Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, March 7, 2014

Week ending March 7, 2014

Ashford, Jane. The Bride Insists. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Mar. 2014. 355p. ISBN 9781402285691. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402285707. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
After six years of working as a governess following the deaths of her brother and then her parents, Clare Greenough is overwhelmed at the inheritance from a great-uncle. She would no longer be under the thumb of an employer, and if she marries, as the bequest demands, she would no longer have to answer to her miserable cousin Simon. Yet marrying would put Clare instead under the thumb of her husband. What she needs is a mate who is in want of funds and in return will sign over to her the financial reins. James Boleigh, Baron Trehearth, is at the end of his rope as to how to save his estate from creditors and ruin. When his adviser suggests that he marry Clare, Jamie signs her dratted documents, but he expects that Clare eventually will relinquish the running of the finances to him. Clare and her newly hired “friend” Selina Newton arrive at Trehearth after the wedding and are confronted by a huge dog and Jamie’s ten-year-old twin sisters, whom Jamie “conveniently” forgot to mention. What happens when a marriage of convenience becomes inconvenient?
Verdict Ashford (Once Again a Bride) establishes a union made for all the wrong reasons until trust and love can set things to rights. Alternating perspectives from paragraph to paragraph keeps the characters’ responses immediate, while highlighting Jamie’s growing dependence on drink makes the story topical as well as heartbreaking. And who van resist those hoydenish twins? For all historical romance fans.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Barnhill, Anne Clinard. Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780312662127. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466840744. F
Barnhill’s second novel once again focuses on the Tudor dynasty. Unfortunately, it fails to live up to the brilliance displayed in At the Mercy of the Queen. A ward of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Shelton struggles to choose her own husband and chart her own course despite being subject to the queen’s decisions. Wanting nothing more than a quiet, simple life filled with love, she chooses to defy her adored Elizabeth to marry the man she desires, an act that could have dangerous consequences.
Verdict Once again, the author draws on her own family history to write about lesser-known figures at the Tudor court. Unfortunately, the plot takes too long to get going and, once under way, falls short of enthralling. Lovers of historical fiction will be underwhelmed. [Library marketing; for libraries that prefer hardcover editions, the publisher is issuing a limited-run two-volume hardcover version, ISBN 9781250043795.—Ed.]—Audrey Jones, Washington, DC

Oswald, James. Natural Causes: A Detective Inspector McLean Novel. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780544319486. pap. $13.95; ebk. ISBN 9780544317871. MYS
Newly promoted DI Tony McLean’s professional curiosity is piqued by the discovery of a body lying hidden for 60 years, but his priority is supposed to be solving a series of shocking murder/suicides, which would be easier if one of his colleagues wasn’t so difficult to work with. McLean is also distracted by drama in his personal life. His beloved grandmother, who raised him after the death of his parents, is in a coma after a massive stroke and isn’t expected to recover. How he copes with these events makes for a compelling story.
Verdict First self-published in 2012 before being picked up by Penguin UK for best-selling success in Britain, this very promising start to a series set in present-day Edinburgh features just a touch of the supernatural. Readers who like character-driven murder mysteries such as those by John Connolly or Val McDermid will enjoy McLean’s debut outing and clamor for more. [The second book in this series, The Book of Souls, will be released in July; the third title, Hangman’s Song, will be published in January 2015.—Ed.]—Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.

Quartey, Kwei. Murder at Cape Three Points. Soho Crime. Mar. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781616953898. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616953904. MYS
murderatcape030714This third mystery featuring Ghanaian police detective Darko Dawson (after Children of the Street) opens with a canoe carrying two murdered bodies drifting up to one of the new oil rigs off the southwestern coast of Ghana. Dawson is sent from the capital of Accra to investigate the deaths of this prominent couple: the husband worked for the oil company and the wife was a local politician. Dawson quickly discovers two probable motives: one involving long-held family secrets and resentments and the other of possible government corruption. With plenty of help from his able assistant Chikata (who also happens to be his boss’s nephew), Dawson begins to unravel both the private and public mysteries surrounding this shocking crime. The trail moves from the boardrooms of multinational corporations to small fishing villages, from beleaguered environmental activists to traditional juju practitioners.
Verdict Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series will enjoy the African setting and the large cast of interesting characters, while the twists and turns of Quartey’s plotting will satisfy any choosy mystery fan.—Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green

Teulé, Jean. The Hurlyburly’s Husband. Gallic. Mar. 2014. 340p. tr. from French by Alison Anderson. ISBN 9781906040659. pap. $15.95. F
In the narcissistic court of the Sun King, reputation is prized to such an extent that duels, however illegal, are fought over the merest insult, and those even slightly connected with the perpetrators wind up in court, which is where Françoise de Rochechouart de Mortemart encounters Louis-Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin, Marquis de Montespan. He has lost a brother and she a fiancé, so marriage between the two seems a logical solution. Poor, but madly in love, the couple pursue a destructively sybaritic life until the witty, beautiful marquise attracts the eye of Louis XIV. Most husbands would delight in having a wife who wins princely favors for them, but simple, honorable Louis-Henri, who would rather have his wife back than all the riches in France, sets himself the task of shaming the Sun King himself for his treachery. No matter how high the marquise rises, or falls, no matter the dreadful whispers surrounding her name, no matter how desperate or destitute his condition, Louis-Henri remains stubbornly firm in his love, belief in his wife, and determination to best Louis.
Verdict Although this novel from the author of The Suicide Shop was a French best seller and won a literary prize, it will appeal only to the most devoted Francophile or historical fiction buff. While the historical detail is interesting and enlightening, it can overwhelm the reader and intrude on the story.—Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA