Thursday, August 30, 2007

Walla Walla Suite (A Room with No View)-Anne Argula

Walla Walla Suite (A Room with No View)
Anne Argula
Ballantine, Sep 2007, $12.95
ISBN: 9780345498427

After her husband Connor dumped her for his younger office assistant, Quinn left Spokane to start over in Seattle. The retired police officer becomes a private investigator though her caseload is slim to none except for what mitigation investigator Vincent Ainge sends her way. In the building where they both work is a poster for a missing eighteen year old woman Eileen Jones who also worked there. Unable to resist and besides needing to cool down from her latest hot flashes, Quinn visits the place where Eileen was working when she vanished, Promotion in Motion. She sees four desks three occupied by young beautiful women. She asks a few questions when the owner Arnie Stimick steps inside and asks who she is. She explains and they chat; he hires her to find Eileen.
Quinn visits Eileen’s roommate Darla, but the missing girl’s boyfriend Guy is there too. Both say Eileen is a great person with no enemies. Quinn next visits Eileen’s divorced mom Abby, whose ex-husband lives in Hawaii. Abby looks like she has not slept in ages, but offers nothing new as she insists her daughter had no enemies. Quinn learns they have found Eileen’s corpse. She visits an upset Arnie who retains her to find the killer. Not long afterward police sergeant Beckham announces they caught the killer, Randy Merck who was driving Eileen’s car. Arnie says Merck must be properly punished so he forms the Friends of Eileen, whose presence will be seen everyday by the jurors while Public Defender Wendy Maron hires Vincent to serve as the mitigation investigator if they lose and Quinn to investigate as needed.

This is a well-written legal thriller with a fascinating refreshing angle that of the mitigation investigator. His investigation is top rate due to the mighty Quinn struggling to make it as a private investigator. However, it is Vincent Ainge the mitigation expert who steals the show. Anne Argula provides a fresh spin to the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner

Highlander Unmasked-Monica McCarty

Highlander Unmasked
Monica McCarty
Ballantine, Sep 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345494375

In 1605 Highlander Lady Meg Mackinnon understands her responsibility to properly marry the right man for her clan. On the way to the court of King James to find a husband, she and her party are attacked. Alex McLeod rescues Meg.

Alex works undercover in an effort to prevent King James from devastating the clans by removing them from their homeland isles. He wants Meg and she desires him, but his mission comes first before his attraction. However, in spite of his efforts to just say no to her, they end up making love even as both are endangered from their enemies who want both dead as a key first step in destroying the power base of the Highlands.

Although somewhat similar in tone to the typical early seventeenth century Scottish romantic intrigue, HIGHLANDER UNMASKED is refreshed by the dilemma confronting the hero; which head rules. He want to help Meg and simply wants her, but to do so jeopardizes his undercover mission that he has methodically at great sacrifice worked at setting up. Historical romance fans will enjoy this fine tale and look for Monica McCarty’s previous take HIGHLANDER UNTAMED, not read by this reviewer.

Harriet Klausner

Last Breath-Mariah Stewart

Last Breath
Mariah Stewart
Ballantine, Aug 2007, $19.95
ISBN: 9780345492241

Internationally renowned archeologist Dr. Daria McGowan is euphoric that Howe University has provided with the first public exhibit of the incredible find of her great grandfather. In 1908 in Asia Minor, Alistair McGowan located the lost ancient city of Shandihar. The artifacts he brought home a century ago will finally be on display in Pennsylvania.

As Daria prepares the exhibit, she notices some of the more valuable items listed in the meticulously accurate catalogue are missing. She turns to FBI Agent Connor Shields, whom she previously met for assistance. Connor has not forgotten her and sees this as an opportunity to see where their attraction leads them. They follow leads to the new owners of the artifacts, but in each case that person was brutally slain in a ritual killing with the artifact gone. Connor assumes that a Middle East based cult sworn to die to protect and in this case recover the treasures of the lost city are the killers, which means Daria is on the hit list.

The latest Shields FBI romantic suspense thriller (see LAST WORD and LAST LOOK) is a thrilling whodunit that grips the audience from the onset when the person in the shadows vows to correct his failure (in 1908) and never slows down until the finish. The story is a fast-paced cat and mouse struggle between the lead pair and a diabolical dedicated killer with a lucid objective to cleanse the mistake of the last century. Mariah Stewart is at her best with the final Shields saga.

Harriet Klausner

Force of Nature-Suzanne Brockmann

Force of Nature
Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine, Aug 2007, $21.95
ISBN: 9780345480163

One year ago Ric Alvarado left government law enforcement after a harrowing incident to become a private sleuth. His “Hutch” Annie Dugan becomes his assistant. In Sarasota, Florida, Lillian Lavelle hires Ric to find the missing roommate of her late daughter, dancer Brenda Quinn. Ric and Annie succeed, but the missing person case turns into a suicide run when Brenda tries to kill the son of crime lord Gordon Burns. Ric and Annie prevent the murders from occurring.

FBI agent in charge Jules Cassidy has an undercover agent hidden inside the Burns' mansion, but the Fed has not reported lately. Jules has reliable information that Burns plans to smuggle a terrorist into the country. He turns to Ric and Annie, who Burns owes, to uncover the truth from the dangerous inside.

FORCE OF NATURE is a fabulous romantic suspense tale that provides the audience with the continuing saga of openly gay Fed Jules and his love interest actor Robin Chadwick (see INTO THE STORM) and as well as the romance between “Starsky and Hutch”. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action and passion although at times Suzanne Brockmann’s heartfelt plea for gay rights can slow down the intense story line. Still Ms. Brockmann continues her Troubleshooter saga with a call for tolerance over ignorance.

Harriet Klausner

Seduction is Forever-Jenna Peterson

Seduction is Forever
Jenna Peterson
Avon, Oct 2007, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061138096

In 1808, knowing they needed special agents in the war with Napoleon; Charles Isley of the Home Office recruited and trained three special females (Meredith Sinclair, Anastasia Whittig and Emily Redgrave) to be undercover operatives. By 1814 Emily recovers from a severe wound she received on her last mission, but is anxious to go back into the field.

Her superior Lady M gives her a phony mission to protect Lord Grant Ashbury from an unknown adversary; he is given the fake assignment to protect Emily from an unknown adversary. The shrewd plan is simply to keep the pair out of danger by having them watch over one another. As they fall in love and learn the truth about their respective projects, they also learn of a diabolical plot to kill the Regent.

The third Charlie's Angels Regency romantic suspense is a wonderful action-packed thriller that starts off amusingly with the premise that both lead characters are assigned to protect one other. However, their initial project turns into a SEDUCTION IS FOREVER loving relationship as well as a race to save the Regent. Sub-genre fans will appreciate the trilogy; as, like its predecessors (see FROM LONDON WITH LOVE and DESIRE NEVER DIES), the final tale of “Charlie’s Angels in Regency England” is a charming lighthearted romp.

Harriet Klausner

Witch in the House-Jenna McKnight

Witch in the House
Jenna McKnight
Avon, Oct 2007, $5.99
ISBN: 9780060843694

Six years ago her husband vanished without a trace. Witch Jade Delarue finally decides she needs to move on with her life so she casts two spells that inadvertently merge into one enchantment.

Soon afterward a Pierce Brosnan doppelganger appears at her Mystic Manor door. Working for the insurance company, private detective Mason Kincaid investigates the disappearance of Jade’s husband. Jade believes Mason is a photographer about to take action pictures of eagles for a nature book. As they fall in love, she assumes her botched incantation brought him to her; she fears telling him what she believes is the truth. He also is afraid their relationship will vanish as his former fiancée cheated on him and once he reveals why he initially visited her.

This is an entertaining paranormal romantic mystery starring two protagonists who have a previous connection between them that neither realizes when they meet. The story line is an amusing lighthearted romp as the lead pair keeps secrets from one another including his wiring her house and her casting spells. Fans will enjoy this fun frolic starring a bewitching heroine and the sleuth who charms her without the use of a love spell.

Harriet Klausner

The Scottish Companion-Karen Ranney

The Scottish Companion
Karen Ranney
Avon, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061252372

In 1850 in Rosemoor, Scotland, Grant Roberson is stunned by the recent unexplained deaths of his brothers that have led to him becoming the Earl of Straithern, as he was not even the spare, which he relished as he had time for his scientific experiments. Still grieving and shook up, Grant decides he needs to marry a levelheaded sedate female so that he can begat the heir and spare without a fuss. He chooses the doctor's daughter, Arabella Fenton.

However, Grant finds himself thinking more of Arabella’s friend Gillian Cameron although she will not suit as she is passionate about life. She also shows she is brilliant as she shares his knowledge of electricity experiments. As they fall in love, Gilliam fears the feeling as she has been burned before by it while Grant still insists he needs a meek malleable mate even as the pair begin investigating together who killed his siblings and why.

THE SCOTTISH COMPANION is a charming Victorian Scottish amateur sleuth romance starring two likable protagonists who combine a love of science with a curious need to learn the truth re his siblings and eventually love; an emotion neither wanted. Fans will appreciate their escapades as they face danger from an unknown adversary while investigating the murders of his brothers as no motive seems to surface. Karen Ranney provides an enjoyable historical romantic whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Sin and Scandal in England-Melody Thomas

Sin and Scandal in England
Melody Thomas
Avon, Oct 2007, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061129605

Bethany Munro is elated that the one man she loves Sir Ian Rockwell is at Whitley Court. On the other hand, Ian wants nothing to do with the woman who touches his heart as he has no time for a female in his life. However, he needs to know why she is talking to Lord Whitley, considered the dangerous chief of an anarchist group that includes an Italian arms manufacturer; Ian’s mission is to go undercover to learn what these terrorists plot next.

Bethany is also on a quest. She seeks to learn what happened to her vanished former science teacher, Mrs., Langley, who was last seen at Whitley Court. As he falls in love while trying to keep Bethany safe and complete his assignment, her amateur sleuthing leaves both in danger from predators who will kill anyone in their way.

SIN AND SCANDAL IN ENGLAND is an interesting romantic intrigue in which everyone seems to have a hidden agenda even the somewhat innocent heroine and no one trusts anyone if they are smart. The story line is fast-paced as Ian wants Bethany to leave so she will be safe, but she refuses as her undertaking comes first. Thus Ian who was falling in love with her when she was a naive seventeen year old risks his mission to keep his beloved from harm. Although the suspense turns over the top of Big Ben, fans will enjoy this gender battle inside of a pair of competing undercover inquiries, one by an amateur sleuth while the other by a professional.

Harriet Klausner

A Touch of Minx-Suzanne Enoch

A Touch of Minx
Suzanne Enoch
Avon, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9780060875237

One year ago, American cat burglar Samantha Jellicoe and British billionaire Rick Addison met and fell in love. He wants to make their relationship permanent, but she has doubts as she never allows him to speak the unmentionable. Rick needs to find a way to persuade Sam they belong together.

The reformed ex-thief Sam works on two cases. She works on recovering an ancient Japanese armor and its related swords stolen from the MOMA over ten years ago, and finding and return the missing "anatomy man" to the school it was taken from for her client, Rick’s sort of ten year old niece Olivia Donner. Neither seemed complex when she took them on; so why is both a struggle worse than sky diving into a museum to purloin an artifact as one especially could end her career with her death.

The latest FLIRTING WITH DANGER Sam and Rick caper continues the lighthearted madcap escapades of the pair as they argue over how many cat lives she has left. The story line is fast-paced as Sam works her two cases with the zeal she had as a thief. Fans of the series will appreciate the ongoing skirmishes as Addison struggles to persuade his beloved that this BILLIONAIRE PREFER BLONDES retired cat burglars while also pleading with her to change careers to one in which the motto has nothing to do with DON’T LOOK DOWN.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets of a Proper Lady-Victoria Alexander

Secrets of a Proper Lady
Victoria Alexander
Avon, Oct 2007, $7.99
ISBN: 9780060882648

In 1854 London, visiting American businessman Daniel Sinclair is determined to win the wager of one pound each and a bottle of cognac he made with three English aristocrats as to who would be the last one standing single. Two are down and though he fears their tontine is cursed, Daniel does not plan on being next although he is betrothed to Lady Cordelia Bannister, as the competition is between him and Oliver Leighton.

Cordelia and Daniel have never met so she decides to learn more about the American she is to marry; if she finds him unsatisfactory she will call off the nuptials. She goes undercover pretending to be her companion, Sarah. However, Daniel needs time to put off his wedding if he is to win the wager; when his fiancée’s companion visits him he pretends to be a friend of Daniel. As they fall in love, both fears the truth will destroy their chance at lifetime of love.

Readers will appreciate the madcap third Victorian romance that is a wild gender battle based on deception, misdirection, and love. The amusing story line is fun to follow as Daniel insists he’s not in love and Cordelia fears her masquerade will cost her the love of a lifetime. As with WHAT A LADY WANTS and LITTLE BIT WICKED, sub-genre fans will toast Victoria Alexander for an entertaining historical.

Harriet Klausner

Good Little Wives-Abby Drake

Good Little Wives
Abby Drake
Avon, Sep 2007, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061232213

In New Falls, New York the upper class trophy wives try to push back the erosion of time via plastic surgery as each understands their wealthy husband could decide he needs a younger model on his mantle. Thus Kitty DeLano, Lauren Halliday, Bridget Haynes, Dana Fulton, and Caroline Meacham pretend that their only fear is to wear the wrong item to their next get together.

However, Kitty is the first to face the nightmarish reality of middle age when her husband dumps her for someone a couple decades younger; to add insult the new trophy Mrs. DeLano was a hairdresser. However, soon after she became the ex Mrs. DeLano, the police arrest Kitty for murdering her former husband as she is found by his corpse holding the murder weapon. As the police interrogate the other members of the foursome, each fears that their darkest secrets will become part of the public domain; so believing kitty’s claims of innocence, the GOOD LITTLE WIVES club led by dynamic Dana conduct their own inquiry into who killed the ex-spouse.

With a nod to the First Wives’ Club, the key to this witty relationship drama is the four trophy wives turn amateur sleuths who wear masks in public but have trepidations in private. Each comes across unique with personal fears but share in common that they could easily be replaced by a younger version of themselves. Thus they begin investigating as a means of self preservation though Dana forces the others to reluctantly participate. Though a late second killing seems unneeded, readers will appreciate the antics to remain the wives of affluent spouses by hiding their flaws while also trying to prove that even a former member of their exclusive group would never resort to murder as that is too messy.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Witchy Business-Julie Leto, Rhonda Nelson, and Mia Zachary

Witchy Business
Julie Leto, Rhonda Nelson, and Mia Zachary
Harlequin, Sep 2007, $5.99
ISBN 9780373837168

"Under His Spell” by Julie Leto. The witches’ guardian Regina St. Lyon's expels her lover Brock Aegis to the Middle Realm for betraying her. He returns when he fears for her life and kills ancient witch hunter Old Movert while Regina has lost her powers because love is a critical essence of a witch.

"Disenchanted” by Rhonda Nelson. His wizard kin are disappointed in Benedict DeWin as his powers have not surfaced, which means his arranged marriage cannot occur as he will not be able to perform the required ritual. He is sent to Magecraft where he meets his fiancée’s sister Bryony Flynn, another person whose magic has failed to surface. That is until now.

"Spirit Dance" by Mia Zachary. Herbalist Siobhan Silverhawk had accepted that the magic her family is known to possess has passed her by until now. When she meets widower J.B. Pendleton she falls in love and feels she can now perform magic. He is skeptical that she has any skills though he could use some as he insists the spirit of his deceased wife is haunting him.

These three enchanting paranormal romances will cast a spell on the sub-genre’s coven.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Snow Angel-Jamie Carie

Snow Angel
Jamie Carie
B&H Publishing, Sep 2007, $14.99
ISBN: 9780805445336

In 1897 in an isolated section of the Alaskan territory, Noah Wesley stays warm in his heated cabin while a blizzard rages outside. However, he soon hears a noise at his door that he initially thinks is his imagination of being alone and then considers a wild animal. He cautiously takes a look outside encouraged by what he assumes is the voice of God speaking inside his head. He is stunned to find an unconscious half frozen female angel who he fears if she survives the weather might still suffer frostbite.

He takes Elizabeth into his home, but soon believes this brittle woman will try anything as she asks Noah to take her to the gold fields so she can search for gold. Still he feels the fierce climate will send her scurrying to the lower Forty-eight while trying to convince to give up on the gold fever. Elizabeth rejects his contention that she is to delicate to survive the wilderness while hiding her real obsession for wanting to go to the gold fields from him though she is falling in love with this man whom she trusts with her life but not her objective; at the same time someone searches for her as they have for over two decades.

The “divine” matchmaking romance between Noah and Elizabeth and the mystery subplot enhance a terrific look at Alaska during the frantic gold rush days of the late nineteenth century. SNOW ANGEL provides a vivid stark look at the wintry climate in which the weather is lethal for the unprepared. The lead couple is a strong pairing as he knows she is god sent to him and she loves and trusts him with her life and everything else except her reason for needing to go to the gold fields. Jamie Carie’s debut is a wonderfully descriptive historical tale as the audience will wear woolen hats and gloves (in September) while reading this book.

Harriet Klausner

Doesn't She Look Natural?-Angela Hunt

Doesn't She Look Natural?
Angela Hunt
Tyndale, Sep 2007, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414311692

Jennifer Graham once tasted power as the chief of staff to a US senator. However, during a nasty divorce, she was forced to resign her position as she became a liability to her employer. Jennifer obtained custody of their two children but is forced to live with her mom to keep expenses down while she seeks employment.

Soon afterward, Jennifer inherits Fairlawn funeral home in Florida. Her plan is to visit Fairlawn in order to sell it as soon as possible so that she can try to return to behind the scenes of power in Washington DC. However, the best laid plans of mice, men and Jennifer Graham often go astray.

This is an amusing inspirational tale as Jennifer feels like a fish out of water in Florida while the kids feel at home even in the funeral home. The story line is character driven by Jennifer as she tries to balance what her kids need with her desires and aspirations. Although rotating between the first (mostly from Jennifer) and third person can feel disjointed, fans will enjoy the DC big shot used to hiding the bodies now dressing up the bodies (sort of a reverse Karl Rove).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Call of the Trumpet-Helen A. Rosburg

Call of the Trumpet
Helen A. Rosburg
Medallion, Oct 2007, $6.99
ISBN: 9781933836140

In 1859 with the death of her beloved father in Paris, Cecile Villier decides to leave France to visit the Sahara where she was born two decades ago. Her beloved late father left the desert grieving the death of his Bedouin wife in childbirth. She asks her late dad’s friend Mr. Blackmoor for help in locating her foster father, Raga eben Haddal.

Blackmoor sends his son Matthew to meet her, but he learns she has been abducted by a caravan planning to sell her to the Caliph. Matthew rescues Cecilia but introduces himself as El Faris rather than the son of her late father’s friend. He treats her like the lowest creature on the planet and leaves her at a Bedouin camp to learn the ways of the women of the desert. Although not easy, the courageous Cecilia wins the respect of those at the camp when she risks her life to rescue a child from a wolf. As she and El Faris fall in love, he takes her to meet Haddal, who plans to sell her as a wife to the highest bidding sheik. Matthew proposes, but when she fails to return from a trek into the desert, he assumes she died and marries another. When she finally returns to accept his proposal, she must decide whether she wants to be his second spouse.

CALL OF THE TRUMPET is not the usual historical romance as the Bedouin culture serves as the prime focus of this strong mid nineteenth century tale. Thus a westernized Victorian style relationship between the lead couple even when the male is a sheik does not occur; instead the audience lives within the Bedouin camp and learns its ways along side of the heroine. Her struggles to adapt and her courage make for a rich saga as the audience will wonder will she willingly become the second wife, return to France, or be sold to the highest bidder.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Rising Darkness-Cynthia Cooke

Rising Darkness
Cynthia Cooke
Silhouette Nocturne, Sep 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617708

Cadre vampire Damien Hancock is a demon hunter. He is sent to Wolvesrain to protect cloistered innocent Emma McGovern from Asmos, a powerful demon, who will own her soul if she ever makes love with her soulmate.

Damien knows that Asmos is as dangerous of a demon as there is. He knows he must be at his best, but is distracted by the courage Emma displays as she struggles to prevent the family curse from being activated. However, she is attracted to Damien and him to her; neither can prevent what she assumes is the inevitability of the curse while Asmos salivates in anticipation of owning another soul; one that Damien believes belongs to him out of his love for her.

Using a wonderful twist in which the heroine knows that love is futile and short term as the connotation is eternity with a demon not her beloved. Thus Damien the vampiric demon hunter has his work cut out to keep Emma safe, but wonders who will keep her safe from him because if he acts on his needs, only Asmos wins. Paranormal romance fans will enjoy this fine Hobson’s choice as abstinence seems to be the only way to insure the demon fails to get his Emma.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss Me Deadly-Michle Hauf

Kiss Me Deadly
Michele Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne, Sep 2007, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617715

Vampires know that one drop of a witch’s blood touching them is fatal. Nikolaus Drake died two months ago when witch Ravin Crosse dropped her blood on him. However, he recovered and believes he is now immune to this toxin. He plans to kill the witch who almost killed him.

Ravin the vampire hunting witch owes three debts in order to free her soul. She works on a love spell to meet one of her obligations only to have Nikolaus arrive at a critical juncture. The love spell enters his soul and he finds he loves the witch. She quickly reciprocates as these natural enemies are unable to stop kissing one another.

KISS ME DEADLY is a creative paranormal romance in which Michele Hauf uses a Twilight Zone like spin to create love between the witch and the vampire. Nikolaus and Ravin are a superb pairing as he wants to avenge her killing him with her blood only to fall in love with her due to a spell. Ironically he must convince the witch he cherishes that he loves her spell or not and that they belong together taboo or not. This is a winner for sub-genre fans.

Harriet Klausner