Archive for December, 2013

Badlands- Jill Sorenson

December 31, 2013

Badlands
Jill Sorenson
Harlequin HQN, Dec 31 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780373778348

The 8.5 earthquake that devastated San Diego trapped eight months pregnant Penny Sandoval along with convict Owen Jackson. She went into labor and he delivered the baby and kept mother and child safe until help arrived (see Aftershock). Her grateful father Jorge used his political connections to get Owen free and subsequently hired him as a security specialist.

Five years later at the San Diego Convention Center, Jorge is about to become the first Hispanic-American nominated by a major party as their presidential candidate. The honor meant Secret Service so Owen is relegated to babysitting Penny and her child Cruz. However, as Penny is about to introduce her mother to the Republican Party delegates, an alarm goes off. Owen’s convict brother Shane paying off a debt to the Aryan Brotherhood and his nastier partner Dirk incapacitate the bodyguard with a taser. They take injured Owen with them as they kidnap the single mom and her son. Driving into the Badlands, they demand two million in ransom delivered by her father. In spite of his sibling being one of the kidnappers, Owen knows they must escape into the barren wilderness if they are to survive as Dirk will never let them go after he completes his hidden agenda mission.

The third Afterfall romantic suspense (See Freefall) is an action-packed novel that never slows down from the moment the abduction occurs until the final confrontation. Fast-paced throughout, the key to this taut thriller is that survival supersedes love as Owen risks his life to protect the mother and son he cherishes, and Penny likewise to keep Cruz safe. Readers will appreciate the harrowing trek in the Badlands.

Harriet Klausner

The Greatest Lover Ever-Christina Brooke

December 31, 2013

The Greatest Lover Ever
Christina Brooke
St. Martin’s, Dec 31 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9781250029355

At the Duke of Montford’s ball, an irate Earl of Beckenham shows his fiancée Lady Georgiana Black her hair given to him by taunting libertine Lord Pearce who claimed this as his token of affection prize. He believes her claims that she has no idea how this miscreant got her hair, but Montford and Georgiana’s father agree that with her reputation for eccentric behavior she needs to rusticate in Gloucestshire while the Earl has business with Pearce. Georgie begs him not to duel or she will end their engagement. Montford reacts by saying her father is now responsible for her well-being.

Six years later, twenty-four years old Georgiana is on the shelf rejecting any interest in her while soon to come into a large inheritance. She also ferociously protects her younger sister Violet hoping her sibling will avoid her missteps. When she learns that Violet attends a scandalous masquerade gala, Georgiana follows her. There she meets Beckenham who recognizes her in spite of her mask though this is their first encounter since they ended their betrothal. Though both remain attracted to each other, she refuses his advances while Pearce has plans to destroy Beckenham through his adversary’s love for Georgie.

The second Westruther Regency romance (see London’s Last True Scoundrel) is an engaging historical starring two stubborn protagonists whose relationship collapsed due to a lack of communication and an adversary who plays their obstinacy like a puppeteer. Fans will enjoy the rematch as Christina Brooke provides a wonderful second chance at love if the heroes can learn to first trust one another.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Heat-Donna Grant

December 30, 2013

Dark Heat
Donna Grant
St. Martin’s, Dec 31 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9781250043788

“Dark Craving.” In Dreagan, Scotland Green Dragon King Hal knows first-hand that the curse prevents any of the monarchs from falling in love; so he wonders why his heart soars ever since he met visiting American Cassie Hunter through her missing brother Dan’s Great Dane Duke.

“Night’s Awakening.” Red Dragon King Guy is a powerful warrior until he meets the mortal PureGens executive Elena Griffith a Londoner in a cave in the Highlands; she has him thinking seditious thoughts fueled by desire.

“Dawn’s Desire.” Blue Dragon King Banan accepted the curse as a sad reality until he meets PureGens secretary “Plain” Jane Holden.

“Passion’s Claim.” Banan and Guy have found love, but each feels the curse remains but modified as they consider breaking their own hearts by releasing their respective beloveds Jane and Elena to return to a normal mortal life.

This enjoyable “Dark Kings” romantic fantasy collection contains three reprints and a new follow-up tale (“Passion’s Claim”). Each entry is exciting and well written, but in the anthology format the thematic repetitiveness of the stories is obvious and a major thread as to whom the enemy is dangling hopefully for near future tales.

Harriet Klausner

A Gentleman ‘til Midnight-Alison DeLaine

December 30, 2013

A Gentleman ‘til Midnight
Alison DeLaine
Harlequin HQN, Dec 31 2013, $7.99
ISBN 978-0373778362

Katherine Kinloch was an English countess until Barbary pirates took her after Captain James Warre sunk the Merry Sea with her on it leading to her abduction. By the time she finally escaped while pregnant, Countess Katherine no longer existed. Instead she stole a ship and became the successful infamous Corsair Kate, pirate captain of the Possession with a rare mixed crew of Moors and Brits.

In 1767, James’ ship goes down near Gibraltar with the rest of his mates dead. Mother of a blind daughter, Kate pulls him out of the sea over the objections of her crew. He recognizes her but she fails to identity him. Each is stunned by the attraction; and soon the pair heads to London where for the sake of her child Katherine claims to be the Countess of Dunscore whose cousin has lived luxuriously as; thanks mostly to James’ brother Baron Taggart who stole his sibling’s title.

A Gentleman ‘til Midnight is a delightful fascinating Georgian romance due to the strong complex lead characters who share a tormented pivotal moment that shaped their lives ever since. In London, Corsair Kate must regress back to helpless Countess Katherine with no power if she is to regain her estate for her daughter; while James must deal with family loyalties that tear him apart. With a strong cast of supporting strong women, fans will enjoy the return of the prodigal aristocrats to English high society.

Harriet Klausner

An Unexpected Grace-Kristin von Kreisler

December 29, 2013

An Unexpected Grace
Kristin von Kreisler
Kensington, Dec 31 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758291943

In a heavy rain, her BFF Cristina drives Lila to work in downtown San Francisco. In the car, Cristina shows Lila a photo of Grace the abused Golden Retriever who needs a home. Lila refuses to adopt Grace, because twenty-five years ago a dog attacked her leaving her afraid of canines.

They call a canine truce and head to their different floors in the Crockett Building. At Weatherby and Associates Public Relations, Lila begins a typical day until she hears a fellow employee pleading with someone when shots are fired. Rampaging janitor Yuri Makov kills seven people and wounds three including Lila before committing suicide. At San Francisco General, Dr. Lovell tells Lila she was lucky as she received only flesh wounds, but psychologically she cannot get rid of Yuri pointing his gun at her.

After leaving the hospital Cristina takes Lila to her home in Mill Valley where the other roommate Grace frightens her as much as the newcomer scares the dog. Neighbor Adam visits Grace who is elated every time he shows up. As Lila slowly emotionally recovers so does Grace with each soon learning to trust the other; while Adam hopes both heal quickly so they can become a loving trinary star.

An Unexpected Grace is a poignant contemporary due to the mentally wounded lead female and a very wary canine; while the male protagonist’s romantic role feels more of a distracting requirement. The moving character driven storyline focuses on the changing relationship between the hurting leads with Adam and to a lesser degree Cristina acting as the connectors between the troubled woman and the anxious dog. Readers will appreciate Lila and Grace helping each other heal.

Harriet Klausner

I Take You-Nikki Gemmell

December 27, 2013

I Take You
Nikki Gemmell
Harper Perennial, Dec 31 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062273413

In London former model Connie and hedge fund manager Cliff are married. However, they have little in common except both love the good life that his wealth provides and sex. When Cliff becomes paralyzed from a skiing accident, they turn to S&M for release.

Eventually bored with her spouse who she never loved, Connie turns to Mel the Notting Hill gardener for satisfaction that Cliff cannot fully provide her any longer. This heated affair turns to love; while raging Cliff threatens his wife that he will destroy her as he proclaims to Connie he owns her.

Nikki Gemmell’s latest look at relationships between a woman and her husband and her extramarital lover (see The Bride Stripped Bare and With My Body) is an engaging erotica that overdoes the twenty-first century retelling of Virginia Woolf’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The storyline focuses on Connie’s choice between love and money though readers will know long before the protagonist decides who she eventually selects.

Harriet Klausner

Twilight With The Infamous Earl-Alexandra Hawkins

December 26, 2013

Twilight With The Infamous Earl
Alexandra Hawkins
St. Martin’s, Nov 27 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9781250001399

In 1826 Lord Chillingsworth, Frost, muses that he is the last man standing single among the seven Lord of Vice friends who were confirmed bachelors just six years ago. In 1821 Emily Cavell’s sister Lucy died in her arms after committing suicide due to Frost. Now she tries to rescue young Katie from a brute who turns out to be her stepfather when the aristocrat she loathes intervenes over her objection though he kindly insures the girl is properly taking care of.

As Emily and Frost become better acquainted while falling in love, she begins to doubt her late sister’s death bed accusation that he ruined her. Confessing to him what she never told her parents or younger brother, Emily and Frost investigate what happened that led to Lucy killing herself.

The final Lords of Vice historical romance (see Dusk With A Dangerous Duke) is a delightful late Regency as the previous leads return for the end game. In spite of falling in love Frost’s roguish charm remains consistent with the same haughty naughtiness (though redirected) that he displayed throughout the series. On the other hand, Emily does not seem real as she too abruptly changes from hatred to love in a beat of the heart.

Harriet Klausner

Just Like Heaven-Lacey Baker

December 26, 2013

Just Like Heaven
Lacey Baker
St. Martin’s, Nov 27 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250019233

The death of their beloved grandmother shook her six grandchildren. While one of them never left Sweetland, Maryland, the other five come from different parts of the country to attend her funeral and adhere to her wishes, which left each of them an equal share in her B&B and with a dog to care for (see Homecoming).

Prosecutor Preston Cantrell places a local ad for someone to adopt his Labrador puppy Coco so he can return to Baltimore. Heaven Montgomery arrives wanting the pup. After interrogating her, Preston takes her to meet Coco only she and the Lab fall into a pond. Preston delays his return to Baltimore to get to know Heaven better. She in turn thinks he is arrogant. Still the research chemist needs Coco as part of her recovery from a lab explosion that left two of associates dead and her suffering from PTSD. As Preston and Heaven fall in love with each other and with Coco, an adversary kidnaps the scientist and her canine.

The second Sweetland romance is an engaging contemporary starring two likable protagonists and a precocious dog who at times steals the show from the adults. The suspense subplot comes across as undeveloped while the relationships between the lead pair and respectively with their canine fun to follow though unlikely either would place their careers on hold for a stranger even factoring in that Heaven remains emotionally troubled.

Harriet Klausner

The In-Between Hour-Barbara Claypole White

December 24, 2013

The In-Between Hour
Barbara Claypole White
Mira, Dec 31 2013, $14.95
ISBN 9780778314752

In his apartment on Central Park West, bestselling author Will Shepard grieves the accidental death of his beloved son Freddie. Unable to write or sleep, Will also poorly deals with his father Jacob who keeps asking him to have Freddie call him as the octogenarian’s Alzheimer has wiped out the memory of his grandson’s death. Will constantly lies to his dad that Freddie will call him soon.

After several weeks in Orange County, California, veterinarian Hannah Linden comes home to Saponi Mountain in North Carolina still seeing her screaming adult child Galen tied to a gurney. Hannah feels hopeless as her son wants to commit suicide.

When the Hawk’s Ridge Retirement Community informs Will they plan to toss out Jacob due to his illness compounded by alcoholism, Will comes home to North Carolina where his dad immediately demands to see Freddie. While renting a cabin that he shares with his father from Hannah, Will and the vet forge a friendship out of the tsuris that engulfs both of them. Soon they fall in love, but to Will and Hannah family needs come before their shared desire yet each knows they can rely on the other for needed emotional support.

The fully developed extended cast makes this tale into a powerful family drama that focuses on the impact of the illnesses on loving caretakers; as readers will feel the immense pressure on the lead pair to cope emotionally with what to do for their ailing beloved relatives. Although the romance goes as expected, readers will appreciate the relationship between Will and Hannah with each understanding the demons they both face when it comes to doing right by his dad and her son.

Harriet Klausner

Real As It Gets- Reshonda Tate Billingsley

December 23, 2013

Real As It Gets
Reshonda Tate Billingsley
Kensington K-Teen, Dec 31 2013. $9.95
ISBN: 9780758289551

In the slums of Brooklyn ailing Bev worried about her at risk son Travis so she sends him to live with his wealthy uncle in Miami. At the same time Travis’ cousin Maya, the leader of the Miami “It Clique” and TV star of celebrity gossip Rumor Central, sees an image of former Miss Teen Miami Savannah Vanderpool stoned and looking like hell at the S.I. cover reception. Stunned as getting high seems out of character for Savannah, Maya learns the model used K2, a synthetic more powerful than Kush or meth.

At Miami HS which both cousins now attend, Maya objects when Travis begins seeing her BFF Sheridan and warns her ex Bryce to keep his distance. However, Travis worries about his mom’s health as she refuses charity from her brother. To pay her enormous medical bills, Travis begins dealing while Maya tries to get him to stop for his sake and because students like the smart Lin Vo have become brain damaged by K2 usage.

Though I have doubts with what happens to Travis after his poor choices, the third Rumor Central teen drama (see You Don’t Know Me Like That) is a strong entry that looks deeply into the high school drug problem. In many ways Travis steals the show from his superstar courageous cousin as this exciting tale makes the downside of the drug scene as Real As It Gets.

Harriet Klausner