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The Laird

Grace Burrowes. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-4022-9502-7

In closing the Captive Hearts Regency trilogy (after The Captive and The Traitor), which closely examines post-traumatic struggles, Burrowes uses the familiar romance framework to tell a somber and affecting story about people who did the best they could under awful circumstances. Nine years after disappearing on his wedding night to go to war, Michael Brodie returns home to Scotland without warning. His bride, Brenna, isn't sure how they can put back together a marriage that never really got started, but her love for Michael means she's willing to try. While the typical romantic push and pull appear, the true center of the story is the damage caused both in war and by evildoers close to home. Burrowes displays exceptional skill in dealing gently with difficult topics, including sexual assault, and manages to build a remarkably positive story that ends happily; would that all such tales did. Agent: Steve Axelrod, Axelrod Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Earl's Mistress

Liz Carlyle. Avon, $7.99 mass market (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-210030-6

Carlyle (Close Call) deftly combines mesmerizing romance with a hint of mystery in this enticing Regency page-turner. When widowed Isabella Aldridge applies to be a governess to the young daughter of Anthony, Lord Hepplewood, the dissolute earl tells Isabella that he would prefer her as his mistress. Isabella is infuriated that the nobleman would treat her so callously, even as she is inexplicably drawn to him. But she can't find work anywhere else, and she's desperate to support herself and her two younger siblings. What begins as a means of survival becomes much more when she and Hepplewood meet again, and she can't help but succumb to his allure. The encounters between Anthony and Isabella are extremely sensuous while supporting excellent character development. Anthony appears initially to be somewhat cruel, but Isabella soon realizes a most lovable man hides under his loutish exterior, and Anthony discovers that Isabella's staid behavior disguises true passion. Their story of mutual discovery will charm fans of historical romances. Agent: Nancy Yost, Nancy Yost Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Son of No One

Sherrilyn Kenyon. St. Martin's, $27.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-250-02991-1

Kenyon's sixth Hellchaser novel (after Time Untime) pairs up Josette, a photographer whose luck always seems to fail her, and a demon named Cadegan, who has spent the last 1000 years or so being tortured in exile. When Jo falls through a mirror and into Cadegan's prison, he's immediately drawn to her, and the two of them almost immediately fall into bed. From there, the story meanders, with escape attempts from the prison realm, run-ins with various mystical creatures, attempts to rescue other prisoners, and a drawn-out ending that seems to wander past the climax and keep going. While those who are already fans of the series might enjoy reconnecting with dozens of side characters, those new to the world will find themselves overwhelmed by the number of side characters and their familial and mystical connections. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Light Up the Night

M.L. Buchman. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4022-8697-1

Sparks and bullets both fly in the ninth entry of Buchman's high-flying Night Stalkers series, which sees the elite helicopter pilots of the Army's 160th SOAR fighting pirates off the Somali coast. Second Lt. Trisha O'Malley, one of their newest members, extracts Navy SEAL Lt. William Bruce from his undercover role during an operation. Though their first interaction resembles a good old-fashioned Army-Navy rivalry, with personalities clashing, they quickly surrender to their immediate mutual attraction, finding moments of bliss between death-defying missions. With the action between the sheets as intense as the action in the air, they seem like the perfect match—if only they can work past lingering issues and traumas. As always, Buchman's writing is smooth and fast-paced, full of visceral adrenaline-packed scenes and authentic military details, while his characters enjoy simmering chemistry, with love scenes bordering on the poetic at times. For those who like steamy romance wrapped around heart-pounding combat, Buchman's work is a sure bet. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future

Edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. Morrow, $27.99 (560p) ISBN 978-0-06-220469-1

The editors of this gripping anthology "believe that if we want to create a better future, we need to start with better dreams" and counter the trend of dystopian and apocalyptic visions of tomorrow. Neal Stephenson, who founded Project Hieroglyph to "rekindle grand technological ambitions through the power of storytelling," fittingly lives up to that goal with "Atmosphæra Incognita": it plausibly describes an entrepreneur's plan to construct a tower that would be 20,000 meters tall, and whose top would be "for all practical purposes in outer space." The science and the narrative are perfectly blended. Other stories explore the implications of using neuroscience to "cure" individuals whose brains are deemed abnormal, and of replacing the trucking industry with robot trucks and the Amazon/UPS "droneport." Karl Schroeder's "Degrees of Freedom" is particularly clever, featuring a future where a soi-disant democratic government suppresses data about voter turnout, and "Big Data" is used by the public to increase participation in decision-making. The editors' ambition is successfully realized in this fine anthology that any optimistic futurist will appreciate. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Forgiving Jackson

Alicia Hunter Pace. F+W/Crimson Romance (crimsonromance.com), $4.99 e-book (208p) ISBN 978-1-4405-8195-3

Pace (Simple Gone South) weaves a solid contemporary romance about recovery from terrible trauma. After a deranged audience member hurls a firebomb at a concert stage in Los Angeles, country crooner Jackson Beauford loses several good friends—and his will to perform. Meanwhile, New York resident Emory Lowell is trying to bury the pain of being raped by moving home to Beauford, Tenn., and pouring herself into Jackson's late aunt's event business, Around the Bend. When Jackson heads home to recuperate from the fire, he insists that Emory disband the business and leave him to his sorrow. But what he doesn't realize is how much these two damaged souls need each other. This tendertale illustrates how love can heal the deepest of wounds. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The 'Geisters

David Nickle. ChiZine (Diamond, U.S. dist.; PGC/Raincoast, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (364p) ISBN 978-1-77148-143-4

Stoker-winning Toronto author Nickle (Rasputin's Bastards) sets up what looks to be a fairly straightforward story of a woman and the malicious spirit that's been tormenting her since childhood. Ann LeSage calls the entity "the Insect," and its actions have killed her parents and crippled her brother. With Ann getting married—and coming into the circle of the mysterious and wealthy Ian Rickhardt—the Insect will have access to a wide new range of targets. In order to understand its true nature, Ann must face down both her past and the revelation about what Rickhardt and his friends really want from the Insect, and perhaps save herself in the process. What starts out as a fast-moving adventure, as Ann marries a man she hardly knows and discovers his dark secrets, becomes a much more contemplative, talky novel in its second half. Full of powerful imagery, the book loses some momentum as it glides to an unexpected and possibly off-putting climax. (June)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Bring Me the Head of Yorkie Goodman

Rowdy Yates. New Pulp (newpulppress.com), $14.95 trade paper (230p) ISBN 978-0-6923875-6-6

In this violent, darkly funny novel from the pseudonymous Yates (Jared Yates Sexton, editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Bull), Bill Wallace, an enforcer for a small-time East Coast drug lord known simply as Boss, has to collect an unpaid debt from Yorkie Goodman, a seemingly innocuous 62-year-old schlub. Goodman happens to live in Seymour, Ind., where 14 years earlier Wallace got into trouble and had to split town fast, leaving a broken-hearted woman behind. Boss pairs Wallace with Carp, a hit man who appears to be dying, and orders them to bring back macabre proof of a successful mission: Goodman's head. Naturally, things go south quickly, as Wallace has plans of his own. Carp, meanwhile, proves himself to be indestructible. The duo quickly end up on the radar of the local police chief, whose laconic old-school commentary addressed to his deputy provides comic relief. Yates (An End to All Things) gives obvious nods to the works of Cormac McCarthy and the Coen brothers (Fargo, in particular) in an over-the-top tale whose infectious energy will prove irresistible to devotees of modern noir. (June)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Finely Knit Murder: A Seaside Knitters Mystery

Sally Goldenbaum. NAL/Obsidian, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-451-47160-4

Goldenbaum's genial ninth Seaside Knitters mystery (after 2014's Murder in Merino) finds 11-year-old New Yorker Gabby Marietti staying with her grandmother, Birdie Favazza, in Sea Harbor, Mass., for the fall. Gabby attends Sea Harbor Community Day School, where she's delighted with her new friends and teachers, though a school board–based effort is afoot to remove the new headmistress, Elizabeth Hartley. The fall gala at Community Day is a roaring success until the body of school board member Blythe Westerland turns up near the school boathouse, and Elizabeth becomes the prime suspect in Blythe's murder. Birdie and the other Seaside Knitters know that the school's future depends on a fast solution of the crime, so they pitch in to assist police chief Jerry Thompson, whose situation is complicated by the mutual attraction between him and Elizabeth. As always, the knitters' personal lives and loves are a part of the mix, and cozy fans are sure to enjoy their company despite the growing undercurrents of danger. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Remember Me This Way

Sabine Durrant. Atria/Emily Bestler, $25 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4767-1632-9

London school librarian Lizzie Carter, the heroine of this absorbing tale of obsession from British author Durrant (Under Your Skin), is devastated to learn from Police Constable Morrow that her husband of just a year and a half, artist Zach Hopkins, has died in a car crash in Cornwall. A year later, Lizzie visits the scene of the fatal accident, where on the roadside she discovers flowers accompanied by a card decorated with hand-drawn hearts and signed "Xenia." When Lizzie investigates, she finds evidence that Zach may still be alive, and that much of what he told her about his past appears to have been fabricated. She turns to Morrow for help, but Morrow dismisses Lizzie's suspicions as symptoms of grief. In the manner of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, entries from Zach's computer diary alternate with Lizzie's thoughts about events as they are happening. Durrant steadily builds suspense up to the unexpected and thoroughly satisfying conclusion. Agent: Gráinne Fox, Fletcher & Co.. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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