Archive for April, 2010

Open Country-Kaki Warner

April 30, 2010

Open Country

Kaki Warner

Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425234303

In 1871 at the suggestion of her sister’s doctor, nurse Molly McFarlane travels from Atlanta to Savannah to see her sibling Nellie who is dying from lung disease.  Molly’s brother-n-law Daniel Fletcher is nasty to her; telling her to go home.  Nellie pleads with Molly to run off with her two preadolescent children from a previous marriage, as she fears for them under Daniels martinet abuse.

As Molly flees with her niece and nephew, in nearby Jeanerette, Rustin lectures Daniel for failing to find what his late father-in-law hid as the wealthy man plots a second Southern rebellion because war is money.  Meanwhile, out west a train wreck leaves Patrick Henry “Hank” Wilkins near death, remorseful but desperate Molly marries him so she can inherit at least an insurance claim to take care of the kids and hide from her odious brother-in-law’s operatives.  Instead Hank recovers, but is clueless re marriage and a train wreck.  He takes his wife and her wards to his family ranch in the New Mexico Territory where his family embraces the newcomers.  As they fall in love and his memory returns, her Georgia roots are arriving.

The second of the Blood Rose trilogy (see The Pieces of the Sky) is a wonderful historical tale starring a strong ensemble cast.  A key fresh premise is the push for a new Confederacy revolt as personal economic gain due to war motivates Rustin and his cohorts, who stole gold from the south several years ago.  With an intriguing lead couple whose marriage is shaky as he knows part of the truth in spite of two frightened children needing them and the rest of the Wilkins, fans will appreciate this superb Reconstruction Era romance.

Harriet Klausner

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Amandine-Marlena de Blasi

April 30, 2010

Amandine

Marlena de Blasi

Ballantine, May 18 2010, $25.00

ISBN: 9780345507341

In 1931 in Krakow, Poland, an unmarried aristocrat gives birth to a female.  To protect her foolish unwed daughter, her mother the Countess lies by telling the new mom that the baby died.  The grandmother sends her newborn illegitimate granddaughter to a convent in Montpellier, France run by Abbess Mother Paul and raised by a governess Solange Jouffroi, who names the infant Amandine Gilberte Noiret de Crécy.

Mother Paul detests Amandine while the other sisters are wary of her; only Solange loves her ward.  Over the years Amandine wonders why her mom and grandma abandoned her and why the abbess overtly displays her loathing.  When scarlet fever ravages the convent, Solange takes Amandine with her to stay with her family as the Nazis blitzkrieg of France turns the two day journey by train into a dangerous odyssey.

This is a wonderful historical tale with a nod to Maslow’s Hierarchy; as once the basic biological needs are met, Amandine seeks self actualization by wondering where she belongs.  Except for Solange whom she loves as her mom, she fears something is wrong with her for so many to abandon her or loathe her.  That sense of identity lost before it is even set make for a strong thriller further anchored in time and place during an era of Nazi atrocities as war engulfs Europe.

Harriet Klausner

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People-Farahad Zama

April 30, 2010

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People

Farahad Zama

Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425234242

In Kapu, India, Mr. Ali tried retirement only to find it tedious.  Needing something to do as the ennui is fossilizing his brain, the bored Muslim opens up a marriage bureau.  Mr. Ali is surprised to find his endeavor successful as clients seeking a mate that meets their stipulation flock to him.  He hires Aruna, a single young woman from an impoverished Brahmin family.

Mr. and Mrs. Ali struggle with their activist son Rehman, who believes in human rights while Aruna tussles with an increasingly hostile situation at home.  Ironically Aruna would prefer to be a client and knows who she wants, but being penniless that is a bitter unrequited dream becauseas the Romanian doctor accompanied by his family seeks a more suitable match.

This is a very reflective contemporary drama that digs deeply into modern India’s struggles with religious, gender and caste egalitarianism when the country has an institutionalized history of inequality.  Yet even with these powerful topics, it is the cast who make the relationships work; as for instance Mr. Ali looks forward to his next fight with his son.  Although many of the problems between people are resolved too easily and rapidly, fans will enjoy Mr. Ali’s pragmatic solutions to the age old problems of love vs. tradition.

Harriet Klausner

Husband and Wife-Leah Stewart

April 30, 2010

Husband and Wife

Leah Stewart

Harper, May 4 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061774508

Feeling some guilt, novelist Nathan Bennett confesses to his wife Sarah Price that he slept with another woman.  She is stunned by his confession, which changes her priorities from which dress to wear at a wedding would make her look less fat to what to do about her relationship with Nathan; factoring in their two young children, Mattie and Binx.

Whereas Nathan feels remorse, Sarah feels anger.  She considers her options by looking at her past through a decision analysis of what could have been her life if she chose a differentpath.  She ponders leaving her spouse and taking the kids with her of course while her anger grows as she gave up poetry writing and wants to be known as a poetess again.  Then there is to consider her friend Rajiv, who has loved her forever.

This is an interesting family drama in which an extramarital one night stand has shattered the trust between Husband and Wife.  The lead couple feels genuine especially their emotions.  However, it is the tense intriguing look back by Sarah who deeply examines lost opportunities when she made pivotal choices who makes the story line profound.  Although the ending seems off kilter as a throwback to Austen’s Regency era, fans will still appreciate this deep character study of one major indiscretion which has incredible relational costs.

Harriet Klausner

Wanted!-Vicki Lewis Thompson

April 29, 2010

Wanted!

Vicki Lewis Thompson

Harlequin Blaze, Jun 2010, $4.99

ISBN: 9780373795482

After two years keeping control of her impulses by being Herman’s girlfriend, photographer Dominique Jeffries decides enough.  She dumps Herman and leaves for Wyoming to find the old Dominique.

Veterinarian Nick Chance is fuming at his brother for ordering him to dig postholes in a rocky area.  Shirtless, he meets Dominique who has a ribald self deprecating sense of humor.  They each like what they see and agree to a short term tryst.  As they fall in love, Nick struggles to conceal his desire for her to be with him forever while she struggles between wanting to be with him forever and her need to find the independent feisty Dominique who went into hiding the last couple of years.

This is an entertaining ranch romance starring two likable individuals and a solid support cast.  The story line focuses on both internally insisting to themselves “I’m not in love” while wanting the affair to go on indefinitely.  Although the “I’m in love” revelation is so abrupt, it catches the lead pair off guard and the audience will initially discredit it; still fans will enjoy a trip to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming where the Last Chance Ranch welcomes readers.

Harriet Klausner

The Sexy Devil-Kate Hoffmann

April 29, 2010

The Sexy Devil

Kate Hoffmann

Harlequin Blaze, Jun 2010, $4.99

ISBN: 9780373795505

In high school Angela Weatherby fell in love with star athlete Max Morgan, who was a player.  Now she is authoring a book on “Smooth Operators: A Woman’s Guide to Avoiding Dating Disasters”.  However, she has hit a snag when two womanizing hunks reform and marry her friends although she insists they are inside the margin of error.

Based on posts to her website, Max, now a professional baseball player, deserves his own chapter as the epitome of The Sexy Devil.  Angela decides to look him up assuming that as an adult she will be immune to his curveball.  Instead she learns the error of her ways as she still wants him.  He is in love too, but what will happen when he learns she classified him as another unfeeling male creep.

This is a fun lighthearted contemporary frolic as the baseball player and the writer steal each other’s heart but struggle to complete the game of love.  Although the story line is a bit thin, fans will enjoy the fun tale as Angela begins to wonder how many devilish hunks belong outside the breaking a woman’s heart “norm”.

Harriet Klausner

A Most Sinful Proposal-Sara Bennett

April 29, 2010

A Most Sinful Proposal

Sara Bennett

Avon, Apr 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780061339172

In 1837 at Miss Debenhan’s Finishing School, Marissa Rotherhild, daughter of two avid botanists, tells her Husband Hunters Club friends that she has chosen her husband, the Honorable George Kent of Surrey.  Known as a rake, she believes she can change the womanizer.

Marissa goes to meet George at the family country estate, but instead encounters his reclusive older sibling, Lord Valentine Kent, who she finds attractive and his obsession with roses makes her feels close to home.  However, his quest for the most likely extinct Crusader’s Rose excites her almost as much as does Valentine.

The latest Husband Hunters Club early Victorian romance (see Led Astray by a Rake) is an enjoyable tale starring two fascinating lead characters linked by desire for one another and knowledge of botany that Sara Bennett deftly interweaves into the plot.  The story line starts a bit slower than usual, but once Valentine and Marissa begin the search with a rival of his stalking them to steal the find if they make it, the plot moves rather quickly and entertainingly.  Sub-genre fans will join the trek for the rare rose as A Most Sinful Proposal is worth reading.

Harriet Klausner

Sex, Lies And Secret Lives-Thea Devine

April 29, 2010

Sex, Lies And Secret Lives

Thea Devine

Gallery, Apr 27 2010, $14.00

ISBN: 9781416562658

Twin sisters Jillian and Justine Durant always knew they could depend on only each other during a traumatic childhood.  They even set up their own SOS “Just in time” as a safety survival mechanism.  As adults they moved beyond their harrowing youth in radically different ways; but shared in common a deep belief that neither would ever accept poverty again.

In the middle of the night the text fail safe message arrives from Jillian to Justine after the former sees her last lover Oliver Bayard on CNN, a murder victim.  Knowing her twin needs her, Justine leaves her research job to insure her sibling is okay, but Jillian is missing.  Justine quickly learns her globetrotting model sister uses the name Justine Dare as a paid companion to the affluent. Desperate she masquerades as her sibling after a wealthy customer arrives at her sister’s place and assumes Justine is Jillian.  The men keep coming like Zach, but who is an ally is and who is the enemy is remains elusive while Justine as Jillian searches for her missing twin.

Twins switching in a romantic suspense tale is not a new device (see Switch by Sandra Brown) although Thea Devine somewhat refreshes the plot by having one sibling disappear though that has been deployed less frequently (see Double Take by Brenda Joyce).  The story line is fast-paced with plenty of sexual encounters, although the characters are not that deeply developed but Justine gets deep into the role of Jillian while researching her sister’s disappearance.  Fans will enjoy the ultra heated aptly titled Sex, Lies, and Secret lives.

Harriet Klausner

Evangeline-Ben Farmer

April 28, 2010

Evangeline

Ben Farmer

Overlook, Apr 2010, $25.95

ISBN 9781590200438

In 1755 the British army ruthlessly marches through one of their colonies Acadia to evict the unwelcome French citizens from their homes and loved ones.  Families are torn apart without regard as ethnic cleansing of the French Catholics is the regal policy.

As part of the royal eviction, lovers Evangeline Bellefontaine and Gabriel Lajeunesse are separated, deported, and sent to different areas in the colonies that leave them several hundred miles from one another.  Evangeline makes a concerted effort to find the love of her life.  Her trek is dangerous but she believes it is worth it though he may be in the lower English colonies, out west amidst the French colonies, or as far away as the Louisiana bayous where many Acadians ended up after the “Great Expulsion”; she chooses Louisiana on a decade odyssey accompanied by trapper Bernard Arseneau and priest Father Felician.

Ben Farmer provides an intriguing novelization of the classic Longfellow poem.  The story line brings to life the French-British conflict in North America as it intrudes on colonial existence.  Although the history overwhelms the cast even the title character, readers will enjoy Mr. Farmer’s detailed impressive look at the impact of the hostilities between the French and British had on the North American colonists and the regional Indian tribes

Harriet Klausner

Welcome to Harmony-Jodi Thomas

April 28, 2010

Welcome to Harmony

Jodi Thomas

Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $7.99

ISBN 9780425235102

Although they named the town they established Harmony, the three Texas families who founded the place should have named it acrimony as the McAllen, Matheson, and Truman brood detest one another.  They compete with one another over who should run Harmony while Sheriff Alexandra McAllen goes on drinking binges every Saturday night with fire chief Hank Matheson always nearby to clean her up

Teen Reagan worked in a nursing home where she enjoyed hearing elderly resident Beverly Truman tell stories about her hometown of Harmony.  When Beverly dies, Regan decides to relocate in Harmony; borrowing the late woman’s surname.  Beverly’s brother Jeremiah realizes almost immediately upon meeting Reagan that they do not share bloodlines, but decides not to expose her.  Instead he allows her to keep her ruse as he welcomes her into the family.

However, the divided town must come together as a prairie fire bears down on it.  Especially the three leading rival families or Harmony will be no more.

This fine small-town portrayal will remind readers of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Grove although Harmony has its own stamp, that of talented Jodi Thomas.  The story line is mostly a sweet concoction of townsfolk welcoming outsiders like Reagan and readers.  The prairie fire and the Sheriff’s drinking problem add tension and issues to an engaging but otherwise sugary portrait of a small Texas town.

Harriet Klausner