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 fiancĂ© Glen jilted her.  Though she wants to celebrate this New Year's Eve alone at home, her Uncle Nathanial and his fiancĂ©e 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