Archive for March, 2011

In the Rooms-Tom Shone

March 31, 2011

In the Rooms

Tom Shone

Dunne, Apr 12 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312622787

Following a nasty end to a relationship and his work tanking, publisher Patrick Miller flees London for New York.  Patrick moans the fate of British expatriates around the world as he toasts London until he spots the literary legend Douglas Kelsey.  The man’s first novel made him the top American writer of his generation, but leading with his chin Kelsey got into a battle with his publisher and seemingly vanished.

Knowing how easily Kelsey rages, Miller needs a ploy to meet the man.  He stalks Kelsey until he finds the opportunity when the writer enters an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  Miller follows him pretending to be an alcoholic so that he can make first contact and hopefully renew his publishing career.

This is an amusing tale that is at its best when it focuses on the changing relationship between the two “alcoholics” as the British expatriate is on a mission to publish the American author’s next book.  The story line is rapid fire stand up comic humor that gels nicely when the lead couple takes center stage.  The plot loses some of its lampooning of Anglo-America when the tale turns to the changing relationship between Patrick and Lola as that feels more of a requirement though in fairness well written and funny.  Fans will relish the jocular British invasion as Patrick sadly muses that he is a victim of the “Sun never sets on the British Empire”.

Harriet Klausner

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Bonded in Brazil-Rhiannon Ellis

March 31, 2011

Bonded in Brazil

Rhiannon Ellis

Camel Press, Mar 25 2011, $15.97

ISBN: 9781603818469

In Caxias do Sul, the Brazilian Menino family is in trouble as they have failed to pay their loan.  They stand to lose the Vina da Gloria vineyards that have been part of the Menino clans for four generations.

Daughter Eliana Menino is willing to do almost anything to save the land as she knows losing it will destroy her father the vintner.  She arranges a deal with “Demonio”, her name for the investor who holds her family’s IOUs.  Hale Forester brings his new indentured servant to his Napa Valley estate.  Her first time outside of Brazil frightens Eli, but she would go to hell for her family.  However, she soon finds her heartless employer has a heart broken in his past, but what she feels for her Demonio is not pity but she fears it is unrequited love.

This warm contemporary romance is an enjoyable read as Eli proves her mettle in Brazil and California.  Although the story line is somewhat linear even with an unexpected twist on the loan, feisty Eli makes for a wonderful tale as the lovely Brazilian takes America to save her family’s birthright from the Demonio she loves.

Harriet Klausner

Cold April-Phyllis A. Humphrey

March 29, 2011

Cold April

Phyllis A. Humphrey

Camel Press, Nov 27 2010, $15.97

ISBN: 9781603818223

After spending the past three years working in America, Englishwoman Elizabeth Shallcross decides her future is not with being a governess to the affluent.  She wants more independence, but has one last commitment to complete that will also book her passage back to America.  Elizabeth will accompany the precocious child Kathleen as the girl and her wealthy father travel from London to New York.

On the Titanic, two males are attracted to Elizabeth.  First there is her current employer who admires how good she is with his daughter, but likes her for herself too.  Then there is Harry Palmer the magician who wants her.  However, as Elizabeth decides on what she wants with neither or one of the two men competing for her, crashing into an iceberg changes all thoughts of the future.

Although there will be obvious comparisons to the Cameron Titanic movie, Phyllis A. Humphrey provides a fresh take on the disaster with a cautionary timely message to beware of prideful over-optimism (BP and Fukushima disasters).  Through the fine cast especially the heroine, readers will believe they are on board the unsinkable luxury liner; as that Cold April almost a century ago has become A Night To Remember (by Walter Lord).

Harriet Klausner

The Violets of March-Sarah Jip

March 29, 2011

The Violets of March

Sarah Jip

Plume, Apr 26 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780452297036

When Emily Wilson was in her twenties, she seemed to own the world.  She wrote a bestseller and married a hunk Joel.  That was then; a decade later Emily feels rudderless as her two anchors, writing and her spouse, fail her.

Her Great Aunt Bee invites Emily to spend a month on Bainbridge Island, Washington.  With nothing to keep her away, she accepts the offer to stay by the sea.  Just a half-hour ferry away from Seattle, the island begins to heal Emily’s mental strain so she can begin writing again.  The writer finds a red velvet covered diary dated 1943.  She reads about the diarist’s angst and sees a parallel to her current situation.  Emily begins to feel renewed as the dairy has given new meaning to her life.

Filled with metaphors of life, Sarah Jip provides a fascinating second chance at life tale.  Emily is the glue that holds the character driven story line together as she reads the WWII diary while researching what happened to the author and extrapolating the parallels to her present life.  Although the action is limited, the support cast is fully developed and the locale wonderful.  Readers will enjoy the visit to Bainbridge Island as Emily finds her missing groove.

Harriet Klausner

A Tapestry of Dreams-Roberta Gellis

March 28, 2011

A Tapestry of Dreams

Roberta Gellis

Sourcebooks, May 1 2011, $9.99

ISBN: 9781402254987

In the twelfth century an orphaned heiress Audris is able to weave visionary tapestries.  Her honorable Uncle Oliver raises her as if she was his child not out of affection, but because he is a hard yet just person doing the right thing by his niece.

His noble mother died birthing Hugh Licorne while his father is unknown.  Arch Bishop Thurstan raised Hugh, who has become a knight pledged to King Stephen of Blois. 

When Audris’ half-brother Bruno introduces his sister to his friend Hugh, they are attracted to one another.  They pledge loyalty to each other though he believes he is unworthy of her unless he can rise higher up the feudal hierarchy.  Hugh and Audis begin a quest to learn who sired him in hopes that will raise him to a level equal of that of his beloved heiress.

This is a reprint of a great Roberta Gellis’ 1980s medieval romance.  The character driven story line is fast-paced yet contains the trademark vivid detail that makes armchair readers feel they are in the middle of an English civil war between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen.  Medieval romance readers will relish A Tapestry of Dreams as the heroine and her family remains sort of neutral in the conflict only wanting to protect their city and land.

Harriet Klausner

Leaving Van Gogh-Carol Wallace

March 27, 2011

Leaving Van Gogh

Carol Wallace

Spiegel & Grau, Apr 19 2011, $25.00

ISBN: 9781400068791

In 1890, Vincent van Gogh moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, France to paint in the serene rustic environment.  His brother Theo asks mental health specialist Dr. Paul Gachet, known for his artistic inclinations, to keep a close watch on his troubled sibling.  As a patron of the fine arts, Gachet agrees.  The physician finds the artist’s work incredible, but fears for the anguished man.  He tries to comfort the tormented van Gogh and prepare Vincent’s family for the seemingly inevitable as the illnesses that torture van Gogh’s mind continue to grow.  Ten weeks after the doctor was retained, his only patient committed suicide.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that looks at van Gogh through the filter of the real doctor (van Gogh did a portrait of Gachet) who treated him in the months of his life.  That perspective allows a fresh view, but also adds a degree of separation from the artist.  Still this is a strong historical as Carol Wallace paints a vivid picture of medical profession at the end of the nineteenth century as the doctor struggles to help a difficult talented artist with a strange illness.

Harriet Klausner

More Than Words Vol 7-Carly Phillips, Donna Hill and Jill Shalvis

March 27, 2011

More Than Words Vol 7

Carly Phillips, Donna Hill and Jill Shalvis

Harlequin, Mar 1 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780373837632

“Compassion Can’t Wait” by Carly Phillips.  Social worker Julia knows how fourteen year old Michael feels; as the teen stoically spends his time at the hospital playing baseball games while his mom stays with his dying twin Manny.  Julia asks The Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation to find a hero for Michael.  They arrange for Miami Suns baseball superstar Kyle to mentor Michael.  When the social worker and the pitcher meet, each recalls their high school days as a couple until he left for baseball and she stayed with her dying sister.

“Someplace Like Home” by Donna Hill.  When Verna and Ronald meet, each recognizes an obsessed need to help the young.  Attracted to one another, she seeks her biological mother who abandoned her and he learns he may have a teenage daughter he never knew existed.  Thanks to Eva’s Initiatives and the Family Reconnect Program he learns the truth about whether April is his biologically, but dreams that he, Verna and April can forge a loving family together.

“What the Heart Wants” by Jill Shalvis.  Teacher Ellie has no money to spare as she uses her meager salary to pay bills and to fund Powerful And In Charge, an organization helping teens.  When she and teen Kia are stuck with a flat, Jack comes to the rescue.  Jack and Ellie were a couple years ago as troubled teens.  As they fall in love all over again, Kia returns to bad ass Bobby.

All three well written tales honor a caring organization (Ms. Shalvis’ dedicated hers to WET (Women’s Expressive Theater) trying to make things better for people.  Each entertaining entry affirms love comes in different relationships. 

Harriet Klausner

Unforgettable-Trish Perry

March 27, 2011

Unforgettable

Trish Perry

Multnomah, Mar 1 2011, $12.99

ISBN: 9781609361129

In 1951 outside her Arlington, Virginia dance studio Rachel Stanhope mutters in frustration while pacing back and forth on the sidewalk as her employee Betty fails to arrive with the keys to open up before the junior high school class begins.  Moms dump the kids on her and one male arrives with two children.  Former WWII pilot reporter Josh Reegan drops off his sister’s children, but not before he insults Rachel about that artsy thing.  She detests his sarcastic arrogance and pessimism.

Josh believes ballroom dancing is an inane activity only for the rich and stupid.  Still he finds her upbeat nurturing attitude totally opposite the cynics he normally meets due to his profession.  In fact he is a cynic when it comes to humanity after his combat and his journalist experiences.  He is here because his editor assigned him to do an article on her studio’s competition in New York City.  However, while the ballroom dance contest occurs, he investigates government corruption at the same time they continue their tango of love; as each finds the other Unforgettable.

This is a terrific inspirational historical romance that brings to life 1951 with intriguing little tidbits like pregnant Betty having to give up dancing because the prevalent medical belief of the era is that women carrying needed rest.  The enjoyable story line is character driven as the support cast especially their respective extended families, the students and several other key players are fully developed.  However, the tale belongs to the dance instructor who sees God’s world as a half filled cup needing to be topped and the reporter who sees a half empty cup needing to be drank as they foxtrot to When I Fall In Love.

Harriet Klausner

To Be Queen-Christy English

March 26, 2011

To Be Queen

Christy English

NAL, Apr 5 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780451232304

Her father Duke of Aquitaine William X trained Eleanor to maneuver her way through the volatile lethal world of regal politics.  When he died when she was fifteen, she became the duchess as he mentored her to be.  Her people adored and cherished their duchess.  French King Louis adores Eleanor and three months after she became duchess she became his queen.  They have two daughters, but Eleanor is disappointed in her spouse as he allows the Church to direct him instead of his acting as the monarch.  Their marriage is shaky and collapses when Eleanor meets dynamic Henry of Normandy.  Eleanor ends her marriage to Louis and crosses the Channel to wed her beloved Henry. 

This is a biographical fictional prequel to The Queen’s Pawn with much of the focus on the first royal marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine.  At a time when female power meant no power, Eleanor learned starting with her mentoring father how to navigate a world of backstabbing betrayers to become a queen on both sides of the Channel.  Well written, sub-genre readers, especially those who cherish the medieval period, will want to read Christy English’s entertaining look at the prototype for woman power.

Harriet Klausner

The Confession of Katherine Howard-Suzannah Dunn

March 26, 2011

The Confession of Katherine Howard

Suzannah Dunn

Harper, Apr 5 2011, $14.00

ISBN: 9780062011473

In childhood, Catherine Tilney and Katherine Howard became best friends when both were wards of the Duchess of Norfolk.  They remain close through their teen years as their families ignore them.  Katherine falls in love with Francis Dereham.  However, King Henry VIII makes the teenager his fifth wife.  However, her time as queen is short because of accusations that she had an arrangement with Dereham prior to marrying the king; her best friend, a lady in waiting, is also considered for execution due to guilt by association.

The Confession of Katherine Howard is made fresh by Catherine, as the narrator Tilney provides a unique perspective that in many ways turns the exciting story line into her tale as she paints a picture of her friend as being intelligent rather than an inane flirt.  In order for Howard to have achieved what she did in a man’s world where she was abandoned as a child, she would have needed some smarts.  Ironically what beheaded her was her childhood attraction to Francis Dereham, which no evidence supported the contention that this continued as an adult but was used as if it was alive during her marriage to the king.  Although the wives of Henry have been featured in many biographical fictions including by Suzannah Dunn (see The Queen of Subtleties, The Sixth Wife and The Queen’s Sorrow; and The King’s Rose by Alissa Libby), this is a unique look at a woman unfairly judged during her life and since; perhaps Hnetry in his gut knew as he aged rapidly after her beheading.

Harriet Klausner