Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Journal of a UFO Investigator-David Halperin

Journal of a UFO Investigator
David Halperin
Viking, Feb 3 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780670022458

In 1966 in Philadelphia sixteen years old Jewish Danny Shapiro worries about his dying mom but finds solace in UFOs as he cannot turn to his hostile father for solace. Over three years earlier, he saw his first UFO, which was not a shocker to him as he had been a UFO investigator for two weeks. His fascination leads to a split from his long time school buddies who find the study of UFOs inane, weird and extremely tedious. Danny is indifferent to being ostracized as he meets new friends who share his interest.

Danny and his cronies investigate UFO phenomena. He soon finds himself in unbelievable adventures as the three Men in Black interrogate him; he disappears in middle earth and soars to the moon. Before he can come home to see how mom is doing he finds himself as an out-patient in an alien operating room and falling in love with an ET thief. Stunned by all he encounters, Danny becomes guardian to a hybrid ET-earthling, who is the golden child expected to simply save the planet.

This is a strange yet profound coming of age tale starring a teen isolated from his friends due to his obsession that makes him different in an environ that demands fit to standardization; as variance need not apply. Danny is a sympathetic protagonist who seems lost with no hope to the reader as he creates a world where he is a superhero unlike his Philadelphia neighborhood where he is a scorned pariah. David Halperin provides a discerning psychological tale that uses science fiction elements to tell the story of a lost soul who dreams of great things in his fantasies to escape his realities.

Harriet Klausner

Under the Mercy Trees-Heather Newton

Under the Mercy Trees
Heather Newton
Harper, Jan 18 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780062001344

In 1986 in Willoby County, North Carolina, Leon Owenby disappears without a trace. His younger brother wannabe writer Martin leaves New York City to come home to help in the search for Leon. Martin leaves behind in Manhattan his former lover Dennis and their dying friends as the AIDS epidemic has devastated the New York gay community like a modern day Black Plague.

In North Carolina, Martin resents being back in the closet as he has always hid his sexual preference from family and friends. He even had a girlfriend in high school, who still loves him. Months pass with no progress in finding the missing Leon, but so many family secrets have been revealed; yet perhaps because of his previous self-protective training growing up as a closet gay, no one knows about Martin’s New York lifestyle or at least no one will openly raise it.

Told mostly by Martin although there are other perspectives with each containing their own personality, fans will enjoy this interesting “historical” family drama in which the Reagan era feels like ancient history with its pre Information/Communication age. The premise for the family gathering in Willoby is strong, but their remaining in the county over several months turns the storyline somewhat weak. Still readers will appreciate this enticing tale of secrets revealed by an ensemble cast with diverse emotional needs wearing family masks to conceal those personal issues assumed would lead to excommunication of that person.

Harriet Klausner

Because of Jane -Lenora Worth

Because of Jane
Lenora Worth
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jan 12, 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716845

Former NFL quarterback Lenny Paxton mentally loses it at a press conference. Instead of seeking help and apologizing for his breakdown, he leaves. Lenny retreats from the public spotlight by returning to the farm of his grandparents where he grew up as a child raised by them.

A magazine hires psychologist Jane Harper to write an article on Lenny. She arrives at the farm uninvited. There she hopes to write an article on the retired football player, but also wants to help him regroup after his mental sacking and hold on to an endorsement deal he is not interested in doing anymore. However, his attraction to Jane keeps him from punting her off the farm; while she feels the same way about throwing a pass at him, even if it is a Hail Mary.

This is a warm contemporary romance starring a fascinating former football hero turned goat and a caring professional. After meeting the sacked QB her agenda changes as she tries to help him move on but also falls in love with him. Readers will enjoy Lenny’s rehabilitation brought about Because of Jane.

Harriet Klausner

Her Great Expectations-Joan Kilby

Her Great Expectations
Joan Kilby
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jan 12, 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716814

Widower Jack Thatcher has failed to move passed the death of his wife who died in a plane crash. This is ironic as he owned an air-charter at the time she passed on. Since his spouse died, Jack has given up on life as he no longer owns that air-charter and simply avoids entanglements with people.

Jack’s broken world is shook to the core when he meets Dr. Sienna Maxwell. She reciprocates his immediate attraction although she has doubts too. However, what sells her on the depressed Jack is how super he relates with her son. Sienna tries to encourage Jack to join the living especially with her and her child. Initially he remains recalcitrant, but soon figures out that he can’t have Sienna and remain a misanthrope.

Although the theme of love helping someone move on with the grieving process has been used a lot in literature, Joan Kilby keeps her insightful story line fresh due to the unique protagonists. Sienna is a wonderful caring person who also has doubts about a relationship as her prime need is raising her son yet has great expectations so she takes a chance on Jack. He, on the other hand, prefers being a hermit because love does not just hurt; it cripples the soul when it expires. Readers will appreciate this deep contemporary second chance at love tale.

Harriet Klausner

A Little Texas-Liz Talley

A Little Texas
Liz Talley
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jan 12, 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716807

Kate Newman is stunned when she learns her partner spent business funds on personal items. This leaves the business in trouble as they owe taxes to the IRS. Desperate she tries to extort money from her affluent father, Justus Mitchell who has never recognized her existence.

Mitchell shocks his daughter when he agrees to give her the money but on the stipulation she spends two weeks with him. She accepts his terms. Mitchell asks his former assistant Rick Mendez, to escort his daughter to him. Kate and Rick are attracted to each other immediately, but he seeks redemption for nasty things he did by opening up rehab center for gang members. Thus he refuses to acknowledge he desires kissable Kate.

The key to A Little Texas is the lead couple, as each has realistic issues and needs that at the minimum seem to defer a relationship but more liker deter any connection between them. Liz Talley provides a well-written interesting tale of two people falling in love at the wrong time, but the inconvenient truth for both is that there probably will not ever be a better time.

Harriet Klausner

Call Me Irresistible-Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Call Me Irresistible
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Morrow, Jan 18 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061351525

Since leaving the professional links former PGA star Ted Beaudine has become mayor of Wynette, Texas. He and the daughter of a former president Lucy Jorik are engaged. However, Lucy’s BFF Meg Koranda, in town for the wedding, realizes her buddy has humongous doubts. So with a little persuasion on Meg’s part, Lucy breaks it off as she feels she deserves a passionate lover and not a guy always stoically putting.

Meg’s parents have cut off her financial backing before her arrival in Texas. With Lucy running away, Meg is stranded in Wynette with no way to pay her bills. The townsfolk who worship Teddy loathe her as a Hollywood snob who interfered with the happiness of the popular local guy. They take it out on Meg who tries to make it while also helping a raging Ted find his heart.

This amusing romance stars two antagonists who were secondary characters in previous tales (see Fancy Pants and Glitter Baby). Although readers will need to accept the implausible nasty reaction by townsfolk who hold Meg culpable for Lucy leaving; as she is the runaway bride’s best friend and her arrival led to doubts. She also remains stranded in Wynette as a handy target to revenge the hole in one in Ted’s psyche. Fans will enjoy her learning that good intentions pave the road to hell in Wynette as she takes a beating but keeps on ticking until Ted and his supporters realize she should be his bride.

Harriet Klausner

Chasing the Sun-Kaki Warner

Chasing the Sun
Kaki Warner
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238615

In 1870 Jack Wilkins failed to persuade his beloved Maria Elena Ramirez to marry him; she rejected him after she suffered crippling injuries to her hip. She also had previous doubts before she got hurt and was unsure of her feelings towards him but was aware he would not settle down on a ranch. Heartbroken he leaves his family New Mexico Territory ranch.

Three years later, Jack returns home as Sister Maria Elena Ramirez plans to take her vows to become a nun. He wants her to marry him. Singer Daisy Etheridge arrives at the Wilkins’ ranch with her 2-year-old daughter Kate whose bounder of a father went west of San Francisco. She insists Jack is Kate’s father. Jack accepts the child as his although he can not recall sleeping with Daisy or for that matter know who she is. Still Jack does the honorable thing as he believes a child needs a father and proposes to Daisy. She rejects his offer as she knows he loves Maria. At the same time the Wilkins’ ownership of the ranch is in jeopardy.

This is a complicated wonderful climax to the delightful Blood Rose trilogy (See Pieces of Sky and Open Country) summed up perfectly by older brother Brady when he informs his siblings: “We got lucky”. Western romance fans will enjoy reading how each of the warring Wilkins brothers got lucky as these are super tales.

Harriet Klausner

Master of Smoke-Angela Knight

Master of Smoke
Angela Knight
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239162

Five years ago, the dire wolf attacked Eva Roman. She survived but was never the same. Instead she taught herself to shapeshift and successfully concealed her condition from her parents and everyone else.

That anonymity ends when the comic bookstore employee saves a man from the assault of giant white dire wolf Warlock. The person she rescues suffers from amnesia as a consequence of Warlock using a spell to steal the victim’s magical power by splitting him into three essences. She names him David; neither is aware he is Smoke the demigod Sidhe warrior. If David fails to reunite his parts into Smoke, Warlock will prove too powerful to stop. Ergo were-hitmen try to kill David and Eva as the former struggles to regain his memory and the latter wonders how to have sex with the hunk without murderous chaperones interfering.

The latest Mageverse romantic urban fantasy (see Master of Fire) is a great entry that, in spite of its January release, will be considered one of the best sub-genre books of the year. The story line is loaded with action as hostilities grow and all out war between and even within species seem imminent. While the world teeters on the brink, Eva makes the tale as she brings a sort of New York shtick to the mix with her acerbic humorous asides and in your face commentary. With warlocks, were-mobsters, vampires, witches, and Camelot, fans will appreciate the comic bookstore employee who only blinks in bed with her amnesiac as she insists she has faced much worse with customers.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 29, 2010

Undertow-Cherry Adair

Cherry Adair
St. Martin’s, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312371920

Zane “Casanova of the Caribbean” Cutter believes he knows where a Dutch frigate filled with precious metals and gems sunk in 1622. He needs a master mechanic to accompany him when he begins the latest Cutter Salvage operation. He asks Teal Williams, who recently joined his family firm to be closer to her dying father, to accompany him to sea. She agrees as he offers her a cut of the booty as long as he also understands no sex. He accepts the stipulation though he admits to himself her is turned on by his shipmate who he knew when she was a skinny child.

Their trip turns harrowing when a storm blows them off course. Adding to their plight are deadly sea thieves willing to kill to steal the treasure. However, neither is quite as dangerous as their attraction as he needs to prove his worthiness on treasure hunts and she was burned by a philandering hunk.

This under and on the surface watery romantic suspense thriller grips readers from the moment the storm blows the ship off course and never slows down as the protagonists struggle with perils including to their hearts with every nautical mile they sail. Fast-paced, Cherry Adair opens her Cutter Salvage series with a strong sea saga.

Harriet Klausner

True Colors-Joyce Lamb

True Colors
Joyce Lamb
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425240359

In Lake Avalon, Florida, photojournalist Alex Trudeau had thought her life was great due to her beloved dogs and her profession; but now believes her life is perfect since Detective John Logan came to town. However, she takes a bullet while protecting her sister Lake Avalon Gazette reporter Charlie Trudeau (see True Vision for her thriller). The shot somehow enhances her already strong psychic skills as now a touch provides her vivid nasty memories the other person prefers forgotten.

Logan came to town to escape his past and believes he has done so with his relationship with Alex. However, his past returns to haunt him when an avenging serial killer abducts his beloved Alex so she can be used as the bait to murder Logan. Although she uses her skills to leave him clues, Logan knows when the confrontation comes he will risk death to insure she lives.

The second Trudeau sibling romantic suspense is truly a delightful thriller starring two likable but flawed lead characters trying to work together from a distance to thwart a psychopath from murdering either of them. Fast-paced with a clever contrast between the warm romance and the dark suspense, the sub-genre audience will appreciate Joyce Lamb’s second Lake Avalon thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Silent Victim-C.E. Lawrence

Silent Victim
C.E. Lawrence
Pinnacle, Dec 7 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786021499

NYPD forensic psychiatrist Lee Campbell receives a call at home from former patient Ana Watkins. Reluctantly he lets her in his apartment. She tells him someone is following her; he has doubts that this is true, but tells her to call the police.

Meanwhile NYPD asks Lee to help on a case. Two apparent suicides died within a week of each other; one was electrocuted in the tub while the other was found floating down the East River. Each has GBH in their blood and a suicide note written by the killer surfaces. A third victim with GBH in her system surfaces; a suicide note is found in her home, but written by someone else. That last deceased is Ana found in Spuyten Duyvil. Although the police work the cat and mouse game with the serial killer, Lee is most determined to catch this psychopath as he ignored Ana’s fears.

This vivid chilling serial killer thriller will have readers jumping at every sound because the plot seems plausible. The hero has issues mostly with an inability to move passed the disappearance of his sister though he intellectualizes that he must do so. Instead he buries himself in his police work and somewhat with his girlfriend, but she has issues to from her work as a body parts identifier of those who died at 9/11 Ground Zero. Her decision for a time-out in their relationship sends Lee into an even deeper depression; his answer is a defense mechanism of drilling deeper into his police work. Although serial killer thrillers glut the market including Lee’s previous case Silent Screams, C.E. Lawrence’s flawed champion makes for a strong tale as readers will paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: A shrink who heals himself has a fool for a patient.

Harriet Klausner

Spellweaver-Lynn Kurland

Lynn Kurland
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238639

Although an offspring of Gair the dark mage, Ruithneadh of Ceangail concealed his magical skills by ignoring what he inherited from his evil sire following the deaths of his family (see the Nine Kingdoms’ first trilogy). However, the daughter of a witch whose only magic is “seeing spells”, Sarah of Doire asks for his help on her seemingly futile quest to save her brother Daniel from the dark side (see A Tapestry of Spells).

The Nine Kingdoms remain under attack from what his dad wrought on them. He reluctantly agrees as he no longer can hide in the shadows of being a raging wizard while ignoring what his malevolent father did. The two adventurers seek his sire’s spells as his father deploys them against the Nine Kingdoms. The only hope resides in their teamwork with her seeing the spells and his destroying what she sees. However, in spite of their risking their lives, foes of his father either covet what they assume he possesses or want him dead for what they assume he possesses.

The second Ruith-Sarah quest fantasy contains a complicated story line as the pasts of both champions are depicted in depth as each has quite a blood line that impacts their current dangerous situation and the potential of a future together as their initial doubting trust has begun to turn to love. This is an excellent entry due to the complex lead characters whose heritage implies each will be the end of their respective gene pool as the sins of the parents to include fear of a repeat lead many enemies wanting both dead.

Harriet Klausner

Immortal Champion -Lisa Hendrix

Lisa Hendrix
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239216

Two centuries ago, Cwen the sorceress cursed the Viking warriors for killing her son. For the past two hundred years they have become immortal were-creatures with no control over their shape shifting as the curse included being beasts for half of a day.

Recently two of the crew have broken the curse by finding their soul-mates (see Immortal Outlaw and Immortal Warrior). However, Gunnar the Red has no hope for himself as he lives in the forest where he roams as a bull during the day. Lonely and depressed, the freezing weather that rips him nocturnally in his human form sends him seeking shelter. At Richmond Castle, he saves Lady Eleanor de Neville from a fiery death. Eleanor rewards her hero with a kiss. She quickly loves the kind dark champion; he also falls in love, but reacts by leaving as she is betrothed to another. Unable to stay away from his beloved, Gunnar returns not knowing what type of reception he will receive, but he vows to tell her the truth.

The third Immortal medieval romantic fantasy is once again a fabulous historical. The story line is character driven more so by Gunnar whose despondency is heart felt by readers although Eleanor is a strong protagonist also. Fans will enjoy the latest Immortal entry as Lisa Hendrix has a trifecta with another strong seemingly star-crossed tale.

Harriet Klausner

Ascension -Caris Roane

Caris Roane
St. Martin’s, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312533717

Alison Wells assumes she became a therapist because she has always been different and forced to be distant so she understands people better than most. Her special skills lately for no apparent reason have become enhanced, which makes it that more complicated to avoid hurting people when she touches them.

Weary warrior of the Blood Kerrick of Endelle arrives to save Alison from the assault of another winged person. Besides seeing two winged people, Alison is astonished he can touch her and she him without his being hurt. He explains to her that his dimension is trapped in a vampire civil war between his Endelle warriors and the death vampires under the leadership of vicious Commander Greaves. He also tells her about the call to her of Second Earth where "ascenders" who share her skills can go. As both combatant enemies realize how much power Alison possesses, Kerrick guards Alison as she completes the ascension ritual and his olfactory sense makes him aware she is his mate. Twice widowed and having seen his children die, he vowed no more women, but will risk death to keep Alison safe from Greaves who needs her dead.

This is a super urban romantic fantasy in which the audience will believe in the vampires and the Ascension. The story line is fast-paced even when Kerrick is grounded as the assassination attempts keep him and his mate on the lam. Although the soul mate rescue element has been used a zillion times (to bad it was not a gender switch), readers will appreciate the first thrilling Guardians of Ascension tale in the Roane mythos.

Harriet Klausner

The Witch’s Daughter-Paula Brackston

The Witch’s Daughter
St. Martin’s, Jan 18 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312621681

In 1627, the plague ravages Wessex as well as the rest of England. All of the Hawksmith family dies except for the matriarch and her daughter Elizabeth Anne. The child is unaware that her mom the earth healer made a deal with Satanist warlock Gideon Masters. However, mother and daughter are accused of witchcraft; the locals hang her mom while Bess flees into the night making her own pact with Gideon that begins an eternity of solitude.

In 2007, Elizabeth trains Tegan the teen hedge witch how to use her powers wisely. She also tells her female student tales about her family especially her mom, her master Gideon and his master, her encounter in Whitehall with Jack the Ripper, and her work as a nurse in the front lines in Flanders during WWI.

This is an entertaining epic fantasy in which ironically the historical subplots engage the audience; while the modern day segue feels awkward and distracting rather than anchoring the story line. Overall The Witch’s Daughter is an enjoyable read as Bess is an intriguing Forrest Gump like witch who’s almost four centuries past hopefully will be explored further.

Harriet Klausner

Shadowheart-James Barclay

James Barclay
PYR, Dec 1 2010, $17.00
ISBN: 9781616142506

The hostile debate between the four colleges of magic finally explodes into open warfare as Xetesk seizes the opportunity to take the first rung on their vision of dominion with an assault on the depleted Julatsa, who sacrificed so much in the Wesmen wars (see Chronicles of the Raven trilogy). The Julatsa know they must find a way to survive the invaders, but to do so they will need the interred Heart of Julatsan.

The other two colleges Lystern and Dordover discuss what to do when a somewhat depleted Xetesk turns to them and how to control what is left of the Raven. They forge an alliance with a plan to invade Xetesk after it wastes much of its magic, but to do so they must lock away or assassinate the Raven survivors. However, way to the west, a power is surfacing whose vision is that of a Balaian continent with no magic or eastern mage-rulers. In a ploy to conquer the other three colleges and thereby the continent, Xetesk has turned to the Balaian as an ally especially with the alliance and Raven in the way of their manifest destiny.

The second Legends of the Raven fantasy (see Elf Sorrow) is a terrific middle tale as the hostilities that remained outward towards the anti-magical Black Wings (their mass grave as described in this thriller is simply grim and eerie) turns inward between the colleges. Readers will appreciate the continual saga of the Raven as the exhilarating story line is filled with action, but it is the political intrigue that makes for another great entry by James Barclay.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Life in Miniature-Linda Schlossberg

Life in Miniature
Linda Schlossberg
Kensington, Dec 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758238436

In the 1980s in California, twelve years old Adie and her fifteen years old sister Miriam live with their single mother Mindy. When mom suffers a nervous breakdown, she spends time in a mental ward while a neighbor watches the two kids. As soon as she comes home, Mindy moves with her two daughters to their latest strong of apartments; as whenever she feels it is time the family moves.

Miriam, who has been Adie’s anchor, runs away with her boyfriend. Mindy reacts by moving with her youngest daughter to a hotel. This starts a new string of moves but from hotel to hotel as Mindy runs from beasts that Adie knows do not exist except in her mom’s schizoid mind though she pretends otherwise. Each move means meeting new people and making friends temporarily as Adie is good at doing, but also changing one’s name as the tweener understands she cannot connect with anyone beyond the shallowness of the next paranoid move.

Adie tells the insightful family drama with a keen first person viewpoint that also enables the reader to understand her sister and mother as she quotes both of them frequently especially Miriam. The key to this profound tale is that although there is a glimmer of hope for the two daughters raised by a mentally ill single mom, chances are heavy that neither will find adulthood any better than their dysfunctional childhood as the girls will probably run from personal demons like their mother has.

Harriet Klausner

Insatiable-Morgan Hawke

Morgan Hawke
Kensington Aphrodisia, Dec 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758215475

American artist Elaine rides the Orient Express to Prague. On the train, she meets gorgeous Aramis, who upon first sight proclaims he must make love with her. She cannot resist his proclamation.

However, as they make love on board the train, he confesses to her that he is a vampire. She does not blink with his declaration of being an Undead, but more than blinks with the pleasures of lovemaking he provides to her. She travels with her lover to the Carpathian castle where Rafael is the lord and master. He welcomes both of them to his abode. They forge a ménage a trois as they convert the American to their way of loving and living.

Insatiable is an entertaining erotic paranormal starring three underdeveloped (except in the males’ lower heads) protagonists. The story line is a series of sexual vignettes; filled with humor as sub-genre readers will enjoy the ride.

Harriet Klausner

In Deep-Chloe Harris

In Deep
Chloe Harris
Kensington Aphrodisia, Dec 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758238542

In 1745 betrayed Jaidyn Donelly is abducted and dumped in the Caribbean with no money. She has no hope of reaching her Georgetown home except if she barters her only asset; her body. Captain Connor O'Driscoll agrees to provide passage on his ship in return for her sleeping with him.

However, except for the obvious bulge of his lower head, he conceals the toys he plans to use with his guest. As they travel at sea together, the teacher and the student begin a sex education that includes BDSM ventures. Soon each is In Deep love, but must deal with personal secrets if they are to become a permanent match.

The sibling sequel to scintillating Secrets of Sin is a superb eighteenth century erotic romance starring fabulous protagonists. The story line grips the audience from the opening sequence and never unties the bonds until the final altercation. Filled with BDSM scenes that enhance the relationship between the mentor and mentee, sub-genre fans will enjoy the Caribbean-Atlantic sea cruise as Jaidyn and Connor know they are In Deep with their need for each other.

Harriet Klausner

Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right-Kieran Kramer

Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right
Kieran Kramer
St. Martin’s Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312374020

A proud contented card carrying member of “The Spinsters’ Club,” Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes avoids potential suitors with a made-up fiancé as she waits for the return of her sweetheart Prince Sergei from Russia. Her model for her fake intended is her cook’s tales of the adventures of the “Impossible Bachelor” the Duke of Drummond.

Her sham works perfectly until the worst that could happen occurs when Nicholas Staunton arrives to see his fiancée. An undercover espionage agent, Nicholas uses his engagement to elude hunting mamas and conceal his work for the Crown. However he underestimated Poppy who has his back (and heart) as they search for a painting and an enemy spy.

The second delightful Prinny Impossible Bachelors Regency romance (see When Harry Met Molly) is a charming investigative thriller starring two likable lead characters. The heroine is refreshing as she learns the best laid plans of mice and Poppy often go astray, but she charges on her light feet leading her beloved into battle. Nicholas is more typical of the sub-genre as an agent who uses his image as a rake to conceal his dangerous royal work. Together they come across as Nick and Nora (Charles not the Playlist that is) of early nineteenth century England.

Harriet Klausner

Sinister Sprinkles-Jessica Beck

Sinister Sprinkles
Jessica Beck
Minotaur, Dec 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312946128

The townsfolk of April Springs, North Carolina are delighted when snow falls as the Winter Festival begins. Donut Harts owner Suzanne Hart enjoys the cold weather especially when snow covers the town.

However, this time the pristine color is red when someone Fatally Frosted Darlene Higgins using a candy cane as the weapon. Suzanne loathed Darlene who was her ex-husband Max’s mistress, but would not have wanted her dead. Meanwhile a shocked Muriel Stevens fears for her life as the victim wore her winter coat and a wig that that matched her hair color. The police suspect somewhat look into the possibility of a wrongful murder, but lean to Max as the killer in a murder of passion. Suzanne reluctantly investigates the homicide in order for Max not to fry by digging into Darlene’s past; which leads to an observant killer preparing to murder again and someone else also watching with appreciation in his eyes.

Sinister Sprinkles is a charming Carolina culinary cozy. Readers will enjoy visiting April Springs and take delight in the recipes included with each chapter. Although the motive for the amateur sleuth baker to investigate seems weak, sub-genre fans will enjoy her following the “recipe” how to investigate step by step.

Harriet Klausner

Vampires Not Invited-Cheyenne McCray

Vampires Not Invited
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin’s Nov 30 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312532680

In New York City, hybrid human-Drow Princess of the Dark Elves Nyx moonlights as a Night Tracker private investigator investigating incidents (see Demons Not Included and No Werewolves Allowed) involving paranormal species. Her current case is frustrating her as a gang of sprites impishly mock human landmarks like painting Liberty’s toes pink.

Her elven half gut tells her there has to be more than just inane graffiti and sillier pranks; a trademark of the pain in the butt obnoxious sprites. Digging deeper, she finds what she feared. The mischief sprites work for Master Vampire Volod and his fang gang who want a return to the prominence they once held in ironically what seems like a lifetime ago. His plan is for his vampires to rule nocturnal New York. Nyx and other trackers realize the sprites are a divergent ploy to occupy the trackers with nonsense while Volod uses the opportunity to exploit the weaknesses of other species. Nyx plans to use all her strength to end this threat as everyone knows Vampires Not Invited to any shindig let alone run the city.

Obstinate Nyx, who breaks the rules as she even dates a low life, as all humans are, remains tenacious and confident as she plans to stake her life on preventing the Vampiric take-over. She holds the fast-paced exhilarating private investigative urban fantasy focused as her stubbornness never allows her (or the reader) to take their eyes off the ball as despicable Sprites and Vampires come out of the shadows and coffins to challenge the leadership.

Harriet Klausner

The Triskaidek-Basil Sprig

The Triskaidek
Basil Sprig
CreateSpace, May 13 2010, $13.00
ISBN: 9781452886893

The faire parents send their kids for the summer to Camp Fae. Though part of the reason the offspring are exiled to camp is parental R&R, but this particular camp is for the Fae to learn to use their magic.

However, this year a mistake occurs and a non-fae Alley Willowwood is sent to the camp. She is a non-believer in magic as is most of her ignorant species. However, she becomes a quick believer when she has a need to fly post haste to escape a harrowing scenario; thank goodness she won a kite. Her counselor informs Alley that she must be fairy or would never have found Camp Fae. Unlike many who learn they are a Triskaidekaphile, but fail to cope when the Triskaidek moment occurs; she begins to learn all she can on her personal Triskaidek thirteenth day of the thirteenth month of her thirteenth year, her human upbringing makes her unique and the only who may be able to save the endangered species the Blimeys while concealing the paranormal world from the nearby human camp where her friends attend and from her single mom, her new world.

Targeting middle school children and warning away triskaidekaphobics, Basil Sprig provides an engaging urban fantasy as his two worlds nicely merge with Alley as the vortex. She is a terrific heroine who uses instinct not always successfully to learn if the huggable boy really likes her and to rescue the Blimeys. With a tweener nod to the Greatest American hero, Alley is the greatest Triskaidekaphile heroine.

Harriet Klausner

Chicks Ahoy-Esther Freisner (editor)

Chicks Ahoy
Esther Freisner (editor)
Baen, Dec 7 2010, $12.00
ISBN: 9781439133019

This omnibus collection contains the frisky frolicking first three Chicks Amazonian anthology adventures. With a parry, lunge and tongue in cheek (that is the female warrior not turning the other cheek like in “The Old Grind” (Laura Frankos) but in the other’s cheek. Heroines are not afraid to fight in the MUD as George Alec Effinger affirms.

Chicks in Chainmail. These are the original twenty tales. Elizabeth Moon (she also contributes shorts to the other two collections) sets the tone with "And Ladies of the Club" as the king plans to tax bras while Janni Lee Simner answers with “Bra Melting”. Holly Lisle’s "Armor-Ella" stars six foot El and not so Prince Charming. Finally there is super mom at "Career Day" by Margaret Ball and a female guard protecting a brothel in "The Guardswoman" by Lawrence Watt-Evans (he also contributes short stories to the other two collections).

Did you say chicks?! The second Chicks warrior anthology contains nineteen entries including a Starhawk tale by Barbara Hambly. Harry Turtledove's contribution shows the importance of gender teamwork and a “valiant vanquished” in The Attack of the Avenging Virgins by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (she also contributes a short story in the first book) as women (virgins and veterans) kick all types of butt.

Chicks 'n chained Males. These sixteen contributions star women in shining armor (often less attire) who come to the aid of lads in distress. Susan Casper’s “Why Do You Think They call It Middle Earth stars a fighting female taking on dragons and other ilk to save hapless men as does “Leg Irons, The Bitch and the Wardrobe by Ms. Frankos.

Readers of both genders will appreciate this compilation, but I suggest reading the Chicks Ahoy saga over several months as the theme is singular skewering satires summed up by “A Bitch in Time” (Doranna Durgin).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Bachelor Ranger-Rebecca Winters

The Bachelor Ranger
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin American, Jan 11 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753437

Fourteen months ago in Yosemite, the kiss hooks the soul of Park Ranger Cal Hollis though he knew she should not have locked lips with teen Alex Harcourt when she threw herself at him and he could not stop what he was dong because she mesmerized him. She also remembers the kiss as the greatest moment of her life.

She is back in Yosemite to start a new program that brings Native Americans to the park. Alex fears Cal will interfere with the project. A widower, he is struck by how much he still wants her and how mature she has become since the kiss. She knows she is in love, but refuses to allow the ranger to break her heart again when he rejected her advances last year. Meanwhile as they work together to make her project a reality, he works on capturing an odious brutal poacher and persuading his beloved he has moved on passed his past.

Rebecca Winters provides a great contemporary romance that stars two strong lead characters and a powerful support cast inside of a vivid setting. The key to this terrific tale is the interweaving of the past of Cal and Alex into the warm story line. With memories of the kiss lingering in their respective souls, this is a super first chance at love.

Harriet Klausner

Ramona and the Renegade-Marie Ferarella

Ramona and the Renegade
Marie Ferarella
Harlequin American, Jan 11 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373753420

In Forever, Texas, Deputy Joe Lone Wolf helps veterinarian Ramona Santiago when her car breaks down. He knows his childhood friend Mona is in Forever temporarily to attend the wedding of his boss who happens to also be her older brother Rick (see The Sheriff’s Christmas Surprise). However, Joe also knows that he has loved Mona seemingly forever, but believes she deserves better than him.

Mona is stunned by her attraction to her rescuer as she has known Joe forever, but never felt this way before. Her emotional meter is already stratospheric with her relationship with Rick radically changed and their estranged mom returning into the lives of the siblings. Now love has both she and Joe reeling for cover.

This is a warm contemporary romance starring two flawed protagonists and a strong support cast especially Rick. Joe is confused with what to do next while Mona fears a broken heart she will not be able to mend. Although both contain too much baggage for a relatively short story line fans will root for another Santiago to find a permanent love.

Harriet Klausner

Improper Seduction-Mary Wine

Improper Seduction
Mary Wine
Kensington Brava, Jan 4 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758242051

In 1543 Lord Newbury promised his daughter Bridget to Lord Curan Ramsden. Before he could wed his intended, Curan went off to war under the banner of King Henry VIII.

After three years of loyal service to his monarch at the front of the war, Curan finally comes home for his reward; marriage to Bridget. Thus he is stunned to learn Newbury has taken his daughter to London to marry some other aristocrat; ironically King Henry’s Chancellor, who remained safely at home. Outraged by the affront that he knows has more than Henry’s blessing. Curan vows to have his betrothed whether they are married or not; though his preference is for her to be his wife. He intercepts her as she heads to London and takes her to his home where she loves his kisses but fears the wrath of King Henry if she fails to wed his Chancellor.

This is an engaging Tudor romance starring two wonderful leads who belong together but due to royal intrigue they are star-crossed lovers. No one dares to mess with the King yet Curan knows his heart demands he must. Mary Wine provides an intoxicating sixteenth century historical as love literally may mean a loss of one’s head.

Harriet Klausner

A Taste of Desire-Beverly Kendall

A Taste of Desire
Beverly Kendall
Zebra, Jan 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420108705

In 1876 Lady Amelia Bertram’s frantic father frets over her shenanigans that he always ends up cleaning up for her. After each incident including several elopements, he vows never again, but ends up cleaning up her mess. Worried what trouble his headstrong daughter will dive head first into while he is across the great pond conducting business, Bertram needs someone to control his devilish offspring though he never succeeded at that endeavor.

Ata a gala, Amelia loudly derides the reputed sexual skills of Lord Thomas Armstrong. At the same time, Bertram asks a favor of Armstrong to watch over his daughter while he is in America. Armstrong reluctantly agrees to serve as surrogate guardian because he owes his mentor a lot; beside he wants to tame the shrew. In front of his family, her servants, his mistress, her former “fiancé” and a cast of quadrillion, the gender war begins in earnest.

Although none of the support cast seems more than a stereotype and the lead couple not much more fleshed out, fans will enjoy this riotous Victorian romance. The witty battle of the sexes is amusing as each of the combatants vow to teach their adversary a lesson in humility; neither was prepared for the taming of their heart.

Harriet Klausner

A Little Bit Sinful-Adrienne Basso

A Little Bit Sinful
Adrienne Basso
Zebra, Jan 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420111903

Viscount Sebastian Dodd has waited for seemingly forever to enact vengeance for the death of his mother years ago. He remained patient though each ensuing season of the Ton added to his thirst to finally achieve his vendetta. Now the opportunity is here and he seizes the moment. He will seduce innocent Bianca Collins.

However, his problem is not with the lovely Bianca, but with her obstinate older sister Eleanor. Whereas the men compete for Bianca, Sebastian prefers Eleanor as he enjoys their witty battles. She begins to fall in love with him, but assumes he loves Bianca so she steps aside. He knows his plan will only work with Bianca, but he cannot ignore Eleanor. Then they kiss. Revising his cold scheme of revenge, Sebastian finds the nurturing warmth of love so much more enlightening until his beloved learns of their past connection and why she assumes he courted the Collins’ sisters.

Although the twin R themes of revenge and redemption have been used many times before, the cast keeps Adrienne Basso’s historical romance a fresh, fun frolic. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as a little bit of love overpowers years of anger. The secondary characters enhance the house party in which Sebastian learns vengeance is served cold while love serves internal warmth.

Harriet Klausner

She Felt No Pain-Lou Allin

She Felt No Pain
Lou Allin
Rendezvous Crime (Napoleon & Company), Sep 25 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9781926607078

In the summer near Fossil Bay on Vancouver Island, the corpse of a homeless person is found. Although family lives here as this was once her home, RCMP Corporal Holly Martin is relatively new to the small police detachment. Holly leads the inquiry into the death. She and Constable Chipper Knox Singh find drug paraphernalia near the body; later the autopsy confirms a drug overdose of heroin and a synthetic opiate.

The deceased possesses a warn wallet with an aging photograph and sever hundreds of dollars; strange articles for a seemingly homeless person. The two cops interview other drifters who insist he came to the vacation oasis to see his former girlfriend. They learn he is former convict Joel Clavir, whose sister recently won the lottery. As Holly begins to put together the puzzle of Joel, she believes someone sought something of value from the victim, which the cop finds near where they found the body is. As she struggles to solve what she now thinks is a homicide, her father is hurt while her fiftyish Aunt Madeline encourages her to investigate her mom’s disappearance years ago.

The latest Martin RCMP Canadian police procedural (see And on the Surface Die, for her first case) is an engaging whodunit that contrasts murder with the beauty of Vancouver Island. That comparisons of nature’s stark beauty to humanity’s avaricious homicidal tendencies makes for a strong whodunit as Holly investigates the murder and her own heritage with every step she takes enhanced by the setting she traverses.

Harriet Klausner

Montooth and the Canfield Witch--Robert Jay

Montooth and the Canfield Witch
Robert Jay
Montooth press (Cloverleaf Publishing), Aug 1 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780615296456

In 1950 near the Everglades in Winter Free, Florida, tomboy Catherine “Carty” Andersson, Blake Holmes and Hale Wending form the Crew group of friends. Soon afterward, Maximilian “Mack” Stein joins the Crew. All four are fourteen years old with Carty being the only female.

Their parents warn the kids to stay away from Morose Swamp where the infamous witch Sally Canfield resides. She is as the last of her line dating back to the Salem Witch hunts. However, being young teens, cautionary tales from parents are to be ignored. So they enter the swamp to just peek at the witch. The Crew is stunned with what they see as the hag is younger than their parents and harassed by deadly treasure seekers who believe the crone conceals a fortune. Led by brilliant strategist former marine Cruz "Cuban” Cruz, they deploy as a unit on a destroy and search mission. The counter force is the Crew and Montooth the duck protecting alligator.

Montooth and the Canfield Witch is an entertaining historical fable starring a fully developed cast (including the swamp) who brings alive the early days of the Cold War near the Everglades. Carty keeps the tale focused whether she is with her BFFs Crew, beating the snot out of odious schoolmate Haywood Dolder or protecting the crone in the swamp. Young adult readers will relish the battle between good and evil as, oh my, the witch, the thug, and the alligator make for a terrific 1950 teen adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Montooth and the Canfield Witch-

Montooth and the Canfield Witch
Robert Jay
Montooth press (Cloverleaf Publishing), Aug 1 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780615296456

In 1950 near the Everglades in Winter Free, Florida, tomboy Catherine “Carty” Andersson, Blake Holmes and Hale Wending form the Crew group of friends. Soon afterward, Maximilian “Mack” Stein joins the Crew. All four are fourteen years old with Carty being the only female.

Their parents warn the kids to stay away from Morose Swamp where the infamous witch Sally Canfield resides. She is as the last of her line dating back to the Salem Witch hunts. However, being young teens, cautionary tales from parents are to be ignored. So they enter the swamp to just peek at the witch. The Crew is stunned with what they see as the hag is younger than their parents and harassed by deadly treasure seekers who believe the crone conceals a fortune. Led by brilliant strategist former marine Cruz "Cuban” Cruz, they deploy as a unit on a destroy and search mission. The counter force is the Crew and Montooth the duck protecting alligator.

Montooth and the Canfield Witch is an entertaining historical fable starring a fully developed cast (including the swamp) who brings alive the early days of the Cold War near the Everglades. Carty keeps the tale focused whether she is with her BFFs Crew, beating the snot out of odious schoolmate Haywood Dolder or protecting the crone in the swamp. Young adult readers will relish the battle between good and evil as, oh my, the witch, the thug, and the alligator make for a terrific 1950 teen adventure.

Harriet Klausner

The Grim Reaper: End of Days-Steve Alten

The Grim Reaper: End of Days
Steve Alten
Variance, Oct 10 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781935142164

At the top secret bio warfare lab at Fort Detrick, microbiologist Mary Klipot develops a more powerful derivative of the Black Plague. She hears a voice in her head who she believes is God. Following the commandments of her God, Mary deploys her creation Scythe on the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, Manhattan to launch the End of Days. At the same time Mary launches her death elixir. World leaders including the American president meet at the United Nations. Her attack is devastating forcing the Federal government to quarantine Manhattan, incarcerating over three million people on the doomed island including those at the U.N. demanding release under diplomatic immunity.

When 9/11 occurred, Patrick "Shep" Shepherd quit Major league baseball to join the military. He deployed four times over the subsequent years, but now just over eleven years since the Towers were destroyed and thousands died, he has no family, no left arm, and allegorically no life as he suffers from PTSD at a Manhattan VA hospital. He not only learns of mad Mary’s mass murderous scheme, he plans to obtain the vaccine to inoculate his estranged wife and daughter. Shep and his therapist Virgil Shechinah march through plague ravaged "Nine Circles of Hell" of what was just yesterday Manhattan.

Combining the Kabbalah and 9/11 conspiratorial beliefs with a strange love of bio chemical weaponry inside a modern day version of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Steve Alten writes an intriguing convoluted twisting thriller. Shep and Virgil are heroic on a mission of goodness to travel through a Manhattan turned into the inferno as they learn that to reach Heaven they must confront sin. Although some of the “cantos” are difficult to comprehend as the Kabbalah and 9/11 paranoia remain mystical, fans will enjoy Mr. Alten’s twenty-first century take on the fourteenth century classic.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 26, 2010

Indulgent-Cathryn Fox

Cathryn Fox
Heat, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425232090

The only survivor of her coven murdered by Darklanders over five centuries ago, Lily the spiritual shifting witch resides in gated Serene, New Hampshire; home to the paranormal. Fearing for her life, she has concealed her otherworldly skills since the massacre of her sisters.

The Paranormal Task Force assigns Agents Jaret and Toby to destroy the abomination Serene. The cousins accept their mission without a qualm as they believe the residents of that atrocity are evil. However, the empath duo is stunned when they encounter Lily; as they want her but how can they desire a monster. To her chagrin Lily is attracted to the two operatives who she believes will lead the Darklanders to her so they can finish the genocide. Adding to the confusion of the PTF undercover agents is how welcoming the gentle people of Serene are to them.

The latest Interesting Eternal Pleasure paranormal erotica (see Impulsive and Instinctive) is a fast-paced tale as the cousins learn while in and out of bed with Lily how nice the people they are to massacre are. The use of telepathic voyeurism is a refreshing nuance while the erotic triangle is fully developed. Although the climax comes across as coitus interruptus with its abruptness, sub-genre fans will enjoy Cathryn Fox’s fine paranormal erotic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Seduction of Miranda Prosper-Marissa Day

The Seduction of Miranda Prosper
Marissa Day
Heat, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238653

In London, Miranda Prosper is a spinster with no prospects. Thus when Corwin asks her to dance with him at a London ball, she is taken aback as no male of importance besides her family would be caught with her. Corwin and his BFF Darius are wizards concerned for prim and proper Prosper’s safety as recently catalysts like her have vanished without a trace.

Corwin and Darius are attracted to their “student” who they must train to use her Catalyst power to save their people. She relishes her new role as she has two hunks wanting her though her desire for both does confuse her. As the triangle forges into a strong resolute bond, the weak cortex is not her; but instead Darius who distrusts everyone except Corwin.

This is an entertaining Regency erotic fantasy in which the ménage a trois heat the sheets while also having to save their species, which, if they fail, will become extinct. The world of Marissa Day is nicely developed so that the reader will feel we are in an early nineteenth century London thriving with paranormal activity. However, the key remains the triangle whose strongest angle proves to be Miranda Prosper as she goes from seduced trainee to seductress having two sorcerers dying to please her (and each other).

Harriet Klausner

Ravished by a Viking-Delilah Devlin

Ravished by a Viking
Delilah Devlin
Heat, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425239612

The alien Consortium captures Eirik the younger brother Viking Wolfskin Clan Chieftain Dagr. Irate with the abduction of his blood, the warrior goes after the enemy with a determination that the Consortium has not seen before; Dagr will risk his life in order to free his sibling and other prisoners. He and his crew board the ship led by Captain Honora, an honorable intelligent sailor who is used to ordering men about even in her boudoir.

Quickly realizing her crew has no chance against the berserker pirates even though her side has the superior weapons, Honora surrenders the fight. Dagr demands much more from the female captain as he plans to show her the man is on top. As they battle for gender superiority, they team up in search of his sibling.

With a nod to Sandra Hill’s SEAL-Viking time travel romances (although Delilah Devlin employs visitors from space instead of time), Ravished by a Viking is an ultra heated erotic science fiction romance. The lead couple (and a third mate) turns this story into a fun tale as each wants to tie the other in knots while neither loses sight of the fight to rescue Eirik.

Harriet Klausner

Irresistible Fortune-Wendy Etherington

Irresistible Fortune
Wendy Etherington
Harlequin Blaze, Jan 1 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795918

The research team seeks the Civil War vessel The Carolina, which sunk off Palmer’s Island, South Carolina in September 1863. Rumors abound that the pirate Captain Cullen had a fortune on board. Historian Brenna McGary is irate that treasure hunter Gavin Fortune is part of the discovery recovery team as she strongly believes history should not be sold. She believes this modern day privateer will try to do so unless she prevents him.

To her chagrin, Brenna is attracted to the modern day buccaneer, who makes it clear that he wants to become Her Private Treasure. As she increasingly finds the rogue to be her Irresistible Fortune, she fears the notorious salvager will dump her as unwanted junk while running off with the treasure including her heart.

This is a fun treasure hunt in which Gavin makes the tale fun with his daring deeds on land and at sea; as he exasperates the heroine who in turn loves and loathes her attraction to the rogue. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted frolic as Wendy Etherington provides a blazing contemporary with an underlying message of who owns history “garbage dumps”.

Harriet Klausner

Caught off Guard-Kira Sinclair

Caught off Guard
Kira Sinclair
Harlequin Blaze, Jan 1 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373795925

Heiress Annemarie Prescott could sense the man looking at her across a crowded room. She looks back at bodyguard Blake Mitchell who has no paparazzi camera to continue to photo her misdeeds or even dollar signs; instead he has lust in his eyes as each attends the wedding of his younger sister who is her best friend Karyn nee Mitchell (see Whispers in the Dark; not read by me) at the Prescott Hotel in Darby, Mississippi while her CEO mom awaits the runaway prodigal child’s return to the fold.

Her mom hired him to persuade her to come home. Meanwhile as Blake and Annemarie emit enough heat to melt the polar icecaps, someone tries to kill her; only his intervention keeps her from harm. Soon they fall in love, but his occupation requires a Bogart persona and her distrust of so called loving relationships which only denotes hurt threaten to keep them apart even as that stalker gets increasingly brazen.

This is an entertaining regional heater as the lead couple struggles to come together with each bringing tons of baggage to their shaky relationship. The story line is character driven though the stalker adds suspense to the exciting mix as fans will be Caught off Guard with the twisting strong climax to an enjoyable contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

Flaming Dove-Daniel Arenson

Flaming Dove
Daniel Arenson
Moonclipse, Sep 15 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780986602825

It was supposed to end quickly with the victor obvious, but Armageddon turned into a draw as the legions of Hell led by ruler Beelzebub and the armies of Heaven led by Archangel Michael fight for every inch of land; a sort of WWI trench warfare. Humans have become constant collateral damage with the population now at about one million and dwindling. The earth is in ruins although the battles continue. Into that horrific stalemate Laila arrives.

A hybrid, Laila is half demon and half angel. Her father Lucifer was killed by Beelzebub when he refused to allow his aid to marry his daughter. Laila is unable to survive in either Heaven or hell as Angel and Hel burn her. She teams up with Michael seeking a place where she can live. Her half-sister Bat-el, daughter of Gabriel, is a legion captain until Beelzebub captures her. She falls in live with the devil. Ironically he falls in love with the angel. Laila plans to invade Hell and cleanse if of hellfire even if it means combat with the devil and his new wife. Twenty-seven years of unrelenting combat, but the end of days seem near cur but who will win is in doubt.

Flaming Dove takes an intriguing spin on the more typical interpretations of Revelations as Daniel Arenson implies the New Testament is a form of propaganda written by one side to make them victorious. Additionally there is little to choses between the two combatant sides as each goes all out at any cost for victory. Michael is the action leader representing Heaven while Beelzebub is sort of his evil counterpart who contains some goodness. Laila is the wild card as she is a mix of the two enemies. Though God never intervenes (for that matter surfaces much), this remains a fascinating creative endless days’ thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough-Ruth Pennebaker

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough
Ruth Pennebaker
Berkley, Jan 4 2011. $15.00
ISBN: 978-0425238561

Fifty two year Richard calls his forty-nine ex wife Joanie to inform her that his live in lover twenty-nine years old BJ is pregnant. She calls him an asshole and hangs up while her mom Ivy, who lives with her, hears her. Joanie believes their fifteen year old daughter Caroline who lives with her also hates her. She tells moody Caroline who wishes someone would listen to her and stop assuming how she feels. Joanie is unhappy at home and unhappy at work as 24/7 she believes Sartre is right.

Caroline has one friend Sondra. She likes Henry, but with no breasts she has no chance except helping him with his Spanish homework. Her parents’ drive her crazy as each wants to have her validate they are the better parent.

Ivy misses her favorite child David who lives in New York with his wife and kids; grandchildren she never sees. She asks Caroline if she prays, but her granddaughter ignores her. Ivy walks to a chic store, which treats her poorly so she steals a scarf.

Joanie drives Caroline to Richard’s house. Ivy asks her daughter why she divorced Richard. Joanie says he left. Richard and BJ try to be nice to Caroline, but it is contrived and the teen finally says BJ should consider an abortion. BJ is hurt and Richard angry.

The four prime females are fully developed while the males feel emaciated. Though too long the insightful story line provides a realistic character study of four Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthroughasking themselves what they did to deserve this life.

Harriet Klausner

The Best Laid Plans-Lynn Schmurnberger

The Best Laid Plans
Lynn Schmurnberger
Ballantine, Jan 11 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345491190

In Manhattans’ affluent Upper East Side, Tru Newman is an “M&M” (Maintenance and Mothering) stay at home to raise her twin fourteen years old daughters and being there to make life easier for her spouse Peter an investment banker. At a charity event Tru hosts she learns the shocking truth that Peter has been unemployed for three months with the family living on credit cards.

Tru’s BFF Sienna Post loses her nightly news anchor position. Both are desperate when they come up with a scheme to make money. They create an escort service with all the female working girls over the age of forty. To their shock, the clientele is under thirty year old yuppies who appreciate an older woman. Meanwhile Peter’s new job has him working with a flirtatious beauty at the same time their twins battle with one another over an acne eighth grade lover. However the worst of all is her mom, a former Miss New York Subway who has a heart attack and moves in with them.

Though too much occurs that impacts the meat in the sandwich caretaker and the ending is too simple for what is going on with the three generations, fans will enjoy this lighthearted Manhattan frolic. The ensemble cast is solid though held in focus by the overworked middle generational matriarch. Fast-paced with plenty of humor, The Best Laid Plans of mice and Tru always go astray.

Harriet Klausner

Wedding of the Season: Abandoned at the Altar-Laura Lee Guhrke

Wedding of the Season: Abandoned at the Altar
Laura Lee Guhrke
Avon, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061963155

In 1895, the wedding between childhood sweethearts Lady Beatrix and Lord William is called off when he has a chance to join an archeological dig in Egypt. He asks his fiancée to come with him, but she says no. He leaves without her; humiliating her, his family and angering her family.

Six years later Will is back in England riding a horse when he sees a woman driving a roadster. The horse bolts and kicks Will in the knee. Trix has no sympathy for her former fiancé, who insists he came home to attend her wedding to prim and proper Aidan Carr. He actually came home to borrow money for the dig as they are close to finding Tut’s tomb. Trix goes to see Will to ask why he is home. They argue as he says she lied to him about her interest in archeology while she accuses him of abandonment. Will’s best friend Paul suggests he ask Marlowe the publisher. Will goes to Pixy Cove to Visit Marlowe though he knows Trix and Aidan will be there too on a holiday. At Pixy Cove, Trix enters her favorite area Phoebe’s Cave when Will arrives. He insists she does not love Aidan. He decides to prove she loves him by kissing her as Julie, Paul and Aidan arrive.

The lead couple is a fun pairing of opposites with a history. The support cast is strong especially Trix’s fiancée and her best friend. Although the story line unfairly makes the cautious Trix the guilty party in their break up and a late twist back at the dig seems off kilter though it forces issues, readers will want to attend the Wedding of the Season as wedding planner Laura Lee Guhrke provides an entertaining late Victorian romance.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Destiny-Jean Johnson

Finding Destiny
Jean Johnson
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425238622

“Sundara”. When his abusive owner dies, dyara Chanson frees Eduour the Mandarite slave as the village lacks males since most have been deployed in battle.

“Guildara”. Arbran Knight Diplomat Sir Zeilas meets his former enemies the Guildarans led by Marta Grenspun.

“Aurul”. Guildaran Gabria Springreaver is the new envoy to Aurul where a strange prophecy abounds.

“Jenodan Isles”. Aurulean Royal Captain Ellet and Mita the pirate meet when he stalks her under royal command in the Jenodan Isles.

These super interrelated fantasies enhance the Sons of Destiny mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Skin Heat-Ava Gray

Skin Heat
Ava Gray
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239209

Zeke Noble had been a farmer when he was kidnapped, taken to a secret lab, and his hosts experimented on him. He finally escaped but not before they ripped part or all of his soul as he is now different. He realizes how much so with what he can hear while standing on his desolate farm where he prays that his animals survived his “abandonment” as he cares about them. A part of his natural link to them has been enhanced by those SOBs who ran their tests on him.

Zeke feels more like an animal than a human, but must conceal his nature if he is to survive and avoid another kidnapping. He obtains a position as an assistant veterinarian to Geneva Harper, whose old world affluent Southern family detests her employment as they demand she be a debutant working in the firm. Both are attracted to one another, but neither makes a first step as each has reasons to avoid a relationship. However, when a serial killer begins murdering women who look like his Neva, he acts to protect his mate.

The latest Skin paranormal romantic suspense (see Skin Game and Skin Tight) grips the audience from the sad description that Zeke provides as he looks over his farm and never slows down as the introverted hero refuses to allow any harm to come to his woman. Fast-paced throughout, fans await the confrontation as the killer comes closer and closer to Neva; forcing Zeke’s lab enhancements that act like animal instincts to surface as he can no longer deny his feelings. This is a terrific whodunit thriller with a wild twist as there are no shades of Gray when it comes to how good this author is.

Harriet Klausner

Angel at Dawn-Emma Holly

Angel at Dawn
Emma Holly
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239650

In 1956, B movie Hollywood director-producer Naomi “Nim” Wei is in Two Forks, Texas with her assistant Grace Michaels producing I Was a Teen-Age Vampire. Nim and Grace visit nearby rancher Christian Durand to ask him to take take the lead role. Both being Master vampires, though she is more experienced, Christian yells at Nim no way that is until he sees the visage of Grace. Five centuries ago his Grace died, but now he stares at his Grace, who works for the “Witch of Florence”. He agrees to the film only if Grace coaches him though she betrayed him.

Grace is confused by her reaction to Christian as she wants him in a way she never felt before. He knows Nim works fate like a master concerto, but wonders what is going on even as he wants Grace to remember her treachery though he still loves her. However, someone wants Grace dead and Christian assumes this is Nim with another of her convoluted diabolical plots.

This direct sequel to The Devil at Midnight is an engaging Upyr romantic suspense fantasy that vividly brings to life 1950s American when B-horror moves and Joe McCarthy found Communists in very pot and around every corner. The story line is fast-paced from the first time Christian saw her face in centuries until the final altercation with the killer. Although series fans need to read The Devil At Midnight to better understand references in Angel At Dawn, Emma Holly provides a charming spoof of her saga and the Eisenhower Era.

Harriet Klausner

Bitten-Dan O’Brien

Dan O’Brien
iUniverse, Sep 16 2010, $17.95
ISBN: 9781450258470

FBI Agent Lauren Westlake traveled to the small northern Minnesota town of Locke on a working woman’s vacation. A recent death occurred nearby that defies logic as the mutilated body had the skin ripped off. The insane beast that committed the murder takes the skin back to a shack in the frozen woods and sews it onto his epidermis.

The Fed is not the only stranger in ton. Lauren meets Dominic at a bar and for the first time in what she thinks is forever she is attracted to someone. However, the case remains her top priority as more deaths have townsfolk up in arms. She meets Maude, a woman in a cottage in the woods, who gives Lauren a magical brew. The elixir opens her eyes into the past and she learns she deals with two males: a madman who wants to be a werewolf and a werewolf who wants to be a man. She must identify both to determine who the werewolf is and whether the “beast” is the psychopathic serial killer.

Dan O’Brien has written a chilling thriller that takes a unique spin on the werewolf legend. Lauren is a strong person who is also a resolute good law enforcement official. She may be a stranger, but she makes a difference in Locke because without her the situation would be much worse because no one can accept the evidence as it is outside of their logic’s comfort zone. Armchair readers will brave the frozen Northern Minnesota woods to learn who the title character of aptly named Bitten is.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strongheart-Don Bendell

Don Bendell
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $5.99
ISBN: 9780425231081

Joshua Strongheart is a half-breed who has lived in both of the worlds of his biological parents. He feels he fails to fit in either and insists he no longer cares as he is satisfied with being a loner. Yet he also holds close to his heart the only two items he cherishes: his father Claw Mark’s Bowie knife that he gave to his mother to give to Joshua; and his stepfather Flower Valley Marshal Dan Cooper's Colt .45 Peacemaker.

A Pinkerton secret courier, Joshua delivers a letter from the President to General Davis in Oregon to insure Captain Jack and his Modoc tribe receives a fair trial as he does not want the killing renegade already a hero amongst the tribes to become martyred. As he rides the stage, the brothers McMahon, Jeeter and Harlance, rob the coach at Sunset Gulch. They leave Joshua for dead, but failed to finish the job. He is coming for them as they also stole his two valuables and the Presidential document.

This is as much a fabulous richly textured historical thriller as much as an exhilarating western saga as Don Bendell provides an entertaining late nineteenth century tale of vengeance. Armchair readers will feel they accompany Joshua on the trek to deliver the package. The hero is fully developed as the audience obtains glimpses into his past that enhance the understanding of Strongheart. With a fabulous High Noon confrontation containing an unexpected spin, fans will enjoy this engaging Americana; as Mr. Bendell known for his CID tales shows he can writer a wonderful “tale of the old west”.

Harriet Klausner

The Princess of Nowhere-Prince Lorenzo Borghese

The Princess of Nowhere
Prince Lorenzo Borghese
Avon, Dec 7 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061721618

Sister to Napoleon, Paulina Bonaparte knows she is beautiful and though not a blueblood, she can out royal any princess with her demands. Napoleon uses his sibling to strengthen his foreign ties by arranging a marriage to Italian Prince Camillo Borghese. He wants her while she drives him crazy with her coquettish behavior. She teases him over his jealousy while seeking other men especially with him frequently away from their home. They are in love and at war with one another, but neither understands which emotion is more important until their world collapses under the weight of tragedy and regrets; as it is too late to mend.

Told by Pauline's surrogate daughter Sophie who look back over four decades, this is a great biographical fiction story starring two passionate flawed individuals who fight, fuss, and fail. Refreshing as revelations prove too late to act upon, Sophie represents the delightful historical personage as she initially admired her guardian only to loath her ill tempered guardian. Prince Lorenzo Borghese writes a terrific take that grips the audience with a unique insightful look at the Napoleonic era through the raging relationship between his sister and brother-in-law.

Harriet Klausner

Falling in Love with English Boys-Melissa Jensen

Falling in Love with English Boys
Melissa Jensen
Speak (Penguin), Dec 23 2010, $8.99
ISBN: 9780142418512

They are the same age and gender with similar problems though they live two centuries apart. Each struggles with fathers who do not exist except in name only as they are very busy and moms with no understanding of their teen desires.

Though there are differences, the similarities between them continue when both are in London as stated in “Cat’s Cat-astrophic Cat-aclysmic Cat-atonic blog. Cat and Katherine soon find love. Cat relishes the chocolate and the dudes with charming accents, but especially Will who she thinks is Mister Right but acts like Prince Wrong; while Katherine falls in love with Baker though she thinks a lot more of Everard.

Targeting middle school children, Falling in Love with English Boys is clever fascinating tale that enables readers to compare lifestyles of a modern era female teen with a Regency era teen through Cat’s observations based on Katherine’s dairy. Both lead females are fully developed characters while the males in their lives are less rounded as their mission is to enhance reader understanding of the two felines. Fans will enjoy Melissa Jensen entertaining tale of two girls who prove London Swings now and then.

Harriet Klausner

Ruthless Game-Christine Feehan

Ruthless Game
Christine Feehan
Jove, Dec 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515149210

Pregnant Rose Patterson escapes from the confinement of Dr. Whitney’s illegal lab where she and Kane Cannon were used in genetic experiments which culminated with her carrying. Kane also managed to break out of the incarceration. Whereas she hides, he joins Mack McKinley’s GhostWalker Team Three.

In, Mexico, McKinley’s squad works a hostage rescue mission. Kane realizes that his Rose is inside. During the heat of the skirmish, Kane and Rose find each other, but are not near his teammates. Although she is eight months pregnant and distrusts everyone, she knows with her unborn baby’s soul she can rely on Kane to take her to safety although Whitney pursues them for the child he covets.

This is a fresh entry in the GhostWalker saga due to the relationship between the lead couple. They were matched together by evil Whitney in his lab and the fetus she carries is the results of his malevolence; yet both risk their lives to keep the unborn safe especially from the abusive researcher. Series fans will appreciate this strong thriller as the romance takes a back seat to the action.

Harriet Klausner

How to Marry a Duke-Vicky Dreiling

How to Marry a Duke
Vicky Dreiling
Forever, Jan 3 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446565370

In 1816, the Duke of Shelbourne knows it is past time to get married and raise an heir, but so many women have wanted this most eligible bachelor he has delayed his decision until the clock has run out on him. However, Tristan Gatewick has problems with a horde of females wanting him; he does not want to spend his life with the inane boneheads that seem to be all the Ton offers.

After mangling her fan at a gala, Tristan hires matchmaker Tessa Mansfield to find him a suitable wife with a brain. Tessa arranges a contest between twenty-four eligible ladies desiring to become the next Duchess of Shelbourne. The games begin with fierce competition in every venue imaginable. However, as the debs are sent packing until two remain, Tristan kisses Tessa whose former suitor has returned. Someone aware of Tessa’s dark secret blackmails her and other threats more dangerous to her surface; which only strengthens Tristan’s resolve to declare that the matchmaker has won the contest.

Although having a last woman standing contest is not a new concept (see A Peculiar Proposition by Diane Henderson). Vicky Dreiling provides a charming romance as she runs the ducal games in accordance with acceptable Regency aristocratic behavior. The cast is solid as they bring humor, shenanigans, and deportment, but the tale belongs to the duke and his matchmaker as he knows who he wants as his duchess. Sub-genre fans will welcome Ms. Dreiling with pressure of matching the enjoyment of this engaging historical with “how to tame” a rakish Hawk.

Harriet Klausner

What So Proudly We Hailed-James Howard

What So Proudly We Hailed
James Howard
CreateSpace, Jul 2 2010, $12.00
ISBN: 9781453672433

While driving home with his son Brian, Jason Ribault sees the bright alien light in the distant sky and does not need to observe what follows to know the United States is under nuclear attack. The radio confirms what he thought happened.

Understanding what this means to America, Jason gathers up his family and sails on their boat to a deserted South Carolina barrier island. Cell phones fail so he turns to a short wave radio in which he learns the North Koreans launched the bombs and China invaded the rogue nation. With the electric grid failing, the USA grinds to a halt as the lawless takes over the streets. In the Arab world, a Messianic figure surfaces creating a regional Caliphate, which sends in the name of Allah people to turn America into a Muslim nation. Australia opens up its borders to Americans who can reach it. Jason and others wonder if they should flee from the Muslim influence, the riots and the worsening unbearable conditions.

With recent headlines about North Korea and the wealth of the Middle East elite who temporarily would lose a major customer, this tale, which seemed implausible a few months ago, suddenly appears frighteningly possible. Fast-paced and filled with action as the Ribault family are forced to hide in the salt marshes where they find other scared occupants, readers will enjoy this chilling thriller in which taking out the grid means take out America.

Harriet Klausner

Towers of Midnight-Brandon Sanderson

Towers of Midnight
Brandon Sanderson
Tor Book, Nov 2 2010, $29.99
ISBN: 9780765325945

Increasingly the seals that contain the Dark One in the shadows are rotting abetted by the evil minion. Soon barring a miracle the malevolence will be back and no Dragon appears capable of defeating the evil.

In Caemlyn Mat Cauthon hides at the same time trying to find a way to breach the Tower of Ghenjei even as the golam still haunts him. At about the same time Perrin Aybara faces the Slayer in the dream and tries to ignore the haunting murder of two Children of the Light, which he knows will come back on him. Meanwhile Egwene the Amyrlin Seat seeks Messana the Forsaken, who hides amidst the White Tower sisters. All three face personal confrontations even the Wheel of Time moves in favor of the Dark One.

In his second book at the helm of the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (see The Gathering Storm), Brandon Sanderson does a terrific job of closing out several personal troubles that have been around seemingly for over a decade (our time). The author also appears to have set up the anticipated end of time finish. The story line is well written and fans will overall be pleased though there is a tendency towards dangling participles instead of dangling subplots. The key characters are fully developed yet they seem different from Mr. Jordan’s writings as unlike The Gathering Storm, Mr. Sanderson has clearly placed his stamp on Towers of Midnight.

Harriet Klausner

The Water Wars-Cameron Stracher

The Water Wars
Cameron Stracher
Sourcebooks Fire, Jan 1 2011, $16.99
ISBN: 9781402243691

The Water Wars devastated the United States which split into six nations in conflict with each other and Canada. The eco disaster is so great that Niagara Falls on both sides of the former boundary is bone dry. Children have become commodities to sell on the market as liquid finding slaves.

In Illinowa, the government Water Board Authority, the most powerful agency, distributes desalinated water to citizens. The chemical cleansed liquid leads to disease as the mother of young Vera and Will seems to be dying from the toxin. The kids meet Kai who seems to have an endless supply of fresh water. He explains he gets his water from his dad who knows the location of an underground river. When someone kidnaps Kai and his father, Vera and Will search for their new friend.

Cameron Stracher provides as strong cautionary tale based on the premise that in the near future the liquid wars will focus on water and not oil. The author’s harsh environment in which the polar caps are gone is so vivid, readers will feel constantly thirsty. Violence is prolific as fights on grand and small scales are the norm; think in terms of the range wars of the late nineteenth century, but on a global scale. Although none of the three teens are fully developed as the Stracher world overwhelms the cast, young adult readers will appreciate this engaging thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Against the Wind-Kat Martin

Against the Wind
Kat Martin
Mira, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778329190

In Wind Canyon, Wyoming, sexagenarian Olivia Jones rents a cottage to Widow Sarah Allen and her six year old daughter Holly. Sarah left Santa Monica following the death of her husband Andrew whose shady business partners like Marty Kazak want something they believe she has inherited from her spouse.

The owner of the house and the ranch it is on Jackson Raines is irate with his housekeeper for leasing to that woman though he knows he is being unfair to Olivia. He wants Sarah to leave, but she persuades him to let her stay. Jackson vows to keep his distance from the girl who humiliated him in high school.

However, just what he feared would happen occur as Jackson knows he remains attracted to Sarah. She reciprocates, but knows she hurt him so tries to keep her distance and conceal her desire; besides she has a dark secret hovering over her. However, when Sarah is in trouble with Andrew’s nasty associates, Jackson protects her at a risk to his heart.

The Raines of Wind Canyon Wyoming ranch romance is an engaging second chance at love tale as she regrets what she did to him in high school and he rues her return as his humiliation by her still remains raw even after sixteen plus years. The suspense comes late, but adds to a strong tale as the heroine’s Southern California past comes to Wyoming.

Harriet Klausner

Promise Canyon-Robyn Carr

Promise Canyon
Robyn Carr
Mira, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778329213

Clay Tahoma comes to Virgin City, California as the veterinary assistant and “horse whisperer” at the Jensen Veterinary Clinic. His friend veterinarian Nate Jensen offered him the job so the former Navaho Nation resident left Los Angeles for Humboldt County. When Clay and Hopi Lilly Yazhi meet, they are attracted to one another. However, when she was a teen, Lilly liked a boy from her tribe, but he broke her heart. She vowed then never again and has adhered to her pledge, but now has doubts thanks to Clay. He has issues too having been divorced from Isabel just prior to asking for this job.

Because they work closely together on helping a horse she rescued, she cannot avoid him. As they begin to fall in love, Clay’s former wife arrives in town. Will Lilly move passed her teen hurt or will she use the ex spouse as an excuse to avoid risking hurting her heart again.

The latest Virgin River rural romance is a wonderful tale whose prime plot focuses on second chances starring two fascinating lead protagonists whose matchmaker is a horse. As always a myriad of supporting segues on other town characters enhance the feeling that a reader is in Virgin River; however that experience also will bewilder newcomers who will feel somewhat disconnected unless they read some of the previous warm tales of love (see Moonlight Road and Angel’s Peak).

Harriet Klausner

Must Love Kilts-Allie Mackay

Must Love Kilts
Allie Mackay
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231949

In 1250 in the Northwest Highlands, Laird Magnus MacBride is outraged when his betrothed was killed by marauding Norsemen. He vows vengeance on all Vikings as the blood rushes to his head and turns him into a berserker. His dreams of making love to a lovely woman are the only respite from his rage.

In present day New Hope, Pennsylvania, twentyish Margo Menlove loves all things Scottish; so much so the Bucks County residents consider her the ultimate authority. Although her enthusiasm is catching she also hides from everyone her dreams about a certain thirteenth century Scotsman who appears in a book.

Upon winning a trip, she travels to Scotland. Margo picks up an odd looking stone only to find herself naked in combat staring at Magnus. He is shocked as the Vikings he was just fighting vanished and his dream woman is standing nude before him. She is as stunned with seeing the star of her book and wet fantasies staring at her in shock, awe and desire. Already in love even before they met, they become an entry fighting against those who promulgate hate.

This is a lighthearted time travel romance in which the lead couple is in love before they ever met. The story line is brisk and fun, but lacks intensity, which is ironic as he is a raging berserker and she is extremely passionate regarding Scottish. Still fans will enjoy the M to the fourth power romance between the medieval highlander and the twenty-first century fanatic.

Harriet Klausner

A Werewolf in Manhattan-Vickie Lewis Thompson

A Werewolf in Manhattan
Vickie Lewis Thompson
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451232472

Paranormal romance author Emma Gavin writes novels starring werewolves. However, she becomes concerned when a fan begins sending her letters claiming he is a bona fide werewolf. Frightened by the disturbing correspondence, she obtains a bodyguard Aidan Wallace.

As heir to a powerful affluent Manhattan werewolf pack, Aidan was assigned as her bodyguard because his leaders fear Emma knows too much about their concealed species and that someone is betraying them by informing her with the facts. His hidden agenda is to learn how much she really knows. Aidan quickly concludes she is totally ignorant except for some lucky guesses. However, he has a new problem besides what she knows. Aidan is attracted to Emma who he risks his life to keep safe when she comes under attack from one of his kind. Torn between his love for her and his loyalty and love for his pack, Aidan has a complicated choice in which he will hurt someone; if not his Emma than his chosen bride and his family, but regardless definitely he knows himself.

This is an entertaining urban romantic fantasy with some intrigue caused by inter and intra pack rivalries. The story line is fast-paced in the boudoir and out as the seemingly star-crossed lovers cannot get enough of each other. Although the ending is abrupt and facilitates issues too easily, readers will enjoy Vickie Lewis Thompson taking a bite or three out of the Big Apple.

Harriet Klausner

Surrender to Darkness-Annette McCleave

Surrender to Darkness
Annette McCleave
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451231932

In Japan Kiyoko Aishida is dying as the ancient relic the Veil is running out of energy; the Veil is all that has kept her alive to fight evil demons but once depleted in a few days she will be dead. Kiyoko actually has an option besides death; as she can choose to transcend.

She has made up her mind until she meets Jamie Murdoch the soul gatherer, who reports directly to Death. His mission is to retrieve the Veil that destroys demons. However, the simple task proves difficult because whenever he touches Kiyoko, he turns into a raging maniac lusting for her; she might be near death but feels as intense. Both are surprised by their attraction and reaction so agree to test their need, which amplifies exponentially with each sexual contact. Jamie must decide between his assignment and his beloved, as arrogant Azazel the fallen angel ignores the Scottish soul gatherer as a nonentity when he comes for Kiyoko’s blood and the Veil.

The third Soul Gatherer romantic urban fantasy (see Bound By Darkness and Drawn Into Darkness) is an entertaining character driven thriller as the lead couple struggle with love, a nasty high rung fallen angel demon, and their respective missions. Fast-paced readers will relish the fascinating, multifaceted and fresh McCleave mythos, but focus is needed as the mythology is dramatically different than the usual gathering of the angelic and demonic suspects. Fans will enjoy surrendering to the “darkness” of Ms. McCleave’s vision.

Harriet Klausner

Frostfire-Lynn Viehl

Lynn Viehl
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451413024

Lilah is a Kyndred whose genetically enhanced DNA has made her a target of the GenHance biotech company; they became aware of her when she recued kids from a bear. The firm believes Lilah contains super DNA that enables her to communicate with animals. They want her DNA dead or alive. They drug her and when she regains consciousness she is handcuffed to an apparently dying man, but she heals Walker, a veteran of the Afghan war.

He vows to keep his savior safe. However, Lilah has another stalker wanting her apparently dead. This person is a Kyndred like she is. Lilah thought she could trust her “species” but by the time she learns the truth that an insider betrayal leaves her at risk, she may be too late to react.

The third Kyndred romantic urban fantasy (see Shadowlight and Dreamveil) is a fabulous thriller as Lilah wonders if the trite maxim no good deeds goes unpunished is true; the truth is much more complicated as she and walker will learn. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans of the series will relish this exciting entry while wondering who is the traitor.

Harriet Klausner

Demon Marked-Anna J. Evans

Demon Marked
Anna J. Evans
Signet, Jan 4 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451232106

Emma Quinn was Demon Marked as a child. To survive, Emma gains sustenance from the life forces of others. She chooses victims who are abusive and cruel to others.

In the wee hours of the morning at the Demon’s Breath bar and Grill south of the 14th Street barricade in Manhattan, Emma feeds off of a Death Ministry gang member, but he dies probably by her siphoning away too much of his life force. The gang comes after her with a vendetta as no one lives after killing one of their members. She flees hoping her sister Sam’s Conti Mafiosi in-laws will help her. Their lawyer Andre Conti offers his assistance, but she has never trusted outsiders yet also is attracted to the attorney who does not believe in her powers.

The second Demon Bound romantic urban fantasy is a terrific thriller that has a different type of intensity but contains the same level of passion as Sam’s starring role in Shadow Marked. Emma and Andre are polar opposites who deal with the gangbangers and their attraction. Fast-paced from the opening over siphoning until the final altercation, fans will enjoy roaming Anna J. Evans’ dark vision of lower Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

Apocalypse of the Dead-Joe McKinney

Apocalypse of the Dead
Joe McKinney
Pinnacle, Nov 1 2010, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786023592

After the hurricanes destroyed much of Houston including the refineries, chemicals were released into the atmosphere, on the ground and in the water. A virus developed in the toxic soup. Those who caught it became zombie like creatures who feasted on uninfected human flesh. A barrier was created to keep in the infected and the uninfected who unfortunately were trapped with the monsters. The authorities have standing orders to kill anyone trying to breach the barrier.

A daring group of uninfected survivors slip through the quarantine zone and head for Florida. However, one of them actually carries the virus, but has not shown the disease. By the time they reach The Sunshine State, they are all infected. They spread the disease rather quickly so that the authorities cannot contain the horrid pandemic that crosses the country. In North Dakota, Preacher Jasper forms a community that must conform to his rigid code based on his strict beliefs or face the consequences of zombie fever; some bow but some like retired US Marchsl Ed Moore choose to fight.

Apocalypse of the Dead is a taut roller coaster thriller with plenty chills, spills, and terror. The authorities were so over confident in their conviction that the monsters could not escape they developed no contingency plans; their cockiness led to the pandemic and left it up to pockets of people to find ways to survive as the Preacher and the marshal did in diverse ways as the zombies are on the top of the food chain on the verge of dominance. Fans of zombie mania will appreciate Joe McKinney’s apocalypse now.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mistress by Midnight-Maggie Robinson

Mistress by Midnight
Maggie Robinson
Kensington Brava, Jan 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758251015

Desmond Ryland, the Marquess of Conover, wants nothing to do with an arranged marriage as he loves his childhood friend and neighbor Laurette Vincent. They exchange vows to each other in secrecy and make love. Laurette becomes pregnant giving birth to a daughter she conceals from Con.

Con completes his obligation by marrying the arranged bride and siring the heir. He deserts his wife and son going overseas for the next decade. When he learns his spouse died, he comes home to see his Laurette. Although they still love one another, Laurette has doubts especially since he abandoned his heir. Desperate to win over his beloved, Con blackmails her into becoming his mistress using the one pawn he could control her with; an interim step until he can marry her.

Mistress by Midnight is an enjoyable Regency romance starring two fascinating lead characters. Whereas Laurette sacrificed her place in society to raise their love child; Con completed his obligation to society and fled instead of staying to raise his heir. Fans will admire the heroine while hissing at the lead male for abandoning his offspring. Although the story line slows down somewhat in the middle, readers will enjoy wondering whether Con can achieve his quest as he has a lot of baggage to overcome.

Harriet Klausner

Sins of a Highland Devil-Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Sins of a Highland Devil
Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Grand Central, Jan 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446561785

In 1396 King Robert Stewart of Scotland orders the lairds of clans MacDonald, Cameron and Mackintosh to end their bloody feud in the Glen of Many Legends with final combat. The clan of the last male survivor will own the Glen; those from the losing two clans will leave.

Sister to Laird Alasdair MacDonald, Catriona has struggled to ignore her attraction to Laird James Cameron. He feels like her as he knows he loves Catriona but cannot do anything about his feelings as their clans constantly feud. James meets with Alasdair and Laird Kendrew Mackintosh to discuss how to avoid a bloodbath and not lose the Glen to the monarch. However, none of the lairds are aware that their sisters have plotted a different gender outcome in the battle for who will be the last man standing in the Glen of Many Legends.

This is a great opening Highlander medieval romance with a strong lead couple and powerful support characters that will soon star in their own tales. The three pairs of aristocratic siblings are all fully developed with each loving their clan while also possessing a star-crossed love for a leader of one of the other clans. Sub-genre fans will be hooked into a one sitting read of Sins of a Highland Devil while anxiously awaiting the middle tale of what looks like will be one of the best medieval trilogies in years.

Harriet Klausner

This Glittering World-T. Greenwood

This Glittering World
T. Greenwood
Kensington, Jan 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758250919

Although engaged to optimistic strong willed Sara, adjunct history professor Ben Bailey has doubts that he wants to marry the sometimes termagant. When she is nice, which is most of the time, he knows he wants her; but when she is over the top he wants her out of his life. He muses while also tending bar over whether to marry or not to marry.

Ben finds a severely battered young Native American male nearly dead on his lawn in Flagstaff, Arizona. Not one to become passionate about anything, Ben feels an urge to know what happened to the lad. When Ricky Begay dies, Ben obsesses over the truth of what happened to him, especially when what seems an obvious murder appears to be ignored. His inquiry leads Ben to Ricky’s sister Shadi. As they team up on the investigation into her sibling’s homicide, he falls in love with Shadi, but Sara is carrying his child.

Ben’s doubts about what he wants in life make for an engaging contemporary, but require a key acceptance by readers of the lead male’s obsession with the beating death of Ricky leading him to a third choice. His revised musing is to marry pregnant Sara or to marry grieving Shadi. Readers will want to know whether Ben chooses responsibility (Sara) or adventure (Shadi) as he perceives his dueling relationships; he assumes both will want to wed him.

Harriet Klausner

Then He Kissed Me-Christie Ridgeway

Then He Kissed Me
Christie Ridgeway
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425239179

Stephania "Stevie" Baci wants nothing to do with her family vineyard turned into a wedding events place. However, though she tries to avoid serving as a hostess at Tanti Baci Winery Wedding Chapel, Stevie has no choice but to run the marriage of her former fiancé Emerson Platt and his intended bride Princess Roxanne of Ardenia.

Roxanne’s brother Prince Jacques "Jack" Parini agrees to assist Stevie with the event and to help her avoid humiliation of watching her former fiancé walk down the aisle by pretending to be her fiancé. She accepts his kind offer although she considers rejecting it as she will now have to spend time with an alpha hunk she secretly covets. As they fall in love, Stevie doubts she is ready to walk down the aisle.

The latest Three Kisses Napa Valley romance (see Crush on You) is a delightful contemporary starring a protective champion (with strong reasons to watch over his sister and Stevie) and an “I’m Not In Love heroine. Although the support cast can prove overwhelming at times (then again it is a wedding), fans will enjoy the adventures in love between the Mystery Man who insists he is as much a Georgia farmer as as he is a European royal and the winery’s Tomboy.

Harriet Klausner

Beautiful Disaster-Laura Spinella

Beautiful Disaster
Laura Spinella
Berkley, Jan 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780425238608

Married Mia Montgomery Wells persuades a customer to invest in her eco-friendly office set-up when she receives a call. Her former boyfriend Peyton Flynn McDermott lies in a coma in a Silver Spring, Maryland hospital following an accident. She apologizes to her potential investor before rushing off to the hospital in a panic.

Thirteen years ago when Mia attended the University of Georgia as a design major, she and Peyton met and fell in love. However, he dumped her when he concluded his beloved deserved someone better than a troubled soul like he was. While her spouse is upset with her bed vigil, Mia stays by Peyton’s side while musing back to when they were a couple. He was a biking riding drifter who she feared might be a serial killer. Now she believes she has a second chance to at least learn why he left and how he feels though at the cost of her marriage regardless of what Peyton does after he recovers; which she expects though his doctors are much more cautious.

This is an interesting second chance at love tale with the twist that Mia apparently nukes her marriage and her business on a wing and a prayer that Peyton will tell her why he left and admits to her he loves her. She has no doubt he will recover even when he suffers setbacks that shake her soul; as Mia believes fate would not have used the emergency to bring them together. Although Mia’s flushing her marriage and business are difficult to accept as reasonable actions; that is why Beautiful Disaster works as love makes people obsess into doing strange things seemingly out of character.

Harriet Klausner