Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | First Look at New Books, December 7, 2012

Week ending December 7, 2012

Barnes, Sophie & others. Five Golden Rings: A Christmas Collection. Avon Impulse. Dec. 2012. 420p. eISBN 9780062264992. EPUB $3.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Love makes the Christmas season bright for five couples in this collection of excellent short stories from authors Barnes, Karen Erickson, Rena Gregory, Sandra Jones, and Vivienne Lorret. The Earl of Redfirn and Lady Leonora Compton have entered the matchmaking game for different reasons. When their charges form an attachment, are the matchmakers next? The new Duke of Ashton, wounded from his rejected suit by the lovely Eleanor Fitzsimmons, invites his impoverished lady-love and her family to celebrate the yuletide season at his country estate. Nestled in the country with family and friends, Ashton sets out to convince Eleanor of his unwavering affections once and for all. Newspaperman Phin Baldwin views the town’s myth of the wish-granting Christmas statues as complete nonsense. Seeing Phin’s disregard for these symbols of hope, Ginny Overton begins a mission of sharing the statues with the community, regardless of what Phin feels. What they discover is how easily wishes become reality when the thing they’re wishing for is love. Lady Nia de Brionne stands alone in the shadow of her sister Serena’s beauty. As her father hosts a tournament to seek suitors for his daughters, Nia crosses paths with Sir Caerwyn, her childhood sweetheart. Freshly returned from the Crusades and mourning the death of his father, Caerwyn isn’t ready to marry, nor can he forgive Nia for how they parted. But does time and forgiveness heal all wounds? Unmarried by choice, Penelope Rutledge has been friends with Ethan Weatherstone for years. Determined to shake off the boring habits of her life, Penelope plans to leave England for the diversions of the Continent alone and unchaperoned. As Ethan works to change her mind, can he ignore the feelings in his heart?
Verdict This fantastic collection of short pieces will appeal to a wide readership. Providing rich storytelling and well-written characters, each author proves that the short story collection can be a delightful holiday treat.—Debra M. Dudek, Fountaindale P.L. Dist., Bolingbrook, IL

Fraser, Susanna. An Infamous Marriage. Carina: Harlequin. 2012. c.218p. eISBN 9781426894596. EPUB $5.99. REGENCY ROMANCE
British soldier Jack Armstrong fulfills a deathbed promise and marries his dead friend’s widow. Immediately, he travels to Canada to fight in the War of 1812 and leaves the marriage unconsummated, much to his bride’s and his relief. Far from home, only just married, Jack lives like he is an unmarried man. Now he is returning home to do his duty, make the best of it, and try to create a life with his wife, Elizabeth. Little does he know the meek, shy creature he left behind to run his farm has become a confident and competent woman who knows all about his philandering from haughty Lady Dryden. Elizabeth knows theirs is not a love match, but she expects to be treated with respect. Mortified, Elizabeth is determined to punish Jack and make him understand the depth of her hurt. But will true love, and great sex, get in the way?
Verdict Fraser serves up a saucy, spicy romance with a spunky hero and heroine set in an interesting time period.—Judy Murray, Monroe Cty. Lib. Syst., MI

Panzera, Darlene. Bet You’ll Marry Me. Avon Impulse. Dec. 2012. 167p. eISBN 9780062203694. EPUB $2.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Jenny O’Brien left veterinary school when money got tight for her widowed father, a ranch owner in Pine, WA, a small town near the Cascade Mountains. To complicate matters, on her wedding day, Jenny finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. Jenny is now distrustful of men and intolerant of her town’s small-time gambling activity at the Bets and Burgers Café, especially since the current $10,000 wager is on which local man will successfully lead Jenny down the church aisle. Nick Chandler, a New York City businessman with a ranching background, comes to Pine to woo Jenny in hopes of acquiring her valuable land to use as a resort. Jenny fights to keep up her front as a woman who doesn’t need a man.
Verdict Originally published as The Bet, a novella included in Debbie Macomber’s Family Affairs (2012), this debut, full-length romance now offers readers an appealing high drama involving equestrianism, misgivings, arson, foreclosure, and a sexy stranger, which set the pace for this sweet story.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

Porter, Katie. Lead and Follow. Samhain. (Club Devant, Bk. 1). Jan. 2013. c.262p. eISBN 9781619212510. EPUB $5.50. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Lizzie has returned to New York after a lengthy recovery from a torn ACL. She is ready to storm back onto the Latin ballroom dance circuit and claim her fourth championship, proving her injury is no longer an issue. Her longtime partner, Dima, has set his sights on a different future in the six months she has been gone. Working in a cabaret club has provided Dima with a flexibility he has never had—and he wants more. It’s not just their working relationship that appears to have changed, as a fling with a bartender sets into motion an uncertain future for the once rock-solid partnership.
Verdict Porter (“Vegas Top Guns” series) uses Lead and Follow to kick off her new series. While the book is certainly packed with steamy and graphic sex scenes—including a handful of threesomes—the plot never quite finds solid footing to help ground the characters in the conflict. These people contradict each other and themselves regularly, making the communication issues between Lizzie and Dima understandable but also problematic for the reader. In addition, the inclusion of Paul the bartender is one note, making his impact on the developments between our lovers seem inflated. While the romance is still hot, the muddled conflict works against the cohesion of the book.—Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks Lib.


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"