Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, February 24, 2012

Week ending February 24, 2012

Grace, Samantha. Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Feb. 2012. 427p. ISBN 9781402258312. pap. $6.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
When Lord Andrew Forest first encounters Miss Lana Hillary, she is dangling from a tree outside of the Eldridge ballroom, trying to avoid an unsuitable (and revolting) suitor. Drew seems quite taken with Miss Hillary; too bad her brother Jake seems to despise him. It’s Lana’s matrimony-obsessed mother, though, who forces her to accept an invitation to a country house party hosted by Lana’s friend Phoebe’s in-laws, the Duke and Duchess of Foxhaven‚ Drew’s parents. As the scoundrel never leaves London, what is the harm? Between Drew’s surprise arrival and the attentions of another guest encouraged by her mother, Lana doesn’t know which way to turn. Lord Andrew is definitely the wrong road for her to take. Yet, the usually carefree, commitment-averse Drew can’t stop thinking about the clever, interesting, and adorable Miss Hillary. Something is definitely not right.
Verdict This charming debut from Grace has all the ingredients that make historical romance so fascinating, with a pair of protagonists who try to deny their mutual attraction, but, alas, love will out. Though Drew, at 24, could use a bit more maturity, and Lana needs to make up her mind and stick to it, still, this sensual novel should entertain romance fans.‚ Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Grisham, John. Calico Joe. Doubleday. Apr. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9780385536073. $24.95. F
Growing up in Arkansas, Grisham dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Now, in his 28th novel, this superb storyteller takes his turn at bat in this memorable story of forgiveness and redemption. In the 1973 season, Warren Tracey, an over-the-hill pitcher from the New York Mets, tangles with Joe Castle, a hot new Chicago Cubs rookie from Calico Rock, AR‚ halting both their careers. Before their confrontation, Joe had demonstrated his stunning skills and earned the admiration of fans nationwide, including Warren’s young son. As a little leaguer, Paul Tracey had idolized Joe and tolerated his own philandering father. Thirty years later, Paul challenges Warren, now cancer-ridden, to seek Joe’s forgiveness.
Verdict
Incorporating the jargon and depicting the rituals of America’s favorite pastime, Grisham has written a classic story filled with human emotion. General readers, together with Grisham fans, will appreciate this touching tale.‚ Jerry P. Miller., Cambridge, MA

starred review starHassman, Tupelo. Girlchild. Farrar. Feb. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780374162573. $23. F
Hassman’s debut is a brutally realistic portrait of trailer park America. Growing up with her bartender single mother and Grandma in Calle de los Flores, outside of Reno, NV, Rory Dawn Hendrix scours her copy of the Girl Scout Handbook‚ checked out many times from the school library‚ in efforts to break out of the mold of poverty and sexual abuse that has been fashioned for her. By sharing her opinions of Handbook entries, found letters and social worker reports, family memories and haunting, half-remembered atrocities, Rory puts together a scrapbook of the Calle that also records her escape.
Verdict
This is a gorgeous first novel, as humorous as it is heartbreaking. Some will see similarities between Hassman and National Book Award recipient Jaimy Gordon (Lord of Misrule), and fans of coming-of-age novels will fall in love with Rory’s story.‚ Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll. Lib., Pepper Pike, OH

Margolin, Phillip. Capitol Murder. Harper: HarperCollins. Apr. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780062069887. $25.99. F
Margolin brings back attorney Brad Miller and PI Dana Cutler from Executive Privilege and Supreme Justice and delivers another slam-bang political thriller. Miller hopes his life has finally calmed down. He works for a U.S. Senator and has just married the love of his life. Unfortunately, Miller’s boss has a torrid past, and it’s about to catch up to him. At the same time, a serial killer on death row escapes and has Miller in his sights. Throw in a terrorist plot and an investigation into the sordid underbelly of Washington politics, and the result is a nonstop read.
Verdict
Margolin is a master of legal suspense and thrills, but in his latest, character development has taken a backseat, and his pacing suffers a bit as well. With so many story lines demanding equal time, the end result is a bit disjointed. Still, the author’s many fans will demand this title. [See Prepub Alert, 10/9/11.]‚ Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.

Rice, Lisa Marie. Nightfire. Avon Red. (Protectors Novel: Marine Force Recon). Feb. 2012. 423p. ISBN 9780061808289. pap. $13.99. ROMANCE
In book three of Rice’s Protectors series (after Into the Crossfire and Hotter Than Wildfire), the focus is on Mike Keillor, single, well-built, former Marine Force Recon sniper, SWAT officer, and martial arts expert. Mike spends much of his free time in bars and having one-night stands. When his friend Harry’s sister, Chloe, shows up, Mike’s world is turned upside down. About two-thirds of the way into the novel, there is a time jump of six months, from when Chloe reconnects with her brother to when she begins volunteering at a safe house for abused and battered women. During this period, Mike is there for Chloe and for the first time, not just in a physical way. The safe house and Chloe become targets of the owners of a local escort club who feel that Chloe is taking away their girls, and they set out to destroy her.
Verdict The time jump is disconcerting, and it takes several pages before the reader realizes what is happening. Rice uses the device to show how the relationship between Mike and Chloe has deepened, while their hot, spicy sex scenes add more to the mix. The colorful language offers a greater understanding of the characters’ emotions. A gripping and suspenseful read.‚ Phyllis Goodman, Clermont Cty. P.L., Amelia, OH

Ryan, R.C. Quinn. Forever: Grand Central. (Wyoming Sky, Bk. 1). Mar. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781455502455. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Furious when a rancher shoots the alpha male of the wolf pack he has been studying for five years, researcher and rancher Quinn Conway tracks the culprit through the snow only to discover that Cheyenne O’Brien, owner of the neighboring ranch, was simply protecting some newborn calves. But with her father and brother dead in separate accidents and a man with a grudge reputedly out for revenge, all is not well on the O’Brien spread‚ so Quinn steps in to help. As more accidents and potentially deadly fires take their toll, it quickly becomes clear that Cheyenne and everyone she cares about are in danger, and soon Quinn and Cheyenne are pitted against a vicious, crafty, deranged killer who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Verdict Although most readers will target the villain early on and be increasingly edgy until he is caught, it is the delicious chemistry that sparks between Cheyenne and Quinn, the realistic interactions of the rambunctious Conway clan, and the vividly depicted secondary characters that will truly engage fans. First of a trilogy that is linked by the unsolved mystery of the disappearance of the Colton brothers’ mother years earlier. Ryan (Montana Glory) lives in Michigan.‚ Kristin Ramsdell, Libn. Emerita, California State Univ., East Bay

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Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 45th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"