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Captive

Brighton Walsh. St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-05963-5

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Walsh (Caged in Winter) entices readers with the lure of romance and a hint of mystery. Madison Frost, the daughter of a prominent Chicago businessman, looks like she has it all. But her father is often absent, and Maddie spends quite a bit of time taking care of her alcoholic mother while attending Northwestern University. Maddie is completely shocked when she is kidnapped and taken to a remote cabin. While her captor, Ghost, initially frightens her, Maddie is eventually drawn to the enigmatic man, whose rough attitude hides a caring nature. As Maddie and Ghost reveal their innermost secrets to each other, they give in to their mutual attraction in love scenes described with sensuous detail. But how can Maddie forgive Ghost for kidnapping her and build an honest, egalitarian relationship with him? Intense heat and complex characters help propel the novel despite the predictable plot. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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And I Love Her

Marie Force. Berkley, $7.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-0-4252-7-5498

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Force’s lugubrious fourth contemporary set in Green Mountain, Vt. (after I Saw Her Standing There) finds a match for the oldest of the 10 Abbott siblings. Megan Kane’s sister, who owns the diner where Megan works, abruptly moves overseas, leaving her both jobless and alone for the first time since their parents’ death. Accountant Hunter Abbott seizes the opportunity to offer Megan assistance and support, even though she’s only ever showed interest in his younger brother Will. The Abbotts are surprised by Hunter’s persistence, but Hunter knows that Megan’s tough exterior protects a tender heart, and if he can push past her boundaries, he’ll win her love. The best part of Megan and Hunter’s story is when they get out of Green Mountain to visit a nearby pub. Otherwise, the slow-paced story feels a bit claustrophobic, stuck in the tiny town. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Fighter and the Fallen Woman

Pamela Cayne. Carina, $4.99 e-book (178p) ISBN 978-1-4268-9959-1

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Cayne (Make Believe Lady) returns to Victorian London with this lukewarm tale of Lady and King, the mistress and main muscle of a thug mockingly called the Earl of the East End. Hannibal Adams only has the best, and he’d rather murder his employees than share or release them. Well aware of Adams’s tyranny, Lady and King stifle their burgeoning feelings for each other until Adams enters King in a huge boxing tournament and orders Lady to kiss him for luck. But as their fledgling romance heats up, so do the stakes: Mr. Collins, an American businessman, presses Adams into extravagant bets on King’s victory, and plots to make Lady his mistress, by force if necessary. As Adams’s abuse escalates, Lady has to decide whether she wants a new master, a chance on love with King, or a life of freedom in a cottage on the Scottish coast. The story ends better than it starts, and readers will cheer as the villains get what’s coming to them. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Fall with Me

J. Lynn. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-236274-2

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Bestseller Jennifer L. Armentrout, writing as Lynn, shines with this tight, suspenseful new adult tale, the fourth in her Wait for You saga (after Stay with Me). Bartender Roxy Ark’s best friend, Charlie, is tragically injured in a hate-crime incident that Roxy feels is her fault. Years later, she still carries the guilt. Former Marine Reece Anders wants desperately to provide the hope and love Roxy needs—if she’ll only let him. While Roxy’s been in love with Reece since she was a teenager, she’s convinced that she doesn’t have the right to be happy when her best friend is irreparably damaged. When a predator targeting local young women appears to set his sights on Roxy, it’s up to Reece to rescue her, with help from an unexpected source. Readers will speed-read to find out what happens next to Lynn’s powerfully appealing characters. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Closer You Come

Gena Showalter. HQN, $7.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-373-77962-8

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This hefty contemporary southern romance, opening the Original Heartbreakers series, is anything but sweet and innocent, with two troubled souls coming together in a clash that is as fiercely erotic as it is tempestuous. Brook Lynn Dillon meets ex-con Jase Hollister the night she comes storming into his home to roust her sister from his bed, but this potentially trite opening does not descend into cheap drama, and as Brook Lynn’s attraction to Jase heats up, his history with her sister is handled maturely by all parties. With lots of explicit sex and almost excessive alpha male possessiveness as well as a touch of the ridiculous, this book falls squarely into the “guilty pleasure” category. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Debt Collector: Season One

Susan Kaye Quinn. CreateSpace, $14.99 trade paper (430p) ISBN 978-1-4904-2550-4

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The collected edition of Quinn’s digital serial isn’t groundbreaking, but it is fast-paced and just original enough to make its trope-heavy plot more interesting than it should be. In a by-the-numbers near-future class-driven dystopia, Lirium is one of a handful of human beings called debt collectors, people with the power to drain someone’s potential future life force and to transfer that life to others. The government collects life from debt-ridden people to give to the entitled, while mobsters use debt collectors for generally sleazy purposes. Elena, an attractive prostitute with hidden depths (one of many neo-noir clichés), leads Lirium to discover that even the government side of collecting might be more than it seems. When he meets and falls for gorgeous collector Ophelia, he is quickly drawn even further into a conspiracy that involves the government and the mob. Quinn fills her book with plenty of violence and sex while dodging most questions about the science and setting. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Beta-Life

Martyn Amos and Ra Page. Comma (commapress.co.uk), $16.95 trade paper (390p) ISBN 978-1-905583-65-2

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In an interesting literary experiment, scientist Amos and Comma Press founder Page (The New Uncanny) pair literary and SF writers with scientists to explore the implications of new and upcoming technologies, in stories set in the year 2070. Even the weaker inclusions are interesting, and there are plenty of truly strong ones. Martyn Bedford’s “Sayer of Sooth” is a witty metafictional romp featuring lie-detecting goggles and a long-lost SF anthology. Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s “Bruno Wins!” takes the “Internet of Things” and social media to interesting levels, while Adam Roberts’s “A Swarm of Living Robjects Around Us” explores the political and personal implications of intelligent personal robotics systems. Annie Kirby’s “Luftpause” and Stuart Evers’s “Everyone Says” offer humanistic looks at the implications involved in the technology-driven loss of privacy. Equally fascinating are the essays in which the scientists explain the present-day state of the tech in question. Amos and Page’s anthology will appeal to any fan of futurism, pairing strong science-based stories with solid characters. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Void

Timothy S. Johnston. Carina, $2.99 e-book (257p) ISBN 9-781-4268-9964-5

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This engrossing and exciting SF thriller is Johnston’s third Tanner Sequence adventure (after The Freezer), but it stands well on its own. Confederate Combined Forces (CCF) homicide investigator Kyle Tanner returned to his home base on Pluto after catching one of the galaxy’s most feared serial killers, the Grim Reaper. As Tanner and his engineer girlfriend, Shaheen, escort the Reaper back to Alpha System for execution, they quietly discuss how they might escape the iron fist of the CCF. However, the sedate trip turns deadly when their transport mysteriously loses power and they are rescued by another incapacitated ship, the Phoenix. When Tanner finds an unexplained dead body, his investigation uncovers a secret CCF project targeting dissidents. Everyone on board is suspect, the Reaper escapes, the body count increases, and Tanner starts to realize that his erstwhile prisoner and the Phoenix are connected. SF and mystery fans will be impressed with Johnston’s tightly written deep-space whodunit. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Sacrificial Lamb Cake

Katrina Monroe. Red Adept (redadeptpublishing.com), $13.99 trade paper (242p) ISBN 978-1-940215-42-6

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Monroe (Reaper) explores religious identity and redemption, giving a passing nod to comedy as she boldly showcases the psychological and physical horrors of radicalism. Waitress Rain Johnson wants nothing more than to make some money, live her life free of her extreme environmentalist family (particularly her highly unstable mother), and maybe find a more stable and steady girlfriend than Francine, her roommate and occasional lover. Yet all of those wants are sidelined when a man named Jude presents her with an offer she can’t refuse. Not only is the money decent, but it turns out Rain is the Second Coming of Christ. Someone has started the Apocalypse a little early, and it’s up to Rain, Jude, and whomever they pick up along the way to head it off at the pass. With a promising comedic beginning and over-the-top characters, the well-written story provides an often scathing indictment of the human condition. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Not Easy Being Green

Susy Gage. Bitingduck (bitingduckpress.com), $14.99 trade paper (260p) ISBN 978-1-938463-98-3

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The second novel featuring physics professor Lori Barrow (after A Slow Cold Death) returns to the campus of Superior Technological Institute, where superstar biologist Oriol Ortiz is engaged in dubious experiments related to the supposed miracle cures performed at his clinic in Mexico. After Barrow discovers a dead mouse with a fluorescent green brain tumor, she fears that Ortiz’s experiments have gotten out of control. Pseudony­mous author Gage is a physics professor, and her experience shows in her darkly comic and slapstick portrayal of grubby labs, heated competition for grant money, and unhinged postdoctoral students. However, she undercuts herself with flat prose, labored wordplay (celebrity agent Morris Dietrich is known as “Moe Deet,” a pun on the French maudit), and characters who all sound the same. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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