Archive for April, 2011

The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil-Victoria Christopher Murray

April 30, 2011

The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil

Victoria Christopher Murray

Touchstone, Jun 7 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9781439194256

As she nears her fiftieth birthday, wealthy Shay-Shaunte knows what she wants as her special present.  Until Shay-Shaunte offers one of her executive assistant, Evia Langston five million dollars for a weekend with the latter’s husband Adam.  Stunned Evia says no thanks.

However, Evia knows her family could use the money as they are nearing financial ruin with the economy tanking.  She also knows that when she and Adam exchanged vows in front of the Lord when they were seventeen, they pledged a faith based relationship to raise their kids in.  Now Evia and Adam must choose between the she-devil serpent’s glittering offering to save the Langston’s Garden of Eden or trusting in God to take care of them and their children.

The immediate reaction is The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil is a gender bending version of Redford’s Indecent Proposal to Moore and Harrelson; but that is only at the surface.  Instead this is a much deeper profound character driven tale as besides breaking one’s ethics for easy money and the example that sets for their children as well as destroying the trust between Evia and Adam.  There is also an underlying religious issue throughout the engaging story line that will stun readers with a shocking twist at the final confrontation.  Victoria Christopher Murray provides readers with a strong inspirational family drama as free will allows the Langston duo to choose between the devil’s easy money and the Lord’s pious path.

Harriet Klausner


Fairer than Morning-Rosslyn Elliot

April 29, 2011

Fairer than Morning

Rosslyn Elliot

Thomas Nelson, Apr 13 2011, $15.99

ISBN: 9781595547859

In 1823 in Rushville, Ohio, nineteen years old Eli Bowen proposes to fifteen years old Ann Miller without talking to her father, but she says no as she feels she is too young to marry him now.  He is angry accusing her of deceit while she thought he was her selected future spouse when she turned eighteen.  However Ann talks to her father a minister who says her late mom would want her to wait.  Ann is angry with her dad who she feels directs her to wait in order for her to raise her two younger sisters (Susan and Mabel).

At the same time in Pittsburgh, teenage orphan Will Hanby becomes an indentured servant for five years to saddlemaker Master Good.  He soon learns his boss is abusive.

In 1826 while Eli is seeing another woman, Minister Miller accompanied by his three daughters travel to Pittsburgh on business.  There Ann and Will meet.  She brings light and intelligence to his dark life.  When the Millers return to Rushville, an energized Will take a stand when Good orders him to commit perjury in court.  Instead after a beating he flees for West Virginia and prays for salvation, promising to help escaped slaves and wanting to head to Ohio to be with the woman he loves and prays she has moved passed her first heart entanglement while a raging Good pursues him.

This is a powerful historical fiction using real persona (the Miller family, Will and Good).  The cast is super as they bring alive the Ohio Valley in the misnomer Era of Good Feelings.  Fans will relish the Saddler’s Legacy as Rosslyn Elliot provides a profound early Americana thriller.

Harriet Klausner

What Happened To Goodbye-Sarah Dessen

April 29, 2011

What Happened To Goodbye

Sarah Dessen

Viking, May 10 2011, $19.99

ISBN: 9780670012947

Over two years ago in Tyler, Mclean Sweet’s parents divorced in an angry public war.  She stayed with her restaurant consultant dad though she worshipped her mother before the split while her mom began a new family.  Mclean no longer speaks to her mom.  Instead since the schism, she and her father have moved four times as part of his job as an EAT INC consultant saving dying restaurants while his only true love is Defriese University basketball. 

Four towns have allowed Mclean to try on a new personality in each one so she can conceal the shame of who she truly is.  As dad tries to save Luna Blue, she wants to end their rolling stone existence and stay in Lakeview as she observes her neighbor Dave Wade the genius trying to pretend to be an average IQ geek.

Although mindful of the author’s Along for the Ride, Mclean makes the tale work as she brings angst with her anger towards her parents, her shame over the public humiliation of their split that makes her the divorce kid and her need to no longer be a rolling stone as she wants to gather the moss of belonging in high school.  The support cast at Jackson High School, the Luna Blue and Lakeview enhance the story line targeting middle school of a teenager trying to finally move on passed the end of her previously perfect life.

Harriet Klausner

Jacob’s Return-Annette Blair

April 28, 2011

Jacob’s Return

Annette Blair

Sinful Moments Press, Apr 8 2011, $15.95

ISBN: 9781897562857

In 1881 Jacob Sauder left his Lancaster County Amish community following the funeral of his mother when his brother Simon informed him that the former’s fiancée Rachel wanted out of their engagement.  Despondent Jacob moved away and Rachel married Simon.

After four years away he returns home a widower accompanied by his two years old twins Emma and Aaron whose mother died giving birth to them.  He prays his family will welcome and love them though he sinned.  Also Jacob knows it will be hard to see Rachel with Simon.  His brother greets him with scorn telling him to leave as Simon is to be ordained a deacon.  Soon after the return, Jacob and Rachel learn how devious Simon tricked both of them, but she must adhere to her vows even though her husband abuses her.  Unable to remain idly on the sidelines while Simon’s abuse intensifies, Jacob confronts his sibling.

This reprint of a 1999 historical romance is an entertaining tale of redemption as the Amish society provides a strong backdrop to the tale of two rival brothers and the good woman between them.  The story line is character driven with each key player having faults and flaws that make them seem real.  Readers will enjoy this late nineteenth century Amish family drama as shunning the sinners competes with redeeming the sinners for the souls of Bishop Zook’s community.

Harriet Klausner

Vestal Virgin-Suzanne Tyrpak

April 28, 2011

Vestal Virgin

Suzanne Tyrpak

CreateSpace, Mar 6 2011, $13.99

ISBN: 9781460943144

In ancient Rome, Vestal Virgins are selected when a girl is a preadolescent.  At the temple they pledge to remain a virgin for the next three decades to properly serve the Gods.  However, Vestal Virgins have rights other women do not as they own land and money.  Most remain at the temple when their time as deity servants end because at forty they have no place else to go and know no other life. 

Emperor Nero claims he is a god who can do anything he wants.  Nero executes Marcus for treasonous acts including allegedly an assassination plot against the ruler in spite of his father being a senator.  Nero summoned the traitor’s sister Elissa Rubria Honoria a Vestal Virgin to watch the execution.  Despondent and irate, she vows vengeance.  She loses her faith when her sister Flavia is violated and friends who she trusted turn out to be enemies who betray her.

Occurring during the reign of Nero (circa AD 63-64), the Vestal Virgin is a strong ancient Roman tale with a deep look at the pagan religions and the political scenario of a lunatic sitting on the throne.  However, it is Elissa the Vestal Virgin who holds the story line together with her vendetta.  Historical fiction readers will relish this powerful thriller that brings vividly to the armchair audience first century Rome.

Harriet Klausner

Sparrow Road-Sheila O’Connor

April 28, 2011

Sparrow Road

Sheila O’Connor

Putnam, May 12 2011, $16.99

ISBN: 9780399254581

Without an explanation, her mom Molly takes Raine with her as they move for the summer from Milwaukee to an artist retreat Sparrow Road overlooking Lake Michigan.  Raine is upset that they are leaving beloved family especially Grandpa Mac behind while unsure why her mom apparently quit her job to take a position as cook and housekeeper.

She wonders about the relationship between her mother and the Sparrow Road caretaker Viktor, who greets her with strict RULES about no noise before 5:00 PM and leave the artists alone among others; and why her mother (and seemingly the other adults) never allows her to be alone.  Diego the artist encourages her to write down her questions, which he says will help her figure out the answers.  However, like all youngsters she begins to meet the other eccentric residents on Sparrow Road.  Josie tells her about the orphanage that was once here.  Other artists encourage her to open herself up to beauty, which she does somewhat, but still ponders about her mom and the “Iceberg” owner. 

This is a charming relationship drama as mother and daughter love each other, but are frustrated with one another as well.  Upper elementary school children will relish walking Sparrow Road with Raine as their guide; as she has so many questions in which answers lead to more questions. 

Harriet Klausner

High Stakes Seduction-Lori Wilde

April 28, 2011

High Stakes Seduction

Lori Wilde

Harlequin Blaze, Apr 19 2011, $4.99

ISBN: 9780373796144

Someone has stolen top secret US Navy Documents.  The prime suspect is Keith Barksdale as the US Navy civilian employee allegedly hacked into Top Secret files just before they were encrypted.  Office of Naval Intelligence security officer Lieutenant Adam Mancuso is assigned surveillance and protection of Barksdale’s former girlfriend Yoga instructor Eva St. George, who may be in danger due to her previous relationship.

Adam almost has a heart attack when staking out Eva’s San Diego apartment when he watches her through a telescope perform yoga exercises naked.  He knows to keep his distance and use his upper brain, but he cannot as all his blood is flowing within his lower head.  When they meet, she feels strongly she must stay away from the hunk as her choice of men has been pitiful, but cannot. 

Who would have believed that yoga could lead to a straight arrow having a boner bigger than Catalina?  The lead couple is terrific as she calls him her voyeur and he dubs her his exhibitionist.  The Barksdale inquiry is also well written, but serves as a matchmaker as this heater belongs to the Wilde lead pair.

Harriet Klausner

Truth and Dare-Candace Havens

April 28, 2011

Truth and Dare

Candace Havens

Harlequin Blaze, Apr 19 2011, $4.99

ISBN: 9780373796175

Two decades ago Randall abandoned his family in Phosphor County.  He never came home.  Now the Phosphor County Sheriff informs Randall’s son that his father was murdered twenty years ago with his bones just found by hikers in a shallow grave.  Stonegate Investigative Agency Forensic anthropologist Dr. Patience McGee offers to investigate the homicide.  However, the victim’s son Cade wants the case to remain closed while the rancher’s grandmother allows Patience to stay at her B&B.

Cade refuses to assist Patience but admires her spunk while she thinks he is a hunk.  Unable to stay on the sidelines after her dare, Cade joins Patience as she works his father’s cold case homicide.  Meanwhile as they go from attraction to lust to love, someone wants to prevent case solved.

The third “Dare” SIA tale (see Take me If You Dare and See Who Dares, Wins) is an exhilarating investigative romance as the cold case murder of his father brings the lead couple together.  The story line is fast-paced while the inquiry upsets local sensitivities.  Although a subplot involving her kidnapped brother Jeremy is a distractor, fans will enjoy this entertaining whodunit romance.

Harriet Klausner

Sherry and Narcotics-Nina-Marie Gardner

April 27, 2011

Sherry and Narcotics

Nina-Marie Gardner

Future Fiction London, May 1 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9780982792827

From a wealthy Boston Brahmin family, Mary Cartwright has enjoyed the galas associated with the art world.  Now in her late thirties, she lives in London having recently earned a Masters in creative writing that has led to a job at an online essay firm.  She also is an alcoholic who intermittently attends AA sessions and needs the equivalent with the men she chooses.

After reading her on line profile, Jake Potter contacts Mary.  Though he is married with a child, they exchange emails.  She leaves London to be near Jake in Manchester.  However, she is a stranger in a strange city and though close to her Jake, he belongs to another woman and a child.  She is depressed and all alone.

The key to Sherry’s self destructive addictive behavior is the cold cities unwelcome to a stranger (echoing the Doors Tune People Are Strange), as London and Manchester (and indirectly Boston) come across as cold lonely cement jails for people without family or friends.  Sherry has no social network beyond an occasional AA meeting and her fantasy.  Not an easy read as the reader feels the gloom and doom while anticipating the crash.  Mindful of Preminger’s movie The Man with the Golden Arm starring Sinatra based on Nelson Algren’s novel, Nina-Marie Gardner provides a profound but grim look at urban isolation even with the web’s social networks.

Harriet Klausner

The Promise of Love-Kate Douglas, Jamie Denton, Erin McCarthy, Kathy Love, Sylvia Day, Lori Foster

April 27, 2011

The Promise of Love

Kate Douglas, Jamie Denton, Erin McCarthy, Kathy Love, Sylvia Day, Lori Foster

Berkley, Jun 7 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425241073

“Shelter From the Storm” by Lori Foster.  Roy and his parents rescue abused child Sabrina; years later she no longer wants Roy as a big brother.

“Take Me Home” by Erin McCarthy.  Pregnant Sara returns to her BFF Travis for comfort.

“Razor’s Edge” by Sylvia Day.  Deputy marshal Jack takes care of his late best friend’s widow Rachel and her eight year old son though she wants intimacy with him and he cannot stop the blood flow to his lower head.

“Midnight Rendezvous” by Jamie Denton.  Leaving New York for New Orleans playwright Burnett suffers from writer’s block until his landlady Maya takes a naked midnight swim.

The “Dime Store Cowboy” by Kate Douglas.  New York editor Mark quits his position to accept a job on a Colorado dude ranch where he meets Betsy Mae.

“Life in the Past Lane” by Kathy Love.  His editor sends Rocco to cover his high school reunion in Beals Point, a town he vowed to never go back to, but soon re-meets Franny.

Although there is little room for deep character development, the authors do a marvelous job of contributing six fun short novellas.

Harriet Klausner