Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | First Look at New Books, August 17, 2012

Week ending August 17, 2012

Alward, Donna. In the Line of Duty. Samhain. (First Responders, Bk. 2). Aug. 2012. c.123p. eISBN 9781619210813. EPUB $3.50. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Constable Kendra Givens joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the order and structure missing in her life. Two years ago, she arrested a drunk Jake Symonds, whose suggestive comments stuck with Kendra. Now she finds herself grudgingly investigating a robbery at Jake’s bar. Jake attempts a reconciliation for that night, with a hot breakfast, complete with bacon. Suddenly, the two run into each other everywhere. After a passionate first date, Kendra and Jake decide to go slow, as their emotional baggage—her childhood, his tours in Afghanistan—prevent any real connection. Then Kendra responds to a tragic car accident, and the defenses she’s built up her whole life start to crumble. This light and sensual romance forgoes a dramatic plot in order to focus on two damaged people learning how to love.
Verdict Alward’s previous work in cowboy romances (e.g., The Last Real Cowboy) can be seen here. Jake sounds like a cowboy-turned-bartender and Kendra is the strong female who never learned how to love. The overall innocence displayed by the two when not getting hot and heavy makes this a short and sweet read.—John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston

starred review starClarke, Lindsay. The Water Theatre. New York Review Books. Sept. 2012. C.367p. eISBN 9781590176504. $9.99. F
Hal Brigshaw wants to change the world, but like so many powerful, idealistic men, he allows hubris to trump good intentions. Bombastic and combative, Hal alienates his long-suffering wife, Grace, and their children, Adam and Marina. But in Adam’s naïve friend Martin Crowther, Hal finds an acolyte in need of conversion even as Martin discovers an erudite father figure who expands his worldview. During their student days at Cambridge, Martin and Adam maintain an uneasy friendship that’s tested during a summer trip to western Africa, where the Brigshaws are working to establish a fledgling democracy. Fed up with his son’s lack of ambition, Hal offers Martin a leg up in his pursuit of a journalism career. Then there’s Marina, a complex, temperamental artist, whose push-pull relationship with Martin frustrates and confuses him, resulting in an act of misplaced loyalty and a decision that will have tragic consequences.
Verdict Clarke’s astounding novel, set in England, Africa, and Italy, defies categories. Part political screed, part epic love story with some mystical fantasy added to the soup, his writing style is as crisp and straightforward as his subject matter is complicated and nuanced. This Whitbread Prize–winning author should find an appreciative new audience with this digital incarnation. [This is the first book in “NYRB Lit,” the new e-original series from New York Review Books.—Ed.]—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Ft. Myers, FL

Dean, Sierra. Keeping Secret. Samhain. (Secret McQueen, Bk. 4). 2012. 321p. eISBN 9781619211520. EPUB $5.50. URBAN FANTASY/ROMANCE
Former assassin Secret McQueen is staring down a new problem: an impending wedding date. Cold feet aren’t the only thing keeping Secret on her toes, though. In the latest installment of the series (following Deep Dark Secret), the half-vampire, half-werewolf is used as a pawn in the political games between her husband-to-be, Lucas, King of the East Coast wolf packs, and her imposing Uncle Callum, head of the Southern clans. In addition to sorting out her werewolf commitments, Secret is in the middle of mentoring her vampire warden through a Tribunal hearing, and someone has set their sights on Secret. Unfortunately, they want her dead.
Verdict While Dean (Secret Santa) continues to play with aspects of the urban fantasy genre in her latest novel, the many subplots and characters can be a touch overwhelming at the beginning. The romance is hot and heavy but doesn’t overpower the action-packed, werewolf-dominant story lines. Fans of the series will be happy to see many of the usual suspects, but newcomers may get lost and want to start with the first book (Something Secret This Way Comes).—Kellie A. Tilton, Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks Lib.

DeMille, Nelson. Death Benefits: A Short Story. Grand Central. Aug. 2012. 35p. eISBN 9781455526840. EPUB $1.99. THRILLER
Jack Henry used to matter. Topping the best sellers lists with his novels, he had more money than he could spend. But the last few novels have been disappointments in both quality and sales, and he fears his writing career is over. Facing bankruptcy, he’s desperate. Then he remembers: he and his literary agent, Stan Wykoff, took life insurance policies out on each other years ago on a whim. Deciding the money could get him back on track, Henry begins to plot the perfect murder.
Verdict DeMille (The Lion) has written the ideal appetizer before the main course of The Panther arrives in October. Elements from the John Corey series come into play, and the story itself is short but tight. Just when the story seems too predictable, DeMille throws in another twist. Highly recommended for ereaders everywhere.—Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.

Kay, Karen. Lone Arrow’s Price. Samhain. (Legendary Warriors, Bk. 3). 2012. c.363p. eISBN 9781609289782. EPUB $3.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Carolyn White is 11 years old when her entire family and members of their wagon train headed west are lost to an epidemic. Wandering alone in the wilderness, she is saved by a young Indian brave, who escorts her to Fort Smith. On the way, they escape a bear through a cave that contains gold. Carolyn takes one small cross, even though the brave tells her the treasure is cursed. Nearly nine years later, Carolyn, her foster family, and anyone who comes in contact with her seem to be accident prone. Carolyn becomes convinced she must return the cross to its cave and find the young brave, who has remained in her dreams. Carolyn’s adventure becomes entangled with that of the brave, Lone Arrow. Can two such different people really find happiness together?
Verdict Kay (Seneca Surrender) is part Choctaw, and her presentation of the West and Indian lifestyle and culture is entrancing. There is more romance that sex here, but the sex is memorable. Originally published in 2002 by Avon.—Susan Hayes, Chattahoochee Valley Libs., Columbus, GA

Miller, Kristin. Last Vamp Standing. Avon Impulse. (Vampires of Crimson Bay, Bk. 3). Sept. 2012. NAp. eISBN 9780062207845. EPUB $3.99. VAMPIRES, PARANORMAL ROMANCE
This third installment in the “Vampires of Crimson Bay” series (after Vamped Up and InterVamption) continues the story of the struggle between therians (shape-shifters) and vampires led by the evil half-vampire Savage. The plot centers on Dante, who is not a normal vampire. In truth, he doesn’t know what he is. He does know that he can’t get enough of Ariana, a vampire elder from the Black Moon haven. Dante has a larger problem, however; he feeds on sexual energy and violence. When he draws sexual energy from good vampires, they become bad. Will Dante be able to get the girl without turning her to the dark side? Will Savage destroy the vampire world? The escalating romantic tension is resolved in a believable way, and a series of discoveries disentangle Dante’s mystery.
Verdict The included glossary is quite helpful to understanding the complexity of this vampire universe. The high fantasy melodrama of good vs. evil satisfies at every turn, just like the fine aftertaste from a glass of AB. Highly recommended for fans of the genre and newbies alike.—Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos Lib., CA

York, Rebecca. Shattered Magic. Carina: Harlequin. (Chronicles of Arandal, Bk. 2). Aug. 2012. 78p. eISBN 9781426894237. EPUB $2.99. FANTASY ROMANCE
Fleeing her village to escape an evil wizard’s hand in marriage, Rowan soon finds herself in danger and unwittingly enlists the aid and affections of Grantland, heir to the throne of Arandal. Grantland, frustrated by his father’s harsh rule, seeks solitude in the wild but stumbles upon a beautiful and mysterious woman instead. Sparks fly, but can they trust each other when they’re both keeping secrets that could endanger their lives and the lives of their people? The plot progresses quickly, making this a good option for readers who want fast immersion into a fantasy romance world. Unfortunately, Rowan is a typical damsel in distress, with only token independent thoughts and skills, while Grantland, despite his honorable heritage, often thinks and acts brutishly. The bland, unimaginative dialog only magnifies these traits and at times makes the otherwise interesting plot tedious.
Verdict Brief, mild sexual content combined with weak characters and dialog makes this novella from the prolific York (Sudden Attraction) suggested only for those fantasy romance readers who are looking for quick, insubstantial escapism.—Jennifer Harris, Mercyhurst Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

Zannini, Maria. Mistress of the Stone. Samhain. Sept. 2012. 327p. eISBN 9781619211841. EPUB $5.50. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Luísa Tavares, pirate captain of the Coral, is on a quest to find her missing father and navigates through dangerous waters that lead to an island shrouded in mystery and cursed by magic. Hot on her tail is the murderous French pirate Saint-Sauveur, who seeks to kidnap her for his own nefarious purposes. When she runs into famed pirate hunter and werewolf Xander Daltry, they’ll have to work together to evade capture, find Luísa’s father, and lift a curse all while lust and what may be turning into love get in the way.
Verdict Werewolves and pirates might sound like an odd combination, but Zannini (Chain of Souls) makes it work. Occasionally the plot is slow and suffers from an overabundance of mythos. Still, paranormal romance lovers will appreciate this unique and entertaining read sprinkled with heated sexual content.—Jennifer Harris, Mercyhurst Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

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"