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The Dirty Secret

Kira A. Gold. Carina, $3.99 e-book (209p) ISBN 978-1-4592-9434-9

Interior design has never been so sexy as it is here, when a workaholic architect teams up with a free-spirited yet secretive scenic artist to create a perfect model house in Burlington, Vt. Killian Fitzroy is determined to prove himself to the prestigious company that he works for; Vessa Ratham needs the experience and the credit in order to further her artistic dreams. What starts as a professional partnership swiftly ignites into an erotic bonfire of the senses, with each completed room providing further fuel for the pair’s passionate, increasingly intimate trysts. However, Vessa is reluctant to open up regarding her past or true feelings, while Killian isn’t entirely sure what to make of the “sex-witch art fairy” who’s captured his heart and rekindled his personal life. Gold (The Scent of Flames) packs this story with a wealth of sensory detail, perfectly complementing the emotional and sexual development between the leads, creating a thoroughly satisfying tale. Agent: Laura Zats, Red Sofa Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Listen to Me

Kristen Proby. Morrow, $14.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-243475-3

After suffering heartbreak in a recent relationship, Addison vows not to get involved with anyone—especially ex-rock star Jake Keller, whom she’s just hired to play in her Portland, Ore., restaurant, aptly named Seduction. But despite the past sorrows that still haunt them, Jake and Addison find it hard to resist a dance of mutual attraction and seduction. Titillating foreplay and steamy sex scenes that reduce powerful businesswomen to avatars of lust are the highlight of this romance. Unfortunately, inconsistency makes it difficult to identify with the characters. Jake oscillates between a respectful guy and an egotistical cad who’s driven purely by his hunger for Addison’s “sexier-than-fuck” body. This lends itself to somewhat superficial dialogue, which causes the narrative flow to ebb and wane. Although the obstacles for Addison and Jake are predictable and resolved with relative ease, there are enough ups and downs to keep the pages turning and a cliffhanger to spark interest in the sequel. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The One You Really Want

Jill Mansell. Sourcebooks Landmark, $14 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-4926-0447-1

Detailing many levels of British society, bestselling author Mansell scores again with a multilayered contemporary story of loves lost and found. In Scotland, Nancy discovers her husband has been cheating on her. She flies to London and stays with her best friend, Carmen, a three-year widow of rock star Spike Todd who hides her wealth and identity from the people at the homeless shelter where she volunteers. Spike’s brother, Rennie, a charismatic singer who sizzles with energy, also crashes at Carmen’s posh home. Soon Nancy’s mom joins them for a holiday, and then neighbors descend as well. Drama from familial relationships is intertwined with love relationships that range from teenage crushes to older companionship. Humorous dialogue defines well-drawn characters and adds a fun touch to lives that are spot-on with universal human angst. Agent: Jennifer Unter, the Unter Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Manties in a Twist

J.A. Rock. Riptide, $17.99 trade paper (283p) ISBN 978-1-62649-347-6

The third in Rock’s BDSM-themed Subs Club series (after Pain Slut) is the author’s best yet. Combining love, lust, and insecurity, the story of Kamen—a generally happy-go-lucky gay man—and his new lover, Ryan, is both touching and endearing. Two years after Kamen’s close friend Hal died during a BDSM scene, Kamen still hasn’t gotten over the loss. After he moves in with his new boyfriend, Kamen’s friends keep pointing out that Ryan’s not a part of their close-knit group, threatening the relationships they all share. Will Kamen’s relationship with Ryan endure, or will it cleave him away from all that he holds dear? Rock’s deep affection for the characters lends itself to readers loving Kamen, Ryan, and all in their orbit, encouraging them to invite this group of complicated, loving men into their lives. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Heart like Mine

Maggie McGinnis. St. Martin’s, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-06908-5

In this heartwarming second entry in the contemporary Echo Lake series, Delaney Blair, a beautiful, shy, and ambitious number cruncher, is in line to be the next CFO of Mercy Hospital in Echo Lake, Vt. When Delaney is given word that she must prepare a proposal for another round of budget cuts, she’s devastated, but gets right to work. With the proposal in hand, she meets with the head of pediatrics to decide where to slash funds. Dr. Joshua Mackenzie, the department chief, is young, good-looking, and absolutely dedicated to his staff and patients. As they work together, things begin to heat up and present some unexpected emotions and complications. A bit of mystery is added when a sneaky rival colleague steps up his game to land the CFO job, while the trauma and sorrow of working in the pediatric ward is keenly felt. Joshua and Delaney’s hot and emotionally charged romance will delight readers. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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As Good as New

Jennifer Dawson. Kensington/Zebra, $7.99 mass market (346p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4013-2

In the fourth entry of the Something New series, Dawson (The Name of the Game) captures the small romantic moments that make a relationship work. Serious and smart Penelope Watkins, chief operating officer of the Chicago commercial real estate firm Donovan Corporation, has loved her best friend’s brother, NFL football player Evan Donovan, since she was in kindergarten. When they were teens, their heart-to-hearts turned into make-out sessions that quickly escalated—and led to him breaking her heart. Now that a concussion has ended Evan’s pro career, he’s sunk into a drunken depression. Anger and lust are beautifully intertwined as Penelope confronts him, shattering the 15-year silent pact never to be alone together, which they’ve observed at all of the Donovan gatherings. No one believes playboy Evan will settle down, not even Penelope. Skillfully weaving backstory into their current lives, Dawson has developed full-blown characters, spot-on dialogue, and realistic emotions. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Gemini Gambit

D. Scott Johnson. D. Scott Johnson, $14.99 trade paper (454p) ISBN 978-0-9863962-1-2

Kimberley Trayne, a genius hacker once known as Angel Rage, is on the run after five years in hiding, with Mike, an AI freshly downloaded into a human body, and a geeky high school boy named Spencer as her only allies. She fends off Bolivian gangsters and eludes the FBI while attempting to defeat a conspiracy to take over the Evolved Internet—a virtual reality that exists in the world of Johnson’s debut, set 20 years in the future. It’s a cheerfully nerdy caper in which characters profess fondness for Terry Pratchett and a virtual model of a famous light sword makes an appearance. Johnson makes a conscious effort to develop a multiethnic cast of entertaining characters and mostly succeeds, but the story is overstuffed and overpopulated, and heroine Kimberley—a beauty who dresses frumpily in realspace but wears cat suits in the virtual realms—sometimes seems more like a programmer’s daydream than a well-rounded character. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Quantum Night

Robert J. Sawyer. Ace, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-425-25683-1

Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author Sawyer’s latest work is a fast-moving, mind-stretching exploration of the nature of personality and consciousness; it balances esoteric speculation with action and character. James Marchuk, a psychology professor at the University of Manitoba, is dismayed to realize that he’s missing half a year of memories from his college days. It turns out that he was the subject of an experiment that converted him from a passive nebbish to an active psychopath, until he eventually was shifted into a higher state of mind and acquired a conscience. Through painful discovery of his own vicious past, he confirms that conscience-driven humans are a minority, menaced by a large number of psychopaths who control zombie-like mobs. Now, looking at escalating military tension among Canada, the U.S., and Russia, Marchuk fears that psychopathic world leaders may be about to destroy humanity. Sawyer (Red Planet Blues) is very good at grounding the technical speculation in personal conflict, as Marchuk’s utilitarian principles struggle with his emotional impulses and the political/media references keep the story uncomfortably close to present-day fears. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Man with No Name

Laird Barron. JournalStone, $9.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-942712-86-2

Barron (The Croning) demonstrates his prowess in combining disparate narrative threads into one captivating, complex tale. Nanashi, a member of the Yakuza, has deliberately shrouded his own past, resting his fate on precarious ties with the Heron clan. He and his clan brothers are called to operate a covert mission: kidnapping the famed wrestler Muzaki, who’s under the protection of the Dragon clan, and using him as leverage in a dispute between the clans. When the Heron clan’s plans go awry, Nanashi is plunged into a maze of deception, and all is not quite what it seems. Barron’s beautiful language is intentionally murky, capturing the mysterious, and at times frightening, quality of Japan’s gang underworld. Nanashi is a classic flawed lead character, with enough personality to keep the story from straying into clichéd territory. Even at its short length, this thriller has plenty of exciting twists and turns. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Alien Hunter: The White House

Whitley Strieber. Tor, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7869-9

An unthinkable crime—the murder of an aide in the middle of the day at the White House—catalyzes the plot of Strieber’s unwieldy third Alien Hunter novel (after Alien Hunter: Underworld). Steel-willed operative Flynn Carroll reprises his role as an agent extraordinaire in Detail 242, the CIA’s secret task force assigned to counter Aeon, a planet whose aliens clandestinely invaded Earth years earlier. When Carroll uncovers a plot by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence to collaborate with Aeon and provoke nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, he’s thrust into a series of adventures that he barely survives. Though exciting in spots, Strieber’s thriller is punctuated with lengthy generic action sequences, and his caricature of the deliriously dysfunctional First Family at the center of the intrigues approaches the comic absurd. Portentous prose (“Time does not eradicate the madness of men”) further magnifies the novel’s shortcomings. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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