Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, April 27, 2012

Week ending April 27, 2012

starred review starDuran, Meredith. At Your Pleasure. Pocket Star. Apr. 2012. 387p. ISBN 9781451606959. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
The death of Queen Anne in 1714 brought upheaval to England, with her cousin George taking the throne and the Whigs capturing power. It also gave birth to attempts to install Anne’s half-brother, James Stuart, as king, though being a Catholic he was ineligible. Leonora Colville, the now widowed Dowager Marchioness of Towe, stands guard at her family’s home, Hodderby, while her impeached father is in France and her brother, David, makes noises from afar about helping in the Stuart cause. Family honor is paramount to Nora, especially when the king’s men arrive in hopes of catching David at treason. Why did the king send the Earl of Rivenham, Adrian Ferrers, to do his bidding? Nora had loved Adrian before her politically conceived marriage separated them six years ago. But a Catholic then himself, Adrian would have had to battle her family for her hand. Now they must fight their feelings, which yet inhabit their hearts. And let’s not forget the gunpowder in the cellar.
Verdict Duran (A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal) dazzlingly chronicles the disquiet of the period and the struggle between honor and protecting what one holds dear. Distrust, political one-upmanship, and all manor of betrayal lay before our protagonists until love finally takes hold. Highly recommended for historical romance fans.‚ Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Joel, Maggie. The Second-Last Woman in England. Felony & Mayhem. May 2012. c.325p. ISBN 9781937384005. $24; pap. ISBN 9781934609996. $14.95. F
If Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess Violet Grantham reviewed fiction: It all starts with the purchase of a console television, so it’s no surprise that things end badly. The television is to ensure that the Wallis family, their friends, and anointed neighbors can watch the coronation on June 2, 1953, of that Windsor girl in the ease of their comfortable South Kensington home. Just as the newly crowned queen steps out onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace, Mrs. Wallis fires six bullets into her husband and is duly tried and found guilty, becoming the second-to-last woman in England to be executed. Once the author has our attention, the story slowly and with totally convincing and elaborate detail portrays the pressure cooker that is that ideal 1950s London home. Surrounding the Wallis family is a large cast of characters ranging from a palace functionary and a BBC presenter to a religious zealot from the East‚ Stepney, I believe‚ to an Indian pervert. As unruly a mob as ever assembled at dear Downton, but, alas, there’s no countess to keep calm and carry on; that’s one of the deficiencies among the lower orders.
Along with a hamper from Harrods, this debut novel is the perfect way to commemorate Her Majesty’s 60-year reign.‚ Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO

Kelly, Jim. Death’s Door: A Shaw and Valentine Mystery. Crème de la Crime: Severn House. May 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781780295190. $29.95. M
Kelly has written a clever variation on the locked-room mystery, setting it instead on an island reached only by sea. In 1994, 75 people took a boat to a remote island, but only 74 returned at day’s end. The West Norfolk police decide now to reopen the case in order to apply modern techniques such as DNA to find the murderer. Detective Inspector Peter Shaw and Detective Sergeant George Valentine (Death Toll; Death Watch) are an odd coupling. Shaw has been blinded in one eye by an accident, and Valentine, who originally worked with Shaw’s father, was demoted and works currently under the younger man. Complications arise when Marianne Osbourne, one of the suspects, is found dead after taking a World War II cyanide tablet. Is it murder or suicide? The gorgeous, remote island and its tight-knit community add to the intrigue and challenge for Shaw and Valentine.
Kelly’s latest series entry is as much a story rich in nautical detail and a depiction of life dependent on the sea’s seasons and moods as it is a murder mystery. Those who enjoy novels of suspense and an outdoor or seaside setting will particularly enjoy.‚ Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

McFadden, Maryann. The Book Lover. Three Women. May 2012. 340p. ISBN 9780984867103. pap. $14.99. F
Hopeful author Lucinda Barrett is sliding into depression after receiving multiple rejection letters from publishers when she decides to self-publish and promote her novel. Upon discovering devastating news about her husband’s secret life, she escapes on a book tour. Reeling and confused, Lucy shows up at an author signing a week early and has a minor breakdown in a small New Jersey bookstore. Owner Ruth Hardaway recognizes Lucy’s stricken look as one she herself had years ago. Ruth offers Lucy the use of her lakeside cabin where she can recuperate. Lucy’s friendship with Ruth grows as does her attraction for Ruth’s Iraq war veteran son, Colin.
Verdict McFadden (The Richest Season; So Happy Together) tells an absorbing tale of two women struggling to overcome their fears of failure and achieve more fulfilling lives. Avid readers will identify with the love of books that permeates the novel. Through her characters, McFadden deftly personifies the current challenges of authors and independent booksellers.‚ Joy Gunn, Henderson Libs., NV

Roby, Kimberla Lawson. The Reverend’s Wife. Grand Central. May 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780446572477. $24.99. F
In this ninth series entry and sequel to Love, Honor, and Betray, Roby proves that karma has no expiration date. Rev. Curtis Black has repented of his cheating ways but is once again the victim of his philandering third wife, Charlotte. Curtis determines that divorce is the only resolution. Of course, Charlotte fights his decision tooth and nail. Curtis ignores Charlotte’s desperate pleas, and her behavior spirals out of control. Meanwhile, Curtis has a platonic dalliance with a female church member that turns dangerous. Roby shrewdly thickens the story line with a somewhat predictable ending that strongly suggests she is prepping readers for yet another addition to the Curtis Black series.
Verdict Despite the familiar plot, Roby fans will enjoy her entertaining and well-paced story and her flawed yet engaging protagonists. [See Prepub Alert, 11/7/11.]‚ Lisa Jones, Birmingham P.L., AL

St. Claire, Roxanne. Barefoot in the Sand. Forever: Grand Central. May 2012. 278p. ISBN 9781455508211. pap. $5.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Lacey Armstrong and her 14-year-old daughter, Ashley, survive a hurricane by hiding under a mattress in the bathtub of her family’s 50-year-old home on Mimosa Key, off the west coast of Florida. The disaster brings trouble to the area, including Ashley’s father, David Fox, with whom she has had limited contact since her birth, and Clay Walker, an architect looking to help the community rebuild. With insurance check in hand, thirtysomething Lacey decides to construct the bed-and-breakfast she has dreamed of owning. Lacey now has to war with zoning laws to bring her plan to fruition, all while sorting out her daughter’s desire to reunite with her father and her own attraction to the hot, young architect.
Verdict Even with sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, Lacey and Clay manage to consummate their relationship. While the novel touches on the familiar scenario of an aspiring woman battling the folks who want to preserve old Florida, Lacey fights the fight with a sexy younger man at her side. This first installment in the new Barefoot Bay series from award-winning author St. Claire (Killer Curves) features steamy sex in warm gulf waters; readers will be delighted.‚ Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

starred review starWilliams, Beatriz. Overseas. Putnam. May 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9780399157646. $25.95. F
Julian Laurence neatly fits the description of a Wall Street alpha, so no one could have been more surprised than mid-level Kate Wilson when he sought her out after a brief conference room exchange. Another short conversation and another casual crossing of paths don’t prepare Kate for the intensity of their meeting in Central Park, or for the mutual, all-consuming passion of their relationship. But the biggest issue for the lovers is not the large economic gap between them but the century of years between their birthdays. Born Julian Laurence Ashford, heir to a vaunted English title and estate, he was last seen in the trenches of World War I.
While a few repetitive scenes could have been cut, these minor flaws don’t detract from this outstanding debut novel’s many pleasures. With a complicated romance, intriguing suspense, a dashing hero, a feisty heroine, and a fantastic but plausible time-travel explanation, this book will hit the mark for readers wanting something exceptional for their summer reading. [See Prepub Alert, 11/14/11.]‚ Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

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

Now in her 46th 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"