Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cowboy For Hire-Marie Ferrarella

Cowboy For Hire
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin American Romance, Nov 1 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373755448

With a deep need for her dad’s approval and representing her family’s firm, Carmichael Construction Corporation, Constance Carmichael arrives in Forever, Texas to supervise the building of a hotel.  When Constance sees the quality work done to a ranch house, she takes a risk and hires the lead Finn Murphy as foreman of the hotel project.

Constance and Finn are attracted to each other, but the big city easterner and the small town local also share a reluctance to act on their feelings.  As their respect and admiration grow while working together on the hotel construction, they begin to fall in love; but she is not a Texas Forever person and he is.

The eleventh return to Forever, the fine contemporary romance focuses on the middle Murphy brother (see Her Forever Cowboy for his brother Brett’s tale; a third sibling to follow as the book twelve lead).  The protagonists are a likable pair whose relationship changes from boss-employee to loving equals (with the right steps in between) while the townsfolk and readers joyfully observe. 


Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 30, 2014

‘Tis The Season-Robyn Carr

‘Tis The Season
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778316640

“Under the Christmas Tree.”  Hairstylist Annie stops to admire a Virgin River Christmas tree only to find eight newborn puppies underneath it. Obviously abandoned, Annie brings the canines to the town `s vet Nathaniel.

“Midnight Confessions.”  One year ago on New Year’s Eve, Sunny’s fiancé Glen jilted her.  Though she wants to celebrate this New Year's Eve alone at home, her Uncle Nathanial and his fiancée Annie insist she accompany them to Jack’s Bar.  UCLA Orthopedic resident Drew Foley and Sunny meet at the bar; whereas she rejects his attempts to get to know each other, he refuses to quit trying.

“Backward Glance.”  In Durango five years have passed since John last saw his beloved Leigh, but every time he drives passed her mom Jess’ house he looks to see if she is visiting.  Jess tells John she has a bad ticker but is not seeing the doctor.  Worried about her mom’s health, Leigh, accompanied by her four year old twins (Mitch and Ty), returns home.  When John and Leigh meet, they have a fight over who was at fault; as they reconcile another argument may destroy their love. 

The first two tales are warm reprints of Virgin River novellas though the leads of Midnight Confessions seem unlikely to overcome their respective failed relationships as the prime icon etched in their respective brains.  Backward Glance is a pre-Virgin River second chance but with an overused premise. 

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Mighty Quinns: Ryan-Kate Hoffmann

The Mighty Quinns: Ryan
Kate Hoffmann
Harlequin Blaze, Oct 21 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798254

Hollywood based Greenmoor Studios chief Thom Perry hires Ryan Quinn to keep his soon to be star Hollywood actress Serena Hightower out of trouble until she marries; as bad publicity just before the release of a blockbuster movie could prove devastating.  The New Zealander assumes his latest gig will be R&R while his brother Rogan says Ryan is lucky as a baby-sitter to five hens including the soon to be bride Hollywood actress Serena Hightower at her bachelorette party in vacation paradise Fiji.  

As soon as Serena leaves the plane, Ryan knows he is in trouble.  He wants her and she feels the same way; but he will not poach on someone else’s woman.  That changes when he learns Serena plans to end her engagement to Ben Thayer.  They head to New Zealand to determine whether they can make it at the risk of her career and for him to tell his family what he desires in life before he and his two brothers accompanied by their father climb Mt. Everest.

The third New Zealand branch of the Mighty Quinns (see Rogan and Malcom) is an enjoyable contemporary romance as a Hollywood starlet and a rugged outdoor guide fall in love.  The two leads mature as their relationship intensifies with each learning the meanings of family and commitment.  There will not be a dry eye with the climax at the top of the world.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 27, 2014

Oh, Naughty Night!-Leslie Kelly

Oh, Naughty Night!
Leslie Kelly
Harlequin Blaze, Oct 21 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798247

After an internship in Rwanda, twenty-six year old Lucille Vandenberg settles down in Washington.  Her first month in D.C. was getting used to her job and the city.  Now, Lulu is on the prowl for a superman (in bed that is). 

At a Halloween Party, Lulu and her two friends (Amelia and Viv) salivate over a hunk when she recognizes him as journalist Chaz Browning; whom she has not seen since high school, almost a decade ago.  She is stunned that the scrawny nerd she tortured when they were teenage enemies has become a stud.  Chaz fails to recognize Lulu as they enjoy the night together before she vanishes.  Chaz and Lulu meet as neighbors, but he fails to realize his teen queen of mean adversary is the Halloween beauty he craves and she omits informing him that she is the star of his wet dreams; confusing him further is his desire to make it with Lulu.

The premise is terrific with one protagonist aware and the other not; while the execution is excellent.  Oh, Naughty Night! is a heated jovial contemporary made stronger by some of the ways Lulu irritated besieged Chaz as youngsters.  Readers will toast Leslie Kelly with a Capri Sun for this beguiling blazing romance.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Christmas Celebration-Nancy Robards Thompson

A Christmas Celebration
Nancy Robards Thompson
Harlequin Special Edition, Oct 21 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658503

When his best friend Greg Thomas and his BFF’s wife Rosa died in a car crash, Celebration Memorial Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Cullen Dunlevy takes in their four young mourning children (ranging in age from five to ten).  Rather than let the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services divide the quartet, Cullen plans to keep them with him until he finds a suitable family who will raise the fearsome foursome.  However, he works sixteen hour days and his housekeeper quits as the growing blue foam was the last straw.

After explaining to Lily Palmer the kids act out of grief and she replies they seek attention; he hires the second grade schoolteacher as their nanny not just because he is desperate, which he is, but he sees how gently she reached out to the youngest Hannah through Franklin the dog.  He also admires how well Lily deals with the oldest Megan, the only boy George and the second youngest Bridge.  As the six bonds into a warm family, “Uncle” Cullen struggles with his desires to adopt the kids while falling in love with the nanny because he is married to his job.

The fourth Celebrations, Inc. Texas romance (see Celebration’s Bride, Celebration’s Family and Celebration’s Baby) is an uplifting Yuletide family drama.  The lead couple is a nice pairing whose plans are nuked by the needy grieving youngsters.  With a nod to Nanny McPhee (sans the magic except inside the hearts of all of them) and mindful of W.C. Fields’ admonition: "Never work with animals or children” the troubled kids steal the show from the adults.

Harriet Klausner

Boneyard Ridge-Paula Graves

Boneyard Ridge
Paula Graves
Harlequin Intrigue, Oct 21 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373697960

In Purgatory, Tennessee event planner Susannah Marsh hosts a law enforcement conference.  However, unbeknownst to Susannah, the Blue Ridge Infantry anti-authority fanatics have a deadly plan for the attendees; but first must rid themselves of Marsh in order to deploy their scheme. 

Gates’ employee Hunter Bragg has worked undercover as a maintenance man for three months to get inside the militia.  He informs his Gates superior Alexander Quinn that the assault starts tonight; the former CIA agent tells the Army veteran with a bad leg and anger management issues he needs to go it alone until reinforcements can arrive.  Thus he becomes Susannah’s mule carrying the reluctant planner away from those shooting at her.  However she also conceals a dark deadly secret involving the local crime family who also pursues Susannah.

The third Gates romantic suspense (see Crybaby Falls and Dead Man Curve) is a high-octane thriller starring two seemingly opposites; though scratch the heroine’s present persona to her past reveals how similar the pair really is.  Fast-paced, readers will root for the protagonists as they try to stay alive while a couple of hordes target the perfectly polished planner and guilt by protective association the medically retired sergeant.

Harriet Klausner

Snowfall: A Days of Redemption Christmas Novella-Shelley Shepard Gray

Snowfall: A Days of Redemption Christmas Novella
Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon Inspire, Oct 21 2014, $12.99
ISBN: 9780062204547

Twentyish Ruth Stutzman enjoys being a care provider to retirees at a nursing home.  When her position is abolished and Ruth let go due to budget cuts, she is despondent because she likes being with the elderly. 

When sexagenarian Lovina Keim quits as nanny to widower Martin Rodes’ six horrible children, she recommends he hires Ruth to take care of his kids whose ages range from four to nine.  Initially Ruth feels overwhelmed but sympathetic towards her six motherless wards since she lost her parents as a young child.  The preadolescents slowly warm up to her cheerful enthusiasm; but perhaps not as much as their concerned father who keeps his distance out of guilt and memory of his late wife, and for the sake of his brood though attracted to his new employee.  However, when Ruth is offered her former position, she feels pulled in two directions as she loves and adores Martin and his munchkins while they cherish her for bringing a Ray of Light back into their grieving lives.

The latest Days of Redemption entry is an engaging Amish Christmas family drama.  The ensemble cast includes returnees from previous novels (see Eventide and Daybreak); while the two nurturing adults try to help the six troubled children as they struggle to accept being without their beloved mother.  Shelley Shepard Gray authors a delightful holiday story that needs a miracle delivered by six impish elves.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Hunk Next Door-Debra Webb and Regan Black

The Hunk Next Door
Debra Webb and Regan Black
Harlequin Intrigue, Oct 21 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373697953

Belclare, Maryland Police Chief Abigail Jensen led her team in a recent bust of a drug ring that funneled profits to a terrorist group.  Believing the intrepid cop, who makes to clear her town is and will remain drug-free, is a retaliation target, CIA Specialists Director Thomas Casey (see Colby Agency: The Specialists - Bridal Armor by Debra Webb) assigns agent Riley O’Brien to go undercover in order to protect Abigail from an unknown threat.

Riley poses as a handyman who moves in next door to the chief.  The cop and the undercover cop are attracted to each other, but he especially knows the futility in a relationship between them as the protocol of don’t get romantically involved with the protected sounds alarms in his head that fight his heart (and other body parts).  At the same time Belclare Historical Society President Martin Fillmore objects to Jensen’s additional security measures that he believes will ruin the annual Christmas event while she insists will save it from a tragedy. 

The first Specialists: Heroes Next Door is a thrilling spin off from Ms. Webb’s Colby Agency: The Specialists series (see Would-Be Christmas Wedding and Ready, Aim…I Do!).  The storyline starts slow, but accelerates towards the middle until the climatic confrontation with a villain that readers will know long before the dynamic protagonists realize seemingly too late. 

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Agent’s Surrender-Kimberly Van Meter

The Agent’s Surrender
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Oct 7 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373278916

In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary CIA special skills officer Holden Archangelo rejects agent Jane Fallon’s contention that his dead twin brother Miko betrayed his country and murdered several people including his superior at the Department of Informational Development.  Holden insists his sibling would never commit treason or suicide. He claims to his Military Affairs Department boss Reed Harris that he has new evidence, but his supervisor says the matter is closed.  After Holden storms out, Jane and Reed chat and he agrees to give her one week with Archangelo as her sidekick to follow his alleged lead.

As they investigate the seemingly open-and-shut case that affirms Miko’s guilt, the pair finds an oddity that fails to fit the narrative.  As the two bickering agents fall in love, family matters drive each of them, but with radically different motives.  While the clock ticks, an unknown adversary observes their progress.

The lead pairing make for an enjoyable romantic suspense mostly due to Jane proving to be as tough, courageous and mouthy sarcastically humorous, if not more so, as her male partner is.  Following up on Moving Target and The Sniper, the action-packed inquiry grips the audience from the moment Harris teams them up and never lets up until the heroine mocks her beloved for entertaining another female in his apartment. 

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Daughter Of Highland Hall-Carrie Turansky

The Daughter Of Highland Hall
Carrie Turansky
Multnomah Books, Oct 7 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9781601424983

In 1912, sponsored by her autocratic Aunt Louisa, eighteen year old debutante Katherine Ramsey comes to London to reside with her relative.  Also living in Louisa’s home is the brother of Kate’s last governess, medical student Jonathan Foster.  He soon must decide between being a doctor in India as expected of a missionary’s son and helping the squalid in London.

Kate initially enjoys her debut until a scandal devastates the equilibrium of her upper class world.  She begins to question the aristocracy’s ethics and her family’s morality.  Also Kate is attracted to Jonathan and extremely interested by the work he is doing to help the impoverished, which Aunt Louisa insists makes him unacceptable. 

The second Edwardian Brides romance is an enjoyable leisurely-paced inspirational historical.  A family affair since readers met much of the cast including the leads in The Governess of Highland Hall (Jonathan’s sister and orphaned Kate’s guardian were the protagonists).  With a 360 degree look at pre WWI poverty through the poor and the filters of the aristocracy, the servants and the missionary doctor enrich an engaging Upstairs-Downstairs Edwardian.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Last Breath-Kimberly Belle

The Last Breath
Kimberly Belle
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778317227

In 1994 Rogersville, Tennessee, Ray Andrews is convicted of murdering his second wife Ella Mae.  Ray’s family and neighbors react with horror to the crime of passion, but soon the residents of the Appalachian small-town somewhat moved on with their lives; while Ray went to prison and his daughter Gia fled Eastern Tennessee to become a globetrotting humanitarian aid worker at disaster sites.

Sixteen years later, an ailing Ray leaves prison wearing an electronic monitoring device to die in his home.  While many including his two other adult children (Lexi and Bo) object to his humane release and some actively protest near the house, Gia returns to Rogersville to help him in his final weeks.  However, she also has nagging doubts about her father murdering her stepmother, but her efforts to learn what happened on that fatal night are stonewalled even by Ray and his three-piece suit lawyer relative Uncle Cal.  Her only solace is the neighbor Jake the bartender. 

The Last Breath is a taut twisting romantic suspense as the truth may not set Gia free.  The vivid setting and the support cast (especially the family) enhance the tension.  The present day Gia inquiry and the Ella Mae 1994 final days are terrific subplots; while the well-written Jake romance distracts from the otherwise superb family drama.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Betrayed-Heather Graham

The Betrayed
Heather Graham
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778316565

Hearing the accepting voice of Richard Highsmith, FBI Krewe of Hunters New York branch Agent Aidan Mahoney abruptly awakens to find no one in his room; but knowing his Westchester County friend is dead.  Soon afterward, Krewe boss Jackson Crow assigns Aidan to help locals search for the missing Highsmith in nearby Tarrytown.

The police use Maureen Deauville and her companion Rollo the wolfhound to assist them because they have a special knack of locating missing people; usually after they died.  In Sleepy Hollow, Mo and Rollo discover Richard’s severed head on the top of a wooden headless horseman in front of the Headless Horseman Hideaway Restaurant and Bar.  Richard arrives to join the inquiry that has become a homicide investigation.  As other gruesome murders occur; Richard, Mo and Rollo team up with the adults reluctantly falling in love.

The latest Krewe of Hunters urban fantasy police procedural (see The Cursed and The Hexed) is an entertaining suspense due more to a diabolical serial killer than the lead trio especially since the romance seems somewhat late and abrupt.  The thrilling hunt for a deadly psychopath in Washington Irving’s Westchester makes this overall a good Krewe novel.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Love Undone: An Amish Novel of Shattered Dreams and God's Unfailing Grace-Cindy Woodsmall

A Love Undone: An Amish Novel of Shattered Dreams and God's Unfailing Grace
Cindy Woodsmall
WaterBrook Press, Sep 9 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9780307730008

In Winter Valley, Pennsylvania, Old Order Amish Jolene Keim looks forward to marrying Van Beiler in three weeks though moving to Ohio means leaving behind her beloved family.  However, instead of wedding bells, Jolene and her siblings bury their parents who die in an accident.  Her engagement over and though only nineteen, as the oldest Jolene raises her younger brothers and sisters.

Now in her thirties, Jolene feels good about her personal sacrifice, but also wonders what her life would have been like married to Van.  When she meets rescue horse trainer Andy Fisher, she thinks the widower is handsome and appreciates how caring he is with his tweener son Tobias and the hurting steeds he works with.  As they fall in love, Andy believes Jolene knows his marital status forbids him from marrying.

A Love Undone is a charming Amish romance starring two nice responsible leads and solid secondary characters.  Although the storyline goes as straight ahead as the Bonneville Salt Flats, subgenre fans will enjoy this contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Together for Christmas-Debbie Macomber, Brenda Novak, Sheila Roberts and RaeAnne Thayne

Together for Christmas
Debbie Macomber, Brenda Novak, Sheila Roberts and RaeAnne Thayne
Harlequin MIRA, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778316572

“5-B Poppy Lane” by Debbie Macomber.  In Cedar Cove, Washington, Helen Shelton thinks back five decades to WWII when she met her beloved late husband Sam.  Her granddaughter Ruth and her future spouse USMC Sergeant Paul Gordon of Seattle began their relationship by exchanging letters while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

“When We Touch” by Brenda Novak.  In Whiskey Creek, California, Olivia Lucero and Kyle Houseman are engaged until her sister Noelle insists she is pregnant.  Urged by the siblings’ mother, Kyle hopes to broker a reconciliation between the estranged sisters, but Olivia distrusts Noelle not to go after her current boyfriend Brandon.

“Welcome to Icicle Falls” by Sheila Roberts.  In 1969 in Icicle Falls, Washington, teenager Muriel knows her father expects her to one day run Sweet Dreams, but she hopes to be a writer instead.  When she meets Stephen Sterling, Muriel expands her life plan to include him.

“Starstruck” by RaeAnne Thayne.  In Cold Creek, Idaho, stuntman Justin Hartford’s daughter Ruby loves hearing the story of how her dad and Ashley Barnes overcame their respective negative first impressions.

This anthology contains reprints of sweet holiday romances from each author’s popular ongoing series.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Your Dreams-Kristan Higgins

In Your Dreams
Kristan Higgins
Harlequin HQN, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779314

In Manningsport, New York, Blue Heron head winemaker Jack Holland rescues four teenagers from drowning after they wrecked their car.  The townsfolk rightfully consider the kindhearted Jack the hero of the Midwinter Miracle; but he remains traumatized over the boy in that accident still in a coma.

Police Officer Emmaline Neal needs a date for her former fiancé Kevin Bates’s wedding in Malibu.  Friends suggest she ask Jack to be her guest, which he agrees.  In California, Emma feels overwhelmed and not just because she is the groom’s ex; as her family resides nearby and she believes she is the lone failure of Dr. and Dr. Neal.  When she and Jack share a wonderful evening of love, Emma doubts it is more than just a one-night tryst; as a cop can’t compare to his former wife Hadley who demands a second chance with him.  However she doesn’t know Jack; as well as she thought as he wants much more than a SOCAL fling.

The fourth Blue Heron romance (see Waiting On You, The Perfect Match and The Best Man) is a charming contemporary starring two amiable protagonists and ably supported by their families and other bicoastal locals.  Kristan Higgins authors a warm droll drama as the self-doubter buries her trepidations in Skittles and chocolate cake, and the PTSD sufferer struggles with the accolades from his heroic act; neither know how to deal with falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Jilted-Rachael Johns

Rachael Johns
Harlequin HQN, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779369

A decade ago in Hope Junction, Australia, Elenora Hughes jilted Flynn Quartermaine at the altar to pursue an acting career.  When her godmother Matilda breaks her ankle, Ellie returns home after remaining in the big city as a successful soap opera star for years to care for her beloved injured senior citizen.

Ellie and Flynn share in common two things: each fears a second chance and each remains in love with the other.  The tabloids stalk the couple and other residents in the small western town; local nurse Lauren Simpson deploys a plan to finally win Flynn’s heart; and Ellie’s show producer pressures her to return to the set.  However, as Mat reveals a secret and Ellie finds joy in directing and teaching drama, she explains to the two people she cherishes with all her heart why she left Hope behind ten years ago.

Jilted is an engaging second chance Australian romance due to likable leads and a colorful local cast dealing with the big city invaders.  Although the storyline goes as expected, Rachel Johns provides her audience with a pleasant HEA Down Under contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Return to Glory-Sara Arden

Return to Glory
Sara Arden
Harlequin HQN, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779307

Former SEAL Jack McConnell returns home to Glory, Kansas a broken man.  He sits in his dress whites and pulls the trigger of a gun pointed at his head.  The click disappoints Jack as the chamber was empty.  Jack’s BFF, GPD police officer Caleb Lewis, arrives before the PTSD veteran continues with his Russian Roulette.

When Caleb’s sister Betsy was a tweener, Jack saved her life.  Since then he has been her beloved hero.  Whereas he assumes he no longer is her idol, Betsy knows she still loves him damaged goods and all; and will do anything to help Jack heal from his emotional injuries.  Though he doubts she can reach through his darkness, Jack doesn’t know Betsy; as she remains determined to save her hero from himself.

Return to Glory is an insightful contemporary romance that provides a stunned audience with a timely realistic look at a suicidal vet struggling with mental and physical war wounds, and the beloved woman (and townsfolk) giving her all to rescue him.  Character-driven by traumatized Jack, this is not an easy read starting with the opening haunting sequence.  As readers wonder if love will prove enough to save a life, Sara Arden brings needed attention on the much higher rate than the civilian population of suicides among returning veterans.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Christmas At Thunder Horse Ranch-Elle James

Christmas At Thunder Horse Ranch
Elle James
Harlequin Intrigue, Sep 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373697922

In North Dakota U.S. Customs and Border Protection interdiction agent Dante Thunder Horse flies his copter to check out a farmer’s report that a snowmobile illegally crossed from Canada.  While flying solo because his copilot has the flu, Dante knows this is the third anniversary of the worst day in his life; his late fiancée Captain Samantha Olson died on this date in Afghanistan.  He spots the snowmobile and watches in astonishment a man launch a rocket propelled grenade at the helicopter.  Dante survives the fiery crash but his assassin fires shots at him.

University of North Dakota Paleontology Professor Emma Jennings is near the crash area searching for the skull of a T-Rex when she sees the inferno.  Emma rushes to the scene only to witness a person on a snowmobile firing at recumbent man wearing only thermal underwear.  Heroically she crashes into the shooter’s vehicle knocking away his gun.  The assassin flees so Emma checks on the wounded person who she recognizes.  Dante and Emma head to his Thunder Horse Ranch knowing her intervention places her in peril.

This is an entertaining romantic suspense with some gender bending action as the academic saves their butts several times.  Fast-paced throughout, Christmas At Thunder Horse Ranch is a fun thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Texas Born-Diana Palmer

Texas Born
Diana Palmer
Harlequin Special Edition, Sep 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658411

In Comanche Wells, Texas, three weeks have passed since seventeen year old Michelle Godfrey buried her father Alan next to her mother while his second wife Roberta raged at the unnecessary cost.  Irate Roberta dumped all of her late husband’s personal items in a landfill while her stepdaughter was at school and kept Michelle from attending church.  Roberta tries to sell her late spouse’s stamp collection, but Michelle intervenes and the ethical collector refuses to complete the purchase.   After slapping Michelle, Roberta still plans to place the house on sale though the market is tanked. 

Michelle meets her kind but troubled neighbor veteran Gabriel Brandon who tells her to stay calm and consider becoming an emancipated minor but definitely not accept abuse.  When someone kills Roberta, the police suspect Michelle who had plenty of motives to murder her odious stepmother.  Gabriel looks after Michelle as if she was his sibling Sara though his feelings for the teen are unsisterly.  Vowing patience until his beloved is old enough to decide what and who she wants, Michelle threatens Gabriel’s control as she may be seventeen but acts thirty.

Once the villainess dies, this Long, Tall Texans contemporary (see Desperado) is a pleasant sweet romance.  The teen is forced to be an old soul by family circumstances and the hero is willing to do whatever she needs to allow her to grow up before making his case.  Although Roberta is a caricature of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, this is a fine entry.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 19, 2014

This Good Man-Janice Kay Johnsonr

This Good Man
Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 2 2014, $6.75
ISBN: 9780373608683

Filled with guilt, Family Violence Unit police captain Reid Sawyer returns to the Spokane area when he learns he has a much younger teenage half-brother Caleb.  Reid assumes his violent dad, who battered him and his mother including getting away with uxoricide, would do likewise with his surly fifteen years offspring whose mom abandoned him three years ago.  Reid says he is damaged so cannot take Caleb with him, but offers to place him with friends off the grid until he turns eighteen.  Reid takes a position with the Angel Butte’s Police Department before taking a battered Caleb to live with the couple Roger and Paula Hale who saved his life decades ago.

When social worker Anna Grant demands ABPD search for a thirteen years old runaway, Reid intervenes and orders his officer to look for the kid.  Meanwhile, he and Anna are attracted to each other, but though it could cost him his job, Reid conceals from her where he hid Caleb in order to protect the kind Hale couple and to keep his brother safe.  He is unaware that Anna’s traumatic childhood in the foster care system left her damaged and her sister dead.

The fourth Mysteries Of Angel Butte (see Cop By Her Side, Bringing Maddie Home and Everywhere She Goes) is a timely (NFL) character-driven police procedural mindful of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as the storyline takes a deep look at the impact of child abuse.  The lead couple share in common love for each other, dedication to their jobs and damaged psyches from their troubled childhood.  Leisurely-paced with the romance taking a back seat to the abuse plot, Janice Kay Johnson provides an intense drama.

Harriet Klausner

The Texan’s Twins-Pamela Britton

The Texan’s Twins
Pamela Britton
Harlequin American Romance, Sep 2 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373755356

In the middle of a field in Nowhere, Texas, Jet Baron goes to meet J.C. Marks.  However, instead of the male project engineer just hired by Baron Energies, he sees a beautiful woman.  He assumes the female is a stripper sent as a joke.  After that auspicious start, arrogant Jet continues to step into sh*t including offering to meet no-nonsense Jasmine Caroline Marks for breakfast; while she mocks his occupation of rodeo performer and scorns his skirt chasing.

Attracted to the feisty engineer, Jet learns she is the single mother of twin girls (Brooke and Gwen) whose father, her fiancé, Darren died before she gave birth.  As they work together, Jet and J.C. fall in love, but her kids come first especially when Brooke becomes ill; reminding the harried mother heartbreakingly of what happened to Darren.

The fourth Texas Rodeo Barons romance (see The Texan's Little Secret by Barbara White Daille and The Texan’s Cowgirl Bride by Trish Milburn) is a warm family novel starring a seemingly care-free philanderer and a stressed-out mom.  The strong females (his sister Lizzie - see The Texan's Baby by Donna Alward, the engineer, and the twins) make this a winning contemporary; while their male counterparts (Jet, his dad and Lizzie’s mate Chris) struggle to live up to the high standards the women and girls set.

Harriet Klausner

Promises Under The Peach Tree-Joanne Rock

Promises Under The Peach Tree
Joanne Rock
Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 2 2014, $6.75
ISBN: 9780373608706

After her partner absconded with their funds leading to their bakery failing in New York, Nina Spencer returns home back to Heartache, Tennessee to be with her ailing beloved Gram; who raised her when her parents divorced each other and their only child.  Mack Finley rarely returns to Heartache, but left Nashville to help his siblings with the Harvest Festival with this year’s gala honoring his late dad who used to manage the annual event when he was the town mayor.

Over eight years ago when they were high school students, Nina and Mack were sweethearts, but their breakup was ugly.  When they meet for the first time in years, Nina and Mack know they still love each other.  However, both also fear the risk on their respective hearts if they take that repeat first leap of faith.

Though the second chance romance between Mack and Nina is the prime storyline, Promises Under The Peach Tree contains vigorous secondary plots involving health issues, diversity and a failing marriage.  Readers will appreciate this profound small-town Volunteer State drama.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Frozen Heart, Melting Kiss-Ellie Darkins

Frozen Heart, Melting Kiss
Ellie Darkins
Harlequin Romance, Sep 2 2014, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373743070

Rachel begged Maya Hartney of Maya’s Delight to cater the Appleby and Associates gala.  Maya’s greatest sensation is to watch people go orgasmic over her food.  So when, Rachel’s boss Will Thomas treats her gourmet spread like fine junk food, she’s hurt by his reaction, one that she never had before.  As she leaves, Maya realizes his treatment of her reminds her of her parents quick to write her off.  However, his boss Sir Cuthbert Appleby lectures him for whatever he did to hurt Maya and demands he take time off before he burns out; threatening to end the pro bono work Will does for the worthy Julia House.

Will visits Maya at her house to persuade her to change her mind and cater the office dinner; she adamantly refuses as his descriptor “fine” is not good enough for her to cook the meals.  He offers to be a student in her one-week cooking, but since that is filled she counters with one-on-one lessons.  As they cook, kiss and fuss, the caterer and the workaholic fall in love.

This culinary romance is an engaging jocular contemporary.  The student fears heart-felt personal relationships and the instructor’s only previous passion has been cooking culinary delights for appreciative people.  Ellie Darkins bakes a warm (can’t use fine in order not to alienate Maya) contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Course Of Action: The Rescue-Lindsay McKenna and Merline Lovelace

Course Of Action: The Rescue
Lindsay McKenna and Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Sep 2 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373278855

“Jaguar Night” by Lindsay McKenna.  In the Amazon Rainforest, a drug lord abducts volunteer nurse Aly Landon.  Marine Staff Sergeant Josh Patterson liberates her from the vicious gang.  Now they must trek a hundred miles in a rough terrain with deadly force in pursuit, and her still hurt from her captivity and not in shape for such a march.  Josh admires her tenacity, but soon falls in love with the brave Aly.

“Amazon Gold” by Merline Lovelace.  In Peru, Naval Chief Charlene Dawson and her RCB crew conveys by sea Delta Force Sergeant First Class Jack Halliday and his team into the Amazon.  His mission is to take down former teammate turned rogue drug dealer Sean McMasters.  Neither Charley nor Jack anticipated an attraction, but both feel the pull.

The second Course of Action Sidewinders military romance duology contains two action-packed plots due to the strong protagonists working dangerous operations while falling in love in the exotic Amazon.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Scandal To Remember-Elizabeth Essex

A Scandal To Remember
Elizabeth Essex
St. Martin’s Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250044587

In 1815 Portsmouth, England, Charles Dance reports to intoxicated Captain Muckross of the Tenacious as the First Lieutenant on a two year South Seas science expedition.  Looking at the vessel, Dance concludes the present state of the ship is a quick watery grave; made worse by a drunken crew and captain, and two other officers in which one is way past retirement age and the other is very green.  Finally when the by the book former war veteran believes matters could not turn uglier, conchologist J. E. Burke arrives; the J stands for Jane.

At sea Dance takes charge of running the Tenacious even as the mutinous crew resents a female on board as women are a harbinger of doom for a ship.  Both he and Jane are taken aback by their attraction to each other.  While she tries to focus on science, he attempts to concentrate on them keeping afloat.  Meanwhile others want to send the scientist and the officer to a watery grave.

The fifth “scandalous” Reckless Brides Regency romance (see Almost a Scandal and A Breath of Scandal) is an entertaining High Seas adventure starring opposites-attract couple.  Jane proves her skills beyond shells and Charles recognizing her abilities when they are in dire straits by supporting her taking charge during a life-threatening scenario by not playing macho hero.  Elizabeth Essex authors an excellent historical.

Harriet Klausner

Under A Turquois Sky-Lisa Carter

Under A Turquois Sky
Lisa Carter
Abingdon, Sep 2 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9781426758027

On a date with Pritchard the weasel lawyer, Kailyn Eudailey meets his client Esteban Flores the drug lord and his gangstas.  Only undercover agent Rafe gets her out of a nasty scene.  Three months later in Charlotte, horrified and frozen in place Kailyn takes pictures of Esteban murdering his wife Gabriella who was her best friend.  She agrees to testify against the sociopath in exchange for the Feds placing her in WITSEC as Kailyn Jones, accompanied by the last gift Gaby gave her, Taco the dog.

Assigned to protect Kailyn after assaults in safe houses; she angrily recognizes FBI Agent Aaron Yazzie from when he was Rafael Chavez pawing her.  After another betrayal leading to his adopted father a U.S. Marshal got shot, Aaron takes the Southern Belle and Taco to his Navaho roots in New Mexico where his grandmother and estranged father live, and he did before leaving for the streets of Albuquerque.  They pretend to be a married couple though the angry male with no place in both worlds and the Steel Magnolia female fight and fuss; until they fall in love.

Returning to the Navaho Reservation (see Beneath a Navajo Moon) Lisa Carter provides readers with a taut romantic suspense starring two “enemy combatants”.  The storyline starts at hypersonic Mach speed; decelerates somewhat with life on the reservation emphasizing relationships including the lead couple continual ripping skin off each other; and eventually returns to Mach 3 with a great climax. 

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 12, 2014

Heir To Scandal-Andrea Laurence

Heir To Scandal
Andrea Laurence
Harlequin Desire, Sep 2 2014, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373733392

Congressman Xander Langston returns to his Cornwall, Connecticut hometown to begin his reelection campaign.  Thankful to strawberries and understanding the importance of avoiding scandal, Xander needs to limit the fallout from the human remains found on Eden Farm where he and three other boys (see A Beauty Uncovered and Undeniable Demands) were raised as foster children.   

When Xander and his high school sweetheart Rose Pierce meet for the first since she ended their relationship over a decade ago; both realizes they remain attracted to each other.  However, he struggles to adhere to his mantra of no scandal; while she is a single mom raising a son Joey, whose age implies Xander is his father.  When Rose’s brother Craig calls her that Joey was injured, Xander takes her to the hospital where he asks the Big Question.

The third Secrets of Eden is an exciting second chance romance that moves forward the overarching premise and stars a likeable cast.  Although the motif of hiding the fact from a father that he sired a child has been overused and unfair even when the rationale is altruistic, the efforts to keep the potential out of wedlock scandal from exploding make for a warm family drama.

Harriet Klausner

His To Claim-Opal Carew

His To Claim
Opal Carew
St. Martin's Griffin, Sep 2 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9781250052827

Melanie left her job of two years at Rainer Enterprises when she fell in unrequited love with her boss Rafe Ranier, who chose her best friend Jessica over her; ironically Jessica chose his brother Dane over him (see His To Possess).  Instead of another office assistant position, Melanie obtains work at a coffee shop when to her shock Rafe enters to ask why she left.  However, Melanie conceals the real reason from him; while he realizes how much he misses her.

Jessica gives Melanie a gift card for her birthday to use at a tattoo parlor.  Also there is Rafe.  As they begin to talk and argue, they each conceal a sexual secret that if revealed would bond them; but she needs his love and he doubts he can trust anyone with his heart.  When Melanie joins his former band as a roadie, Rafe as Storm follows.

The first trade paperback printing of six short e-books is a direct sequel to His To Possess.  The torrid erotic romance is filled with sexual encounters of a various kind, but Melanie’s trysts with the band feel wrong due to her love for Rafe and her morality.  Still the engaging relationship between the sexually yin and yang BDSM lead characters make for a heated drama as Rafe proves a male has enough blood for one head at a time; as his lower one wins all the debates and may cost him his beloved Melanie.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 6, 2014

She’s So Into Him-Joss Wood

She’s So Into Him
Joss Wood
Harlequin Kiss, Sep 1 2014, $5.99
ISBN: 780373179060

A decade ago, Maddison Shaw was falling in love with Cale Grant, but the love ‘em and leave ‘em hunk quickly moved on to his next conquest.  Over the years he would appear on TV and in the gossip columns while Maddie became a successful events planner.

In Simon's Town, South Africa, doing a favor for her best friends Maddie tends the bar at their popular establishment the I.Q. when Cale enters.  Maddie realizes he is even hotter now than when his touch ignited her college age libido.  After offering her condolences over the death from cancer of his even wilder twin Oliver, Cale persuades reluctant Maddie to help him with a charity triathlon in honor of his late sibling.  Needing to prove to her interfering BFFs that she’s so not into him, Maddie agrees to assist him.  All it took was one kiss to affirm to Maddie that She’s So Into Him.

This is a pleasant lighthearted second chance romance in a fascinating Cape Town suburban location.  The changing relationship between the protagonists enhanced by the matchmaking older gay couple who “adopted” the emotional waif makes for a fun “Mad” contemporary. 

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Heroes Are My Weakness-Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Heroes Are My Weakness
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Morrow, Aug 26 2014, $26.99
ISBN 9780062106070

Princess Crumpet the puppet “asks” why not Miami Beach as ailing financially broke thirtyish ventriloquist Annie Hewitt drives in wintry weather heading to a Maine barrier island where her late mom Mariah’s Moonraker Cottage is and allegedly her legacy can be found.  Fearing her return to a place she fled over a decade ago, Annie resolutely completes the journey.

Annie heads to Harp House on the hill above Moonraker seeking Will Shaw for the key to the cottage.  Instead Widower Theo Harp tells her Shaw left a month ago, he lives there for now working on his next horror novel and demands she leave and never return.  The next day Annie meets the other residents of Harp House, the owner’s housekeeper Widow Jaycie Mills struggling with a broken leg and caring for her traumatized mute four years old daughter.  Jaycie saved Annie’s life eighteen years ago from what horrible “Lord” Theo did to her.  As Annie and her puppets help Livia, the puppeteer begins to rethink back to what really happened when terrible Theo tormented her even as someone will do anything to drive her off the island.

This is a great gothic that combines the classic elements but within a modern day New England albeit somewhat isolated island atmosphere.  Theo is the brooding flawed antihero and Annie the “innocent” damsel in distress; while Harp House turns out to be the “moody” mansion.  Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes a tremendous contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Homecoming-Robyn Carr

The Homecoming
Robyn Carr
Mira, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780778316442

Seth Sileski left Thunder Point, Oregon on a football scholarship before joining the NFL.  His professional career ended with a severe injury.  Thus the thirtyish Seth came home to the coastal community after being away except for frequent visits to see his parents since he was eighteen.  Recently Seth was placed in charge of the Sheriff’s Department Thunder Point substation.

However, not everyone welcomes back Seth.  Thunder Point High School guidance counselor Iris McKinley refuses to speak to him though they were once childhood BFFs.  When she finally reveals to him what he did to her while intoxicated, Seth is horrified as he does not recall having sex with the then virgin Iris before breaking her heart.  Knowing he done her wrong (with homage by moi to Mae West and Cary Grant), Seth tries to persuade his reluctant beloved Iris to let him make it up to her for the rest of their lives.

The sixth Thunder Point Oregonian romance (see The Promise and The Chance) is a warm second chance contemporary.  The lead duet is a likable pair especially the wary Iris while the townsfolk add local character to a charming leisurely-paced novel.

Harriet Klausner

Shattered Secrets-Karen Harper

Shattered Secrets
Karen Harper
Mira, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780778316473

When Tess Lockwood was a young child growing up in Cold Creek, Ohio, someone snatched her.  For eight months she remained kidnapped before eventually returning to her family.  Though she recalls nothing of her abduction time, the horror kept Tess away from her hometown for almost two decades.

Recently Tess inherited her family home with the death of her mom.  Reluctantly Tess returns to Cold Creek with a plan to leave the Buckeye State for that state to the north (paraphrasing Woody Hayes) Michigan as soon as she sells the property.  Filled with guilt because he was watching her when she was taken, Sheriff Gabe McCord hopes Tess can remember details of her horror so that he can end the string of kidnappings that torments him and haunted his late father the previous sheriff.  As Tess begins to recover buried memories, someone wants her dead.  Meanwhile, a child’s abduction forces Gabe and Tess to ignore their growing attraction to focus on the rescue.

Shattered Secrets is an enjoyable romantic suspense starring a fascinating heroine suffering from PTSD though the horror occurred almost two decades ago.  During the memory recovery phase, the storyline is leisurely-paced; but accelerates into a frantic hyperspeed second half leading to the audience anxiously awaiting a final conflict between Tess and her nightmare. 

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ultimate Sins-Lora Leigh

Ultimate Sins
Lora Leigh
St. Martin’s, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312389109

After being away from his Colorado hometown for years Crowe Callahan returns to deal with the Corbin County attorney Wayne “Slasher” Sorenson, a diabolical serial killing rapist.  Crowe also realizes he will have to see the only woman he ever loved, Wayne’s daughter Amelia.

Wayne loathes Crowe and his Callahan kin especially the cousins Logan (see Deadly Sins and Rafer (see Midnight Sins) who he feels stole something that belongs to him.  He has an added incentive to detest Crowe when his daughter committed the Ultimate Sins, choosing to betray him by allying with his enemy.  Fearing for his beloved Amelia, Crowe expects her father to attempt to commit filicide so he risks his life to keep her safe.

The latest Callahan Sins (see Secret Sins) is an edgy over the top of the Rocky Mountains romantic suspense in which newbies will be lost and returnees need a scorecard to keep track of the Cecil B. DeMille size cast.  For Sins fans only, at times the heated sexual interludes that melt the mountaintop snow intrude on the anticipated showdown between father and lover.

Harriet Klausner

The Maiden Of Ireland- Susan Wiggs

The Maiden Of Ireland
Susan Wiggs
Mira, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9780778316466

In 1658, weeping women attend the execution of Father John the heretic.  The condemned man muses that for six years John Wesley Hawkins worked undercover as Father John to remove the usurper Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell from ruling the land and restore the rightful king to the throne, but failed.  As he is about to hang, he says his last words: “…God save Charles Stuart…”.  At the very last moment with the rope tearing into his throat, Cromwell saves his life and that of his daughter but demands in remittance John uncover the identity of the Fianna Irish rebellion or else he and his family will die. 

Wesley travels to Connemara, Ireland where Caitlin MacBride, daughter of the local chieftain, notices him walking near her home Castle Clonmuir.  His shameful scheme is simply seduce Caitlin into revealing who the Fianna chief is.  What Wesley failed to anticipate was falling in love with his target.

This “revised” version of 1993 The Mist And The Magic (don’t know how much was refreshed) is an enjoyable brisk Cromwellian romance with a unique locale; instead of the usual London, Ireland shines during the era when Parliament and the Lord Protector ruled the kingdom.  Leisurely-paced, this is an entertaining seventeenth century historical even with the lead relationship being typical of the subgenre. 

Harriet Klausner