Archive for November, 2009

The Queen’s Dollmaker-Christine Trent

November 30, 2009

The Queen’s Dollmaker

Christine Trent

Kensington, Jan 1 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758238573

 

In 1781 Paris the fire destroyed her family home and shop.  Her parents died soon afterward.  Teenager Claudette Laurent leaves Paris with other fleeing females hoping to find work in England.  After a horrific employment with a shrew, Charlotte uses her dollmaking talent to open up a small shop in London

 

Over the next few years her dolls become prize possessions of the elite and knowledge of her talent crosses the Channel to Versailles where young Queen Marie Antoinette asks her to come home.  In France, Claudette reunites with her childhood boyfriend Jean-Philippe.  As the Revolution explodes, Claudette’s connection as the Queen’s Dollmaker places her in prison awaiting a date with Madame Guillotine if she fails to give testimony against Her Highness.

 

This is a terrific late eighteenth century saga that uses real persona to bring to life mostly Paris during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.  The two keys that refresh this delightful story line are the insightful look at dollmaking and collecting in the 1780s and a rather different view of the Queen who becomes a convenient scapegoat for the excessive of the Revolution.  Historical readers will appreciate this deep look at life in France during a period of turmoil.

 

Harriet Klausner

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Sexy as Hell-Susan Johnson

November 30, 2009

Sexy as Hell

Susan Johnson

Berkley, Jan 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425230206

 

In 1892, after winning at cards, Baron “Oz” Lennox rushes out to the Blackwood Hotel to meet Nell in a tryst before her spouse returns from Paris.  He enters the agreed upon room, but instead of a red-head he is greeted by a blonde who ignores him and turns to her barrister Mr. Malmsey to insure he will serve as a witness.

 

Thus Oz’s luck with the ladies has changed as he asks Isolde Perceval what she wants from him.  She calmly explains she wants her reputation ruined so she is not forced into an unwanted marriage.  Oz offers a different plan as he too would like to continue his wastrel ways without threats from the marriageable biddies.  They agree to marry with plans to divorce soon.  However, they prove quite compatible in and out of the boudoir.  When Isolde becomes pregnant, Oz leaves for London, but the rake finds no enjoyment without Isolde, who misses him too.  She follows him, but his many enemies see her as the heel’s Achilles’ heal.

 

Filled with action especially of the erotic kind, Sexy as Hell is an intriguing Victorian romance.  The lead couple indulging selfish behavior makes them refreshing as they are atypical of the usual honorable noble.  Fans of Susan Johnson will enjoy their hedonistic escapades although the story line is emaciated outside the boudoir.

 

Harriet Klausner

Proof by Seduction-Courtney Milan

November 30, 2009

Proof by Seduction

Courtney Milan

Harlequin HQN, Jan 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780373774395

 

In 1836 fortuneteller Madame Esmeralda is comfortable in her vocation as she feels she provides a service by informing her customers with information they need to know.  Twelve years as Madame Esmeralda has made humble impoverished Jenny Keeble all but disappear.

 

Her favorite client Ned arrives with his cousin, Blakeley, Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely.  Ned explains that Gareth is a skeptic that Madame can predict the future.  A scientist just back from an expedition in Brazil, Gareth plans to prove Esmeralda is a fake.  However is scheme to expose the charlatan has a major roadblock; his attraction to her, which makes him wonder if she is an enchantress, but will he accept proof of the heart?

 

This is a terrific early Victorian romance starring a wonderful somewhat inflexible lead male and a totally unique female who challenges his decisions when everyone else fears to contradict his dictatorial rulings.  The story line is fast-paced but driven by the relationship between the scientist and the fortuneteller.  With a strong secondary cast starting with Ned, this reviewer can predict that sub-genre fans will relish Courtney Milan’s delightful historical.

 

Harriet Klausner

Vanishing Act-Fern Michaels

November 30, 2009

Vanishing Act

Fern Michaels

Zebra, Jan 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9781420106855

 

After successfully completing their last mission without their mentor Charles Martin (see Under the Radar), who remains missing, the Sisterhood decides to celebrate at their getaway on Big Pine Mountain anyway as he would have expected that of them.  As Charles comes home to them, his reception is a bit cold until Yoko welcomes him back.  However the pre gala amiable bickering comes to an abrupt halt when Jack Emery calls his fiancée Nikki to tell her Yoko’s beloved Harry Wong lost everything including his dojo to an identity theft ring.

 

Outraged, the Sisterhood vows to not just get Harry back his money and his dojo, they plan to steal the identities of the thieves.  With help from their journalist pal Maggie and with Charles back in the fold, they begin their vendetta.

 

Over the top as usual, this is a fun Sisterhood entry with the ladies doing their typical mission impossible escapades.  The story line is fast-paced though even fans of the previous thirteen entries will need a scorecard to keep track of the good gals.  Still with a terrific surprising coda, fans will relish the latest avenging exploits of the Sisterhood.

 

Harriet Klausner

High Anxiety-Charlotte Hughes

November 30, 2009

High Anxiety

Charlotte Hughes

Jove, Dec 29 2009, $7.99

ISBN: 9780515147407

 

Psychologist Kate Holley wonders if she is as big a Nutcase as some of her patients ever since her former husband Jay Rush the firefighter became her lover again in spite of her obsessive compulsive fear of his profession ever since her father was taken from her by the Fire Gods.  While Jay is fighting a forest fire in Florida, her best friend and receptionist, Mona Epps is on sick leave so the High Anxiety shrink hires a temporary assistant Abigail Davis.

 

However, although Abigail is competent she changes her wardrobe and hairstyle to emulate Kate.  When she begins to get involved in Kate’s personal life, the psychologist knows in this case What Looks Like Crazy is crazy.  Although she has other issues and is worried about Jay, Kate knows Abigail is at the top of the list as her temp is stalking every aspect of her life.

 

This is an exciting fast-paced madcap thriller that balances humor with the seriousness of a deranged stalker.  The story line is fast-paced whenever the plot focuses on Abigail who clearly needs help.  When the subplot involves other clients, neighbors or mom it is over the top with fun eccentricity.  Readers will enjoy Kate’s third case mostly because of Abigail, whose needs turn potentially dangerous.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Night Too Dark-Dana Stabenow

November 30, 2009

A Night Too Dark

Dana Stabenow

Minotaur, Feb16 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312559090

 

The Park in Alaska is a place of beauty to private detective Native American Kate Shugak, but the pristine landscape she loves will change when the Suulutaq Mine opens operations.  Global Harvest Resources, the parent company learned the mine contains gold and after months of careful sampling and they know they have found quite a strike.

 

Already the firm is making changes that the inhabitants of the Park have to adapt to as people working the mine come to the town of Ninikltna.  One of the newcomers leaves a note in his car stating he committed suicide.  When the body of Dewayne Gammons is found, there is not enough left of him to make an identification.  Kate has a hunch after two people from the mine disappeared at the sane time that the deceased is not Dewayne, but she has no idea who the victim is.  As she seeks clues, a third person is killed, which makes Kate even more determined to find out what is going on at the mine.

 

Even before the homicides, Kate feels sad because the mining operation will change the Park though she is resigned that it will happen as people she respects sold out to the mining interests, which was not easy for them to do but they felt they had to tale advantage of people with money to spend.  Still her melancholy over the mine does not prevent her from investigating as only she can.  Her latest Alaskan Shootout is an entertaining whodunit that also showcases a difficult complex issue of needed economic development vs. maintaining the beauty of nature.

 

Harriet Klausner

Smolder-Melina Morel

November 30, 2009

Smolder

Melina Morel

Signet, Jan 2010, $6.99

ISBN: 9780451228802

 

In France, hunter Countess Catherine Marais and her partner Paul DuJardin have killed many werewolves, but near Rouen they wound one who escapes.  Soon afterward Lupus Magnus of France, Louis Chavenne calls a meeting of his species to warn them if they fail to act now the well financed team of Marais and DuJardin will leave them extinct on the continent.  Especially nervous is Lupus Minor of Ile de France Gervais de Maury who knows Catherine and her late father; killed by Monfort a werewolf she slew (see Devour).

 

With a bounty on her head, Catherine worries the Insitut that has financed her efforts will close down.  Meanwhile her two century old vampire lover Ian Morgan wants to keep her safe from the sudden hunting of the hunter.  He offers to change her, but she hesitates while also insuring her niece in love is not huntress bait to trap her as their Prey.

 

This contemporary paranormal thriller is fast-paced from the first hunt and never slows down as the French werewolf community unites against the huntress.  Filled with action and a deep look at the world of the Loup de Garous while also containing a terrific romantic subplot that enhances the prime story line, fans will appreciate the latest Catherine Marais’ saga.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Tapestry of Spells-Lynn Kurland

November 30, 2009

A Tapestry of Spells

Lynn Kurland

Berkley, Jan 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425232132

 

When his family died (see the Nine Kingdoms trilogy), Ruithneadh of Ceangail vanishes behind a shroud of being a fierce raging wizard; ironically he personally vowed to never use magic again.  His reputation enables him to be left alone to wallow in self pity and grief as he fears being an offspring of the evil Gair might mean going dark.

 

His hermit like existence ends when the daughter of a witch Sarah of Doire arrives.  She has no paranormal skills whatsoever, but demands Ruith act to stop her brother Daniel who has turned to the darkest magic, threatening to destroy the Nine Kingdoms.  Ruith wants to ignore his unwanted visitor but concludes Daniel is using his father’s magic.  As they search for Daniel, others stalk them.

 

Starting a new trilogy that focuses on the youngest son of  the evil Gair, Lynn Kurland takes her audience back to the Nine Kingdoms with a strong opening act.  Fans will feel the author magically transported them to her realm as Ruith now fights against what his father wrought while concealing secrets from his new ally who does likewise.  Fantasy fans will enjoy Ruith’s quest to prevent another catastrophe tied to his father’s legacy.

 

Harriet Klausner

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals- Gillian Gill

November 29, 2009

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals

Gillian Gill

Ballantine, Feb 23 2010, $18.00

ISBN: 9780345520012

 

This is a fascinating biography that turns upside down the love story of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert as they cherished one another while battling for dominance of their relationship, which denoted dominance of the British Empire.  In other words the early period until Albert’s death could easily be labeled Albertan-Victorian age.  Prince Albert was a classic example of employing a defense mechanism of being everything his family was not and not being anything they were.  Thus he came across as prim, proper and starched, which ironically set the future’s look back at the Victorian Age are his belief on how a ruler should behave.  He kept his Queen seemingly pregnant all the time and was a major supporter of science and technology.  When he died in 1861, Victoria grieved her loss for several years.  However, when she finally moved on, the Victorian Age blossomed as if the student had learned from her late master while she described his virtues and buried with him his faults.

 

This is a terrific biography of the nineteenth century’s most powerful “power couple” as each thrived in their love and rivalry, especially Victoria.  Gillian Gill makes a strong case that Albert was in some ways her mentor as much as her partner.  With numerous illustrations and letters included, fans will relish this profound fresh look at We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals.

 

Harriet Klausner

Too Much Happiness-Alice Munroe

November 29, 2009

Too Much Happiness

Alice Munroe

Knopf, Nov 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307269768

 

This great ten story anthology looks deep into relationships with strong characterizations.  Nine of the contributions are under forty pages; only the title entry is longer at sixty pages.  As always Alice Munroe provides her audience with a profound collection.

 

In “Dimensions” Doree grieves on the bus for her three children who were murdered by their father so they would not suffer the same misery he suffered of their mother leaving them.  “Fiction” stars Christie who tells the stories of her stepmother the music teacher in a published anthology.  “Wenlock Edge” college student explains how her roommate fools her into going on a dinner date with her lover.  Sally learns how “Deep-Holes” in marriage can become.  In “Free Radicals”, Nita’s friends are there at first while she grieves, but she rejects them; now she is moving on and needs them but none are there for her as they were hurt by her when they needed her.  His father stared at his “Face” once after he was born and never looked at his son’s disfigured face again.  Young Mr. Crozier is surrounded by “Some Women” while dying from leukemia; but keeps a stiff upper lip so as not to alarm the female retinue who hide their melancholy from him while caring for him.  In “Child’s Play” Marlene and Charlene become summer camp BFFs, but torture Verna until Marlene muses over “How can you blame a person for the way she was born?”  “Wood” centers on Roy who refinishes furniture, but works alone since he and his wife Lea never had no children. He is hurt and all alone apparently dying in The Deserted Forest.  “Too Much Happiness” centers on Russian mathematician Sophia Kovalevski who has found men limit her choices; still she writes stories in spite of her father insisting she is selling herself and obtains a teaching position in Sweden in spite of her lover living in Paris as she reuses to allow males to limit her.

 

Harriet Klausner