Archive for August, 2009

The Baby Album-Roz Denny Fox

August 31, 2009

The Baby Album

Roz Denny Fox

Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 2009, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373715862

In Round Rock, Texas her husband Dane abandons pregnant photographer Casey Sinclair.  She needs work so she applies at Wyatt Keene’s photography studio in Austin, but conceals her delicate condition as she assumes no one wants to hire someone who will go on maternity leave in a few months.  He tests her at a school and she does a great job so he hires her.

She soon learns that Wyatt’s wife died a year earlier due to an ectopic pregnancy.  Finding this out makes Casey feels guilty as she will soon reveal the truth and probably be sacked for concealing it.  As they fall in love, Casey notices how Wyatt is hesitant even before he finds out she is carrying.

This is a super second chance at love starring two individuals with differing personal issues from their previous relationships.  Casey still reels from abandonment while Wyatt grieves his loss.  Each is tentative about their attraction for good reason as she fears her heart would break if she takes a chance and he leaves while he unsure he can ever deal with a pregnancy.  Roz Denny Fox provides readers a wonderful contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

Here To Stay-Margot Early

August 31, 2009

Here To Stay

Margot Early

Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 2009, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373715893

Dog trainer Sissy Workman loves her husband Elijah but hid one truth from him for years out of fear he will leave.  Their first born is not his.  Sissy jilted someone else before marrying Elijah, but learned she was pregnant after they wed.

Now he knows he did not sire their oldest when the child needed a transfusion and his blood type is unacceptable.  He is outraged for several reasons including the omission she kept from him and he wonders what else she concealed.  As their anniversary comes up, Sissy fears her failure will end their happy family as Elijah increasingly acts distant.

Using reverse engineering, Margot Early tells the back story of the relationship between Sissy and Elijah and to a lesser degree their children.  Thus the story line is character driven as Elijah struggles with what he believes is a betrayal of their trust while he and his spouse look back over their time together.  Although the technique adds freshness, the use slows down the present day plot of vying for the Westminster Dog Show or fleeing to lick his wounds.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Their Son-Debra Salonen

August 31, 2009

Finding Their Son

Debra Salonen

Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 2009, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373715886

His Lakota uncle sent Eli Robideaux to go out and find himself by completing Hanblecheyapi.  Instead he arrives at Char Jones’ Native American shop without a penny to his name.  Desperate, he tries to rob her so he can go home, but fails at the attempt when she recognizes him as her high school boyfriend.

When Eli learns he left Char pregnant, he feels chagrin and remorse.  He wants to find the child she gave up for adoption and persuades Char to accompany him on the search for their son.  On the trek to California, they fall in love, but she fears he will desert her again.

This fine second chance contemporary romance stars a suspicious Entrepreneur and a young man struggling with his identity.  Eli and Char are a terrific pairing whose quest is FINDING THEIR SON.  Although the ending is too perfect even for the sub-genre, fans will enjoy the trek with this likable duo as guides.

Harriet Klausner

Cowboy Christmas-Mary Connealy

August 31, 2009

Cowboy Christmas

Mary Connealy

Barbour, Sep 2009, $10.97

ISBN: 9781602601451

In 1879 in a mining camp in Missouri, Claude Leveque orders hymn singer Annette Talbot to perform in a revealing dress or watch her elderly friend Elva die.  Fearing the brute will beat Elva, Annie is shocked when her pianist gives her money for a one way ticket out of town saying she is dying from a bad heart.  Vowing to never forget her beloved friend, Annie heads to her widower father’s home in Ranger Bluff, Wyoming Territory; six years since she left him a bitter hardened man.

Elijah Walker still reels from the death of his Pa and the betrayal of his beloved Priscilla that destroyed the family ranch.  He vows to never trust a woman ever again.

Annie and Elijah meet on the stagecoach and each remembers knowing each other as children.  Although attracted to one another, he assumes a young woman traveling alone must be another Priscilla.  She thinks he is an obstinate yahoo.  As they fuss and fight they fall in love, but he seems incapable of getting past the haunting hardening of his heart.

COWBOY CHRISTMAS is a terrific western romance that grips the audience from the moment the vile Claude grips Annie’s blouse and unlike him never let’s go of the reader.  The lead couple is a wonderful pairing, but it is the strong cast even those who have short appearances make this tale work by bringing a sense of time and place to the plot.  Sub-genre fans will relish Mary Connealy’s super late nineteenth century romance (see MONTANA ROSE).

Harriet Klausner

Primitive-Mark Nykanen

August 31, 2009

Primitive

Mark Nykanen

Bell Bridge, Oct 2009, $16.95

ISBN: 9780982175644

Renowned model Sonya Adams has no prior notice of a shoot for the Frontier Ahead in Bozeman, Montana, but tells Chatwin Modeling Agency agent Jackson she will be there.  She is disappointed that her twenty-three years old obstinate, opinioned offspring Darcy failed to return her call, but that will not prevent her from catching the flight tonight from Denver tonight.  Still she feels a little better when she is able to take Darcy out for her birthday before catching the one-hour flight.

Sonya is abducted in the Bozeman airport and taken to an isolated area hours from the city.  The Council of Consensus survival group informs Sonya she has been found guilty by the Earth’s Court of Justice for championing “rampant consumption”.  They explain her choices are to die brutally or speak up against what she stood for as the cult possesses top secret proof that the feds lied about the timeline of global warming; which is yesterday.  The cult blows up a refinery to the shock of most Americans who consider them terrorists and uses Sonya as their spokesperson with authorities assuming she is a victim of the Stockholm syndrome.  Though they picture themselves as Malcolm X to Al Gore’s Martin Luther King, none of the Council factored in Darcy’s obstinacy; she is coming for her mom in spite of eco-terrorists, government, oil or Queen Katie Corwin preferring mother and daughter to come home in body bags.

This is an exciting gripping thriller that hooks the audience from the onset when Sonya is kidnapped and never slows down even when terrorists overdo the explanations.  The story line is fast-paced built off the premise that global warming is not a theory or in the future, but reality already beyond the point of return as the earth.  A profound cautionary tale, Mark Nykanen makes a strong argument that to save economies but not the earth seems like Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory with a touch of weak tea from Lewis Carroll’s Bread and butter fly dilemma.

Harriet Klausner

The Grave Thief-Tom Lloyd

August 31, 2009

The Grave Thief

Tom Lloyd

Pyr, Sep 22 2009, $16.00

ISBN 9781591027805

Humanity stunned the gods when they failed to cower, hide or bow to their superiors. Instead mankind had the audacity to fight.  Outraged and stunned especially since their pets are actually winning, the gods turned to a different gameplan.  They created the super Mortal-Aspects from the humans to serve as their warriors.

At Scree, Lord Isak, in spite of the visions of his death, led the Farlan to victory over the powerful shadow-god Azaer.  However the human noble knows that was a minor temporary setback for the shadow god and devastated much of Scree.  To the victors goes another battle as the bone weary Farlan must recruit rookies for the next fight; this time against Azaer and the well rested Menin while at the same time the Mortal Aspects are cutting a destructive path across the country.

Though the third tale of the Twilight Reign fantasy (see THE TWILIGHT HERALD and THE STORMCALLER), THE GRAVE THIEF feels more like a transitional middle book in a trilogy as nothing major ends.  Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action especially with the heroic efforts of Isak trying to get his exhausted force in pitch battle berserker frenzy.  Fans will enjoy the latest entry, but also lament nothing closes.

Harriet Klausner

Dawnthief-James Barclay

August 31, 2009

Dawnthief

James Barclay

PYR, Sep 22 2009, $16.00

ISBN: 9781591027799

The war has devastated much of the Kingdom of Balaia.  In that realm the Raven magnificent seven mercenaries are known for always getting the job done.  These thieves know the key to their success is the six humans and one elf trust their respective back with one another.

They are rejoicing over another successful endeavor when their next assignment runs into them.  The Wytch-Lords are on the verge of escaping their incarceration due to the stealing of an amulet that is critical to the Dawnthief spell which has imprisoned the arrogant demi-god mages.  The Xetsek College of Magic demands they escort senior mage Denser, who insists he works for the gods, on a quest to retrieve the Dawnthief. The Raven seven mistrust any of the four colleges of magic whose mages would destroy their own kind for power as much as they have doubts about anyone who claims the Gods employ them.  Still saving the planet from the return of the Wytch-Lords, if true, is more critical than worrying about their untrustworthy new allies for they each know they have “Raven”.

This is a terrific opening quest fantasy filled with fast-paced action and the belief that the mages have power and dragons exist.  The use of the “Raven” to help the five warriors, one berserker warrior and an elven mage through difficult situations like when Hirard is trapped by a Dragon is a fantasy equivalent to the Three Musketeers.  Although the cast is somewhat stereotyped out of the Tolkien 101 handbook; for instance with aging mercenaries considering retirement and all powerful mages causing collateral consequences that leave a world teetering, no one will care as James Barclay’s opening entry bodes well for a powerful saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Quiet War-Paul McAuley

August 31, 2009

The Quiet War

Paul McAuley

PYR, Sep 22 2009, $16.00

ISBN: 9781591027812

The Brazilian cargo ship dropped off bio-engineer Macy Minnot at Rainbow City on the Jupiter moon of Callisto.  She will work on creating a lake for the Callistan city as an act of friendship between Brazil and the Outer planets.  However, Macy realizes there are agents whose mission is to prevent the needed lake from being developed.  Her exposure of the nefarious scheme costs her immensely as she can never safely go home to earth and has become a target of espionage agents and psyops propagandists who label her a Quisling supporting the enemy.  There are many in Brazil and on the Outers that want war.  Those seeking an honest peaceful solution to the crisis like Mary are called traitors and harassed.  She is arrested on false charges but is freed on the Saturn moon Dione as war seems imminent.

Professor Doctor Sri Hong-Owen leads the efforts to save earth following the massive ecological meltdown caused by global warming.  Although not a member of the War Party, the scientist is allied with them.  Macy meanwhile tries to tell the truth about her world, but the war drummers control the media; few listen to her until she meets Avernus who created the ecology that led to the Outer developments.  Brazil sends its armada to conquer the Outers under a false charge while telling the masses this will be a cheap quiet war that will not touch them.

This is an exciting military science fiction that obviously parallels and thus makes a strong condemnation of the Bush invasion of Iraq while also providing a more even handed look at the debate between economic development and the ecology.  The story line has several other sub-plots though what happens to Macy and Sri are the prime focus of this excellent thriller.  Although the Outer communities seem off kilter for early settlements in hostile environs, sub-genre fans except for the Cheney crowd will enjoy Paul McAuley’s strong war in space saga.

Harriet Klausner

On The Bluffs-Steven Schindler

August 30, 2009

On The Bluffs

Steven Schindler

Elevated Press, Aug 2009, $14.95

ISBN: 9780966240818

Middle aged Brian DeLouise knows where he went wrong as his stomach protrudes and his hairline recedes.  His only fun is fantasy baseball as he has not had sex with his wife Frances in over two years; and for the most part when they did have sex over their two decades or so marriage it was perfunctory as neither brought any energy to the boudoir.  Frances has found pleasure in the arms of other men.

Frances asks for divorce claiming everything as her hers just when Brian prevents a mugger from robbing a couple at a time he also lost his job as Night Hawks producer.  Depressed he looks back to the most wonderful summer of his life.  The one just before he impregnated and married Frances, who lost the child she was carrying.  That summer on Cape Cod, Brian worked summer theater where he met and fell in love with Portia Smart. With nothing to hold him in the DC area, Brian decides to find the love of his life.

This is an entertaining character study of a man who married the wrong woman though he did it for a noble reason.  The story line starts a bit slow as the audience ponders why Brian stays married to a man-eater, but picks up considerably when he meets Portia and her daughter.  Although Frances is a stereotype who ends up with everything as Brian believes it is worth the cost to get her totally out of his life, fans will enjoy this fine second chance at love if Brian and Portia take that key risk of admitting their feelings especially with her daughter nay-saying him.

Harriet Klausner

After You-Julie Buxbaum

August 30, 2009

After You

Julie Buxbaum

Dial, Sep 1 2009, $25.00

ISBN: 9780385341240

Since the death of her baby, Bostonian Ellie Lerner has had nothing that turns her on.  Neither her marriage to Phillip nor her teaching position matters.  Her only tie to the living is Lucy Stafford who moved to England where she married Greg and has a child, Ellie’s goddaughter Sophie.

When Lucy is tragically murdered by a mugger, Ellie’s apparent last tie to life dies with her.  However, something whispers to Ellie to cross the Atlantic to be there for Sophie.  While Phillip is confused and Greg is hiding his grief with indifference, Ellie comes for the funeral but stays to take care of the hurting now mute eight years old Sophie who witnessed her mom’s death.  .

This is a well written contemporary tale starring realistic characters struggling with life after a tragedy.  Ellie is terrific as she finds a reason to live in the needs of Sophie whose father has abandoned her as if she mugged and killed his American wife.  Her nurturing Sophie through their nightly ritual of reading the Secret garden together brings to her solace that she had not previously found.  Whereas the two females forge a deep relationship that helps each move on somewhat beyond their respective trauma by regaining a sense of self, the two males in their live remain bewildered.  AFTER YOU is a strong character study that focuses on regaining one’s equilibrium after a tragedy has occurred.

Harriet Klausner