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The Fifth Season

N.K. Jemisin. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (512p) ISBN 978-0-316-22929-6

Humans struggle to survive on a ruined world in this elegiac, complex, and intriguing story, the first in the Broken Earth series from acclaimed author Jemisin (the Inheritance Trilogy). The Stillness is a quiet and bitter land, sparsely populated by subsistence communities called comms. Essun lived quietly in a comm with her husband and children until her secret got out: she—and her children—are orogenes, those who have the ability to control Earth forces. They can quell or start earthquakes, open veins of magma, and generally cause or rein in geological chaos. Authorities keep a brutal hold on orogenes, controlling everything about their lives, including whom they breed with. Those who escape servitude and seek safety in the comms face expulsion and execution at the hands of the fearful. Soon after Essun’s secret is revealed, her husband kills their son, and her daughter goes missing. Essun sets off to find the girl, undertaking a journey that will force her to face unfinished business from her own secret past. Jemisin’s graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world. Readers hungry for the next installment will also find ample satisfaction in rereading this one. Agent: Lucienne Diver, Knight Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Frisk Me

Lauren Layne. Grand Central/Forever, $6 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-4555-6118-6

Layne (the Redemption series) launches the New York’s Finest contemporary romance series with this stellar example of the genre. The recent endeavors of Luc Moretti, the youngest son in a family of NYPD officers, have earned him the nickname America’s Hero, catapulted him to unwanted fame, and made him the subject of a national television special that the department hopes will counter some recent negative press. Reporter Ava Sims is assigned to his story; she intends to advance her career, and her reporter’s sense tells her there is something more to Luc than heroics. Luc and his loving family, especially his outspoken grandmother, offer a nice counterbalance to Ava’s dysfunctional background, which leaves her unwilling to let anyone get close to her. Ava and Luc’s sparks are immediate, and the evolution of their relationship—which starts with little common ground except a dedication to singlehood—is stimulating and realistic. They negotiate their professional and romantic interactions with banter that’s clever but not self-satisfied, and their moment of truth feels warm and real. Fans of slightly gritty contemporaries will adore this. Agent: Nicole Resciniti, Seymour Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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And Then He Kissed Me

Kim Amos. Grand Central/Forever, $6 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-4555-5749-3

A staid life gets a makeover in the entertaining second White Pine contemporary (after A Kiss to Build a Dream On). Beautiful, modest Audrey Tanner has lost her job; her financial situation is dire, and her love life is nonexistent. She scrambles for a new job at a Harley-Davidson showroom, only to learn that her new boss is none other than Kieran Callaghan, the man she believed was her soul mate until he left her. Audrey, formerly a gym teacher, feels way out of her league dressing the part of a Harley model, but soon she finds that her daring attire gives her newfound confidence and inner strength. Audrey and Kieran’s chemistry lights up the pages, but Audrey, certain that her heart will break a second time, holds back, as does Kieran, who is haunted by a terrible secret. A cast of delightful secondary characters, including Audrey’s well-meaning but controlling sister, add wonderful flavor, while a cagey high school student provides intrigue. This determined and lovable heroine and her reformed bad boy will capture readers’ hearts. Agent: Susanna Einstein, Einstein Thompson Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Energized

Mary Behre. Berkley, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-0-425-28200-7

Behre brings her considerable talent for character development to her vivid third Tidewater paranormal (after Guarded). Hannah Halloran has a variety of useful skills: tending bar, waiting tables, painting, and receiving psychic visions from touching certain objects. When Niall Graham wanders into her parents’ Ohio bar and she touches his keys, she learns enough about him to ignite desire. Alas, one unforgettable night is all they get before having to move on with their lives. Niall, a Marine freshly returned from serving in Afghanistan, was just passing through on his way home to help his brother run their family’s restaurant in Tidewater, Va. Meanwhile, Hannah’s working hard to build a career as an electrician. Both are so credible that it’s easy to get caught up in their lives and share their experiences as fate brings Hannah to Niall’s Tidewater doorstep and makes her the witness to a grisly murder. Slightly uneven pacing is the only drawback to this exciting tale of romance and danger. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Just a Little Kiss

Renita Pizzitola. Flirt, $2.99 e-book (278p) ISBN 978-0-553-39512-9

Young love and turmoil reign in Pizzitola’s flimsy third Crush contemporary (after Just a Little Flirt). Felicity is 19 and mature for her age, living on her grandfather’s houseboat and working as a waitress in her tiny hometown of Port Lucia, on an unspecified American coast. Her hobbies include spending time with friends, avoiding her ex, taking photos, and keeping her eyes on all of the “Summer Boys” who invade the town each year. Mason is helping with his uncle’s charter fishing company during his summer off from college, and he expects to pass the time with a local girl or three, but nothing prepared him for the passionate, sparkling Felicity—his cousin’s best friend. In the tradition of new adults everywhere, Felicity and Mason stumble through their new relationship as it transitions from a summer sweetness to autumnal angst. Occasional respites from the shallow clichés can be found in the charming secondary relationships and beautifully detailed setting. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary and Media Inc. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Lover’s Oak

Corinne Scott. Coffeetown/Camel, $15.95 trade paper (314p) ISBN 978-1-60381-280-1

Tension is lax to nonexistent in Scott’s otherwise enjoyable contemporary romantic suspense story about Lillian Mae Coleman-Huntington, who was once a little rich girl and is now widowed, orphaned, and broke. After her father’s death, Lilly returns to Wildfire, Ga., where she’s decidedly unwelcome. It’s been 12 years since Lilly left town on the arm of Winston Huntington III, her wealthy Boston husband, and three years since she’s even spoken to her dad, Big Mitch. Now she’s miserably lonely and being targeted by a long-ago enemy whose hatred still simmers. The family cotton plantation, Lover’s Oak, has been willed to her 11-year-old half-sister Daisy, and Lilly decides it’s her job to see that the child has the help she needs to run it. Naturally Lilly has a complicated history—and a potential future—with Wildfire’s sheriff, Jackson Trainer. Luckily he’s on her side when things start going very wrong at the plantation. But too many overlong flashbacks and an unnecessary subplot serve only to add bulk to what could have been a straightforward, pleasant story of reunion and redemption. Agency: Belcastro Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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My Highland Bride

Maeve Greyson. Loveswept, $2.99 e-book (298p) ISBN 978-0-553-39508-2

Greyson’s sensual second Highland Heart time travel romance (after My Highland Lover) sets up some daunting obstacles for its central couple. Kenna Sinclair’s grandmother asks her to follow in her sister’s footsteps and leap from present-day Kentucky to 13th-century Scotland. Accompanied by the electrifyingly handsome Colum Garrison, Kenna journeys to the grand home of chieftain Gray MacKenna, who is married to Kenna’s sister, Trulie. As Colum and Kenna fall in love, she is anxious to become his wife. But he believes that he must prove himself worthy of her before he can propose marriage. Kenna has also decided that she wants to keep her virginity until her wedding night, and the sexual tension is soon sky-high. When villainous Ronan Sutherland decides to claim her as his wife—with or without her approval—Colum and Kenna are forced to make some difficult choices that threaten their future together. Greyson wisely refrains from relying too much on the time travel element; it’s an intriguing twist but not the main focus. The quest for Colum and Kenna’s happiness propels the novel forward and will easily keep the reader’s attention. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Tracker’s End

Chantal Fernando. S&S/Gallery, $15 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0621-7

Fernando packs heat and heart into her third Wind Dragons Motorcycle Club new adult romance (after Arrow’s Hell). Tracker’s had a craving for Lana ever since first setting eyes on her—when her best friend, Anna, began dating another Wind Dragons member—but he assumes that the quiet, unassuming Lana wouldn’t be able to handle his lifestyle. Little does he know that Lana is actually a bestselling erotic romance author, and she’s as attracted to him as he is to her. After taking a job nannying for the club president’s daughter, Lana falls hard and fast for Tracker, against her better judgment. But when tragedy strikes and a secret is revealed, it’s not clear who can be trusted and who cannot—and Tracker and Lana’s relationship may not survive the fallout. Fernando’s vivid characters burst onto the page, demanding to be noticed and pulling readers into their world immediately and completely. This tightly told tale will leave readers eagerly waiting for the next installment. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Strong Enough

M. Leighton. Berkley, $16 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-425-27946-5

Leighton (the Bad Boys series) brings intrigue and passion to the first installment of her new erotic romance trilogy, but poor writing mars an otherwise enjoyable story. When Muse Harper’s father, an Army colonel, sends her to the West Coast for her own protection, she doesn’t complain. But then her father goes missing. Short on options, Muse hires Jasper King, a ruthless and charismatic bounty hunter, to help her find him. Jasper struggles with the new experience of being distracted from his mission by a sexy client, and a lengthy car trip to South Carolina threatens to undermine their restraint and throw the couple into a romance with no future—unless Jasper can learn a new way to live and Muse can accept revelations about her father and his past. Jasper is emotionally damaged and protective without being an aggressive jerk, and Muse’s enthusiasm for his displays of dominance is palpably genuine. The prose is wretched—“The heat of it, hotter than the bath water. The wetness of it, wetter than the bath water”—and every development is a cliché, but the chemistry is believable and the sex is hot. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Bad News Cowboy

Maisy Yates. HQN, $7.99 mass market (512p) ISBN 978-0-373-78853-8

Yates’s third Copper Ridge contemporary western (after Brokedown Cowboy), a belated-coming-of-age tale set in tiny Copper Ridge, Ore., starts out slowly but builds well. Rodeo rider Kate Garrett is determined to lose her virginity to her older brothers’ best friend, Jack Monaghan, though she knows her brothers would not approve. Jack has a sordid past and a well-earned reputation for sleeping around. When Kate cajoles him into giving a lesson in flirtation and then kisses him, he’s determined to put some distance between them until he can figure out how to deal with his unexpected feelings for her. However, Kate refuses to stay away. When one steamy night together leads to the start of a romance, they must figure out how to move forward without destroying the family unit they both depend on. The languorous story wraps up nicely, leaving readers with a desire to read more about the feisty duo. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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