor and avoiding him make the tale fun to read as she comes across so human in spite of her Valkyrie powers. BACK TO LIFE is a well written romantic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

From The Mists Of Wolf Creek-Rebecca Brandewyne

From The Mists Of Wolf Creek
Rebecca Brandewyne
Silhouette Nocturne, Jun 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618125

Hallie Muldoon decides to return to Wolf Creek after her late grandma bequeathes her the family farmhouse where Hallie remembers having spent great times growing up whenever she stayed there. However, still grieving her loss since only a month has passed since her grandma died, she ignores a Starry Night that van Gogh would appreciate. However as she drives on the two lane road in her sporty red Mini Cooper S, she sees a large black wolf.

Aunt Gwen greets her at the farm. Gwen has hired Trace Coltrane to repair the farm. However, soon inexplicable things begin to occur to include a stalker; with each incident the large black wolf appears ready to keep Hallie safe. Hallie begins to wonder if the strange occurrences including the wolf might be tied to her mom’s death several years ago.

This is an intriguing romantic suspense thriller in which the audience will wonder if the threat is psychological or paranormal as hints of both surface throughout the fine story line. Hallie and Trace are a wonderful pairing as she wonders just who he is. Although the ending is too fast and abrupt, fans will enjoy learning the secrets FROM THE MISTS OF WOLF CREEK.

Harriet Klausner

The Bone Factory-Nate Kenyon

The Bone Factory
Nate Kenyon
Leisure, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0843962879

Worried for the future especially their daughter Jessie, David and Helen Pierce are reaching the bottom of their savings. He is currently tring to get work having quit his last job when his superior stole his ideas without giving him any credit; his supervisor’s boss sided against David so he left. In retaliation they blacklisted him as a malcontent in the industry; no one will hire him due to the lies.

Hydro Development is building a hydroplant in an isolated area of Quebec. Michael Olmsted interviews and hires David for the position of completing the plan and overseeing the development of the reservoir in tiny Jackson. David and his family relocate to Jackson in the winter so can do little on the project. Jessie is clairvoyant, but her parents are in denial unable to accept the paranormal especially with their child. They soon learn the house they currently reside in, once had a little girl who just vanished without a trace; as did one of the searchers. Jessie and David see a shadow being, but both assume it is their active imagination while Helen fears she is being watched by a stalker though she sees no one. None of them understands the danger they face while a local deputy sheriff has stumbled onto a horrific site in the nearby woods that unless a miracle occurs could be the next stop for the Pierce trio.

There is a growing sense of foreboding as animals and fish look strange and a psychotic person disappears. Jessie’s visions increase that feeling as the reader senses like she does something is coming for her. As the Pierces put together the puzzle pieces, their chances of survival decreases; their only hope to get out alive is if David can find the missing links that relate the incidents to the project. Fans will enjoy Nate Kenyon’s creepy horror thriller as the next stop for the Pierce family appears to be a one way ticket to hell.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Julia And The Master Of Morancourt-Janet Aylmer

Julia And The Master Of Morancourt
Janet Aylmer
Harper, Apr 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 0061672955

In rustic Derbyshire, Julia Maitland would be the first to admit she had a near perfect childhood along with her younger sisters and her brother. Perhaps the only down part is her brother is fighting for the British against Napoleon and though she supports the cause she fears for her sibling. Still she looks forward to her first season in society where she hopes to make a match with a handsome caring gentleman who finds her attractive.

However, Julia's lifestyle and season collapses when her father’s investments fails followed by the news that her brother David died in combat. While the family grieves and adjusts to poverty, the patriarch suffers from depression and a weak heart leading to his wife’s desperation to make a suitable match for her oldest daughter as options are limited by society. Thus Julia ends up in London and Bath. That is followed by a trek to Dorsett with her Aunt Lucy where the previously docile country miss joins Kit chasing after smugglers, French agents, traitors, and love.

This Regency romp focuses on the accepted restrictions that the females of a family of quality are allowed and what duty must be done within these limitations. For instance although Julia’s mom would prefer to grieve her loss of her son; compounded by her husband’s health, having three daughters to marry, and the financial depression she heroically does what she believes is good for the family. The story line is fast-paced as Julia gets into one misadventure after another. With her sisters, wild Sophie and gentle Harriet, to go, Regency readers will look forward to future exploits by the Maitland siblings.

Harriet Klausner

B As In Beauty-Alberto Ferraras

B As In Beauty
Alberto Ferraras
Grand Central Publishing, Apr 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446697897

Cuban-American Beauty Marie Zavala is tired of the world judging her by her waistline just because she is forty pounds over the so called norm. She has tried everything to lose the excess, but fads come and go, diets and exercise come and go, but her weight remains the same. B is ashamed of her body.

She really tanks when she overhears her boss at the Manhattan ad company commenting negatively about her size; even worse her waistline apparently will prevent her from receiving a well deserved promotion. B has had enough with the put downs. Her best friend Lillian the petit suggests she do a remake of the entire B. Russian-American Tax accountant Natasha Sokolov offers her work to show off her voluptuous body to men who will pay for a big woman. B accepts the deal of spending time with big body worshipping males only her first client is disappointed when he sees her as he insists she is too small to be anything but a fashion model.

B AS IN BEAUTY is an entertaining contemporary tale starring a woman who fans will root for as she begins to not accept her size, she learns to accentuate her assets. B is the star, but the kindhearted madam-mentor somewhat steals the show with her tutelage. The irony that B is too small adds humor to a profound tale in which the heroine learns beauty is only skin deep.

Harriet Klausner

The Bridge of the Golden Horn- Emine Sevgi Ozdamar

The Bridge of the Golden Horn
Emine Sevgi Ozdamar
Serpent's Tail, May 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9781852429324

In 1966 sixteen years old, she lies about her age so no one can prevent her from being a “guest worker” while she studies the Berlin theatre. Her Turkish middle class upbringing is probably more of a handicap than her age as that has left her naïve because she is used to protection. However, she begins to expand her experiences when she meets members of the Turkish Workers' Association and starts to read the works of German Prime Minister Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Gorky, Engels, and others. The young woman already overcame the typical Turkish education of dumping down females so that they remain obedient of their male family members or she would not live across from the theater. Yet the older women tell her to treasure her virginity while a friend insists that leaves her ignorant of men who control art.

When she returns to Istanbul, she is considered modern because she pays her way, but continues her study of movies under a drama teacher who wants art to imitate real life like street peddlers who work the Bridge of the Golden Horn. However, belonging to a Marxist group proves dangerous as they are beaten and his works tossed into the Sea of Marmara. With toilets stopped up with leftist literature, the woman vows to leave Turkey after being jailed for allegedly abetting Kurdish separatists.

This is a fabsulous translation of a great autobiographical fiction novel that brings to life tumultuous Turkey in the late 1960s when being left meant being left out as well as the role women were allowed. The story line follows the escapades of the heroine who learns so much about life in Berlin, but realizes how much when she returns to Istanbul. Apparently THE BRIDGE OF THE GOLDEN HORN is the second of three autobiographical fictions; Emine Sevgi Ozdamar provides an entertaining profound historical novel.

Harriet Klausner

Censoring an Iranian Love Story-Shahriar Mandipout

Censoring an Iranian Love Story
Shahriar Mandipout
Knopf, May 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780307269782

As Shahriar turns fifty, he is tired of his futile attempts at writing a strong novel only to have the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance censor the guts of each one. It is so bad he knows exactly what Pofiry Petrovich, as he calls his official hound, will find objectionable, which usually guts the story line.

Shahriar decides to try an upbeat optimistic tale, a love story set in modern day Iran. He begins writing how Sara and Dara meet at the library and fell in love. However, Iranian Campaign Against Social Corruption forbids this couple being alone; their parents object to their being alone; and other family and friends also oppose their being alone. Still they defy the government, the religious leaders, and their parents by serendipitously meeting wherever they can. However, as he writes his classic, Shahriar realizes how much trouble he could be in; he begins censoring passages, ripping out the heart of his novel. Yet he still tries to sneak some scenes of the couple together without chaperones into the plot (the theme of his novel) by having his lead couple suffer remorse and ruin at the end hopefully making it morally acceptable by the Iranian literary cop.

This translation will be considered one of the top satires of the year as Shahriar Mandipout uses censorship to tell a story of romance in modern day Iran, but could be in almost any place as for instance the political corporate media complex assaults those with an opposing view. The story line is super as Shahriar the fictional author edits his work by crossing out what he expects deleted, which guts his writing. Fans will relish this excellent use of romance to lampoon censorship.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Takes the Cake-Evelyn David

Murder Takes the Cake
Evelyn David
Echelon, May 1 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 1590806182

One week before Thanksgiving DC private investigator Mac Sullivan, a loner except for Whiskey the dog, finds his world upside down since Sullivan and Company has “grown”. First, his business is in trouble needing paying customers not just bartering clients. Second, his assistant twenty-two years old Juliana “JJ” Jarrett and his elderly ailing researcher Edger are driving him crazy. Finally there is divorcee single mom Rachel Brenner who works at a funeral home and whom he is attracted to and believes she reciprocates his feelings, but he has no idea how to act on a date.

Now his about to marry goddaughter, Boston reporter Bridget O'Herlihy, visits him asking for his help as she swears someone is trying to kill her. Although he doubts this is the case, he takes the threat seriously and sends his team out on assignments. Soon the corpses pile up while the groom and his family insist she is being a drama queen; at a time her dad Jeff wonders who stole caskets from his funeral home. Mac, JJ, Edger, Rachel and Whiskey keep digging looking for the ties that bound everyone involved.

The second Murder Takes (see MURDER OFF THE BOOKS) is an amusing cozy starring an ensemble cast of eccentrics. The story line is fast-paced while containing two mysteries tied to death (corpses and coffins are like peanut butter and jelly), a maybe romance, enemy canine-feline, an out of control wedding plan, and junk cars. The characters make for a fun lighthearted frolic as Evelyn David proves in deed MURDER TAKES THE CAKE.

Harriet Klausner

No Warriors, No Glory-Harold Coyle

No Warriors, No Glory
Harold Coyle
Forge, May 12 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 0765318970

US Army Captain Nathan Dixon is still limping from his war injuries and suffering nightmares as he does a tour at the pentagon. Colonel Kaplan reminds him that the army runs on Vince Lombardi Standard time, which means “if you’re on time, you’re late” before Dixon meets with the Chief of Staff General Stevens, who adds him on to his staff at a time when the army struggles with two brutal wars and radical transformation.

Nathan is assigned to review a friendly fire incident. Having been in combat, he understands the harrowing chaotic fog of war leads to mistakes in spite of the military emphasis to eliminate these deadly errors; he also knows his probe is not to pin accountability in order to punish someone, but to determine the cause, ascertain if it is systemic, and come up with CALL lessons learned to remove any future errors. The incident was caused by an unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGV) during a test; a type of war machine he does not know anything about. He obtains an education on vested interests as the C.O. knows his career is teetering; the manufacturer contractor does not want production on hold as he will be unemployed; and the victim’s peers prefer to conceal the truth mostly Dixon assumes out of fear of retaliatory ends to their careers. Dixon understands his mission is to uncover the truth, but no one cooperates.

This is a terrific timely look at the modern army through the eyes of a career officer still suffering from PTSD whose current assignment is more difficult in many ways than combat because his brothers and sisters in arms do not want to talk. Fans will make comparisons to the Pat Tillman tragedy that raised awareness of friendly fire incidents, but Dixon’s case is different as this inquiry is into a training event involving drones. This super military investigative thriller provides a powerful glimpse at the modern military in which increasingly means NO WARRIORS, NO GLORY or salutes to Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

Harriet Klausner

6 Killer Bodies-Stephanie Bond

6 Killer Bodies
Stephanie Bond
Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778327073

In Atlanta the police arrest body mover Cooper Craft accusing him of being The Charmed Killer. As women feel safer going outside, his friend Carlotta Wren thinks the cops made a big error as she feels her former working peer Michael Lane is the serial killer.

Police detective Jack Terry agrees with Carlotta's assessment that the wrong man is in custody, but has doubts about Lane being the killer. Carlotta investigates, which enables her to ignore the other two men in her life, her brother Wesley who seems to land in one dire strait after another and her former fiancé, Peter Ashford, who wants a second chance though he dumped her when she was down and seemingly out for the count. Cooper is out on bail but required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet. He removes the tracking device and vanishes, which enforces the opinion he is the Charmed Killer.

The full focus on the sixth Body Movers' thriller is The Charmed Killer, which will keep readers focused on the story line; as the sidebar distractions of 4 and 5 are avoided. Instead, Stephanie Bond provides her fans with a terrific entry as increasingly with every discovery Carlotta makes, Cooper is guilty; his fleeing the coop just adds to the overwhelming proof. 6 KILLER BODIES is a strong entry in the Body Movers’ saga.

Harriet Klausner

Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can't Put Down-Clive Cussler (editor)

Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can't Put Down
Clive Cussler (editor)
Mira, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778327233

The twenty three tales included in this collection are for the most part excellent and timely. The anthology opens with Jeffery Deaver's "The Weapon" focusing on torture while Lisa Jackson’s “Vintage Death” contains several terrific thriller twists. “The Circle” by David Hewson will indirectly remind readers of the London bombings as a pregnant woman riding the tube hears a passenger mumbling "They will remember my name." Marcus Sakey's "The Desert Here and the Desert Far Away" examines how strong the bond the band of brothers forged in the battlefields of the Iraq War survives once everyone is stateside. Gary Braver's "Ghost Writer" was once a famous novelist, but now writes stories for other people to “author” as that pays better though leaves him depressed. Finally with Carla Neggers, Joan Johnston, Robert Ferrigno, Jon Land, R.L. Stine, and Lisa Jackson amongst others contributing, THRILLER 2 lives up to its subtitle of “stories you can’t put down”.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Secrets She Left Behind-Diane Chamberlain

Secrets She Left Behind
Diane Chamberlain
Mira, Jun 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778326151

In Topsail Island, North Carolina Sara Weston has vanished without a trace; she left behind her seventeen year old son Keith. Worried about his mom, Keith is still recovering from his near death due to an arson fire at the church. He is also scared and angry that his nineteen year old half-sister Maggie Lockwood is being released from prison after serving one year for her role in the events that led to the fire.

Maggie is filled with remorse for her role in what happened to her half-brother. She vows to take whatever rage Keith dishes at her, though her younger teenage brother Andy, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder yet saved many lives from the blaze, threatens to intervene. As the three siblings struggle with life in general and with each other, they each wonder what happened to Sara.

This is more than just a direct sequel to BEFORE THE STORM as several of the major scenes are recreated with a different perspective; a technique used by Elizabeth George (see WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS and WHAT CAME BEFORE HE SHOT HER) and Jean Johnson (see THE CAT and THE STORM). The story line retains the fascination of the first book as readers see closely the sibling rivalries from rotating first person perspectives and Sara’s journal. Readers will wonder if the SECRETS SHE LEFT BEHIND will lead to answers as to what happened to Sara.

Harriet Klausner

Harbor Lights-Sherryl Woods

Harbor Lights
Sherryl Woods
Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326410

Over a year ago the military informed former army medic Kevin O'Neill that his wife Georgia also a medic was killed in Iraq. Devastated but knowing he became a single dad, the civilian paramedic and his two year old son Davy leave Arlington, Virginia to move back to his hometown, Chesapeake Shores, so his family especially his grandma can help him raise his child.

Recently divorced Shanna Carlyle also moves to Chesapeake Shores where she opens up a bookstore on Main Street. When they meet each is attracted to the other, but she still reels from her divorce from alcoholic Greg though more because of who she had to leave behind; and he from his wife’s death. Still his family starting with the lethal combo of his grandma and son along with other townsfolk begin a matchmaking campaign to pair up the reluctant ones. However, as they fall in love, her secret abusive past surfaces with the loved one she left behind arriving in town and Kevin’s trust leaving.

The third Chesapeake Shores romance (see THE INN AT EAGLE POINT and FLOWERS ON MAIN) is a deep tale starring two strong lead characters and a deep support cast. The story line is fast-paced but driven by Shanna and Kevin as neither is ready for a relationship as both have issues; he feels guilt for his attraction and she has not forgotten the cost of leaving her marriage. Fans will enjoy the latest visit to Chesapeake Shores.

Harriet Klausner

The Drowning River-Kim Byrne

The Drowning River
Kim Byrne
Five Star, Jun 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594147692

Elise Moloney attends graduate school as an English major at Whitman on the Cape on a full scholarship. A student in her first class stares at her and afterward introduces himself as Parker Reilly before blurting out he thought she was dead. Later he shows her a picture from last year’s undergraduate yearbook of a deceased student Hannah McPhee who looks like Elise’s twin. She learns Hannah died when she fell off a bridge while drunk into the Drowning River

Accompanied by her sex is everything roommate Kat Herrerra, Elise returns home to nearby Hingham to ask her parents if she had a sister that they failed to adopt like they did her. They are stunned saying no, but her mom says if they knew they would have wanted both siblings. Elise investigates what happened to her sibling as Parker’s roomie Robbie DeLuca insists Heather was pushed. Meanwhile her attraction to Parker grows even as she knows she owes her former fiancé Nick Carrano more than just the letter she sent him ending their relationship. As she digs deeper, someone warns Elise that if she does not back off her parents will die. Being a coward, she wants to quit but even the cowardly lion finds courage to continue the trek.

Although a bit slow at first, this is a fun amateur sleuth cozy starring a likeable heroine who is in shell shock for most of the tale as she leaves her comfort zone to investigate her dead twin, her biological background, and love. While the cast is solid, Elise is fabulous as she accepts she is a coward yet does what she feels she must do. She reacts perfectly to revelations about a previously unknown twin and her avariceious biological mom. Although the killer will be quite a shocker, the culprit makes sense providing complete closure to the story line. Fans will enjoy this entertaining Massachusetts cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Woman Strangled—News at Ten-Laurie Moore

Woman Strangled—News at Ten
Laurie Moore
Five Star, Jun 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147623

Aspen Wicklow graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in journalism and a belief she would soon own the media world. Alas, she is down to double digits in cash and one in prospects. Shocking herself, Aspen obtains a highly regarded job on the Fort Worth TV show Public Defender.

However her first time on the WBFD-TV show, she meets fellow reporter Tig Welder, who warns “Investigative Reporter Barbie” to never scoop or trump him; if she tries she is toast. Station manager J. Gordon Pfeiffer tells her if she wants to stay employed to avoid being the story. Aspen soon meets Johnson County Sheriff Spike Granger when he complains vociferously about overcrowded prisons. She also investigates missing person Candy Drummond, who pledged at the same University of North Texas sorority as she did. Not long afterward her strangled corpse is found and Aspen finds she has broken TV show rules one and two by trumping Tig and becoming part of the story when her inquiries take a life and death of their own.

Laura Moore proves she is not jinxed as she starts a new series starring a fabulous heroine who struggles to adhere to the “rules” while remaining true to herself. The whodunit is fast-paced yet quite amusing and filled with plausible enjoyable twists (a trademark of this author) as Spike and Aspen invesitgate separately and somewhat togetehr (especially when he is checking her out). Fans will enjoy the opening act of a strong journalist mystery.
Harriet Klausner

Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss- Kyra Davis

Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss
Kyra Davis
Mira, Jun 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778327363

A decade has passed since mystery writer Sophie Katz saw her slimy former spouse Scott Colvin. However to her shock, she runs into him at an open house in the Marina District where a $1.4-million fixer-upper is up for sale. Her initial reaction is someone spiked her frap. Her second thought comes when Scott offers his ex a sweetheart deal; which she knows means he is hiding something from her because Scott Colvin means trouble for anyone who ventures within a kilometer of his sphere.

The Victorian house is owned by Oscar Crammer, who insists his place is haunted and is willing to let it go for practically nothing. Scott takes Sophie to the mansion where they find the house haunted by the corpse of Oscar. The late owner’s son Kane also believes the house is haunted and agrees to honor his father’s price quote on the stipulation that Sophie join the San Francisco Specter Society to help him contact his father's ghost. Amateur sleuth Sophie and her private investigator boyfriend Anatoly Darinsky, hired by the victim’s estranged wife to prove she did not kill him, think the house is haunted by humans and set out to prove the bumps in the night are mortal as is the killler

This is an amusing lighthearted investigative murder mystery that will hook the audience on two levels. First spunky Sophie is super as she takes San Francisco while providing her first person perspective which includes plenty of in your face comments. Second is the cleverly designed séance-homicide that turns out to be a locked room murder. Kyra Davis writes a terrific whodunit starring an amateur sleuth filled with lust for her boyfriend, loathing for her ex, and needing a little lip gloss for her boyfriend.

Harriet Klausner

Red Hot Lies-Laura Caldwell

Red Hot Lies
Laura Caldwell
Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326502

In Chicago, Pickett Enterprises top entertainment lawyer twenty-nine year old Isabel “Izzy” McNeil is doing great at the job due to her spunky optimistic approach and more so because client Forester Pickett likes her so he gives her his thriving business. However, unlike her professional life, normally energetic Izzy is losing it as her marriage to Sam Hollings is coming soon.

The same day that Pickett dies from a heart attack, Sam vanishes with thirty million dollars in stock in a Panamanian real estate venture. The police want to question Sam, as the last person to be known to have been with Pickett before he died. Her relationships with both men make Izzy a prime suspect in the missing bonds and in Pickett’s death. As the FBI searches for Sam and they and the CPD stake out Izzy, she begins an investigation into her fiancé’s wherebouts scooting on her Vespa on the mean streets of Chicago.

Izzy tells much of the exciting story line as she bikes along the Windy City seeking clues to the whereabouts of her missing fiancé and to solve who committed the murder. However as she "joy" rides through the city, enough law enforcement types to fill Wrigley and thugs to fill U.S. Cellular Field (or is that the New Comiskey Park) follow her. Fans will enjoy this entertaining amateur sleuth as somehow everything converges on Iz who could use a day off; just not in jail.

Harriet Klausner

Cry Mercy-Toni Andrews

Cry Mercy
Toni Andrews
Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326489

In the Balboa Peninsular of California hypnotherapist Mercy Hollings has the mental ability to “press" people into doing what she wants them to do using her mind to coax a person. She has always struggled to control her ability because she knows it is not ethical to intrude even when you want to. Her friend Sukey has been helping her look back on her life while moving near the ocean has provided her with some solace.

Mercy wants to know why her adoptive parents eventually abandoned her. At the same time she wants to help former gangbanger chief Tino who wants to become a realtor. Tino also needs Mercy to help get his younger brother out of the gang lifestyle, but not all the punks are normal members as some come from the dark places where souls dare not go.

CRY MERCY is as always with this saga a fun but odd paranormal Mercy Hollings thriller (see BEG FOR MERCY and ANGEL OF MERCY). The story line is fast-paced but owned by the heroine who rips skin with her sarcastic retorts. Fans will enjoy the latest antics of Mercy as Toni Andrews provides an amusing refreshing beach fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Cry Mercy-Toni Andrews

Cry Mercy
Toni Andrews
Mira, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778326489

In the Balboa Peninsular of California hypnotherapist Mercy Hollings has the mental ability to “press" people into doing what she wants them to do using her mind to coax a person. She has always struggled to control her ability because she knows it is not ethical to intrude even when you want to. Her friend Sukey has been helping her look back on her life while moving near the ocean has provided her with some solace.

Mercy wants to know why her adoptive parents eventually abandoned her. At the same time she wants to help former gangbanger chief Tino who wants to become a realtor. Tino also needs Mercy to help get his younger brother out of the gang lifestyle, but not all the punks are normal members as some come from the dark places where souls dare not go.

CRY MERCY is as always with this saga a fun but odd paranormal Mercy Hollings thriller (see BEG FOR MERCY and ANGEL OF MERCY). The story line is fast-paced but owned by the heroine who rips skin with her sarcastic retorts. Fans will enjoy the latest antics of Mercy as Toni Andrews provides an amusing refreshing beach fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Orcs: Bad Blood-Stan Nicholls

Orcs: Bad Blood
Stan Nicholls
Orbit, Apr 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 0316033693

On the planet Maras-Dantia, the Wolverine band of Orc soldiers unwillingly served the cruel evil Queen Jennesta; she demanded they find five instrumentalities. When they are put together, they form a portal that opens up into other worlds. The orcs use it to go to their homeworld Ceragan, a clean place populated by Orcs only. The leader of the wolverine band Stryke and others are weary of the constant deadly battles and see this realm as a haven.

They choose to remain here and stop fighting in order to live out the remainder of their lives rusticating in harmony and peace. Seraphim the human arrives informing them of a depressing tale of atrocities as orcs are in decline and humans are hunting them like they are dumb beasts on Acurial. The wolverines learn that Jennesta still lives and is coming after them to take the instrumentalities that will make her queen of all worlds. Stryke and the wolverines know they must go to Acurial to end the genocide and prevent the queen from achieving her objective. Jennesta remains in a position of power so has much to toss at her former minions whom she calls traitors. Still Stryke and the Wolverines are willing to fight to the death to prevent her from making an already horrific situation worse.

ORCS: BAD BLOOD makes a case that the species is not evil brutal thugs but are intelligent rational beings who battle to the extreme rather than surrender (think of the Highlander warriors in pre Culloden Scotland). They do not believe in slaughter, massacres or genocide, but will bravely fight against overwhelming odds. In fact they look forward to a quiet life and death in bed on their new world, but feel duty calls so they travel Acurial world to free the orcs though they assume a trap awaits them. There is plenty of action though little is settled even as Stryke and his wolverines prove the orcs are so different than the prejudicial Tolkien standard.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lucky Streak-Carly Phillips

Lucky Streak
Carly Phillips
Harlequin HQN, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773756

In Las Vegas Amber Rose has lived the life of a con-artist and card counter in high-stakes poker games as a way to bring in necessary income to pay for the care of her Alzheimer's-stricken father. Now she plans to go straight though she fears her partner Marshall Banks will go ballistic, but does not care as she wants out.

When Banks turns nasty, Boston cop Mike Corwin, in town for a wedding, rescues Amber. She joins him and his party, giving them a special tour of Sin City from an insider’s perspective. The day ends in ecstasy when Mike wins the $100,000 jackpot and marries Amber. In the morning, he finds his wife and his money missing. Sad but wiser, Mike returns home. Amber returns to his hotel to explain why, but he has left town. Amber follows love to Boston, but Mike rejects her pleading as he sees cons as thieves as the end never justifies the means. However, when Marshall and some cohorts come after Amber, Mike begins to reconsider what life was like before he met Amber and what it will be like if he kicks her to the curb.

The second Corwin contemporary curse romance (see LUCKY CHARM) stars two fabulous lead protagonists whose recent work places them on opposite sides of the law. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Mike and Amber meet and never slows down in Vegas or Boston. Although the ancient curse plays a lesser role in Mike’s saga, fans will appreciate Amber opening Mike’s eyes as she colors his world with love if he accepts her as his heart’s artist.

Harriet Klausner

Heartless-Diana Palmer

Diana Palmer
Harlequin HQN, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780373773787

When she was a teen Gracie March was attracted to her older stepbrother Jason Pendleton, but she hid her feelings though not her hero worship of him. Jason also was somewhat attracted to her, but felt it was inappropriate so he blocked his feelings. He ultimately left with plans to make it on his own. However, when her mom died, he arranged for Gracie to be cared for.

Jason comes home for the first time in years as he owns Comanche Wells Ranch. He and Grace share a passionate kiss and he realizes he loves her. However, she rejects him as she fears her secret shame will drive the only man she ever loved away so thinking convoluted she leaves first. Jason becomes engaged on the rebound; unaware his fiancée plans to rid his hanger-on family members starting with Gracie who is thinking of leaving Comanche Wells anyway. A couple of abductions led by the “General” leave Gracie and Jason reconsidering the past, present, and mostly the future.

The latest Texas contemporary romance (see FEARLESS) is an engaging tale starring a lead female used to being care for by family and an older experienced champion used to getting his way. His plan is to take care of his stepsister and ignore their attraction, but that proves futile. As Gracie becomes independent, Jason knows he must give her the chance to fail though his gut is killing him. Although the suspense seems more a detractor even if it forces Gracie to act, readers will enjoy the omega female trying to become at least a beta as Diana Palmer provides an entertaining ranch romance.

Harriet Klausner

Freudian Slip-Erica Orloff

Freudian Slip
Erica Orloff
Harlequin HQN, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373774227

Hot and steamy New York has book editor Katie Darby taking a taxi instead of the subway. She and her cabby discuss God’s sense of humor even as his radio is blasting the raunchy show of Julian Shaw. When she arrives at her boyfriend’s apartment she finds him with her best friend. Crying she leaves in the same cab that brought her over only to find someone busted in and robbed her apartment and her dog is missing. All this occurs right before the anniversary of her father's death and now she is hearing voices in her head demanding she do things she never would even think of doing.

Julian Shaw loves being a “pervert” and enjoys making a living from a life of depravity and decadence. However, he has made numerous enemies especially from the moral right and from family members of his “guests”; one of these zealots shoots him. Julian falls into a coma, but in his comatose state, voices demand he assist Katie find a better life; the stakes are his soul. He figures how hard this can be until he tries and falls in love with her; now if it means his eternal soul so be it because kissable Katie is his for the rest of his albeit seemingly short life.

This superb romantic fantasy is filled with whimsical love as matchmaking seems to come from beyond. Katie and Julian are opposites and in fact she makes it clear to her taxi driver what she thinks of the city’s top rated pervert. Fans who relish something refreshingly different will enjoy the aptly titled FREUDIAN SLIP as the antihero finds his soul and heart when he decides to become the champion of love instead of depravity.

Harriet Klausner

Lip Service-Susan Mallory

Lip Service
Susan Mallory
Harlequin HQN, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773725

She obeyed her tyrannical father once and married his choice of a mate instead of her beloved Mitch Cassidy who left town joining the Navy SEALs. Skye Titan regretted her decision. When her spouse died, she vowed never again as she raises their daughter. Yet her father Jed demands she marry again for business purposes TJ Boone who is more interested in her sister Izzy.

A veteran with war related injuries Mitch has come home. He still loves Skye, but has not forgotten her betrayal when she acquiesced to her dad. Jed is pressuring her again, but she holds him off hoping for a second chance with Mitch even as she worries about how he and her daughter will relate. Finally, there is another new man in her life, an angry half-brother who wants to destroy the Titan clan.

The second Titan family romance (see UNDER HER SKIN) is an engaging second chance at love romance, but first Skye must find courage to accept her failure to stand up to her father and Mitch must find his lost heart to learn to forgive. Neither seems to have that particular trait in their arsenal as Mitch remains angry while Skye struggles with disobedience especially with her beloved family in trouble. Fans will enjoy Susan Mallory’s engaging character driven contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

The Confessions of a Duchess-Nicola Cornick

The Confessions of a Duchess
Nicola Cornick
Harlequin HQN, Jun 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773770

In 1809 in the village of Fortune’s Folly, Sir Montague Fortune is outraged when former housemaid Miss Alice Lister rejected him as the rumored wealthy heiress realized her suitor groom is an unprincipled person. Irate by the affront of an aristocrat like him by a working class nothing, Sir Montague decides to punish all unmarried females when he applies the medieval Dames Tax; either a woman is married or she pays half her fortune to the squire; in this case him.

The outraged single females decide to take counteraction with this sexist stance led by the Dowager Duchess Laura Cole as the village is flooded by impoverish wastrels who see the village as a marriage mart. Meanwhile the Home Secretary sends Dexter Anstruther to Fortune’s Folly to investigate a homicide and for him to find a wealthy wife. However, Dexter is stunned to find Laura resides there; the greatest night of his life was with her four years ago but she dumped him in the morning after. As they fall in love and become lovers, she again rejects his proposal fearing her secret will send her beloved away; though he struggles on his personal front, he follows murder clues while she leads a Lysistrata like insurgency.

THE CONFESSIONS OF A DUCHESS is an intelligent Regency romance starring a strong secondary cast and two likable lead protagonists. The story line is fast-paced and amusing as the women revolt against their penuriousness (with his money) spendthrift (with their money) squire. Although the Regency era is not fully anchored, fans of historical romance will relish the Lysistrata insurgents dealing with an invasion of slimy piss poor males.

Harriet Klausner

Black and White-Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittridge

Black and White
Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittridge
Bantam, Jun 2 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553386318

The extrahumans attend the Academy where they obtain intensive training learning how to control their super powers before going out amongst civilians to stop crime. Five years after graduating from the Academy, Joannie “Jet” Greene tries to catch her former school roommate Callie “Iridium” Bradford for dealing with unsanctioned (by the ruling Corps) criminals. The pair was once best friends, but their differences over brainwashing by the Academy and the Corps abuse of extrahumans led to a dispute. Jet believed what she was told while Iri saw a dark commercial purpose behind the institutions. This acrimonious split might be a legacy of their fathers with Jet’s dead and Iri’s jailed or more to the point could be their powers as Jet uses shadows and Iri the light.

The former BFFs separately begin to uncover a dangerous conspiracy in New Chicago. Meanwhile Jet meets and teams up with normal human Bruce Hunter who brings a metaphoric light to her heart while she thinks Iri is part of the treachery. Iri meets and teams up with vigilante Taser who brings a bit of the dark into her heart while she deems Jet is part of the treachery. Soon these two BFFs and their new sidekicks will learn that neither is all light or all dark as the universe has an abundance of colors and shades; that is they will learn if they stop fighting one another and live long enough.

Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittridge provide a fun super friends fantasy that blends elements of romance, thriller, and science fiction into an exciting BFF (in this case BFF was best friend forever but has become best enemy forever) superhero tale. The cast is solid as Jet and Iri begin to understand that the whole is greater than either part. Although fast than a speeding bullet story line lacks depth, graphic comic book fans will enjoy the action-packed quarrel between two former super friends.

Harriet Klausner

Naamah’s Kiss-Jacqueline Carey

Naamah’s Kiss
Jacqueline Carey
Grand Central, Jun 24 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780446198035

From the time she was a young girl in Alba, Moirin of the Maghuin Dhonn, an isolated clan of the Brown Bear worshippers, Moirin heard the voices and saw the faces of other deities. Although she did not know it, other Gods were worshipped in Terre d'Ange. She conducts a quiet inquiry and learns her unknown father was a D'Angeline priest serving Naamah, the goddess of desire. As a mage with power, Moirin also begins to explore and upon maturity travels into the spirit world where she will either be fully accepted or totally rejected by the Maghuin Dhonn

She accepts her and the divine spark, the diadh-anam stays in her essence. Moirin learns she has a destiny to fulfill. She goes to Terre d'Ange to meet her father, but is run over by Raphael de Mereliot whose lover is Jerhanne, the queen of the city of Eula. Moirin learns she has the power to heal people even from death though that drains her. Jehanne and Morin become lovers as the newcomer is the first person the queen has trusted in years; she would like to stay with her lover, but Moirin is asked by her mentor Lord Bo to return home with him to Ch’in because the emperor’s daughter and heir is demon possessed. In Ch’in, Moirin realizes what the problem is and asks Snow Tiger, the emperor’s heir to trust her. Neither was prepared for a coup d’etat by an evil sorcerere.

NAAMAH’S KISS takes place in the same world as the Kushiel saga only decades later. Once again Jacqueline Cary shows her skill at world-building in this super cerebral yet action-packed fantasy. The cast is solid especially the mages and the characters with supernatural powersl, but anchored in time and place by everyday people and political leaders. In many ways a coming of age thriller as the heroine learns of her illustrious roots (not just dad), the story line belongs to the vivid descriptions especially of the dark sides of Ch’in and Terre d’Ange as Morin explores both with energy and love.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tide, Feather, Snow-Miranda Weiss

Tide, Feather, Snow
Miranda Weiss
Harper, Apr 28 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 0061710253

This is an engaging memoir of Miranda Weiss’s first year living in Alaska after residing in Oregon where she taught straight fifth-grade science. She describes vividly the adjustment she and her boyfriend John made when they accepted teaching positions in the small village Homer. They travel all over the area leaning its history with landmarks. However, the deepest most interesting part of this excellent year in the life of is the profound look at how the Old Believers live while the pair struggles to become more like the locals; self sufficient. For instance they catch salmon in the Kenai River to freeze for the long winter, etc. However, the long periods with just one another led to deep musing by the pair and the end of their relationship; though that segue is the weakest piece due to being overly dramatic. This a terrific insightful look at the cost to a “Forty Eighter” trying to become Alaska-acclimatized in the final American frontier.

Harriet Klausner

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single-Heather Mcelhatton

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single
Heather Mcelhatton
Harper, May 5 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061461361

In Minnesota, though she dreams of being a real writer, thirty years old Jennifer Johnson works as a copywriter toiling in the marketing department of Keller's department store. She is currently going through some difficult personal times with the least being a fire in her cherished apartment. Jennifer struggles with her younger sister getting married though she is happy for her Bridezilla sibling; she even loathes more her ex who is also getting married though she does not want the Groomzilla rat back. Both are marrying others on Valentine Day’s; a holiday that has betrayed her. Finally she seems to have lost the battle of the bulge accepting size 12 for the first time though she is freaking out.

Dating especially on-line has proven one disaster after another so much so she wonders if this is divine punishment. Her co-worker Ted loves Jenifer, but she ignores his kindness as being weak. Meanwhile, the store’s heir Brad Keller asks her out to her shock as she cannot think of one reason why her. As they go out a lot, she changes her goals to meet what she perceives he wants; soon he proposes and she accepts, but though her new objective is not being single she has nagging doubts every time she thinks beyond her immediate goal.

Unlikable as the lead is in many ways especially with her opinionated décor attitude on life, fans will enjoy this fine chick lit tale ironically due to Jennifer, who paints an honest, often amusing and not always kind self portrait. The story line overuses acceptable chick lit devices, but overcomes the expected standard with the sarcastic at times contemptuous look at relationships. This fun frolic will surprise readers with a wonderful final spin as Jennifer understands the realism of what her Prince Charming is.

Harriet Klausner

Busy Woman Seeks Wife-Annie Sanders

Busy Woman Seeks Wife
Annie Sanders
5 Spot, Apr 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446505444

Marketing executive Alex Hill is too busy to worry about her domestic fiascos as she spends seemingly 24/7 on creating an ad campaign to introduce a new sportswear product line. However, ignoring her home proves futile when her flighty mother Bean falls and needs caretaker help; the former sixties model moves in with Alex.

Alex seeks a "wife" to clean the house, cook meals, and care for mom. Her friend Saffron finds her Ella, who after one day leaves without notice as she has a better offer. Instead Ella, without informing Alex, pleads with her out work actor brother Frankie to take over her position so that someone is there for Bean. He agrees and enjoys cooking idolizes Bean whom was a paper thin role model, and performs the household drudgery. Saffron and Bean hide Frankie from Alex because each believes the exec would never accept a man doing this type of work well. That subterfuge fails when Alex finds Frankie at her home; she fires him and throws everyone including Bean out. However, not only is her house back to shambles and her eating fast food, the new product launch falls apart. Frankie and his posse of pushy females want to save Alex’s butt if she lets them.

Though absolutely predictable in a Lucy- Ethel harebrained way, once all the players are introduced, BUSY WOMAN SEEKS WIFE is an amusing wacky contemporary that plays on gender bending and the role of superwomen in modern society. The key cast members are fully developed with each having several flaws hyperbolized to add to the zaniness of the plot. Ironically, each key character is also very caring of the others in their relationships, which leads to a strange ethics of protecting one another even if that means lying. Fans will enjoy this madcap screwball comedy.

Harriet Klausner

The Lord of Death-Eliot Pattison

The Lord of Death
Eliot Pattison
Soho, Jun 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9781569475799

In China former Beijing investigator Shan Tao Yun learned the hard way about being too diligent pursuing corruption in the highest levels of the government as he was not only fired he was exiled to a Tibetan gulag. An elderly wise-woman orders him to take a corpse across the state’s highest peak Chomolungma because the Gods selected him. As he treks with a mule carrying the body, Shan comes across an overturned bus filled with outlawed Buddhist monks that was knocked over by an avalanche. Within moments, he hears gunfire. Two people in a car are killed; one is China's minister of tourism and the other blond American Megan Ross.

Shan is arrested, but convinces the investigator of his innocence. Soon afterward Colonel Tan is arrested. Shan was hoping Tan would intervene to rescue his enslaved son, Shan Ko from a “yeti factory” where workers die rather quickly that is if they remain sane long enough to die. Shan must find the killer to free his offspring, but the officials insist Ross is alive though she died in Shan’s arms.

The latest Shan Chinese mystery (see PRAYER OF THE DRAGON and BONE MOUNTAIN) is a superb investigative thriller because the strong insistence by officials and witnesses hamper the lead protagonist’s inquiry. Ironically he is the last witness to see the woman alive, but his testimony is ignored because he is in official exile and to insure that Beijing is pleased with the results. Fans will enjoy Shan’s desperate probe as he knows his son’s mind at a minimum and more likely his life is at stake as no one leaves the factory the same way they entered; this indirect condemnation of Chinese manufacturing using enslaved labor to punish as well as undercut global competition enhances a great investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx-Sally Koslow

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx
Sally Koslow
Ballantine, May 19 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345506207

Thirty-five year old upper class mom of a precocious preschool daughter Annabel, Molly Marx led a divine life until her battered corpse is found next to her bike near the Hudson. She arrives at Duration holding station in limbo unaware of what happened to her. As she awaits her afterlife fate, Molly watches the investigation by NYPD into her death.

Though it could have been a horrific accident or even suicide, the Manhattan detective Hiawatha Hicks believes murder occurred and look closely at everyone associated with Molly. The prime suspects range from her cheating spouse plastic surgeon Barry; her demanding catty mother-in-law Kitty; the victim’s lover Luke; her twin Lucy; her best friend Brie; and a chorus line of Barry lovers particularly his latest Stephanie who all want to be wife number two even before Molly is buried. Escorted by Bob the spiritual guide, Molly returns to Manhattan to insure her loved ones especially her child are okay and to learn why someone wanted her dead even as she recognizes her faults.

THE LATE, LAMENTED MOLLY MARX is a terrific paranormal police procedural seen mostly through the eyes of the dead victim. Molly is fabulous as she holds the earthy and after life plots together. Readers meet the suspects through Molly’s lens; for instance her twin comes across grieving and deranged, her child misses her mommy, her spouse deserves the Wilt Chamberlain award for scoring; and Brie and Hiawatha seem attracted to one another. Although the ending is not quite as powerful as the visits to the celestial and Upper West Side neighborhoods, Sally Koslow provides a deep character driven crime thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Windless Summer-Heather Sharfeddin

Windless Summer
Heather Sharfeddin
Delta, May 19 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780385341875

The townsfolk of Rocket, Washington depend on summer when the windsurfers and tourists invade to make a living. However, the WINDLESS SUMMER has kept many of the visitors away and has driven off residents and shut down business. The Jemmet Motel overlooking the Columbia has been empty and the owner widower Tom Jemmet fears he may have to close.

Tom’s soul is filled with ghosts that haunt him starting with his late wife and with the living especially his twelve year old autistic daughter Sienna. Others hide damaging secrets too such as Charlene the kind mail clerk who helps with Sienna and the vet Dr. Lauren who conceals her love for father and daughter. However each shares the same abysmal no hope for the future.

That changes starting with the man from Idaho staying in room six. In that room strange happenings begin. Some will call it fate visiting; other the supernatural; while some proclaim divine or devilish intervention. Whatever, the truth is it starts with the weird accident in room six that makes the local news only to be picked up nationally. Soon the town and its motel are flooded with people wanting to stay in room six arousing the darkest fears and secrets of the townsfolk starting with what happened to Tom’s late wife.

This exciting small town suspense thriller effortlessly blends psychological and supernatural elements into a fast-paced character driven tale. The audience will appreciate the switching points of view especially that of Tom, Lauren, the reporter, and to a lesser degree that of Sienna and Charlene. The outside horde that invades the town is treated initially as welcome bags of money, but soon considered unwelcome detriments. Fans will enjoy this intriguing story wondering what happened to Tom’s wife and why he behaves guiltily as if his punishment for what is mostly unknown (but guessed) is penance for life.
Harriet Klausner

Green-Jay Lake

Jay Lake
Tor, Jun 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780765321855

The stranger who bought her from her father the farmer named her Emerald. The child does not know her birth name or recall anything about her mom; she only remembers her father selling her and the stranger taking her from the family farm to the home of the immortal Duke of the Pomegranate Tree where he has ruled over the city of Copper Downs and the Storm Sea for centuries. At the court, she will be trained as a consort and an assassin.

Over time, Emerald as she becomes an adolescent insists stubbornly Green is her name. She becomes the best assassin but decides she deserves much more than to be a courtesan killer for an evil duke. She rebels; which turns the city violent as even the meddling Gods intervene. As the world order changes, Green tenaciously clings to her childhood dream since being sold; to go back to the farm to learn her roots.

GREEN is an exciting somewhat simplistic action-packed fantasy. The uncomplicated story line will still fascinate readers due to the resoluteness of the title heroine as she fearlessly sets forth on adventures that change a world though all she wants is to leave as she knows what she wants and risks all to achieve it. Fans will root for the courageous yet obdurate Green, as she mulishly fights to go home even though that means turning a city upside down.
Harriet Klausner

Skin Trade-Laurell K. Hamilton

Skin Trade
Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley, Jun 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780425227725

Amongst the vampire and shifter communities vampire executioner Anita Blake is notorious for her dead count; no one in the profession comes remotely close. However, recently she has had a catharsis of sorts as those she assumed are evil monsters may be the victims of a zealous bias by human society who has fears of the paranormal. Part of her mental revision is who she socializes with, which has led to the Federal Marshal Service no longer trusting her in spite of her record.

However, Anita has no doubts that the serial killing vampire Vittorio who recently left St. Louis deserves death. He has begun taunting her sending her a victim’s head via the post office. She takes up his gauntlet heading to Las Vegas where the package came from to confront him. In town are Federal Marshal Edward and serial killer Olaf; both want Anita. In Sin City, the sheriff wants Anita to leave while others like Crispin the were-tiger and Marmee Noir the creator of the vampire lines have uses for Anita; all hell is converging on Anita.; other supernatural entities have a use for her as well.

SKIN TRADE is the best Blake urban fantasy in several years as the story line is a throwback to the earlier supernatural detective thrillers. Sex is limited instead of dominating and what there is enhances the storyline instead of owning the plot. Fascinatingly except for Edward there is no direct appearance of any other recurring support character as Anita using her brain more than her brawn and struggles with being the foci of the Vegas paranormal community.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Scenic Route-Binnie Kirshenbaum

The Scenic Route
Binnie Kirshenbaum
Harper, May 12 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780060784744

Forty-two year old divorced Manhattanite Sylvia Landsman loses her job so she decides to go on a vacation before she walks the pavement looking for work. Sylvia knows she is being foolish as she needs to find a job, but goes off to Italy anyway. In Florence, she meets married American expatriate Henry Stafford in a café; he explains that his wealthy wife is in some remote spot in India visiting her guru.

Henry and Sylvia travel Europe together in his Peugeot that his wife bought him. A classic New York cynical Jew, Sylvia and Henry pass the drives with her telling him amusing tales about her family as well as her shortfalls including the betrayal of her best friend Ruby that ended their friendship. Sylvia secretly hopes Henry will prove her relationship guru, as she lacks the courage to pursue more than they have right now.

THE SCENIC ROUTE is an engaging character study that initially appears to be a series of vignettes, but soon ties into a profound quirky glimpse at two people falling in love, but will either have the courage to take the risky next step. Sylvia is a fascinating protagonist as she explains her failures and that of her family while internally praying Henry will proclaim she is the one; Henry proves a good listener who materialistically has everything but emotionally has little as he prays Sylvia will proclaim he is her one. Fans will appreciate this spin on romance as Binnie Kirshenbaum makes a strong case that it takes a brave soul to open one’s heart and as one gets older the courage wanes.

Harriet Klausner

The House on Fortune Street-Margot Livesey

The House on Fortune Street
Margot Livesey
Harper, May 5 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061451546

Thirtyish Abigail Taylor and Dara MacLeod met while attending St. Andrews University. They became friends and years later remain BFFs. Abigail became an actress while Dara became a social counselor. They disagree on love and how to pursue it until each suddenly finds true love; Abigail with academic Sean and Dara with violinist Edward.

Soon after they meet the men in their lives, Dara moves into Abigail's house renting the downstairs apartment. Abigail receives an anonymous letter addressed to Sean insisting she is cheating; Dara reconciles with her father, who abandoned the family when she was ten. The letter and the father impact each relationship including that of the BFFs.

This is an intriguing character study as four people rotate with each telling their back story and their perspective of what is going on. The key to the story line is how each person’s past long before they met one another and forged ties impacts on how each of them interpret the various relationships. Although the action is limited, readers who relish a 360 degree look at four relationships especially the same baggage an individual brings to each will want to read THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET.

Harriet Klausner

The French Gardener-Santa Montefiore

The French Gardener
Santa Montefiore
Touchstone, Jun 2 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416543749

Freelance journalist Miranda and her spouse David accompanied by their children move from London to Gloucestershire in Dorset although he still works in the big city; she dreams of writing a novel without the city distractions. As David spends increasingly more time in London and away from their home Hartington House, Miranda and the kids struggle to adjust to rustic life; she misses all the glamour and glitter of London while the kids have no earthly idea how to play outdoors when they are used to monitors.

Frenchman Jean-Paul arrives searching for his lost love Ava Lightly whose family once resided in the home that David and Miranda bought. He brings with him a simpler lifestyle especially his love of gardens as he tells them how his Ava loved the feel of rich earth; his cheery optimism is infectious as the kids and Miranda enjoy their time with him as if he a kindhearted Pied Piper. ,

This is a well written profound tale in which the garden serves as a metaphor of life. The story line is divided into the four seasons with the garden different each time as is a person through the years. This story is poignant due to the wise aging title character who flashes back to the spring of his life so that the audience learns what happened to him and his Ava. Fans will appreciate Jean Paul’s wisdom as it is never too late to hug a loved one even if the person you cherish has passed; the good memories provide strong mental hugs.

Harriet Klausner

My Soul to Take-Yrsa Sigurdardottir

My Soul to Take
Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Morrow, Apr 28 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 0061143383

Jonas Juliusson buys a health spa in Snaefellsnes on Iceland's west coast with the help of his attorney single mother of two Thora Gudmundsdottir. However, he fears the property is haunted so he invites Thora to stay and investigate, which she agrees though feeling he is being silly heeding local myths.

Upon arriving at the spa, Thora is greeted with the mutilated corpse of architect Birna Halldorsdottir who designed the new building. Jonas is the prime suspect since he sent the victim a text message to meet him at the place she was found dead. A second body also battered is soon found. Thora quickly changes her inquiry from ghost hunting to homicide hunting.

MY SOUL TO TAKE is an exciting Icelandic amateur sleuth mystery starring a wonderful attorney who begins to slowly find clues that lead to several suspects with motives. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the single mom finds the first corpse and never slows down as the brave lawyer makes her inquiries while another body surfaces. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine mystery while seeking Thora's last case (see LAST RITUALS).

Harriet Klausner

Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang-Katie MacAlister

Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang
Katie MacAlister
Signet, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451226723

How quickly her world changed without her consent while she was in Europe. Pia Thomason is now the magical Zorya of the Brotherhood whose reason for living is killing Dark Ones and married to her beloved Kristoff the grumpy Dark One though they reside on separate continents with her in Seattle and him in Europe; she knows her spouse distrusts her as she works for his enemy.

The Moravian Council accuses the couple of murder, embezzlement, and being behind the disappearance and probably homicide of Dark One Alec Darwin. Before she met Kristoff, Pia thought she loved Alec; which only angers her grump of a spouse. As they team up to search for the missing Alec and learn who framed them, Pia plans to enjoy her time with Kristoff while he cannot resist her lure.

As with the first Dark Ones saga (see ZEN AND THE ART OF DRAGONS), nothing goes right for the heroes as not only is the honeymoon over before it began, their lives may be over too. The story line is fast-paced, filled with humor and action as Katie MacAlister balances the two nicely. Fans will enjoy this enjoyable investigative urban romantic fantasy thanks to the antics of Pia.

Harriet Klausner

Cemetery Dance-Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Cemetery Dance
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Grand Central, May 12 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780446580298

In Manhattan, New York Times William Smithback and his wife Museum of Natural History anthropologist Nora Kelly arrive home after celebrating their first anniversary with plans to do more rejoicing. Instead they are attacked in their apartment building by a neighbor, out of work British actor Colin Fearing. To the horror of Kelly; her beloved spouse is killed during the assault while his crazed killer leaves.

NYPD obtains testimony from Nora and others who saw Fearing murder Smithback and the building’s surveillance tape captures Fearing leaving dripping blood everywhere. The case is solved except for one problem as FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast and New York Police Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta learn; Fearing died two weeks ago having been found in the Hudson River.

Fans will be stunned with the opening sequence when long time secondary character Smithback is killed. That just sets the table for a great tense police thriller as Agent Pendergast investigates how could a dead man commit murder? The above paragraphs are the beginning of a great taut tale that fans will appreciate and newcomers will look for Aloysius’ back cases (see THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS).

Harriet Klausner

Genesis- Bernard Beckett

Bernard Beckett
Harcourt, Apr 2009, $20.00
ISBN: 9780547225494

Anaximander “Anax” is a student studying the history of the twenty-first century in school. She learns that century was the period of human decline as the Last War proved to be an accurate title as much of the globe was devastated and led to plague, environmental collapse, terrorism, and the end of civilization on the continents.

She also knows that the only pocket of true governance left in the world is her homeland, the Republic, an island in the Southern hemisphere modeled after Plato’s classic Republic. On the verge of taking the four hour exam that will determine her future as an elitist or a drone as the test decides whether she gains admittance to the elite Academy, Anax has also serendipitously studied the outlawed works of rebel with a cause Adam Forde. She likes his stand on human rights and dignity in a society run by a strict code of conduct that bans anything deemed deviant, but especially appreciates his stance as a soldier guarding the Great Sea Fence when he did not kill a young female on a boat breaching the barrier; but Amax knows she must hide her feelings from the panel of examiners.

This is Brave New World meets Plato in a devastated world with several fresh spins as Bernard Beckett provides an intriguing philosophical science fiction tlae that Huxley would have enjoyed. Anax is a terrific student historian who holds the story line together, but does so by concealing her adulation of Adam from her examiners. Fans will enjoy GENESIS as Anax learns the origin of the end of the world.
Harriet Klausner

Phantasm-Phaedra Weldon

Phaedra Weldon
Ace, Jun 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780441017164

Zoe Martinique is a Wraith; a being who can travel in spirit form to the Abysmal and Ethereal planes. It has taken her a while to get used to having this new skill, which can occur spontaneously without warning. She is not sure if she is an Irin, the child of an angel and a human. However just when she needs her power to rescue her mother who is trapped on the Abysmal Plane, it vanishes without explanation and she has no earthly idea how to get it back.

The Archer aka T.C is a being from the Abysmal Plane who is linked to Zoe, and if she dies so does she so it is in his best interests to keep her alive. The Phantasm wants to use Zoe to enter the mortal realm where he intends to take control of the planet. TC believes the Phantasm is blocking Zoe’s power so they come up with a plan to get them freed. It is dangerous as the price of victory is extremely high; defeat means most likely death.

PHANTASM contains an exhilarating serpentine story line with so many puzzles to solve; readers will wonder how the paranormal can protect the newcomer. Zoe is a kick butt heroine who has finally accepted her heritage as the audience learns through flashbacks re her childhood. She proves formidable as she believes she can defeat the Phantasm though she understands little about her skills. Character driven though action-packed, Phaedra Weldon’s third Zoe urban fantasy (see WRAITH and SPECTRE) is fantastic.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Sky isn't Visible From Here-Felicia C. Sullivan

The Sky isn't Visible From Here
Felicia C. Sullivan
Harper, Apr 28 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 0061765325

This is not an easy to read autobiography though extremely well written and poignant, as Felicia C. Sullivan bares her soul in a cautionary memoir. She lived poor in Brooklyn with her mom Rosina working in a series of diners while always being fired for stealing and through one boyfriend after another as Rosina stole to pay for her cocaine habit and changed boyfriends when they tired of her. Felicia did not fit in any of the zillion neighborhoods mom moved them to as her skin was to white. She escaped to Fordham University and just before she graduated mom vanished. However, the child is not far from the parent as Felicia fell into similar patterns with drink and cocaine even while succeeding in finance behind the facade of a fake history; that is until her behavior led to her firing. This is an excellent autobiography in which the author peels away the masks to reveal her most inner essence for audiences to see how far she has come from her nuclear bomb roots and how “habitually” easy it is for a person to fall back into self destructive behavior.

Harriet Klausner

Of Men and their Mothers-Maeve Medwed

Of Men and their Mothers
Maeve Medwed
Avon, Apr 2009, $$13.99
ISBN: 9780060831226

Her former boyfriend Jack of Somerville Legal Services asks Maisie Grey for a few favors that will help his pro bono client Darlene Lattanzio; whose mother-in-law is suing her for custody of her grandson baby Anthony. Having once had the mother-in-law from hell, Mrs. (that is always and forever) Mrs. Pollock, whom she still wars with over the raising of her sixteen years old son Tommy, Maisie agrees. She hires Darlene at her Boston-based organizing firm, Factotum and even hides the young mother’s breast milk in her freezer.

Maisie is also unhappy with Tommy’s choice of a girlfriend, September Silva, who was kicked out of her home and now lives with them. At a hospital she runs into former momma’s boy Gabe who finally escaped his mom’s domination when she died. Maisie and Gabe start dating though she fears he is only looking for a substitute mom and she has two teens living with her. In fact she reads the riot act to Stephanie starting with attending school. September is ecstatic in having a “mom” giving her direction and agrees.

This is an amusing look at the triangle relationships between mothers, their sons and their daughters-in-law. The story line is filled with humor starting with frozen breast milk next to frozen pot pies, but also fails to dig deep into why the ties between mom and son sometimes overwhelms the son’s bond with his wife; thus a fun tale could have been a profound contemporary relationship drama, but is not. Although supermom Maisie saves the day for seemingly everyone (except for granny Lattanzio) too easily, fans who enjoy a lighthearted funny romp will want to read OF MEN AND THEIR MOTHERS.

Harriet Klausner

He Calls Her Doc-Mary Brady

He Calls Her Doc
Mary Brady
Harlequin SuperRomance, May 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715619

Dr. Maude DeVane returned home to St. Adlebert, Montana to help her townsfolk receive proper medical care. Soon after her return, her late friend’s brother Dr. Guy Daley arrives in town to run his sibling’s executive training consulting business. Maude detests the arrogant Guy for labeling her a gold digger when she was just a friend to his brother and now fears he will destroy her medical practice at least in this tiny mountainous town as the locals will go to him if not for sexist reasons; he has more experience.

Maude is irate with herself because she never forgot the kiss Guy stole from her five years ago and aches for him to do it again. Meanwhile, as he raises his teenage niece, the former emergency room doctor finds he is attracted to a medical peer who he knows distrusts and dislikes him over what he called her several years ago.

The keys to this warm medical romance are the vivid Big Sky Country and the changing relationship between a doubting Maude lacks confidence in her skills and her attraction and Guy loaded with guilt and remorse over his brother's death. Readers will enjoy this fine contemporary as Mary prescribes love as the cure for these two doctors.

Harriet Klausner

Summer At The Lake-Linda Barrett

Summer At The Lake
Linda Barrett
Harlequin SuperRomance, May 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715602

Police hostage negotiator Rick Cooper takes a needed leave of absence after his last case turned ugly; the father killed his family in spite of Rick’s efforts. He knows he did his best even as he constantly looks over what he might have done differently. However, he also knows he will have to find a new line of work as he no longer believes he can be effective.

Accompanied by his dog Quincy, he heads to his family’s lake house in Upstate New York to get away and to decide about his future. He quietly sits playing his saxophone, which provides solace to his eleven year old neighbor Ashley McCarthy, a rape victim. Ashley and her mom Kristin go over to meet the musician, but the older McCarthy distrusts cops for good reason. Still Rick and Quincy help Ashley regain her zeal for life while the tweener reminds him that he has a skill people need.

SUMMER AT THE LAKE is all about the resilience of people to love and live even after a horrific trauma. Rick is a terrific caring person who personalizes the failed hostage negotiations as likewise does Kristin with the rape of her daughter; yet WC Fields is right about never perform with kids and animals as the dog and the child steal the show. Starting with the sax, friendships blossom and love thrives as Linda Barrett provides a deep second chance at life tale of three wounded souls finding love and solace with one another, enhanced by a caring canine.

Harriet Klausner

Weddings In The Family-Tessa McDermid

Weddings In The Family
Tessa McDermid
Harlequin SuperRomance, May 2009, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715657

As their daughter is about to get married, Caroline Eddington thinks it is time to end her marriage to Nick. She believes only their child has kept them together in recent years and she is moving out. However, she also knows she will miss Nick who she still loves.

At the wedding reception, Caroline screws up her courage to inform her husband she will not share an empty nest with him. However, she remains doubtful because she looks back and knows he was always there for her and their daughter, but the love he once had for her she thinks is gone. Finally feeling it is time, she begins her difficult rehearsed speech only to have Nick inform her he loves her.

This is an intriguing middle age second chance at love story as Caroline wonders what is left in her relationship with Nick now that the “link” is gone while Nick believes they will now have more time for one another. The underlying theme is simple: marriage does not typically destroy a lifestyle, but children nuke it. Although flashbacks enable the audience to view the premise that serves as a double edged sword as this technique slows down the basic plot to leave or not to leave that is the question.

Harriet Klausner

Seducing an Angel-Mary Balogh

Seducing an Angel
Mary Balogh
Dell, May 2009, $23.00
ISBN: 9780385341059

Widow Cassandra Belmont needs a wealthy lover with a high peerage as a protector immediately if she is to survive the accusations that she murdered her spouse; she also vows that marriage is out of the question as once was enough. Watching how kind he is to his sisters, she chooses Lord Stephen Huxtable, who is rich, nice and a hunk.

Cassandra plans to seduce the top catch of the season. Stephen is excited when he first sees the siren, but refuses to bow to her terms of engagement as he has his own. The two argue over the rules until they share the greatest night in either of their lives. Cassandra fears her heart is owned by Stephen, but she can never have him permanently as scandal is her name. Stephen is reconsidering what he wants as he no longer is thinking mistress, but instead wants her as his wife though he fears she will never trust again especially since he investigates what happened to her and her spouse.

The fourth Huxtable Regency romance is a fast-paced tale of an independent widow going after what she desires while her choice reciprocates unaware of why she rejects marriage. Mary Balogh digs deep into the effect of alcoholism and spousal violence on the victim who also contends emotionally with a miscarriage. The lead characters especially the profound brave heroine and their evolving relationship make for an intriguing finish to the saga though the ending feels rushed. Still the Huxtable family saga has been an entertaining Regency series.

Harriet Klausner

My Lady Captor-Hannah Howell

My Lady Captor
Hannah Howell
Zebra, May 5 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0821774301

In 1388, while the border war between England and Scotland is nasty, Lady Sorcha Hay learns her brother has been captured by English soldiers demanding a ransom. She and her clan cannot afford the price so Sorcha decides to emulate her sibling’s capture by taking a soldier from the battlefield and hold him for ransom so that she can then remit the ransom for her brother.

To his chagrin wounded warrior, Ruari Kerr has never been more humiliated in his life; he has been abducted from the battlefield by a beautiful woman who explains she holds him for ransom. He is furious with himself more than with her because he finds he wants her in his bed. Meanwhile Sorcha is attracted to her prisoner and encouraged by a ghost to take Ruari to her bed. The matchmaking ghost also prevents Ruari from escaping. As his people ransom him, they fall in love, but he feels strongly she betrayed their love. Besides, his pride remains battered by a woman besting him. He tries to kidnap Sorcha, but between her ghost and her clan he fails even as the treacherous Simon Treacher manipulates both of them and their respective allies for his gain.

Writeen as Anna Jennet in the mid 1990s, MY LADY CAPTOR is an entertaining fourteenth century border war romance. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as a desperate Sorcha humiliates macho warrior Ruari as he cannot accept a beautiful woman defeated him even if he was wounded when she caught him. Worse in his mind is while her prisoner he wanted her and liberated still does. Ruari learns the hard way (no pun intended) “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (King James Bible). Readers will appreciate this amusing well written tale of medieval love.

Harriet Klausner

Whispered Lies-Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love

Whispered Lies
Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
Pocket, May 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416597421

Mirage sends email to the Bureau of American Defense (BAD) informing them where they can find the kidnapped diplomat's daughter; abducted by the dangerous Fratelli de il Sovrano. BAD operatives succeed in the rescue, but are curious about who this Mirage is, how she knew so much about the kidnapping and other crime activities, and why Interpol wants her arrested.

Following the rescue, BAD operative Carlos Delgado begins an inquiry into Mirage. He identifies her as French heiress Gabrielle Tynte Saxe, who hides in Atlanta from her former husband and the mobster who killed her mother by blowing up a bus of innocents. Carlos brings Gabrielle into BAD protection with him as her bodyguard. She proves to have a wealth of information on the South American drug cartel run by the Anguis mob, the family responsible for her mother’s death. When the Fratelli discovers where she is, they come for her; only Carlos, falling in love with her, vows to keep Gabrielle safe or die trying.

The second BAD romantic suspense thriller (see PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT) is an exhilarating action-packed tale as Gabrielle and Carlos team up in love to strop the Fratelli gang from succeeding in their newest diabolical scheme. The premise is over the top of the High Museum, but fun to follow as the action never slows down except for heated sexual interludes. Fans will enjoy macho Carlos falling in love with a courageous nerd while seemingly half the globe is after her.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Reluctant Heiress-Eva Ibottson

The Reluctant Heiress
Eva Ibottson
Speak, Apr 30 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780142412770

In 1922, Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein may be an heiress, but she will not inherit much more than a rundown castle. Most aristocrats would be appalled, but Tessa is euphoric, because her financial state allows her to do what she wants. Thus she works for the Viennese opera company as a wardrobe mistress hiding her royal connection from her peers.

First generation nouvelle riche English orphan millionaire Guy Farne comes to the opera house seeking a means to entertain his high society guests and his snobby fiancée. When he and Tessa meet they are attracted to one another and quickly fall in love. However, she is unsuited for him as he wants an aristocrat not a working girl as a wife. Meanwhile impoverished Prince Max loves Tessa and wants to marry her.

Though a young teen historical romance, THE RELUCTANT HEIRESS provides much more. The underlying premise throughout the complex story line is how much WWI shook up the world order; similar in tone to the excellent PBS series The people’s Century especially how The Great War reshaped the rest of the twentieth century. Readers will need a bit of time to fully understand how the prime four characters feel about the new world order because Eva Ibottson has cleverly left clues about what would have been expected of each if WWI had not occurred. This is a great young adult early 1920s tale at a time when the enthusiasm of a new hope for world peace was waning into a great depression.

Harriet Klausner

Rose House-Tina Ann Forkner

Rose House
Tina Ann Forkner
WaterBrook, May 19 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 1400073596

Four years ago, Lillian Diamon learns that her husband Robert and their twin daughters Sheyenne and Lee died in an automobile accident. Lillian believes her sister Geena was the cause as she was having an affair with Robert and vanished just after the accident. Five days after burying her family, Lillian traveled to Rose House in La Rosaleda, California. There she sees in an art gallery a painting of Rose House, dubbed Beauty and the Beast Within from an anonymous artist; in front of the stately mansion is Lillian in all her grief.

In the present Lillian takes time off from the restaurant she works at to travel to Rose House and to learn more about the picture. She has not spoken to Geena since the tragedy as her sister knows she hates her. In La Rosaleda, when she meets artist Truman, she wonders if he painted her picture while he thinks their encounter is a private personal moment like the one he inadvertently intruded on four years ago. Meanwhile Geena desperately tries to reach her to warn her

Much of the profound character study story line is a metaphor based on how an individual sees his or her life as a portrait painted by many other people until tragedy pulls away the various masks that hides the inner soul. A spin re the car accident adds excitement to the plot but detracts from the painting concept as if someone exploded bright red onto a soft pastel. Still Lillian is a diamond (with a d) as she is summed up with the family photos at the restaurant in which everyone else have loved ones on display while all she has is ROSE HOUSE.

Harriet Klausner

Sworn To Silence-Linda Castillo

Sworn To Silence
Linda Castillo
Minotaur, Jun 23 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312374976

Painters Mill, Ohio is a quiet serene small-town until a serial killer begins carving Roman numbers into each victim's abdomen. The case is identical to what drove the current Police Chief Kate Burkholder from her Amish background as a teen; four people died sixteen years ago in an identical ritual.

Kate knows why the homicides abruptly ended back then and that the current copy cat killer cannot be the same psychopath. Meanwhile the politicians are nervous that they will be punished by the public for being soft on crime due to the lack of progress by the cops as more victims die. They set up a multi-jurisdictional task force to allegedly assist Kate, but consisting of mostly sycophant moles who report to the politicos and not the chief; she in turn finds them a nuisance examining her every move rather than that of the killer.

Although there are enough serial killers in literature to wipe out Ohio, readers will enjoy SWORN TO SILENCE; a strong police procedural refreshed by the Amish connection that enables the audience to compare how the two prime groups react to the murders then and now. Kate is a wonderful protagonist struggling emotionally with déjà vu homicides, politicians who ironically some object to Darwinism yet are the classic example of survival, and walking the thin blood line between her Amish childhood and her English job. Fans will enjoy Linda Castillo’s brisk take on how two distinct groups behave with a deadly predator in their midst.

Harriet Klausner

Academy 7-Anne Osterlund

Academy 7
Anne Osterlund
Speak, May 14 2009, $8.99
ISBN: 0142414379

Aerin Renning is a loner with no future; Dane Madousin is the son of one of the Alliance’s most influential people and thus has a perfect future. They both attend Academy 7, the most exclusive school in the universe. For Dane it is a divine right; for Aerin it is a shocker.

The pair contends with one another for the top students at school. They share in common dark secrets in which neither reveals much about themselves to others and a competitive streak as they vie for the top student slot. Dane slaughters her in debate, but Aerin kicks his butt in sparring. When Dane breaks a rule, he inadvertently got Aerin in trouble. During their joint retention, they become friends as each slowly trusts the other with their secrets especially special talent. They fear others especially Dr. Livinski will exploit them even as an unknown adversary sets a deathtrap to destroy them and the school.

The author of the young adult romantic mystery AURELIA, Anne Osterlund provides an entertaining young teen science fiction thriller with a touch of romance in the galaxy. The battling lead couple makes for a fun duet as each sings the refrain: “anything you can do, I can do better” until they get into trouble. Readers will enjoy the somewhat gender bending escapades of Dane and Aerin as they are on the brink of being expelled from school in spite of being the top two students at the same time a nefarious deathtrap tries to keep them apart while also thinking kiss her already.

Harriet Klausner

The Other Side of Magic-Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones

The Other Side of Magic
Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones
Starscape (Tor), Apr 28 2009, $4.99
ISBN: 9780765359834

Natalie struggles to adjust to having Buttercup a nervous rat as her link to the other world; while the other two rookie keyholders, Penny and Luke are pleased with their links respectively Kirin the unicorn and Dracula the dragon. However after being chased by three goblins, their mentor Mr. Leery decides to begin their training. Only Natalie succeeds in finding holes ripped open by agents of evil Queen of the Boggarts in the threads between Morgantown and the supernatural realm.

Natalie takes Buttercup to school and a teacher takes the rat away. The girl is hysterical but Buttercup escapes. Mr. Leery and his link Mr. Mo the cat decide the time is right to take the future keyholders to the OTHER SIDE OF MAGIC.

The second Keyholders elementary school age urban fantasy (see THIS SIDE OF MAGIC) is a fun tale as the three rookie keyholders struggle with their responsibilities; where as Penny and Luke relish their respective links, Natalie is a snob until her rat is taken from her. On the other hand, she proves the only one of the three adept at magic. Young readers will enjoy this fun tale as the threesome with their links and their mentors cross to the OTHER SIDE OF MAGIC.

Harriet Klausner

Dayhunter-Jocelynn Drake

Jocelynn Drake
Eos, Apr 28 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061542831

Fire master NIGHTWALKER Mira has always understood her role as a secret weapon deployed by the ruling Triad to keep the evil Naturi from returning, but now also she knows who she is after centuries of wondering why she is so different from her vampire peers. Mira has made a shaky truce with the vampire hunter Danaus, a human although both know they are natural enemies who probably will one day fight to the death.

The ruling Nightwalker coven orders Mira to come to Venice for a special assignment. She is wary, trusting no one, not even her former mentor. Mira, Danaus who is now part of the Triad, and other members prevent Naturi Rowe from opening the locked portal that prevents his species from crossing over. However, Mira knows it is not over and that some of the Nightwalkers are betraying their kind and the humans; with only the vampire slayer Danaus apparently on her side though she doubts she can depend on him to help her.

This excellent fast-paced urban fantasy is owned by Mira, Danaus, and Venice. The city makes a great location for a dark gritty world in which the protagonist trusts no one; not even the mentor the heroine has cherished. Mira is terrific as she still struggles with self-revelations that she learned of in the first Dark Days novel, and now betrayal of those who she should be able to depend on and a survival alliance with a natural enemy the human vampire hunter. The changing of the relationship between Danaus and Mira is the heart and soul of DAYHUNTER, as anything may be creeping out of the shadows thanks to treachery, but even her new partner conceals secrets re who he is and what his agenda is as fans wonder if another seditious act is occurring.

Harriet Klausner