Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Secrets of a Thousand Beauties-Mingmei Yip

Secrets of a Thousand Beauties
Mingmei Yip
Kensington, Nov 25 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781617733215

Years before she or her fiancé were conceived, Spring Swallow was engaged to the son of her mom’s BFF if one had a boy and the other a girl.  As she turns seventeen, her mother and her future mother-in-law enforce the zhifu weihun ancient marital tradition though Spring Shallow finds that ghastly as her soon to be husband died before he was born. 

On the day she is to “exchange” vows with her “ghost”, a horrified Spring Swallow runs away.  Martinet Aunty Peony finds her and employs her along aside other females with depressing backgrounds at her Su-style embroidery shop.  Spring Swallow struggles to adjust to the strict rules enforced even much more than usual to insure they complete a Peking order in six months.  When she can she mountain climbs where she falls in love with Shen Feng; and learns what she can about her “mentor” including Aunty was a royal embroiderer before the Revolution two decades earlier.  When she loses her position, Spring Swallow obtains work at an embroidery store and soon marries the owner’s son.  When she suffers a miscarriage losing Shen’s baby, her irate husband’s family tosses Spring Swallow out.  Missionaries give her a home and a priest his love.

Though there are too much happening to the heroine especially several fortunate and tragic events in a short period, this is an entertaining 1930s Chinese drama due to an energetic heroine who “The record shows (she) took the blows and did it (her) way” (My Way by Frank Sinatra).  Filled with captivating insight like the zhifu weihun ghost marriage, Mingmei Yip authors another delightful historical (see The Nine Fold Heaven and Peach Blossom Pavilion).

Harriet Klausner

The Accidental Countess-Valerie Bowman

The Accidental Countess
Valerie Bowman
St. Martin’s, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9781250042088

Captain Julian Swift and Cassandra Monroe have exchanged notes as he served in the combat zone while she remained at the home-front.  They begin to fall in love, but with the Napoleonic War seemingly over, Julian returns to England engaged to Cass’s cousin Penelope, who does not want to marry the second son soldier.

To delay meeting her fiancé, Penelope pretends to be attending a house party hosted by Countess Patience Bunbury.  Aware that her relative made up Patience, Cass masquerades as the hostess so that she can spend quality time with her beloved.  Julian arrives at the gala to inform Penelope he adores someone else, but when he meets “Patience”, he feels fickle to fall in love again.

The second pleasant Playful Brides Regency (see The Unexpected Duchess) is a lighthearted zany romance as the relationships between the fascinating lead “quartet” make for a wild frolic.  The subgenre audience will relish the enchanting machinations of the not-so Accidental Countess and her real persona competing for the love of Julian while her cousin sets the stage.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 24, 2014

Abracadaver-Laura Resnick

Laura Resnick
DAW, Nov 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409784

In Manhattan, film director Ted Yee shut down his project after his mother’s antics and much worse his sister used cursed fortune cookies attempting to murder those involved in the movie (see The Misfortunate Cookie).  Two backers including Chinatown mobster Capuzzo died while a family friend John Chen, whose family owns a Chinese-Italian mortuary, fortunately survived; the Yee & Sons Trading Company store did not as it was destroyed by a fire.  Actress Esther Diamond is out of work with the filming ended and her sometimes boyfriend NYPD Detective Connor Lopez is fuming for her breaking into his department car to destroy a fortune cookie.

However, the popular TV crime show The Dirty Thirty hires Esther to return as prostitute Jilly C-Note; which is another reason for Connor to rage at her as the drama depicts police corruption and worse.  Strike three with Connor occurs when Esther persuades her superego star to ride with Lopez and his partner Quinn. 

Esther is stunned when her three century and a half old sorcerer friend Max Zadok’s dog Nelli growls at Quinn.  John informs Esther, Max and their associate semi-retired Gambello family hit man Lucky Battistuzzi that soon after a visit by Quinn, Capuzzo left his coffin and walked a few feet before collapsing.  Esther and associates seek evidence that Quinn is a mystically dirty cop.

The seventh Esther Diamond lighthearted (except for the Yee family) urban fantasy (see Vamparazzi and Doppelgangster) is an enjoyable paranormal investigation that leads to strike four with Lopez and strike out forever with his mom.  Though it behooves the audience to read the previous entry The Misfortunate Cookie; it is unnecessary as Laura Resnick deftly weaves the key points into this entertaining tale. 

Harriet Klausner

Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels-Sarah MacLean

Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels
Sarah MacLean
Avon, Nov 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062068514

In 1823 Essex, teenage daughter and sister to dukes, Lady Georgiana Pearson, knows she loves Jonathan.  Expecting to elope with him, they have sex before he deserts her.  Over the next decade she survived the scandal by turning into mysterious Chase the gentleman owner of London’s most popular gambling club The Fallen Angel and sexy madam Anna.  However, Georgiana believes her semi-exile from the Ton must end so that her nine years old daughter Caroline can join Polite Society; to do so she needs a titled husband. 

At a ball Georgiana and newspaper publisher Duncan West meet after he observes her lose control when one of the guests calls her and her daughter trollops; ironically unknown by him he has conducted business with her via missives with Chase and Anna.  Attracted to each other; a feeling neither desires nor plan to act on; he vows to help her find an aristocratic spouse while with Chase’s assistance identify a traitor.  As they fall in love, both fear their darkest secrets will become known.

The Fourth Rules of Scoundrels is an awesome nineteenth century romance.  Smartly done very early in the storyline, the audience will marvel over the shocking revelation of Chase being someone who would not have been listed in the London books, yet seems apropos.  Aptly titled, Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover is a fantastic finish to a stupendous series (see No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover and A Rogue By Any Other Name).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Memories Of Flames-Armand Cabasson

Memories Of Flames
Armand Cabasson, Isabel Reid (translator)
ISBN: 9781906040840

In March 1814, less than seventy thousand French troops anxiously wait for the much larger allied armies coming from the east to invade Paris; while the English already have taken Bordeaux and Italy appears ready to fall.  The Emperor’s brother Joseph Bonaparte fears Paris will burn, but adding to his gloomy outlook is the assassination in his home of key military genius, sexagenarian Colonel Berle with burn marks on the corpse.  Aware of Lieutenant Colonel Quentin Margont’s deft handling of a sensitive matter for the Emperor's stepson Prince Eugène de Beauharnais (see The Officer's Prey), Joseph and “The Limping Devil” Talleyrand order him to investigate discreetly Berle’s murder.

Based on paid information provided by Swords of the King member Charles de Varencourt to Joseph, the Emperor’s brother insists Margont join these fiercely dedicated Royalists masquerading as Chevalier Quentin de Langè.  Though Margont expects to die, he is offered no choice besides going undercover inside a fanatical group who vehemently believe the end justifies the means even if thousands of innocent French must die.  As Margont struggles to be accepted by the suspicious Royalists in spite of de Varencourt’s sponsorship, a second homicide similar to that of Berle occurs.

The third Napoleonic Murders (see Wolf Hunt) is a great historical mystery due mostly to the profound look at the mental state of the French troops knowing what most likely will happen to them and the Royalists rationalizing they save France from worse destruction.  Conflicted Margont is fantastic as he fears capture yet needs justice. 

Harriet Klausner

Eagle’s Last Stand-Aimée Thurlo

Eagle’s Last Stand
Aimée Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698059

At the Brickhouse Tavern, his five Navaho foster brothers and their families welcome home former undercover FBI agent Rick Cloud.  Working part-time as the event’s coordinator at her uncle Frank’s tavern while going to school, Kim Nelson also greets Rick.  Attracted to each other, he especially appreciates she ignores his scar to look into his eyes as they chat.  When suddenly the party smells a gas leak, they try to leave; but find the door jammed.  Noticing a cut gas line in the kitchen, Rick lifts the unconscious half-owner Frank and with everyone else escapes the trap just before the tavern explodes. 

One of the brothers, Hartley, New Mexico Detective Preston Bowman leads the inquiry.  Thinking he was the target though not by the cartel he infiltrated, Rick wonders if the disappearance of their mentor Hosteen Silver the medicine man is the link to the deliberate attempt to kill him by someone who could not care less about murdering numerous innocents.  As Kim leads Rick to a message left for him on a Copper Canyon wall by Hosteen, he will do anything to keep safe the woman he loves safe from a predator wanting him eliminated before he reads the note.

The sixth Copper Canyon romantic suspense is an excellent final novel in a quality series that showcases the talent of Aimée Thurlo, who passed away in February.  Paying homage to the late author, fans will appreciate this exciting thriller that ties up the major threads of the previous tales (see Undercover Warrior, Power of the Raven, Winter Hawk’s Legend, Falcon’s Run and Secrets of the Lynx).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Last Chance Christmas-Vicki Lewis Thompson

A Last Chance Christmas
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798278

Ben Radcliffe drives the icy roads from Sheridan to Jackson Hole to deliver a custom made saddle that Jack Chance commissioned as a family birthday present to his mom Sarah on her seventieth birthday.  At the Last Chance Ranch, Jack loves Ben’s artistry, which relieves the tense artisan as this is his biggest commission.

Also staying at the spread, Chance relative Molly Gallagher the genealogist works on a family tree.  When she and Ben meet, each feels a powerful uncomfortable attraction.  As they fall in love, the reclusive Ben revises his opinion about family being undesirable hemorrhoid creators since the loving rowdy Chance clan embraced him as one of them and Molly wants him.

The fourteenth Sons of Chance (see Riding Home, Riding Hard and Riding High) Wyoming ranch romance is a pleasing tale as two professionals with polar opposite views of family fall in love.  Although understandable as apparently this is the last entry, the Chance horde at times overwhelms the romantic storyline.  Still Vicki Lewis Thompson provides her appreciative audience with a nice Christmas present.

Harriet Klausner