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The Unexpected Waltz

Kim Wright. S&S/Gallery, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5422-2

Wealthy widow Kelly is ready for a change, after 20 years of “pretending to be a whole lot more conservative and stupider and nicer than I really am.” When she mistakenly wanders into the Canterbury Ballroom, the 52-year-old Charlotte, N.C., belle discovers her new passion: dancing. While frequenting the ballroom, she bonds with Russian émigré dance teacher Nik and cancer-stricken, hospice-bound Carolina. Kelly’s newfound interest also allows her to come to terms with a long-ago affair, precipitated by her distant relationship with her late husband. For in dance, and in life, Kelly learns, “you have to lose your balance in order to find it.” Wright (Love in Mid Air) builds this dance drama—and Kelly’s painful reinvention—with a cast of deftly drawn secondary characters: quirky best friend Elyse and her headstrong daughter Tory, pampered diva Pamela, feared studio owner Anatoly. She then expertly guides us through a moving, layered, and lyrical exploration of transformation. (June)

Reviewed on 04/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?

Dave Eggers. Knopf/McSweeney's, $25.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-101-87419-6

Composed entirely of dialog, the latest from Eggers (The Circle) is more tedious deposition than gripping drama. The novel is set on an abandoned military base along the Pacific coast where a troubled man, Thomas, is interrogating a diverse group of chained captives. Frustrated by his lack of purpose and in search of answers about injustices large and small, Thomas kidnaps Kev, a driven astronaut who represents "the one fulfilled promise" he's ever known. This first interview inspires Thomas to seek out further captives: an ex-congressman, policeman, disgraced schoolteacher, his mother and others. Depending on the prisoner, Thomas is respectful or abusive, solicitous or prosecutorial, but he never wavers in his view of himself as a "moral" and "principled man." He is outraged at the abuses, shortsightedness and skewed priorities of the government and its institutions, yet yearns for that government to provide him with some defining role or plan: "Don't we deserve grand human projects that give us meaning?" As for the captives, they generally respond to their unhinged interrogator with sententious or stilted speechifying: "Thomas, you want to attribute your behavior to a set of external factors." There are flashes of sardonic humor and revelations about the triggering event behind the kidnappings, but by then readers will feel as if they themselves have been detained far too long. Agent: Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency. (Jun.)

Reviewed on 04/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Saints of New York

R.J. Ellory. Overlook, $26.95 (464p) ISBN 978-1-59020-461-0

NYPD homicide detective Frank Parrish, the hero of this meaty, beautifully written crime novel from British author Ellory (City of Lies), has screwed up every aspect of his life. In a recent attempt to play hostage negotiator, Parrish was unable to stop a 24-year-old thug from cutting his girlfriend’s throat, and then his own. Parrish has a bitter ex-wife, a married son he seldom sees, and a nursing student daughter with whom he frequently argues. He drinks too much, can’t follow police procedures, and resents his work-mandated psychotherapist. But he still knows how to penetrate a mystery. When someone puts a bullet in the head of petty thief Danny Lange and the strangled body of his 16-year-old sister, Rebecca, is later found in Danny’s apartment, Parrish gets on the case. Frustrated by a failure to unearth probative evidence, Parrish does what he has to do. Equally compelling is the story of Parrish’s father, legendary cop John Parrish, and the Saints of New York, the corrupt cops who helped the mob in the 1960s and ’70s. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Late Scholar: The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery

Jill Paton Walsh. Minotaur, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-03279-9

In Walsh’s cleverly plotted fourth mystery featuring the titular husband-wife sleuthing team—her second wholly original effort authorized by the Dorothy Sayers estate—Wimsey has succeeded to the title of the Duke of Denver after the death of his elder brother, Gerald, in the previous book, The Attenbury Emeralds (2010). One of Wimsey’s new responsibilities as duke is to serve as “the Visitor” for Oxford’s St. Severin’s College, a role that requires him to referee disputes among the college’s fellows. Just such a controversy has sprung up. Some fellows want to sell a rare manuscript of Boethius’s Consolations of Philosophy that may have belonged to Alfred the Great, who translated the work from Latin into Anglo-Saxon, in order to buy some land, while others believe that such a sale would betray the institution’s values. A series of disturbing incidents—including a fatal fall down stairs suspiciously similar to a murder method that Wimsey’s detective-story writer wife, Harriet Vane, has used in her fiction—causes the couple to suspect a killer is at work. Walsh’s pitch-perfect re-creation of the charismatic leads is a delight. Sayers fans can only hope for more. Agent: Phyllis Westberg, Harold Ober Associates. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Moment in Time

Tracie Peterson. Bethany House, $19.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1059-4

Peterson is a long-time fixture on Christian market bestseller lists with her more than 100 novels, and this second in the Lone Star Brides series will add to her shelf of successes. The tale, set in Colorado and Texas, features Marty Wythe—alone in Denver after husband Jake heads to Texas for work—and Alice Chesterfield, the young woman they took in after a terrible attack that left her scarred. Marty fears Texas because of the emotional hurts she experienced there, but Alice is eager to go to escape a stalker. Together they head south, finding renewed spirits as Marty’s sister welcomes them. Marty gradually relinquishes her fear, and Alice comes to enjoy the company of Robert Barnett, although he seems promised to another. Peterson may be overfond of Texas colloquialisms (“down Houston way”) and facile with spirituality (“You wear His brand”), but her perfectly serviceable tale will keep fans wanting more. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Rival Hearts

Tara Randel. Abingdon, $13.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-4267-7346-4

In Randel’s (The Lady in the Attic) first contribution to the Quilts of Love series, Molly Henderson is editor of the magazine, Quilter’s Heart. Ben Weaver helms Outdoor Adventures. Both publications are part of the Tampa-based Master’s Publishing empire. Company owner Blake Masterson is poised to launch a new publication, American Legend, and the eccentric publisher has decided to choose as editor-in-chief either long-time employee Molly or newbie Ben using a challenge. Ben will join Molly’s quilting group, and Molly will kayak. Each journey will be chronicled in their respective magazines. As the competition heats up and their staffs pit the boys against the girls, Molly and Ben earn each other’s respect and discover they are not as different as they might have originally thought. Can they ignore their growing attraction and keep focused on the prize? Attentive readers will likely recognize the foreshadowing and guess the conclusion before reaching the halfway mark. Still, Randel’s rich characterizations of Ben and Molly and the complexity of their relationship will keep most readers’ attention long after it becomes obvious who will be the new editor-in-chief. Agency: Steve Laube Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Grim Shadows

Jenn Bennett. Berkley Sensation, $7.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-0-425-26958-9

Lowe Magnusson is a brazen liar, and his scheming makes Bennett’s second Roaring Twenties romance much less satisfying than its predecessor, Bitter Spirits. Lowe, a kind of amoral Indiana Jones, cares about money and sex, in that order, and seeks both without inhibition. While on the lam, he encounters a funereally dressed woman on a train platform; he arranged the meeting for the purpose of bilking her and promptly forgot, but she refuses to miss her chance to recover a rare artifact in his possession. Archaeologist Hadley Bacall is as unpleasantly cold as Lowe is aggressively oversexed; when Lowe says “What a little snob you are,” the reader can only agree. Hadley is also every bit as self-centered in pursuing her career, albeit more constrained by social mores. There’s not a lot of potential joy in this setup. Glimpses of characters from the previous book coax a little warmth into the situation, but it never truly blazes into romance. Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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I Want to Hold Your Hand

Marie Force. Berkley Sensation, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-0-425-26677-9

Contemporary powerhouse Force sensitively introduces love to a war widow in the second Green Mountain contemporary (after All You Need Is Love). It’s been seven years since Hannah Guthrie’s charismatic husband, Caleb, died in Iraq. She is tentative about moving forward with her life, despite being aware that longtime friend Nolan Roberts is waiting for her. What will be the reactions from Caleb’s parents, her family, and the townspeople of Butler, Vt. if she begins to live again? Nolan was close friends with Caleb, and his feelings for Hannah have grown from friendship to love as he’s watched her bravely recover from her loss. When Nolan finally sees signs that Hannah is opening up to the idea of new relationships, he fights for her, despite not believing he is good enough for her. Hannah and Nolan’s story starts with serious, sad issues, and their chemistry and relationship are genuine and passionate enough to pull them through. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Air Bound

Christine Feehan. Jove, $7.99 mass market (400p) ISBN 978-0-515-15463-4

Bestseller Feehan’s third Sisters of the Heart paranormal (after Spirit Bound) has a heroine as bland and colorless as the air that she controls. Airiana Ridell has seen patterns and equations in the air for as long as she can remember. She was part of a government program for teenage geniuses until the murder of her mother led her to flee. Max Prakenskii is a mercenary sent by Airiana’s long-absent father, Theodotus Solovyov, to retrieve her from the close-knit community of Sea Haven, Calif. Max soon recognizes Airiana as a kindred air soul, despite her sheltered unawareness of her own power. As Theodotus’s machinations drag them deeper into a murky underworld of international intrigue and child trafficking, Airiana realizes that Max is in as much danger as she is. Though the paranormal talents of Max and Airiana are unique, the tales of a cold warrior finding a heart and the heroine coming into her own have been better explored elsewhere. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Mistress of Night and Dawn

Vina Jackson. Open Road (www.openroadmedia.com), $14.99 trade paper (354p) ISBN 978-1-4804-7427-7

This lugubrious addition to the Eighty Days series (Eighty Days Yellow, etc.) moves between two stories that converge all too slowly. The secretive, centuries-old annual Ball is described in its hedonistic, magical, and hypnotic glory in chapters set in 1788 France, 1847 Venice, 1916 New Orleans, and 1964 Auckland. The second storyline follows 17-year-old Aurelia, orphaned as an infant and now living in England with her godparents. Soon after a mysterious man kisses her at a carnival, an anonymous benefactor arranges for her college education. Soon the man reappears for a night of dream-like sex so powerful that it permanently marks her body. Aurelia passively wanders through her life, discovering her destiny with the Ball through erotic adventures, and asserting herself only near the end of the book. The “Inking” that envelops her body as a result of her sexual experiences lends a magical air, but like the Ball’s origins and most of the rest of the story, it goes unexplained, leaving Aurelia and the reader in the dark. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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