E-Originals from Austin, Burke & Jensen, Gray, plus Two Debuts | Xpress Reviews

Week ending March 11, 2016

starred review starAustin, Winter. Born To Die. Crimson Romance: F+W Media. (McIntire County, Bk. 2). Mar. 2016. NAp. ebk. ISBN 9781440597220. $4.99. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Deputy Cassy Rivers is back on the job after being kidnapped by a madman who drugged her and tried to make her kill her sister (Atonement). Cassy feels as if she has a handle on what happened to her and is able to do her job; however, just thinking about going into the timber of rural McIntire County, IA, gives her cold sweats. When she realizes that a fellow officer may be in danger, Cassy swallows her fear, only to find her friend beaten to death. As Cassy begins an investigation into a string of seemingly random convenience store robberies that has now become a murder probe, the FBI brings more trouble to her door in the form of FBI agent Boyce Hunt. Boyce is in town to check into what was thought to be an unrelated bank robbery. He has twice in the past left Cassy with a broken heart, and she’s not about to let it happen a third time. Boyce has a history that could bring harm to anyone he cares about, but he refuses to open up to Cassy. Will he be able to leave her again, even for her own protection? Can they get together and stay together despite the misunderstandings and hurt feelings of the past?
Verdict Lots of tension and intrigue will keep readers hanging on until the very satisfying end. An excellent second offering in the series.—Lisa Jordan, Johnson Cty. Lib., Overland Park, KS

Burke, Jenn & Kelly Jensen. Phase Shift. Carina: Harlequin. (Chaos Station, Bk. 5). May 2016. 216p. ebk. ISBN 9781459290440. $3.49. SF ROMANCE, LGBT
The adventures of the crew of the Chaos continue after Inversion Point with Zander ready to ask his lover Felix to marry him. But before he can pop the question, a cyberattack on the Chaos reveals someone is trying to resurrect the deadly project that turned Zander into a supersoldier. When Zander and Felix chase across the quadrant after the stolen data, they confront an enemy from the past and a colony of unstable supersoldiers. They run for their lives, but only the help of their friends from the Chaos and the intervention of the seemingly omnipotent Guardians may prevent the galaxy from descending into war again and offer them a future.
Verdict Zander and Felix are the center of the ensemble cast tramping across the galaxy in their latest action-filled adventure. The characterizations continue to explore the many faceted similarities and differences in human and alien beings. Libraries owning the series (e.g., Lonely Shore; Skip Trace) need to purchase this title to meet demand, but it’s not a jumping off point for new readers.—Melanie C. Duncan, Shurling Lib., Macon, GA

Doyle, Jen. Calling It. Carina: Harlequin. Apr. 2016. 281p. ebk. ISBN 9781459294325. $3.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE/SPORTS
[DEBUT] After he injures his leg in a car crash and discovers that his fiancée is cheating on him, Chicago baseball star Nate Hawkins returns to his hometown of Inspiration, IA, where he and his high school buddies were known as the “Dream.” There he meets Dorie Donelli, a recent transplant from Boston who was hired as the new director of the beloved library, which was ravished by a storm. Dorie comes from a big family of overprotective brothers and knows a thing or two about baseball. It seems that Nate has finally met his match, but Dorie believes their relationship is strictly physical. Nate had been her fantasy crush since she was 13, and now as an adult, Dorie believes that the real Nate is just an extension of her imagination. She has given their relationship a “due date” of when he reports to training camp. But Nate is as driven to get his career back on track as he is to prove to Dorie that he is in it for the long haul and that he is her “Dream.”
Verdict With baseball home openers just around the corner, readers will want to turn to the fun and spunky Midwest locale of Doyle’s debut. Mild love scenes will charm readers not looking for anything too heavy under the sheets or in the plot.—Kara Kohn, Plainfield P.L, IL

Gray, Shana. After the Hurt. Loveswept: Random. Apr. 2016. 211p. ebk. ISBN 9781101965153. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY EROTIC ROMANCE
Blaming herself for her mother’s sudden death, Pepper Chapman fled her home in Toronto for the quiet shores of Bali. Volunteering at a hospice facility—comforting people at the end of their lives—has altered her perspective on life and love. After six months, finally realizing all that she had left behind, Pepper returns to Canada to make amends, unaware of what may have changed since she left. Francis “Tank” Sherman, Pepper’s former longtime boyfriend and a retired MMA (mixed martial arts) champ, has mixed emotions about seeing her again. He was devastated when she left without warning, and he swore he was done with her for good. When a mysterious stalker threatens their safety, will Tank’s desire to protect Pepper force him to send her away again?
Verdict Gray’s (“Cowboy Style” series) latest novel is a fairly predictable read. The basic plot takes a backseat to the teasing, sexual tension. Readers who enjoy contemporary romances more for slow-burn, erotic love scenes than complex story lines will enjoy this fiery tale of lovers reunited.—Vicky Coffin, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic

starred review starMichaels, Charis. The Earl Next Door. Avon Impulse. (Bachelor Lords of London, Bk. 1). Mar. 2016. 416p. ebk. ISBN 9780062412928. $1.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
earlnextdoor031116[DEBUT] Piety Grey is a long way from her New York home when she takes ownership of a London townhouse in much need of repair. To avoid the attempts by her calculating mother to betroth her to any of her five detestable stepbrothers in order to control her rather healthy inheritance, Piety must spend that money. What better way than on a costly and time-consuming renovation? Arriving with her African companion Tiny Baker brings Piety to the attention of the Marchioness Frinfrock, whose mission is to maintain the stability of Henrietta Place. Piety also runs into, literally, her next-door neighbor Trevor Rheese, the newly minted Earl of Falcondale. It seems a passageway connects Piety’s second floor to Trevor’s music room. A single woman, an unattached male; oh, this will never do. Yet as an architect, can Trevor avoid helping her to restore her home? Trevor’s own past is less than pristine, having worked in Greece for an unscrupulous landlord. He only wants to be rid of it all—the past, his obligations, his new neighbor—and sail away. Not going to happen!
Verdict This debut and series opener is all that romance fans could hope for: a sulky hero, a determined can’t-get-me-down heroine, and multiple obstacles to a loving relationship. Funny and heartfelt, this book will entice readers to move in to the neighborhood.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal