Fiction from Born, Dennison, Florand, Kilpack, and Sundstøl, plus Debuts | Xpress Reviews

Week ending April 10, 2015

Basham, Pepper. The Thornbearer. Vinspire. (Penned in Time, Bk. 1). May 2015. 356p. ISBN 9780990304272. pap. $12.99. HISTORICAL INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE
[DEBUT]Nurse Ashleigh Dougall is departing her home in North Carolina aboard the ill-fated Lusitania at the height of World War I, attempting to leave behind the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father and the rejection of her betrothed when he discovered the abuse. Unable to find it in herself to forgive either man for their betrayal, Ashleigh hopes that by offering her nursing skills on the battlefields of Europe she can escape her feelings of worthlessness. Sam Miller, Ashleigh’s childhood friend and fiancé to her sister Catherine, decides to accompany Ashleigh to England in order to watch over her. He also needs to see Catherine and determine exactly where their engagement is going after being apart for a year. Little does he know that by boarding the Lusitania he is embarking on his own voyage to finding true love and forgiveness. This is a story of many journeys—physical, emotional, and spiritual. Ashleigh and Sam must come to terms with events in the past and learn to be accepting of others and themselves. Themes of forgiveness, redemption, and grace are interwoven throughout their stories in Basham’s debut novel.
Verdict For readers who enjoy historical fiction, romance, and Christian fiction; a moving and enjoyable read.—Lisa M. Jordan, Johnson Cty. Lib., Overland Park, KS

Born, James O. Scent of Murder. Forge. Apr. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780765378477. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466861626. MYS
Former detective Tim Hallett is enjoying his new assignment working with Rocky, his canine partner. The prestige may not be quite the same, but the bond with the Belgian Malinois enjoyed by both Tim and his son makes up for Tim’s demotion. But when the K-9 pair are pulled into the search for a kidnapped girl, the trail soon leads to a murder investigation that might be tied to the case that got Hallett removed as a detective. Born (Border War; Escape Clause) narrates his story from the points of view of several characters, including Rocky. The scenes told in Rocky’s voice are slightly corny, but Born handles them about as well as could be expected. The plot moves quickly, interspersing action with the investigation and Tim’s personal life. Some of the secondary characters don’t have much depth and the identity of the murderer isn’t tough to guess.
Verdict Despite a few minor flaws, this is an easy and enjoyable mystery that should appeal especially to fans of canine crime fiction like Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie series.—Craig L. Shufelt, Fort Erie P.L., Ont.

Christopherson, Kaaren. Decorum. Kensington. Apr. 2015. 420p. ISBN 9781617735219. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781617735226. F
[DEBUT]Still traumatized by her parents’ deaths, beautiful heiress Francesca Lund must figure out how to assert her ideas within the confines of 1890s New York high society. Connor O’Casey, an Irish immigrant who made his fortune in Colorado mines, hopes to finance a luxury hotel and gain acceptance into that world. Romance readers will quickly surmise that their initial doubts about each other, chance encounters, and verbal repartee signal an inevitable conclusion: marriage. Major impediments? Francesca’s engagement to fortune hunter Edmund Tracey and Connor’s mistress Blanche Alvarado, whose checkered past includes marriage to a South American gambler. Blanche’s history also features an affair with Edmund, and their reunion thickens a number of subplots. Reading group questions that focus on character development and social themes assume those topics receive more attention than Christopherson provides in her debut novel.
Verdict With publisher’s plans for major publicity campaigns and a push to book clubs, public libraries should plan for requests from patrons and purchase accordingly.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato

Dennison, Hannah. Deadly Desire at Honeychurch Hall. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. May 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781250007803. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466873971. MYS
This follow-up to Murder at Honeychurch Hall is a lighthearted English cozy with a cast of eccentric characters. Londoner Kat Stanford, an antiques appraiser and former TV host, is looking after her mother, Iris, in a rundown carriage house on an estate in Devon. Kat and Iris become involved in a protest to stop a high-speed train line from destroying the area’s historic homes and environment. A thieving dog, a runaway schoolboy, a dowager countess who rides sidesaddle, and a former boyfriend all complicate Kat’s life. When there is a suspicious death and then a murder, Kat knows she must help the local police constable identify the killer before there is another victim. And if she can keep a tabloid journalist from discovering her mother is really the erotic romance writer Krystalle Storm, that would be a plus.
Verdict The quirky villagers of Little Dipperton make this series fun to read. It will be interesting to see what is in store for Kat next now that she has decided to become a local resident. Fans of Carolyn G. Hart, Joan Hess, Rhys Bowen, and M.C. Beaton will enjoy this delightful mystery.—Jean King, West Hempstead P.L., NY

Florand, Laura. All for You. Laura Florand. (Paris Hearts, Bk. 1). May 2015. 205p. ISBN 9781943168019. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781943168002. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
AllForYou041015Devastated and a little bit furious when the major crush of her teenage life leaves without a word to join the Foreign Legion, Célie dries her tears, writes it off to experience, and heads for Paris in pursuit of her culinary dream. Five years later, she is one of the country’s premier chocolatiers, and life is surprisingly sweet. Then Joss Castel, the errant legionnaire—lethal and confident—walks back into Célie’s life and proceeds to turn it upside down. The tension crackles between them, sending sparks far and wide, as Célie and Joss spar their way to eventual understanding with wit, humor, and a welcome helping of chocolates so beautifully described that you can taste them melting on your tongue.
Verdict A hero who needed to prove himself worthy and an independent heroine who thought he was perfect from the start struggle to bridge the huge perception and communication gaps that lie between them and reconcile their true feelings. This rich, chocolate-laced romance has links to Florand’s (Once upon a Rose) earlier books and is the first in a trilogy about three women making their way in the male-dominated world of Parisian cuisine. Delicious and romantic.—Kristin Ramsdell, emerita, California State Univ.–East Bay Lib.

Kilpack, Josi S. A Heart Revealed. Shadow Mountain. (Proper Romance, Bk. 5). Apr. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9781609079901. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781629732657. REGENCY ROMANCE
Amber Sterlington, eldest daughter of Viscount and Lady Marchent, is on her first London season, is already the talk of the ton, and has no lack of wealthy and titled suitors among whom to choose. Thomas Richards, third son of the late Lord Fielding, however, isn’t one of them. Regrettably, Thomas is as taken with Miss Sterlington as is everyone else. Yet after she snubs him at Almack’s, he promises to rid himself of such interests. Ever the self-absorbed deb, Amber is unprepared when a physical ailment takes hold of her. The condition only worsens, and she is ostensibly banished to a small cottage on a property her parents own in Yorkshire. She and her maid Suzanne grudgingly learn to depend on each other as Amber slowly acknowledges that her family is glad to be rid of her.
Verdict Kilpack’s latest (Daisy; Shannon’s Hope) presents a most unusual premise and a cast of characters who are almost totally unsympathetic, save for the maid and our hero. As well, it is often the women’s relationship and their mutual reliance that is at the heart of the novel. Amber eventually grows to be a thoughtful and compassionate young woman, but not without a little help from Thomas. Romance fans won’t be able to put down this singular and unexpected story.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Sundstøl, Vidar. The Ravens. Univ. of Minnesota. (Minnesota Trilogy). Apr. 2015. 272p. tr. from Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally. ISBN 9780816689446. $24.95. MYS
ravens041015After U.S. Forest Service officer and amateur local historian Lance Hansen nearly shoots his brother, Andy, on a hunting trip, he concocts an elaborate scheme to convince his family that he has fled to Norway. Months later, when Lance is supposed to be in Norway, he runs into his teenage niece, Chrissy, at a dive bar during the middle of a school day. Lance and Chrissy both agree to keep each other’s secret from Andy and his wife, Tammy. Meanwhile, Lance uncovers secrets from his family’s past—including their heritage and his brother’s sexual orientation—while conducting an unsanctioned investigation into the death of a Norwegian tourist. As Lance uncovers more clues about the crime, he must tread carefully with his relatives so he can uncover the identity of the killer.
Verdict Sundstøl’s outstanding final entry in his acclaimed trilogy (after The Land of Dreams and Only the Dead) concludes the series on a satisfying note, with a succinct plot and well-developed characters. Fans of mysteries with a Minnesota setting will enjoy reading this chilling psychological thriller. Nunnally’s translation is excellent and accessible to an American audience.—Russell Michalak, Goldey-Beacom Coll. Lib., Wilmington, DE