Archive for June, 2010

Ransome’s Crossing-Kaye Dacus

June 30, 2010

Ransome’s Crossing

Kaye Dacus

Harvest House, Jun 2010, $13.99

ISBN: 9780736927543

In 1814, her family is unaware that Charlotte Ransome has a secret fiancé Henry Winchester in Jamaica.  Although she knows she is acting rash, Charlotte dresses up as midshipman Charles Lott to sneak on board one of the vessels of a fleet captained by her brother Commander William Ransome.

However, her plan threatens to fall apart when she becomes ill.  First Lieutenant Ned Cochran knows who Charles is having met briefly Charlotte in England before setting off for the Caribbean.  He is already halfway in love with her from that brief meeting in Portsmouth and decides to conceal her true identity from his superior officer her brother the Commander.  On the journey across the sea to find her fiancé, Charlotte finds herself attracted to caring Ned; leaving her to ponder her fickleness as she falls in love with a second man.

The second Ransome historical romance (see Ramsome’s Honor for the turbulent romance between William and Julia) is a terrific early nineteenth century tale as readers will feel they are at sea crossing the Atlantic.  The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as she feels capricious while he risks his career for his beloved.  Although women disguised as men has been used many times in books and movies, Kaye Dacus makes it feel sea-breezing fresh with a strong entry that also sets up the next novel in the saga with a wonderful final twisting cliffhanger.

Harriet Klausner

Playing With Fire-Amy Knupp

June 30, 2010

Playing With Fire

Amy Knupp

Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 13 2010, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373716463

Macey Locke leaves the Peace Corps after two years and heads to San Amaro Island, Texas, home of her best friend Derek Severson.  She loves Derek, but knows he does not return her deepest feelings.  However, her mission is to help her BFF move passed the tragic death of his girlfriend Julie in a fire last year.

As a  firefighter Derek feels guilty that in spite of his occupation he failed to save Julie’s life.  Worse, he finds his attraction to Macey makes him think he is betraying Julie’s memory.  However, as he realizes he loves Macey, he also concludes kind-hearted Julie would want him to go on with his life.  Now to persuade Macey they can be friends and lovers.

This is a terrific contemporary tale with a romantic subplot that enhances the relationship drama between the lead couple.  The key to the well-written novel is Derek as the audience will feel his grief and commiserate with him; feelings from others he does not want.  His guilt for failing Julie and for falling in love with his BFF make for a strong emotional story line though the premise of a second chance at love with a best buddy is not new.  Amy Knupp provides a powerful novel as this Texas Firefighter learns what happens to one’s heat when Playing With Fire of the woman who loves him.

Harriet Klausner

Of Bees and Mist-Erick Setiawan

June 28, 2010

Of Bees and Mist

Erick Setiawan

Simon and Schuster, Jul 6 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9781416596257

Meridia’s home contains all types of magical spells and demons; not all kind.  She thinks she will escape her hell of her dysfunctional battling parents when she falls in love with her knight in shining armor.  She knows Daniel will rescue her.

However, Meridia had not counted on his family especially his mother making her parents look harmonious.  Eva is abusive to everyone but especially her new daughter in law.  She uses bees as spies and weapons of mass destruction.  Her treatment of others including Meridia has her finally fighting back as Daniel fails to intercede between the two women in his life.

This is an interesting adult fairy tale parable that exaggerates Meridia’s overall purity and the evilness of her parents and mother-in-law; the spouse is a wuss who chooses neither side in the extended family war of good and evil.  Ghosts and killer bees add excitement to the mix, but Meridia as victim in her parents’ home and Meridia as victim in her husband’s home is too frequent with little respite as Erick Setiawan argues that adhering to the Golden Rule does not mean others will likewise.  Still sub-genre readers will enjoy the war between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law while the man who links them stays docilely neutral.

Harriet Klausner

A Dog’s Purpose-W. Bruce Cameron

June 28, 2010

A Dog’s Purpose

W. Bruce Cameron

Forge, Jul 6 2010, $22.99

ISBN: 9780765326263

Toby is born in the wild with three siblings.  However, he and his family are captured by humans.  Whereas his mother wants freedom from their guards, Toby comprehends human speak and likes the kindhearted woman running the shelter for stray dogs like him.  However, Toby is hurt when a new vicious canine attacks him.  The woman puts him down in act of euthanasia.

He returns to life as Bailey the golden retriever pet of young Ethan.  They live during the school year with his parents, but in the summer the lad and his dog live with his grandparents on their farm; both are attracted to Hannah.  When Ethan is a teenager, a schoolmate burns down Ethan’s house; injuring him.  He and Bailey recuperate at the farm even as the boy’s parents separate. Bailey comforts Ethan before dying of old age.

“He” comes back as a female Ellie the K-9 police dog until she loses her sense of smell. She remembers her bond as Bailey with Ethan.  When he returns for the fourth time as Buddy he searches for his Ethan, a lonely elderly person living alone on the family farm.

This is an exhilarating and poignant parable that showcases a canine’s love for his human companion as Toby and his three latter reincarnations never forgets his bond of love with Ethan.  Well written, readers will enjoy this fine tale as a cat may have nine lives, but a dog with purpose has at least four lives.

 Harriet Klausner

Tatiana and Alexander-Paullina Simons

June 28, 2010

Tatiana and Alexander

Paullina Simons

Avon, Jun 29 2010, $15.99

ISBN: 9780061987465

In 1941 eighteen year old Tatiana Metanova and Red Army Officer Alexander Belov met and fell in love (see The Bronze Horseman).  She becomes pregnant while he goes off to fight Hitler’s army.  Tatiana believes her beloved died so as a single mom widow manages to get to Ellis Island via Scandinavia and the across the Atlantic.  Tatiana changes her name to Jane Barrington and gets a position as a nurse on Ellis Island while also raising her son Anthony, but misses her beloved Alexander

Meanwhile Stalin’s Secret Police arrests Alexander who is accused of being a traitor.  He is sentenced to die.  He looks back ironically to when his father, a communist believer, left a nice middle class existence in America to relocate the family in Stalin’s impoverished Russia.  However, those thoughts add to his pain.  Only remembering his beloved Tatiana keeps him going through the torture and the expectation of death.

The sequel to The Bronze Horseman changes perspective from Tatiana’s vivid descriptions of the horrors of war especially the Battle of Leningrad with her one light being Alexander; to his bleak tale of all’s deadly on the German front especially his only stay of execution being the lead of a suicide mission with his one light being Tatiana.  The terrific story line uses the atrocities of war as the backdrop to the human spirit when love can overcome so much.  Tatiana and Alexander is a love story  that tugs at the heartstrings.

Harriet Klausner

The Family Plan-Susan Gable

June 28, 2010

The Family Plan

Susan Gable

Harlequin Superromance Jul 13 2010, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373716456

Her daughter Jordan is dying from cancer.  The only thing that can save her life is the umbilical cord blood from a newborn sister.  Her single mom Dr. Amelia Young finds the anonymous donor whose sperm she used thirteen years ago to birth her daughter.

Chef Finn Hawkins is stunned that he was tracked down.  However, he agrees to donate again so that a full-blood sibling can be born to save Jordan’s life. Amelia accepts his donation, but vanishes.  However, eight months later, Jordan searches for her biological father at a time when Amelia’s baby doctor wants her resting.

Mindful of the true story of a sister born to save her sister from leukemia, this is an engaging contemporary as The Family Plan never included a father, but Finn persuades Amelia that Jordan and their unborn need him as much as she does  and he needs them.  Character driven, this is a warm tale of love that comes in many ways and in various relationships.

Harriet Klausner

Charlotte’s Homecoming-Janice Kay Johnson

June 28, 2010

Charlotte’s Homecoming

Janice Kay Johnson

Harlequin American, Jul 13 2010, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373716449

After their widower father is hospitalized from a tractor accident injury and having lost her Bay Area job due to downsizing, Charlotte Russell returns to the family farm to help her twin sister divorced kindergarten teacher Faith run the place and care for their dad.  Faith informs her sibling that her abusive former husband Rory Hardesty is trying to reconcile with her but only scares her with his temper further fueled by alcohol. 

Charlotte and town mayor Gray Van Dusen, an architect, meet and are attracted to one another.  Whereas Gray wants to pursue their feelings, Charlotte wants to ignore them.  She left the farm years ago so she could be her own person and not the other half of a twin.  As he points out he likes her sibling but loves her, Gray tries to persuade her that her loved ones including him know she is her own person and not a mirror image.

The cast makes for a strong family drama with the prime story line being the romance between the mayor and the prodigal sister.  In some ways, the other twin’s subplot re an abusive ex spouse is the more poignant entry.  However, Charlotte’s Homecoming is a family affair that readers of contemporary tales will appreciate while knowing the rest of the other Russell twin’s story is to follow.

Harriet Klausner

The Temptress-Paul Spicer

June 26, 2010

The Temptress

Paul Spicer

St. Martin’s, Jul 20 210, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312379704

In 1899 Alice Silverthorne was born in Buffalo.  Her father was a self made lumber baron and her mother a Chicago socialite. In 1913 the family imploded as law suits are filed to include custody of Alice.  In 1920 Alice and her guardian Aunt Tattie go to Paris where she meets Count Frederic de Jantze.  They marry and she gives birth to her first child in 1922.  The family spends much of their time in Kenya.  In 1927 Alice fails to kill herself and her lover Lord Raymund de Trafford when he dumped her.  Five years later he becomes her second spouse.  Meanwhile from almost her arrival in Kenya she has an affair for years with Joss Hay (Lord Erroll).   In 1941 Joss is shot to death; soon after Alice commits suicide.

The cold case murder was international news in 1941 and made into a book by James Fox and movie White Mischief.  Using family documents and photos as Paul Spicer’s mom was a friend of Alice; the author makes a strong argument that the apparently passionate delusional Alice killed Joss and then herself.  Historical fans and biographical readers will fully enjoy “The Scandalous Life of Alice de Jantze and the Mysterious Death of Lord Erroll” as Mr. Spicer provides a deep nonfiction account in which he defends his assertion that Alice killed Erroll in her quest to be loved.

Harriet Klausner

32 Candles-Ernessa T. Carter

June 26, 2010

32 Candles

Ernessa T. Carter

Amistad, Jun 22 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061957840

African American Davidia Jones grows up on Glass, Mississippi with a mother who does nothing for her. By the time she is six she knows the smell of an alcoholic and the noise of sex.  The only thing good about being especially dark skinned is that the bruises don’t readily show.  As a young teen, already a victim of neglect and abuse, Davie assumes she is ugly; enhanced by the cruel comments at school where she is called Monkey Night.  Her unrequited attraction to the top jock James Farrell augments her feelings of the ugliest non in Mississippi.

In 1984, fifteen years old Davie sees Sixteen Candles in the only theater in town.  She cries about the ending in which a loser wins and decides to leave Glass.  Davie gets a ride out of town with a long haul truck driver.  In Los Angeles, Davie obtains work as a 1940s chanteuse as she reinvents herself.  All is great until James arrives at the club where she performs.  He fails to recognize the thirtyish Davie, which hurts her, but he clearly wants her.  Davie seeks revenge for her mistreatment in Glass so she hides who she was and plans to break his heart.  She failed to calculate either falling in love again or Mississippi mud returning to destroy her chance for that Molly Ringwald ending.

Tthis is an entertaining at times intense look at an abused bullied child as a thirty something adult.  Davie is terrific holding the tale together with her prime desires fighting one another since James reentered her life; though in some ways for the first time as their high school spheres were as far apart as the sun (him) and relegated Pluto (her).  Although the story line has no major twists, readers will enjoy 32 Candles rooting for Davie.

Harriet Klausner

The Unexpected Son-Shobhan Bantwal

June 25, 2010

The Unexpected Son

Shobhan Bantwal

Kensington, Aug 1 2010, $15.00

ISBN 9780758232038

Middle-aged Vinita and Girish Patil enjoy their middle class lifestyle in suburban New Jersey.  Married for almost a quarter of a century, the Indian-American couple has a daughter.

However, Vinita’s perfect world shatters when she receives a shocking letter postmarked Mumbai.  Inside is a letter informing her that the illegitimate son she birthed stillborn back home in Palgaum, India actually lives.  Her brother Vishal admits he orchestrated the hoax for her sake and that of his nephew.  Now her first born, Shivraj College chemistry Professor Rohit Barve is dying from leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.  Vinita remembers years back when she was pregnant and Rohit’s biological father Som Kori refused to marry her as their respective people from differing cultures even languages were feuding. She finds out when she arrives to meet and hopefully help her son they still are.

This excellent contemporary provides strong insight into the Indian-American culture (a trademark of talented Shobhan Bantwal; see The Sari Shop Window), a mother’s eternal love for her offspring, and a fascinating “border” war inside a small village in India.  Character driven, The Unexpected Son is a super Indian-American tale.

Harriet Klausner