Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cowgirls Don’t Cry Silver James

Cowgirls Don’t Cry
Silver James
Harlequin Desire, Jan 1 2014, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373733545

The blizzard shut down O’Hare stranding travelers like affluent lawyer Chance Barron at least overnight.  Also trapped in Chicago is Cassidy Morgan, who was flying to Oklahoma City to say goodbye to her dying father Ben.  Pulling no sugarcoated punches; Uncle Boots tells her tomorrow morning will be too late to see Ben alive, but he will delay the cremation until she can see her dad one last time.  Though she lives in the city, the storm made it impossible to go home.  At a hotel near the airport, Chance and Cass meet in a bar and soon share the night.

The next morning, flights start taking off with Chance and Cass both heading to Oklahoma City; and once there onto Royal, Texas.  Each wants to see the other, but she has a funeral and a ranch sale.  His influential jackass father Cyrus loathed her dad over a woman decades ago so even with Ben dead his grudge lives.  Ergo he interferes with his son’s intimate relationship with his enemy’s daughter.

The first Red Dirt Royalty contemporary is an enjoyable seemingly star-crossed romance.  Readers root for courageous Cass while wondering when, if ever, Chance will stand up to his martinet father and just say no.

Harriet Klausner

More Than Neighbors-Janice Kay Johnson

More Than Neighbors
Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jan 1 2014, $6.75
ISBN: 9780373608928

Near Spokane in Goodwater, woodworker Widower Gabriel Tennert relishes his rustic solitude though he was not always like this.  He has celebrated for over three years that his former reclusive neighbor Ephraim Walker moved away leaving the ranch vacant until now.  Hearing loud music, to his horror Gabe knows he has a new neighbor that includes kids.

Rather than watch her stressed out twelve years old son come home every day in tears, single mom Ciara Malloy bought the Walker spread after a meeting with her child’s middle school assistant principal; in which he had the audacity to blame Mark for being bullied.  Mark likes Gabe’s horses and though the woodworker normally stays far away from people, he enjoys the tweener’s enthusiasm.  Soon Gabe mentors Mark on woodworking, horses and bullies.  Ciara and Gabe are attracted to one another, but both hesitate to act on their feelings though their reasons differ. 

This is a profound family drama featuring three fully developed protagonists.  Mark especially stands out as a young victim slowly regaining his tweener equilibrium in a different setting; while Ciara is a grizzly momma protecting her cub; and Gabe feels guilt over his increasing emotional involvement with the mother and son.  The romance is well-written, but it is the baggage each must overcome in order to forge a committed relationship that makes this an interesting contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Crouching Tiger Forbidden-Vampire Kerrelyn

Crouching Tiger Forbidden Vampire
Kerrelyn Sparks
Avon, Dec 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062107770

Vietnam War marine veteran Russell Hankelburg awakens after a nearly four decade slumber to learn his loved ones were either dead or moved on and that Master Han turned him into a vampire.  He thirsts to kill his creator, but also learns that the mark on his wrist shows that his vicious vile vampiric master owns him as an expendable slave.

While Russell diligently continues his hunt of three years, he encounters obsessed Jia the were-tiger whose thirst for revenge against the vampire who slaughtered her parents rivals his.  Their respective quests collide when each realizes they stalk the same malicious malevolent monster.  Rather than trip over each other, Russell and Jia reluctantly agree to join forces in order to destroy Master Han.  Russell insists on rules to insure they focus on the mission even if her eyes hypnotize him into craving something much more daring, delicate and delightful that also will anger her family who arranged a marriage for her.

Although somewhat typical of the romantic urban fantasy subgenre, the sixteenth and final Love at Stake drama is a thrilling climax to a strong decade long saga.  The lead couple is a nice pairing highlighted by readers waiting seemingly forever for Russell’s tale.  Series fans will appreciate the final stake though a twisting climatic farewell tour subplot comes across as a rushed curtain call.

Harriet Klausner

The Rosie Effect-Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Effect
Graeme Simsion
Simon & Schuster, Dec 30 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9781476767314

Genetics Professor Don Tillman created the perfect compatibility questionnaire that insured an outcome of no partners since nobody of sound mind would complete his 16-page required document.  That is until he met Rosie who scored nada on Tillman’s torture test but married him anyway (see The Rosie Project).

While Don precisely to the half inch slices and dices vegies, Rosie informs her husband she is pregnant.  Pleased he didn’t cut off a half inch of finger, Don responds to her happy announcement by comparing her news to surviving a plane with engine trouble that requires an after-action investigation into what caused the perilous problem.  Stunned and hurt by her beloved’s reaction to her joyful pronouncement, their relationship turns from happily ever after to falling apart.  Unaware of what is happening to his relationship; Don focuses on reviewing the scientific literature re pregnancies and Rosie on leaving.

Though this droll sequel is an amusing look at married life through the mind of a Mr. Spock logical but socially inept autism spectrum genius; it lacks the overall fresh effect of its predecessor.  Tillman remains a unique protagonist with his intriguing outlook that rings true to me; especially with his similarity to someone I love with all my heart who also simultaneously drives me crazy.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Murder At The Book Group-Maggie King

Murder At The Book Group
Maggie King
Pocket Books, Dec 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781476762463

In 2005 in Richmond, during the Murder On Tour book club discussion, published author of Murder à la Isabel Carlene Arness vehemently tosses her copy of Murder In The Keys into her fireplace stunning the other attendees; as Carlene is normally a calm soft-spoken individual.  Wannabe romance writer Hazel Rose wonders if the cause of Carlene’s venom is the separation from her husband Evan, who happens also to be one of her Hazel’s ex-spouses.  Their efforts to illicit more information on why she hated the novel leads to Carlene’s venomous response over the misuse of cyanide, which she plans to deploy correctly in her next novel.  As the session winds down, Carlene collapses; the shocked participants realize she is dead from ironically cyanide poisoning.

The stunned reading group agrees that Carlene was not herself at the meeting and even more upset when newbie Linda arrived; but also would not kill herself especially using cyanide in spite of a suicide note.  Assuming a murder occurred at the book group session; Hazel, her sometimes much more than just a friend retired RPD homicide detective Vince Castelli and her cousin Lucy Hooper look into the victim’s past seeking who loathed the recently dearly departed Carlene.

The first Book Group mystery is a pleasant amateur sleuth though a scorecard as to who belongs with whom at that moment would be helpful (this group gets around).  Witty Hazel is a tremendous lead who deftly keeps the storyline focused even with a myriad of supporting characters.  Murder At The Book Group is a delightful cozy in which the audience will want more investigations starring Hazel and her bookish cohorts.

Harriet Klausner

Dogwood Hill-Sherryl Woods

Dogwood Hill
Sherryl Woods
Mira, Dec 30 2014, $8.99
ISBN: 9780778317326

Retired due to a knee injury from the NFL at twenty-eight, former star quarterback Aidan Mitchell arrives in Chesapeake Shores allegedly to interview for the high school coaching job.  He meets Archie the dog whose owner Widow Liz March apologizes for her dog’s boisterous, friendly greeting. 

Led by the extended O’Brien family, the New Yorker feels welcome, but overwhelmed as it was always his late mom and him only.  He also conceals from everyone his real reason for coming to the Maryland community.  Aidan wants to meet his biological father Thomas O’Brien.  His Uncle Mick offers him a five year coaching contract, but Aiden hesitates, as he is unsure whether he could be near his “family” for that length of time.  Instead he counters with a one year deal and a four year option to take over a team with a several years losing streak.  As he works with his new team, Aidan must deal with a player’s demanding father, his O’Brien secret, and his feelings for Liz; who after being burned by her husband, reluctantly reciprocates.

The twelfth Chesapeake Shores (see The Christmas Bouquet and A Seaside Christmas) is a warm family drama starring two engaging leads struggling with respective overflowing plates made much more complex by their love for each other and further compounded by trust issues.  Series fans will relish this feel good contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Things Half In Shadow-Alan Finn

Things Half In Shadow
Alan Finn
Gallery Books, Dec 30 2014, $16.00
ISBN: 9781476761725

The Civil War ended four years ago, but the residents of Philadelphia, like most of the country, still mourn their dead and the streets contain veterans who came home with visible injuries that can never heal and mental traumas no one understands.  Philadelphia Evening Bulletin crime reporter Edward Clark finds little things like the city’s fog reminding him of the horror of gun smoke he witnessed as a soldier at Antietam.  He also suffers from an older trauma; when he was ten Edward watched in revulsion his father Magellan Holmes the magician murder his mother. 

Clark’s current assignment is to look into amoral avarice fakes taking advantage of those grieving their losses by offering a last chance to communicate with their dearly departed.  Reluctantly he looks into the spiritualists that remind him of his parents.  His first exposé is single mom Widow Lucy Collins; but afterward the charlatan persuades him to let her join him on his task.  They attend a séance hosted by highly regarded medium Lenora Grimes Pastor, who appears genuine until in the middle of the session she dies.  Lucy and Edward investigate her death in which they and other attendees are suspects, and the only one besides the killer who can tell the truth is the victim.

Though ostensibly a Reconstruction Era whodunit, Things Half in Shadows is much more; as Alan Finn also interweaves a seemingly ghost tale with incredible historical detail especially focusing on the mourners and the damaged vets that make this very timely.  The cast is fully developed with many, including the protagonists and the dead medium, concealing secrets.  Though readers will figure out early on what is going on, this is a superb read.

Harriet Klausner

Vanished-Elizabeth Heiter

Elizabeth Heiter
Mira, Dec 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780778317388

Almost two decades have passed since someone kidnapped Evelyn Baine’s twelve years old BFF Cassie Byers.  The case to include two other similar abductions from apparently the same culprit dubbed the Nursery Rhyme Killer remains unsolved; but also motivated Evelyn into becoming a profiler (see Hunted).

In the present at the Aquia, Virginia FBI Behavior Analysis Unit where Evelyn works, Cassie’s mom Julie calls her not with the news they found her daughter’s corpse, but that the Nursery Rhyme Killer has returned to Rose Bay, South Carolina snatching Brittany Douglas.  Evelyn pleads with her boss to let her join the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team already at the scene as she insists she would be the best profiler for this case.  While he fears a conflict of interest he sends her knowing Evelyn will go home anyway.  Local police officer Jack Bullock objects to Evelyn’s presence as her name is on the rhyme left behind during the Cassie kidnapping, but Chief Tomas accepts her as a motivated asset.  As she begins her profile, Evelyn knows this may be her last case if solved her life mission is over and if not she is dead.

The second Profiler police procedural is a tense psychological mystery in which the heroine’s connection to one of the cold case kidnappings adds a personal spin that thaws her previous tundra personality.  The hunt for the missing child running out of time makes for a compelling read; even as nothing new is added to the profiling of the Criminal Minds serial killer theme.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 26, 2014

Broken Bonds-Karen Harper

Broken Bonds
Karen Harper
Mira, Dec 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780778317357

Despite the Lockwood sisters’ harrowing childhood memories of the youngest sibling’s abduction and their father’s desertion, the middle one Kathryn the anthropologist (see Forbidden Ground) and Tess (see Shattered Secrets) found love and happiness in Cold Creek, Ohio.  The two younger siblings would like the oldest Charlene the social worker to move on like they have.

The Childhood Education in Appalachia Project employs Charlene.  She visits families in their homes in order to persuade the parents to send their kids to school.  On a remote mountain road, Charlene saves the life of Lake Azur community manager Matt Rowan just before his truck plunges off the road.  Since his vehicle was pushed off the cliff by a black truck, Charlene and Matt wonder who wants him dead.  As they team up investigating his near death, the couple falls in love.

The third and final Lockwood sister Cold Creek thriller is an enjoyable romantic suspense as there are several viable suspects with diverse motives and the love subplot supports the terse inquiry.  The deep look at fracking enriches the sensational spinning storyline. 

Harriet Klausner

Hush Karen-Robards

Karen Robards
Gallery Books, Dec 30 2014, $26.00
ISBN: 9781476766584

FBI Agent Finn Bradley breaks into the dark Houston mansion seeking Jeff Cowan, son of disgraced and imprisoned financier George, who scammed billions from his customers.  Instead of confronting Jeff, Finn sees his still warm body hanging in what looks like a suicide.  He also finds Jeff’s separated wife Riley at the scene.

Riley explains to the Fed that Jeff feared for his safety and that of his family after several of his dad’s associates “accidently” died at a time when irate volatile clients demand their money returned immediately; but he also failed to name names.  HPD rules suicide, but Riley believes otherwise as she concludes her teenage sister-in-law Emma and her mother-in-law Margaret remain worthwhile targets of violent scammed investors who demand George reveal where he hid the loot.  Finn and his partner trail Riley hoping she leads them to the missing money.  Thus he intercedes when mobsters assault Riley.  Neither trusts the other, but their misgivings are made worse by their attraction even as the irate adversary snatch Emma to force George to talk.

Hush is a tremendous romantic suspense starring two refreshing beloved enemies who spend much of the thrilling storyline lying or concealing the truth.  The fresh relationship between Riley and Finn make for an intriguing romantic subplot that enhances the prime suspenseful storyline of keeping safe the Cowan women while locating those responsible for the attacks on them.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Unchained-Caris Roane

Caris Roane
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Nov 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250035318

Marius the vampire fears his father Daniel for good reason as the latter will do anything to achieve his objective of ruling their species and the inferior humans.  This ruthless vampire would maim and kill anyone after torturing them including his five children, especially the three rebelling against him (see Chains Of Darkness and Born In Chains for the stories of two of the siblings).  Daniel’s minion and Marius vie for control of a gizmo that can kill vampires. 

Though he cannot perceive how a member of the lesser race is his only chance at success, Marius knows he needs the assistance of archeology grad student Shayna Prentiss.  When his father’s thugs accost Shayna, Marius intercedes by kidnapping her and taking her to his secret hideout.  Stunned by the extraordinary skills of her savior and her wannabe abductees, Shaya is further astonished by her attraction to Marius as she never falls for “living” males; her preference being the dead of ancient civilizations.  However her amazement is much less than that of her host who cannot believe how much he desires a lowly mortal.  Bound by their blood chain and in love, Shaya embraces the vampire culture with a thirst to know more; while Marius fears what will happen to his beloved once she enters the combat against his deadly dad.

The third and final Dark Men in Chains romantic fantasy is a thrilling climax to a pleasant two cultures colliding trilogy.  Although the initial lead pair in love (beyond saving the world) seems too abrupt, Caris Roane writes an appealing tale that has the audience rooting for this enchanting couple.

Harriet Klausner

Together Again-Debbie Macomber

Together Again
Debbie Macomber
Mira, Dec 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778315148

“The Trouble With Caasi.”  In downtown Portland, the CEO of the Empress Hotel Caasi Crane is stunned when her incredibly competent general manager Blake Sherrill resigns just a few months after a generous raise.  At their meeting just after she read his stunning resignation letter, Blake cynically informs her he has no job other offer and he finally got her attention as he prepares to depart.  As Caasi begins to learn about Blake’s non-hotel life after eight years in close proximity, she also realizes why she is miserable since he quit and that has nothing to do with work especially after he kisses her.  She loves this man about to hike out of her life.

“Reflections of Yesterday.”  A dozen years ago in Groves Point, South Carolina, teenagers Simon Canfield and Angie Robinson were in love.  However, his affluent family bribed her father to leave town with his daughter.  Angie refused until she saw Simon with someone from his upper class.  Knowing she is not his social equal, Angie and her family leave town with the Canfield money.  Almost thirty, Angie owns a successful florist, but feels a deep need to pay back the blood money.  Back in Groves Point, Angie and Simon see one another for the first time since they were seventeen.  Each realizes their love remains as strong as ever, but he acrimoniously rejects her overtures as her betrayal has hardened his heart.

These mid 1980s reprints are pleasant last chance contemporary romances.  The Trouble With Caasi is refreshing as the lead female is clueless re non business male relationships; while engaging Reflections of Yesterday is typical of the subgenre.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Never Trust A Cowboy-Kathleen Eagle

Never Trust A Cowboy
Kathleen Eagle
Harlequin Special Edition, Dec 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658596

In Short Straw, South Dakota, undercover “ace” Delano Fox obtains a position working directly for Brad Benson, stepson of the Flynn Ranch owner Frank Flynn.  As Brad sleeps off the night before in his truck, Del arrives at the spread where he meets Frank’s daughter Lila, who while recovering from an injury lives apart from her dad and his second family and also runs a daycare on the ranch. 

Del and Lila are attracted to each other from their first encounter.  However, Del believes sassy Lila will ignore his part in Brad’s arrest when that occurs; but also knows that when his beloved learns the truth about his reason for being at her family ranch and his background, she will lose her trust in him.  Still Del must complete his assignment and pray he still has his woman afterward.

Aptly titled, this South Dakota ranch romance contains a strong twisting storyline and a solid cast in a vivid Badlands setting.  Readers will enjoy visiting the Mount Rushmore State with delectable Del and likable Lila as our guides.

Harriet Klausner

Mine To Take -Jackie Ashenden

Mine To Take
Jackie Ashenden
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Nov 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250051769

The result of a rape, Gabriel Woolf lives for one thing only; destroy the SOB who violently assaulted his mom and anyone even the innocent who stands in the way of his achieving his objective.  Ruthlessly stomping through people, Gabe joins the Nine Circles billionaire club whose members are his nearest thing to friendship.

Thanks in part to Eva, a Nine Circles’ associate, Gabe’s plan to complete his life goal of vengeance vowed at his recently deceased mom’s deathbed takes a giant step towards fruition.  He offers to invest in his biological father Guy Tremain’s financially troubled hotel chain with one stipulation that his target’s stepdaughter investment broker Honor St. James escorts him at an affluent lodge.  When he tries to bully Honor; unlike so many before her who cravenly backed down she stands up to him.  Stunned by her strength and her by a feeling of connecting lost souls, Gabe and Honor begin an affair that both want but fear will take them to uncharted undesirable territory; neither anticipated how strong their need grows nor how convoluted Guy’s byzantine maze proves to be.

The opening act of the Nine Circles romance is a taut drama that stars two captivating leads.  Believing he belongs in Dante’s hell, Gabe is an intriguing avenger whose attraction to Honor brings unwanted feelings of love and guilt that he prefers to ignore before they implode his scheme.  Honor has deep issues too re loss, but remains resolutely in love while doubting a HEA will happen. 

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Marshal-Adrienne Giordano

The Marshal
Adrienne Giordano
Harlequin Intrigue, Dec 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698103

Diligent when he is on the job protecting government officials in danger from nut cases, Deputy US Marshal Brent Thompson obsessively uses his limited downtime seeking clues to the over two decades old murder of his mother to give to the Carlisle Sheriff’s Department.  He knows that homicide shaped him, but also believes he and his sister moved on due to strong family support led by his maternal aunt.  At a gala he attends in Chicago as a guest honoring a former client octogenarian Judge Kline, Gerald and Pamela Hennings, parents of another of Brent’s protected person defense attorney Penny who learns of the murder of Brent’s mother.

Hennings and Solomon (see The Prosecutor) law partner Gerald assigns his investigator (and former Miss Illinois runner-up) Jenna Hayward to work the Thompson cold case.  FBI Special Agent Russ Voight (see The Defender) assists them.  As they follow leads, Jenna and Brent are attracted to each other, but try to remain professionally focused.

The Marshal is an entertaining romantic intrigue that starts extremely slow but once the cast is set and the good guys teamed up, the storyline accelerates into a rousing suspense.  Brent is a captivating character who believes he moved passed his mom’s murder until he meets Jenna and realizes he flees from commitments.  Jenna starts off believing her twin peaks and looks make her an excellent sleuth, but learns her brain is more vital to her success.  Adrienne Giordano provides an absorbing twisting murder mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Wound Up-Kelli Ireland

Wound Up
Kelli Ireland
Harlequin Blaze, Dec 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798322

In Seattle, Beaux Hommes stripper Justin Maxwell knows tonight is his last performance having just received his doctorate in psychology though he has eighty more hours of practicum to complete.  In the audience on his farewell show is his former student Grace Cooper.  Justin has wanted her for years, but controlled his desire as he accepted that would have been immoral; but joyfully realizes not anymore.

After his final act aimed as if she was his only person in attendance, Justin and Grace leave together.  However, in spite of the best night of their respective lives, Grace the intern relocates to Baltimore in two weeks.  Both reluctantly accept their relationship has no future but things turn worse when they learn each volunteers at the not-for-profit Second Chances helping disadvantaged youths; particularly since Justin mishandles what this means after their one niter.  Still as they work together, the attraction turns into love but their attitudes re Second Chances remain a major schism.

The second Pleasure Before Business blazing romance (see Stripped Down) is a heated tale starring protagonists with youth traumas that shaped their respective adult lives.  An exciting relevant suspense subplot distracts from the prime theme of whether this couple in love can find the emotional fortitude to commit to a long term relationship; with readers cheering for them to make it.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Seducing the Marine Kate Hoffmannr

Seducing the Marine
Kate Hoffmann
Harlequin Blaze, Dec 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798315

As Marine Staff Sergeant Will MacIntyre works on deactivating an IED in Afghanistan, he thinks of his high school and college sweetheart back in Michigan’s Upper Peninsular.  While he dropped out of school to join the military to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, she became Dr. Olivia Eklund.  When he steps on another explosive, Will is sent flying; severely injured his last words before becoming unconscious is his former Yooper girlfriend’s name.

As he hides in his grandfather’s remote cabin near Calumet while on medical leave, Will, missing his appointment with the VA doctor, ignores his health yet still hopes eventually to return to his unit.  When he runs into his Liv, Will knows she will always be his one, but she never understood his joining the military as accentuated by her Dear Will letter four months into his military career.  Unable to resist he kisses her.  However when a seven years old hockey player breaks a wrist during a game, Will helps distract him while Liv works on his injury.  Unable to resist, they renew their love and he starts taking care of himself.  Still his being in the military remains an obstacle to a long-term commitment.

This profound Uniformly Hot! military romance focuses on the problems that even loving couples confront when one of them is away on long term deployments; ironically in this plot the hero is home but both anticipate his return to theater.  With a deep support cast and terrific protagonists, Kate Hoffmann authors an insightful look at a military-civilian relationship.

Harriet Klausner

Mountain Retreat-Cassie Miles

Mountain Retreat
Cassie Miles
Harlequin Intrigue, Dec 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698073

Six months and four days ago U.S. Marine Nick Corelli disappeared inside the South American dictatorship, Tiquanna.  In Austin his worried fiancée Sidney Parker keeps her eidetic memory from torturing her 24/7 by working nights at the Silver Star Saloon where she can recall specific orders from even 12 customers.  Her day job at Texas Tritan led to her meeting Tiquanna dictator Tomas Hurtado three years ago. 

During her ordeal, sixteen times CIA or military Intel have interrogated Sidney, but offer little info re her Nick.  This time the CIA Special Agent-in-Charge Victoria Hawthorne informs her that Hurtado and his wife Elena will be in Austin next week.  After his superior leaves, Special Agent Sean Phillips tells Sidney to leave the room and run to her left; there she finds Nick who looks at her from the eyes of a stranger.  With Nick still undercover, Sidney is placed in a safe house.  When that is breached Nick takes his beloved to a Mountain Retreat, but the persistent seemingly in the know enemy pursues them.

The key to this exhilarating romantic intrigue is the heroine who proves she has the right stuff under lethal conditions.  Filled with action as the protagonists know the mission is staying alive especially since their unknown adversary anticipates their movements in this thrilling suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Party Starts At Midnight-Lucy King

The Party Starts At Midnight
Lucy King
Harlequin KISS, Dec 1 2014, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373179114

Before he gives a speech about their company at a holiday gala at the South Bank Hotel in London, client Jake sends his events planner Abby to the penthouse searching for his missing in action brother Leo.  She finds him sprawled out sleeping on the floor of the bathroom.  Abby awakens the exhausted and somewhat intoxicated hunk; who due to her drill sergeant efforts manages to attend the party.

Abby and Leo are attracted to each other, so as she cleans up after the celebration ends he persuades her to share what’s left of an all-niter with him.  That tryst leads to an email relationship.  As both of them fall in love, she dreams of marriage while he suffers from commitment phobia having been hurt before.

This is a refreshing long distance information age romance between two pleasant independent protagonists.  The email courtship engages the audience; as the heroine knows he’s the one, while her champion wants to delete it but cannot do so.

Harriet Klausner

Starting With June-Emilie Rose

Starting With June
Emilie Rose
Harlequin SuperRomance, Dec 1 2014, $6.75
ISBN: 9780373608874

At Quantico, due to his depth perception failing him U.S. Marine Sam Rivers receives the depressing news of a medical discharge ending his military career.  On his mind is thirty one and washed up.  Waiting in the parking lot for him is his buddy and former marine sniper peer Roth Sterling (see A Better Man) who needs his help.  Four months ago, Chief of Police Roth arrested and fired his dirty senior deputy, but believes there are more corrupt cops on his Quincey, North Carolina force.  He hires Sam to go undercover to recon which cops are breaking the law.

Sam teams up with police officer June Jones, but conceals from his partner why he came to Quincey.  Attracted to each other, he refuses to acknowledge his heart though he wants June.  Instead Sam remains steadfast to his goal to leave the “armpit of the world” and return to active duty once he completes the mission and gets his perception back; only his perception has changed.  June assumes the men she loves, like her hypercritical father and her denying partner, find something lacking in her.   

The third Quincey contemporary is an engaging police force romance in which Sam’s attitude and his assignment seem to doom their relationship.  Sam and Roth appear too similar in personality although one can argue they fit the profile of a successful military sniper.  With a nod to Rookie Blue (hopefully this coupling finds a way to stay together rather than hop around), readers will appreciate this tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 15, 2014

Forgiving Maximo Rothman-A. J. Sidransky

Forgiving Maximo Rothman
A. J. Sidransky
Berwick Court Publishing, Apr 16 2013, $16.95
ISBN: 9780988954007

In 2005 caregiver Marie Leguenza enters nonagenarian Jewish immigrant Max Redmond’s apartment in 195 Bennett Avenue.  Instead of the usual greeting from the frail senior when she delivers his favorite Dominican food rather than the strict kosher of his daughter-in-law Rachel that he hates; she finds his battered body. 

NYPD Detective Anatoly Kurchenko leads the investigation.  Kurchenko notices Max’s Orthodox son Shalom Rothman (nee Steven Redmond) and Rachel seem indifferent to the family patriarch’s death as they focus on HaShem and their autistic son Baruch’s participation; refusing even to ride in a car to the hospital on a Jewish holy day.  Tolya questions Dominican youngster Carlos Pabon who visits Max twice a week as part of his probation.  On his last visit to Max, the old man advised Carlos re his absentee father that "life is too short to make enemies of those we love" though Redmond never forgave God for the Holocaust.  The detective reads Max’s four decades of diaries seeking clues; but finds himself fascinated by Max’s journey from Nazi Germany to the Jewish town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic and finally upper Manhattan.  This leads him to reflect on his estranged dad’s escape from Soviet Russia, the deaths of his sibling and mother, and their lapsed Judaism. 

This is an excellent twisting historical that uses a police investigation as a springboard to explore six plus decades of Judaism with a focus on the good in the 1940s Dominican Republic and the 2005 cross culture reach out in Washington Heights, and the ugly of the Holocaust and 1970s Soviet Russia.  This profound novel contains a fully developed cast and fascinating rotating subplots.

Harriet Klausner

Forgiving Maximo Rothman-A. J. Sidransky

Forgiving Maximo Rothman
A. J. Sidransky
Berwick Court Publishing, Apr 16 2013, $16.95
ISBN: 9780988954007

In 2005 caregiver Marie Leguenza enters nonagenarian Jewish immigrant Max Redmond’s apartment in 195 Bennett Avenue.  Instead of the usual greeting from the frail senior when she delivers his favorite Dominican food rather than the strict kosher of his daughter-in-law Rachel that he hates; she finds his battered body. 

NYPD Detective Anatoly Kurchenko leads the investigation.  Kurchenko notices Max’s Orthodox son Shalom Rothman (nee Steven Redmond) and Rachel seem indifferent to the family patriarch’s death as they focus on HaShem and their autistic son Baruch’s participation; refusing even to ride in a car to the hospital on a Jewish holy day.  Tolya questions Dominican youngster Carlos Pabon who visits Max twice a week as part of his probation.  On his last visit to Max, the old man advised Carlos re his absentee father that "life is too short to make enemies of those we love" though Redmond never forgave God for the Holocaust.  The detective reads Max’s four decades of diaries seeking clues; but finds himself fascinated by Max’s journey from Nazi Germany to the Jewish town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic and finally upper Manhattan.  This leads him to reflect on his estranged dad’s escape from Soviet Russia, the deaths of his sibling and mother, and their lapsed Judaism. 

This is an excellent twisting historical that uses a police investigation as a springboard to explore six plus decades of Judaism with a focus on the good in the 1940s Dominican Republic and the 2005 cross culture reach out in Washington Heights, and the ugly of the Holocaust and 1970s Soviet Russia.  This profound novel contains a fully developed cast and fascinating rotating subplots.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Collision-Mercedes Lackey


Mercedes Lackey, Cody Martin, Dennis Lee and Veronica Giguere

Baen, Dec 2 2014, $25.00

ISBN: 9781476736914


Though they won a major victory when they devastated their enemy’s headquarters in North America, the forces of ECHO and CCCP have no time to celebrate as their Thulian foes remain formidable.  Led from their hidden world headquarters, the Thulian armies conduct world-wide guerilla sorties while preparing for a major synchronized invasion of Echo’s prime command and control locales.   


ECHO warriors feel the strains of war.  Belladonna Blue the Healer struggles with PTSD doubts after becoming the head of the organization with the weight of knowing she deploys her metahuman friends, many of them to their deaths.  Her other mission seems much more impossible but less personal as she needs to persuade the bickering world armies to follow ECHO in combat when they locate and invade the Thulian Headquarters to cut off its head.  At the same time Red Saviour breaks protocol with a dangerous deployment of her CCCP wolves.  Meanwhile Sera is heartbroken after sacrificing everything to save John Murdock; as he lives but suffers from amnesia re her, ECHO and Thulian leading to new hope for Dominic Verdigris. 


The fourth Secret World Chronicle (see Invasion, World Divided and Revolution) is a thrilling superhero vs. supervillain military science fiction that starts off very slowly, but accelerates into hyperspeed reaching a crescendo with a terrific climax.  Filled with plenty of combat, fans (especially of Bella, Sera and John) will appreciate this rousing entry.


Harriet Klausner

The Convert's Song-Sebastian Rotella

The Convert's Song

Sebastian Rotella

Mulholland Books/Little, Brown, Dec 9 2014, $26.00

ISBN: 9780316324694


Having worked the dangerous crossing between San Diego and Tijuana as a U.S. Border Patrol field operative (see Triple Crossing) Valentine Pescatore quit to begin a less harrowing job as a private investigator in Buenos Aires.  To Pescatore’s delightful surprise, he meets his at one time BFF Raymond Mercer the singer who he has not seen in a decade since their teen years in Chicago.  Shocking the P.I. is his buddy cleaned up his act when he became a Muslim.


Not long afterward, terrorists kill hundreds at the El Amacen mall in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood.  The Buenos Aires police suspect Mercer and Pescatore were the keys behind the highly complex assault.  While Mercer has vanished, Pescatore teams up with French agent Fatima Belhaj in pursuit that eventually leads to Western Europe.


The second Pescatore intrigue is a great action-packed suspense that entertains throughout yet also enables the audience to better understand the diverse variety of terrorists and their overall impact on international relations and politics.  Fast-paced from the moment Mercer says hi to the final confrontation yet filled with graveyard humor and musicology in which both enrich the outstanding storyline, The Convert’s Song will be on the short lists as a top five espionage thriller of 2014.


Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 12, 2014

A League Of Her Own-Karen Rock-

A League Of Her Own
Karen Rock
Harlequin Heartwarming, Dec 1 2014, $6.50
ISBN: 9780373367030

Former twice collegiate softball player of the year, Heather Gadway coaches the Morro Bay University team.  Her demanding dad Dave calls her, but she ignores him to focus on the team’s pitcher though she expects a lecture once she calls him back.  Dr. Freeman informs her that her dad had a heart attack and is about to undergo surgery.  Heather returns home to be there for her father and to manage his minor league team the Holly Springs Falcons though he does not believe she is capable of doing the job.

Recovering alcoholic Garrett Wolf knows the Falcons especially Dave Garrett took a chance by signing him at twenty-seven and three years out of baseball, but the team’s survival was shaky before the owner’s emergency surgery.  Fearing his career will be over if Dave fails to return, Garrett likes the small southern town lifestyle after being out of control in nearby Atlanta.  When Heather meets her players they all share doubts about a female softball superstar managing their team.  However, she and Garrett are attracted to each other, but both know a romantic entanglement could kill their respective goals to make it in baseball.

A League Of Her Own is a Heartwarming baseball romance starring a former superstar with a bone marrow need to prove her worthy to her dad and a recovering alcoholic with a bone marrow need to prove him worthy to play in the Majors.  A fast-paced nine innings, Karen Rock authors a lively pitchers’ duel.

Harriet Klausner

The Fortress in Orion (Dead Enders)-Mike Resnick

The Fortress in Orion (Dead Enders)
Mike Resnick
Pyr, Dec 2 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616149901

Democracy covert operative Colonel Nathan Pretorius awakens in a hospital recovering from a near death experience when General Wilbur Cooper arrives.  Nathan recognizes Cooper as the SOB who sends him on dangerous missions like the one on Bendaris IV that left him visiting the Other Side of life and the need for new body parts.  .

Ignoring Pretorius’ insistence to leave him on pension, Cooper assigns his top field agent with his latest impossible target that he insists is the Big One game changer.  Introduced to the clone of the Traanskei Coalition Kabori General Michkag, Pretorius learns what his superior officer expects him to accomplish.  He and a small, eclectic team will capture or assassinate the original Michkag and replace him with their lab replica while the alien military leader attends a meeting in an underground fortress on Orion.  Pretorius honestly explains to those he wants on his squad that the pay stinks and the odds of survival are 7% and dropping with each new info.  Still Pretorius, Felix Ortega the strongman more machine than man, Sally “Snake” Kowalski the contortionist convict, Toni “Pandora” Levy the hacker-locksmith, Circe the emotion reader, the clone and Kabori defector Djibmet begin the suicide mission by stopping at a whorehouse on McPherson’s World to add a mental shapeshifter and a Madam.

The first Dead Enders science fiction starts a new exciting series in the Birthright universe (see The Starship and Jake Masters sagas).  Though the action is somewhat muted as the first half of the novel introduces the readers to the unique team, The Fortress in Orion remains an enjoyable outer space adventure.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Universal Alien-Gini Koch

Universal Alien
Gini Koch
Daw, Dec 2 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409302

In less than five years, Kitty Katt-Martini has come a long way from being an Arizona marketing manager, but nothing compared to her husband Jeff the alien from Alpha Four in the Alpha Centauri system and now Vice President of the United States.  However, you may take the girl out of Arizona, but not Arizona out of the girl; as Kitty cannot hide her boredom with many of the Second Lady social functions such as her ennui while attending a cricket match in Australia.  Insulting the host country and causing havoc for the Secret Service, Kitty decides to leave; but ungracefully falls and bangs her head.

When she regains consciousness, a confused Kitty finds she is the solo alien and married with children to her “handler” Chuckie Reynolds; and that the Alpha Centauri entourage including Jeff Martini never came to earth.  At the same time another Kitty resides amidst aliens.  In both worlds, each Kitty must confront the Mastermind if she is to return home to her Jeff on her earth.

The tenth Alien science fiction (see Alien In The House and Alien Research) is a madcap what if thriller in which the heroine gets a double taste of what could have been (think of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life).  As always frantically-paced and jocular, Universal Alien is a lively over the top of Mount Kosciuszko entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Million-Dollar Question-Kimberley Lang

The Million-Dollar Question
Kimberley Lang
Harlequin KISS, Dec 1 2014, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373179121

Evan Lawford regrets how he treated Olivia Madison back in college though he struggled with what he did as he never wanted to hurt her, her kind parents or her brother Jory his roommate.  A successful businessman Evan and ballerina Olivia meet for the first time since he abruptly ended their one-night stand relationship breaking her heart (and secretly his).

Evan knows he still wants Olivia; and to her chagrin, though she lectures herself to ignore him, she remains attracted to the rat that hurt her.  As they begin round two with no idea where it will go, Olivia conceals from Jeff why she wanted to see him in the first place; fearing how he will react if he knew funding her art comes before her thumping heart.  Meanwhile Jeff deals once again between loving Olivia and loving her caring family who he does not want to hurt as they treated him as one of them unlike his biological family.

This is a pleasurable second chance at love romance starring two fascinating leads in love although Evan’s rationale for rejecting his beloved shows how ethical he is but also seems foolish.  Still The Million-Dollar Question is a warm contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

High Stakes: A Jack Doyle Mystery-John McEvoy

High Stakes: A Jack Doyle Mystery
John McEvoy
Poisoned Pen, Dec 2 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202766

FBI Agents Damon Tirabassi and Karen Engel contact former Chicago Golden Gloves champ Jack Doyle to help them with another case involving murdered race horses (see Blind Switch for their previous collaboration).  At Jack’s favorite greasy spoon, the Feds explain that retired horses are frequently given to veterinary schools; however an unknown fanatic vehemently opposed to the practice has performed several mercy killings.  They want Doyle to seek clues among his racing cronies at the track.

Just after their breakfast meeting, Doyle travels to Dublin to attend an award ceremony honoring his friend jockey Mickey Sheehan.  While still in Ireland, a frightened Sheila Hanratty informs Doyle that her husband Niall the bookmaker has suffered several questionable accidents; suspecting foul play, Jack investigates. Back in the States, affluent jailed convict Harvey Rexroth (see Blind Switch) seeks “justice” against the man who assisted the Feds in sending him up river.

The fifth Jack Doyle turf mystery (see Photo Finish, Close Call and The Significant Seven) is a terrific thriller with a strong trifecta of subplots enhanced by appealing horse racing tales.  If you don’t know Jack you are missing a treat summed up on the first page when the felon muses: “the lock had been easier to pick than Secretariat in a Fantasy League Race.”

Harriet Klausner

Southern Comforts-Nan Dixon

Southern Comforts
Nan Dixon
Harlequin SuperRomance, Dec 1 2014, $6.75
ISBN: 9780373608911

Mamie Fitzgerald converted historical Fitzgerald House into a B&B in Savannah in 1998.  She created rules for her three daughters (Abigail, Bess and Dolley) to manage the establishment.  Her oldest offspring Abby wants to be a chef, but delays her dream because time and money are needed to renovate the B&B. 

When Mr. Fantasy arrives, Abbey thinks hunk until she hears him scornfully lecture someone over his cell phone and muses cranky hunk while reminding herself of Mama’s Rule #1: “The guests are always right, even when they are wrong.”  However, when a child wants to catch a “rainbow”, he gives him a lift and changes Abbey’s opinion to huggable hunk.  Developer Grayson Smythe informs her he has reservations to stay in the Kennedy Suite for six months.  Over the next few weeks, she witnesses his kindness towards a single mom new employee and her child; and soon the guest and the innkeeper share meals together in her kitchen breaking Mama’s Rule #2: “Absolutely never get involved with a guest.  It’s not well done.”  As they fall in love, his Yankee (hard to use the word Yankee for a Bostonian) background invades Georgia.

The first Fitzgerald Georgia Peach romance is a warm opening act with two fully-developed leads, a particularly strong support cast (including one involved in a suspenseful subplot that showcases Gray’s moral code) and the pragmatic fun Mama’s Rules; enhanced by Abigail’s new rules.  Klausner’s rule: this is a charming southern hospitality contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dreamwalker-C.S. Freidman

C.S. Freidman
Daw, Dec 2 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409647

In Manassas, Virginia Jessica Drake shares her vivid dreams of alien worlds only with her younger brother Tommy.  Her detail is so incredible, Tommy uses much of what she relates to him in internet gaming.  DNA testing stuns Jessica and her mom when the results prove she is not the offspring of either of her parents; while hospital birth footprints affirm these are her parents.

When Tommy texts his sister with “133 watchd”; concerned Jesse rushes home to learn a woman was looking at their family home.  Thinking he was exhausted from an all-nighter with gamers in Australia, an upset Jesse assumes his imagination is running wild again.  At school a woman wants to buy Jesse’s dream art “Stalker”.  On the net, Jesse joins a website for those who have conflicting proof as to whom their parents are.  From that site she meets Rita and Devon who warn her that at least eight members have recently died in accidents.  Jesse and her parents are safe from a house fire, but Tommy vanished.  Following information on his computer, Jesse and her new friends search for Tommy; but soon learn of a diabolical alien multi-worlds’ (including earth) operation.

With its strong underlying message to beware of superpower nation abuse and unwanted influential pressure on less fortunate people, Book One of the Dreamwalker Chronicles is an engaging young adult science fiction.  The audience will believe in the Friedman universe due mostly to the actions of the only fully developed character Jesse and some interesting alternate historical tidbits.  On the other hand the mysterious female watcher, the new buddies, the family and others are stereotypes used exclusively in support of the heroine.  Still this marvelous opening act will please readers.

Harriet Klausner