Thursday, February 26, 2015

Where Secrets Sleep - Marta Perry

Where Secrets Sleep
Marta Perry
Harlequin HQN, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779604

Interior designer Allison Standish plans a week away to clean up the affairs of her recently deceased grandmother she never met and sell her inheritance Blackburn House.  However, when she sees her boss sleeping with her boyfriend, Allison leaves Philadelphia immediately for Laurel Ridge. 

In the Amish town, Allison finds Blackburn House filled with stores and offices; and that her grandma’s will includes a stipulation that she successfully manages the house for a year before she inherits the property outright to dispose of it anyway she wants.  Allison befriends quilt shop owner Sarah Bitler; and is attracted to Mayor Nick Whiting a carpenter.  However not every local welcomes the big city outsider with an unknown using any means to drive Allison back to Philadelphia.

Moving from her “Watcher In The Dark” trilogy (see Abandon The Dark, Home by Dark and Search The Dark), Marta Perry authors a delightful romantic intrigue anchored once again in Amish country (see the Plain series).  Allison keeps the storyline focused as she makes new friends, finds love and wears a bull’s-eye that someone targets.  Although the suspense is somewhat low-keyed, Where Secrets Sleep is a pleasant thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Hush Hush - Laura Lippman

Hush Hush
Laura Lippman
Morrow, Feb 24 2015, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062083425

Twelve years ago, Melisandre Harris Dawes left her infant daughter to die in an overheated car.  The jury accepted her postpartum psychosis defense and found her not guilty by reason of insanity.  Divorcing her husband Stephen and legally giving him custody of their two other children (five years old Alanna and three years old Ruby), Melisandre moved overseas.

With a camera-person poised to film her, Melisandre returns to Baltimore allegedly to reconnect with her teenage daughters while also creating an insanity defense documentary.  Through attorney Tyner Gray, Melisandre hires hesitant Tess Monaghan and her partner Sandy Sanchez (see After I'm Gone) to provide personal security.  While many locals starting with the ex, his wife and her kids fume over an infanticide killer’s return; someone demonstrates their rage over the injustice by threatening to harm Melisandre and her security team.

The twelfth Tess Monaghan Private Investigator mystery combines an insightful family drama from the maternal viewpoint (including Tess’ concerns re her toddler and Melisandre’s need to reconnect), a profound complex look at the insanity plea and an appealing mystery.  Series fans will appreciate Tess’ latest winner (see The Girl in the Green Raincoat).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First Time In Forever - Sarah Morgan

First Time In Forever
Sarah Morgan
Harlequin HQN, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373785049

The late Hollywood superstar Lana Fox named her half-sister Emily Donovan as guardian to her six years old daughter Lizzie.  Angry with her deceased sibling for saddling her with responsibilities she feels inadequate to deal with starting with her niece and worse the paparazzi feeding frenzy, Emily and her charge flee to Puffin Island off the Maine coast.

Following the deaths of his parents, as the oldest offspring Ryan Cooper gave up his youth to raise his younger siblings.  Once his responsibility ended, he fled Puffin Island; vowing to be a globetrotting journalist with no emotional attachments and never returning home.  However, the Pulitzer Prize winning Ryan is back on the island seeking escape. 

When Ryan and Emily meet, each is attracted to the other.  However, though he empathizes with the over her head single “mom” and likes the vulnerable little girl, Ryan tries to keep his distance from both; but his heart begs to differ.

The first Puffin Island contemporary romance is a wonderful family drama starring three hurting individuals who reluctantly find comfort and emotional support with each other.  Character-driven by the lead trio, readers will cherish their fumbling efforts to come together.

Harriet Klausner

Fiercombe Manor - Kate Riordan

Fiercombe Manor
Kate Riordan
Harper, Feb 17 2015, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062332943

In 1932 London, twentyish Alice Eveleigh falls in love with a married man.  Their tryst leaves her pregnant and except for her ashamed parents alone since he lied about a divorce.  To save their foolish daughter’s reputation, they tell everyone that Alice is a recent widow and exile her to her mother’s friend Fiercombe Manor housekeeper Mrs. Jelphs in the Cotswold.

At Fiercombe Manor, Alice finds the diary of Lady Elizabeth Stanton, an ancestor of current heir Tom Stanton.  In 1898 pregnant Elizabeth prays her second child is a boy to satisfy the unyielding demands of her domineering spouse who scorns his firstborn Isabel for being the wrong gender.  As Alice and Tom become friends, the visitor wonders what happened at the end of the last century to Elizabeth and her two offspring.

Though the mirrored decades-apart subplots technique has been used a lot in recent years, Kate Riordan’s execution is lively with the unsympathetic Mrs. Jelphs as the link between the sympathetic mothers.  The historical roles of women in 1898 and 1932 make for a mesmerizing comparison while on the other hand the mystery fails to flow as nimbly as their plight.

Harriet Klausner

The Dhulyn and Parno Novels Volume One - Violette Malan

The Dhulyn and Parno Novels Volume One
Violette Malan
DAW, Feb 3 2015, $9.99
ISBN: 9780756410469

"The Sleeping God."  The Mercenary Brotherhood assigns psychic Dhulyn Wolfshead and former noble Parno Lionsmane to escort orphaned Mar-eMar to her royal relatives at Tenebro House in Gotterang, Imrion.  The pair expects no trouble, but the supernatural magical Marked have reasons known only to them to prevent them from succeeding.  The zealous New Believers think that the Marked are conjuring a way to awaken the Sleeping God and consequently destroy the world. They want Parno and Dhulyn stopped. Neither adversary nor the Brotherhood knows the Green Shadow is playing on everyone’s fears.  Aware their mission could prove lethal; Parno and Dhulyn risk their lives to keep Mar safe.  

“The Soldier King.”  At the Valley of Limona battlefield the war ends with the Nisveans accepting the surrender of Tegrian’s Prince Edmir.  Though on the winning team, Dhulyn and Parno quickly become appalled when their side’s leadership violates acceptable battlefield practices and the surrender agreement with a plan to use the prince as a hostage.  Accompanied by Edmir, Dhulyn and Parno flee camp to escort the young royal to his kingdom only to find the Blue Mage has made the prince’s home unsafe.

This omnibus reprint of the first two Dhulyn and Parno fantasies (respectively published in 2006 and 2007) contains sensational sword and sorcery tales.  Both are fast-paced and anchored by the heroic pair’s trusting camaraderie of only each other.  Although somewhat typical of the sub-genre and the lead duet do inane things out of character, fans will marvel at the adventures of Dhulyn and Parno who know years before The Black List’s Redd that your enemy's enemy is most likely also your enemy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wild Horses - B.J. Daniels

Wild Horses
B.J. Daniels
Harlequin HQN, Feb 24 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779567

In Montana Olivia Hamilton and Cooper Barnett are in love, but the engaged couple also vehemently argue too much.  During a heated fight, angry Olivia drives off in a snowstorm, but has an accident.  A stranger saves her life only to drug and rape her.

Soon after her harrowing experience, someone blackmails Olivia; she believes the extortionist is her sexual predator.  Pregnant she tells her fiancé of the assault and that the fetus may not be his.  Stunned and depressed, Cooper reacts poorly to Olivia’s revelations.  He comes to his senses when Cooper realizes the danger his beloved faces.  Turning to the law to find the rapist, Copper relies on himself to keep his Olivia safe.

Moving from the Beartooth saga, B.J. Daniels provides a satisfying Montana Hamiltons' opening act.  The storyline is at its touching best when it focuses on the bickering yet loving lead couple.  However, the romantic mystery loses some momentum when the plot falls to a first book syndrome by veering into the lives of several other characters (many of whom I assume will headline future dramas).  Still Wild Horses is a solid Big Sky novel.

Harriet Klausner

All Hail The Queen - Meesha Mink

All Hail The Queen
Meesha Mink
Touchstone, Feb 24 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781476755359

In Newark after avenging the murder of her son with street justice (see Kiss the Ring), Naeema Cole retires her alter-ego Queen she hopes permanently.  However, the relationship between Naeema and her husband Tank is currently off which she says is permanent.  Though she knows to stay out of it, Naeema gets involved with a young teen female Mya who she hopes to save from the boys’ serial sexing her, her mother ignoring her, and her stepfather abusing her.

After booting Tank’s lover out of his life, Naeema attends a gala headlined by Fevah with Tank and his crew providing the rap superstar protection. When Tank goes to open the limo for her to step out of the vehicle, shots hit him.  As Tank fights for his life in a New York hospital, Naeema, realizing who the real target was, reincarnates Queen to determine who of three suspects tried to kill her beloved spouse; but also faces perilous exposure by someone who knows her and her man.

Though All Hail The Queen contains a similar overarching premise to its prequel, the storyline remains fresh as Queen works the inquiry in her unique way.  Fast-paced throughout, urban-lit fans will hail the return of the Queen.

Harriet Klausner