Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bound by Love-Rosemary Rogers

Bound by Love
Rosemary Rogers
Harlequin HQN, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773961

In 1821 Leonida Karkoff arrives as a welcome guest of Lord Edmond and his wife Brianna (see SCANDALOUS DECEPTION). However, Leonida finds herself attracted to her shock to her host’s twin brother Stefan, the Duke of Huntley. Stefan distrusts Leonida, who as the illegitimate daughter of Czar Alexander has no reason to be in England unless she has some diabolical plot to harm the Russian ruler.

However, Stefan is more upset with himself for wanting a woman he distrusts. Leonida feels guilt as she is pulled in two directions as her mother sent her to retrieve letters that will hurt the czar if exposed and her desire perhaps even love for Stefan. He seduces her, but soon afterward she vanishes with the letters to the content with him in pursuit. In St. Petersburg, Stefan catches up with his Leonida, who has fled his bed for fear her heart will die if she remains with her beloved.

The St. Petersburg setting refreshes a wonderful Regency romance sequel starring two beloved enemies. Besides the enticing Russian backdrop, Leonida is a refreshing protagonist pulled by her mother in one direction and yanked in the opposite by her love for Stefan. Fans will enjoy this brisk tale as Rosemary Rogers shows why she is consistently one of the historical romance sub-genre sure things.

Harriet Klausner

The Undoing of a Lady-Nicola Cornick

The Undoing of a Lady
Nicola Cornick
Harlequin HQN, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773954

In 1810 Lady Elizabeth “Lizzie” Scarlett is concerned that her childhood friend Lord Nathaniel Waterhouse is marrying someone he does not love out of a sense of duty. She knows Nat has always been there for her so she decides to be there for him even if he does not appreciate what she does. She kidnaps him to keep him from marrying Miss Flora Minchin of Fortune’s Folly as this is no love match with his title in exchange for her money.

Lizzie's attempts to seduce Nat lead to their being compromised. Nat breaks off his engagement, but needs money to pay off a blackmailer. His solution is to marry wealthy Lizzie, which he does. However, though both feel a deep desire for the other and passion blazes between them, neither trusts the other any longer and pride leaves bot hiding their love out of fear of rejection.

Although similar in tone to the previous Brides of Fortune series (see THE CONFESSIONS OF A DUCHESS and THE SCANDALS OF THE INNOCENT) especially the lead characters, fans will enjoy this charming regency romance. The amusing story line starts off with a terrific opening abduction by an innocent woman who is seduced by her angry captive leading to THE UNDOING OF A LADY now in love. Fans will enjoy the gender war as neither seems to have the guts to tell the other how they feel.

Harriet Klausner

Bridegroom-Linda Lael Miller

Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773886

In 1915 Arizona Lydia Fairmont finds her options near zero as she either marries the local banker or lose her property to the local banker; she fears losing the spread because of where will her sexagenarian kind spinster aunts go. Her childhood friend Gideon Yarbro learns Lydia is caught between a rock and a hard place as the cold aloof banker Mr. Fitch offers her no other option; so the undercover agent decides to save her in spite of her acceptance of the inevitable.

Gideon abducts Lydia taking her to his home in Stone Creek. He forces her to marry him vowing to protect and cherish her while she assumes they will have a platonic marriage of convenience although she is unsure what he gets from their matrimony. However, when someone tries to kill Gideon, Lydia realizes she loves her friend. Meanwhile Gideon struggles between a nasty squabble between the miners and the mine owners that is turning dangerous even as he fears for the safety of his beloved Lydia from the assassin trying to kill him.

The latest Stone Creek early twentieth century romance (see Gideon’s older brothers’ tales; Wyatt as THE RUSTLER and Rowdy as A WANTED MAN) is a charming tale starring two likable protagonists. However, though he coerces her to say I do, he is caught off guard by the tigress he marries. He planned to keep her safe but did not expect his new bride trying to keep her BRIDEGROOM safe even if he objects. Fans will enjoy this fun Arizona tale as the honeymoon includes party crashers who want Gideon dead for different reasons.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Lover-Brenda Joyce

Dark Lover
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin HQN, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773701

In New York City, Center for Demonic Activity, Historical Crimes Unit demon slaying witch Samantha Rose misses her sister Tabitha (see DARK VICTORY) and her cousin Brianna (see DARK EMBRACE) as her fellow agents married Highlanders and live several centuries in the past. She focuses even more on her work with her latest assignment to retrieve the Duisean, a valuable Celtic manuscript owned by Rubert Hemmer.

International art thief Ian Maclean is known for being able to obtain any masterpiece for his clients. He and Sam had a run in when they met in Scotland that left her humiliated and furious. They meet again as he is seducing the wife of Rupert to foster his plan to steal the Duisean in order to sell to the highest bidder. Sam and Ian team up to try to steal the valuable artifact though neither wants that teaming. Worse they are attracted to one another and begin to depend on one another although both fear the directions their respective feelings are taking them.

The latest Masters of Time romantic urban fantasy is a super complex tale as the kick butt adversaries must unite but both have doubts distrusting the other and even more their hearts. He uses a suave uncaring demeanor to hide his darkest secret that the demons once imprisoned and tortured him for seemingly eternity; she has never forgotten or gotten over his rejection in Scotland. However, they have no choice if they are to prevent an ancient dark one from arising; time is of the essence as they plunge into his worse nightmare that of his own past.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow of Betrayal-Brett Battles

Shadow of Betrayal
Brett Battles
Delacorte, Jul 7 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780385341585

The Cleaner Jonathan Quinn, his girlfriend-partner Orlando, and his protégé Nick travel to Ireland to monitor an information exchange. However a sniper insures something goes wrong, leaving four dead and Jonathan forced to use his cleaning skills to make sure no clues of the homicides remain behind in the church meeting locale. His agent orders Quinn to forget Ireland and instead fulfill the agreed upon three jobs with no questions. He is to locate a missing U.N. worker Marion Dupuis; she has vanished without a trace. Others search for her too.

Jonathan and company head to Africa, the last known place Marion was seen. At an orphanage where she helped, the owner says she ran away with a Down Syndrome child Iris, who rebels want though he is not sure why. Marion and Iris flee to Montreal, but are captured and taken to California as Jonathan follows the convoluted trail.

This is a terrific complicated Quinn globetrotting tale (see THE DECEIVED and THE CLEANER) as he goes from the Europe to Africa to Canada and finally the States on the chase. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of bloody action on three continents as Quinn knows his deal haunts his soul as he does jobs he loathes performing. Although somewhat similar in theme to THE DECEIVED, Quinn is at his best undergoing tasks that eat at his gut.

Harriet Klausner

Sentinels: Lion Heart-Doranna Durgin

Sentinels: Lion Heart
Doranna Durgin
Silhouette Nocturne, Aug 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618170

Ocelot shapeshifter Lyn Maines is assigned to investigate whether a Sentinel is betraying the cause. She heads to the Arizona mountains Dook’o’osliid to determine if mountain-lion shifter Joe Ryan has gone to the dark evil Atrum Core while also hunting the retreating regional Drozhar (prince) after his side lost a battle recently. Based on what she knows about the case, she assumes Joe is a traitor.

After a few days with Joe, Lyn begins to reassess her opinion. She believes he is either an Oscar Award level actor or innocent. As she falls in love with Joe, she fears her heart is rose coloring her eyes or someone diabolically clever is framing him. Now she needs his help to deal with the Atrum Core Drozhar using the mountain's power to restore his own, but all the evidence affirms Joe is betraying their cause.

Although the plot feels a bit emaciated at first, the latest Sentinels Arizonan urban fantasy romance (see JAGUAR NIGHT) picks up momentum and turns into a wonderful entry due to the suspicion by Lyn and the Sentinels that Joe is the traitor. Thus their relationship starts off on the wrong foot, but as they fall in love, Lyn refuses to believe her beloved whose obvious love of the mountains would sell out to someone destroying his revered snowy peaks. LION HEART is a solid entry with a bit of a mystery to enhance the fun plot.

Harriet Klausner

Time Raiders: The Seeker-Lindsay McKenna

Time Raiders: The Seeker
Lindsay McKenna
Silhouette Nocturne, Aug 2009, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618163

Time raiders Delia Sebastian and Jake Tyler are assigned to work together in finding the first piece of an alien artifact the Karanovo Bronze Seal in ancient Rome during the time of Julius Caesar. Delia does not want to go with Jake as her partner as she has a past with him that left her hurt. On the other hand, Jake looks forward to spending time with her.

Their Italian vacation posing as Grecian mercenaries proves dangerous as Caesar's mistress Servilia has an agenda of her own yet the artifact is in her Pompeii villa. Worse, an alien seeks the artifact and is using the body of the scribe to hide inside. As the peril mounts, Delia and Jake must cover each other’s back if they are to survive the mission and have any hope of successfully accomplishing it.

This is the opening act of a new romantic science fiction series in which different authors over the next few months will provide novels. THE SEEKER is a fine tale starring two leads who battle one another and two insidious enemies. The story line starts slow as the key background information is provided, but once the protagonists (some might say antagonists) go back in time to 44 BC, the action turns fast-paced and the lead couple’s attraction could ignite Ancient Rome. Fans will enjoy Lindsay McKenna’s solid thriller as Ancient Rome comes alive and the table is set for Cindy Dees in September to go after the next segment of the Karanovo Bronze Seal.

Harriet Klausner

Retribution-Jeanne C. Stein

Jeanne C. Stein
Ace, Sep 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441017737

She has been fighting a losing battle to hold onto her humanity, but months old vampire Anne Strong doubts she can much longer. Her parents are sent by Anna’s nemesis to a winery in France with their “grand-daughter” so they cannot be used as hostages by those coming for Anna. She has few friends, but one of them is shapeshifting Culebra who owns a bar in Beso de la Muerte where vampires can feed on willing hosts. He meets her in Mexico her and asks not to visit the bar because he is on vacation and his substitute Sandre wants nothing to do with her. Unable to believe what he is saying, Anna goes to see herbut meets Warren Williams, the former San Diego chief of police and now the chief officer of the supernatural community.

He warns her that six young vampire corpses have been found drained of their blood. Soon after that meaning Sandra summons her to come to the bar because Culebra is ill and may be dying. Before Culebra lost consciousness he mentioned Belinda Burke, an enemy of his, Anna and William. She cast a spell on him and the only way to save his life is to find the witch and kill her. Anna fears she and Culebra will die if she fails to locate the witch. Tracing the path of her enemy, Anna finds more drained dead vampires and a person close to her who is helping Culebra stay alive through magic spells is now near death. Killing Belinda becomes the only sensible RETRIBUTION.

This is a strong vampire urban fantasy entry in a great series (see THE WATCHER, LEGACY, and BLOOD DRIVE) due to the lead professional who has distanced herself for obvious reasons from her family and has joined the supernatural community. Anna continues to explore her new powers as she also treks the dangerous dark world in which beauty is only skin deep is a mantra as the monsters inside are deadly. The world of Jeanne C. Stein is dark, deadly and dangerous; but most critical to readers is her species (vampires, witches, and shapeshifters) seem genuine.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 29, 2009

June Bug-Chris Fabry

June Bug
Chris Fabry
Tyndale, Aug 1 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414319568

In a Wal-Mart parking lot that looks identical to the zillion others she and her dad Johnson have parked in overnight while touring the country in their RV, seven year old June Bug half looks at a poster for missing children. She has to take a quadrillion looks but knows for sure the picture of nine years old Natalie Anne Edwards of Dogwood, WV staring back at her is that of June Bug.

She challenges her beloved father to explain what is going on and fears the kindhearted John is not her dad but a kidnapper living a vagabond life with her. She demands the truth and John knows he owes her at least that as he takes his beloved daughter back to the cross point where their lives pivotally changed knowing he will probably face the law, the media, and her.

Chris Fabry brings a wonderful modern day West Virginia spin to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable sprinkled with the philosophical tenet of Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet. The story line is driven by the solid cast, but anchored by precocious June Bug with her need to know who she is. Mr. Fabry provides a delightful family drama that Mr. Hugo and Mr. Gibran, would enjoy as much as readers will.

Harriet Klausner

Henry's Sisters-Cathy Lamb

Henry's Sisters
Cathy Lamb
Kensington, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN 9780758229540

Globetrotting photographer Isabelle, kindergarten teacher Celia and author Janie find out their mom River is going to have open heart surgery through the usual pink slip notes she has sent each of them everyday even when they lived in the same house with her. Reluctantly the Bommarito sisters come home to Trillium River, Oregon though they would prefer to ignore their mother. The trio is close in spite of their geography and vocations, and all are looking forward to spending time with their mentally disabled brother Henry who seems to love everyone.

As they take care of their healing mom and watch over their demented grandmother so she does not fly away and Henry, the sisters who fled their hometown all find some unexpected solace here in trying to save the family bakery where their brother works. Isabelle beings to understand why she preferred short term relationships; Janie begins to understand she suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder; and widow Cecilia is finally overcoming her grief over her husband’s death that sent her into doing dangerous stupid things.

This is an interesting family drama filled with pathos and humor as HENRY’S SISTERS realize they are unhappy while their mentally disturbed brother is very contented. Initially writing his happiness off as ignorance of not knowing better; each soon learns he understands much more than they realized. Each of the sisters begins to look inside as they start to come to grips on the personal demons that disturb them. Well written, readers will relish Cathy Lamb’s enjoyable poignant character study that affirms contentment and despondency are personal though it takes loved ones to help someone maintain a degree of happiness and satisfaction in life.

Harriet Klausner

Labor Day-Joyce Maynard

Labor Day
Joyce Maynard
Morrow, Jul 28 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061843402

On the Labor day weekend in 1987, thirteen year old Henry persuades his single mother Adele to leave their dump for a trip to the nearby PriceMart. He is ecstatic when she agrees as she never leaves their home except if she absolutely has to since his dad left her and remarried.

They meet Frank, who bullies them into picking him up. An escaped convict, Frank needs a place to hide from the law so he coerces the mother and son to take him into their home or else. However, as he holds them prisoner in their home, the trio forges a relationship with him in charge. He tenderly ties Adele to a chair using her silk scarves as gentle ropes; while feeding her. He teaches Henry, who hates sports as he stinks at them, to throw a baseball. He soon finds he wants more from the mom as they fall in love and consider fleeing together, and with her son who fears desertion from his mom and his surrogate father.

This is a super character study that focuses on the changing relations between three protagonists over the Labor Day weekend. A Stockholm syndrome effect occurs as each grows closer to one another. Henry is the glue that keeps the story line focused as he admires Frank’s courage and mentoring skills while also fears he will take his mom with him leaving her son behind when he goes on the lam. Fans will relish three seemingly losers finding something special during the long weekend together even as each anticipates no happy ending (the Sword of Damocles always lurking during the holiday) ;instead they expect to pay a steep price for six days and five nights of a fairy tale.

Harriet Klausner

Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes-Dixie Cash

Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes
Dixie Cash
Avon, Jul 21 2009, $13.99
ISBN 9780061434389

Salt Lick, Texas is proud to host an Elvis gala as the singer remains popular though he died four decades ago. This year the townsfolk are especially excited because the legendary blue suede shoes that their hero wore when he sang the tune is going to be on exhibit.

However, the valuable relic vanishes to the shock of the locals. Nobody steps on their Elvis and gets away with it so the Domestic Equalizers (when they are not styling hair), Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins-Martin investigate seeking who is wearing blue suede shoes. Not long afterward, the pair replaces the missing artifact with ancient slippers belonging to Ed’s husband, who they assume will believe he misplaced them. They try to contact Adolf Sielvami, Keeper for the King Museum in Las Vegas, who sent the shoes, but he and his shrine apparently do not exist.

With another gumshoe cozy (see DON'T MAKE ME CHOOSE BETWEEN ME AND MY SHOES) in between matchmaking of reporters and preparing for the Elvis horde invasion, Debbie Sue and Edwinna have plenty to do while Ed searches for his missing slippers. Lighthearted fun, Dixie cash pays homage to Elvis while gently mocking fanatics who sight the “King” in every fast food joint in the country and treat anything he touched as a precious artifact. With a nod to Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale, fans will laugh out loud at the latest escapades of the Texas cowgirls.

Harriet Klausner

Makeovers Can Be Murder-Kathryn Lilley

Makeovers Can Be Murder
Kathryn Lilley
Obsidian, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451228260

In a profession in which being thin helps a TV reporter move up the promotional ladder, plus-sized reporter Kate Gallagher has stalled at Channel twelve in Durham, North Carolina. Her editor has given her a five part assignment dealing with diets and related scams. In one of those spots, she has to appear on TV in a bikini which leaves her nervous. She goes for emotional support to the Newbodies female buddy group where she meets her friend Jana whom she has not seen in two years.

Jana informs Kate that’s she is divorcing her husband because he is cheating on her. A couple of days later, Jane’s auto is car-jacked and she is shot in the head; she saves her daughter’s life by pushing her out of the car when the gangbanger first entered her vehicle. The police arrest Antoine Hurley nd Jane’s daughter picks him out of a line-up. After some investigating, Kate thinks the wrong person is in prison; when she starts sleuthing the pieces of the puzzle being to merge, but what she is seeing is a massacre is about to occur that she prays she can prevent.

If her profession didn’t emphasize slim, Kate would be more comfortable with her size. She understands the TV camera makes her seem bigger and that society prefers trim people; something she is not and never will be. Ironically readers will admire her for her courage and strength of conviction chasing a news story; while if series fans seen her on TV, we probably wonder how she made it as few plus size women do (Candy Crowley aside). The story line is fast-paced though it turns into a plot that seems over the top of Cameron Arena, but the key to this Fat City Mystery and its fine predecessors (see DYING THIN and A KILLER WORKOUT) is the wonderful heroine who is overall contented in life but has some self-esteem issues.
Harriet Klausner

Skykeepers-Jessica Anderson

Jessica Anderson
Signet, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451227706

Sasha Ledbetter desperately searches for her vanished Mayanist father Dr. Ambrose Ledbetter. She is shocked when she locates his remains in an ancient temple. However, she has no time to mourn her loss; as Xibalba worshiper and high chieftain Iago capturers her. He tortures her seeking information about those who oppose his effort to bring back the demon Banol Kax into the world.

Nightkeeper warrior Michael Stone learns where Sasha is and leads a successful rescue mission. Michael and Sasha are attracted to each other, but he tries to ignore his feelings because he fears passion will ignite the dark side of his nature while Sasha wonders if her disbelief in her late father’s theory of Nightkeepers enabled her to disavow that she might be one of them. However, both recons finding a missing critical Mayan depository which comes before their desire for one another, as Iago is not waiting for love to uncover that same ancient library.

As Michael discovers new powers that he must learn to use, the doomsday clock is ticking against the Nightkeepers warriors as the demon and his adulating horde push the end of days. Michael and Sasha are a terrific pairing who may be in love, but each wonders whether the Final Prophecy’s kismet leaves them no choices; their feelings for one another may be predestined and disturbingly to both neither can say no. Fans will enjoy the latest exhilarating Mayan Final Prophecy urban fantasy thriller (see DAWNKEEPERS and NIGHTKEEPERS) with the philosophical debate of free choice vs. predetermination while time is running out on those who want to save the planet from Xibalba.

Harriet Klausner

Laced with Magic-Barbara Bretton

Laced with Magic
Barbara Bretton
Berkley, Aug 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425227527

Chloe Hobbs lives in remote quiet Sugar Maple, Vermont, running the Sticks & Strings yarn shop as a half human heir to the sorcery that keeps her town safe for the paranormal inhabitants and summer tourists. However, she has upset her neighbors especially the witches and fae when she and purebred human police officer policeman Luke MacKenzie becomes lovers.

Luke’s former wife Karen arrives hysterically insisting the ghost of their deceased daughter Steffie needs their help. Simultaneously, her long time enemy Isadora the fae is CASTING SPELLS over control of the child’s spirit and that of the town. Chloe’s family has always protected her town so she prepares for war though this sorceress would prefer a knitting battle.

This is a lighthearted satirical blending of a knitting cozy with a paranormal romance in a New England village fantasy (urban seems to denote a bit bigger of a community). The story line is breezy as Chloe and Luke struggle with small-town gossip and saving Steffie’s spirit with a stitch and a spell. Never serious except for knitting tips, fans will enjoy Barbara Bretton’s fine tale LACED WITH MAGIC of love. Chloe believes she can do anything including CASTING SPELLS with Luke at her side; however he is distracted as High Noon comes to the Green Mountain State.

Harriet Klausner

Night's Cold Kiss-Tracey O'Hara

Night's Cold Kiss
Tracey O'Hara
Eos, Aug 25 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061783135

The Hundreds Years War between the humans and Aeternus vampires finally ended when courageous leaders from both sides reached a desperately needed peace accord. However, Necrodreniacs rebels reject the pact as they thrive on human blood; their thirst is insatiable.

Fifteen years ago, when she was six years old, Antoinette Petrescu observed in fear and horror as vampire Dante Ribins slowly killed her mother. Although another vampire Christian Laroque saved the child’s life, she loathes all undead. Her racial prejudice has driven Antoinette who as a teen worked obsessively hard so she could become part of the elitist Venator corps stalking down paranormal criminals.

The CHAPR council between the humans and para-humans that has maintained the peace is beginning to fall apart due to distrust fostered by the actions of rogues on both sides especially the vamps. To save the council, Antoinette and Christian agree to taem up though she loathes doing so. However, as she begins to believe Dante is behind the prime assaults on the council, no one accepts her theory that the notorious serial has returned from the dead. She also ponders whether Christian, hiding behind his mask of concern, is the impetus behind the dreniacs’s bloody surge.

The first Dark Brethren tale is a terrific foreboding urban fantasy that uses sentient species’ needs to be numero uno as a form of prejudice to anchor an ominous looking world where danger is everywhere. The story line is fast-paced, but the introduction to who’s who slows down the reader (thankfully Tracey O'Hara provides a scorecard). Fans will enjoy the hostilities to be top dog on earth yet Antoinette makes this thriller work as she witnessed the tragedy of her mother’s s death; the adult is the child. This is a great start to a world in which NIGHT’S COLD KISS is the warmest time on planet earth.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In the Heart of the Canyon-Elisabeth Hyde

In the Heart of the Canyon
Elisabeth Hyde
Knopf, Jul 14 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307263674

Colorado River rafting guide JT Maroney has a diverse group joining him on his 125th whitewater trip down the river. J.T. is especially concerned with the experience level or lack thereof by some of his passengers.

Unemployed Peter Kramer seems only interested in getting into the pants of the assistant guide Dixie Ann Gillis. The Frankel couple, seasoned seventy- something rafters who unbeknownst to J.T. Ruth conceals that Lloyd suffers from Alzheimer’s. The sexagenarian pair Boyer-Brandt, mother Susan and obese teen daughter Amy Van Doren, Evelyn the Harvard professor, and the four Compsons of Salt Lake City round out the rafters. The strangers assemble for thirteen days of Forming, Storming, Norming,. Performing and Adjourning IN THE HEART OF THE CANYON

This is an exciting insightful look at how groups even doing outdoor activities work as the audience gets a deep look at the entire cast including the leader. "OMG" to quote Amy, the story line gets into the heart of its ensemble cast to include the river. Although an emergency spin feels contrived to add unnecessary life threatening action, but instead almost drowns the prime plot; fans will enjoy this profound look at group dynamics in the wild.

Harriet Klausner

Southern Peril-T. Lynn Ocean

Southern Peril
T. Lynn Ocean
Minotaur, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312383473

Wilmington, North Carolina bar owner Jersey Barnes has sworn off for what seems to her the zillionth time no more “SWEET” investigative work; government or private. This time she swears she means it with the only SOUTHERN POISON coming from the drinks she serves.

The best laid plans of mice, men and Jersey Barnes always goes astray. This time her friend the Judge needs a favor. She is worried that her younger brother Morgan is in trouble seemingly connected to inheriting their father’s popular restaurant Argo. Jersey takes a quick peak and sees nothing out of the ordinary for someone who recently lost his parents suddenly and was dumped by his fiancée. She digs deeper since she has time on her hands as the Barnes Agency and her bar work too perfectly without her and her boyfriend Ox Oxendine is spending quality time with his daughter. Jersey revises her opinion when someone assaults her and Morgan. Jersey soon learns what is behind the Argo’s famous Green Table and uncovers undercover DEA agent Brad the hunk Logan who matches her chutzpah for chutzpah even down to matching weapons to wardrobe. They team up and soon find evidence that Argo is part of a drug ring, which impacts the late parents of Morgan unless Jersey with her befuddled father’s help can prove otherwise.

The fun story line is obvious yet no one will care as the cast make for an amusing impish investigative tale. Jersey is terrific as she works the case, tries to contain her libido wile salivating over Brad, and has her dad advising her. Fans of the series will enjoy the latest lighthearted Jersey hospitality overwhelming North Carolina (see SOUTHERN FATALITY).

Harriet Klausner

Breaking Faith-Anna Blundy

Breaking Faith
Anna Blundy
Minotaur, Jul 7 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312368654

London's Chronicle reporter Faith Zanetti is unhappy with her latest assignment that she assumes is gonna go nowhere as the Cairnbridge plane bombing that killed all 245 aboard has been covered to incredible lengths over the twenty-five years with nothing new. She assumes in between her booze that she will bring nothing new too.

Faith goes to Italy to spend time with Eden, her former boyfriend and father of her infant. He likes Italy and seems to want to remain there; she just wants to finish her story and get back to real investigative journalism like she did in Moscow (see VODKA NEAT) although the incidents there still haunt her. Eden introduces Faith to Phoebe and Walter Irving, friends of her late father Karel, who also was a reporter allegedly killed while covering the Troubles in North Ireland. Faith begins receiving warnings from the grave that leads the intrepid reporter to realize Phoebe knew her dad intimately and the couple knows who made that call in Reykjavik to the American Embassy in Iceland just prior to the Cairnbridge bombing. She also learns about one particular female traveler who died on that tragic plane; a person she would have liked to have met.

With an obvious connection to the Lockerbie tragedy, BREAKING FAITH is a super journalistic investigative thriller as the heroine is stunned with revelation after revelation on a story that she expected to go nowhere. Faith makes the tale work as a tough individual who can out drink just about anyone while balancing a baby with her investigations. Faith’s inquiry into the Cairnbridge plane bombing is deftly handled as Anna Blundy provides another winner that readers will toast with Chianti: wine.

Harriet Klausner

Jericho’s Fall-Stephen L. Carter

Jericho’s Fall
Stephen L. Carter
Knopf, Jul 14 2009, $
ISBN: 9780307272621

In the Colorado Rockies, former CIA chief Jericho Ainsley lies dying from cancer. He asks in his royal demanding way for ex CIA operative Beck DeForde to come see him. Fifteen years ago, they began an affair that ended Jericho’s political power although he still had economic influence when the scandal broke. She assumes he wants to say good-bye.

Almost immediately upon entering the foreboding gigantic home, Beck learns that those who operate in the dark fear what Jericho will reveal to his former lover. Jericho explains he distrusts his family who would sell him out in death for a buck and the spy agencies who only care about polishing their tarnished images after selling out to the last president. He trusts only Beck to do the right thing about the information he plans for her to hold. Both understand what that means from the onset as others have come to this remote house high in the Colorado Rockies to take out two former agents and obtain the information Jericho possesses.

Switching from his complex societal legal thrillers (see THE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK, NEW ENGLAND WHITE and PALACE COUNCIL) Stephen L. Carter provides a more standard type but exhilarating espionage thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when Beck philosophizes that she is traveling to her past in more ways than just visiting her dying former lover whose career died along with hers when their tryst was exposed. She is a terrific heroine holding the exciting plot together while Jericho is the more complicated fascinating character. The author’s fans will appreciate this fine tale, but will also miss a revealing of the “dark secrets” behind the pivotal moments in history that the victors prefer to hide from the masses.

Harriet Klausner

Alibi-Sydney Bauer

Sydney Bauer
Jove, Jul 28 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515146592

Deane University economics major nineteen years old Jessica Nagoshi is the daughter of a billionaire Japanese businessman. Her boyfriend is final year law student James Matheson who also attends Deane. Their relationship is concealed especially from her family.

That secret is out in the open when she is found brutally murdered on her father’s estate in Boston although James lies to Boston homicide detectives Lieutenant Joe Mannix and Detective Frank McKay by denying they were dating Soon afterward his alibi collapses when his best friends interviewed by the cops connect him to the victim and her murder. With John Nagoshi pressuring the District Attorney’s Office for a resolution and ADA Roger Katz hammers the cops, James is being accused of murdering his girlfriend in a crime of passion. His legal mentor Boston attorney David Cavanaugh would prefer to stay out of the highly charged case especially with Nagoshi using his affluence and influence to hang James, but knows he cannot; he represents his student. His team finds several viable suspects especially the deceased’s brother and James’ friend who set up the alibi to deliberately collapse.

In his third legal thriller (see UNDERTOW and GOSPEL) Cavanaugh is terrific as he works a case he never expected in his wildest dreams. The rest of the cast is solid especially the cops, the accused in jail, the other suspects, the legal team including David’s girlfriend and John; the only character stereotyped is the ADA whose ambition rivals Lady Macbeth as he cares not for the truth if it is in his ruthless path. Starting as a police investigation that effortlessly switches to a legal thriller, ALIBI is a strong whodunit filled with plausible suspects particularly David’s pro bono client.

Harriet Klausner

Doom with a View-Victoria Laurie

Doom with a View
Victoria Laurie
Obsidian, Sep 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9780451227799

Psychic Abby Cooper and private investigator Candice share an office where they meet their clients. They are a formidable team who has made a positive impression on FBI Special Agent In Charge Bill Gaston. He asks them to come to DC to work on a task force with other agents headed by politically connected Brice Harrington, who opposes Abby on the team because he believes psychics are con artists.

To prove his point to the others, Brice constructs a biased test, but to his shock, Abby passes rather easily; finding a murder-suicide in the house next door to where one of the tests were held. They earn their place on the task force searching for three missing college students whose only connection seems to be each one has a parent in a political office. They later learn that they all attended with their parents the same conference two years ago. Abby leans from looking at pictures of the missing students that two are dead and the other is dying. Abby’s personal crew of spirit guides escort her and Candice in directions that yield clues as to whom is behind the deadly abductions. When a fourth student is kidnapped, Abby, Candice and Brice team up as the latter is now a firm believer.

Victoria Laurie has written a new spellbinding psychic eye whodunit made refreshed by the heroine, used to non-believers in general, on a team made up of non-believing veteran law enforcement skeptics with only her partner knowing what she can do. She changes their mocking opinions when her predictions prove true. The audience will admire the courageous Abby as she diligently works hard at trying to understand what her crew are telling her. At times the story line is amusing especially when Abby constantly trumps Brice who is a believer in the by the SOP investigation until she converts him, but neither lose perspective that the surviving kid(s) comes first.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Abyss-Troy Denning

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Abyss
Troy Denning
Del Rey, Aug 18 2009, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509185

Tensions are rising to a dangerous feverish pitch on the planet Coruscant where the seat of power of the Galactic Alliance and the Jedi Temple are located. Increasingly at an epidemic rate Jedi Knights are falling prey to a strange illness that lead them into believing people they have known for years are actually doppelgangers. The Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala wants the Jedi Order subservient to her government and Princess Leia and her husband Han Solo try to thwart her ambition.

Still seeking the cause of Jacen Solo’s downfall into the dark side of the force, Luke Skywalker and his son Ben head to Maw Cluster, a mysterious dangerous sector where the Force is very potent. They come upon a space station populated by the dead and the dying. The strongest of the living the Mind Walkers show the father and son team how to leave their bodies and travel to an orb strong with the Force to fond some of the answers they seek.. They know Jacen was in this sector and visited that orb before he became Darth Cadeouss, dictator of the Imperial Empire who killed millions in the civil war. The Skywalkers also fight a lost tribe of Sith who want them dead as a step towards regaining what they feel is their right to rule the galaxy.

The third novel (see OMEN and OUTCAST) in this nine book Star Wars saga is an exciting tale as the story line moves forward on both major plots. The Maw segue is the more fascinating of the two as the worlds and people inside this sector provide a fresh element to the Luke Skywalker legend with readers wondering if he and his son will fall into an abyss that will lead them to the dark side of the Force. The Solo-Leia entry is also enjoyable though somewhat similar to past tales; as the pair and their daughter battle the ambitious ruler. Fans will relish the strong latest entry in the Fate of the Jedi.

Harriet Klausner

Branwen's Garden-Brad Parnell

Branwen's Garden
Brad Parnell
BlackWyrm, Jul 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9780982006764

Fifteen year old Robert has accepted that he has none of the Good Samaritan genes of his older brothers and sister. When his sister Margaret asks Robert to come over, he only agrees to hear her good deeds or dad reconciliation lectures because he has a crush on her roommate. Mags gives him a package containing family history dating back to the seventeenth century to Samuel More, who abruptly vanished. He knows this is a clever ploy to get her younger brother to reconcile with their dad, but Robert also understands his father tried to buy his affection since the split a few years ago with his mom who gave her son her love with no strings.

Robert translates the documents and with his friend Cam head to a nearby Natural Bridge where Cam holds the “key” that opens a portal that Robert crosses over into the land of Gwerinatha. He almost immediately is attacked by a six legged “log” whom he gives the sneaker to. Robert meets Louie the talking wolf, who takes him to his pack. As Robert learns about this strange world, he also finds out that Sam vanished on this side too. However, Robert’s goal of going home is interrupted when he discovers the local human heroine Branwen is missing. With the help of Branwen’s family and friends, Robert goes on a trek to rescue her.

The first Legend of Gwerinatha is a terrific entertaining middle school coming of age fantasy starring a young man learning about responsibility once he meets Louie and learns of BRANWEN'S GARDEN. The slacker lead protagonist is well aware of his so called short comings back home, but is okay with it. That changes when he becomes a heroic champion trying to find his ancestor and Branwen as a stranger in a strange land in which only the teen girls seem normal to him. Fans will enjoy his escapdes and look forward to Cam’s trek into Gwerinatha.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Devil In My Bed-Celeste Bradley

Devil In My Bed
Celeste Bradley
St. Martin’s, Aug 4 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943080

In 1812 Aidan de Quincy and Widow Madeleine Chandler shared a passionate affair that abruptly ended in an ugly manner leaving him angry and birrer. In 1815 when he arrives at the Brown’s Club for Distinguished Gentlemen he is accosted by a small child who says she is three years old and named Melody. She explains to Aidan, his friend Jack and Sir Colin Lambert that she seeks her unknown father who is one of them; her mother is apparently Madeleine though the child implies she is a foundling.

Aidan goes off to confront Madeleine, who still loves him. She dumped him because she feared the scandal her past would cost her noble beloved. He is soon rescuing her and demanding the truth as he sees it in her eyes the wanting, but she still lies about her being Melody's mother.

This is a terrific Regency madcap romance with a great opening that sets in motion a comedy of errors filled with whimsy, money, and love. The lead couple is a delightful pairing while little Melody steals the hearts of the three men, Madeleine and readers form the onset. Fans will look forward to the next rogue Sir Colin’s saga after appreciating this enjoyable screwball historical romantic comedy.

Harriet Klausner

The Second Betrayal- Cheyenne McCray

The Second Betrayal
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin’s, Aug 4 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943080

NSA’s Recovery Enforcement Division operative Lexi Steele lusts after her partner Nick Donovan, but knows the mission comes before her raging libido. Someone is running an international traffic ring out of New York by enticing girls to come to the Big Apple as models only to sell them as sex slaves. Lexi goes undercover pretending to be a madam interested in buying merchandise.

Lexi also believes Nick is concealing something from her though they are lovers when not on a case. He also fears their relationship will end if she learns the truth about what he hides from her from his Special Forces day; but in a quandary because telling the truth will end their relationship even sooner. However, he agrees with her assessment first there is a notorious trafficker that needs to be stopped.

After they broke the rules of teaming with THE FIRST SIN, Lexi and Nick are back to break the rules again as operatives in RED’s Human Trafficking and Sex Crimes Division. The case comes first though she has issues with her lover. Fans will enjoy their escapades as this time the Hudson is the focus of dirty water in Cheyenne McCray’s gritty look at trafficking. IAW the author’s afterward quoting the State Department: “up to two million people are trafficked worldwide every year, with an estimated 15000 to 18000 in the U.S.”
Harriet Klausner

The Night Counter-Alia Yunis

The Night Counter
Alia Yunis
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Jul 14 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9780307453624

Lebanese immigrant Fatima Abdullah is dying, but shows no interest in a reconciliation with her estranged husband Ibraham or for that matter with her children sprawled all over the country as she prefers to ignore their issues. She has no desire to see any of her ten offspring; their children except Amir or even her pregnant great-granddaughter; they did not want to hear her prattle about her 1001 Arabian Nights countdown.

Instead she stays with her gay grandson Amir, who welcomes her insanity in Los Angeles as an actor who knows his town is filled with crazies so his attitude is why not one more with his blood. For the last 992 nights ever since Scheherazade visited her demanding she tells her stories, Fatima has complied. When her tales end, Scheherazade insists so does her life; as happens with everyone. With nine to go, the octogenarian expects to be dead next week even as Ibraham wants to be there for her; as does the FBI who believe the Abdullah family are a sleeper terrorist cell because of Amir’s name and his association with a former lover under federal surveillance due to his former lover Amir being under federal surveillance.

This is a terrific tale that keeps the audience wondering whether Fatima suffers from dementia or is a clever modern day fantasy. Fatima obviously owns the fast-paced novel as she begins her final countdown to what she expects is her death. Her family especially heartbroken Amir, whose lover dumped him during the countdown, provide solid support as all of them except her host assumes she is certifiable; whereas her host thinks she is an eccentric lovable kook. Sherazade plays a key role, but like the Memorex commercial one will ponder is she real or imagined as does the circular logical FBI finding perceived terrorists under any Arab sounding rock. Alia Yunis provides a powerful modern day family thriller with the twist of the FBI “interrogates” Sherazade.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Allbones' Ferrets-Fiona Farrell

Mr. Allbones' Ferrets
Fiona Farrell
St. Martin’s, Aug 4 2009
ISBN: 9780312383077

In the late nineteenth century in England, ferret whisperer and breeder Walter Allbones meets naturalist and rare bird collector Mr. Pitford and his lovely granddaughter Eugenia when his pets poach rabbits to bring to him from the nearby estate owned by the scientist. They sort of catch him in the act. He agrees to provide Mr. Pitford with ferrets to be shipped to New Zealand to control the out of control rabbit infestation.

Walter is attracted to Eugenia and as much to the money he can make selling his ferrets. The pair chaperoned by grandpa begins an international trek to sell his ferrets. As their journey continues Walter believes he loves Eugenia, but fears her reaction would end their friendship. He does not understanding she begins to reciprocate his feelings in spite of his emitting the stinky odor of ferret sweat to her olfactory sense.

This is an interesting amusing historical tale with a wonderful romantic subplot that enhances Fiona Farrell’s satirical homage to Darwin as mustelids and ferrets play matchmakers, but not the way readers would expect. The story line is whimsical with solid characters having differing personalities. Fans who relish something different and do not demonize evolution will enjoy this irreverent look at relationships, human and otherwise, that both highly respect in awe and cheekily mock also in awe Darwin.

Harriet Klausner

Devil In My Bed-Celeste Bradley

Devil In My Bed
Celeste Bradley
St. Martin’s, Aug 4 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943080

In 1812 Aidan de Quincy and Widow Madeleine Chandler shared a passionate affair that abruptly ended in an ugly manner leaving him angry and birrer. In 1815 when he arrives at the Brown’s Club for Distinguished Gentlemen he is accosted by a small child who says she is three years old and named Melody. She explains to Aidan, his friend Jack and Sir Colin Lambert that she seeks her unknown father who is one of them; her mother is apparently Madeleine though the child implies she is a foundling.

Aidan goes off to confront Madeleine, who still loves him. She dumped him because she feared the scandal her past would cost her noble beloved. He is soon rescuing her and demanding the truth as he sees it in her eyes the wanting, but she still lies about her being Melody's mother.

This is a terrific Regency madcap romance with a great opening that sets in motion a comedy of errors filled with whimsy, money, and love. The lead couple is a delightful pairing while little Melody steals the hearts of the three men, Madeleine and readers form the onset. Fans will look forward to the next rogue Sir Colin’s saga after appreciating this enjoyable screwball historical romantic comedy.

Harriet Klausner

The Second Betrayal-Cheyenne McCray

The Second Betrayal
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin’s, Aug 4 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943080

NSA’s Recovery Enforcement Division operative Lexi Steele lusts after her partner Nick Donovan, but knows the mission comes before her raging libido. Someone is running an international traffic ring out of New York by enticing girls to come to the Big Apple as models only to sell them as sex slaves. Lexi goes undercover pretending to be a madam interested in buying merchandise.

Lexi also believes Nick is concealing something from her though they are lovers when not on a case. He also fears their relationship will end if she learns the truth about what he hides from her from his Special Forces day; but in a quandary because telling the truth will end their relationship even sooner. However, he agrees with her assessment first there is a notorious trafficker that needs to be stopped.

After they broke the rules of teaming with THE FIRST SIN, Lexi and Nick are back to break the rules again as operatives in RED’s Human Trafficking and Sex Crimes Division. The case comes first though she has issues with her lover. Fans will enjoy their escapades as this time the Hudson is the focus of dirty water in Cheyenne McCray’s gritty look at trafficking. IAW the author’s afterward quoting the State Department: “up to two million people are trafficked worldwide every year, with an estimated 15000 to 18000 in the U.S.”

Harriet Klausner

Faces-Martina Cole

Martina Cole
Grand Central, Jul 21 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446179973

In London, several mob thugs arrive at the Cadogen home to collect the patriarch’s gambling debt. Dan knew he could not pay so he fled leaving his wife and three children to face the wrath of the mobsters. Almost fourteen year old Danny “Big Dan” Cadogen shows no fear as he faces down the gangsters wanting blood money from his vanished drunken dad. One of the crooks Louie Stein, impressed by the teen’s fortitude and size, mentors him in the life of a criminal.

At fifteen, Big Dan kills a hooker with his fists and not long afterward kills someone who ratted on the mob. Over the years with his best childhood friend brainy Michael Miles at his side, Big Dan becomes the most frightening gangster in the city. He is the Face as even his wife Mary, sister of Michael, fears him. Now a notorious legend, Big Dan knows wannabes will try to knock him off his pedestal, but he welcomes all challengers wanting to die at his hands.

Though extremely well written and engaging, FACES is not an easy to read character study due to the lead protagonist consistent use of his fists and other weapons even on the innocent. The interesting story line focuses on Danny whose life of crime is based on either killing or beating the sh*t out of the other guy or gal to retain their respect; he brings home his terrorist philosophy to his family too. Fans will enjoy this gloomy look at a despicable kingpin who the audience will hope gets his butt handed to him while wondering why he was not assassinated by a sniper with a semi.

Harriet Klausner

Even Money-Dick Francis and Felix Francis

Even Money
Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Putnam, Aug 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399155918

The first day of the Royal Ascot horse races gala was like any other opening at the prestigious event and Ted Talbot, his co-worker Luca, and their assistant Betsy are taking book from the punters. Out of the crowd comes an elderly man demanding to speak with Ted. He insists that he is Peter James Talbot, Ted’s father. This is a shocker as Ted was raised by his paternal grandparents who claimed his parents died in a car crash.

Peter informs his still stunned son that he has two half-sisters living in Australia, but before they can get into a car, two thugs demand the older Talbot hand over the money. During the subsequent brawl, James is injured and rushed to the hospital where he dies. Ted goes to his dad’s hotel room and finds proof that his father was involved in an illegal activity. The thugs still demand their loot and the code used on chips that are imprinted and then inserted into the horses. Ted’s life is in jeopardy but he also wants justice for his father and the insurance these punks will not go after him or his loved ones in the future. He ignores the cops because the lead police officer investigating his father’s death assumes he is guilty of something.

Dick and Felix Francis once again affirm that a father-son writing team can provide quality mysteries. Readers are caught up in British horse racing (a trademark of father) and the shenanigans that occur away from the track including some instigated by Ted. Still he receives plenty of empathy as criminals are coming after him as the likely recipient of his father’s legacy, he has a mentally ill wife institutionalized, and a co-worker wanting to be his partner in the family business. With plenty of thrills, chills, and spills EVEN MONEY is a sure bet.

Harriet Klausner

Vicious Circle-Linda Robertson

Vicious Circle
Linda Robertson
Juno (Pocket), Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439154281

Persephone “Seph” Alcmedi is a witch, but pays her bills with other paranormal practices like reading tarot cards and writing a newspaper column. Seph also breaks the rules of witch-hood and the city ordinance by running a kennel in her basement to keep werewolves out of trouble during the full moon. Everyone knows the Were and witches are like an oilman and a tree hugger.

Seph is outraged when her grandma is kicked to the curb by her nursing home management. She puts that on hold when a vampire kills her were-friend Lorrie Kordell. She is offered a hell of a lot cash to bring the bloody killer to justice. However, the predator Goliath Kline is too dangerous for a mere witch to restrain so she turns to Johnny the lead singer of techno-metal-Goth band Lycanthropia, who has more than a crush on her; a feeling she reciprocates though she hides it from the biker using grandma as her heart guard.

This is an amusing lighthearted chick lit urban fantasy that stars a female David witch struggling with her bills, grandma, and Johnny battling Goliath the invincible cruel vampire; Vegas would never allow betting on this one. The story line is breezy from the onset as a frustrated Persephone wishes her kennel guests would keep the Krispy Kreme boxes off her lawn before the neighbors howl about her garbage and never slows down. Fans will appreciate this jocular tale in which the plot is never quite serious as the kennel master witch turns amateur sleuth leading to a showdown with a vampire who will enjoy drinking bewitching blood.

Harriet Klausner

Semper Human-Ian Douglas

Semper Human
Ian Douglas
Eos, May 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 0061238643

Across the galaxy, all hell has exploded with many colonial planets and other orbital habitats in jeopardy; billions could die. The Galactive Associative has tried to maintain the peace and prevent internal hostilities from destroying much of humanity, but the leaders recognize they failed especially after the Xul Incursion in 4004. One year later they call for desperate measures to prevent the beginning of the end as rebels are springing up seemingly everywhere. They awaken General Garroway and his Star Marines from eight and a half centuries of deliberate cybernetic-hibernation sleep; a super squad who chose cybernation in 3152 in case they were ever needed again.

However, the almost millennia induced coma has left Garroway and his United States Marine Corps warriors unprepared for a society in which the rules of engagement they adhered to are considered obsolete by self interested politicians who have plans on manipulating the reanimated marines for personnel power gain as the common good is superseded. Still Garroway and his corps begin the counterattack only to realize the greater peril is not from within or even just the invincible Xul, though great threats to the well being of mankind. A hazard so insidious the past, present and future are simultaneously in danger of being eradicated by the unbeatable Xul and the Great Annihilator whose plan is eliminate any trace that humanity ever lived or lives.

This is the exciting finish to the Inheritance trilogy with the third book (see STAR STRIKE and GALACTIC CORPS) of the third saga (see the novels of the Heritage trilogy and the Legacy Trilogy). The story line is fast-paced and resolves much of what has occurred in the last twelve centuries; answering the key questions in an exhilarating way. Garroway and his unit are terrific, but Ian Douglas continues to show his scorn of politicians as once again cowardly politicos get in the way of the heroic marines so long term fans will finish the saga with the thoughts of well written and very entertaining, but a nagging sense of deja vu.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Belly Dancer-DeAnna Cameron

The Belly Dancer
DeAnna Cameron
Berkley, Jul 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425227787

Leaving New Orleans with her new husband, Dora Chambers vows to be a good wife. To obtain her spouse’s approving regard, she joins Chicago’s Fair's Board of Lady Managers. However, her efforts do not register with him as he remains distant and colder than the city’s weather in winter.

The Fair's Board of Lady Managers assigns Dora to the seemingly nasty task of monitoring the belly dancing exhibition at the World’s Fair. While the prim and proper female elite laugh at Dora, she finds the assignment fun, likes and admirers the dancers and is attracted to their manager, Hossam Farouk. He is an enigma to her as his voice says he distrusts her, but his eyes say he wants her. Inside the pavilion, Dora feels free unlike outside where she lives in a gilded cage.

The setting of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago provides more than just a wonderful backdrop as people from around the globe show off the best of their respective societies. In that venue, the innocent heroine, while trying to please her husband’s family and friends, becomes Dora the “Explorer”. However what she mostly scrutinizes is herself as she wants to break out of the chains society places on women, but also fears the consequences. THE BELLY DANCER is a terrific historical tale that proudly salutes the nineteenth century suffragette movement leaders and their everyday troops while also affirming society is so much stronger when barriers of specifically group aimed restraints are limited.
Harriet Klausner

Caitlyn's Prize-Linda Warren

Caitlyn's Prize
Linda Warren
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 14 2009, $6.25
ISBN: 9780373783199

Following the death of her father Dane, Caitlyn Belle learns the family High Five ranch is in financial trouble due to her late dad’s gambling debts that he somewhat paid off by the money making selling gas and oil royalties. Their neighbor Southern Cross ranch Judd Calhoun explains she has six months to turn a profit or sell the ranch to him at fair market value. Several years ago she ended their engagement when he refused to say he loved her; instead he felt he was honest when he responded he has no idea what love means.

When someone begins vandalizing the ranch, Caitlyn, who distrusts Judd with her heart, knows he is her only hope to save the spread though he might be the saboteur as part of his vengeance for her dumping him. Judd holds a mean grudge not forgiving her for dumping him, but every time he looks into her eyes; his icy heart melts though he works extra time to refreeze it.

The first Belles of Texas is a fabulous ranch romance starring two beloved enemies as the heroine will not marry for anything less than a shared love while the lead male insists honesty is more important than an undefined whimsical emotion like love. Her late father’s beliefs that sound Regency in nature in which women should not deal with finances is ironic because he left his daughters and their grandmother in fiscal trouble. The story line is fast-paced yet also enhanced by the strong support cast making CAITLYN'S PRIZE a great opening “Cowboy Country” second chance at love romance.

Harriet Klausner

A Ranch Called Home-Candy Halliday

A Ranch Called Home
Candy Halliday
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 14 2009, $6.25
ISBN: 9780373783205

When Bill Coulter died at the World Champion Rodeo Finals in Vegas, his brother Gabe hired an investigator to locate his five years old nephew Ben. Gabe obsesses over bringing the child to his Colorado family ranch to raise the boy though he also has doubts whether the lad he never met is his blood.

In Conrad, Texas Ben’s mom Sara Watson is a lioness protecting her cub from the Coulter clan; she is always ready to run away with her son and start anew though that means poverty; she does not trust anyone who shares Bill’s DNA. She tells Gabe who looks just like Ben what he can do with his $50,000 as his nephew will remains with her though not in the lap of luxury. Gabe reassesses his pre-meeting perception of what Sarah would be like and likes what he has found out about her. He offers her a deal to come live on the ranch as his wife in a marriage of convenience so they both can be there to raise Ben, but also there will be no conjugal relationship between them. However, neither expected the inferno attraction between them as Gabe wants their marriage to be totally real, Sarah does too but assumes he wed her to bring Ben “home”.

This is an intriguing ranch romance due to the lead characters desire to protect Ben although the marriage of convenience seems unnecessary and somewhat contrived. The story line grips the audience when Gabe meets Sara waitressing in Conrad where the locals are as protective of her as she is of Ben. With real people in Texas and especially Colorado, fans will enjoy this “Cowboy Country” contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

A Ranch Called Home-Candy Halliday

A Ranch Called Home
Candy Halliday
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 14 2009, $6.25
ISBN: 9780373783205

When Bill Coulter died at the World Champion Rodeo Finals in Vegas, his brother Gabe hired an investigator to locate his five years old nephew Ben. Gabe obsesses over bringing the child to his Colorado family ranch to raise the boy though he also has doubts whether the lad he never met is his blood.

In Conrad, Texas Ben’s mom Sara Watson is a lioness protecting her cub from the Coulter clan; she is always ready to run away with her son and start anew though that means poverty; she does not trust anyone who shares Bill’s DNA. She tells Gabe who looks just like Ben what he can do with his $50,000 as his nephew will remains with her though not in the lap of luxury. Gabe reassesses his pre-meeting perception of what Sarah would be like and likes what he has found out about her. He offers her a deal to come live on the ranch as his wife in a marriage of convenience so they both can be there to raise Ben, but also there will be no conjugal relationship between them. However, neither expected the inferno attraction between them as Gabe wants their marriage to be totally real, Sarah does too but assumes he wed her to bring Ben “home”.

This is an intriguing ranch romance due to the lead characters desire to protect Ben although the marriage of convenience seems unnecessary and somewhat contrived. The story line grips the audience when Gabe meets Sara waitressing in Conrad where the locals are as protective of her as she is of Ben. With real people in Texas and especially Colorado, fans will enjoy this “Cowboy Country” contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

No Hero Like Him-Elaine Grant

No Hero Like Him
Elaine Grant
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 14 2009, $6.25
ISBN: 9780373783182

Rodeo bronco rider Seth Morgan suffers a severe injury that forces him off the circuit while he heals. Clair Ford desperately needs a cowboy to teach riding at her newly opened summer horse-riding camp for troubled kids. Thus she hires Seth who needs something to take his mind off not participating in the rodeo.

However, Seth finds Claire keeps his brain from wandering back to the circuit; although she is also attracted to him, bull riding comes between them. He cannot give up his first love for his second love especially with his obsession to climb back on the bull that nearly killed him while she cannot cope with the danger of his profession especially his fixation to challenge the matchmaking bull that brought them together.

This is a super triangle relationship romance in which a bull stands between the lead couple making it as each in their way obsesses over that animal. The story line is driven by the conflict between Claire and Seth in which love does not seem enough as he needs to climb back on the bull who nearly killed him and she needs him to avoid that bull and his peers. Elaine Grant provides the audience a terrific contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

Thorn Queen-Richelle Mead

Thorn Queen
Richelle Mead
Zebra, Aug 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420100976

Half-breed shaman Eugenie Markham was contented making a living sending home creatures who crossed over from the Otherworld. She never planned to cross over herself heeding her mentor stepfather’s warning, but did so to rescue a child. To accomplish her quest, Eugenie killed the Thorn King (see STORM BORN) only to learn she is now the THORN QUEEN; a job she does not want as that will mean more time on Otherworld where every person with a Y Chromosome wants her.

She has issues with the two males in her life though she is seeing Kiyo the spirit fox even as he is expecting to be a father soon with his former girlfriend while fae King Dorian has her libido soaring to heights she never imagined. Besides wanting two hunks Eugenie fears pregnancy as her firstborn is prophesized as the individual who will make the human race extinct. The newest monarch is most concerned with several young female fae vanishing; adding to her dismay is that no one even King Dorian seem the least bit troubled. She decides to investigate as Eugenie feels this is part of being a ruler. Her inquiry leads to life threatening danger from an adversary with a personal blood grudge and an affirmation that her preference is the mental comfort of the human realm she knows intimately.

The second Dark Swan fantasy is a terrific tale as the audience sees the Otherworld through the eyes of newcomer Eugenie. The story line is fast-paced from the onset while the Thorn Queen struggles with her new responsibilities, her love life and an unknown foe using fae to force the heroine to act. Like the first book, this is a winner due to the realism brought to Otherworld by the half human-half fey heroine who is naive in this new world of hers as her earthly sophistication appears worthless in this realm.
Harriet Klausner

Traitors' Gate-Kate Elliott

Traitors' Gate
Kate Elliott
Tor, Aug 18 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765310576

The land of the Hundred is on the verge of collapse as war has swept across everywhere. The cause is a stunner as someone from within The Guardians of the Altars has betrayed the trust; causing massive chaos slaughtering of thousands of people in a mindless march of destruction.

The only viable adversary to the horde of the Guardians of the Altars is the Outlander army who want peace and prosperity to return. They know their enemy is beyond reason and prepare for war against an invincible foe, who even devastated the Eagle Reeves used to enforce the law of the land.

The third Crossroads epic fantasy (see SPIRIT GATE and SHADOW GATE) is a super entry that will have readers considering what a value is on individual and collective levels and can a person ignore natured values that are nurtured by society; that psychological well-being is the essence of TRAITOR’S GATE. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced from the onset, as the Outlander soldiers as individuals think they can perform actions that feel contrary to their psychological essence, but as a group may find the tasks required overwhelming because these brave soldiers must also overcome the intrinsic values of the group. Complex and complicated, the world of Kate Elliot is filled with mental personal gates that amass in the realm of the Hundreds on an epic scale of doubt and devastation. This is a deep thought provoking entry within a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

Elfland-Freda Warrington

Freda Warrington
Tor, Aug 18 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765318695

Every seven years on the Night of the Summer Stars, the Aetherials routinely move back and forth between the Spiral and the Earth when the gates between realms are opened for a short time. The Aetherials live amongst the earthlings as humans, but must go home periodically to touch their basic essence or go insane.

Their return to home trip abruptly fails this year when for no known reason the Gatekeeper Lawrence Wilder shuts the portal permanently. He proclaims danger is coming from beyond that could destroy the realms, but says nothing further. The Aetherials are stuck on Earth and panic stricken though they have lived safely as mortals amidst the humans; but these Fair Folk will go mad and die if they fail to return home. The daughter of their King Auberon, Rose Fox is attracted to one of the sons of the Gatekeeper, though both offspring Sam and Jon Wilder want her. This is not a good time for romance as the desperate visitors are losing their grips on sanity from failing to touch with their Aetherial selves on the other side of the shuttered gate.

ELFLAND, the first Books of the Silver Wheel saga, is an excellent fantasy due to the refreshing cast as the human, the Aetherial, and the Gatekeeper and his family (especially his sons) seem genuine with all types of personal conflicts and desires. Surprisingly, the story line focuses deep on the relationships (carefully keeping the romance from overwhelming the rest of the plot) between and within the two key families while one brood struggles with sanity while trying to go home. Fans will relish Freda Warrington’s opening gamut and look forward to the rest of this character driven series as the Fair Folks instinctively know time is running out on their minds.

Harriet Klausner

Land Of The Dead-Thomas Harlan

Land Of The Dead
Thomas Harlan
Tor, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765312044

In a rarely traveled part of space, an even rarer artifact from the glorious era of the First Sun Old Ones has been discovered. The leaders of the interplanetary Mexica Empire know the significance of the find from a historical perspective and even more important understand this is a weapon of mass destruction.

In Mexico City, the Emperor wants the relic brought under their close supervision so he sends his son, Prince Xochitl to retrieve it. At the same time Mirror Service operative Green Hummingbird, First Sun anthropological expert Gretchen Anderssen and Captain Susan Koshy are also trying to obtain the artifact. Others also make a trek to gain possession as everyone understands the impact of an Old Ones’ weapon.

The premise of In The Time of the Sixth Sun saga (see WASTELAND OF FLINT and HOUSE OF REEDS) is simplistic as Thomas Harlan changes a key pivotal sixteenth century moment in which the Japanese instead of the Spanish meet the Aztecs first. From that first encounter, the author has extrapolated an alternate history based on the Annals of Cuauhtotlan that provides the audience with a super futuristic science fiction saga. LAND OF THE DEAD is a great action-packed thriller with tense battle scenes in space as the race to possess an artifact from the era of the First Sun has everyone on edge. Green and his cohorts, and Xochitl bring to the exciting plot a human rivalry that compares how miniscule earthlings are against the big vastness of outer space.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thrumpton Hall: A Memoir of Life in My Father's House

Thrumpton Hall: A Memoir of Life in My Father's House
Miranda Seymour
Harper, Jul 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061466564

In 1944, twenty-one year old George FitzRoy Seymour ecstatically bought the house of his dreams Thrumpton Hall in Nottinghamshire, England; the home his Foreign Service parents abandoned him in with relatives when he was two. To make the purchase he marries wealthy Rosemary Scott-Ellis. However, the estate and the manor house instead of his wife became his significant other as everything he did from that pivotal point was to keep his house in perfect order. He expected his children to be as perfect as the house and ripped author Miranda Seymour for being a fat teen. He also did not hide his sexual preference for young males.

This is a fascinating memoir that is made even stronger by the author being the daughter of the subject and her key disclaimer that she does not know all the skeletons. George is an intriguing individual who knew the intricate history of his house especially as the first minor to reside there in over three centuries. His childhood abandonment impacts his adulthood at a time in which the aristocracy is in rapid decline following WWII. He obsesses over owning and maintaining THRUMPTON HALL. Readers will appreciate renowned biographer Miranda Seymour’s look at growing up with a father who cherished his house as his significant other and loved the edifice seemingly more than he did his family.

Harriet Klausner

The Embers-Hyatt Bass

The Embers
Hyatt Bass
Holt, Jun 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780805089943

Playwright and actor Joe Ascher believes he is the greatest artist of all time and expects his family to adulate him. His wife Laura suffers in silence his egomania accentuated by his womanizing. His daughter Emily has always tried to be daddy’s little girl, but he only has time for himself. The only member of the family who lives harmoniously is Emily and Joe’s son Thomas who was never concerned with what his father thought of him, but now he is dying from lymphoma.

Now an attorney Emily is getting married to half Korean Clay. Their wedding is to be held in Berkshires at family vacation home where she and Tom spent their summers. The ceremony is on a hill where Tom’s ashes were scattered as Emily needs her late brother at the wedding. Her parents are divorced; while Laura remarried, still womanizing Joe is a has been who hopes for one last glory hit like a former punch-drunk boxing champion going in for one more title fight long past his prime. His estranged daughter wants him to give her away, which may be his last chance to perform as a father.

Rotating between the past and present, Hyatt Bass provides a fascinating tale that has few events, but differing perspectives as to what occurred. The story line is character driven by the Ascher family who are all fully developed protagonists seeing incidents totally different. Fans will enjoy the Butterfly Effect on a family as minor occurrences lead to major confrontations years afterward; thus the Aschers are victims of self induced inertia and chaos. EMBERS is a wonderful introspective novel though there is for practical purposes no action.
Harriet Klausner

Best Friends Forever-Jennifer Weiner

Best Friends Forever
Jennifer Weiner
Atria, Jul 14 2009, $26.99
ISB: 9780743294294

In Pleasnt Ridge, Illinoss, Addie Downs and Valerie Adler became best friends forever when the latter moved on the same block as the former when both were nine years old. They remained BFFs until high school as Val becomes part of the in crowd while Addie becomes the school joke.

Fifteen years later, Val is the weathergirl on the local news while Addie is the caretaker of her troubled brother. Val can have any guy while Addie goes Internet dating only to find loser after loser. They have completely lost contact with each other until the day Val arrives at Addie’s house with blood splattered on her. She insists she needs her BFF to help her out of a tight spot as she has enacted vengeance on her former boyfriend Dan Swansea. Police chief Jordan Novick investigates the disappearance of Dan, but he has a problem that he never anticipated with this case; love at first sight not with beautiful Val, but with homely Addie.

This is an amusing lighthearted chick lit crime thriller starring two BFFs who became BEs (best enemies) only to finally clear the air between them and return to being BFFs. The story line is jocular insanity over the top of the Sears Tower that readers will relish with every laughing yet profound moment. This is chick lit at its best.

Harriet Klausner

Colonel Brandon’s Diary-Amanda Grange

Colonel Brandon’s Diary
Amanda Grange
Berkley, Jul 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425227794

In 1778 eighteen year old James Brandon loves his father’s ward Eliza and he hopes to marry her one day soon; she reciprocates his feelings and his dream. When his parents arrange a match between his Eliza and his brother womanizing drunk Harry, his heart is broken as his father has the final word. Eliza marries while heartbroken James joins the military.

After being stationed in India for years and going up in the ranks, James comes home having inherited Delaford though he hopes maturity hides his love for his sister-in-law. He is stunned to find a dying Eliza in debtor's prison. James frees her from her incarceration, but can only watch her die from the consumption that has wracked her lungs. Heartbroken, he raises Eliza’s illegitimate daughter, but at fifteen years old she runs away. Fearing for his ward, James begins to fall in love with Marianne Dashwood, but she is in love with Willoughby.

COLONEL BRANDON’S DAIRY occurs before and during the events of Sense and Sensibility as Amanda Grange provides the back story as well as filling in the gaps from a key male’s perspective in the Jane Austen classic. The cast stays true to the original but is enhanced by Amanda Grange especially the seemingly fickle Marianne, but once again this is a male’s diary so we see everything through his filter. Fans of the great Ms. Austen will appreciate the homage to Sense and Sensibility as Ms. Grange has done with Persuasion (see CAPTAIN WENTWORTH’S DIARY), Pride & Prejudice (see MR. DARCY’S DIARY), Mansfield Park (see EDMUND BERTRAM’S DAIRY) and Emma (see MR. KNIGHTLY’S DIARY).

Harriet Klausner

Wed Him Before You Bed Him-Sabrina Jeffries

Wed Him Before You Bed Him
Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416560821

When Charlotte Harris was eighteen and Charlotte Page she made a horrific mistake when she sent a letter rejecting a suitor that became published in a tabloid scandal rag. The scandal ruined David’s reputation unfairly and she made hers worse when she eloped with Captain Harris.

Years later in 1824, she still regrets what she caused, not for herself as she likes being the Headmistress of the Mrs. Harris School for Heiresses, but to the gentleman she hurt. However, her school is in financial difficulty and “Cousin Michael” whom she has corresponded with and helped her through the worst of times is not writing; she is worried about him as that is out of character. Her only hope is the man she inadvertently destroyed. However she also is ignorant as to what he has done to avenge what she did to him years ago; he just never expected to remain in love with her.

The final School for Heiresses Regency romance is the one fans of this strong late regency saga have waited for and will agree that Sabrina Jeffries surpasses our expectations; the pressure on the gifted author for Charlotte’s tale must have been immense. The story line is fast-paced and filled with strong support characters while the lead “triangle” is top rate as Cousin Michael’s ’s web of deceit is entangling Charlotte and himself in what looks will be another enormous scandal. Great fun for sub-genre readers as Ms. Jeffries closes out her series with a winner.

Harriet Klausner

The Siege-Stephen White

The Siege
Stephen White
Dutton, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525951223

At Yale University, a group serendipitously assaults a building housing a secret society. The assault team easily takes over the edifice holding a number of students who include some offspring of VIPs as prisoners. The invaders turn the complex into an impregnable stronghold.

Slowly Yale officials realize something has happened on the campus. They call in law enforcement who tries to make contact with the hostage holders. However, those in charge inside make no demands what so ever and ignore efforts to negotiate with them. They randomly murder some of the victims and release others for no apparent reason. Suspended Boulder, Colorado police officer Sam Purdy, FBI agent Christopher Poe and CIA terror expert Deirdre Drake unite trying to break the enigmatic code of the terrorists.

This is a brilliant super hostage thriller that makes the case that terrorists learn lessons from each assault making the next one more efficient and perhaps effective; unless the countering law enforcement also learns by extrapolating from the current attack to prevent the next. Fans will be hooked from the moment the assault team takes over the building and wonder what they want and how they choose who dies. THE SIEGE is a terrific timely thriller that reminds the audience diligence is everyone’s job whether it is knowing a lone wolf is going to mete justice to an abortion doctor or a group burning down a religious facility as everyone is under siege when we remain silent until after the incident and claim non mea culpa

Harriet Klausner

Enigma-C.F. Bentley

C.F. Bentley
Daw, Aug 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 0756405645

The Harmony Empire of planets has been secluded from the greater universe for a long time due to its remoteness. Lovers High Priestess of Harmony Laudae Sissy and Confederated Star System Agent “Military” Jake know the remote inaccessibility is coming to an end. With that in mind they travel to Labyrinthe VII space station; better known in this sector as The First Contact Cafe hoping to negotiate diplomatic and economic relations for their confederation with the outside governments as they know the outsiders are coming anyway to obtain precious Badger Medal.

The Confederated Star Systems want the Badger Medal to build starships so will do anything to regain control of their former colony and the other planets that make up the Harmonic Empire. With war in the sector seemingly imminent, Harmony wants a fair price for its most precious asset. When someone tries to assassinate Sissy, she becomes fearful that her efforts to restore the covenant to the goddess Harmony will fail; Jake risks his life to keep her safe, but also knows as the planet’s liaison to the outside he must continue the negotiations to save the empire from a hostile takeover from without and within especially when an alien vessel apparently deliberately crashed into the Harmony wing of the space station.

Besides dealing with a mass murdering serial killer and an insane spy chief, all Jake has to do is negotiate, investigate and protect fragile Sissy. The story line is fast-paced due to his ability to juggle all the balls though some do fall making his tasks more complex. Fans will enjoy the sequel to HARMONY as C.F. Bentley provides a strong space opera starring a brave hero and the fragile woman he cherishes, who surprises even him with her courage to enter the hellish fray though completely frightened as she is a "Depends" female; you can depend on her to do the right thing though she wears rubber underwear.

Harriet Klausner

Mr. Darcy, Vampire-Amanda Grange

Mr. Darcy, Vampire
Amanda Grange
Sourcebook, Aug 1 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402236976

In October 1802, Elizabeth Bennett believes she is the luckiest woman in England because this is her wedding day to her beloved Mr. Darcy. It is actually a double wedding as her sister Jane is marrying Mr. Bingley. The ceremony goes off without a hitch. After the gala instead of going to the Lake District, Darcy tells Elizabeth they are heading to Paris since the truce remains steady between Napoleon and England.

In France, she meets Darcy’s friends, exuberant sybarites who disapprove of the marriage because of her bloodline. They feels he should have wedded one of his own. Elizabeth won his heart but though he loves her Darcy fails to consummate their marriage. From Paris they visit his uncle in the Alps, but at the chateau, t his blood relative tells them to go when a mob storms the places because they disapprove of Elizabeth. They head to Venice where she finally learns the truth about her husband when he kills one of his own kind. She must decide whether they separate, a thought she loathes, or consummate the marriage knowing what he is.

Mr. Darcy’s reservations, temperament and apparent aloofness are explained in a most unusual way by Jane Austin guru Amanda Grange (see the diaries saga) as he hides what torments him from his beloved. Readers tour the content with the pair, but see Europe through Darcy’s eyes that also enables the audience to learn more about him, past and present. Weird but entertaining as Ms. Grange understands Darcy as if he is a living “undead” family member she knew back during the Napoleonic Era.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange-Amanda Smyth

Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange
Amanda Smyth
Crown, Jun 30 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307460646

In Black Rock, Tobago, half-breed Celia D'Abadie’s mom died giving birth to her while her absentee Caucasian father deserted her to return to his home in Southampton, England. Her maternal Aunt Tassi raises her lovingly. Everything is great until Tassi marries Roman. He is abusive and ever leering and stalking Celia. When she is sixteen, her uncle rapes her.

Celia flees her home for Trinidad where she meets William Shamiel. He and his family take the teen into their home. She obtains work as a maid to the family of Dr. Emmanuel Rodriguez. His English wife Helen is mentally on the verge of collapse as everything sends her to hysteria while his two kids are precocious when mom is not around. However, the move to Port of Spain that starts off uplifting soon turns ugly too for Celia.

Celia and the locale of Trinidad-Tobago refresh the often told tale of a naive young country bumpkin forced to come of age rather quickly in the city. The teen’s adventures on both islands bring them to life for the reader as Amanda Smyth escorts her audience beyond the tourist sections to the heart of the islands. Celia is terrific as a hybrid who has always felt like an outsider with no protector from male predators though her aunt tries somewhat. Though the plot is somewhat thin, fans will enjoy Celia’s quest to find a place where she feels she can sleep at night safe and secure and as important to her well being knows where she belongs in life.

Harriet Klausner

Among Us Women-Joan Lerner

Among Us Women
Joan Lerner
BookSurge Publishing, Apr 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9781439228807

Elderly Jewish grandmother Rose grieves the death of her husband yet feels guilt and anger because she also feels free as her late spouse was abusive and demanding. She seeks an activity that will help society (and herself) opting for rescuing unborn babies slated for abortion. Almost forty Jane wants a baby, but her husband proclaims he is gay and leaves her. Jane is in shock but also angry and upset towards her spouse. Eva is an activist African American who has an abortion when her married white lover demands she get rid of the fetus. She is angry and remorseful for not standing up to what she wants and considers kicking him to the curb.

These three women meet over the baby issue and though they share differing perspectives and generational gaps, they find a common interest in their love for interior design. Each struggles with decisions that will haunt them regardless of the choices they make as these are not easy to make. There only solace is in interior design

AMONG US WOMEN is an intriguing tale of three females coming together to forge a sisterly bond though each is radically different in age, appearance, beliefs and most important in terms of reality temperament. The character driven well written story line is inspiring without preaching as Joan Lerner makes the case that everyone needs someone is a basic human need mindful of Maslow's hierarchy. Readers who enjoy an uplifting character study will appreciate the tale of three women finding a connection to one another through their joy of interior design.

Harriet Klausner

I Can See You-Karen Rose

I Can See You
Karen Rose
Grand Central, Aug 5 2009, $18.99
ISBN: 9780446538343

In Minneapolis Eve Wilson survived the violent assault that left her face paralyzed, external scars removed by plastic surgery, and emotional wounds not healed (see DON’T TELL). She hides in the web world making friends there while working on her graduate school thesis re virtual communities can help people emotionally heal. Eve has constructed a website Shadowland to help people like her. However, some of her friends and customers in the Shadowland community commit suicide to her shock and regret.

Homicide detective Noah Webster believes a serial killer has murdered at least two people making it look like they committed suicides at work. Noah’s investigation leads to Eve and her website. He soon realizes the psychopath knows the victims extremely well, which the cop thinks means Eve is on the hit list of a diabolically clever killer.

Karen Rose is gaining a well deserved reputation for great romantic suspense thrillers; her latest winner I CAN SEE YOU is a super Minneapolis police procedural that also showcases the double edged sword of on line communities. Whereas the web enables the disenfranchised to communicate with others; on the other hand the others can include sociopaths or worse. With a strong cast especially the heroine, Ms. Rose writes a terrific whodunit that provides a double edge spin to the Internet applauding the connection of the lonely one to the many but also warning these ones that predators in sheep clothing could be one of the many. This is a great poignant work.

Harriet Klausner

Mind's Eye-Hakan Nesser

Mind's Eye
Hakan Nesser
Grand Central, Jun 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307387226

In Sweden the evidence overwhelmingly condemns drunken schoolteacher Janek Mitter in the killing of his wife and a colleague who apparently was with her. Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren arrests the distraught husband who has no alibi and was found in a drunken stupor at the crime scene; Janek is easily convicted and sent away to spend the rest of his life either in a mental institution or if his mind heals a prison.

Van Veeteren has some issues with the conviction although it appears reasonable and he is a prime reason Janek was nailed. Although he keeps mentally reviewing the case making him bone weary, he does little to follow up on his hunch until it is too late. Someone murders Janek leaving Van Veeteren feeling guilty that he failed to follow his instincts. He vows to find the link between the homicides of the Mitter couple and subsequently their killer while personally vowing never to ignore his gut instincts ever again.

MIND’S EYE is an excellent Swedish police procedural (see THE RETURN and BORKMANN'S POINT) starring a great investigator who is filled with remorse for not following up on his belief something was off kilter in the case even as he received acclaim for solving an obvious domestic dispute that turned ugly, but proved to be something else. Fans will enjoy this terrific tale as a good likable cop struggles with his mistake by chasing down the real culprit in a great twisting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Smash Cut-Sandra Brown

Smash Cut
Sandra Brown
Simon & Schuster, Aug 2009, $26.95
ISBN 9781416563082

When wealthy Paul Wheeler is murdered in an Atlanta hotel, the police assume a robbery has gone bad. His close friend, gallery owner Julie Rutledge, believes otherwise as she tries to convince the police that Paul’s nephew Creighton ordered the hit.

Creighton’s father asks criminal lawyer Derek Mitchell to represent his son, but the attorney refuses because he is going with Julie to Paris. Outraged by Derek’s rejection, Creighton goes after his loved ones. He stalks Julie and Derek’s dog Maggie. He plans to kill the girlfriend of his cowardly former partner Billy Duke as a punishment for his backing out of the murder scheme. Creighton plots to stage a triumphant final scene straight out of a classic Hitchcock movie like Frenzy that will leave Billy, Julie and Derek joining his Uncle Paul.

This is a super thriller that is fast-paced with rapid changing scenes that add tension as the audience increasingly and avidly anticipates High Noon. The cast is powerful especially the beleaguered Derek and Julie, but SMASH CUT is owned by Creighton who we meet when a servant Rose interrupts his tennis game. With terrific twists especially a late one and homage to great mystery films, fans will enjoy this cat and mouse tale as Creighton worships death scenes from the classics.

Harriet Klausner

Ravens-George Dawes Green

George Dawes Green
Grand Central, Jul 15 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780446538961

In Brunswick, Georgia dirt poor whites Mitch and Patsy Boatwright win the $318 million Max-a-Million jackpot. Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko are passing through town on their way to Ohio when they hear the news that a local yokel couple won the jackpot. The traveling pair decides to stay in town a few days to share in the winnings though they are strangers.

Shaw concocts the scheme of bluffing the duo into believing that he and Romeo are vicious lethal thugs instead of mentally tired programmers. He informs the Boatwright’s that they will hand over half or die along with their loved ones like their twentyish daughter college student Tara. Shocked and frightened Mitch and Patsy agree once they collect their money starting with introducing his lottery partner Shaw at a press conference.

This excellent regional psychological thriller works because of the strong cast who embellishes the story line with local flavoring and brings out the worst in the two wannabe con artists. Intriguingly the Boatwright family may be the victims fearful of the mentally bullying Shaw and the overwhelmingly physical threat from the ironically named Romeo, yet they also fall victims to the Stockholm syndrome as they begin to cherish their avarice banes who hold them hostage for the loot. Fans will enjoy this tense psychological thriller as George Dawes Green shows the human caring side to his major characters as much as their depraved needs. This is a strong exhilarating small town Georgia thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Juror-George Dawes Green

The Juror
George Dawes Green
Grand Central, Jun 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446550154

Single mom Annie Laird struggles to make ends meet as a part-time data entry clerk and as a starving sculptress. She is selected to the jury of a Westchester County murder trial of mob boss Louie Buffano.

Almost immediately after joining the jury, Annie meets a sophisticated art broker who buys some of her work. He invites her to dinner and she accepts. The man is a Taoist Wall Street financier who quotes Lao Tse with ease of an expert. He is called "The Teacher" and actually runs the Buffano mob from behind the scene. He offers her a choice of the safety of her and her son Oliver, and a rewarding sculpturing career that will make her wealthy or two deaths; hers and her child. He explains further to live affluently she must say not guilty; otherwise she will not live nor will Oliver even though he is falling in love with his pawn.

THE JUROR is a fabulous psychological drama as Annie goes through a myriad of emotions while the Teacher pushes her panic buttons with the scenario of a dead Oliver even after he concludes he loves his target. The story line leaps from one maniacal scene to another as the Teacher is an insane yet brilliant sociopath who forces Annie to fight as flight is not an option though fright is destroying her gut. Fans will appreciate this one sitting thriller reminiscent of the Baldwin-Moore movie of the same title yet much more horrific as the mom concludes the only way her offspring will be safe is with the death of the Teacher.

Harriet Klausner

The Red Tree-Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Red Tree
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Roc, Aug 42009, $16.00
ISBN: 9780451462763

In Atlanta the suicide of her girlfriend shook writer Sarah Crowe to her core so she decides to leave the region. She feels fortunate to have found an old house on the Wight Farm in a remote part of Rhode Island that she rents.

She explores her new home and finds an “ancient” typewriter and an unfinished manuscript by Dr. Charles L. Harvey, a noted anthropology folklorist. He apparently was collecting information re the legend of an old oak tree on this property that the locals hold in awe. His work eerily stopped abruptly when he hanged himself from that same oak tree. Sarah tries to ignore the document, but cannot stop thinking about it. She feels spellbound to investigate and begins her own journal while her life feels increasingly depressing and out of her control and macabre under the oak’s control.

In some ways this terrific haunting is a throwback to the early Stephen King thrillers especially The Shining as the audience observes in full fright Sarah slowly yet knowingly losing her mind seemingly to the oak tree. Fans will relish this tale while keeping the lights on throughout the house and considering cutting down trees near their homes as we hypnotically wonder whether THE RED TREE is a psychological thriller or a supernatural tale; either way trees will be avoided by readers.

Harriet Klausner