Monday, July 6, 2015

His Rebel Heart - Amber Leigh Williams

His Rebel Heart
Amber Leigh Williams
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 1 2015, $6.75
ISBN: 9780373609178

After being away for over seven years, James Bracken returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, a town in which he vowed never to come back.  His neighbor florist Adrian Carlton is irate and afraid of James being next door.  When he left town, James abandoned her and their unborn child.  When James meets Adrian’s child Kyle, he knows by the age and especially the blue eyes that he is the father and demands time with his son.  Instead she tells him to stay away from her and her son as he has no rights.

Filled with regret for what he did to Adrian and Kyle, and the lost opportunity to share a dream with his late dad, James opens up Bracken Mechanics.  When he learns that Adrian married abusive Radley, James struggles with not battering the SOB.  As James and Adrian realize they remain in love, Kyle comes first; but Radley has other plans for his ex.

Though the theme is not new and Radley the psychopath has no redeeming quality whatsoever, His Rebel Heart is an enjoyable second chance at family drama.  Readers will root for the mama bear protecting her cub at risk to herself and the remorseful rebel with a cause to come together.

Harriet Klausner

Waiting For The Cool Kind Of Crazy - M.D. Moore

Waiting For The Cool Kind Of Crazy
M.D. Moore
Black Rose Writing, Jan 29 2015, $17.95
ISBN: 9781612964706

The police tazes Harmon Burke; who thinks how pathetic that his last meal for defending his bipolar paranoid schizophrenic mother Cece before lockup is peanut butter.  Still he faces Washington State three-strikes you’re out law for battering the next door neighbors while Cece will return to Rainier Psychiatric Treatment Center.  Harmon explains to the cops that the neighbors used a bat while fighting with his mom.  Eddy the Port Defiance officer owes fortyish Harmon a favor from years ago.  He persuades the other party to drop their complaint; Eddy frees Harmon with a warning: no more get out of jail cards.

At his antiques restorer shop, Harmon waits for a potential renter of his vacant next door property when a fire inspector arrives.  Recognizing Reich as nasty classmate Shorty; Harmon quickly realizes he has not changed in stature or personality.  Shorty finds violations and includes a fine that will either close the shop or delay Harmon’s needed cancer treatment until it is too late.  He admonishes Harmon do right by Frank.  When the potential lessee arrives; thinking anyone but her Harmon knows why Frank sent his bulldog.

This is an intriguing drama that looks closely at a long time loser trying to do the “right thing”.  Bewildered Harmon is unsure what he can do for his mom except chasing KGB agents; and aware that helping his new renter angers his influential enemy who will destroy him and his family.  The perceptive look at the impact of mental illness on those closest to the person is astonishingly profound though the key support cast (except Cece) still feels underdeveloped.  This is a fabulous character study of a drowning man.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Flame Tree Road - Shona Patel

Flame Tree Road
Shona Patel
Mira, Jun 30 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778316657

In 1870s East Bengal, India young Biren Roy grieves the death of his father.  However, even more shocking to Biren is to observe the pariah treatment by previously loving family towards his mom for the crime of widowhood.  He vows to change this insane outcast custom.

Biren goes to England to study law and while there joins the women’s suffrage movement.  Eventually he returns to India with a goal to fight for women’s rights starting with education.  Though he feels he climbs Everest in winter and several times is ready to give up on what seems a helpless cause, his beloved Maya keeps him fighting for what each knows is right.

Occurring decades before his descendant’s 1940s Teatime for the Firefly drama, idealistic Biren’s battle to change the Caste System turns this into an excellent Victorian.  His efforts come at a high cost to him and Maya; as community and family ostracize them; but with his beloved’s encouraging him, Biren continues “To dream the impossible dream; … To right the unrightable wrong” (Man of La Mancha - "The Impossible Dream (The Quest)".

Harriet Klausner

The Hardest Fight - Amy Vastine

The Hardest Fight
Amy Vastine
Harlequin Heartwarming, Jul 1 2015, $6.50
ISBN: 9780373367313

Two months ago, Chicago cut out funding the Safe Haven women’s shelter.  This makes it extremely difficult to maintain the service and pay the mortgages on the facility in Logan Square and the office in Lincoln Park.  The City Board wants to convert the shelter into luxurious condos.

Prime Developer led by affluent Ms. Clayton sends a retinue to negotiate a deal.  Their lawyer is Dylan Hunt; while Open Arms Advocacy Center attorney Lucy Everhart represents Safe Haven.  They were an entry at law school as a couple. A healthy competiveness and idealistic advocacy brought them together.  However, five years ago Dylan ended his relationship with his Lulu and obviously turned traitor to their cause.  Each blames the other for breaking their respective heart, but deep down both craves a second chance that ironically both struggles to conceal.

This is an appealing second chance contemporary starring two fascinating protagonists although uncompromising Lucy foolishly can be a bull in a china shop when finessing the more powerful enemy is needed.  The romance of the oldest Everhart “Chicago Sisters” (see The Best-Laid Plans and The Better Man) to the man who left her two years after they graduated law school entertains the Heartwarming audience.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 3, 2015

A New Hope - Robyn Carr

A New Hope
Robyn Carr
Mira, Jun 30 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778317876

Following the SIDS death of her baby Josh and the subsequent collapse of her marriage, grieving Ginger Dysart heeds her father’s admonition to move to Thunder Point, Oregon.  There her second cousin Ray Anne gives Ginger a room and obtains for her a job at Grace’s Florist.

At a Basque wedding between Scott Grant and Peyton Lacoumette, the intoxicated brother of the bride Matt hits on Ginger even after she says she wants to be left alone.  When he grabs her boob, she punches the drunken professor.  After he sobers up, appalled Matt Lacoumette apologizes to Ginger for his ghastly behavior.  As they become friends; he wants more from their relationship, while she still mourns her loss and fears he still desires his former spouse.

The eighth Thunder Point Oregonian romance (see One Wish, The Homecoming and The Promise) focuses on two wounded warriors whose respective pasts hamper their future.  Though Matt’s marriage breakup details feel forced into the plot, series fans will relish this terrific entry; character-driven by the leads and a deep secondary bench.

Harriet Klausner

Miss Match - Laurelin McGee

Miss Match
Laurelin McGee
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Jun 30 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250059185

Fired and unable to obtain a position in her field due to her last employee’s horrific blackballing “reference”, out of work marketing analyst Andrea Dawson chose between paying the Internet bill and a new suit needed for job interviews.  Her baby sister Lacey insists Andy answers a personal ad in the newspaper placed by a man seeking a wife.  Though she believes her potential client seeks a pimp, Andy applies and to her surprise businessman Blake Donovan hires her to find him a spouse who meets his required, stringent and specific criteria.

Andy’s first reaction to Blake is that he is a heartless Mr. Robot (not the TV series) and his first impression of her is that she is a free spirit lunatic.  As she finds him perfect female after female, he keeps rejecting them.  Neither wants to face the truth; that the woman he desires as his wife is his matchmaker and the woman he wants as his wife is his matchmaker.

The key to this entertaining screwball comedic romance is Blake who over the course of the plot goes from a person who seemingly never used his heart to a likable Pinball Wizard (The Who).  On the other hand irresponsible Andy is a fun protagonist in a sort of Holly Golightly (Truman Capote's Moon River) way.  Readers will enjoy this lighthearted farce as the matchmaker makes him a match.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Mountain Story - Lori Lansens

The Mountain Story
Lori Lansens
Simon & Schuster, Jun 30 2015, $26.00
ISBN: 9781476786506

On his eighteenth birthday while residing with his aunt in her trailer, an extremely depressed “Wolf” Truly ponders about life’s unending cruelty.  He thinks about his late mom who died violently when he was a child back in Michigan and his wastrel father who was never there for him.  Already contemplating suicide, the severe injury suffered by his BFF Byrd has pushed Wolf over the edge.  Wolf takes the tram to Angel’s Peak where he plans to leap to his death.

On the tram with Wolf are the three Devine females: matriarch Nola, her daughter Bridget and her granddaughter Vonn.  They plan to spread the ashes of Nola’s recently deceased husband on the summit.  However, they get lost on a cold November night and adding to their fears Nola breaks her leg.  No longer contemplating ending it, Wolf and his stranded compatriots struggle to survive a wilderness filled with life threatening peril from the weather, the wild and Nola’s injury.

With a strong cast whose desperation and trepidations grow throughout, this is an exciting thriller that grips readers with a sense of urgency compounded by horrific choices needed to be made from the moment the leads get lost on the mountain.  Although the flashback technique detracts at times from the mounting suspense, Lori Lansens writes a dramatic terse winner.

Harriet Klausner