Archive for September, 2009

Rainwater-Sandra Brown

September 30, 2009

Rainwater

Sandra Brown

Simon & Schuster, Nov 3 2009, $23.99

ISBN: 9781439172773

In 1934 in Gilead, Texas, after her husband deserted Ella Barron and their son Solly, she supports them by running a boardinghouse.  Her ten year old child has issues that make him different and requires much attention from Ella.  Although she is tired from all she must do to keep the place running and her son safe Ella believes it is worth it for her Solly.

Ella agrees to take in a new boarder David Rainwater based on a recommendation from a friend she trusts.  The quiet newcomer surprises her as he is more than just kind to Solly; he spends quality time with her son.  Ella reluctantly becomes attracted to him and he is falling in love with his landlady and her child.  However, when racial hatred led by affluent Conrad Ellis leads to violence aimed at Ella and Solly, David risks his life to protect those facing brutality.

This is a deep Great Depression Era Texas thriller as poverty ignores race, ethnic background and gender, but people don’t.  Racism turns brutally ugly as Ellis and his followers are the law.  Ella is a courageous individual while Solly steals hearts as the townsfolk see him as either pitiful or demonized, making him a perfect helpless target of Ellis.  David will surprise readers as Solly gives him the inspiration to risk his life.  Sandra Brown is at her best with this heart-wrenching one sitting Americana.

Harriet Klausner

A Measure of Mercy-Lauraine Snelling

September 30, 2009

A Measure of Mercy

Lauraine Snelling

Bethany House, Oct 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 9780764206092

In 1903 eighteen year old Astrid Bjordlund wants to be a doctor studying medicine in either Chicago or Grand Forks.  However, her dream suffers a setback when her family loses much of their money.  Astrid refuses a chance to go to Chicago deciding to remain home in Blessing, North Dakota studying under her sister-in-law, Dr. Elizabeth.

Joshua Landsverk left Blessing two-years ago, but has come home to stay.  He was attracted to Astrid before he left and still is.  She reciprocates and he courts her.  However a second chance in Chicago arises, which forces Astrid to choose between her love for Joshua and her dream of big city medicine.

The first Home to Blessing historical romance is an entertaining tale due to the intriguing lead female protagonist who along with Dr. Elizabeth show women is starting to make it in previously male jobs, but have a long way to go at the start of the twentieth century.  The story line is well written and entreating for fans of the Blessing saga.  Newcomers will find it a bit difficult to dive in head first even though this is the beginning of a new saga.  Still with a strong sense of time and place and a solid cast, fans will enjoy this fine Americana tale.

Harriet Klausner

Christmas Secret-Donna VanLiere

September 29, 2009

Christmas Secret

Donna VanLiere

St. Martin’s, Oct 13 2009, $15.99

ISBN: 9780312558369

Single mom Angela Christine Eisley raises her two young children (seven year old Zach and five year old Haley), but it is not easy as she works long hours for low wages and tips as a waitress while her former spouse Brad refuses to pay child support.  He insists he will pay for the kids when he gains custody of them as he knows she can’t keep paying court fees

Even as crummy as her job is Christine is shocked when she is fired for being late again as the teen baby-sitter failed to appear in a timely manner.  Although despondent and fearful that she and the kids will be evicted, Christine saves the life of an elderly woman, but does not stay around for accolades.  The woman works at Wilson’s Department Store whose owner sends his unemployed grandson Jason to find the angel Christy, who no longer believes in the wonderment of Christmas.

Typical of her previous warm holiday tales that bring so much hope and promise to readers, Donna VanLiere provides a charming story of people in need of the miracle of love.  The ensemble cast is fully developed with only Brad being Scrooge the sole stereotype.  Fans will relish Jason’s search for much more than just the Angel Christy and Angela Christine’s need for the magic of Christmas to return to her life as readers know it is no secret that Ms. VanLiere always writes a tender heart warming Christmas tale.

Harriet Klausner

St. Martin’s, Oct 13 2009, $15.99

ISBN: 9780312558369

Single mom Angela Christine Eisley raises her two young children (seven year old Zach and five year old Haley), but it is not easy as she works long hours for low wages and tips as a waitress while her former spouse Brad refuses to pay child support.  He insists he will pay for the kids when he gains custody of them as he knows she can’t keep paying court fees

Even as crummy as her job is Christine is shocked when she is fired for being late again as the teen baby-sitter failed to appear in a timely manner.  Although despondent and fearful that she and the kids will be evicted, Christine saves the life of an elderly woman, but does not stay around for accolades.  The woman works at Wilson’s Department Store whose owner sends his unemployed grandson Jason to find the angel Christy, who no longer believes in the wonderment of Christmas.

Typical of her previous warm holiday tales that bring so much hope and promise to readers, Donna VanLiere provides a charming story of people in need of the miracle of love.  The ensemble cast is fully developed with only Brad being Scrooge the sole stereotype.  Fans will relish Jason’s search for much more than just the Angel Christy and Angela Christine’s need for the magic of Christmas to return to her life as readers know it is no secret that Ms. VanLiere always writes a tender heart warming Christmas tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Return-Victoria Hislop

September 29, 2009

The Return

Victoria Hislop

Harper, Oct 6 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061715419

Her marriage to a much older Englishman is tedious so Sonia and her best friend Maggie take dancing lessons.  When she sees pictures of her mom, Sonia decides to learn more about her maternal heritage in Spain.  She and Maggie fly to Grenada for flamenco lessons to escape from the monotony and find the former’s roots.

At a café, the owner tells Sonia about his family in the 1930s.  Concha and Pablo Ramirez raised four children while running a café in town.  Antonio is a teacher; Ignacio is a matador; Emilio is managing the café; and their only daughter Mercedes is a flamenco dancer, who loves guitarist Javier Montero.  Life is good for the Ramirez brood until the Spanish Civil War erupts.

This is a super look at Spain that fascinatingly uses the impact of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s that killed a half million people in three years on yet unique aspects of the culture survive such as a love of dance and the risk of bull-fighting.  Readers will appreciate this tour hosted by the Ramirez family as Sonia finds her maternal roots and much more; symbolized by seven decades old dancing shoes.

Harriet Klausner

Paradise Rules-Beth Kery

September 29, 2009

Paradise Rules

Beth Kery

Heat, Oct 2009, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425230121

Blues singer Ailana “Lana” Rodriguez hides her Hawaiian background because she knows first-hand from her childhood that paradise is a sham.  She vowed to leave the islands the first chance she got and did.  Although she prefers to never return to her home state, Lana reluctantly agrees to accompany her best friend to Waikiki on vacation after a marriage to a sleaze went sour.

Lana and local surf school instructor and celebrity Jason Koa meet with each feeling the attraction between them although she transmits icy tundra at him.  However, Lana wants nothing to do with the chick magnet while he makes it clear he desires her.  They soon share a vacation getaway filled with passion until pictures of the pair surface that could only mean family betrayal.  She wants to flee back to the mainland, but he and his kin shower her with love.

This is a terrific look at the islands paradise from a different perspective; a native who escaped and loathes Hawaii.  The relationship between Lana and Jason starts off colder than the polar region as she is Ms. Bitchy and he reacts accordingly.  When it thaws, the heat melts the polar cap.  However, a serpent in Eden may break up the couple as they fall in love because trusting men ended with the tune “Over the Rainbow” due to her late abusive father.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Seduction-Maya Banks

September 29, 2009

Sweet Seduction

Maya Banks

Heat, Oct 2009, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425230695

From the first time salon owner and masseuse Julie Stanford gave him a massage to the last one with a crowning finish she has wanted Nathan Tucker.  However, he either is blind or gay as he ignores her seductive endeavors even when she makes him come in her mouth.  Deciding she has had enough with frustration, Julie visits the House so her sexual fantasy of doing two men can be at least satiated.

Nathan and his friend Micah make love to the blindfolded Julie.  When he reveals what he did, she decides to give him a taste of female strength using handcuffs to dominate him.  Gentle under her control, afterward he admits to Julie he loves her, but she flees having been hurt by love before.  He will have to persuade her that they belong together one dominating but gentle stroke at a time.

This heated erotic romance is fast-paced from the opening blow job to the final BDSM seduction.  Julie is a wonderful protagonist who knows what she wants though a submissive and goes out to get it; Nathan is the one who vows to never to be tamed but though a dominant Julie has him figuratively tied in knots.  Although the couple’s relationship never fully gels outside the boudoirs, fans will knows it’s safe to bet the House (see SWEET PERSUASION) on Maya Banks providing an enjoyable hot read.

Harriet Klausner

The Cookie Christmas Club Ann Pearlman

September 28, 2009

The Cookie Christmas Club

Ann Pearlman

Atria, Oct 20 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9781439158845

In Ann Arbor, the twelve members of the Christmas Cookie Club meet on the first Monday of December as they have for sixteen years with a baker’s dozen homemade cookies; one to exchange with each other and one for charity.  Although the membership has changed over the years, it remains twelve stalwart females who also bring a covered dish and wine as they update one another re what has happened while Al Green sings about love in the background.

Marnie hosts this year’s war stories gala.  She tells them she is concerned about her pregnant daughter.  Other relay their fears and worries about themselves and their loved ones.  Each shares their deepest trepidations with the other Christmas Cookie Club members.

This is an enjoyable contemporary relationship drama that celebrates the bond of sisterhood.  The anecdotal story line is engaging but the cast is too large as few of the entries go deep enough for the reader to care about most of the individuals.  Still fans who appreciated Karen Joy Fowler’s the Jane Austen Book Club will want to read about the supporting strengths of deep friendships.

Harriet Klausner

Americans in Space-Mary E. Mitchell

September 28, 2009

Americans in Space

Mary E. Mitchell

Dunne, Oct 13 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312372453

In Boston, forty-two years old Kyle Cavanaugh suddenly died from an undiagnosed heart condition.  He had been seemingly in perfect health even having a full head of hair when he passed away leaving behind a grieving stunned wife Kate, an equally shocked teenage daughter Charlotte and their two year old toddler Hunter.

Two years later, the Cavanaugh family has disintegrated as a loving unit though the surviving trio still lives together.  A guidance counselor Kate remains a tired disbeliever scorning health providers for missing her lovely spouse’s condition.  Charlotte stopped butchering the violin and has become a sullen angry teen who cannot talk to her mother.  Hunter’s companion is Heinz ketchup bottles.  The affluent techno linebacker next door kindhearted “Auntie Marge” is the only reason the deceleration into total collapse has been somewhat aborted.  Deciding she needs to finally reach her two children, Kate takes them on a road show over the objection of her oldest and the bewilderment of her youngest.

Although a five tissue tear jerker, the four Cavanaugh members (Kyle through the memories of the older two) make for a profound look at grief when a relatively young seemingly healthy patriarch suddenly dies.  Kate is terrific at the high school where she works and Charlotte attends but cannot communicate with her daughter without screaming and door slamming.  Charlotte’s brooding and ire are overdone yet enhance the drifting apart like Hubble’s theory on an expanding red-shifting universe.  However, the story line is owned by Hunter who will leave readers with plenty of empathetic tears.

Harriet Klausner

In the Falling Snow-Caryl Phillips

September 28, 2009

In the Falling Snow

Caryl Phillips

Knopf, Sep 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307272560

Keith Gordon’s parents came from the West Indies settling in England where he was born in the early 1960s.  He was raised by his white stepmother and is therefore comfortable with both races.  Keith married a white Annabelle, whose family excommunicated her due to her marrying him but after two decades together they have been separated for two years now.

Recently Annabelle has become increasingly worried about their seventeen year old son Laurie who will not talk to his father as if his dad is at fault for the teen being biracial.  At work Keith heads the London unit of Race Equality, but the social worker is under investigation as a subordinate has accused him of harassment; not that it matters much anymore as he has begin to conclude his work is meaningless.  Filled with despondency while pondering is that all there is, Keith even considers what to do about his estrangement with his West Indies’ dad.

This is a super timely look at racial identification in a changing world as the EEO question of which race you belong to seems obsolete with the increasing number of bi-racial people.  Keith is a terrific character who deliberates over his identity as a second generation Englishman who stands out in the snow white stereotype picture of his countrymen.  His third generation offspring feels alienated and resentful even as his dad reflects who he is and is that all there is in life.

Harriet Klausner

Thanksgiving at the Inn-Tim Whitney

September 27, 2009

Thanksgiving at the Inn

Tim Whitney

Bancroft, Oct 1 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9781890862640

Two years ago the mother of teenager Heath Wellington III walked out on him and his dad Junior.  Since she left, Junior treats his son as a slave with chores all the time when the kid is not in school, which he is not having been suspended for cheating.  When Junior’s dad dies, Heath realizes he cannot remember what his grandfather Senior looked like as they drive to Massachusetts for the funeral.  Senior’s lawyer Lloyd explains that Junior and Heath will inherit the Sleeping Inn if they run the place for three months and take care of the residents.

Heath feels at home at the B&B with the Jamaican sage Winsted, elderly Mrs. Farrel who is giving away her late husband’s fortune one letter at a time, muscular children’s author Mustang Sally, and TV news couch potato Carter.  He also likes neighbor Savannah who apparently is his dad’s first love, and her autistic daughter Tori.  On the other hand he loathes his father who sees the world as one endless loveless chore.

This is an engaging inspiring family drama as the son becomes the father (think of Chapin’s song Cat in the Cradle) although Senior learned too late what he did to his offspring.  Senior’s legacy is letters trying to reach Junior before he repeats the mistake with the III.  In light of a photo showing three generations of smiling male Wellingtons, the lack of the back story between Senior and Junior hurts any transformation that may occur.  Still fans will enjoy this fine holiday tale as everyone learns to be thankful for all the good in their lives by celebrating together THANKSGIVING AT THE INN.

Harriet Klausner