Saturday, July 31, 2010

Deeply, Desperately-Heather Webber

Deeply, Desperately
Heather Webber
St. Martin’s, Aug 3 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946142

Although being able to read auras can be a hardship as not all are positive, the Valentine family uses it to enhance their Boston based matchmaking service. Additionally, Lucy Valentine brings to the firm the ability to find missing objects; her focus recently has been on locating lost loves.

However, her latest lost love recovery turns shockingly into a murder case. Even with her psychic ability, Lucy knows she is out of her element so she asks private-investigator Sean Donahue for help. As the pair investigates the homicide, their attraction ignites, but her family’s curse appears too strong to be overcome by a mere wanting.

The second Valentine tale (see Truly, Madly) is an enjoyable lighthearted frolic. The P.I. and the lost love finder make for a strong pairing as each uses different skill sets to find missing people or things. The support cast, mostly her blood relatives, adds amusing zaniness over the top of the Green Monster as the lead duet works the case, the curse, and the coupling. Readers will root for the Deeply, Desperate Lucy to find her groove this time.

Harriet Klausner

Love In The Afternoon-Lisa Kleypas

Love In The Afternoon
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin’s, Jul 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312605391

In the mid 1850s while in combat in the Crimea, British Captain Christopher Phelan knows the one thing that keeps his morale high is correspondence from Prudence Mercer. Pru tells her friend Beatrix Hathaway about Christopher’s latest letter that fondly tells about Albert, the regiment’s dog. Beatrix tells Pru that she would like to reply, but they agree it should be under the latter’s name. Over time as Beatrix writing as Pru sends and receives letters from the front, she falls in love with her Captain.

After being wounded in battle, Christopher is sent home. He also suffers from battle fatigue having seen so many horrors. He turns to the woman he loves, the author of the letters that saved his life, for solace. However, he quickly realizes that his Pru could not write those letters as she has not one drop of intelligence near what was written to him. He soon realizes Beatrix who he initially ignored is his beloved pen pal, but even love may not be enough to overcome the nightmares that still haunt him day and night.

The newest Hathaway’s historical romance (see Mine Till Midnight and Tempt Me at Twilight) is a great entry with a Cyrano twist to the strong story line. Bea is terrific as she goes from support character in previous entries to lead protagonist while battle fatigue sufferer Christopher has his work cut out once he is home as he fell in love with his pen pal “Pru”. Although the support cast detracts at times from this engaging mid nineteenth century tale, Hathaway fans will relish the animal lover and the vet falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Till Dawn With The Devil-Alexandra Hawkins

Till Dawn With The Devil
Alexandra Hawkins
St. Martin’s, Aug 3 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312381257

In 1821 everyone admires yet also fears the notorious Lords of Vice. Perhaps the most frightening of the friends is Lord Gabriel “Reign” Housely, who’s deriding of others since his wife died after a spat nine years ago, is beyond polite nasty.

When Lady Sophie Northam was a child she suffered an injury that wrecked her eyesight. When she meets Gabriel, she is unable to see him, but can hear his scornful cynical tone. Instead of backing away like most do when Gabriel rips skin, Sophie senses the melancholy he conceals beneath a veneer of derision. Still she also knows her imperfect body makes her an undesirable so she plans to stay away from the aristocrat she is attracted to in order to avoid the hurt she expects she would feel. He refuses to allow her to run as he wants her too. However, their parents’ deadly trysts leave both wondering if love is enough to surmount their interrelated heritage.

The latest Lords of Vice Regency romance (see All Night with a Rogue and After Dark with a Scoundrel) is a wonderful pairing of a seemingly Romeo and Juliet like star-crossed pair with additional personal issues that make each feels less than worthy of the other. The story line is fast-paced but it is the tango between the female who cannot see yet “sees” into the soul of her beloved and the male who feels guilt over his late wife’s death.

Harriet Klausner

Autumn’s Promise-Shelley Shepard Gray

Autumn’s Promise
Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon, Aug 3 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9780061852374

Nineteen years old Lilly Allen remains grief stricken over her recent miscarriage. She also feels guilty that her family relocated from their home in Cleveland so her out-of-wedlock pregnancy can be hidden from her friends. Lilly knows she has moved by her negative reaction to the news that her forty something mom is carrying.

Twenty-four year old Amish widower carpenter Robert Miller grieves the death of his beloved wife Grace who died three years ago. His caring family and friends want him to start courting Amish women, but he is not ready. Instead he is attracted to the Englisher Lilly who he knows from stopping for breakfast at the Sugar Creek inn where she works. As they begin to date to the consternation of their families, they fall in love, but an Amish and an Englisher has little in common.

The third Seasons of Sugarcreek (See Spring’s Renewal and Winter’s Awakening) is a terrific contemporary Amish romance starring two people who have lost loved ones relatively recently and know the barrier between them seemingly is impenetrable. The support cast is super as his Amish friends and family and her family reject their relationship. However, this excellent entry belongs to the lead couple who each strongly believes their love has healed their respective souls but will break their hearts.

Harriet Klausner

It’s Murder, My Son-Lauren Carr

It’s Murder, My Son
Lauren Carr
CreateSpace, Jun 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781452819433

In DC Homicide Detective Mac Faraday cannot believe the judge’s ruling in his divorce from his wife of twenty years; she left him for another man but got their home and everything else of value. As he left the courthouse stunned, elderly lawyer Ed Willingham accosted him, but sick of his ex wife’s attorneys he flees until he stopped feeling sorry for the man struggling to follow him. Ed informs him that he is the child and heir of the late Queen of Mystery Robin Spencer. She gave him up for adoption over four decades ago as an unmarried teen who knew kids can’t raise kids.

Mac moves into the closed gated community in Spencer, Maryland. As he takes first step towards his new home, Gnarly the German shepherd attacks him; Archie as Robin’s assistant who comes with the manor, saves him from sever injuries. Archie tells the retired Georgetown cop that three months earlier, someone killed multi-millionaire Katrina Singleton who would have been his next door neighbor. The police believe the "Pay Back" stalker murdered her, but have not found any evidence as to who this individual is and whether he actually killed her. Reading his mom’s novels, plays and journals and assisted by Archie and a brother he never knew existed, Mac investigates what is turning into a cold case murder.

It’s Murder, My Son is an enjoyable amusing murder mystery starring a likable cast and a few avaricious nasties. The story line is lighthearted fun as Gnarly brings jocularity to the mix while every time Mac and Archie try to kiss they are interrupted. The whodunit is top rate, but the entertaining plot belongs to Mac and friends and family as he leads the inquiry into the death of the next door neighbor.

Harriet Klausner

The Thieves of Darkness-Richard Doetsch

The Thieves of Darkness
Richard Doetsch
Atria, Aug 24 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416598954

Having gone straighter after a career as an art thief Michael St. Pierre uses his experiences as a criminal as a security consultant. Almost forty years old, Michael remains shook by the death of his wife Mary over a year and a half ago. His friend Father Simon Bellatori arranges a blind date with Katherine "KC" Ryan, who happens to be a thief.

As he is falling in love with KC, Michael learns that his best friend Simon has been locked away in the brutal Middle Eastern Chiron Prison in the Akbiquestan Desert; where he is to be executed. Michael flies to the country and breaks into the prison to rescue Simon and shockingly KC. As the trio flees for Istanbul, maniacal businessman Philippe Venue searches for a fabled treasure and he knows Simon possesses key information. Soon everyone rushes off to the Himalayas on a treasure hunt.

The third St. Pierre thriller (see The Thieves of Heaven and The Thieves of Faith) is an exhilarating over the top of the Himalayas tale that grips the audience the from the moment Michael develops his plan in depth to save his friend and never slows down on his Asian tour. Fast-paced throughout, but requiring the locking away of plausibility, sub-genre readers will stay up late to follow the action-packed adventures of Michael and his two cronies.

Harriet Klausner

The Superman Project-A.E. Roman

The Superman Project
A.E. Roman
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312375010

With his marriage of a decade crashing, Bronx private investigator Chico Santana has moved into his small office. Obese eighteen year old janitor Pablo Sanchez and his mom Esther enter Chico’s office seeking his assistance. They want him to find a missing estranged Brooklyn couple, artist Gabby Gupta and her husband, Joey Valentin.

The police believe Joey probably killed Gabby before vanishing. Chico knew Joey as children, but his childhood friend left for the Pacific years ago. Pablo explains Joey went to The Superman Project (TSP) Island run by Gabby’s dad, Father Ravi who accuses Joey of murder. The mother and son client believe it is a frame and offer Chico a valuable Superman comic as payment to find out what happened to the Williamsburg couple and if she is dead who killed her. Chico assumes Pablo has sniffed too much cleaning fluid as the conspiracy theory seems inane. However, as he uncovers leads, he begins to reconsider his scorn of paranoid Pablo’s pathetic pabulum especially when someone murders Esther.

The latest Chico Santana investigative thriller (see Chinatown Angel) is a superb hard-boiled detective story starring a likable protagonist. The TSP charter seems like lighthearted foolishness by Peter Pan types, but soon proves dangerous and nasty by Captain Hook types. Filled with twists and a great final spin, fans will enjoy A. E. Roman’s tour of the boroughs as The Superman Project merges the South Bronx with Nietzsche, Hinduism, and DC comic mythos inside a strong urban noir

Harriet Klausner

The Grimrose Path-Rob Thurman

The Grimrose Path
Rob Thurman
Roc, Sep 7 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463494

To look at Las Vegas bar owner Trixa Iktomi, one would assume she is a beautiful female human. They would be wrong as she is a shapeshifting trickster who is not immortal but witnessed Pompeii die. Her partner is Leo, better known as Loki the Trickster God. Now this couple is human ever since Trixa used an artifact to kill the being who murdered her brother (see Trick of the Light). The artifact The Light of Life took their powers as it thought Loki might being with Trixa who needs four years to recharge her powers so she can use them again..

The demon Eli calls on Trixa to find out who are mass murdering demons. Angels, demons and Trixa and her friend Zeke the angel who left heaven and Gabriel the demon who left hell (the latter seeks redemption) map out the massacre of nine hudred and fifty-six demons in six months. If one thousand demon wings are put together they will form a map to where Lucifer hides in hell and the entity that is doing this will gain hell’s power. Trixa’s friends and enemies expect her to find out who is doing this and take the deity down.

The second Trixa the Trickster urban fantasy is a terrific thriller as twists and questionable alliances make for an enjoyable entreating tale. Some angels believe Trixa is evil and needs to be destroyed with the end justifying the means in this case as betrayal and lies are acceptable to achieve the mission; ironically some demons logically understand they need Trixa to uncover the identity of the serial killer so pragmatically keep her safe. Rob Thurman is at his best with Trixa the trickster caught in the middle of a supernatural Vegas.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 30, 2010

Plum Blossoms in Paris-Sarah Hina

Plum Blossoms in Paris
Sarah Hina
Medallion, Aug 1 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781605421261

Andy, her boyfriend in high school, college and graduate school, unceremoniously dumps Daisy Lockhart. Heartbroken as she never saw it coming and assumed as her only boyfriend she ever had, they would always be together. Daisy, unlike her Henry James’ namesake, travels to Paris rather than Rome. There the American meets writer Mathieu, who grieves the recent death of his mother.

.Mathieu and Daisy become lovers. He shows her a side of the city that few Americans ever see especially the arts and the legends that make Paris what it is. As they remain together, Daisy knows she delays the inevitable of choosing between being an American in Paris or an American in America.

This is an entertaining contemporary relationship drama in which Paris owns the story line. The city is seen mostly through the admiring, adoring and to a lesser degree disapproving eyes of the American in Paris. The lead couple is a wonderful cross Atlantic pairing, but more so the blossoming Daisy; as readers will wonder whether Daisy will follow the dreams of her heart or the American dreams she left back home.

Harriet Klausner

Whisper On The Wind-Maureen Lang

Whisper On The Wind
Maureen Lang
Tyndale, Sep 1 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414324364

When the war broke out, her parents got the entire family out of Belgium before the German war machine invaded the small nation. However, in 1916, Isabelle Lassone returns to war ravaged Brussels to persuade the man she loves Edward Kirkland to flee the continent with her. Edward refuses to go but also demands she leave. Isabelle tells him if he remains in the devastated country so will she.

Edward is irate with obstinate Isabelle for staying as he fears for her safety; he also admires her courage and knows he loves her. However, Edward also worries what will happen to her, him and his “illegal” colleagues if she will learn he works for the underground newspaper, La Libre-Belgique, a dangerous occupation as the German invaders censor any news that places them in a bad light; truth be damned.

Whisper on the Wind takes the reader to Brussels during WW I when the Germans occupy the city and country. Isabelle and Edward are intrepid souls because they know if caught they will probably be executed without a trial. Readers will relish how the news traveled in 1916 as those who controlled the “free press” controlled the news.

Harriet Klausner

Black Magic Lover-Cynthia Cooke

Black Magic Lover
Cynthia Cooke
Harlequin Nocturne, Sep 1 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618439

The phone call stuns Laura Larame who had believed her mom was dead. She considers someone pulled a sick joke on her, but must know the truth as to whether her mother Delilah, whom she had not heard from in two decades lives in the Louisiana bayou.

Laura Larame returns home where she meets her childhood friend Drew Michel, who saved her life on the night her mom vanished and was assumed drowned. Drew and Laura are attracted to one another and he wants more than them just being friends; while she determinedly remains fixated on her mom. Drew who sees ghosts, fears his beloved is going to be sacrificed by his mother, a voodoo priestess, who plans to use her death to bring her God back using her son’s body as the deity’s container.

This Bayou romantic suspense is an exhilarating tale that grips the reader with a need to know what happened to Laura’s mother. The story line provides an in depth look at voodoo without slowing down the plot. Although the ending seems abrupt, Black magic Lover is a fast-paced horror thriller as Cynthia Cooke shows her Mojo.

Harriet Klausner

Silver Serenade-Nancy J. Cohen

Silver Serenade
Nancy J. Cohen
Wild Rose Press, Jun 17 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9781601547828

Earth Centrum Security Integrated Network field operative Silver Malloy is assigned to eliminate ruthless Tyrone Bluth, leader of the brutally nasty gang Tyrone's Marauders. S.I.N.’s top assassin, Silver almost completes her mission when Kurashian Jace Vernon interferes by tackling her.

Ace pilot Jace is after Tyrone also, but unlike Silver needs his prey alive if he is to prove his innocence on his home planet where he is wanted for murder. He does not want to work with Silver who wants the beast dead, but has no choice if he is to achieve his objective as his enemy’s enemy is his ally; if he does not team with her they will get in each others’ way. She reluctantly agrees with his assessment.

This is a fun romantic science fiction thriller as the lead couple targets the same person, but disagrees with the output as each has a different outcome in mind. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jace makes the hit on Silver and never slows down as love between them complicates their already complex relationship. Sub-genre readers will enjoy this outer space tale of a lethal gang lord serving ironically as a matchmaker between two people who disagree on what to do with him as the options are life in a maximum prison or assassination.

Harriet Klausner

The Mists Of Time-Susan Squires

The Mists Of Time
Susan Squires
St. Martin’s, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943554

San Francisco romance writer Diana Dearborn meets a stranger who gives her an ancient tome. Somehow the old book propels her to Dark Ages Camelot. She returns to the present with no time elapsing, but has brought forward with her severely injured Medraught of Orkney.

Diana feels no desire towards the hunk she brought into his future. Instead she feels an attraction to a stranger who she has noticed in the shadows seemingly stalking her or her guest. His father ordered Gawain to keep Diana safe, but he arrived in San Francisco a few years later than he needed to be there; as he learns her trip in time periled her. To begin correcting the scenario they must return Medraught to the past, but he refuses to go willingly as he loves the modern world.

The Mists of Time is a well written complex time travel Camelot romance that grips the audience from the moment a feral teen Diana is in lock up and never slows down as the readers learn what happened to her. The story line is fast-paced with intriguing paradoxes and a wonderful link between San Francisco and Camelot while the lead pairing and the knight they need to send home seem real though their flaws are reiterated too frequently. Fans will admire Susan Squires as she refreshes the Camelot legend.

Harriet Klausner

Pretty Little Things-Jillane Hoffman

Pretty Little Things
Jillane Hoffman
Vanguard, Sep 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781593156077

Thirteen years old Lainey Emerson loves MySpace, especially keeping her page current. Her biggest peeve at the moment is relocating with her family, which means a new school and finding new friends.

However Lainey becomes excited when she meets El Capitan online. She agrees to go out with the boy, but conceals her date from her family. A couple days pass before her mother reports her missing, as she assumed Lainey was behaving just like her older sister, a serial runaway. Florida's Crimes Against Children Special Agent Bobby Dees leads the search for the missing teen even as he fears she is the victim of a serial killer, who uses the net to lure victims and then after killing them sends drawings of his kills to the media.

Rotating perspective between the missing teen, the agent (his daughter vanished last year) and the killer in chapters not much longer than Twitter, Pretty Little Things is a terrific cautionary tale that warns readers beware of internet social networks especially what you tell of yourself and the contacts you make. The story line is loaded with twists that enhance the growing tension, which the agent and the teen especially emote. Although the ending feels weak especially with the taut story line that brilliantly leads to the climax, fans will appreciate Pretty Little Things while wondering how to allow their youngsters to enjoy the net yet avoid stalking cyber predators.

Harriet Klausner

The Waters Rising-Sheri S. Tepper

The Waters Rising
Sheri S. Tepper
Eos, Aug 31 2010, $26.99
ISBN 9780061958878

The Big Kill has left the earth shattered as most life died during the pandemic mass murders by the unseen Slaughterers. However, the survivors of the onslaught have no respite as a second potentially deadly threat has arisen. In places like Norland, the sea is overwhelming land masses with decreasingly safe places to stay.

Young Xulai is a no more than a superfluous gnat in the scheme of those struggling with surviving the rising waters. When she meets an apparent Slaughterer apparition, she flees for her life. However, unlike her species who feels she is a throwaway to disregard, that deadly beast recognizes her potential as the only person who could save mankind. To insure the extinction of humanity this predator goes after Xulai planning to kill her.

Returning to the Plague of Angels realm, The Waters Rising is a clever enjoyable post apocalyptic thriller that deftly uses a Noah like tale to disparage current societies for their disregard and abuse of the planet. The cautionary story line is fast-paced as a frightened heroine arises amidst the shrinking livable land. Readers (except for deniers) will relish Xulai’s coming of age escapades as she and her idealistic cohorts simply hope and pray they can save mankind though some of them doubt whether humanity deserves a third chance.

Harriet Klausner

Queen Of Shadows-Dianne Sylvan

Queen Of Shadows
Dianne Sylvan
Ace, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019250

In Austin, Miranda Grey fears she is going insane with only alcohol numbing her mind and playing the guitar in front of an appreciative audience giving her satisfaction. She soon realizes she has the skill of playing with the emotions of her fans as the “magic is in the music and the music is in” her (Lovin’ Spoonful). However, not long after that, Miranda learns the cost as her audience can do likewise to her and she has no defense mechanism to prevent the mental rape of her mind leading to her mental breakdown.

Following a show and a nasty assault on her, vampiric lord David Solomon rescues Miranda. He knows she is an untrained empath and gives her a remedial education into the world of vampires and much more that she always thought were fiction. As David tries to save Miranda, he prays she reciprocates and saves him from his emotional demons ripping at his soul.

This is a well written but not easy to read romantic urban fantasy as Dianne Sylvan pulls no punches as rape and the healing from sexual (and emotional) assaults are described. The relationship between the empath and the vampire make for a strong Shadow World thriller that will enthrall the audience with a sense of awe as supernatural Austin comes across realistic though the filters of the flawed lead protagonists.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Damage Control-Amy Fetzer

Damage Control
Amy Fetzer
Kensington Brava, Aug 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758231390

Archeologist Olivia Corrigan investigates an ancient Celtic legend. Her research tracks the routes of twelfth century Viking and Chinese traders that lead to the Arctic Circle polar cap where she believes an ancient ship is under the ice.

However, her efforts turn ugly when people associated with her project begin dying. Apparently, Russian agents want to know the secret of the Celtic legends and are willing to kill to succeed. Dragon One mercenary team assigns her former husband explosives expert Sebastian Fontenot to safeguard the woman he still loves while also trying to rescue from kidnappers a colleague of hers who knows much about legend snatched in his hotel room. As they team up to save the life of the abducted English bookworm scholar from adversaries who cold-bloodedly murdered innocent bystanders in the hotel, Olivia still wonders if she would be safer with the Russians than with her former spouse who she still loves.

The latest Dragon One (see Fight Fire With Fire and Come as You Are) is an action-packed romantic suspense that circles the globe as Olivia hops seemingly everywhere. The second chance romance starts towards the middle of the story line and enhances the dangerous adventures the lead couple and his cohorts confront. That is the key to this entertaining thriller that never stops for a respite.

Harriet Klausner

Falcon Prince-Karen Kelley

Falcon Prince
Karen Kelley
Kensington Brava, Aug 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758238382

In Miller Bend, Texas the naked male hunk comes out of the fog to the amazement of Rianna Lancaster. He insists he came for her to bring her home to the planet of New Symtaria. She reacts like any American female would; she sprays him with Mace and dials 911 as she runs away from the intruder.

The residents believe dog groomer Ria is a fruitcake as she behaves so different than a Texan; the sheriff ignores her insistence of a streaker and her adopted parents betray her when they rent her bedroom to the wealthy Prince Kristor. Ria detests his arrogance, but finds she also wants him. He insists she is a royal from his orb and they belong together forever. She insists she is a Texan and they belong together for a tryst.

The second Prince of Symtaria romantic science fiction (see The Jaguar Prince) is a zany tale of an illegal alien and a citizen with questionable legal status fighting, fussing and falling in love. This lighthearted frolic may be over the top of New Symtaria and contains a rushed climax, but fans will relish the star-crossed amusing yet heated tale of love in small-town Texas.

Harrier Klausner

Running Scared-Lisa Jackson

Running Scared
Lisa Jackson
Zebra, Aug 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781420101829

In 1980 Kate Summers still grieves the deaths of her husband and daughter due to a drunken driver. When she is given a chance to adopt an infant, she does not have to think about her decision; Kate instantly agrees even with the stipulations that she must ask no questions, leave Boston immediately and tell everyone she birthed the child.

For the next fifteen years, Kate raises her beloved child in Hopewell, Oregon although she always looks over her shoulder in fear that someone will know the child she loves is not hers and the adoption was probably criminal. The moment of truth that always frightened her arrives when Deagan O'Roarke, an illegitimate offspring of a Boston Brahman, arrives from New England and becomes a friend of the single mom and her teenage son. He begins to fall in love with both and eventually admits Jon is his son. He insists he was drunk when his cousin Bibi Sullivan seduced him. Bibi's father Robert detesting his pathetic family seeks his grandson while the rest of the brood knows what his finding the teen means to their gold spoon lifestyle.

This is an exhilarating rewriting of the author’s tale Wishes with the new version emphasizing the suspense while the original the romance. Kate is terrific as she behaves like the Running Scared man in Roy Orbison’s song of the same title as she always expected someone to claim Jon as theirs. When he and the extended Sullivan family converge on the Pacific Northwest, Kate knows her nightmare has come true but it is even worse than her frightening dreams as she never expected her son to be in danger. Lisa Jackson converts her tale into a taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Pirates of the Levant-Arturo Perez-Reverte

Pirates of the Levant
Arturo Perez-Reverte
Putnam, Sep 2 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156649

In the year 1627 sword for hire Captain Alatriste and his former page Inigo now an adult seventeen year older soldier in his own right, are on board the Spanish galleon Mulata. When not at sea battling Spain’s enemies and collecting booty, they are based in Naples. It is in Naples that Inigo shows he needs more time to grow up as he tangles with a swindling gang and needs his former mentor’s help to keep him safe.

They have adventures as they catch and bound their enemies and sell prisoners as slaves for booty. In a remote Spanish port on the North African island Oran, Captain Alatriste and Inigo meet Sebastian Copons whose supervisor refuses to allow him to leave the island because he needs all the soldiers he can deploy. After Alatriste tries to buy his friend’s freedom, Gurriat the Moor sees the captain in action and attaches himself to him and earns a berth on the Mulata. The four of them and the rest of the Mulata crew believe they are going to die in battle against several Turkish ships, but refuse to back down.

This is the final book in the swashbuckling Alatristo historical saga and like its predecessors (see Cavalier in a Yellow Doublet, The King's Gold, The Sun Over Breda, Purity of Blood and Captain Alatristo) this entry vividly brings to life historical Spain as if the reader is there. The audience observes as if at the front the Christian civil war with the Mohammedans (Moors) as religious intolerance led to strife and conflict. Pirates of the Levant makes the Edwin Starr case of the ugliest of “War, what is it good for; absolutely nothing” inside a great adventure thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Montmarte Investigation-Claude Izner

The Montmarte Investigation
Claude Izner
Minotaur, Sep 14 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312383763

In 1891 Paris at an outing of the C. Bontemps Boarding School, Elisa borrows Iris’ red shoes to run away with twenty-one years old Gaston. Some time later on Montmartre, a female body is found; her face burned with acid so it is unrecognizable; the corpse is barefoot. A red shoe is delivered to the the Bookshop owned by Victor Legris and Kenji Mori.

When Kenji recognizes the shoe as one he gave to his goddaughter Iiris, he assumes logically and mournfully she is the dead victim until he learns from her she lent them to her friend. Victor follows Kenji to the school and once he catches up with what the shoe denotes he insures Iris is safe as ahe may have been the intended target. Gaston’s body is found in a wine cask on the wharf. Having solved two cases (see The Disappearance at Père-Lachaise and Murder on the Eiffel Tower), Victor fancies himself a detective so he is determined to solve the case before his rival police Iinspector Lecacheur can. When Elisa’s mother is also murdered, the three killings appear linked to a cold case in Lyon, but why and who is the avenger remains unknown.

This is an exhilarating French historical mystery that gives armchair detectives a taste of late nineteenth century Paris when cabarets and wine houses were the rage. Real historical figures add to the atmosphere while anchoring the time and place of the storyline. Secrets from the past prove either deadly or joyful as Victor investigates the serial murders linked to a cold case.

Harriet Klausner

When Blood Calls-J.K. Beck

When Blood Calls
J.K. Beck
Bantam, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245773

Manhattan-based government attorney Sara Constantine is euphoric following her win in court. She celebrates her victory by spending a heated one night stand with stranger, Lucius Dragos; who is at the tavern because Braddock, who he will kill later that night, is there. Sara is rewarded with a promotion to Division 6; whose lawyers prosecute vampires, werewolves, hellhounds and demons.

To her chagrin, fate deflates her enthusiasm when she is assigned to argue the government’s case against alleged killer Lucius Dragos. He likes Sara and not just because of the great sex. She somehow abates his demon. He argues she needs to take the blindfold off as he insists justice is not a blind legal adherence to the law because where evil deserves death; while she insists the law is the law even as she wonders if the man she prosecutes and loves is a vampire.

Ignoring conflict of interest based on the Judge Scalia defense of not recusing In Cheney v. United States District Court for the District of Columbia Supreme Court case, this is a fascinating legal thriller inside an urban fantasy setting with a touch of romance. Though there is plenty of action in the first Shadow Keepers thriller, the story line is owned by the lead couple who debate justice. Readers will believe the Beck universe is real while pondering the same questions that disturb dedicated prosecutor Sara. If someone murders a serial killer they may be legally a criminal but morally are they delivering justice to an amoral ergo inhuman predator? That is the essence of Lucius’ argument as he insists he killed a malevolence that deserved death, but as Sara (and the audience) ponders should he be judge, jury and executioner as a seemingly vigilante. Their falling in love enhances the legal vs. moral argument.

Harriet Klausner

Coronets And Steel-Sherwood Smith

Coronets And Steel
Sherwood Smith
Daw, Sep 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406424

Bored Los Angeles graduate student Kim Murray’s French only speaking grandmere is ill. As grandmere recovers from the debilitating fever, she remains mute; but encourages strongly for Kim to travel to Europe to learn her family’s genealogy. Before leaving the States, her grandma gave her minuscule bits of information about their heritage, but refuses to go into any depth.

After Paris proved fruitless, she reaches Vienna lacking information as to where to start so she visits a genealogist. Kim goes on a tour when she notices what looks like a ghost. Soon after that, a suave male treats her like an old friend he has not seen in a while although she swears she never met this sophisticate before. She and this Alec go for drinks, but when she awakens she is on a train though she is unsure how she got on it. However, the biggest shock of all is to learn she looks so much like missing cousin Ruli, they could have been twins. Alec wants her to pretend to be Ruli so he can find her.

Told by the third generation American, this is an exciting at times jocular but always action-packed thriller as Kim digs up her roots in Europe. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the heroine’s European adventure as she is 200 proof American believing she can do anything while also being facetious and irreverent when she is drugged, abducted, and confronting family ghosts. This is her tale as the rest of the cast supports her escapades as a young brash American trashes her kidnapper and taunts the spirits that haunt her and her family.

Harriet Klausner

Noise-Darin Bradley

Darin Bradley
Spectra (Random House), Aug 31 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780553386226

When the country converts from analog to digital, Salvage broadcasts underground stations in the lower frequency airwaves. It tells the populace what to do to survive in the face of the collapsing society and the words are bound in the Book. In the college town of Slade, Texas, best friends Hiram and Adam collect the wisdom of the Salvage so they can be ready when the collapse of American civilization occurs.

The predicted Event happens leaving America rudderless as the country declares bankruptcy and the government loses all control. The Narrator calls himself Hiram and Adam renames himself Levi. They gather other people amongst the homeless of the dead society to go to Amaranth. It is an isolated place where they will be safe. Other groups join them on the bloody journey to the Promised Land.

Reminiscent of the Lord of the Flies merged with Deliverance, Noise is a deep look at civilization spinning out of control into anarchy before leading to a rebirth. The cast is solid with plenty of violence and gore. This makes the aftermath effort to get to Amaranth feel plausible. Darin Bradley writes an entertaining futuristic cautionary thriller as out of the death of America rises the Phoenix of a new order.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Road Through Wonderland-Dawn Schiller

The Road Through Wonderland
Dawn Schiller
Medallion, Aug 1 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781605420837

Her father was career military so Dawn Schiller spent her childhood moving from post to post. A road trip from the east Coast to the Glendale, California led to the teen meeting thirtyish married “King of Porn” star John Holmes. Only fifteen and ignored by her dad, Holmes becomes a father figure to Dawn. He and his wife Sharon allow Dawn to move in with them. Cocaine and other drugs changed the relationships as Holmes turned violent and forced Dawn into prostitution. Barely surviving the gruesome 1981 Wonderland murders, she ran away turning her “mentor” over to the police.

The movie Wonderland was a gritty look at Dawn Schiller's teenage years leading to horrific murders. However, her memoir is even grittier and darker as the author goes much deeper in describing her early life. Not an easy read though well written as the horror will last in the audience’s mind long after finishing the book. Stunned readers will appreciate Ms. Schiller’s autobiography warning parents and other adults that discarding children leaves them vulnerable to a Pied Piper who showers them with deadly interest (think of the DC Snipers).

Harriet Klausner

More Church Folks-Michele Andrea Bowen

More Church Folks
Michele Andrea Bowen
Grand Central, Jul 28 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446577762

In 1986 at the Gospel United Church, older flock members remember the two-decade plus old scandal at the Triennial General Conference (see Church Folk) as another meeting is about to convene. At this church meeting, bishops are elected to fill vacancies. Senior Bishop Percy Jennings wants good Christian males to sit in these critical seats. Bishop Jennings believes Pastors Theophilus Simmons and Eddie Tate are ideal individuals who would make super Bishops. He needs at least one of them to gain a seat if he is to clean the church of its avarice embezzlers who cannot spell Bible.

Bishop Jennings learns something nasty is occurring in Mozambique. He assigns Pastor Tate’s mentee Pastor Denzelle Flowers to investigate. Denzelle’s day job supervisor is elated that his ordained minister FBI agent Flowers is going to Africa to look into drug smuggling. Pastor Flowers soon discovers a scheme to sell illegal sexual enhancement drugs to Bishop Jennings’ prime adversary’s mentee Pastor Sonny Washington; they plan to extort the votes of those caught in an adulterous scandal.

The return to the Church Folks environs is a terrific insightful tale that once again reflects on the religious leaders being a microcosm of the larger society. Some care about the spiritual and other needs of their flock while some of the leadership care about themselves as Michele Andrea Bowen makes a strong case that just because you’re a bishop or pastor does not mean you are holier than the congregation. Although the ensemble cast can be overwhelming for the reader as well as church officials, with interesting FBI intrigue enhancing the thriller, fans will relish this exciting entry as the avarice and the nurturing battle for the souls of the congregation with motives wider than the chasm between heaven and hell.

Harriet Klausner

A Child Changes Everything-Stella MacLean

A Child Changes Everything
Stella MacLean
Harlequin SuperRomance, Aug 10 2010
ISBN: 9780373716555

In Durham, North Carolina nurse Lisa Clarke buries her adopted mother only to learn from the estate lawyer Tank Tweedsdale that her biological mom Carolyn Lewis is alive; she thought the woman who birthed her died in a car accident. Tank hires Lisa’s former boyfriend Mason Stephens to find her mom, which he does.

Lisa heads to Florida where her mom resides in Palmetto Bayside Nursing Home. Her older sister Anne Marie is in jail charged with trafficking. Needing to prove her sister’s innocence, Lisa hires Mason and an attorney to do that. She takes her three year old niece Katie and mom back home with her. Mason is stunned with how good a caretaker Lisa is as she rejected children leading to their breakup. However, his former wife Sara plans to leave for the other coast with their son putting him on the spot of choosing east with his Lisa or west with his offspring Peter.

This is an enjoyable family drama with a second chance at love subplot. Lisa matures as she takes charge of her newly found biological family. Although Mason is a better sleuth than boyfriend material, fans will enjoy this fine contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

This Cowboy's Son-Mary Sullivan

This Cowboy's Son
Mary Sullivan
Harlequin SuperRomance, Aug 10 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716531

Five years ago Matt Long and Jenny Sterling made love, but he left immediately afterward; fleeing from Big Sky Country. She became pregnant and raises her son Jesse. However, the single mom is engaged to marry Angus Kinsey, who Matt reveres like a father figure.

Returning to Ordinary, Montana and owing Angus, Matt obtains work on his Circle K ranch where his boss is Jenny. She pulls no punches when she immediately informs her former lover that her son is his too. They remain attracted to each other, but she knows he will leave soon and he fears he agrees with her. When Angus ends their engagement, Matt has no excuse as he loves mother and son, but does he have the guts to forge a family with them?

Although men finding out they sired a child years after the kid is born is not new, a secondary romance adds depth to the contemporary romance. The lead male has issues but maturity and a need to do the right thing with his woman and their son supersede all else. Although Angus makes it easier with his transgression, fans will enjoy this entertaining second chance at love.

Harriet Klausner

A Little Consequence-Amy Knupp

A Little Consequence
Amy Knupp
Harlequin SuperRomance, Aug 10 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716524

Heiress Selena Jarboe is upset with her brother who plans to return to the warbecause she worries for those she loves performing dangerous duty. Unable to cope she runs away to her Texas beach house. There she meets firefighter Evan Drake. They are attracted instantly to one another and have the best night of sex either ever had; so good and long his roommate did a four in the morning run not to disturb the couple.

Selena becomes pregnant and does the right thing by informing Evan although she wants nothing from him. He plans to be there for their child as he never had a father growing up; he also wants to be there for Selena even after he learns she is wealthy and can buy anything she needs. As they fall in love, each must stop running from the demons that haunt them if they are to make it as a cohesive family raising a child together.

The key to the second super Texas Firefighters contemporary romance (see Playing with Fire) is Selena who struggles between her love and admiration for Evan vs. her fear of his dangerous work. Evan is a super counterpart to Selena, but her phobic like trepidations brings freshness to a strong romance.

Harriet Klaunser

Desperate Deeds-Dee Davis

Desperate Deeds
Dee Davis
Forever, Aug 2 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446542029

Daughter of a highly regarded General, Tyler Hanson served in the Army before accepting an assignment as the munitions officer for American Tactical Intelligence Command (A-Tac). She heads a mission that surprises her military team as “outsiders” even army brats with military experience are never assigned to this type of mission let alone lead it. The transport turns ugly with two of her subordinates dead and a key nanotechnological nuclear weapon stolen.

British MI-5's Intelligent Agent Owen Wakefield interrogates Tyler to learn what went wrong on the mission starting with why Tyler’s father assigned the lead to her. They team up in an effort to regain what was purloined and bring military justice to the assassins. As they follow clues, the pair uncovers a dirty nuclear bomb plot with all roads leading back to her dad with one noted exception that Tyler betrayed her unit.

The latest A-Tac romantic suspense (see Dangerous Desires and Dark Deceptions) is a terrific military thriller in which the several mysteries make for a strong tale. In some ways the well-written romance takes a back seat to the intrigue. Readers will appreciate Dee Davis excellent entry in her strong series.

Harriet Klausner

Hero-Cheryl Brooks

Cheryl Brooks
Sourcebooks, Aug 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402229411

Since his brother Tychar found his soul mate (see Rogue), Trag the Zetithian is depressed though he feels great for his sibling as he wants the same thing for himself. An outlaw on many planets, he is careful even when he offers to pay for sex; his talent insures he never has to remit any money as women find him to be the sexual encounter of a lifetime. Still he dreams of meeting a female especially from his now destroyed species, but fears no soulmate exists for him. He is especially despondent when he is with his few surviving male brethren (including his brother) as each has found their females.

Micayla leaves her home world of Earth for the first time in her life. She feels lonely but accepts a truism that men or women don’t turn her on and that somehow she is different than her family and friends. That changes in an instant gut changing observation of the back of a stranger who she finds desiring. However, when she meets the hunk who she wants, instead of jumping Trag’s bones as her inclination screams inside her, she rips his skin off blaming him for her unwanted desire.

While the overarching story line involving the pandemic destruction of a race and their planet moves forward with insight into who committed the atrocity, the latest Zetithian science fiction romance also contains the most powerful Cat Stars Chronicles coupling to date. That says a lot as previous tales like Fugitive, Rogue, and Slave are excellent. Readers will relish this pairing of two of the universe’s loneliest people; as Micayla makes Trag dance the Macarena to snare his soulmate.

Harriet Klausner

Blameless-Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger
Orbit, Sep 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316074155

Lady Alexia Maccon is a soulless, forever denied an eternal home because she was born without a soul; her touch renders supernaturals (vampires and werewolves) human for a period of time. She is the only known female soulless and her husband Scottish Earl Maccon, a werewolf, denounced her and tossed her out of his pack because she is pregnant. He knows the fetus is not his as werewolves cannot procreate so she obviously cheated. She is fuming at her spouse as she knows that she was only with him.

Alexia returns to her parents’ home in England and they are upset because of the scandal she caused; which she notices does not include her spouse. When they learn she is pregnant, they throw her out as they know she cuckolded her husband as werewolves cannot procreate.

In London, vampires try to kill her and ladybugs attack her so she flees to the continent where the supernatural are uninterested in human affairs. She ends up in Florence captured by the Knights Templar because she can be a weapon. However, when they learn of her condition and what she might give birth to they want her dead. Only a miracle can save her and her unborn as everyone she encounters fears the abomination she carries.

The third Parasol Protectorate tale (see Soulless and Changeless) is an action-packed, at times amusing, but always suspenseful historical urban fantasy. Readers will root for the intrepid unsinkable heroine who does not adhere to Victorian societal rules. Usually mild mannered, only her husband can raise her ire, which leads to her landing in out of control dangerous scenarios. This alternate Victorian world is an enthralling thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Fire Lord’s Lover-Kathryne Kennedy

The Fire Lord’s Lover
Kathryne Kennedy
Sourcebooks, Jul 6 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402236525

In 1724, elven lords from Elfthane rule England with a cruel iron fist. Half-breed son of elven Fire Lord evil Mor’ded, Dominic Raikes conceals the full extent of his magical skills and more important his heart from his sire because he knows his father would view him as a threat for either and kill him.

Meanwhile the human Rebellion, who want to overturn the Elven malevolent reign of terror, raise seemingly innocent Lady Cassandra Bridges to appear prim and proper to disguise her other training as an assassin. She and Dominic wed in a marriage of convenience. However, to their shock, the newlyweds fall in love with one another. Unintended consequence is his human side of empathy and love supersedes his ruthless elven half, which leads to his worst nightmare that his dad becomes aware of what has occurred.

This is a superb Georgian romantic fantasy that effortlessly merges facts of early eighteenth century London with a mythical spin. With several great twists the story line is loaded with otherworldly action anchored by the realism of 1724 England as the Rebellion and the elves control the destiny of the newlyweds. Ironically even with others trying to pull their strings, the exciting plot is owned by the lead couple as she is a top rate assassin and he a half-breed coming into his power due to the love of the mortal he married; while Mor’ded tests his son.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Claimed!-Vicki Lewis Thompson

Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze, Aug 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795604

Neither wants this, but former lovers Jack Chance and Josie Keller are named best man and maid of honor at a horseback wedding. Besides their past in which he dumped her, the only problem is Josie does not know how to ride. Jack is volunteered to teach her.

On his Wyoming ranch near Shoshone, Jack trains Josie to ride a horse. However, they also ride each other as neither can keep their hands off the other. She knows she still loves him in spite of her expectation he will leave her again. However, he ran from her the last time out of fear of his feelings, but this time he plans to stay the course and prove to his beloved they belong together.

This hot Sons of Chance romance (see Wanted! And Ambushed!) is a fun read due to heated outdoor acrobatics of the lead couple in spite of their doubts. With a touch of humor to lighten the torrid ranch romance, Vicki Lewis Thompson will claim a lot of fans with this strong second chance at love.

Harriet Klausner

Double Play-Joanne Rock

Double Play
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze, Aug 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795642

Shy book reviewer Amber Nichols is spending her vacation at a friend’s beach house on Nantucket. Upon seeing the hunk next door, although clearly out of character for her, she vows to go for a one-night stand with the jock, Boston baseball coach Heath Donovan.

The coach knows he will be held responsible by management for the team’s slump. To take his mind off his fears of being fired, he thinks a one night stand with the beautiful groupie next door is just the thing. However, as one night becomes several nights, each wonders when and how their game will end.

The latest Wrong Bed tale is a heated sports romance that contains two charming pitchers throwing complete games as their lust turns into love. The enjoyable story line is hotter than a summer on the Cape while the lead couple makes for a fine time away from the ball park. Baseball fans will wonder whether Heath and Amber will hit into a Double Play or grand slam walk-off home run.

Harriet Klausner

His Hired Baby-Jacqueline Diamond

His Hired Baby
Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American Romance Aug 10 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753246

Desperately needing money for her and her five years old son to live on, reluctant widow Kate Evans agrees to be a surrogate mom to the Franco couple. The only thing disturbing her about the deal is she detests having to hand over her baby to another couple, but knows she has no choice.

However, to her shock after she becomes pregnant, the adoptive mother leaves her husband filing for a divorce. The adoptive father Tony Franco still wants his child though he will raise the baby as a single dad though he knows nothing about children. He turns to his surrogate mom to mentor him in all things child care. As they fall in love, his distrust of women since his ex wife’s desertion has left him wary.

This is an enjoyable Safe Harbor Medical romance (see The Would-be Mommy) starring two wonderful lead characters whose matchmaker is not born yet. The story line is driven by Kate’s desire to mother her baby and Tony’s fear of commitment. Fans will enjoy this couple who make for a fun contemporary family drama.

Harriet Klausner

The Mommy Proposal-Cathy Gillen Thacker

The Mommy Proposal
Cathy Gillen Thacker
Harlequin American Romance Aug 10 2010, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753239

In Fort Worth CEO Nate Hutchinson prays his effort to adopt a child proves fruitful. To somewhat affirm his seriousness and to convert his abode, he hires widow interior decorator Brooke Mitchell to change his bachelor pad to a safe home fit for a single dad with a son. She understands being a single parent as she raises her son by herself since his father died.

Brooke is stunned with how well Nate and the two young boys hit it off together. As shocking to Brooke is her growing attraction to the new father and his child. She also believes he needs to relax and let it be as his zealousness threatens the lad. Nate knows he needs Brooke and the two boys to make his life meaningful.

The matchmaking two boys own this entertaining Lone Star Dads Club family drama (see Wanted: One Mommy) as they manipulate their parents. The romance fully takes a back seat to the antics of the children though Nate and Brooke are likable characters. Readers will enjoy The Mommy Proposal.

Harriet Klausner

The Mullah's Storm-Thomas W. Young

The Mullah's Storm
Thomas W. Young
Putnam, Sep 7 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156922

In Afghanistan, the C-130 Hercules transport plane left Bagram Air Base to deliver a Taliban Mullah prisoner for interrogation when the storm hit. The heavy blowing snow made visibility impossible and a rapid drop in pressure made flying even more dangerous. However, a surface to air missile strikes the plane causing it to crash in the mountainous lethal Hindu Kush region. The crew has several dead or severely injured; the blizzard cuts them off from immediate rescue while the Taliban who know the area intimately are coming to rescue the Mullah.

With broken legs keeping him trapped, Lieutenant Colonel Fisher assigns the highest ranking person standing navigator Major Michael Parson and Army Pashto interpreter and cultural awareness expert Master Sergeant Gold to escort the Mullah to the authorities. The enemy who heed the Mullah’s call to bring hell to the Americans and their allies know the terrain made more treacherous by the storm while his two escorts already believe they are traveling in a frozen hell. The Taliban hunt them abetted by frightened villagers and the Mullah who prays for deliverance.

This is an action packed military thriller that brings alive the stark reality of war in Afghanistan. The Air Force navigator and the Army interpreter are fully drawn characters, but it is the prisoner they escort who owns the plot (along with his country).as his beliefs profoundly contrast with prevalent Western philosophy. The suspense is summed up by author Thomas W. Young as an airman in Afghanistan: “…, what scared me the most wasn't the thought of getting shot down and killed. It was the thought of getting shot down and not killed…"

Harriet Klausner

Heiress to a Curse-Zandria Munson

Heiress to a Curse
Zandria Munson
Harlequin Nocturne, Aug 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618415

In the sixteenth century in Romania, a witch placed a curse on the Drakon family that turn each one into gargoyles. Centuries later Marius Drakon knows he is next to change unless he can earn the trust of the witch’s descendent and then kill her.

Twenty-nine days remain before his conversion. Marius meets reporter Alexandra and knows he must make her believe in him before he murders her. There is only one problem, he is attracted to her. She is working a child abduction case in which he joins her. When she learns who he is and what he must do, she is heartbroken as she loves him. As they trust in their love, they fight off his family who see her death as redemption and seek another way to overcome the curse.

This is a great romantic urban fantasy due to the apparent star-crossed lovers as each understands the curse. The first Hearts of Stone story line is fast-paced from the moment they meet and never slows down as his days tick away. Readers will need to set aside time for this fabulous thriller as Zandria Munson provides a strong tale that means little if any nocturnal sleep.

Harriet Klausner

Lord of the Desert-Nina Bruhns

Lord of the Desert
Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Nocturne, Aug 2010, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618408

The Kilpatrick family hires historian Gillian Halliday to find the grave of their ancestor, English lord Lieutenant Rhys Kilpatrick. He died over a century ago in the Nubian Desert of Egypt. As Gillian follows clues she is taken aback to what they lead her to.

Instead of a tomb, she encounters the breathing Rhys who remains alive though he vanished one hundred and twenty five years ago. Shapeshifting Rhys explains that he serves immortal vampire demigod high priest Seth-Aziz, a five millennia being, as he has for decades. When Rhys and Gillian fall in love, he risks everything to be with her even when his owner demands he turns the woman over to him. Their only hope is to find her mother, who vanished twenty years ago.

Placing a vampire romance inside of Egyptian mythology, Nina Bruhns provides romantic fantasy fans will a great read. The Immortal Sheikhs story line is fast-paced from the moment the star-crossed lovers meet and never slows down for an instant. Lord of the desert is a winner as fans will root for the lead couple as they go up against impossible odds with love their strongest yet also weakest weapon.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost of a Chance-Simon R. Green

Ghost of a Chance
Simon R. Green
Ace, Aug 31 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019168

In a deserted supermarket in Bath, England are the Ghost Finder agents powerful in magic JC Chance, technological geek who disdains magic Melody Chambers, and telepath Happy Jack Palmer. The place is haunted and between psi and tech skills, they locate a stone age settlement miles beneath the parking lot. A woman’s murder led to the haunting, but they obtain justice and dispatch the victim to the next plane and malevolence lingering from ancient times is destroyed.

Shortly afterward, the team, who are part of the Carnacki Institute, is summoned to meet with their boss. A massive supernatural event occurred at London’s Oxford Circus Tube Station. The team is to learn what supernatural essence caused the incident, kick its butt, and send it back to whatever hell it calls home. They realize “it” is a Power so potent no one can defeat it. Adding to their difficulty is two dark arts practitioners from the Crowley Institute; the mission of these operatives is to kill the three Carnacki agents. When they comprehend that the otherworldly entity can terraform the planet into its environs, the adversarial pair of earth groups unite though none of the five field operatives believe they have a ghost of a chance to prevent the extinction of their world.

The newest series from urban fantasy grand mage Simon R. Green is as good as the Nightside and the Secret Histories sagas. Each of the three Carnacki heroes have their own personalities, which feel believable as they fight the supernatural; their human enemies become frenemies because they may practice dark magic but are not suicidal as they do not want to be devoured by otherworldly powers. Filled with action, no one turns London into a horror-fantasy playground better than Mr. Green consistently does as the city has a Ghost of a Chance of surviving the writer’s latest magical mayhem.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 26, 2010

Scumble-Ingrid Law

Ingrid Law
Dial, Aug 24 2010, $16.99
ISBN: 9780803733077

When he turns thirteen, Ledger Kale inherits his genetic Savvy, but hates the feeling of what he describes as red ants running wild in his blood. He especially is ashamed because he cannot control his Savvy unlike his family including his older cousin Mibs (see Savvy); his power leads to destruction of human created objects.

Fearing for their son (and society), who has not learned how to Scumble his Savvy, his parents leave Ledge and their younger daughter seven year old Fedora at the remote Wyoming insect ranch of Uncle Autry. Also staying at Flying Cattleheart Ranch are several of Ledge’s cousins. Complicating the situation is thirteen year old Sarah Jane Cabot, snooping wannabe reporter who sees exposé articles on the strange extended family at the ranch. At the same time her businessman father sets out to take ownership of local establishments including Autry’s ranch. Ledge knows life at the ranch is at least as complicated as back home.

This is a terrific whimsical coming of age tale that targets middle school readers (and my spouse) with its insectoid humor, but will be enjoyed by adults as a strong metaphoric novel as well. Filled with a conscience and guilt, Ledge is a fabulous narrator whether he discusses with readers the plight of destroying his father’s nose trimmer, spilling his guts to feed carnivores, or the quandary caused by the snoop queen. The support cast at the ranch also brings humor to the mix. However, this is Ledge’s saga as he struggles with the change from tweener to adolescence causing him emotional stress and physical imbalance; all because his Savvy has surfaced out of Scumble control.

Harriet Klausner

The Book of Peach-Penelope J. Stokes

The Book of Peach
Penelope J. Stokes
Berkley, Aug 3 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234495

She grew up under the boring auspices of her mother and grandmother who insisted she be a “Southern Lady” at all times. Priscilla Bell Posner “Peach” Rondell envied the freedom of being ignored by the matriarchs that her brother Harry had and the ease of her much older sister Melanie seemed to adapt to being another iron maiden. The first chance she got to escape from Chulahatchie, Mississippi and their home Belladonna, Peach did.

Now twenty-three years later, divorced from Robert after two plus decades of marriage, the former Miss Mississippi runner-up has come home following the advice of her white-hair shrink to confront her mommy demons. She uses a journal to write down her thoughts as escapism from her widow mom who has not changed one iota from her adherence to the Southern Lady rules of public behavior. She also begins an affair with soon to be divorced Charles Chase whom she met at the Piggily Wiggly fruit aisle. However, Peach finds the most solace at the Heartbreak Cafe, where she writes her musings and becomes a member of a motley crew who would be unacceptable to mom.

The Book of Peach returns readers to the same setting as the Heartbreak Café (the latter’s star Dell makes key appearances in this tale too) in a satirical often jocular regional family drama. The bittersweet humorist journal kept by Peach in her second Mississippi run enables the reader to understand her childhood and the exclusive membership requirements of being a Southern Lady, which the lead protagonist admits she failed at because of displaced compassion. Although at times the story line can slows down the pace of sipping mint juleps, Penelope J. Stokes provides insight into a regional subculture maintained subtly by Steel Magnolias.

Harriet Klausner

Treachery in the Yard-Adimchinma Ibe

Treachery in the Yard
Adimchinma Ibe
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9780312585938

In Government Reservation Area II, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the bomb devastates the home and garage of affluent Pius Okpara, who is running against Dr. Vincent Puene for the National Conservative’s Party’s nomination for governor of Rivers State. Outside of the property damage, no one is hurt. Neighbor Mrs. Naomi Karibi, wife of a judge and mom of three, may have seen the culprits as she describes to the police on the scene.

Homicide Detective Tamunoemi Peterside leads the official investigation that soon turns from a bombing to murder when Mrs. Karibi is killed. As his superiors intrude on Peterside’s inquiry, other potential witnesses are also murdered.

Although not as deep as the Botswana mysteries (see Alexander McCall Smith’s The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu), the first Peterside Nigerian police procedural is an interesting tale. Action-packed as the murder count rises alarmingly fast, Adimchinma Ibe makes a case that corruption intrudes on good police work. Although more insight into Nigeria is needed and less of a Perry Mason climax, fans of African police procedurals will enjoy the first Detective Peterside investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Power Slide-Susan Dunlap

Power Slide
Susan Dunlap
Counterpoint, Jul 20 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9781582435428

In San Francisco stuntman Damon Guthrie begins to reveal a shameful secret to his intermittent girlfriend stuntwoman Darcy Lott. Before completing his confession to a stunned distressed Darcy, Damon asks her to come to a meeting accompanied by her sibling John the cop at the Palace of the Fine Arts.

However, on his way to the meeting, Damon dies in a car accident. The timing seems suspicious to Darcy who decides to investigate as she has done before feature (see Hungry Ghosts, A Single Eye and Civil Twilight). Darcy also remains determined to find her missing other brother Mike, who vanished over two decades ago. However, those predators who murdered Damon decide Darcy is next.

The latest Zen detective amateur sleuth mystery is an exhilarating whodunit as the two inquiries are personal; although each requires a degree of acceptability that the heroine knew so little about a man she dated on and off for several years, and the tundra cold case of missing Mike. The fun in the investigative story line is the refreshing use of Zen Buddhism to work the cases and the amusing movie memorabilia collectibles, as the latest Darcy Lott mystery is an enjoyable whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Villain-Shuichi Yoshida; Philip Gabriel (translator)

Shuichi Yoshida; Philip Gabriel (translator)
Pantheon, Aug 3 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307378873

In 2002 in southern Japan, the corpse of Fukuoka insurance saleswoman Yoshino Ishibashi is found. Soon after the discovery of the dead woman’s body, Nagasaki police charge twenty-seven year old construction worker Yuichi Shimizu with first degree murder.

The pair had dated a few times but the motive remains as elusive as the ghosts that allegedly haunt this region of Japan. The cops learn that the victim had numerous online boyfriends and went on mundane and cyber dates; as Ishibashi hated her boring job. Meanwhile Shimizu also detested his cramped lifestyle as he cared for his ailing grandparents; his escapism from ennui was with his extravagant car. Meanwhile as he and his girlfriend evade the police, the impact of the murder reverberates on three families and the communities where they reside.

Using a horrific homicide, Shuichi Yoshida provides a powerful look at modern day Japan through multiple perspectives. The discerning story line rotates effortlessly between the past of lead pair (killer and victim) and the aftermath of the killing on the couple on the run and the families. Readers will relish this tense thriller as murder is the mechanism used to enable the audience to feel they are on the islands observing contemporary Japanese culture.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss of Death-P.D. Martin

Kiss of Death
P.D. Martin
Mira, Aug 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 978-0778327790

The corpse was found in Temescal Gateway Park. LAPD fears the murder is ritual caused by an NRM (new religious movement) as the locale is where After Dark, a self proclaimed vampire group, holds rites and the victim has two puncture wounds in her neck. The local cops ask for FBI profiler Sophie Anderson to work with Detective Sloan on the investigation into who murdered Sherry Taylor, teenage daughter of an affluent producer.

As they interview interested parties, Sloan believes an acting professor or the former boyfriend killed Sherry while Anderson believes either After Dark or another “vampire” clan performed the deed. When a second corpse is found near the Sherry’s murder scene, Anderson fears someone is working on a psi transfer of power. However, as the Fed ignores her visiting boyfriend (from Arizona) and fears her attraction to Anton Ward, leader of After Dark, who senses her psi power, she goes undercover as Lady Veronica seeking a killer amidst the Goth scene.

The fascination in this tense well-written police procedural is with the insight into the two types of vampires (psi and blood suckers) as readers learn of psychosomatic illnesses (porphyria and Renfield's syndrome). Sloan is a terrific support character who should have a return engagement with Anderson. The prime rest of the secondary cast bring to life either the Goth or police subcultures. Although Anderson’s eerie attraction to Ward is not fully explained as this is a key element and questionable is the ease she switches to and from her Aussie accent (and vernacular), fans will enjoy her latest whodunit (see Killing Hands, Fan Mail and The Body Count).

Harriet Klausner

Dust-John Frances Turner

John Frances Turner
Ace, Sep 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441019281

After not buckling her seatbelt, she died at fifteen in a car accident and was interred in a zone void of humans. She wakes up inside her coffin and though she has only one good arm as her right was almost severed off in the accident, she pushes her way out of the coffin and digs through the dirt. The teen immediately knows what she is: a revenant (zombie) and joins a pack of her kind. They live in a human-free zone where they hunt animals for food.

Jessie is an undead who does not suffer from zombie amnesia as she remembers her previous mortal life though nine years have passed since she passed. She has feelings for those she considers family (past and present) though humans lock them away with putting electrical security fences their homes as if they were illegal immigrants and the police have standing orders to kill at first sight. However an inexplicable plague arises like none before as this pandemic disease can kill human and revenant. If a miracle cure is not found soon, both species will go way of the dinosaur turning into fossils and Dust.

This is a first rate urban fantasy that “humanizes” zombies who are not mindless shark like predators, but a different sentient life form with feelings for others. Jessie is a strong willed resolute soul who thrives on coping with whatever splitter fastball life throws at her head. Readers will root for her while enjoying John Frances Turner’s sensual revamping of zombie fever.

Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Siege-Karen Miller

Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Siege
Karen Miller
Del Rey, Jul 6 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780345509000

Strategically, the planet Lanteeb is a nothing microdot in the Outer Rim; far from anything of minor significance. Yet for some unknown reason in the minds of the Republic, the Separatist Alliance has invaded this meaningless orb. Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker travel undercover to learn why.

The truth lies with research scientist Bant'ena Fhernan, who is being held captive by Separatists demanding she work on a super virus to cause a pandemic never seen before. To fuel this biological weapon of mass destruction, the Separatists require damotite found deep in the mines on Lanteeb. Thus Separatist General Lok Durd and his force enslave the beleaguered locals. He also knows Jedi are on the planet and hunts for them with pleasure while the prey are alone as the natives cannot risk helping them and their communication with their allies are severed by the their adversaries.

The second book in the Gambit duology (see Stealth) is an exhilarating Star Wars entry as Obi-Wan and Anakin risk their lives to prevent a pandemic disaster that could leave the Republic teetering on the brink of extinction. Fascinatingly the audience sees deep inside Skywalker as he struggles with the end justifying the mean pondering “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic” (Stalin) since the Lanteebians may have to be sacrificed for the rest of the Republic. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will enjoy this solid military science fiction in spite of being somewhat similar in tone to its predecessor with the heroic Jedi Knights going beyond exhaustion with no aid in sight and everyone after them, but ironically should read Stealth first to understand the set up..

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Secrets of Paradise Bay-Devon Vaughn Archer

The Secrets of Paradise Bay
Devon Vaughn Archer
Urban Renaissance, Jul 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781601622198

In Paradise Bay, Oregon, Trey Lancaster hurt his wife Ivana Kendall-Lancaster and their marriage when he had an affair with the spouse of a client six moths ago. Feeling ashamed for what he did to his former supermodel wife, Trey invites his brother Clyde to stay with them without consulting Ivana. Clyde, just released from prison following an assault conviction, accepts his wealthy sibling’s offer. Ivana is irate with her husband for ignoring her when he made this decision.

Clyde and Ivana begin an affair from almost the moment he arrives. However, he feels guilty for making love to his sister-in-law while she is confused wondering which brother she loves. When Clyde meets Stefani the singer he becomes further disoriented as he no longer understands his feelings. Meanwhile Willie Munroe owes Clyde and plans to pay back using the brother, the wife and the crooner as expendable pawns.

The Secrets of Paradise Bay is a fantastic romantic suspense family drama with a strong ensemble cast who each has major issues. The tension mounts on two subplots as the brothers seem ready to commit fratricide with each irate with the other and the Munro retribution entry that grips the audience with a sense of pending doom. Devon Vaughn Archer provides a great tale in which sibling rivalry may prove deadly if they fail to reconcile.

Harriet Klausner

My Hollywood-Mona Simpson

My Hollywood
Mona Simpson
Knopf, Aug 3 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780307273529

Before relocating to Southern California, Claire the composer and Paul the comedy writer shared raising their son William reasonably equal. However, in Santa Monica, Paul works long hours as a TV comedy writer; which leaves the raising of their baby almost totally to Claire.

With no time for herself or her career, Claire hires fiftyish Filipino Lola to help with William. Lola sends most of her earnings back home for her children to attend better schools. Besides caring for William, the nanny tries to help her high powered employees remain a coherent family unit as Claire and Paul seem continents adrift. Other parents realizing Lola’s full value try to buy her loyalty.

Except for those who believe marriage is a sacred constitutional right, the readers will relish this stinging jocular indictment of the American marital system. Ironically the Hollywood pair lives in the same house while the nanny’s family is across the Pacific, but seemingly the latter is much more content and helpful to others than her American counterpart. As Claire and Lola rotate leads so the audience can determine honesty and pretentiousness between the two mothers and their social circle this novel will make readers think about what is really important.

Harriet Klausner

The Pirate Devlin-Mark Keating

The Pirate Devlin
Mark Keating
Grand Central, Jul 27 2020, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446563901

In 1717 on the West Coast of Africa, French Marine Royale Phillipe Ducos lies dying after begin run aground by pirates. The only pirate who apparently understands French is newcomer Patrick Devlin. Besides taking the dead “frog’s” boots, he removes a treasure map that he conceals from his traveling companions.

Captaining the vessel Lucy, Patrick and his crew sail across the Atlantic into the Caribbean where the French guard gold. His adversary on this adventure is his former master Royal Navy Captain John Coxon under orders by the Admiralty to retrieves the treasure. Still fuming and ashamed he lost his ship to pirates, Coxon will kill anyone, British, French or pirate (and his former man-servant) who are in his way. Patrick knows he must trick British, French and pirates (and his former master) to retrieve the gold.

This is a rousing early eighteenth century swashbuckling thriller in which violence and blood flow throughout the exhilarating story line. Patrick is superb as the daring pirate captain who goes mano a mano with Blackbeard while Coxon compulsively obsesses with a need to prove he is a worthy sea captain. Readers will enjoy the confrontation between the master and the man-servant

Harriet Klausner

The Moses Expedition-Juan Gomez-Jurado

The Moses Expedition
Juan Gomez-Jurado
Atria, Aug 3 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9781416590644

During WW II the Nazi Butcher of Spiegelgrund conducted painful deadly genetic experiments on Jewish children. A sibling to one of the young victims managed to escape to the United States.

Over six decades later, that escapee now New York billionaire Raymond Kayn finally learns where the Nazi genetic butcher has remained in hiding. He dispatches Vatican secret service agent Father Anthony Fowler (see God's Spy) to Austria to obtain an heirloom from the odious Nazi. The heirloom contains a scroll that locates the biblical Ark of the Covenant in the Jordanian desert. At the same time Kahn hires Spanish journalist Andrea Otero (also see God's Spy) to cover his expedition to obtain the sacred Ark. Huqan sends his terrorist agents into the desert to ambush the outsiders.

Although over the top of Raiders of the Lost Ark and lacking a consistent lead as a cast worthy of Cecil DeMille rotate the lead, fans will want to join The Moses Expedition from the armchair as terrorist bombs bursting in air and killer insects attack the team. Loaded with international action on four continents, Juan Gomez-Jurado provides a fun suspense thriller for those who can ignore plausibility.

Harriet Klausner

On Location-Elizabeth Sims

On Location
Elizabeth Sims
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312586577

Los Angeles law student and single mom Rita Farmer feels the worst is finally over after a seemingly century of dealing with her alcoholic former spouse. However, the ex actress is stunned when her sister Gina along with future brother-on-law wealthy Lance de Sauvenard vanish in the wilds of Washington State during a nasty storm. Lance was scouting for an ideal on-site locale for his filmmaker brother to make a movie.

In her gut Rita knows she should turn to her boyfriend private investigator George Rowe to help find her sibling, but does not. Instead she rounds up the posse of her six year old son Petey and her gay friend Daniel the actor to search the wilderness filled with beasts that very loosely might be categorized as human who stalk the seemingly helpless trio.

More a thriller than a mystery, the third Farmer tale (see The Actress and The Extra) is a fabulous novel as Rita’s independent streak leads her and her two compatriots into trouble reminiscent of Dickey’s Deliverance. On Location is a winner that does not need a Byrd to tell fans that this entry is terrific.

Harriet Klausner

The Rembrandt Affair-Daniel Silva

The Rembrandt Affair
Daniel Silva
Putnam, Jul 20 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399156588

Art restorer and retired Mossad agent Gabriel Allon and his agent second wife Chiara retreat to Glastonbury, England for some R&R and a return to normalcy after the recent near fatal abduction of her (see The Defector). However, the respite ends when Allon learns a dear colleague was murdered and the Rembrandt painting the victim was restoring was stolen. Unable to hide on the sidelines, Allon investigates.

Allon’s inquiry into a theft turned ugly takes him into the underbelly of capitalism as European firms clandestinely and illegally are selling reactor centrifuges to Iran. He realizes all nuclear waste in this case leads to Switzerland. Knowing he cannot go it alone, Allon calls in his former crew mates.

The latest Allon thriller is a terrific tale that has a different feel to the story line. The tale starts off as a mystery, but the clues turn the plot into an action-packed espionage thriller. Fast-paced regardless of genre, The Rembrandt Affair has the hero doing his usual quality job as he comes out of retirement to try to prevent the illegal sales to Iran. The escapades never stop until after the final confrontation; yet the key that refreshes this entry is Allon, who on the surface seems the same as in his previous appearances, but long time fans will notice subtle but fascinating differences.

Harriet Klausner

Bad Blood-John Sandford

Bad Blood
John Sandford
Putnam, Sep 21 2010, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399156908

Bob Tripp, in charge of the Battenberg Farmer’s Co-op grain elevator patiently waits for Jacob Flood to arrive to deposit his crop; Bob plans to kill Jacob. His scheme works perfectly as the police arrive at the scene and conclude he was murdered by Tripp rather than the accident the young man claimed happened. They arrest Tripp who is placed in a jail cell with overnight deputy Jim Crocker remaining in the office. While in the jail Tripp dies in what looks like a suicide, but is a homicide while at his home Crocker is also dead with the evidence pointing towards a female.

Because of a conflict of interest, Warren County Sheriff Lee Coakley asks BIA Agent Virgil Flowers for assistance. They drive separately to Homestead where the killings occurred. The pair learns that two of the victims belonged to the cult World of Spirit where rumors of rape, incest, and young teen brides are acceptable practices. Virgil and the sheriff also know they have no legal admissible evidence as the cult members stick closely together circling the wagons. Knowing the innocent are being harmed, the two law enforcement officials continual their diligence, but remain clueless.

With his fourth Flowers (and the zillion Prey tales) thriller, John Sandford once again affirms he is amongst the top echelon in the police procedural sub-genre. Virgil has a wicked sense of humor that distinguishes him, but when it comes to a case he is serious and meticulous. With plenty of murder, mayhem, and more, fans will enjoy the investigation by “F” Flowers and the female sheriff.

Harriet Klausner

Land of the Burning Sands-Rachel Neumeier

Land of the Burning Sands
Rachel Neumeier
Orbit, Jun 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316072793

The Kingdom of Casmantium used griffins and the magic of fire to annex territory from its neighbor Feierabiand, but the subsequent war ended in abject defeat (see Lord of the Changing Winds). However, inside Casmantium, the loss has led to a power struggle as the fuming griffins have filled much of the void and are overtly hostile to the other sentient species especially the last surviving mage.

Convicted to a life of slavery Gereint Enseichen also believes the debacle has given him a chance to escape from his servitude. However, instead of freedom across the border, he finds himself caught in the middle of trying to prevent the griffins from turning the kingdom into a graveyard of burning sand as they are doing with the city of Melentser; ceded to them during the peace treaty. His mentor Amnachudran rescues Geraint from his botched plan; he and his wife send Gereint to Bredichboden to become an assistant to their brilliant absent minded scientist daughter Tehre. Back in his home city, the adventures continue as Gereint fears he will be caught while the King tries to save his throne.

While the griffins who starred in the first book take a bit of a respite, Gereint picks up the mantle of driving the story line as he tries to stay free. The story line is fast-paced from start to finish and the aftermath of a bitter defeat is made worse when everyone expected the glory of victory which is the vivid focus of this terrific fantasy. The middle Griffin Mage Trilogy thriller is a terrific entry as the action never stops coming while the cast is superb especially the convicted slave and the scientist.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Stuff That Never Happened-Maddie Dawson

The Stuff That Never Happened
Maddie Dawson
Crown, Aug 3 2010, $23.00
ISBN: 9780307393678

Shge had thirty years of marriage to historian Grant McKay, but with their two kids gone, Annabelle wants more as she always loved someone else although her husband is a nice kindhearted person. When her pregnant daughter Sophie has a major health issue, Annabelle comes to Manhattan to help her.

The city reminds her of her first love back in the 1970s when as newlyweds with Grant teaching at Columbia University, they lived with his sponsor Jeremiah. Both Jeremiah and Annabelle knew an affair between Grant’s beloved wife and his cherished mentor would destroy him. However, they could not resist the passion. Now back in New York, she knows Jeremiah is near; Annabelle must choose between the two men she cares most about.

This is an entertaining chick lit family drama held together by Annabelle as readers compare her and her two loves in the 1970s with her as an about to be grandma with two loves in 2005. The triangle is strong as is Sophie and the city. Although the ending feels abrupt and too pat, fans will enjoy The Stuff That Never Happened as the lead protagonist has a second chance at selecting between the two men she loves.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Fear-Cynthia Eden

Deadly Fear
Cynthia Eden
Forever, Aug 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780446559249

Since the trauma of childhood FBI profiler Monica Davenport conceals her emotions behind a seemingly impregnable wall she created ever since surviving serial killer Romeo. After that horror, sixteen years later she mentally survives and thrives by putting herself inside the minds of serial killers in order to catch these deadly vile predators and lock them away before they harm someone else.

Recently, the first cracks in her barrier have occurred as FBI Agent Luke Dante wants in as he wants her. The Bureau teams them up to bring down the notorious Watchman, who uses fear to immobilize victims. To defeat this brilliant psychopath, Monica and Luke will have to face their worst respective personal nightmare; if they unite they might overcome their baggage; if not two more filled body bags.

This is an entertaining romantic police procedural starring a fascinating heroine and a more typical alpha hunk. The story line is fast-paced throughout with a sort of second chance relationship between the lead couple as they met intimately at the Academy. Filled with tension especially when the Watchman targets Monica, fans will relish Deadly Fear as Cynthia Eden provides a taut nail biter.

Harriet Klausner

Veil of Night-Linda Howard

Veil of Night
Linda Howard
Ballantine, Aug 10 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345506894

While paying her traffic ticket fine, Jaclyn Wilde loses her balance and falls into the arms Hopewell, Georgia Police detective Eric Wilder. She likes what she sees (and feels), but has no time for an encounter because as an event planner for Premier, which she co-owns with her mom, they host six weddings in five days.

At the end of a brutal day made worse by Carrie “Bridezilla” Edwards, Jaclyn stops off for a drink. Also at the same bar is Eric. The exchange business cards so they can hook up in a week, but lust gets the better of them and they spend a night making love.

Carrie fires Jaclyn and slaps her former planner in the face in front of many witnesses. A few hours later, Carrie is found murdered with the weapon being kabob skewers. Eric leads the investigation and as such must treat Jaclyn as a stranger being that she is a prime suspect; although he is positive she is not the killer. He plans to find the killer, keep Jaclyn safe from someone who wants her dead, and somehow regain her trust lost by doing his job.

The quality of Linda Howard’s romantic suspense novels remains consistently high as affirmed by Veil of Night. The tale is filled with tense intrigue, a strong police procedural investigation, a memorable cast, plenty of humor and a powerful lead couple – the cop and the suspect who go from lust to distrust as Eric performs his job. This is a must read.

Harriet Klausner

Foreign Influence-Brad Thor

Foreign Influence
Brad Thor
Atria, Jul 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9781416586593

The new Administration aborts Department of Homeland Security Project Apex as the top secret antiterrorist group had been assigned rule breaking by the previous White House occupant to prevent attacks. As he did when he left the SEALs, Apex member Scot Harvath easily lands a position with Defense Department’s funded Carlton Group; mission identical to that of the disbanded Apex team.

In Rome a terrorist bomb kills a bus load of American tourists. Horvath travels to Italy on the mission of search and kill the prime suspect the Troll, and any associates. Chicago police officer and lawyer John Vaughn searches for the Middle Easterner taxi driver who ran over a woman in a hit and run. His inquiry leads Vaughn to a terrorist plot to kill civilians in Chicago.

Over the top of the Willis Tower, Foreign Influence is an exhilarating thriller in which the hero of previous tales simply switches teams. The story line is extremely fast with both subplots moving at a rapid rate of speed. Although Brad Thor argues that the government is incompetent and even antiterrorism efforts need contracting out when comparing the CIA with the Carlton group, fans who enjoy action, action and more testosterone action will appreciate Harvath's latest thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Hangman-Faye Kellerman

Faye Kellerman
Morrow, Aug 3 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061702563

Los Angeles Police Department Lieutenant sexagenarian Peter Decker knows rumored New York hitman Chris Donatti and the alleged killer’s wife Terry McLaughlin. He met them on a case fifteen years ago when the couple were in high school; Chris confessed to a murder he did not do to protect Terry. Now, both vanish after a fight and their young teenage son Gabe calls Peter. The cop and his wife Rina Lazarus takes the boy into their home though they worry about psychopathic Chris harming their daughter. Meanwhile Decker searches for the vanished parents.

At the same time, Peter leads the inquiry into the brutal murder of St. Timothy Hospital’s neonatal nurse Adrianna Blanc. She was found hanging at a construction site with her car still in the hospital lot. Decker and his team Sergeant Marge Dunn and Detective Scott Oliver learn the victim enjoyed booze and sex. Her boyfriend Nurse Garth Hammerling has also vanished while on vacation.

This is a strong entry in the long running series due to the comparative analysis of two families. Decker-Lazarus is a loving unit with a strong relationship between them and with their daughter. On the other hand Donatti-McLaughlin is a dysfunctional unit with a history of violence with a piano prodigy offspring who uses music to escape his life. Although the inquires take a strange twist, fans will relish this fine police procedural as Decker fears Donatti might harm his family., but he and his spouse try to do what they believe is the right thing.

Harriet Klausner

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance-Sara Poole

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance
Sara Poole
St. Martin’s Griffin, Aug 3 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312609832

In 1492, Giordano is murdered on the streets of Rome. His daughter wants to know why and who, but no one not even his employer seems interested. To obtain the knowledge she seeks, Francesca knows she must replace her late father as the chief poisoner of Rodrigo Borgia. The only way to prove her capable of performing the position is to poison someone of importance; she kills her target and is hired by Borgia s his personal poisoner.

When Pope Innocent II dies, her assignment becomes clear. She must murder any rival of Rodrigo who along with his family plans to see him become the next Pope. However, her efforts prove so successful that those who killed her father come after her.

This is a fascinating early Renaissance era thriller starring a fabulous lead protagonist who brings to life the political intrigue of the times. Although the story line can turn slow as Sara Poole provides a powerful look at the Borgia dynasty through the female poisoner, fans will relish this strong historical as murder and mayhem mix in late fifteenth century Rome and Vatican City as competitors to replace the late Pope Innocent II kill off opponents.

Harriet Klausner

Betrayers-Bill Pronzini

Bill Pronzini
Forge, Jul 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765318206

Nameless wanted to say no, but knows he is unable to deny the septuagenarian client Mrs. Abbott who asks him to look at threats, a poisoned cat and ghosts over a real estate deal. On a personal note, Nameless investigates how a package of cocaine ended up in his daughter Emily’s bedroom.

At the same time his partner Tamara Corbin tracks down Lucas Zeller who broke her heart; her odious former lover seems involved in a charity scam. Their third partner Jake Runyon searches for Madison a bail jumper whose family is a piece of work.

The best of the four cases by far is Tamara’s as she and readers realize she learned a hard core lesson from Zeller and has come out of that bad relationship much stronger of a person. The Runyon investigation and the two Nameless inquiries are solid but not inspiring. Fans of the Nameless detective tales will enjoy the latest entry though not as strong as most of his caseload (see Schemers and Fever).

Harriet Klausner

The Chamber of Ten-Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

The Chamber of Ten
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Ballantine, Jul 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780553386561

As Venice is sinking under the sea, residents have already shut down the bottom floors of their homes. American archaeologist Geena Hodge and her assistant lover Nico Lombardi have gotten Italian government permission to save as much of the heritage from the encroaching Adriatic in what is the Bibliotheca project that has BBC filming praying not another Capone vault.

Digging in Piazza San Marco, Geena, assisted by Nico and some students, finds Petrarch’s library. Beyond the famous lost library, they uncover the fabled Chamber of Ten. However, nothing goes smoothly as the walls collapse allowing flood waters to inundate the chamber. Soon afterward Nico acts insane as he has become possessed by a Renaissance Era mage battling three evil immortals with the city at stake.

This is more an exciting thriller than a horror tale. The story line starts off as fast-paced as any tale this year and as vivid (with its dank damp picture of the city), but never quite keeps the accelerator at that incredible opening rate of speed. Still Readers will enjoy the Chamber of Ten as the archeologist and her team is caught up in the middle of a centuries old Magical war in which Venice is at stake.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Blessings of the Animals-Katrina Kittle

The Blessings of the Animals
Katrina Kittle
Harper, Aug 3 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061906077

In Ohio, after eighteen years of marriage her husband Bobby leaves veterinarian Cam Anderson and their teenage daughter Gabriella. When Sheriff Metz calls for her help with dead and dying horses, Bobby ends their marriage rationalizing if she only asked him to help.

That same afternoon, she knows it is over with Bobby when she catches him with a younger woman. Despondent, Cam notices other successful relationships like her parents celebrating their golden wedding anniversary; her BFF (Bobby’s sister) is engaged to a nice man, and her gay brother Davy and his for life mate are adopting a child. She distrusts her heart as being fickle, but soon learns she is not alone with broken dreams when Davy’s adoption plans fail and her daughter Gabriella has turned from sweet to caustic sour. Still as she helps a cranky geriatric horse, she reflects on her life and where she wants it to go; concluding with the ironic help of her horsy patient so far in spite of Bobby’s desertion, it’s a wonderful life especially with other men vying to enter it.

This is a profound look at relationships through mostly the eyes of someone who realizes the healing Blessings of the Animals; a feeling I personally agree with Katrina Kittle as my husband always insists my significant other was Max the dog. The story line is character driven as fans see how the lead protagonists and people in her sphere observe their relationships with others especially loved ones. If you prefer save the world action look elsewhere, but those who appreciate a superb well written drama that focuses on saving a soul or two will relish this deep one sitting tale; an aging steed serves as Clarence Oddbody figuratively teaching the depressed vet how to move on with her wonderful life.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tea Leaves And Tarot Cards-Jacqueline Seward

Tea Leaves And Tarot Cards
Jacqueline Seward
Five Star, Aug 18 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149146

In 1816 London, the Ton adores Maeve the half gypsy fortune teller. At a gala all eyes are on Lady Caroline whose brother James the Earl is her guardian since their parents died. James plans to marry off his sister to the wealthy widower the Duke of Rundford though he is old enough to be her grandfather. Maeve and Caroline meet Rundford and his cousin Marquess Adam deViller, but James informs his sister she will no longer be friends with the gypsy.

Adam and Maeve are attracted to one another and each uses these feelings to their advantage enabling Caroline to come with them. When Caroline meets Maeve’s unkempt friend Charles LeBrun, she falls in love. However, he rejects her as she can do much better though he loves her too. As Adam plots to make Maeve his mistress, she hopes to somehow keep Caroline safe from the Duke, the Earl and her best friend while praying her heart is not broken in the process.

This is a delightful lighthearted regency frolic starring a strong ensemble cast though the lead players are Maeve and Adam. Filled with a taste of the era enhanced by a slight mystery, sub-genre fans will relish Tea Leaves And tarot Cards as contemporary psychic Kim Reynolds (star of the author’s The Drowning Pool and The Inferno Collection) would know the future looks bright for Jacqueline Seward in the past.
Harriet Klausner