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The Death of Lucy Kyte: A Josephine Tey Mystery

Nicola Upson. Harper/Bourbon Street, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-219545-6

Lyrical prose (“sheaves of corn stood abandoned, like the forgotten tents of a retreating army”) and subtle plotting make Upson’s fifth novel featuring real-life mystery writer Josephine Tey a worthy successor to Fear in the Sunlight, a PW Best Mystery of 2013. Tey, who’s struggling with writing a biography, is surprised to learn of a bequest from her godmother, actress Hester Larkspur (who was a close friend of Tey’s mother), as she herself barely knew the woman. Larkspur has left her a Red Barn Cottage in Suffolk located near the site of a notorious murder, and the will gives the writer the choice of sorting through its contents, including the actress’s papers, or having them all destroyed unseen. Tey decides to take a look at what she’s inherited, and, in the process, learns some unsettling details about the circumstances of her godmother’s death. In addition, the cottage may be haunted. Upson lays out the suspicious events gradually, but amply rewards her readers’ patience with a satisfying resolution that feels true to life rather than pat. Agent: Gráinne Fox, Fletcher & Co. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Truth Be Told

Carol Cox. Bethany House, $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7642-0957-4

Cox’s (Love in Disguise) western romance is set in 1893 in Arizona Territory, where the motto, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” has appeared on the masthead of the Granite Springs Gazette for as long as its editor’s daughter, Amelia Wagner, can remember. The integrity of her father, A.J. Wagner, is a given. But when he dies, leaving the newspaper to her, she jumps in to complete his investigation against a leviathan financial firm. Though the owner of the Great Western Investment Company has done nothing illegal, Amelia fully believes her father’s insistence that an evil truth must be brought to light. Devoted friends—typesetter Homer, paperboy Jimmy, and other faithful community members, including handsome Ben Stone, an unexpected ally from within Great Western itself—assist in an impetuous investigation that leads Amelia into mortal danger. Her beliefs about her parents, as well as about God’s will, are sorely tested. Cox’s 13th novel is sure to delight fans of the Old West. Agency: Books & Such Literary Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Bridge Tender

Marybeth Whalen. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-310-33840-6

Emily Shaw doesn’t really want to honor her late husband’s final wish—that she should purchase a home at Sunset Beach, where they honeymooned only five years earlier—even though he leaves her the funds to do so. Still grieving a year after Ryan’s death, she decides to move to the beach and becomes reluctantly drawn into the lives of her neighbors—and especially to Kyle, a former movie star whom Emily had a teenage crush, on but who no longer acts. Emotions run high in this usually relaxed summer haven, as Whalen (The Wishing Tree) expertly explores the reach of grief, love, and faith. Richly drawn secondary characters relate their own broken dreams to Emily, in the process helping her find peace in a life without Ryan—possibly with another love. Every character seems to have a story and a need for forgiveness and grace. And over and around the human drama swirls the wind-swept sands and waves of Sunset Beach, painted vividly enough to be a character all its own. This sweet and funny, raw and poignant story will leave readers emotionally spent, yet eager for more. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Until I Saw Your Smile

J.J. Murray. Kensington, $15 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-7582-7728-2

Murray (You Give Good Love) meanders a bit before settling into an endearing journey of heartfelt love, refreshingly narrated by the hero. Self-employed Internet lawyer Matthew McConnell is devastated when his live-in girlfriend skips town. He begins an adventurous dating spree, but each adventure ends in disaster. His only reliable joy is a flavorsome cup of coffee at Smith’s Sweet Treats and Coffee and seeing whether he can coax a smile from Angela Smith, the cafe’s no-nonsense owner. Losing a bet and setting up his office in Sweet Treats means more time to make Angela smile, but he notices she shies away from personal contact and questions. When Angela acknowledges her struggles with mental illness and past trauma, Matthew patiently works small steps into a promising relationship. Soon Angela is surprising them both with rousing sexual requests. When Angela’s past rears its ugly head, the healing strength of love is tested. Unusual characters will inspire readers of this emotional yet joyful story. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Here’s Looking at You

Mhairi McFarlane. Avon, $14.99 trade paperback (448p) ISBN 978-0-00755947-3

A snide modern ugly-duckling tale gives lip service to the message of being happy with who you are, but its characters remain shallow and obsessed with juvenile expectations of the ways men and women ought to behave. Aureliana Alessi, still haunted by her teen years as the “Italian Galleon” and laughingstock at her East London high school, has settled into a successful history professorship and slimmed into a stunner. Her dating life is still a mess of awkward Internet-mediated mishaps. Through a work assignment, Anna reencounters school heartthrob and bully James Fraser, who becomes interested in her without realizing their history together. Anna’s supportive friend Michelle and colleague Patrick give her the bravery to move forward, while James is impeded by soon-to-be-ex-wife Eva and womanizing drinking buddy Laurence. McFarlane’s story is infused with the humor of a 21st-century comedy of errors, but it lacks romantic warmth; Anna and James don’t discover true love, but merely settle into a mutually higher level of socially acceptable success. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Against the Cage

Sidney Halston. Random/Loveswept, $2.99 e-book (256p) ISBN 978-0-553-39096-4

When ditzy doctor Chrissy Martin reluctantly returns to her hometown of Tarpon Springs, Fla., to get her brother, Slade, out of jail, the first thing she does is inadvertently punch a police officer in the family jewels. Worse, the man of the law is none other than the unfortunately named Jack Daniels, Slade’s best friend. Both Slade and Jack are fighters on the mixed martial arts circuit, which becomes a major point of contention between Jack and Chrissy, since her professional ethics clash mightily with the brutal fighting world. Scene-stealer Drogo, the tiny Chihuahua/pit bull terror of the town, adds yet more comic relief to Halston’s naturally humorous writing style. The story straddles the worlds of white picket fences and gritty cage fighting with an interesting blend of explicit sex, profanity, violence, memories of family tragedy, smalltown life, and close character connections. Some stilted dialogue hampers the flow, but the characters’ emotions ring true. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Lady Windermere’s Lover

Miranda Neville. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-224332-4

The third book in the Wild Quartet (after The Ruin of a Rogue) features the previously absent Damian, Lord Windermere. Damian, the steadiest of four expelled Oxford companions, unwillingly married Cynthia Chorley in order to reclaim his childhood home, which had been purchased by her uncle. He then took a diplomatic post in Persia. Cynthia tries to make the best of her life alone in London, spending time with her absent husband’s friends. When Damian’s diplomat bosses summon him home to wheedle an art collection out of the hands of his former best friend, the Duke of Denford, who’s rumored to be Cynthia’s lover, the spouses are forced to reunite. The plot focuses on the love triangle and the external pressures on Cynthia and Damian’s relationship, with the diplomatic intrigue taking a definite secondary role. Neville makes numerous references to the events and characters of the previous books; newcomers will not be lost, but series fans will get the most from this installment. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Once Tasted

Laura Moore. Ballantine, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-0-345-53700-3

Moore’s second Knowles novel (following Once Tempted) contains all the obligatory elements: a hero built like a Greek god, a heroine who thinks of herself as ugly (though she’s actually stunning), and circumstances that force them to spend time together. Mia Bodell and Reid Knowles have been secretly pining for one another since high school, but mutual lack of communication and mistaken assumptions pulled them apart for a decade. Now all grown up, Mia is managing her Uncle Thomas’s vineyard in Acacia, Calif., and cowboy Reid, her neighbor and new business partner, is unavoidably in her path. The two of them shoot sparks, but it’s clear that Reid hasn’t quite left his womanizing ways behind when he talks Mia into sex after she rejects him. Fans of pushy alpha males will enjoy saddling up with this and adventurously explicit liaison full of intriguing details about winemaking. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Gamble

Kristen Ashley. Grand Central/Forever, $7 mass market (688p) ISBN 978-1-4555-9905-9

Ashley’s first Colorado Mountain contemporary introduces readers to a unique hero—a 21st-century mountain man whose tough exterior hides a vulnerable, caring heart. Nina Sheridan needs a break from her life in England with her fiancé, so she books two weeks at a house in the Colorado mountains. After driving through a snowstorm and arriving in a feverish haze, Nina is upset to learn that the home’s owner, Holden “Max” Maxwell, is in residence due to the rental agent’s error. After he nurses her through her illness, the two engage in frequent bickering and intensely sensuous love scenes . Their romance is fraught with baggage from Max’s previous relationships and mystery surrounding the murder of a local man. Nina and Max are affable protagonists, though Max’s machismo sometimes overshadows Nina’s sense of independence. Despite the novel’s length, it moves at a swift pace with plenty of sizzling passion, romantic angst, and a touch of suspense. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Thornbrook Park

Sherri Browning. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-4022-9586-7

Browning (Once Wicked) kicks off a series with this charming but somewhat overbusy period piece set in 1906 England. Still recovering from her husband’s untimely death, Eve Kendal returns to London. Short on funds, disowned by her family, Eve finds temporary refuge at Thornbrook Park, home to her old friend Sophia, Lady Averford. While there, she makes the acquaintance of Capt. Marcus Thorne, whose wartime traumas have left him subject to intense rages that he relieves in the boxing ring. His brother, Sophia’s husband, already has a bride picked out for Marcus, but Eve and Marcus start making plans of their own, as mutual admiration quickly turns to affection and desire. When their affair becomes public knowledge, they must decide between familial duty and impractical love. Meanwhile, Eve investigates the fate of her late husband’s mysteriously missing money, which exposes her to a murderous plot. The leads have a sweet, natural chemistry that renders most of the obligatory romantic speed bumps irrelevant; the secondary story line is far more dynamic. Agent: Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

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