Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cowboy for Keeps-Brenda Mott

Cowboy for Keeps
Brenda Mott
Harlequin SuperRomance, Nov 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715268

In Colorado, rancher Reno Blackwell is concerned when rustlers try to steal her wild Mustang herd. She wants her horses safe so she turns to her former lover Cade Lantana, who has just come home after years away, for help.

Cade wants to say no because he remains haunted by the incident that had him run away from her love and his home. Although exonerated afterward by Internal Affairs, while on duty as a local police officer, he killed her stepfather. When Cade sees Reno he knows he still loves her; she feels the same way. He wants a second chance; she does not feel the same way. She remains livid that he dumped her when she needed him most while he knows he was unable to help himself get past the trauma caused by killing his lover’s stepdad let alone be there for his beloved.

The key to this wonderful ranch romance is the hurt and trauma neither of the lead couple let go of from that fateful day when Reno saw “the man who had stolen her heart. Then killed her father”. Neither has moved on, but now Cade sees a chance to make amends while Reno remains furious with him for deserting her when she most needed him. Contemporary romance readers will appreciate Brenda Mott’s well written tale of a tragic incident in their past still threatens to keep this couple apart.

Harriet Klausner

Second-Chance Family- Karina Bliss

Second-Chance Family
Karina Bliss
Harlequin SuperRomance, Nov 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715244

In New Zealand following his divorce from Roz Valentine, Jack Galloway assumed he would never remarry or sire children. Instead he buries himself in his work. That changes when his brother and sister-in-law die in a car accident while on vacation in New Caledonia, leaving behind three young children.

Jack has no time to grieve, but is stunned to learn that Roz e and he were both named as guardians. She quickly thinks they have a second chance together coming from the tragedy as they raise the three kids; he wants that too but knows his heart could not take a failure again. Both know the kids come first.

This second chance at love tale works on several levels, but mostly because the readers will feel the grief of the three children. Thus the characters make for a great story as neither Roz nor Jack want to be guardians and worse co-guardians, but the kids hook them as each mourns in different ways. Jack’s client Hiro sums up the novel when he tells Jack to go home because at times like this one needs to be with loving family.

Harriet Klausner

Christmas in Key West-Cynthia Thomason

Christmas in Key West
Cynthia Thomason
Harlequin SuperRomance, Nov 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715282

Only for her father would Abby Vernay return home to Key West after thirteen years away. Home reminds her of Reese Burkett who broke her heart on graduation day when he took her virginity and left the next day for the military.

Reese is home as a police captain so Abby knows they will meet since her father is in jail. As they become reacquainted, Reese wants more while Abby pushes for less. He soon realizes his leaving town has hurt her so now in love he must persuade her to take a chance on him; he will not let her down again ever.

This is a fun second chance at love Christmas tale. The strong eccentric secondary cast starting with her father brings Key West to life. Abby is terrific as she refuses to give the man she has loved since he was a teen another shot at her heart because she knows the damage if he leaves. Reese realizes he has a hike as long as the Keys to overcome as he was ignorant to how much he hurt her so he starts off losing even more ground. Cynthia Thomason writes a warm CHRISTMAS IN KEY WEST.

Harriet Klausner

My Immortal Promise-Jen Holling

My Immortal Promise
Jen Holling
Pocket, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 1416525866

Her abusive husband is killing Hannah O’Shea. Her life is saved by a spirit who changes her from human into a "blood witch" immortal healer. However to stay alive Hannah must have human blood.

Eight decades later a desperate widower Drake MacKay begs Hannah to use her healing skill to save the life of a relative. He offers her his life in exchange with one stipulation; give him time to kill his enemy, Luthias, a baobhan sith like the local witch Hannah. Instead the lonely depressed Hannah frees him from his blood debt. When Drake learns of a threat from the villagers to kill Hannah, he abducts her to take her to safety stunned that she told the locals how to kill her. He is willing to die to keep her safe, but soon learns his family is threatened by a psychopathic Luthias. As they go to keep his blood safe, Hannah finds a reason to live; her love for Drake, who reciprocates her deep feelings.

This engaging paranormal romance stars two flawed protagonists struggling with a blood debt, a nasty villain, and love. Hannah makes the tale with her death wish making her the opposite of her peer Luthias whose death wish is to dine on human blood until his victim is dead. Jen Holling is at her best as readers will be hooked from the opening encounter as fans and Drake will wonder whether a baobhan sith blood sucker can truly be in love.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Silver Bells-Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, Mary Burton, and Judy Duarte

Silver Bells
Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, Mary Burton, and Judy Duarte
Zebra, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 1420103636

“Silver Bells” by Fern Michaels. Although a star, Hollywood has not been fun for Amy Lee, who wants to leave the glitter behind her and just go home. This Christmas she returns to Apple Valley, Pennsylvania where her high-school boyfriend Hank Anders greets her in a way that makes her want to stay forever in his arms.

“Dear Santa…” by JoAnn Ross. Mystery writer author Holly Berry has another reason to hate the holidays; a blizzard has left her stranded in Santa’s Village, Washington at the lodge owned by Gabriel O’Halloran. He and his young matchmaking daughter give her a Christmas that makes her wish for more of their loving magic.

“Christmas Past” by Mary Burton. The letter she receives provides hints to the identity of a killer. Having had a violent abusive husband, photographer Nicole Piper knows she cannot pursue this alone so she turns to homicide detective David Ayden for help. The widow and the widower face danger to their lives and to their hearts as both find a second chance at love if they survive their sleuthing ordeal.

“A Mulberry Park Christmas” by Judy Duarte. Sugar Plum Lane residents know how to enliven the community for the Christmas season. However, this year Alyssa Ridgeway still reels from an ugly breakup and is not in the holiday mood until she runs into her first sweetheart, James MacGregor, who reminds her of the Christmas kiss past, present and future.

These four heartwarming holiday romances each contain strong lead characters, a sense of the season, and entertaining story lines.

Harriet Klausner

Snowy Night With a Stranger-Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries and Julia London

Snowy Night With a Stranger
Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries and Julia London
Pocket, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 1416578226

"Holiday Gamble” by Jane Feather. The blizzard forces Lord Ned Vasey to seek shelter at the home of Lord Roger Selby. Ned meets Selby's ward, Georgina, who he believes is hiding something that he plans to uncover.

“When Sparks Fly" by Sabrina Jeffries. The coach accident leaves Lady Eleanor Bancroft and her three young charges with no options except to beg for hospitality from the cranky hermit and are at the mercy of Martin “Black Baron” Thorncliffe. She is not sure he will let them stay. He would prefer to refuse them, but even he cannot. Neither of the adults is prepared for the attraction between them.

"A Snowy Night With a Highlander" by Julia London. Lady Fiona Haines searches for her missing Laird Duncan Buchanan, with an injured arm and a patch over his eye, offers his help. Together they seek her sibling while an attraction between them ignites; However Duncan fears what will happen to their just starting relationship when she learns who he is.

SNOWY NIGHT WITH A STRANGER contains three warm (in spite of the weather) Regency holiday romances that showcase top talent. Fans will enjoy this fine historical collection.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Temptation-Allison Chase

Dark Temptation
Allison Chase
Signet, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 045122552X

In 1829 Sophie St. Clair’s misbehavior has her family sending her into exile to stay with to relatives in Cornwall in order to avoid a potential scandal. However, Sophie is unable to resist some sleuthing when she notices strange lights in the harbor; she ponders whether they can be connected to nearby Edgecombe Manor.

His father’s fiery death two years ago has shaken Chad Rutherford, the fifth Earl of Wycliffe, so much so he avoids Edgecombe Manor as if it contains the plague. He knows he must go back one last time, but does not plan to hang around because he knows what “lives” there. Chad and amateur sleuth Sophie meet and are attracted to one another. He joins her on her inquiry into the mysterious lights and the corpses that come ashore even as matchmaking spirits encourage them so they can finally obtain peace.

The second Blackheath Moor gothic romance (see DARK OBSESSION) contains a strong amateur sleuth suspense subplot that enhances the lead couple's romantic relationship. The story line is filled with warm passion and terrifying events that will keep readers on the edge wondering who is chasing whom in this dangerous search for the truth.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Magic-Cheyenne McCray

Dark Magic
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0312949596

Although accepted as an equal by the D’Anu witches and treated as a sister, Cassia has hidden her royal Elvin blood from everyone. However, her time of hiding is over as she must return to her elf realm as the daughter of the Great Guardian must become a Guardian. She understands her duty, but feels strongly she must help her friends in their upcoming battle against the new “God” warlock Darkwolf and knows she will miss the human MacGregor with all her heart.

San Francisco Police Department chief of Paranormal Special Forces Jake Macgregor is a bit taken aback that Cassia, whom he is attracted to, is not human, but he does not care though he knows anything between them is short lived. If his dice wins against the overwhelming odds, she must leave to fulfill her regal role as a Guardian; if they lose he does not want to think of the hell they will all be in. Still Darkwolf comes before their hearts.

This is excellent on two levels. Besides a fabulous finish to a great urban fantasy that sub-genre fans will relish as one of the best series over the past few years; the romance is the one, readers have been waiting to see how it plays out since almost the beginning. Master magician Cheyenne McCray brings it all together in a superb ending to her stupendous saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Mane Attraction- Shelly Laurenston

The Mane Attraction
Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava, Nov 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758220387

Following the wedding of her brother (see THE BEAST IN HIM), werewolf Sissy Mae Smith and lion shifter Mitch Shaw slept together. However, they agree the next morning their friendship is not worth risking due to an attraction.

When he is hurt by a bounty hunter, Sissy Mae takes him to her Tennessee pack to heal and keep safe; as no one messes with a Smith especially in Smithtown. However, as the two shapeshifters struggle to stay apart, his enemies come for him as they know who he is and her Pack males, showing some guts, begin to sniff them out from a distance. Mitch is an undercover cop ready to testify in court against his former associates who want him dead for his betrayal of their code and before he can send them up the river.

Shelly Laurenston’s latest Smith shapeshifter romantic fantasy stars kick butt Sissy Mae and the only known male besides perhaps her dad not afraid of her bite and bark; as it takes the heart of a lion to go one on one with her. Although readers will need a scorecard to keep track of who’s who in the extended Smith world (the family reunion would fill up Titan Stadium), fans will enjoy the MANE ATTRACTION, a battle between two superheavyweights in heated love.

Harriet Klausner

A Mermaid’s Kiss-Joey W. Hill

A Mermaid’s Kiss
Joey W. Hill
Berkley, Nov 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425223802

Half-breed Anna knows her life will be short and loveless; her destiny to die alone. As the daughter of the legendary Ariel, she feels unwelcome in the human surface world and as an undesirable in the oceanic realm of her mom’s race, the mermaids.

After several millennia of war against The Dark Ones, Prime Legion Commander for the Goddess, Jonah the Angel is burned out, suffering from battle fatigue syndrome caused by sending so many of his friends to die in mortal combat. He no longer cares about victory or the cause, as he just wants to join his fallen comrades.

During a particularly brutal fight, the enemy severs Jonah’s wing. In pain, he crashes to the earth looking forward to his end as the Dark Ones pursue him to finish the job. Instead Anna finds him, rescues him, and heals him; and not just his wounded wing. Jonah finds a new reason to live and win as he has found love; Anna reciprocates as she knows the pain of loneliness is over as she has own angel.

Moving from vampires to mermaids and angels, Joey W. Hill provides another powerful romantic fantasy that will grip the audience from the opening sequence when Jonah fell from grace to the sea and never slows down as Anna risks her life to save her angel. Anna and Jonah make their respective species seem genuine while the Dark Ones are a bit over the top (but then again millenniums of getting your butt kicked will tend to do that), but no one will care as the eternal war has come to the Mer oceanic abode.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Cowboy and the Angel-Marin Thomas

The Cowboy and the Angel
Marin Thomas
Harlequin American Romance, Nov 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373752409

In Detroit dedicated, some would say obsessed, social worker Renee Sweenee will do anything include standing in front of a wrecking crane and ball to prevent the destruction of the abandoned 1892 Screw and Bolt Factory Warehouse where six kids have taken shelter. Tulsa based Duke Dalton cannot believe what has happened to his simple deal.

He realizes bad PR could rupture his plan. He decides to team up with the lioness protecting someone else’s runaway cubs by helping Renee find homes for all of the children. As they work together, Renee and Duke fall in love, but her distrust of relationships due to a bad incident leaves her ready to bolt. Duke knows he has his work cut out to convince his beloved they belong together.

The romance between the COWBOY AND THE ANGEL is cleverly done to serve as a backdrop in many ways to saving the children as Marin Thomas makes each of her teens and preadolescents seem fully developed with genuine flaws and fears. Thus besides a strong contemporary romance, the audience sees a powerful look at how complex and difficult social work can be. This is a great tale and perhaps Ms. Thomas can provide a futuristic anthology focusing on these children as adults (instead of where are they now – where will they be).

Harriet Klausner

The Christmas Cowboy-Judy Christenberry

The Christmas Cowboy
Judy Christenberry
Harlequin American Romance, Nov 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373752386

On the family owned Lazy l Ranch in Colorado, Hank Ledbetter is the last remaining single as the spread has had three weddings in under a year. His grandfather and his brother (see TRUST A COWBOY) are on their respective honeymoons and his sister Jess started the marriage go round last summer (see RUNAWAY COWBOY). He vows never him.

Although the deal to have guests arrive was to start next month, Hank angrily agrees to teach affluent New York City slicker Andrea Jacobs how to ride a horse after his family signed a contract with the guest. As the teacher and student become acquainted they begin to fall in love. He no longer wants to run off to nearby Steamboat Springs to see the ladies. However, she has a secret and he has doubts, making it seem the only bells for Christmas not ringing will be wedding bells.

The latest Lazy L Ranch romance is an engaging contemporary that starts off on the wrong hoof (make that foot) when Hank assumes Andrea is a spoiled rich girl used to getting her way so he behaves atrociously towards the guest. Andrea’s lack of confidence leads to her accepting the belief she deserves his scorn and readers cringing. Although Andrea waits too long to show backbone, fans will enjoy this fun Colorado ranch romance as the cowboy has a lot of making up to do one kiss at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Strip-Delta Dupree

Delta Dupree
Kensington Aphrodisia, Nov 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758227027

During the day Bryce Sullivan is a computer technician; at night he has obtained work as an erotic dancer at Killer Bods, a male strip joint owned by Rio Saunders. In fact Bryce is undercover stripping in order to obtain insider information for his sister, Rio’s business competitor in the take it off male hard bod community.

Although she is older, Rio and Bryce are attracted to one another and she even struts on stage with him when he suffers stage fright. Torn between his love for two male strip joint owners, Bryce must choose between his sister and his beloved even as he believes that he and Rio could never share anything permanently due to their age difference.

The concept is fascinating as a younger man doing a favor for his sister goes undercover in a strip joint owned by an older woman; only to have a heated attraction between them. The problem is Bryce is too immature for a sophisticate like Rio to accept his childish temperament even though he is able to draw the heated out of control sexual teen-like desires from her. Readers who relish the nano details of the sexual encounters and the striptease will want to follow Bryce and Rio as they mutually STRIP one another’s sensibility.

Harriet Klausner

Do It To Me-P.F. Kozak

Do It To Me
P.F. Kozak
Kensington Aphrodisia, Nov 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758222725

"Cruise Ship Charlie". While on a vacation on the luxury ship Ortensia, fashion designer Petula meets crew hand Charlie for what looks like a short cruise romance though both want more.

"Southern Seaman". A new member of the crew, Buck believes in taking care of the ladies. To indoctrinate him in the basic axiom of a woman in every port call, his peers take him to a special Paris brothel.

"Merchant Maureen". Following the death of her sea captain father, Maureen signs onto a different merchant marine vessel. First mate Roger has doubts about Maureen, but she plans to prove she can do the sailing job and heat the sheets with him

With plenty of profanity that fits a crew at sea, these three blazing erotic novellas are filled with sex, sex, and sex, but the plots are emaciated limited to a diet of the camaraderie of the crew especially their heat seeking adventures.

Harriet Klausner

Take Me to Bed-Joan Elizabeth Lloyd

Take Me to Bed
Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
Kensington Aphrodisia, Nov 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758212788

"The Pleasures of Jessicalynn". Thirteen years of at best mild sex is about to end for Jessie with her divorce. Her friend Steph and her husband Brian explain to Jessie they have an open marriage seeking outside sex partners to heat the sheets at home. They welcome Jessie to join them.

"Velvet Whispers". Thirty-two years old divorcee Alice needs money to pay for her mother's nursing care. Her friend Betsy suggests Alice open up a phone-sex service as she has found that a lucrative and relatively easy way to bring in income. Alice assumes she will fail at sex talk because her own sex life is ground zero. Instead she takes to the sexual fantasies of her clients like a pro and is ready to test these dreams in person.

Though the plots are thin as they are more sexual vignettes, these are two intriguing erotic novellas. In each case, the lead female has been disappointed in their respective marital relationship especially the sexual part. Encouraged by friends, they are willing to try almost anything in their quest for the golden climax that they never felt before even in their marriages or in their dreams.

Harriet Klausner

Simply Sinful-Kate Pearce

Simply Sinful
Kate Pearce
Kensington Aphrodisia, Nov 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780758223555

Abby and James Beecham were forced to marry very young when neither was mature enough for a relationship and both were clumsy in bed. Sixteen years later their marriage is a shambles, but Abby wants to try one last time while James cannot bear another disappointing sexual encounter though he loves his wife. She wants her husband back in her bed making love and hopefully a child or two, but both fear another series of incompetent trysts.

Peter Howard spent a decade as a sex slave in a Turkish brothel. He agrees to tutor the couple on the pleasures of sex. However though he likes James, Peter is very attracted to Abby who is an enthusiastic student. His time with her makes Peter understand the difference between sex and bliss, but she is married to a nice man as he keeps reminding his two heads.

The refreshing spin to this historical erotic romance is that both Beecham’s receive sex lessons from the tutor. Character driven by the lead trio and filled with a variety of sexual scenarios to include ménage a trois, bondage, and male-male, the story line is actually a strong relationship drama. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this well written heated tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 13, 2008

Viking Warrior-Connie Mason

Viking Warrior
Connie Mason
Leisure, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843957464

In the ninth century, Wulfric the Ruthless has no time to grieve the loss of his wife and their unborn child; killed during a Danish raid on his farm. His heart and head are filled with one thought, revenge.

The Norsemen abduct beautiful Reyna, who vows vengeance on the Viking Warrior who kidnapped her. She is beyond anger when she is dumped as a slave to Wulfric, whom initially she thought was the ruthless man who stole her from her home, but quickly realized she was wrong though the Viking she hates looks similar to her master. Wulfric does not want her on his farm. However, as they begin to know one another, they begin to fall in love. He must open his heart to love while she must trust her heart to love if they are to overcome their respective pasts.

VIKING WARRIOR is an enjoyable Dark Ages Northern European romance. The lead couple is an intriguing pairing as both have strong issues with the kin of the other so that their desire, need, and ultimately love seems doomed to failure. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the historical romance between the Dane healer and the Viking Warrior.

Harriet Klausner

Prisoner of the Flames-Dawn MacTavish

Prisoner of the Flames
Dawn MacTavish
Leisure, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843959826

When he was a baby, Robert Mack survived a fire though he would take exception with the word survive. The left side of his face was left scarred from the flames. Anyone who sees his visage either shows pity or horror. Robert loathes both so he wears a helm to hide his severely marked face.

Unable to cope any longer with the reactions, in 1562 as the Laird of Berwickshire, Robert travels to Paris to persuade renowned healer Nostradamus to mend his face so he can go out in public or even in his home without wearing a mask. However France is a divided country on the verge of a religious civil war in which the teenage King Francis II seems to weak to prevent. In that milieu, Robert saves the life of blind flower girl Violette Cherier, which leaves him with powerful enemies who want the foreign Good Samaritan dead.

This is a superb historical romance starring two wonderful protagonist who have physical problems that threaten as much as the French Religious War to keep them apart. The action-packed story line uses real persona and a period of dangerous unrest as a backdrop to the excellent love story. Robert and Violette are fully developed with each used to coping with their handicap, but neither knows what to do about their attraction. However, even with a top rate romance that moves the Phantom of the Opera to the sixteenth century, it is the history and the protagonists who make PRISONER OF THE FLAME one of the sub-genres top novels of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Anchors Aweigh-Kathleen Bacus

Anchors Aweigh
Kathleen Bacus
Love Spell, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 978050527660

Grandville Iowa Tressa “Calamity” Jayne Turner still remains in shell shock with the marriage of her grandmother (see CALAMITY JAYNE HEADS WEST). She can handle the geriatrics saying I do, but she has problems picturing mom in the boudoir so grandma is a vivid nightmare. Still Tressa looks forward to the week long post wedding gala as the family will celebrate granny’s nuptials on a cruise ship. Tressa, who believes in show me the beef so she can dine on it, expects great food and perhaps a bit of romance on board and at the port call beach stops.

Except for hunk Ranger Rick Townsend nothing goes right. First this is a health food cruise; pass the broccoli with no butter or salt. Second, her cheating fiancé and his aunt are on board making more waves than the Bermuda Triangle makes. Finally someone is plotting a murder. All this occurs inside of the Bermuda love triangle, in which Tressa understands the meaning of calamity.

The latest Calamity Jane tale is an amusing ocean voyage in which the heroine seems to find trouble everywhere she goes, as usual. The story line is a lighthearted frolic in which Jayne deals with two beaus, a potential murder, and her family while trying to find something worth eating. Although the heroine’s antics have not changed starting with her self-deprecating asides and her ability to land in trouble, series fans will enjoy her latest escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Anchors Aweigh-Kathleen Bacus

Anchors Aweigh
Kathleen Bacus
Love Spell, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 978050527660

Grandville Iowa Tressa “Calamity” Jayne Turner still remains in shell shock with the marriage of her grandmother (see CALAMITY JAYNE HEADS WEST). She can handle the geriatrics saying I do, but she has problems picturing mom in the boudoir so grandma is a vivid nightmare. Still Tressa looks forward to the week long post wedding gala as the family will celebrate granny’s nuptials on a cruise ship. Tressa, who believes in show me the beef so she can dine on it, expects great food and perhaps a bit of romance on board and at the port call beach stops.

Except for hunk Ranger Rick Townsend nothing goes right. First this is a health food cruise; pass the broccoli with no butter or salt. Second, her cheating fiancé and his aunt are on board making more waves than the Bermuda Triangle makes. Finally someone is plotting a murder. All this occurs inside of the Bermuda love triangle, in which Tressa understands the meaning of calamity.

The latest Calamity Jane tale is an amusing ocean voyage in which the heroine seems to find trouble everywhere she goes, as usual. The story line is a lighthearted frolic in which Jayne deals with two beaus, a potential murder, and her family while trying to find something worth eating. Although the heroine’s antics have not changed starting with her self-deprecating asides and her ability to land in trouble, series fans will enjoy her latest escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 12, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire-Kerrelyn Sparks

All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire
Kerrelyn Sparks
Avon, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061118463

Vampires age the equivalent of one day to every human year. So when Ian McPhie was changed at fifteen, he looked like a boy. It took him a few centuries to become a man looking forward to finally enjoying female vamps while seeking his one true love. He left the Highlands for Manhattan to find both.

Toni Davis obtains work as a day guard to an Upper East Side vampire nest in which Ian is staying. She is actually undercover seeking proof that vampires exist after being attacked by three Malcontents in Central park and having her best friend locked away in a nut house for claiming the bloodsuckers exist. However, she and Ian are stunned by their cross species attraction that sparks their respective hearts with a first kiss under the mistletoe.

Ian who has made appearances in the Sparks urban fantasy romances is the co-star along with Toni as neither welcome love between them, but that fickle emotion ignores the warning from their respective brains. Both struggles with caring for someone from another species especially Toni who believes she must choose between her pal and her beloved while the Malcontents want to finish their blood killing of the heroine. Fans will want for Christmas this terrific tale and for the New Year another sparkling story from an author who makes vampires in New York seem real.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Bargain-Maria Lima

Blood Bargain
Maria Lima
Juno, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780809573059

Rio Seco, Texas is a small town that is becoming yuppie-fied, but Keira Kelly still calls it home. Even though she keeps an apartment in town, Keira lives with the vampire tribal head Adam Walker on his Wild Moon ranch. She is also a supernatural being and is beginning the Change that will eventually turn her into a shapeshifter like her six half brothers, a healer or a necromancer witch. Watching over her as she Changes is her twelve century old sibling Tucker who is the lover of Adam’s second in command Niko.

Things are not going well in town. Four teens have vanished and an illegal alien working on a nearby ranch also disappeared a few months ago. Keira hears whispers and her visions are becoming stronger. Her troubles don’t end there because something is wrong with Adam as he sleeps from dawn to dusk. After a six hour nap he rejects sex with her. He lapses into a coma from not drinking blood. Keira is determined to find out what happened to the missing people and help Adam return to his senses even at the forfeit of her life as she would rather die than be without him.

Urban fantasy fans are going to love this romantic fantasy especially the Kelly clan, an extended family of supernaturals living within human society. Each of the major characters is fascinating and readers will particularly appreciate Tucker who was a Viking warrior who can shift into wolf. The mysteries and the town enhance BLOOD BARGAIN, a strong tale that fans of Kelly Armstrong and Kim Harrison will want to read.

Harriet Klausner

The Man Must Marry-Janet Chapman

The Man Must Marry
Janet Chapman
Pocket, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 141650530X

If first appearances mean anything, Willamina “Willa” Kent needs to be shot. Her first moment at Tidewater International in front of the shareholders including the grandsons of her beloved mentor millionaire Abram Sinclair is a disaster. To add tension she has Bram’s critical proxy to vote on who replaces the shipping magnate as CEO.

However before she can vote, they learn Bram died. His will leaves his share of stock with Willa on the condition she marry one of his grandchildren, Sam Ben or Jesse. Sam and Willa travel on her yacht to Maine seeking a way out of the iron clad will. As they fall in love, she doubts he truly cares while he mist find a way to persuade her she means more to him than his now superseded ambitions of replacing Bram as the CEO.

Willa and the late Bram make this a fun contemporary romance as she is a courageous clumsy person and grandpa as he has done when he lived manipulates his grandchildren as a matchmaker from the grave. The rivalry between Sam and Ben is deep adding a realistic element to the fine story line and enabling a non family member to make a strong bid for the CEO position. Readers will enjoy the first Sincalir sibling story and look forward to a return to Maine for Ben’s tale.

Harriet Klausner

Her Secret Lover-Sarah Bennett

Her Secret Lover
Sarah Bennett
Avon, Nov 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780061336898

In 1851 her odious guardian Lord Rudyard Appleby exiled Antoinette Dupree to his Devon estate Wexmoor Manor where he has plans for her and her wealth. As she rides the coach towards his house she hides in her bosom the letter that will free her and her younger sister Cecilia from their loathsome legal jailer. However, a highwayman stops the coach demanding she give him the letter; she refuses even though he knows her name. He searches her touching her breasts and her unmentionables. They are both stunned and aroused as he tells the little sparrow she is wasted on a rogue like Appleby.

Gabriel Langley is frustrated over his failure to find the letter that will allow him to regain his family home and his desire for the sparrow. He obtains work at Wexmoor Manor with plans to become HER SECRET LOVER until he seduces her into giving him the letter. Love was not part of his plan, but soon his goal changes from regaining his estate to protecting his beloved sparrow from her contemptible guardian.

This is an entertaining Victorian romance starring two likable individuals who share many traits including stubbornness, determination and courage. The story line is fast-paced as a masked Gabriel slips into Antoinette’s bed , but his wants quickly change. Although Rudyard is reprehensible beyond any redemption, readers will appreciate this fun mid nineteenth century historical.
Harriet Klausner

A Seduction at Christmas-Cathy Maxwell

A Seduction at Christmas
Cathy Maxwell
Avon, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061350986

In 1809 an angry Hester Bowen tells the woman she is two minutes late before realizing that the person she hired Annie Jenkins did not arrive. Fiona Lachlan explains Annie could not make it as she ran off with a soldier so she came instead. Hester wants Fiona to slip a potion into the drink of Lord Belkin. However, instead of meeting Belkin at the inn, she is escorted to the room occupied by Duke Dominic Lynsted who is expecting Andres Ramigio. His first reaction at seeing the beautiful woman who entered his room is that of a vision he had almost a decade ago that warned him to “beware innocence”.

However all hell breaks out soon after she entered his room when assassins arrive to kill him. Fiona and Dominic escape through the window heading to his family estate. Pretending to be his ward, Fiona assists Dominic on his quest to find a stolen ring and locate a Spaniard expatriate who vanished without a trace while eluding paid killers. As they fall in love, she wonders how an innocent like her became embroiled in “Scandals and Seductions”.

A SEDUCTION AT CHRISTMAS is an excellent Regency romantic amateur sleuth thriller that never slows down from the moment half of England enters Dominic’s room at the inn. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action especially when the guardian and the ward investigate. Cathy Maxwell provides a great historical romantic mystery that will keep her fans up late with a one sitting read.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jasper Mountain-Kathy Steffen

Jasper Mountain
Kathy Steffen
Medallion, Nov 2008, $15.95
ISBN 9781933836584

In 1873 Texas, in spite of gallant efforts to control the blaze, the fire marched on threatening to destroy Tumbling Creek Ranch. Owner Jack “Buck” Buchanan, Se. refuses to tell everyone to flee although his son Jack, Jr. pleads with him to do so before the inferno kills these loyal workers and family. When the house goes up in flames, Jack, Jr. takes responsibility for acquiescing to his dad, which led to his sister’s death

Buck’s best friend and his son’s godfather Victor Creely arrives with a proposition. He takes Jack to his mining operation at JASPER MOUNTAIN in Nebraska. There he finds incredibly unsafe working conditions enforced by Creely’s henchmen. He also meets Romani Milena Shabanov, whose paranormal skills enable her to know that Creely is a demon in human garb. As she and Jack fall in love, Milena cautions him to be careful. Her warning proves too late when Creely's thugs kill people followed by a cave-in trapping minors.

This is a superb Reconstruction Era romance in which the audience will feel they initially were battling the blaze and afterward living in a tent city on the ranch before going to the mines. The story line is action-packed, but extremely descriptive especially of the inferno aftermath and even more so the Dickensian looks at mining. The romance enhances the post Civil War glimpse of America through a strong characterizations though Creely is a pure evil villain with no redeeming qualities.

Harriet Klausner

Broken Wing-Judith James

Broken Wing
Judith James
Medallion, Nov 2008, $7.95
ISBN 9781933836447

Lady Sarah “The Gypsy Countess” Munroe accompanied by her half brother Ross an Earl cross the Channel to Paris hoping to find their missing much younger brother Jamie and bring him home. Both fear that Jamie was severely injured perhaps killed during the excesses of the recent Revolution though Ross’ hired agents claim the lad is well living at Madame Etienne’s Brothel.

The agents prove correct when the siblings find Jamie in excellent mental and physical health. His benefactor male prostitute Gabriel St. Croix kept Jamie safe inside Maison de Joie for five years. Jamie persuades his friend a catamite to accompany them back to England and Sarah, grateful to the brothel owner’s tender caring of her sibling, agrees. On the journey, Gabriel and Sarah share a strong fondness for astronomy that evolves into a friendship and then deeper into love. However, Gabriel feels his sleazy history starting with being born and raised in a brothel makes him unworthy of the caring innocent Lady Sarah.

This is a unique well written Regency romance with a refreshing spin involving the lead male. Even Sarah is an invigorating character with her atypical actions and reactions as well as her planning skills that Ross realizes would make her a superb general if she was a man. The support cast is solid throughout from Madame Etienne to the brothers to the Ton as sub-genre fans will appreciate Judith James’ jaunty Napoleonic tale of forbidden love.
Harriet Klausner