Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Return to Glory-Sara Arden

Return to Glory
Sara Arden
Harlequin HQN, Aug 26 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779307

Former SEAL Jack McConnell returns home to Glory, Kansas a broken man.  He sits in his dress whites and pulls the trigger of a gun pointed at his head.  The click disappoints Jack as the chamber was empty.  Jack’s BFF, GPD police officer Caleb Lewis, arrives before the PTSD veteran continues with his Russian Roulette.

When Caleb’s sister Betsy was a tweener, Jack saved her life.  Since then he has been her beloved hero.  Whereas he assumes he no longer is her idol, Betsy knows she still loves him damaged goods and all; and will do anything to help Jack heal from his emotional injuries.  Though he doubts she can reach through his darkness, Jack doesn’t know Betsy; as she remains determined to save her hero from himself.

Return to Glory is an insightful contemporary romance that provides a stunned audience with a timely realistic look at a suicidal vet struggling with mental and physical war wounds, and the beloved woman (and townsfolk) giving her all to rescue him.  Character-driven by traumatized Jack, this is not an easy read starting with the opening haunting sequence.  As readers wonder if love will prove enough to save a life, Sara Arden brings needed attention on the much higher rate than the civilian population of suicides among returning veterans.

Harriet Klausner

In Your Dreams-Kristan Higgins

In Your Dreams
Kristan Higgins
Harlequin HQN, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779314

In Manningsport, New York, Blue Heron head winemaker Jack Holland rescues four teenagers from drowning after they wrecked their car.  The townsfolk rightfully consider the kindhearted Jack the hero of the Midwinter Miracle; but he remains traumatized over the boy in that accident still in a coma.

Police Officer Emmaline Neal needs a date for her former fiancé Kevin Bates’s wedding in Malibu.  Friends suggest she ask Jack to be her guest, which he agrees.  In California, Emma feels overwhelmed and not just because she is the groom’s ex; as her family resides nearby and she believes she is the lone failure of Dr. and Dr. Neal.  When she and Jack share a wonderful evening of love, Emma doubts it is more than just a one-night tryst; as a cop can’t compare to his former wife Hadley who demands a second chance with him.  However she doesn’t know Jack; as well as she thought as he wants much more than a SOCAL fling.

The fourth Blue Heron romance (see Waiting On You, The Perfect Match and The Best Man) is a charming contemporary starring two amiable protagonists and ably supported by their families and other bicoastal locals.  Kristan Higgins authors a warm droll drama as the self-doubter buries her trepidations in Skittles and chocolate cake, and the PTSD sufferer struggles with the accolades from his heroic act; neither know how to deal with falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Jilted-Rachael Johns

Rachael Johns
Harlequin HQN, Sep 30 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779369

A decade ago in Hope Junction, Australia, Elenora Hughes jilted Flynn Quartermaine at the altar to pursue an acting career.  When her godmother Matilda breaks her ankle, Ellie returns home after remaining in the big city as a successful soap opera star for years to care for her beloved injured senior citizen.

Ellie and Flynn share in common two things: each fears a second chance and each remains in love with the other.  The tabloids stalk the couple and other residents in the small western town; local nurse Lauren Simpson deploys a plan to finally win Flynn’s heart; and Ellie’s show producer pressures her to return to the set.  However, as Mat reveals a secret and Ellie finds joy in directing and teaching drama, she explains to the two people she cherishes with all her heart why she left Hope behind ten years ago.

Jilted is an engaging second chance Australian romance due to likable leads and a colorful local cast dealing with the big city invaders.  Although the storyline goes as expected, Rachel Johns provides her audience with a pleasant HEA Down Under contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 29, 2014

Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials-Ovidia Yu

Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials
Ovidia Yu
Morrow, Sep 30 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062338327

In Singapore, after her husband died leaving Rosie “Aunty” Lee a wealthy widow; she decided becoming the idle rich was not her thing.  Instead she opened up Aunty Lee's Delights catering business, which proved popular.  Currently she caters a gala at the luxurious home of affluent Henry and Mabel Sung; though Aunty Lee heard rumors on the street the power couple is in financial trouble.  

At the house, she overhears the hosts vehemently arguing.  Soon afterward, Mabel and her son Leonard are found dead from food poisoning.  The police consider a murder-suicide, but soon blame the deaths on Aunty Lee failing to prepare her famous stewed chicken using potentially dangerous buah keluak nuts incorrectly.  Rejecting the cops’ accusation as she has made that entrée many times, Aunty Lee looks into the deaths as a murder instead of negligible homicide.  She begins to find a connection between the Sung family and the organ donor scandal that has angered the city.

The second Aunty Lee Singapore murder investigation (see Aunty Lee's Delights) is a delightful amateur sleuth starring an energetic gutsy widow.  Once again the heroine adapts her recipe-creating skill to her inquiry as she tries to save her cooking reputation with help from her sidekick Nina who warned her about serving the apparently deadly dish.  Although the organ trafficking subplot is underplayed and contradictory to the overall brisk tone of the storyline, readers will want to join Aunty Lee’s special tour of Singapore.

Harriet Klausner

Death Takes A Mistress-Rosemary & Larry Mild

Death Takes A Mistress
Rosemary & Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works, Jul 31 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780983859758

In 1982 Bath, England, Wayne Sachs comes home from work to see the door to his neighbor Lainee Cohen’s flat open.  He mentions it to his wife Janie who is worried about the young single mom as Lainee is running late to pick up her three month old infant Ivy.  The couple enters the apartment only to find Lainee’s corpse.  The Sachs raise Ivy along with their own two children as part of the family while the homicide goes cold with the only vague clue involving a Jewish family in Annapolis, Maryland.

In 2005, Ivy heads to the States seeking to locate her paternal family with one goal in mind: find her mom’s lover (her biological father) who killed her.  Ivy obtains a clerk position at The Olde Victorian Bookstore owned and run by Dan and Rivka Sherman; and through them a room at the Widow Riley’s house, a place where Rivka was held prisoner (see Death Goes Postal).  Reluctantly Ivy admits her reason for being in Maryland.  Dan’s lawyer-friend Joel Wise obtains 1979-1983 records that list families starting a business in Annapolis.  Rivka and Dan reduce the potential number to four.  However, someone is not just unwelcoming as this person tries to kill the Englishwoman.

The second Dan and Rivka Sherman cozy is a super cold case mystery (it went frozen twenty-three years ago) wrapped inside a family drama as Ivy learns what matters in life, how fortunate she has been with people caring for and about her, and that revenge is insignificant.  The keys to this fabulous tale are the amateur sleuthing seems genuine and Ivy keeps the storyline focused as refreshingly the prime player. 

Harriet Klausner

Gutenberg’s Apprentice-Alix Christie

Gutenberg’s Apprentice
Alix Christie
Harper, Sep 23 2014, $27.99
ISBN 9780062336019

In 1450, merchant Johann Fust orders his adopted son Peter Schoeffer to come home from Paris immediately.  Though he prefers to stay in France as his work as a scribe has been thriving, Peter obeys and takes the three day journey to Mainz, Germany.  Johan explains to Peter that he has invested in Johann Gensfleisch’s project.  He wants the lad to become Johann’s apprentice in order to help him succeed and to learn a new trade that will leave scribes obsolete.  Filled with doubts and misgivings Peter works with Johann on printing the Bible with equipment that fails more than it works.  He fixes several of the bugs although his mentor proves difficult to work for; the Church and the scribe guild oppose the devil’s creation; while their family warns father and son of the danger to all of them from this heresy.  Still they persevere until they eventually create the Gutenberg Bible, which is further condemned as not anywhere near the art of the scribes.

This remarkable historical fiction describes the obstacles in developing the movable type printing press.  Like A & E's Biography: 100 Most Influential People of the Millennium naming Gutenberg number one after five and half centuries of major impact (until the digital print ended its influence), Alix Christie pays homage to the invention that changed information flow to the masses.  Peter’s mixed feelings whether to print or not to print anchor the detailed fifteenth century drama with a human impact.  Although a romance feels unnecessary and even well written family dynamics that add understanding of the lead trio come across as intrusive; the audience will be enthralled with the fascinating printing press invention main storyline.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Some Like It Hotter-Isabel Sharpe

Some Like It Hotter
Isabel Sharpe
Harlequin Blaze, Sep 16 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798209

While enjoying her blend of orange chamomile tea on Aura Beach, California, Slow Pour coffee shop owner Eva Meyer is bored after three years of living in nearby Carmia.  In Manhattan, Eva’s twin Chris, owner of the NYEspresso coffee shop, realizes after three years in the Big Apple she is exhausted.  The sisters chat and agree to switch places for a month.

In New York persistent customer Ames Cooke has been attracted to quiet Chris.  However, eccentric Eva likes him and unlike her somewhat reticent sibling, charges head first into his life.  He knows she is wrong for him, but also is addicted to her taste.  As the days go by, Ames belief he can handle one month of lovemaking with the wrong sister turns into needing a lifetime with this right twin, but to persuade her may prove impossible.

Some Like it Hotter is a wonderful heated romance due to the delightful opposite coastal pairing of two people falling in love over tea and coffee.  The pleasant blending of the lead couple sets a high bar for Chris’ mellow meltdown.

Harriet Klausner