Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, May 10, 2013

Week ending May 10, 2013

Drake, Joycelynn. Dead Man’s Deal. Harper Voyager. (Asylum Tales). May 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780062117885. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062117892. FANTASY
Having first met Gage, warlock and tattoo artist, in Drake’s “Asylum Tales” series launch Angel’s Ink, we find our hero still battling the warlock powers-that-be whose base camp is located in the Ivory Towers. This time, however, the witches and warlocks of the world are fighting back, hunting for anyone with information on the Towers’ secret location. As a former Tower occupant who left in disgrace, Gage has become a person of interest in this hunt. On top of being hunted by his fellows, Gage is still trying to protect his girlfriend Trixie from her elfin kind and pull his friend Bronx out from under the control of a dark elf mobster. Along the way, meetings with Mother Nature, hobgoblins, and Sofie, a witch-turned-cat, keep the story moving between action scenes.
Verdict Drake falters a little on this sophomore outing. Gage and Trixie behave like horny teenagers, the language is crass at times, and the plot is predictable. Though Drake falls short of comparisons to Jim Butcher and Kim Harrison this time around, devout urban fantasy readers would probably enjoy.—Brooke Bolton, North Manchester P.L., IN

Foster, Lori. Bare It All. HQN: Harlequin. (Love Undercover, Bk. 2). May 2013. 480p. ISBN 9780373777617. pap. $7.99. ROMANTIC
All Alice Appleton wants is to close herself off from the world. Her own experience as a victim in a human trafficking case makes her live with a touch of fear yet a need for revenge. Det. Reese “Bare It All” Bareden is a big, handsome distraction who lives in the apartment next door. Alice comes out of her protective shell to incorporate Reese’s police expertise with her insider knowledge as she continues to rescue young girls who are often stolen from the streets. Reese and Alice display a volatile mixture of professional shrewdness, personal vulnerability, and spontaneous lovemaking, which keeps the pages turning.
Verdict Bare It All is the second book is the “Love Undercover” series, following Run the Risk. Unfortunately, the choppy dialog distracts from plot development. Readers may also tire of Reese’s and Alice’s introspective and wandering thoughts about their budding relationship. Foster is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author and the recipient of the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Fantasy and Contemporary Romance. This title is an optional purchase.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

Kemp, Jonathan. London Triptych. Arsenal Pulp. May 2013. 269p. ISBN 9781551525020. pap. $16.95. F
Desire will out. No matter the risks of incarceration, opprobrium, pain, or even loss of self, the men in Kemp’s debut novel are ruled by their physical attraction to other men. Kemp interweaves the stories of three gay Londoners across a century: Jack Rose, a carefree rent boy of the 1890s and a favorite of Oscar Wilde; Colin Read, a mid-20th-century painter tortured by his gayness and internalized homophobia; and David, a 1990s party boy–turned–prostitute who embraces sexual freedom but not much else in his life. While there are some slight literal connections among the three protagonists, the greater links are thematic: what it means to love men in a world that disapproves; how sex, or denial of sex, defines, or traps people; and how intimacy and love differ from sex. Throughout, the city of London is a constant presence, alluring, seducing, and comforting all three men.
Verdict Light on plot but elegantly written, this novel, first published in the UK in 2010 and winner of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, is for readers who appreciate period detail and historical context about the gay male experience.—Devon Thomas, Chelsea, MI

Venditozzi, Zöe. Anywhere’s Better Than Here. Sandstone, dist. by Dufour. Jun. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781908737069. pap. $17.95. F
Twenty-four- year-old Laurie, fed up with her lazy live-in boyfriend and her job, finds herself drawn to Gerry, a DJ who won’t open up to her about his past. After a week of dating Gerry and trying to get up the nerve to break it off with her boyfriend, Laurie is unexpectedly thrown together with both men when a teenaged boy appears, needing help. At this point, readers expecting a confrontation to ensue will be unsatisfied. The meandering plot lacks focus, switching tracks from Laurie’s problems to Gerry’s in order to air Gerry’s drama; Laurie is stuck going nowhere by the end of the book, literally and figuratively. First-time British novelist Venditozzi has some good moments when humorously depicting Laurie’s frustrations, but she fails to create believable tension among the main protagonists, and, unfortunately, none of the secondary characters makes an impression.
Verdict Because Laurie ultimately never finds direction in her life and her character doesn’t grow enough to satisfy the reader, this disappointing novel lacks the components for a chick lit or coming-of-age tale and does not have a clear audience.—Sonia Reppe, Stickney–Forest View P.L., IL

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"


  1. zoe venditozzi says:

    Dear Reviewer,
    Thanks for taking the time to review my novel. I just wanted to say one thing though which is that the book conforms to the genre of literary fiction. It isn’t meant to be chick lit or coming-of-age – hence the character driven focus of the book. As such, the audience is for readers of literary fiction who wouldn’t expect a neat ending, as such.