Fire, Pestilence, and Death: St. Louis 1849
Missouri Historical Society Press 2018
The title is the description.
This non-fiction looks at one turning-point year in the history of St. Louis. Each topic: cholera, fire, gold fever, slavery, and crime is presented to hold the reader’s attention. The residents of this volume are shown as real people – with both virtues and flaws.
It will become a staple on my research self. And I even learned who some of the street names are derived from.
By: Karen Hudgins
Wings ePress 2017
Coffee and a good book.
Molly Marlow agrees to accompany her father to Costa Rica with other local business leaders. She sees it as an opportunity to obtain some one-of-a-kind items for her boutique. And yes, it’s another step of healing after her mother’s death in an auto accident.
Purchasing rare coffee beans to give spark to custom blends is Julian Truman’s main objective for the trip to Costa Rico. And his most important deal almost falls apart – because he defends Molly from a drunk.
Ms. Hudgins weaves a pleasant tale of two people searching for their heart’s desire. Along the way we are introduced to the back rooms of a coffee shop and small town Florida life. Oh – warning – this is a romance – expect a happy ending.
By: Katie Schuermann
Concordia Publishing House 2014
Life, Laughter, and Love.
Welcome to Bradbury, Illinois. Surrounded by rich farmland and home to a small college, this Midwest town is typical of many. The focus of this inspirational novel is on the new choir director at the Lutheran church.
Join her as she gets acquainted with the characters – I think I’ve met some of these people through the years. The pastor, the professor, the powerful church women, the silent organist. Add a family of active children and a pre-teen entrepreneur and you have the core group.
They each have their secrets and it takes a newcomer to stir the calm exterior and promote change.
I enjoyed this story and the rich characters of rural Illinois. The gospel message appears early and often in this first of a three book series.
By: Priscilla Oliveras
A fresh, new voice.
Yazmine Fernandez intends to return to New York and make it as a dancer on the Broadway stage. The only thing holding her in suburban Chicago is her father. Soon he will be given a clean bill of health and she’ll be gone.
Tomas Garcia is doing his best, but overcoming workaholic habits is difficult. When his young daughter’s dance teacher lays down the rules to participate in the father-daughter dance at the holiday recital he does not suspect the changes ahead.
Ms. Oliveras presents a bright, contemporary romance which gives a peek into the customs, food, and music of the Puerto Rican community. I found the characters to be interesting and the plots twists offered spice. I’m looking forward to more to come from this debut author.
By: Diane Holiday
City Owl Press 2017
A stalker prompts Sarah, a ballerina in San Diego, to flee across the country. She ends up as housekeeper and barn chore girl at a Maryland horse farm. Grateful for room and board plus small wages, she learns new skills and soon fits into the cast of characters at the ranch.
Bruce Murphy is in charge of the therapy program for veterans. A former SEAL, he knows his job and how to keep secrets – including his own.
Ms. Holiday crafts interesting characters and gives them obstacles to keep the pages turning in this hot, romantic suspense.
By: Barbara O’Neal
Bantam Dell 2008
Losing Your Familiar Ghost
This is the tale of a chef. A very talented female chef with a painful past.
Ms. O’Neal gives the reader a vivid behind-the-scenes picture of the up-scale restaurant business. And a few recipes to droll over.
Elena needs all of her skills to manage the kitchen crew and craft a menu to be proud of. Her personal life is packed full of painful memories, visits from ghosts of a sister and boyfriend, and comic relief from her dog, Alvin.
Julian Liswood, maker of popular horror movies, owns the restaurant and contributes his own flair to the business. He’s moved to Aspen for the sake of his daughter, unaware that he will find love.
The characters are rich. The topics are important and timely.
By: Emily R. Pearson
Gracie Hart knew heartache from an early age. It was the solid friendship she had with three boys which made life at first bearable and then beautiful when she married. Until she came home and found her husband murdered.
Chase Baker has always loved Gracie, but he had the good sense to yield to his friend when it came to marriage. Now, with his friend gone, he coaxes Gracie out of her deep depression.
Ms. Pearson does a good job of showing us Gracie’s bumpy route from devastation to living again. The concept of the quartet of friends works beautifully in this light mystery.
By Anna J. Stewart
The Nightmare is Back.
Allie Hollister, a child psychologist and consultant with law enforcement, is called in on a child abduction case. The similarities of this crime and the disappearance and death of a close friend twenty years ago are striking. And threatening.
Forced out of his chosen profession as firefighter, Max Kellan moves in with his brother and niece. When the little girl goes missing, all he wants is her safe return. He’s had his fill of psychologists.
With the same goal, but different opinions on procedure, Allie and Max end up in close proximity. And that leads to all sorts of different problems.
Ms. Stewart has written a fast paced traditional romantic suspense. While this is the third in the series, it was also a standalone story with Allie’s friends contributing to the plot without distraction.
By: Catherine Bruns
Gemma Halliday Publishing 2016
Grab a cup of tea and get COZY.
When real estate agent Cindy York is given a chance to list the largest mansion in her upstate New York town, it’s worth attending a high school reunion. She’s not set foot in the mansion for 25 years, since the day she discovered her best friend dying of apparent suicide.
And then the complications begin. High school classmates toss accusations in her direction. A letter from the victim is included in the class time capsule. Motive disappears faster than the evidence got contaminated years ago.
Ms. Bruns guides us on a search for the truth of the day in the past. Along the way we get acquainted with Cindy’s loving, chaotic family, her boss, and some of those high school classmates.
By: Annie Burrows
Harlequin Historical Sept 2017
Escape to Regency England.
Lady Harriet Inskip is a country girl. She finds London, with all the rules for young ladies, too restrictive. So she saddles her mare and goes riding in the park before the dawn.
Jack (Ulysses) Hesketh bets his friends he can ride any horse – sober or drunk. He’s the latter. And when he tumbles to the ground he’s not sure if it’s the brandy or the bump on the head which makes him kiss the girl.
Balls, picnics, school chums, and science lectures are all good fun as this couple fights their attraction for each other. Until the rubies go missing – then this weekend escape takes a serious turn. And Ms. Burrows dangles the solution in front of the reader as bait for the next in this new series.
By: Joanna Bourne
Hooked by the first sentence.
The wars are over, Napoleon is exiled, and London is filled with current and former spies, thieves, and aristocrats.
Severine deCabrillac, veteran of the Peninsular Wars, has a reputation for finding justice for the poor. She does not welcome an unannounced midnight guest and his cryptic message of a missing girl and amulet.
Raoul Deverney is a man of diverse talents, many of them developed during years as a Spanish partisan against the French. He’s come to London for multiple reasons, none of which include a romantic entanglement.
Ms. Bourne has combined beautiful language with a multi-layered plot in this most recent of the Spymaster series. Several favorite characters in this special world contribute to the richness of the story. I wanted it to go on.
By: Mia Silverton
3 Powers Freedom 2017
She doesn’t have time for him.
Via hard work, Cassie has built a successful business. She’s also living behind a thick wall to keep the personal relationships out. Caution turns to curiosity when a new acquaintance, and best friend of her best friend’s love interest, shows persistence.
Brody, a popular TV and movie star, gets lots of attention from the ladies, most of it following his fame and money. When he meets Cassie after one of her business presentations, he’s intrigued at this petite beauty who does not recognize him.
She doesn’t have time for a relationship. Her business schedule comes first. It’s been that way since before she escaped a bad marriage. But Brody is confident they can create little slices of time between business trips and shooting schedules.
Ms. Silverton creates characters on a perfect path to love – until life smashes the fairy tale. She shows her talent as an author as the reader cheers for the couple meant to be as they regain their pathway to true love and happiness.
By: Debbie Burns
Sourcebooks Casablanca 2017
A Delightful Debut
It takes a big heart to work at a no-kill animal shelter. Megan, the acting director, demonstrates the size of hers while accepting surrenders, arranging adoptions, and managing the details behind the scenes.
Craig isn’t happy about it, but he brings in his daughter’s puppy for surrender the same day an ice storm arrives in St. Louis. Reflecting his current state of mind, he manages to make a first impression less welcome than the weather.
With the help of Craig’s children, plus a fine assortment of characters at the shelter – human, canine, and feline – the ice melts between this couple that the reader is rooting for from that first frosty meeting.
Ms. Burns has written a delightful story with plenty of action, twists, and turns to keep the pages turning into the night.
By: Bodie & Brock Thoene
Tyndale House Publishers 2004
Palestine when Pilate was Governor
The rabbi’s daughter. A flute maker and his deaf-mute son. A victim of Herod Antipas’ cruelty. A blind beggar.
The stories of these and other ordinary people living in extraordinary times are woven together in this third volume of the A.D. Chronicles. Each life connects to the wandering teaching rabbi, Yeshua. Who is he? Will he give a great sign to the people? Will he proclaim a new kingdom?
Details of the time and culture make the characters come alive while their conversations, or dreams, present scripture passages. This is the first of this series which I’ve read and I found it a good story, able to stand on its own.
By Janie Crouch
HQN Intrigue 2016
The Playboy Matured
Laura gave her heart once, only to have it shattered. She’s not going to give it to Joe again. He made it plain he carries the attitudes of the rich, semi-celebrity he was raised. Ignore the fact that his natural charm is now channeled into hostage negotiation.
Even while working for the elite Omega team, Joe feels as much observer as member. When the local police suspect him of murdering his ex-girlfriends, he needs a lawyer. He calls Laura because she’s one of the few people he trusts.
Suspense and danger stalk Joe as he and Laura collect clues to the real killer. Events open his eyes to his value as a team member. The attraction between Joe and Laura is real, but will it withstand the final test?
By: Nico Rosso
Carina Press 2016
Ben Jackson, assigned to the reconnaissance team, finds hints of trouble and corruption the moment he arrives in the small city suspected of being a hub for gunrunning. Using the cover of a physical fitness device salesman, he chats up a hotel bartender for his next lead.
A first class sniper, Mary is confident in all aspects of her cover as an agent for a real estate developer. Acting against the advice of the bartender, she makes one of her first calls to the train yards, where they suspect the next shipment of illegal guns is stored.
Posing as two kindred souls crossing paths by accident, Ben and Mary soon discover more chemistry between them than a shared undercover mission. Will they be able to ignore the attraction and keep the mission first? Will they be able to alert the assault team in time?
First class suspense and action are entwined with sexual tension which sizzles in this 2017 RITA nominee.
By. J.T. Ellison
This reader is hooked.
Taylor Jackson of the Metro Nashville Police Department needs to be at the top of her game when the body of a young woman is found posed in a public park. Ignoring the nightmares lingering from a previous case, she pushes forward with her team. Only to have a second body surface.
Dr. John Baldwin, on sabbatical from the FBI, is fighting his own demons. He has decided to play a deadly game with his own rules to end it all. Then he’s coerced to consult on the potential serial killer.
This thriller with just a touch of romance, makes excellence use of the setting and a large cast of interesting characters. Plenty of twists and a mastery of the hook. I’ll be looking for previous volumes in this series.
By: Barbara Dunlop
HQN Desire 2016
The Con gets Conned
Crista Corday is moments away from marrying into one of Chicago society’s finest families. Much of the success of her jewelry design business rests on the family, and she has little of her own, so it seems normal that they make the plans.
Taking advantage of the moment the bride is alone on the church steps, Jackson Rush scoops Crista into his arms and drives away with her. That’s the easy part. Persuading her to break the engagement because the family is out for monetary gain – and willing to kill to get it — takes a little longer.
I enjoyed the glimpses of the Chicago area as Crista and Jackson go from strangers, to budding trust, and beyond.
Recommended for a summer weekend read.
By Rita Herron
Montlake Publishing 2016
A storm unearths a graveyard.
Beth Fields is an FBI agent now, but she started life as JJ Jones. Discarded, she runs away with another foster girl from an abusive situation, only to be abducted and witness her friend’s murder. As a survivor, she carries a special burden. When multiple graves of young girls are exposed after a tornado, she’s part of the task force called in to assist the local sheriff.
Ian Kimball picked the law enforcement profession after his stepfather was wrongly convicted of kidnapping and murder. Fifteen years later, he’s sheriff in his home Kentucky county. Convinced the girls in the exposed graves are the victims of a serial killer, he asserts his expertise when the head of the FBI task force tries to minimize his role.
Paired with Ian, Beth struggles to stay focused and professional while working a case that may be related to her own abduction. Will memories of that terrible event now return? Is she strong enough to withstand them?
Focused on the suspense, this story has just enough underlying attraction between Ian and Beth to stay in the romance genre. Be careful where you put this down late at night.
By Amelia Autin
RITA Award Nominated
Investigative reporter Carly Edwards has earned a reputation for not letting go of a story. When she talks her way into a politician’s hospital room and learns his diagnosis it’s a surprise that she backs away from the story. Until shots are fired.
Senator Shane Jones puts all the energy and expertise demonstrated as a US Marine into politics after a medical discharge. Willing to speak and vote his conscious has now made him a target of some very dangerous people – with access to his close held decisions.
When the senator decides to go public with his health concerns, he gives Carly an interview. And an invitation to accompany him to an embassy party. However, the assassin sees an opportunity to take out his primary target plus the woman who may be able to identify him at the same time.
The swirl of modern politics, shared danger, and two people with pain in their pasts tumbling into love is captured beautifully in this fast paced romantic suspense.
By: Dee Henderson
Bethany House 2013
The problem is money. And secrets.
Kidnapped at age sixteen and rescued at twenty, the victim changes her name and attempts to live a quiet life, developing her skills as a sketch artist. But family events have their own agenda. Now Charlotte Graham needs an unnoticed way to dispose of the family fortune.
Bryce Bishop, the owner of a successful coin shop in Chicago, is restless and bored with his life. Until Charlotte arrives one evening with an offer of coins too good to be honest. Assured she has the right to sell them, he agrees to her terms. And is drawn into her tiny circle of confidants.
Charlotte’s layers of secrets. An infant kidnapping case gone cold. The terms of her grandfather’s will. All this and more is exposed to the reader as Charlotte learns to trust – and love.
Ms. Henderson presents a well-crafted Christian suspense with just the right amount of romance and journey to faith.
By: Beverly Lewis
Bethany House 2016
A gentle but powerful Amish story.
Leona Speicher believes she has found a friend as close as a sister when a new family moves to the neighboring farm. She and Gloria Gingerich are constant companions for five years – until Gloria’s father is shunned and moves the family away.
Leona is puzzled why her friend does not write to her. But life continues and a nice young man courts her. Then three years after the family moved away, a letter from Gloria arrives.
Ms. Lewis presents the interface between Amish and “English” lifestyles in a balanced style. The little differences as the girls visit each other illustrate the result of small choices made. Did they choose the best for them? The life lessons presented as the girls find the right path are applicable to all readers.
By: Christine Merrill
Miss Amelia Summoner is not seeking a husband of her own. She’s looking out for her younger sister, ensuring the shy, beautiful, debutante is courted by a true gentleman. The newcomer, with his sights on political gain, just won’t do.
Rumored to be the illegitimate son of a Duke, Benjamin Lovell moves in society neither confirming nor denying the gossip. He’s ambitious and aware the shortest route to Parliament is via marriage to the most sought after girl of the season. If he could only avoid the over protective sister.
Be careful who you wish for. Realizing his mistake, Benjamin enlists Amelia’s aid, in addition to that of his best friend. This charming regency makes for a relaxing weekend escape.
By: Becky Lower
Crimson Romance 2012
Ginger Fitzpatrick, darling daughter of a New York banker, is unable to avoid entering society at the Cotillion ball. The only bit of hope she sees at the end of a long, boring summer is the promise from her father. If she completes the season scandal free, he will send her to St. Louis to join her brother in their newly established bank.
When Joseph Lafontaine accompanies his good friend from St. Louis to New York to sell horses and meet his family he expects trouble. But he doesn’t expect it in the form of his friend’s charming sister, a lady he promised sight unseen to leave to the society gentlemen.
Ms. Lower adds a dash of women’s rights, 1855 version, plus an ill-advised horse race to the contrast between eastern and western culture. This is the first of a series and a delightful invitation into the Fitzpatrick clan.
By: P.B. Ryan
Hawkley Books 2014
Three years ago, Nell Sweeney was plucked from Cape Cod to serve as nurse/governess in one of Boston’s elite families. She adores the child but wonders at the motivation of the lady of the house in adopting the infant.
Word of a murder and arrest at a local house of ill repute releases a chain of events which will change the family forever. Did one of their sons, reported dead, actually survive the Civil War? Why does he thwart attempts to investigate and defend him?
Ms. Ryan builds a fascinating world at the intersection of rich and poor, addict and gambler, plus immigrant and native. A well-crafted historical mystery which keeps the reader engaged.
By: Timothy W. Ayers
Castle Gate Press 2016
When a family friend is murdered, Detective Jude Cameron refuses to believe the former gang member arrested is actually responsible. He insists on further investigation, even when his job and then his life become threatened. The corruption and plans for revenge go to the highest levels of Pittsburgh– and beyond.
With help from some unlikely sources, including his ill mother’s messages from King Solomon and the survivor of a suicide bomber attack, he manages to stay one step ahead of the terrorists. Or is it only half a step?
Mr. Ayers includes lots of action and makes this a good reading choice for active, lapsed, or non-Christian alike.
By: Barbara Bettis
The Wild Rose Press 2016
Two Types of Knights
The new master at Stonehill Castle believes Lady Katherine dead. That suits the widow just fine. She prefers living as the boy Cade in the forest and offering small comforts to her people over marriage to the stranger.
Lord Henry seeks a traitor. His plans go awry as he follows his prey toward Stonehill. He’s ambushed, by Cade/Katherine. Freed by her, he’s imprisoned by the unhonorable knight in charge at Stonehill as an imposter.
Cade and her small, loyal band enable Lord Henry’s escape. Then they struggle to stay one step ahead of the traitor and his allies.
Ms. Bettis demonstrates her skill weaving a plot full of twists and turns. From the very first scene I was cheering for the triumph of honor and love.
By: Irene Hannon
Finn McGregor, youngest of three brothers, has retreated to the solitude of the Mark Twain National Forest to make an important decision. What comes next, now that his Army Ranger days are over?
Dana Lewis inherited the isolated cabin from her grandfather. She figures it’s the perfect place to heal in both body and mind. She can even continue to edit manuscripts thanks to modern technology.
Add a mysterious letter, a financially strapped husband, and a meth cooker and you have the characters whose lives intertwine in a web of suspense. Ms. Hannon it at the top of her game as she guides Finn and Dana through mystery and danger to true love.
The Substitute: The Wedding Pact #1
By: Denise Grover Swank
A Groomless Wedding?
Megan Vandemeer has neglected to tell her family one important thing before she flies home for her own wedding — she broke the engagement.
Josh McMillan boards the flight from Seattle to Kansas City at the last minute, determined to leave the long weekend up to fate. He doesn’t have a lot of choice. Proving that he and his engineering firm were the true developers of a new patent is vital to keep the family business afloat.
Ms. Swank has created a fine cast of characters for this modern marriage of convenience. Grandma, brothers, and best friends balance the terror instilled by Megan’s mother and her need for the wedding to be perfect in her eyes – regardless of the bride’s wishes.
By: T.C. Winters
Redhead Publishing 2014
A Thriller in Arizona
Action and mystery kept me turning the pages from the opening grocery store robbery to the ending death of a traitor. Who can you trust?
Grace, traumatized by combat events in Iraq, is living in poverty while searching for enough pieces to re-build a life.
Jared, head of the Phoenix ATF office, is running a task force comprised of an alphabet soup of federal and local law enforcement. Grace enters his life and the threats against him increase. Is she responsible for the bombs, a dead Border Patrol agent, or drug and gun trafficking? He decides to keep her close in order to keep her and his newly discovered daughter safe.
Twists and turns take the reader deeper into the web of lies and deceit. Who is the Blue Falcon betraying the task force? Ms. Winters presents a difficult puzzle to solve.
Diary of an Accidental Wallflower
By: Jennifer McQuiston
Miss Clare Westmore, in her second London season, has her sights on the future Duke of Harrington. Even after spraining her ankle in the morning, she appears at a prestigious ball, determined to waltz at least once with the man.
Dr. Daniel Merial supplements his small income from St. Bart’s as a private physician. When his elderly, rich patient refuses to cancel her ball he accepts an invitation to attend, even though he’d rather be continuing his research. When he notices a charming young lady limping to the wallflower chairs, he draws her into conversation and convinces her to allow him to examin her ankle.
The first of the Westmore family secrets is endangered when Clare and Daniel enter the library during the ball. No wonder Clare’s parents are avoiding each other.
Ms McQuiston has given us a delightful story of past sins, present secrets, and Victorian science. The supporting characters of the Westmore family and Daniel’s landlady come to life off the pages as the couple destined to be overcomes obstacles.
By: David Halberstam
Villard Books 1993
This is the third excellent volume of Twentieth-Century history which I have read by this author.
As one of millions of “baby boomers” I have a clear memory of many events of this decade. My emphasis, due to my age, was centered around my family and community. It was only near the end of the fifties when my awareness expanded to include events at the national and international level.
This comprehensive review of the times puts my memories into context and by keeping a relatively wide focus, ties the political, social, and industrial changes into a cohesive whole. With vivid portraits of representatives in each field, Mr. Halberstam puts a human face on the changes in American society during this pivotal time and keeps the interest of the reader.
By: Sherri Hayes
The doctor turns CEO.
Cali Stanton’s father calls her home to Chicago. He’s been injured in a water skiing accident and wants her in charge of the medical supply firm during his recovery. It’s not easy to make the change from a physician working for a charity overseas to CEO.
As head of security, Matthew Andersen’s responsibilities include Cali’s safety. He informs her of the recent shipment thefts and threats to the company. When the threats turn personal against Cali, he keeps her closer, then finds it impossible to guard his heart.
Ms. Hayes creates a strong supporting cast to complete this classic falling-for-the-boss’- daughter tale.
By: Sherri Hayes
The doctor turns CEO.
Cali Stanton’s father calls her home to Chicago. He’s been injured in a water skiing accident and wants her in charge of the medical supply firm during his recovery. It’s not easy to make the change from a physician working for a charity overseas to CEO.
As head of security, Matthew Andersen’s responsibilities include Cali’s safety. He informs her of the recent shipment thefts and threats to the company. When the threats turn personal against Cali, he keeps her closer, then finds it impossible to guard his heart.
Ms. Hayes creates a strong supporting cast to complete this classic falling-for-the-boss’- daughter tale.
Enslaved by the Desert Trader
HQN Historical 2016
Under the Egyptian Sun
Kiya survives two years of drought by disguising herself as a mute boy and hauling stone for the Great Pyramid of King Khufu. She remembers little of her mother except two warnings. Beware the three serpents. And, stay away from men…they mean to enslave you.
Tahar lives among the desert people as a trader but he is not one of them. When he captures Kiya during a brief alliance with raiders, his first thought is to sell her for a high price and return to his homeland across two seas. He travels with his captive, saving her, teaching her, and learning from her.
Ms Gilbert’s tale is set in an ancient world. Don’t let the setting fool you – the characters live and speak values and truths applicable to modern life.
By: Elizabeth Heiter
HQN Mira 2016
Action and suspense.
Evelyn Baine, an FBI profiler, expected her interview with a Montana prisoner to yield little information. What she doesn’t anticipate are the events put into action when another agent convinces her to scout out a remote survivalist’s compound.
Held captive for ten days while believing the other agent killed, Evelyn uses all her skills to gather information of the two cult leaders. She remains confident that the HRT and other law enforcement responding to their capture will act soon.
Ms. Heiter uses both tension and detail in this timely story of domestic terrorism. She directs complex characters to perform at their best whether it’s an action scene or a computer search. I look forward to more quality novels from this author.
By: Nicole Evelina
Lawson Gartner Publishing 2016
A true American heroine.
This volume of historical fiction tells the story of Victoria Woodhull, candidate for US president in 1872. It gave me a new appreciation for the strong, determined women of the suffrage movement.
Victoria was a survivor, born into poverty and a family containing addicts, spiritualists, and abuse. She did not allow the lack of a formal education stop her from learning the stockbroker trade – she and her sister were the first women to open a brokerage firm – starting her own weekly paper, or becoming a lecturer much in demand.
Told in the first person, this well researched account takes you deep inside the social problems and unrest of the 1860’s and 70’s. It’s good to be reminded that woman’s suffrage and equal rights is a much broader topic than voting.
I’d recommend this novel for any reader interested in US history and social justice.
By: Elisabeth Hobbes
HQN Historical – 2016
Three years ago, Joanna gave her heart to Sir Roger when he first came to her uncle’s blacksmith shop on business. When Sir Roger does not offer marriage after the most recent tournament, Joanna’s uncle runs out of patience and tells her she must marry.
Hal, the bastard half-brother of Sir Roger, fails to have his fine crafted sword accepted by the smith’s guild. When Hal escorts Joanna home, her uncle sees an opportunity and gives Joanna a choice. Marry either Hal or an older widower.
Joanna’s fate is sealed when she chooses Hal. Or is it the path to happiness in disguise?
I enjoyed the little details of daily life sprinkled in among the tug and pull of distrust, secrets, and growing affection.
By: Loretta Chase
Avon Books 2015
Lady Clara Fairfax was raised to marry a duke. She knew all the rules of ladylike behavior – and chaffed at each and every one. Why was it necessary to hide her intellect and use a disguise to call on a lawyer?
Raven (Oliver) Radford followed his father, the son of a duke’s second son, into the practice of law. At times the criminals were easier to contend with than his cousins. If only they would stop dying off, he could continue a profession he enjoyed.
Lady Clara persuades Raven to take her case. It’s not his first choice, but when the clues direct him to the possibility of arresting a criminal intent on killing him as well as rescuing a boy from a life of crime, his interest is captured.
The verbal sparring between Lady Clara and Raven makes this story exceptional. Add the elements of suspense and it’s the sort of story that will keep you turning pages all night.
By: Robyn Carr
Identifying the Important
Neurosurgeon Maggie Sullivan is teetering at her breaking point. Her best medical friend advises a little time away from the stresses of hospital, disintegration of a practice, lawsuit, and self-centered ex-lover. Maggie escapes from Denver to her father’s general store and campground in the beautiful Colorado mountains.
Cal Jones rents a campsite and keeps to himself. He’s on a mission of healing and discovery, a simple wandering, homeless, widower lawyer.
Life interferes and Maggie’s hospital leave becomes months instead of weeks. Cal becomes a confident of sorts plus her lover. When he moves up the trail to deal with his own past, she feels abandoned – did he consider her a fling unworthy of contacting again?
Ms. Carr fills the pages with interesting characters shaped to make the reader eager to turn the page. She shows us life can be messy, unpredictable, and rewarding all at the same time.
By: Peggy L. Henderson
An Honorable Montana Cowboy.
Katherine Montgomery is summoned home by her mother ten years after being sent to a special school in New York. Blind, but capable, she’s stunned to learn that she must marry – her grandfather’s will specified only male or married heirs.
One of her childhood friends, Trace Hawley has become the ranch foreman. Unaware of her blemish at first, he puzzles at her odd behavior. What happened to the girl who loved the horses and preferred the stables to the house?
One scheming parent. A promise to a dying man. A rushed wedding and a murder keep this sweet historical fast paced. This is a great escape from reality read.
By: Linda Gilman
Modern life can be intense and stressful. Escape to 1869 Wyoming Territory with the delightful mix of characters created by Ms. Gilman.
Parker Reams swore an oath to his dying brother that he would get revenge on the outlaws responsible for the fatal bullet wound. When his money runs out before his leads, a chance meeting with an actor enables him to reach South Pass City. All he needs to do is convince the woman on the other end of an arranged engagement that they aren’t suited and he can return to chasing gold thieves.
Callidora Truworthy has no intention of marrying. She’s arranged for an actor to arrive and convince her father, the local sheriff, she’s meant to be an independent woman. After all, she’s been running their store and gathering support with the other suffragettes to obtain equal voting rights for women.
So grab your favorite beverage, prop up your feet, and enjoy a romp in the Wild West.
By: Melinda Leigh
Montlake Romance 2015
The twists begin in the second sentence.
Cristan Rojas and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Lucia, are living a lie. After his wife and her family of arms dealers were massacred twelve years ago, he fled Argentina with the toddler and created a life in hiding.
Has the threat passed? It is safe to stay in one place? Develop true friendships?
Against a background of a moderate size Pennsylvania town, Ms. Leigh presents a wide cast of characters from an abused mother of two to the local police chief. She doesn’t forget to add a variety of villains as well as she peels back the events leading up to the day which changed Cristan’s life.
I thought I had it figured out at least three times – all wrong.
By: M.L. Buchman
Not your usual workplace romance.
Carla Anderson has one goal: become a member of Delta Force. She’s focused on being the best possible soldier, not the first woman on the teams.
Kyle Reeves recognizes Carla as special from the moment she arrives sets another trainee straight about calling her “girlie”. He gives his best during the intense month of selection. But he can’t help tossing an extra challenge or two her direction and being impressed when she meets them.
They become lovers during the ensuring six months of training. Each day Carla denies that the unfamiliar emotion when with Kyle is more than temporary. She takes the same internal feelings along on their first team mission.
I enjoyed the flaws in both protagonists and the slow, layer by layer, method their history was revealed to the reader. Plenty of action during selection, training, and the CIA directed mission. And the sex sizzled to an explosion of its own.
By: Amanda Heger
Diverson Books 2016
An unforgettable month.
Annie London arrives in Nicaragua eager to reunite with Marisol, her inseparable friend during ninth grade. She’s come to work as a volunteer on a medical brigade to add positive points to her medical school application. Never mind the fact that the physician of their group will be Felipe, Marisol’s moody older brother. How difficult can twenty eight days be?
Only the distance between Nicaragua and St. Louis has enabled Felipe to conceal his crush for Annie. In charge of the brigade, he needs to prove to his mother – the charity director – that he’s developed the skills to become an administrator.
Ms. Heger takes us on a one month adventure encountering monkeys, rainstorms, gun-toting teens, and a breach birth. I kept turning pages to discover what hazard lay around the corner – or would Annie and Felipe find a smooth spot to explore their attraction.
I’ll be watching for more from this debut author.
By: Lauri Robinson
HQN Historical Feb 2016
Greed lies at the root of much evil.
The romance of a sea captain and a compassionate young woman contrasts with the backdrop of the Salem Witch Trials. I enjoyed an exploration of a small, dark time in our colonial history.
Marina Lindqvist is a caring person. At great personal risk, she’s rescued a child and contacted the young girl’s father. Her plan is to see her elderly uncle and the child taken out of the hazards of Salem.
Richard Tarr enters Salem unaware of the evil taking over the town – until he sights the bodies hanging from a tree. He’ll do whatever necessary to protect his young daughter and the people who have cared for her. He’s crossed paths with the man at the center of the witchcraft accusations before and devises a plan to expose the greedy reach for power.
By: Blair McDowell
The Wild Rose Press 2015
Adam’s past affects Eve’s future.
Eve Anderson, seeking a new direction for her life, buys a once-in-a-lifetime sailing voyage from Barbados to Lisbon. An impulsive swim, a riptide, and a rescue combine to give her a unique night.
During a brief stay on Barbados, Adamo deLeone rescues a swimmer. His internal discipline and caution vanish for one wonderful night. Confident he’ll never see her again, he continues his journey to a new life. An inheritance will enable him to run a small inn near his Italian relatives. The thing he wants to avoid most is explaining his past.
Ms. McDowell has written a well-plotted romance with just the right hints of danger. The setting compliments the story with a touch of exotic. It makes me want to find a lemon grove in bloom and drift away on the scent.
By: Nicole Evelina
Lawson Gartner Publishing 2016
Before she was Queen…
Life in 5th century Britain was filled with turmoil. Ms Evelina illustrates the strife between Lords and Kings plus Pagans and Christians by exploring the life of young Guinevere.
At age eleven, Guinevere travels to Avalon and begins her training as a priestess. But change is in the air and after the death of her mother, Guinevere returns to her father. Fostered out to a family of devout Christians, she is tested in ways small and large.
I really enjoyed reading the little details of daily life sprinkled throughout the story and look forward to reading the next stage of Guinevere’s life journey.
By: Beth Ann Ziarnik
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas 2016
Jill Shepherd went missing the night of a severe storm three years ago. Her uncle locates her and urges her to return to a small Michigan island to claim her inheritance before it’s too late. Jill moves into the house at Windtop and agrees to let her uncle, aunt, and cousins live with her. Jill doesn’t plan to stay long, she only wants to discover the truth about her mother’s death before returning to Chicago.
Clay Merrick has almost completed the restoration of Windtop to early twentieth century elegance. Unfortunately, he’s no closer to finding proof that the traffic death of his fiancée was murder, not accident. Now he senses that Jill’s questions to her family have put her life in danger.
Ms. Ziarnik moves her characters quickly through a few summer weeks and displays their flaws and strengths against a background of accepting Christ’s direction for your life.
By: Lauri Robinson
HQN Historical Oct 2015
Welcome to 1925 Minnesota
Unlike her three sisters, Josie Nightingale accepted a challenge to work at the Duluth waterfront offering the prostitutes a way out. Now the criminals luring the girls and profiting from them are after her.
Eric “Scooter” Wilson bails Josie out of jail but wants her to stop her visits to Duluth. He threatens to tell her father, then decides to keep her close. She’s too likely to ignore the danger. But keeping her at his side causes other problems – like this battle between his head and his heart.
This fast paced romance is set against a background of a lavish Fourth of July celebration, whiskey runners, and the lakes of Minnesota. The final book in Daughters of the Roaring Twenties, it makes for a good read with or without familiarity with the earlier stories.
By: Colleen Scott
Castle Gate Press 2016
A talented new author.
Three adult siblings take center stage in this near future Christian suspense.
Undercover as a social worker, Dominique Sherwood is actually a journalist assigned to find an explanation for a higher than average birth rate in an Ohio city. Before she even begins collecting information, she’s pulled into events surrounding the kidnapping of Dr. Armstrong’s young nephew.
Desperate to save his business and ashamed to admit his precarious finances – one member of the Armstrong family chooses the wrong path. Expecting a loan shark, he unwittingly pulls the rest of his family, and Dominique, into an underworld of kidnapping, murder, and the sale of infants.
Ms. Scott keeps the story moving with lots of action and suspense plus a little romance.
By: Allie Harrison
A modern ghost story.
Torrie Reynolds isn’t the only child to enter the reputedly haunted Hargrove House on a dare. But she’s the only one to hear her name called and claim a crystal from the chandelier as a memento.
Fifteen years later, Torrie’s interior decorating business is in a serious slump when Will Dalton walks into her office with an offer she can’t refuse — restore Hargrove House to its original glamor. With her client’s seemingly unlimited funds, Torrie hires specialists and makes amazing progress on the project. In fact, she’s never had a project progress so smooth.
As the weeks pass, little things nag at Torrie’s mind. Why have none of the others working in the house ever seen Will Dalton? Where has the housekeeper suddenly appeared from? How can she cook without a functional kitchen? And children? Who’s digging in the cellar?
Ms. Harrison blends past and present as her heroine fights an unexplained attraction to Will Dalton and the secrets of Hargrove House.
By: Beverly Long
HQN Intrigue – Nov 2015
Keeping her safe endangers his heart.
Detective Chase Hollister is experienced at providing witness protection. Posing as a newlywed while getting his late step-father’s house ready for sale sounds like a win-win. But soon after he starts the assignment he knows he’s in trouble.
Raney, a kidnapping survivor, is scheduled to testify against a rich and powerful criminal–if the police can keep her alive until the trial next month.
Ms. Long uses the setting of a small Missouri town and the personal histories of her characters to advantage. I read this book in a hurry, because it was difficult to put down.
By: Michelle Sharp
Learning to accept the past.
Jordan Delany, an undercover detective in St. Louis, has one of her vivid, psychic dreams of a murder. The dead – murder victims – frequently visit her in this fashion and sometimes leave clues to solve their cases. But she has other things on her mind – like using these final vacation days to add pieces to the puzzle of her past.
When Detective Tyler McGee’s vacation is interrupted to work the murder case of a college student, he doesn’t have an opportunity to discuss Jordan’s most recent dream with her. He sets to work to clear the case as soon as possible, especially when the Highway Patrol assigns Isobel Riley to assist. They have a history, including a one night stand, Tyler’s not proud of. And he certainly doesn’t want Isobel near Jordan, the woman he’s living with.
Ms. Sharp blends Tyler’s present case and Jordan’s progress in learning the truth about the past well. The characters interact with just the right number of family members and co-workers to be real. Events from prior in the series are referenced with an appropriate amount of explanation. The sigh worthy ending leaves enough open questions to keep me looking for more.
By: Claudia Shelton
Mackenzie (Macki) Baudin, former undercover cop on the Riverfalls, IL police retired after suffering a very personal attack. Now she runs the best hotel in town and supervises charity work. Her uncle, the only family left after her parents died, insists on a high security level and justifies it by family history.
OPAQUE agent Josh Slater fears the emotional history apt to be released while he works to protect Macki. Will the past between them prove the distraction necessary for their deaths?
Ms. Shelton lays a firm foundation for an ultra-secret government agency and their nemesis. The action and secrets revealed late in the book make the groundwork worthwhile.
By: Te Russ
Shante Russ 2015
When writer’s block strikes, Rowan Hunter accepts an offer to go to his agent’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. Returning from an evening run, he is confronted in the kitchen by an attractive woman. Too bad she’s aiming a gun at him and is accompanied by a large dog.
Laurel Asher wants to be herself. She’s tired of playing the part of a popular jazz vocalist with a stage name. She convinces her manager to let her return to her roots on Martha’s Vineyard for a time to re-charge her creativity. But who? No why is this charming writer in residence.
This lovely little story, the third in the Four Seasons of Love series takes the reader on a quick jaunt through a modern courtship. Every day, every week solidifies their feelings for each other. While you may guess the ending early, the journey to the happy-ever-after includes bumps in the path.
By: Mia Marlowe
Fresh Regency Characters
Rebecca Kearsey is aware that the daughter of an impoverished Baron will not attract suitors. So she fills her days in London with visits to museums, art galleries, and markets. An excursion to the latter turns out badly, and she’s held by ruffians as a prize in an illegal fist fight.
While preparing for a fight, John Fitzhugh Barrett recognizes the girl offered as the prize. She’s the beauty from the British Museum. With the added incentive of saving the girl, a few timely dodges, and one lucky blow, he wins the bout.
Winning is the beginning, not the end of his troubles. Newly claimed by his family, they insist he visit the family holding and learn how to be the future Marquess of Somerset. He convinces his own circle of friends, including one very astute black widow, and Rebecca’s family to attend the annual hunt and house party.
A cunning grandmother, relieved half-brother, and brain-injured father each contribute to both the daytime hunting of game and the evening hunting of a bride for John.
I enjoyed the quick pace and variety of characters in this book, the second in a series. I sincerely hope Ms. Marlowe can make the next story as clever.
By: Jennifer Morey
Harlequin Romantic Suspense Sept 2015
In the Modern American West
Kadin Tandy’s not a cowboy, but he wears the hat. Seeking peace after the brutal loss of his wife and daughter, Kadin packs up his detective skills and moves to Wyoming. He works cold cases, often involving children while keeping his grief and emotions away from view.
Career wins over relationships with Penny Darden. She’s not looking for anything long term. She agrees to spend a weekend with an executive from an advertising account. But his reaction to her casual walk on his property raises questions which refuse to fade.
Missing girls. Gunshots in a parking garage. Police cooperating with a private investigator. A family reunion. The pages of this book are filled with action and plot twists and multiple threads weaving into a whole.
I’ll be on the lookout for the next in the Cold Case Detectives series.
By: Christopher Valen
Conquill Press 2015
Murder in the Midwest
St. Paul, MN homicide detective John Santana and his partner begin with investigating one murder next to the Mississippi River. Then the primary suspect is killed and the case goes cold. Months later, Det. Santana is assigned a different murder cold case, unaware that the trail will lead him to the previous victims and create more dead bodies.
Local topics such as sand mining, casinos, and EPA regulations furnish an interesting backdrop to the action of this story.
The characters are multi-dimensional with Det. Santana having a life outside of the office, including a steady girlfriend and a faithful dog. I dropped into this series several books past the beginning but found the slivers of history inserted skillfully enough to understand the personal demons driving Det. Santana’s career choice.
By: Fran McNabb
The Wild Rose Press 2015
A timely topic.
Major John Dawson is captured when a Special Ops extraction goes wrong. He’s isolated, injured, and held for the personal attention of the rebel leader. Then a second captured American arrives.
Victoria Lafferty fled to the tiny Central American country three years ago, after the tragic death of her husband. She’s found peace and purpose working with a small group of orphans at a rural school. Now her nursing skills are necessary to save John’s life.
He returns the favor with his knowledge of the jungle and the rebels when they make their escape. They stay only one step ahead of the rebels on their way to collect the children and get them to the city where the paperwork for American adoptions is waiting.
Ms. McNabb has filled this story with lots of action surrounding important topics of drug cartels and human trafficking. She remembers the romance and even though it looks bleak at times, Victoria and John do begin a new chapter of their lives together.
By: Marilyn Pappano
Harlequin Romantic Suspense Jan 2015
A group of rich, powerful families in New Orleans is good at keeping secrets. Until Admiral Jeremiah Jackson Jr. and three members of his household are murdered.
Alia Kingsley, NCIS Special Agent, arrives at her new case, a multiple homicide to discover the New Orleans detective is her ex-husband. She respects his professional skills but squelches any notion he has of rebuilding their personal relationship.
The admiral’s estranged son goes by the name Landry now. It’s only after two more murders that he even considers exposing the long held secret behind the fracture in the family.
I admired the strength of the characters in this story. They have the courage to make difficult decisions in both their professional and personal lives to solve the murders and find true love. I didn’t want to put it down.
By Tyler Anne Snell
Harlequin Intrigue April 2015
Revenge turns deadly.
Find my sister. It’s the only request Sophia Hardwick makes to the Culpepper, FL police. She refused to be ignored and inserts herself into the search even before she learns her sister is only one of three young women reported missing.
Detective Braydon Thatcher suffers flashbacks as he leads the search for the women. Too many clues are reminders of his sister’s murder eleven years ago.
This classic romantic suspense kept me turning the pages with end of chapter twists and hooks. The romance grew along with the tension of the hunt for the abductor turned murderer. I’ll be looking forward to more books by Ms. Snell.
By: Jeff Shaara
Ballantine Books – 2013
The Siege of Vicksburg for non-scholars.
If you consider the Civil War a chapter in American history, then the Union victory at Vicksburg should be a notable scene. Take a glance at a map, and you’ll see the Mississippi River dividing the eastern and western states, not only of the Union, but the Confederacy. When the Union won control of the waterway, they severed the major supply routes for men and material.
This well researched novel follows Mr. Shaara’s established format of telling events through the eyes of civilians, common soldiers, and officers in authority on both sides of the conflict. Every reader will find familiarity as one or more of the cast express views and recount events.
By: Suzanne Rossi
The Wild Rose Press 2015
A Glimpse into the Writer’s World
When several romance writers discover the multiple award winner of their group murdered, Anne Jamieson emerges as the new leader. She’s organized, a list maker, and prone to shred paper when nervous. Faced with the events of this quick moving cozy she should be up to her knees in paper bits.
Every one of the five remaining members of the critique group, plus an ex-husband, sister, agent, and writer’s on the deceased’s blackmail list had motive to murder Isadora Powell. Several had opportunity and the weapon, an award statuette, could have been used by any of them.
Detective Gil Collins gets a quick education in the world of genre fiction writing, contests, critiques, and publishing. Unlike the movies, he does not welcome the “assistance” of the writers.
I enjoyed reading about this eclectic group of authors. The threads of casual (or not) alcohol use and chocolate tying them together is consistent with personal experience. And the door is left open for at least one divorcee to find her match.
By: Marie Meyer
Forever Yours 2015
A Year of Transition
Jillian faces the move to out-of-state college with many of the mixed feelings expected. Plus a few caused by her past. Will the thousand miles between them change everything between her and Griffin? He’s been her life-saver, literally at least once, when guilt over her parent’s death threatened.
Griffin has always cared for Jillian but has demonstrated great restraint in letting her grow at her own pace. Now, with his rock bank finding success, he finds a Jillian shape within his heart.
New to the New Adult, genre, I found this an enjoyable read. It brought back memories of that first, memorable year of college. You remember, the time when you discovered how little you actually knew – about your major and life.
It was a delight to accompany Jillian and Griffin on their journey.
By: Jeannie Lin
Harlequin Historical 2015
Betrayed on his Wedding Night
Boa Yang’s fortunes are in steep decline. Following a failed assassination attempt on a powerful Warlord, he seeks help from a fellow conspirator, Magistrate Tan.
Discovered in a compromising situation, Gin-mei is forced to marry. As the daughter of Magistrate Tan she always expected an arranged marriage and is pleased her groom is Boa Yang. She’s been captivated by the smile of her father’s business associate for years.
When Gin-mei learns her father is corrupt and her husband was not killed on their wedding night, she flees her father’s household to follow Boa Yang. Seeking aid from his network of friends – including smugglers and thieves – they travel deep into the forest. It’s an adventure of discovery for husband and wife, the cost and value of friendship, and the crooked path to justice.
This story follows the excellent adventure in The Sword Dancer while also reading well as a separate story. This dip into the world of 9th century China is an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of modern day.
By: Valerie Bowman
St. Martin’s Paperbacks 2015
Welcome to the House Party.
Jane Lowndes, a woman ahead of her Regency times, prefers reading to dancing. She intends to remain a spinster, therefore, it’s not necessary for her to have a chaperon for a house party. All she needs to do is convince her mother. And her friends.
Garrett Upton, future Earl of Upbridge, has survived the wars at a terrible expense. Guilt, duty, and honor blend together in his determination to support the widow of a friend who sacrificed his life for him.
Verbal sparring. A masked ball. A guest with a private agenda. Lessons not found in books. I found this story a delightful, light read with just the right dash of suspense.
By: Adele Parker
The Wild Rose Press 2015
Who can resist a “tuxedo bikini”?
Detective Devin MacGregor has gone under cover at a male strip club to gather the final evidence required to stop one stream of drugs into Atlanta. He wears a cloth mask on-stage and an equally effective flesh one each time a person tries to invade his personal life.
Samantha Yardley can’t explain her attraction to Daring Devin. Hints of the man behind the mask entice her to return to the strip club again. She knows her relatives are operating more than meets the eyes, she’s even tipped off the DEA, but it all appears as business as usual.
This is a clever tale of both hero and heroine forced to face their pasts in order to navigate their future. Sexual need can be fulfilled in each other’s arms. But can they find the key to a wider, more solid relationship? I enjoyed finding out.
By: Dee Davis
Pocito Press 2006
Liars and Lovers
Simone Sheridan’s divorce papers are waiting for her signature when gunshots bring her past into the present. Long unused skills return in a hurry as she manages to rescue her injured brother-in-law and escape a gunman. Hours later, when her husband, Reece, tracks them down, it’s too dangerous for any of them to stay behind.
Lies by omission surface between Reece and Simone with every mile they travel to evade a killer and rendezvous with members of Simone’s ex-CIA team. Are they being tracked because of the last assignment which went wrong ten years ago? Or is it more personal?
I enjoyed the action, the plot twists, and the reunion of lovers. The story never lagged, allowing the reader only time to draw a quick breath before turning the page.
By: Elizabeth Grayson
ePublishing Works 2015
Lost between two cultures.
Cassandra (Cass) Morgan believes she’s the only survivor of the Indian attack on the small wagon train nine years ago. Sold back to the US Army for a wagonload of supplies, she belongs to neither world.
Captain Drew Reynolds’ hatred of Indians and need for revenge festered during his years at West Point and continued during the Civil War. Now he’s in Wyoming, eager to battle against the Indians who killed all the people he loved.
Cass and Drew were sweethearts before they were torn apart by the Indian attack. Now she’s back, but her facial tattoo prevents him from totally accepting her. He intends to hire her as housekeeper for his young, motherless daughter but Cass insists on marriage. She needs the protection of his rank and status – but even that is not enough to prevent others from twisting facts to paint her as a traitor.
Only one man at the fort – the half-breed scout Hunter Jalbert – understands her position.
This is a great story told well. I appreciated the frequent references to Cass’ need to see the wide sky of the American West.
By Susanne Matthews
Crimson Romance Suspense 2013
Reunited by Flames
Sixteen years ago, Alexis Michaels escaped her abusive uncle and left the town of Paradise, Ontario behind. She never planned to return, but the local authorities have requested an expert fire investigator, and she’s the best in her field.
Jake McKenzie, returning to his role of criminal profiler after losing a leg in Afghanistan, welcomes an independent arson investigator. He’s surprised and pleased to discover it’s Alexis, the girl he admired in high school.
Alexis is greeted with a taunting note, assignment of Jake as her partner, and a fourth fire. It’s the most deadly yet, destroying a women and children’s shelter. It’s critical they catch the arsonist before he can strike again.
I enjoyed the layer by layer process in which Alexis and Jake share events of their pasts, establish a tentative trust, and collect evidence against the killer. The setting of a semi-isolated small city and resort enhanced this sweet romantic suspense. I’d encourage works by this author for weekend reading.
By: Sophia James
HQN Historical Jan 2015
Her father works in TRADE.
When Amethyst Cameron learns the extent of her father’s illness, she agrees to his plan for her future. It begins with a pair of matched horses and a proposition. Will the recipient of the gift do the honorable thing? Amethyst struggles with the decision, for it’s not the life she planned as a widow.
The Earl of Montcliffe needs money. His late father and older brother accumulated a fortune in debts, more than a soldier returning from the Peninsular Wars has means to obtain. But Daniel refuses to consider marrying a woman from his own past. He knows her ability to deceive.
Faced with creditors and their close deadlines, Daniel accepts the offer from the Camerons. It will be a marriage of convenience. He furnishes protection. She provides money. It’s a simple business deal – until he kisses her.
This Regency Romance contains little of the society entertainments and confining class rules. It deals more with the physical and emotional wounds of Amethyst and Daniel. It’s a very personal journey of the couple and I liked the intersection of earned fortune and inherited lands.
By: Joanna Wayne
HQN Intrigue Jan 2015
The Bull Rider and the Cop
From the moment Detective Brit Garner stares at the body of her twin sister in the morgue, I was hooked. In addition to the mystery of her death, her sister leaves a baby – and instructions to take the child to her father.
Cannon Dalton has plans for his future. An infant daughter and reconciliation with his father are not included. He has doubts the child is his, but consents to the paternity testing. He wants information, thinking Brit holds the key, he goes to talk to her.
Brit’s in danger. She manages to wound the man attacking her in her own home but the department demands she take time off to recover from injuries and gain distance from her sister’s case. Cannon sees an opportunity to get his answers and takes her to his father’s ranch, where his extended and estranged family is caring for his daughter.
Family secrets, revenge, and crime for hire combine for an excellent read.
By: Emma Barry
Carina Press 2014
Happily ever after applies to more than romance.
Alyse Philips believes in the mission of her employer, the non-profit Young Women Read, Inc. She’s worked her way up to Special Events and Fundraising Director during seven years of employment. While assisting with the annual audit she comes across some suspicious information.
Liam Nussbaum, a second tier political blogger, is frustrated. For six months Alyse has ignored his attempts to establish a relationship. He’s not exactly the law expert their mutual friends claim, but he has resources and the willingness to assist Alyse. They follow the money, even when their actions result in a threat to Alyse’s safety.
This romance uses the setting of Washington DC to advantage as Alyse and Liam navigate on the edges of this powerful world. Can she do the right thing and still maintain her professional reputation?
I’d recommend this book as a satisfying quick read, perfect for a weekend.
By: Margaret Ethridge
Turquoise Morning Press 2015
No age-limit on love.
Lynne Prescott, divorced from a Chicago surgeon, runs into more than memories when she drives to Heartsfield, Arkansas to dispose of an inherited farm. The buildings need a little repair, and Bram Hatchett, widower, is capable of fixing more than the back porch.
To the delight of his family and the disappointment of the local woman with her eye on him, Bram discovers it’s no use to fight the attraction of Lynne. Life is shorter when your children are adults. A man doesn’t have time for all the courtship rituals of the first time around.
If Bram could keep Lynne away from chickens they would all be safer in this delightful romance of second chances in rural America.
By: Suzanne Hartmann
Oak Tara 2014
Stem cell research meets government intelligence.
Midwestern housewife JoAnne Van der Haas lives a double life. To her neighbors she’s a devoted wife and mother of three. To the head of the super-secret Office of Joint Liaisons (OJL), she’s one of his best agents. She’s the one he turns to for assistance when he suspects others are framing him as a traitor.
Enhanced stem cell transplants were given to JoAnne and the other agents of the OJL when they faced life as a paraplegic. Now they possess strength, speed, and eyesight several times stronger than regular humans.
All of JoAnne’s abilities are put to the test as she works to hide her boss from the real traitors, cope with the death of her husband from cancer, extract a valuable defector from China, and recognize that race car driver Stuart Jackson is more than a family friend.
Ms Hartmann puts lots of action into her story and lays the groundwork for feats of strength and daring to fit into the story naturally. Nice little surprises keep the pages turning and earn the story the tagline – Fast Track Thriller.
By: Eileen Dreyer
Grand Central Publishing 2014
Twins in Unexpected Trouble
Fiona Ferguson always looks out for her twin, the impractical Mairead. When news arrives that their brother has died an accused traitor, their grandfather turns them out. Within the month they are living a quiet life in London, teaching tradesmen’s children and house sitting for a friend.
Alex Knight and his friend, Chuffy Wilde, believe they carry the good news that Ian Ferguson lives and has been cleared of all crimes. Instead, they learn his sisters, the twins, have vanished.
Telescopes, codes, puzzles, and kisses are liberally sprinkled in this most recent of the Drake’s Rakes tales. Alex moves the twins from one location to another to stay ahead of danger – sometimes not by more than a moment. Fiona’s expert survival skills learned in the streets thwart Alex’s need to protect her – until they save his life.
This is a good read with lots of sexual tension and science of the era sprinkled in.
By: Kristi Lea
Amazon Digital Services 2014
A Stolen Necklace sets it in motion…
When Hollywood celebrity Jessica Kingsbury reports a diamond necklace stolen she suspects her step-son is involved. But his alibi for the time of the robbery is solid.
FBI Special Agent Noah Grayson has been investigating a blackmail and money laundering scheme involving Jessica’s late husband. When he meets her face-to-face after the robbery he discovers she’s more than the facts in her file.
During surveillance, Noah gets a gunshot wound in the shoulder and stashed on medical leave by his supervisor. The necklace was a forgery, a copy of an antique made with new diamonds. Then why does he care? And why does he turn his medical leave into a cross country trip when Jessica vanishes?
This is a quick read with all the twists and turns necessary to keep the pages turning. More crimes have been committed than robbery. More than one accomplice meets justice. And true love passes every survival test.
I look forward to future adventures by Ms. Lea.
By: David Housewright
Minotaur Books 2012
Minnesota. Money. Murder.
Former police officer Rushmore McKenzie is hired by the insurance company to retrieve a jade carving stolen from a Twin Cities art museum. He’s reluctant and becomes more so after he’s abducted for a brief time and then the body of only thief to appear on the security video is discovered in a local park.
Bad turns to worse in this classic robbery and murder mystery. Even the Minnesota weather plays a part with a January storm, cold, and ice. The interesting cast includes McKenzie’s long time girlfriend, a dirty cop, and a foreign national willing to sacrifice others to obtain the Jade Lily. A scorecard would come in handy in certain chapters.
This is the first of the Rushmore McKenzie books I’ve read and I found it easy to pick up in the middle of this series. I enjoyed the descriptions of Twin Cities locations and the continuing demarcation between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
By: Jenna Ryan
HQN Intrigue Nov 2014
Legends of Ravens and Witches
Amara Bellam flees to Raven’s Hollow, Maine and her extended family when her fellow witnesses against a criminal die. The trail of death behind her continues with the detective who helped her. She arrives at her grandmother’s house to discover a stranger living there.
Ethan McVey kept a deathbed promise and has ended up as temporary police chief in Raven’s Hollow. With legends and feuds which stretch back generations it’s a challenge to keep the clans from mutual destruction. He soon discovers his late night intruder doesn’t have murder on her mind.
A clever hit man pursues Amara. A rifle toting man from the past seeks McVey. Meanwhile the body count and colorful characters increase. Spring storms – with wind and lightning either conjured or natural add to the suspense.
This well plotted story had lots of twists and action. I’d advise reading in it daylight if you scare easy.
Lies Told Under Oath:
The Puzzling Story of the Pfanschmidt Murders
and of the Surviving Son – Victim or Villain?
iUniverse, Inc. 2012
True Crime from 1912
In late September 1912, a father, mother, daughter, and the schoolteacher boarder are murdered at the Pfanschmidt farm outside of Quincy, IL. The bodies are discovered during a house fire, later believed to have been set a full day after the killings.
Suspicion falls on the remaining son – twenty years old, engaged to be married, and sliding into financial trouble.
Arson investigation, murder investigation, and forensics were sciences in their infancy at the time. Add an extended family divided in their loyalty to the suspect – Ray Pfanschmidt – neighbors, businessmen, and bloodhound handlers milling about the farm during and after the fire and you have a tangle of evidence which even modern methods would have difficulty sorting into sense.
The narrative guiding the way through newspaper accounts and official court records together, held my attention. Which witness is lying? In which trial? Was the motivation money? Land?
I’ve heard of crimes of this sort before. At least one occurred near the small Midwestern town of my youth. But the multiple trials of the same defendant is what sets this apart from the average arson to cover murder case.
By: Bill Hopkins
Deadly Writes Publishing 2013
Mystery in historic Ste. Genevieve.
Early on a Sunday morning, Judge Rosswell Carew watches the Mississippi River ferry from the balcony of a B&B. A woman resembling Tina, his missing pregnant fiancé, is tossed overboard. He calls the Sheriff but his story is not believed.
Unable to give up his search, the judge enlists the aid of Ollie, a brilliant, eccentric, almost trustworthy assistant. Together they seek out some of the colorful town characters: an old lady who speaks in riddles, dopers, midwives. They explore caves, find hidden passages, and escape a wildfire in their efforts to find and rescue Tina.
This story, the second in a trilogy, reads well on its own. Lots of twists and turns until the reader wants a score card to separate the good guys from the criminals.
By: Bill Garrison
Castle Gate Press 2014
Hang on tight to follow this mid-life crisis.
Forty-year-old John Michaels, owner of a coffee shop, lives with his wife and two young children. Until he wakes up in the past – his college apartment on the day his girlfriend goes missing.
As he re-lives this day he looks at events from a different perspective and makes an attempt to save his girl and change the future. But it’s not to be. His attempt sends him further into the past – to high school. He re-meets people he’d forgotten about but his forty-year-old mind knows are connected to the disappearance and presumed murder.
John’s troubles don’t melt away when he returns home – it’s been six months to him but overnight to his family. Secrets a long time in the making begin to leak out. They affect his current life and also point the way to solving the crime committed twenty years ago.
While I found the story interesting and kept turning the pages, a high school sports veteran or Oklahoma Sooners fan will find more to enjoy.
This initial release by a new publisher makes them one to watch for clean stories with a twist of the spooky or paranormal.
By: Diane Kelly
St Martin’s 2014
Follow the K9 lead.
Officer Megan Luz is given a second chance and a new partner in this light, fast-paced, crime solving story. Her new partner, an experienced K9 named Brigit, is trained for the chase, the take down, and drug location.
When Brigit alerts to the trash in the shopping mall food court, it’s not drugs that Megan discovers. Instead it’s a bomb — with only minutes left on the timer.
Seth Rutledge and his bomb sniffing partner, Blast, are called in on the case. Tension mounts when the bomber strikes again – this time with several devices at a golf course. The race is on to discover his identity before someone is killed.
This story introduced a nice cast of interesting characters. I especially liked Brigit’s short scenes with the “dog’s eye view” of events. I look forward to more crime solving and the development of the human relationship between Megan and Seth.
By: Barbara Bettis
The Wild Rose Press 2014
Intrigue. Revenge. Loyalty. Love.
This tale of Sir Stephen and Lady Evelynn set between the death of King Richard and the coronation of his brother, John, evokes all this and more.
Evelynn trailed him like a shadow when they were children and he was her brother’s best friend. Now she’s betrothed to another but travelling under his protection.
Stephen didn’t seek the encumbrance of a lady on this journey back to England. He and his band they call The Brotherhood of the Phoenix is hard on the trail of their enemy, Dragon. Each member of the brotherhood has suffered a terrible loss at Dragon’s hand.
Will they be able to capture and reveal Dragon’s treachery before the coronation? And how entwined is Evelynn’s betrothed to the plot?
Bettis held my interest in the fate of Evelynn and Stephen from beginning to end in this story of lady and knight. The next one of the series is already on my “to buy” list.
By: Claire Baxter
Entangled Ignite 2014
A search turns into a mystery.
Caitlyn drives into the desolate opal mining region of Australia in search of the father who abandoned her twenty years ago. She wants to stop his financial problems from claiming her mother’s house.
The first person Caitlyn finds in the tiny mining town is Max, a teen running a service station and garage while her father is “gone”. Where Wally Bracken has gone concerns both girls – considering he’s father to them.
Caitlyn learns to lie, but not well, while figuring out which people to trust in the small rough and tumble community. Dale is known to Max and proves helpful in the search. But does he want to find Wally or steal Caitlyn’s heart?
Steve, a new arrival, has a story with as many inconsistencies as Caitlyn’s lies. But it’s after she accepts a job as cook for the local pub that her real problems begin. Whatever Wally was involved in gets her abducted and Steve beaten.
I enjoyed the unusual location of this story. It had lots of action with nice, easy breaks for the reader to catch their breath. I look forward to more from this author.
By: Mel Sterling
Harlequin Romantic Suspense 2014
The three most dramatic days in Abby McMurray’s life begin when she commits a spur-of-the-moment crime. She drives off in the truck left open and running outside a convenience store not aware of the man and dog in the back.
Deputy Cade Latimer and his K-9 partner, Mort, give Abby the surprise of her life when she stops in a remote campground. It only takes moments to establish she’s not in physical danger. But Cade has a way of asking questions and getting her to think about things she’d like to leave alone.
Action and psychological drama are woven together in a story that moves fast. The situation and the personal history of the hero and heroine give the sudden romance a foundation both strong and plausible.
The villain in this story is well crafted. The author gives us glimpses of a very controlling mind coated with a polite appearance. This character is so true to life that I’d caution survivors of psychological or physical domestic abuse to approach the story with caution.
By: Nancy C. Weeks
Crimson Romance 2014
The man didn’t know how to stay out of her life.
Lexie Trevena is working as an engineer in addition to being a single mother to her late husband’s illegitimate son. Two years after the funeral she’s minding her own business when Mac McNeil, FBI special agent, steps back into her life. A simple bank appointment turns into terrifying moments with Lexie as a hostage until she uses self-defense moves drilled into her during her marriage.
Mac can’t ignore here when the next case involves a weapons capable drone stolen from the developer and then launched from Lexie’s workstation. This solid base supports multiple situations including Mac’s family, Lexie’s loyal friends and forced close proximity between Lexie and the man she’d love to hate – but discovers much more of the former.
I enjoyed the blend and balance of action and romance. I’ll be putting others in this series on my “to be read” stack.
By: Donna Kauffman
November in Maine heats up in this contemporary romance.
Alex McFarland didn’t plan on making her entrance in Blueberry Cove by fainting into the arms of Logan McCrae – police chief, owner of Pelican Point lighthouse, and bachelor. She’s here to assess and restore the lighthouse and associated buildings. It’s also her opportunity to discover if she needs to change the direction of her life.
Logan thinks he has figured out his life and is working a job he loves in the place he belongs. He’s about to learn what’s lacking in his life when Alex stirs emotions long dormant.
The external action stays simple and believable in this story. It’s the internal changes forced on both Alex and Logan which supply the turmoil. Interesting characters fill out the community and supply possibilities for future tales.
By: Mary Logue
Tyrus Books 2014
Beautiful Lake Pepin
The Claire Watkins series, set in Wisconsin’s smallest county, continues in this well-crafted story.
While attending The Burning Boat event which marks the autumnal equinox, Meg, Claire’s college bound daughter, is drawn to a stranger with a fresh tattoo. Soon she learns he’s the new sheriff’s deputy, recently returned from Afghanistan, and carrying mental baggage heavier than any military pack.
The next morning a skeleton is discovered in the ash of the ceremonial fire. Claire, promoted to interim sheriff, directs and assists her deputies in the investigation.
Andrew, the deputy, is cautious with Meg. He enjoys talking to her and needs her company more as the clues entangle him with the bones in the fire and an Army buddy thrusts his own agenda into his life.
This book was hard to put down. The continuing characters are introduced in such a way that the story stands alone as well as adding to the saga of Claire Watkins.
By: Chris Cannon
Entangled Teen 2014
A few days before her sixteenth birthday, Bryn McKenna learns she comes from an extraordinary family.
Her parents are shape-shifting dragons, banished when they married outside of their color coded clans. Uncertain if Bryn has inherited their dragon abilities they don’t inform her until in an upset mood she sets the kitchen curtains on fire – with her breath.
The powerful dragon Directorate insists that Bryn attend their special boarding school or her parents will suffer the consequences. So off she goes with little notice and Zavien (a black dragon) and Garret (a green) for guides.
Adjusting to boarding school, learning the dragon culture, and dodging the political repercussions of her very existence take all of Bryn’s energy. It’s a good thing that dragons can eat what they want without gaining weight.
I enjoyed this book and look forward to further adventures of Bryn and her new dragon friends.
By: Michelle Sharp
Entangled Ignite 2014
Dreams add just the right touch of suspense to this debut romance.
China White, a deadly pure form of heroin, has invaded the St. Louis area.
Working in a multi-agency task force, Jordan Delaney has gone undercover at Buck’s, a small town strip club. Her vivid dreams have helped solve cases in the past but frighten her away from personal relationships. Events move fast, and before the task force can get eyes and ears on her during working hours a drunk gets out of control and attacks her.
Tyler McGee is an ex-cop investigating Buck’s owner for his own personal reasons. When he witnesses the attack on Jordan he does the right thing, including pretending to be her brother at the emergency room and staying in her apartment during a medical observation period. But every word out of her mouth tugs him closer to her as sure as gravity keeps the moon in orbit.
Jordan and Tyler have the same objective, shut down the drugs coming through Buck’s, but different methods.
Enjoy the twists and turns as they discover and test each other.
London’s Most Wanted Rake
By: Bronwyn Scott
Harlequin Historical – April 2014
Alina Marliss returns from France a widow with a shadow of scandal attached. To become established in London society she seeks out the services of Channing Deveril, a most unusual man from her past.
It’s been over a year since Channing parted badly from Alina. And now he’s obligated to share her company at a house party. She insists upon a proper introduction to the object of her revenge: Roland Seymour.
Before, during, and after the day of the formal, polite introduction, Channing and Alina rekindle their former relationship to bonfire proportions. Will she join forces with Channing in marriage? Or will Alina insist on keeping revenge private and personal?
The rich and willing-to-swindle-to-get-rich populate this Victorian romantic suspense. Part of a series, it also reads well as a stand alone.
By: Lynn Cahoon
Crimson Romance 2014
Plans go astray. In real life this often means frustration and grief. In fiction it can be much more.
Look at Taylor DeMarco for example. She knows exactly what needs to be done to bring her family’s Boise art gallery back to the profit side of the balance sheet. As manager she’s already taken steps in the right direction and is looking forward to being able to buy her own place.
Jesse Sullivan, champion bull rider, is wise enough to know he’s near the end of a rodeo career. So he’s been taking art classes to develop his natural talent. When Taylor’s parents offer the gallery for sale he acts on impulse and signs the contract.
Jesse’s matured since he made his debut in The Bull Rider’s Brother. But is it enough to persuade Taylor she’s valuable as more than a manager? And will he make the effort after her lawyer sabotages the relationship between the Sullivan and DeMarco families?
This quick read is an interesting blend of rodeo action and the art world. It’s a good addition to your summer TBR shelf.
Guidebook to Murder
By: Lynn Cahoon
Burn-out from too many messy divorces in the law practice plus the failure of her own marriage has brought Jill Gardner to the small California tourist town of South Cove. She wants nothing more than for her bookstore/coffee shop to provide a living and to enjoy a peaceful life.
It’s not to be. Before Jill can assist her elderly friend with a response to the most recent pressure to sell to a development company, the life-long resident dies — and leaves the property to Jill.
A protective detective, Greg King, takes a serious interest in Jill’s safety when the threats begin. Curiosity wins over Greg’s advice as secrets from her late benefactor’s life surface and Jill’s surfer friend goes missing.
The cast of interesting characters in this cozy mystery had me turning pages and ignoring everyday tasks. Ms. Cahoon has started something with this small town mystery with a dash of romance and I’m looking forward to the next episode of the adventures of Jill and Greg.
Secrets at Court
By: Blythe Gifford
Harlequin Historical – March 2014
Is it possible for a prince to marry for love rather than political or financial gain?
Anne of Stamford, crippled since birth, is fortunate to be a lady-in-waiting to Lady Joan. For fifteen years she has lived with the court and held a secret capable of destroying the approaching royal marriage.
Nicholas Lovayne is valued for his skills in both war and peace. Now he has returned from presenting a petition to the Pope. Diplomats, clergy, and coin will enable the Prince to marry Lady Joan, regardless of her previous marriage – or marriages.
Manipulated by Lady Joan, Anne travels with Nicholas to Canterbury claiming to be on a pilgrimage. But he’s a dangerous man – he sees her as a woman, not a cripple to be either ignored or pitied. Word by hesitant word the facts of her life begin to slip out in his presence. Can she stop before the secret spills? Does she want to?
I enjoyed this tale set in 1361 against the backdrop of constant war, intrigue, and plague. By little kindnesses to each other, Anne and Nicholas win the heart of the reader and make the implausible appear true.
In Plain Sight
By: Susanne Matthews
Crimson Romance – Suspense 2013
Misty Starr longs to blend into the upstate New York community of Pine Falls. She’s on her third identity and inside the witness protection program and the trail of dead law enforcement related to her testimony against the Irish mob five years ago weighs heavy on her. In addition, her young daughter can remember bits and pieces of the most recent move.
Nick Anthony, an expert musician, purchased a large estate near Pine Falls a short time before his wife was killed in an auto accident. Injured and blinded in the same incident, he’s modified his name and keeps a low profile – until he’s persuaded to assist with a local theater production. His blindness does not hinder recognition of the talent or attraction to the soloist on stage.
Misty tempers her attraction to the substitute music director with the reality of her secret past. Is her house fire an accident or does it mean the mob has found her? Again. With more financial and personnel resources than Misty can imagine, Nick offers his estate as a temporary safe haven.
Following Misty and Nick as they shed their secrets and evade her pursuers is an enjoyable read.
Risk of a Lifetime
By: Claudia Shelton
Entangled Ignite 2014
This debut novel is the quintessential romantic suspense.
Three years ago, Marcy Bradley sent her husband away to follow his dream of an FBI career. Since then she’s been making her own life as a marriage counselor. She just hasn’t taken the final step and filed her divorce papers.
JB Bradley returns to the small Missouri town of Crayton to settle his father’s estate. He doesn’t notify Marcy, why should he, after all he signed the divorce papers she sent him more than a year ago. Mere hours after his return, he’s forced to use his training when Marcy is a hostage in a bank robbery and target of a sniper attack.
Attempts on Marcy’s life escalate too fast and serious to be coincidence. Working with a small group of trusted law enforcement, JB needs to unravel the motive and stop the assaults. Along the way Marcy must resolve long held emotions from her father’s death. It is only as she discovers her own inner strength that the love between her and JB can be reestablished.
The blend of romance and action scenes made it difficult to put this story down. I’m looking forward to more from Ms. Shelton.
Straddling the Line
By: Sarah M. Anderson
HQN Desire 2013
Young, educated Josey White Plume is a dedicated fundraiser for the new school on the Lakota reservation. She’s also very aware of the feelings her portion of white – outsider – blood stirs in some of the school officials. It’s enough to make a person feel like they are straddling the line between two cultures.
Ben Bolton, CFO of a custom motorcycle shop, promised his dying mother to keep their family together. It’s not easy when brothers and father have their own visions for the business. Now Josey wants the shop to contribute to the school vocational program. No, can’t be done.
The spark struck between Ben and Josey at the business meeting smolders until they meet at the bar where Ben’s band is playing. Smoke and flames flare and subside between them as they expose their character below the surface.
The sexual tension building between them is excellently portrayed in this quick read.
By: Julie Garwood
Dutton – Penguin Group 2013
They met the day he saved her from drowning. All grown up now, Peyton does not contact the former neighbor boy beyond a note on her birthday.
Peyton thinks she’s landed her dream job. It’s actually a nightmare with a sexually harassing boss and a cast of employees straight out of Hollywood – horror movie division. She doesn’t realize how close her escape was until she’s safe back in Texas.
Finn speaks to Peyton for the first time in years at his brother’s wedding. He’s an FBI agent now, determined never to marry, and amazed at the beautiful woman the pesky neighbor girl has become.
The plot of this romantic suspense twists and turns on the way to the happy ending you can see coming for Peyton and Finn. It’s the journey, not the destination, which keeps the pages turning.
By: Casey Dawes
Crimson Romance 2012
Near the end of her first visit to Italy, Elizabeth Ladina, a California businesswoman and mother of a college age daughter, is surprised at her reaction to a handsome man in the restaurant. She’s not looking for romance. Perhaps it’s the Italian air, but she accepts his offer of a tour of his winery. And that kiss – just one – becomes her most lasting memory of the vacation.
Marcos Gamari is a vintner with ambition. He wants to purchase a California winery to add to his holdings in Italy and France and grow the best varieties for the soil and climate. Elizabeth proves irresistible to this man that has been avoiding any serious relationships since his marriage ended years ago.
These characters grow on each page. They face their pasts and start on the uneven path to the future. This second-in-a-series reads well as a stand-alone.
By: Stephanie Tyler
“Are you…the good guys?”
Teddie’s question early in the story is a good one to keep in mind as the plot twists and turns in this suspense full of military, government employed, and free-lance black operatives.
The action opens with an operation against a Mexican drug cartel. Additional complications pull in international kidnapping, murder, the positive and negative aspects of witness protection and personal revenge as the action moves within the primary settings of Mexico, Texas, and Florida. Terrain and weather accentuate the danger.
Romance is present in this fourth book of the Shadow Force series but I saw it as a secondary role. In some respects this book stands on its own, with plenty of development of the primary characters. I did find some of the references to characters that are secondary in this volume a little distracting without adding to the understanding of the motive driving these scenes.
If you want the emphasis on suspense and are not concerned about body count in your romantic suspense this is an excellent choice.
The Courtship of Utopia Miner
By: Linda Gilman
Taliesin Publishing 2014
This debut romantic comedy takes us to a mining camp in 1875 Colorado. The three prospectors/whiskey makers that have raised Utopia Miner intend for her to be a respectable woman and marry an honest man. They’ll even go so far as to organize a courtship contest.
Utopia has other plans. She’s determined to be a saloon girl, like her mother. To this end she practices singing and dancing in secret and turns down suitors.
Lancelot (Lance) Jones, a former lawman attempting to become a newspaper man, arrives at the mining camp before the contest begins. He’s persuaded by the business end of a shotgun to be official chaperon, timekeeper, and guardian of Utopia’s purity. The guarding portion gets more difficult by the day due to Utopia’s natural charms, insistence on “kissing lessons” and curiosity about saloon girls.
After a clever opening, the action and tempo of this story picks up when the suitors arrive. The saloon girls of Tin Cup follow and fill in some of the gaps in Utopia’s education. And a corrupt politician supplies the final ingredient to spice up the mixture of Utopia and Lance.
The Wild Rose Press 2013
Come on a journey to Lincolnshire, England in the year 1197.
Sir Giles of Cambrai has come to England for two reasons. First: He is tasked with delivering a message from his King about a possible traitor. Second: He intends to kill the father that has never acknowledged him. His plans begin to change when he’s attacked by six armed men and rescued by a party en route to a wedding.
Emelin of Compton is a true lady. After the disappearance of her betrothed and five years in a convent, she’s been ordered by her brother to marry. On the way to Lord Osbert, a man in need of an heir, her escort happens on a stranger who has killed three attackers and frightened three more away. She tends the injured man during the final portion of her journey.
Thus begins the entwined lives of Giles and Emelin. He’s a mercenary and will never find the comforts of wife, children, or land. He’s also honorable, loyal, kind, and determined that Emelin will be treated like the lady she was born to be, not sold with less regard than a horse.
This debut novel held my interest and I found myself cheering for Giles and Emelin as they untangled the plot against King Richard and found their true positions in society.
You Don’t Want to Know
By Lisa Jackson
Kensington Books 2012
An island north of Seattle in autumn is the perfect setting for this finely plotted mystery.
Ava Church Garrison, majority owner of the family estate and formerly a sharp businesswoman, is a shadow of her former self. She wants to remember what’s happened since her son disappeared two years ago – but the time in mental hospitals, the counseling, and the medication seem to only compound her problems. Who can she trust? Her husband, cousins, and staff each seem to have their own agenda, and Ava’s well-being isn’t on it.
In the midst of a hallucination Ava runs off a dock and is rescued by a new employee. Austin Dern has been hired by Ava’s husband to care for the horses and “keep an eye on Ava”. In addition to his assigned duties, he’s trying to confirm sightings of a murderer that escaped from a mental hospital on the island several years ago – an escape that led to the closure of the now abandoned facility.
Well-crafted characters from Ava’s relatives to detectives kept me turning the pages far into the night.
The Lotus Palace
By: Jeannie Lin
Escape from the rush and stress of the present. This story set in Tang Dynasty China, 847 AD, is as delightful as tea prepared by the heroine.
Yue-ying is a maidservant to one of the most beautiful women in the Pleasure Quarter. She observes the scholars, bureaucrats, and merchants that come for drink, conversation, and music at The Lotus Palace. She believes no one notices her, a shy girl with a red birthmark on her face.
Bai Huang, a man of good family, does notice the servant while pretending infatuation with her mistress. Bai is not all that he seems, and when a courtesan in a nearby house is murdered he turns serious about solving the mystery.
Bai Huang convinces Yue-ying to assist him. She’s reluctant at first, until the mystery deepens and her own mistress is put at risk. Lots of twists and turns to develop the main characters before the murderers are brought to justice.
By: Rachel Lee
Harlequin Romantic Suspense 2013
Nora Loftis defied the odds and a developing psychotic killer when she lives through a brutal attack. Still physically recovering from her injuries and now out of a job as a school psychologist, she accepts her father’s invitation to return to her small Wyoming home town.
Jake Madison greets her at the airport and soon finds he’s still protective of her, now with adult resources and authority rather than the uncertain teen attempts. Soon after her arrival, when it’s clear that her father’s strict religious fundamentalist actions will hinder her healing, Jake offers her an alternative, safe haven.
The villains in this story are well developed and memorable. Mr. Loftis, with his strict-to-abusive actions toward his daughter, ring true to life. The glimpses of the killer, escaped from law enforcement, as he makes his way across half of the country to complete his first kill, make the reader turn on an additional light.
Shivers of fear aside, I enjoyed Nora and Jake’s story. They come off the page as the sort of people you’d be glad to share a cup of coffee with.
Author: Joel C. Rosenberg
Publisher: Tyndale House 2013
This Christian thriller is set in the near future and begins by posing several interesting questions.
What if…a Muslim prophet re-establishes the Caliphate?
What if…Iran possesses nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them?
What if…Israel launches an attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear warheads?
What if…they miss two????
The primary action of Damascus Countdown, third in a series, centers around CIA operative David Shirazi. A large supporting cast includes Iranian officials, Israeli officials, Mossad agents, plus David’s family and love interest. The political and covert operations sections are interspersed with Biblical prophecy and interpretation.
This is a good read although I’d recommend beginning earlier in the series for a quicker understanding of some of the characters.
Author: Jeannie Lin
Publisher: Harlequin Historical June 2013
Enchanting. Ms. Lin’s best yet.
From her first dance steps across the page Li Feng holds the attention of the reader – and a certain thief-catcher. She’s clever and determined as she travels with entertainers, thieves, and rebels searching for the truth about her family.
Zheng Hao Han, successful thief-catcher, meets his match as he tracks Li Feng across a remote portion of the Tang Dynasty. He captures her. She escapes. He follows. She confronts him. They follow the trail of salt-smugglers and work together – until she slips away.
This story, set long ago and far away, is pure entertainment. Whether chasing each other across rooftops, searching criminal records, or making love, the characters in The Sword Dancer take the reader on an adventure. I’m already eager for Ms. Lin’s next release.
* * * * *
Where Angels Rest
By: Kate Brady
Grand Central Publishing 2012
Psychologist Erin Sims is granted time for one final attempt to save her brother from execution. She’s convinced the real murderer has changed his name and moved to Hopewell, Ohio. The local sheriff, Nick Mann, is busy chasing demons from his own past and needs convincing to take Erin seriously. It’s only after the accidents, vandalism, and disappearances begin that he uses all of his resources, from the past as well as the present, to expose the serial killer and his motives.
Ms. Brady’s characters walk across the pages full of life. From the ceramic artist to the local derelict they go about life holding their own pasts secret. In the opening paragraphs we are introduced to “Angelmaker” and his special brand of evil. But who is this person? How can he blend in, move about without special notice?
This suspense, with an underlying romance, had me turning pages and rationalizing another scene, another chapter, before I set it down.
Don’t Cry for Me
By: Sharon Sala
Quinn Walker lives every day with the knowledge he owes his life to his military comrades. So when he learns one of them without a family is soon to be discharged from the hospital in Fort Campbell he does the logical thing. He arranges to bring Mariah Conrad to his home in the Kentucky mountains to heal both mentally and physically.
This romantic suspense puts the reader into the center of plenty of action. You track a large rouge bear, get a peek into the private demons of Quinn and Mariah — complicated by their previous love affair, walk the trails with a poacher on National Forest land, and learn the secrets of a new business behind the façade of a mushroom farm.
I really enjoyed the characters and the believable situations in this RITA nominated romantic suspense. It’s the second book of a series but reads well as a stand alone. I’ll be seeking more titles from this talented author.
By: Charlotte Hubbard
2012 Kensington Publishing Corp.
Widow Miriam Lantz intends to turn a restless, stormy night to advantage by starting her baking early. This particular morning the wind sends a branch through a window of Sweet Seasons Bakery Café, spooks a stranger’s horse, and changes the Amish community of Willow Ridge.
Ben Hooley, a traveling blacksmith, has been working his way west from one Amish settlement to another in search of a place with affordable land to settle. His plans don’t anticipate an independent-minded widow, her grown daughters, or a selfish local Bishop,
As soon as he’s repairing the bakery window Ben begins meeting the single Amish men that breakfast at the café. They welcome the stranger and he soon proves his worth through his work. The community needs his trade, land prices are reasonable, and his brothers would be welcome to build a mill.
Welcome by all but the Bishop, that is. The older man has declared his intention to marry for the third time. Miriam is just that woman that would be a good mother to his six active children and he’d be sure to keep her too busy to run a bakery.
Ms Hubbard uses current Amish culture interacting with modern rural Missouri in a delightful blend. This tale of intrigue and mature love includes recipes. Yumm!!!
Wedded in Scandal
Berkley Sensation – March 2012
Robert Percy, Viscount Redhill, responded to his father’s wayward habits with an overdeveloped work ethic and sense of responsibility. Blocked from the profession of his choice, his satisfaction now comes from his clandestine practical application of medicine and science to improve lives in the working class.
Helaine tumbled from society when her father, a gambler fond of drink, stole from the wrong aristocrat and then vanished. She lives under the name Mrs. Mortimer now, and supports herself and her mother as a dressmaker. Desperate for funds, she asks the unthinkable from Lord Redhill – pay in advance for his sister’s trousseau.
From shifty wholesalers, to mines, brothels, and a struggling shoemaker the reader is introduced to a deep slice of English life. Even tea – the purchase, blending, and preparation – acquire new meaning as Robert pursues Helaine as his mistress. Her initial refusal and bittersweet surrender unsettles both of them beyond their imagination.
This sexually heated story reads well as a stand alone but I may very well go searching for the others of the series.
My Fair Concubine
Author: Jeannie Lin
Publisher: Harlequin Historical 2012
Long ago and far away…
Ms Lin does not take us on a space adventure, but off to an exotic land of the past. Tang Dynasty China. That’s ninth century AD to modern westerners.
Fei Long’s act of compassion to his sister multiplies the problems he inherited at the sudden death of their father. He has debts to pay. And a bride to furnish as the Emperor’s gift to a neighboring kingdom.
Yan Ling, orphan serving girl, is thrown out of a humble teahouse, the only home she’s known, when she reacts to Fei Long’s insult by tossing tea on him.
While she pleads for Fei Long to say a kind word to return her to her low station at the teahouse he becomes impressed by her quick thinking and determination. He offers his protection if she will agree to take his sister’s place as the peace bride.
Yan Ling struggles with the lessons to become an educated lady and to understand her teacher. We see the wonder, color, and excitement of the city through her country eyes. And we walk beside Fei Long as he learns how much he will give to settle the debts of his father as well as what he will not relinquish.
This is a simple story, well told. The pages turn quickly from one problem to another as the obstacles to true love approach on a collision course.
By Susan Mallery
Dakota Hendrix is working on behalf of her hometown while a reality television show moves in to claim it. Fool’s Gold, CA may have a chronic man shortage but her hometown has a strong hold on her, one she’s not about to give up for any man. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself after the show’s contestants are picked.
Finn Andersson needs an ally to convince his twin brothers they would be better off finishing college than flirting on reality TV. The problem is that they are of legal age and determined to shed the protective cloak Finn wields as their only family for the last eight years.
Dakota gives Finn all the logical reasons to return to flying freight in Alaska. The problem is that she also gives him her heart, regardless of how strong her words of denial to family and friends.
Light, fast paced, and filled with Dakota’s large loving family this contemporary romance demonstrates some of the many bumps along the path to true love.
A delightful read — I plan to go looking for the next stories set in Fool’s Gold.
A Love That Will Not Die
By: Sandy Meyr
Sub-title: An Immigrant Family’s Tale of Struggle and Survival in 19th Century St. Louis.
The year is 1849 and Johann Frederick Obergunner takes his responsibility for two sisters and younger brother seriously after their parents die during immigration. With a little help from an uncle and cousin the four orphans establish a household in growing St. Louis.
Based on family history, the author tells this story through the eyes of the children as they settle into a life full of little adventures in a city of immigrants. We go with them to work in factories, as firefighters, and saloon keepers. They take us on the train, to parties, and to civic events as they court their spouses and provide for growing families. And they include the unhappy portions of life as adults are injured, infants die, and children disappoint parents.
While this is the story of one family portions of it belong to many. More than once as I turned the pages I felt the sensation of eavesdropping on stories that could have come out of my own relative’s mouths.
Many German customs are presented and when the German phrases are used they are clarified. I’d recommend it as an example of St. Louis life from 1849 to 1884.
Across That Dark River
By: Thomas Martin Sobottke
Moving Train Books
This non-fiction exploration for the root cause and continuing effect of the United States Civil War uses the device of a current day living historian listening to the words of persons involved in the great conflict.
Unlike studies that follow one man or explore the consequences on one specific battle this study follows themes common to several places and times. Topics include secession, valor and emancipation.
Slavery, and its more current companion, racism are explored and explained as applied to the mid-nineteenth century up to and including early twenty-first.
Well documented and organized this work presents ideas worthy of modern day thought and discussion.
By: Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Love Insprited Suspense April 2010
Special education teacher Laney Thompson receives a graphic reminder of childhood guilt when she finds the backpack of her long ago murdered sister on the school playground. It was eighteen years and hundreds of miles away when Gracie Thompson disappeared walking the last block home from school.
School principle Noah Ryder suppresses his attraction to Laney and his former occupation, private investigator. When the backpack turns up a few days before the end of the school year he’s forced to make some changes.
The story opens with the discovery of the backpack. Quick reporting brings out the local authorities and also the FBI. Laney’s not pleased to discover the agent in charge is the same one that investigated her sister’s disappearance and questioned her all those years ago.
Additional threats surface against Laney and her young daughter and the actions and quick thinking of Noah impresses her more than the official investigators. When she learns his past and persuades him to work the case they each end up in a battle against their attraction to each other as well as a determination to figure out the events leading up to Gracie’s disappearance all those years ago.
The residents of two small Minnesota towns central to the story furnish both realism and color to this well plotted and paced story. I found it a delightful weekend read, written to keep the pages turning.
Love Inspired Suspense – July 2011
A body on the beach, shots fired at law enforcement, and a bottle bomb shatter the peace of Ocracoke Island days before the annual Pirate Festival. Senior deputy Kate Michael directs her small contingent to solve and stop the crime wave.
Brock Gentry, a Nashville detective, arrives on the very day of the crime surge but his presence disrupts rather than calms Kate’s world. He claims to be seeking peace and reconciliation. But this is the same man that crushed her heart six years ago and she’s determined not to give him opportunity for a repeat performance.
The story moves fast with twists, turns, and possible suspects moving in the confined space of the island. Kate’s faith, love and loyalty to her younger sisters are her anchors but they also draw her into the killer’s final trap.
This is a good, well-plotted read. From beginning to end the reader is trying to stay one step ahead of the suspects and their motives.
Marrying Miss Marshal
Love Inspired Historical – Aug 2011
From the opening gunshots to the final arrest this western romance is action-packed.
Calvin, Wyoming could accept unconventional Danna Carpernter as a deputy when her husband, Fred, was sheriff. But Fred’s been murdered, allowing deputies and townspeople to abandon her, now that she wears the Marshal’s badge. Her resuce of a straonger from a stampeding herd gives only another smudge to her reputation.
Chas O’Grady of Boston came west when his brother married the girl Chas loved. Now he feels guilty for their deaths and has taken a job as detective hunting down cattle rustlers. The trail leads him to Calvin and a humiliating situation of owing his life to a woman – Danna.
The Marshal needs a deputy and the only applicant is a hesitant Chas. He’d rather concentrate on the missing cattle than stop saloon brawls and detain girls stealing food. When official duties and an early snowstorm force Danna and Chas to camp on the mountain they begin to respect and understand each other. But the town council feels her reputation is tarnished beyond redemption and force marriage.
Interesting characters, great setting, and action all combine in this fun read. It’s a real slice of “could have been” in 1889 Wyoming.