Fiction from Berry, Fuller, Hirshberg, Jordan, & Fern Michaels | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 2, 2014

Berry, Steve. The Lincoln Myth. Ballantine. May 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780345526571. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780345526595. F
lincolnmyth050214Having previously plundered the Knights Templar (The Templar Legacy), the Russian Revolution (The Romanov Prophecy), and the Tudor dynasty (The King’s Deception) for plotlines, Berry turns his eye to the American Civil War in this latest historical conspiracy thriller featuring retired superagent Cotton Malone. Malone leaves his bookstore day job to rescue a missing agent and finds himself the target of a crazed church elder bent on bringing hidden Civil War documents to light. A long ago secret agreement between Brigham Young and Abraham Lincoln threatens the solvency of the Constitution, and once again Cotton is the only man standing between the United States and disaster. Only this time, his girlfriend is making a play for the enemy.
Verdict Cotton Malone may be aging, but his bravado and banter are still kicking, as is his utter bewilderment with women. While he always gets his guy, his difficulty in keeping the girl adds interest to this latest thriller. The intricate historical “what ifs?” will astonish loyal readers and series newcomers. [See Prepub Alert, 11/10/13; library marketing.]—Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib.

Fuller, David. Sundance. Riverhead. Jun. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781594632457. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698140257. F
Whatever happened to Harry Longbaugh, the Sundance Kid? Said to have been killed in a shootout in Bolivia, he has actually been locked up in a Wyoming prison under a different name for 12 years. When he is released in 1913, he makes his way to New York City in search of his wife, Etta Place, who seems to have disappeared. Feeling displaced in time by the rapid modernization of big city life, Harry is challenged at every turn. His search for Etta will take him to Sicilian mobsters’ hideouts, the opium dens of Chinatown, anarchists’ gatherings, settlement houses, and underground tunnels. Clues to Etta’s whereabouts are far and few between.
Verdict Suspense, romance, history, and Western lore are all spun together between the covers of Fuller’s (Sweetsmoke) sophomore effort. This novel is at times a bit far-fetched, but since little is known about the real Etta Place, all sorts of backstories can be—and have been—invented. Those who got to know Etta Place in Gerald Kolpan’s novel, Etta, may enjoy the different viewpoint presented here.—Keddy Ann Outlaw, Houston

Hirshberg, Glen. Motherless Child. Tor. May 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780765337450. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466834415. HORROR
When vampire musician the Whistler first sees Natalie through the window of a Waffle House in North Carolina, he knows he has to have her. She’s his Destiny. So he turns Natalie and her best friend Sophie and leaves them to finish their transformation on their own. Then, he will claim Natalie, and they can begin their eternal lives together. There’s just one problem—Mother, the woman who turned him and who has been his companion for endless years, isn’t ready for their relationship to end. When Natalie realizes what she and Sophie are becoming, she leaves her infant son (and forces Sophie to do the same) in the care of her mother and orders her to take the babies and run—and never let Natalie find her. What follows is a battle of wills that culminates in a fight to the death among all the major players. Readers will be surprised to see who is left standing at the end.
If there’s one thing the world doesn’t need, it’s another vampire novel, and something it needs even less is another vampire love story. Thankfully, Shirley Jackson Award winner Hirshberg (The Snowman’s Children) didn’t write a vampire novel, but he did write a love story that is about strength, courage, love, and the overwhelming force and power of motherhood. Readers looking for a Twilight knockoff will be disappointed. The rest will be pleasantly surprised and quite possibly moved by this artfully written tale.—Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola

Jordan, Sophie. Tease. Morrow. (Ivy Chronicles, Bk. 2). May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062279897. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062279903. F
In her second “Ivy Chronicles” novel, Jordan introduces Emerson and Shaw. Emerson is a friend of Piper (heroine of Foreplay) and is determined to retain control of her emotional life while she’s in college. She encourages everyone to think that she’s a love ’em and leave ’em girl and is up for anything—except commitment. She is forced to accept help from Shaw when her friends abandon her in a biker bar and she has no way to get back to her dorm. Shaw is not a college student. He’s recently out of the military and working as a mechanic. He pretty quickly sees that Emerson has control issues, but he’s drawn to her nevertheless. And Emerson is doing everything in her power to resist her own attraction to a guy who definitely won’t be dropped.
Verdict This new adult novel has some now familiar tropes of the genre but is well paced and well written. Fans of Jamie McGuire and Cora Carmack will enjoy Jordan’s series.—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI

Kriss, Gary. The Zodiac Deception. Forge: Tor. May 2014. 496p. ISBN 9780765327598. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429949637. F
A supremely talented con man, who is living as Princeton psychology professor Dr. David Walker, is recruited by Gen. William Donovan (founder of the OSS, predecessor of the CIA) for an ultrasecret mission, codenamed Zodiac, in the summer of 1942. Assuming the identity of newly deceased German astrologer Peter Kepler, Walker is tasked with convincing Heinrich Himmler, a fan of the occult and head of the SS, to kill Adolph Hitler; it’s feared that assassination by his enemies would make Hitler a martyr. Working with famed film director and Hitler favorite Maxine Elise, “Hitler’s priest” Father Fritz Moeller, and other unlikely resistance members, Walker relies on his keen senses, photographic memory, and personal training by the likes of Harry Houdini, plus occasional help from others at critical junctures.
Verdict Based on exhaustive research, this debut novel by an award-winning New York Times reporter mixes fact and fiction in detailing Walker’s preparations for his elaborate con, building suspense toward an explosive conclusion. But the hasty denouement of this otherwise intriguing big book is a letdown that could leave readers feeling that they have simply been set up for its promised sequel, which still may be eagerly anticipated.—Michele Leber, Arlington, VA

Michaels, AJ. Pride and Modern Prejudice. Dreamspinner. Jun. 2014. 246p. ISBN 9781627987097. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781627987103. $6.99. LGBT ROMANCE
Debut novelist Michaels riffs heavily on Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, gender-swapping some characters like the tart-tongued Elizabeth Bennet into Liam Bennet, a college freshman from a family of four brothers, an unemployed father, and a loving but greedy mother. When his older brother Jamie interns at Nerve, a local computer start-up in their hometown in Oakham, PA, and dates co-owner Charlie Bingley, Liam meets William Darcy, the half-British other co-owner, and first impressions are not favorable when he overhears Darcy making a rude comment about Jamie. Liam’s reactions to Darcy don’t improve when he meets George Wickham, a down-on-his-luck musician with a grudge against Darcy, and later finds out that Darcy is responsible for the breakup of Jamie and Charlie’s relationship. It is only after a chance meeting in London while Liam is visiting his best friend Charlotte Lucas that Liam and Darcy begin to hash out their misunderstandings and explore a mutual attraction.
Verdict Fans of Pride and Prejudice will recognize many plot points and character and place names, with the main twists being the change in gender of some of the characters and the same-sex relationship between Liam and Darcy. Michaels offers a relatively clean read in the vein of the classic, although Liam and Charlotte tend to use stronger language than the originals. Still, the relationships are fairly innocent and sweet, as if Austen’s characters were transplanted to the 21st century. Libraries looking for an LGBT title with crossover appeal for older teens and readers of new adult titles should consider for purchase.—Melanie C. Duncan, Shurling Lib., Macon, GA

Michaels, Fern. A Family Affair. Kensington. May 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780758284945. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781617732966. F
When Trisha Holiday, a dancer at a Las Vegas casino, collapses in the parking lot after work, Prince Malik Mohammed’s staff nurse her through the flu. The handsome student from Dubai has fallen for the dancer but never dreams he can marry for love since his father has picked out a bride for him. All this changes when his father dies and Malik becomes the new sheik; he is now able to marry the woman he wants: Trish. The couple live a charmed life for the next four years, but Trish feel sorry for her sister, dumped for a trophy wife, and Malik has a secret that threatens to change everything about their life in Dubai. Trish’s failure to have a child could also jeopardize her royal life, but she’s convinced she can still help her sister. Michaels (author of the “Sisterhood” series) turns Trish’s fairy tale into a story about family.
Verdict This simplistic romance contains characters whose actions seem juvenile and out of an earlier time period (the adult heroine giggles and smokes when under duress; the hero, a man with a PhD, uses phrases such as, “Oh golly, Miss Molly”). Will appeal only to Michaels’s faithful fans or teenagers reading their first romance.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN