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The Hot Zone

Jayne Castle. Jove, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-0-515-15472-6

Castle, aka Jayne Ann Krentz, returns to the world of Harmony for the sprightly third tale of spooky Rainshadow Island (after Deception Cove). Spunky “gatekeeper” Sedona Snow has always been able to manipulate the psi forces swirling through the island’s ancient alien-made catacombs, and the malevolent Dr. Blankenship’s unpleasant experiments also give her control of fire. Finally she escapes Blankenship’s subterranean prison, along with her nearly too-cutesy dust bunny companion, Lyle. While making a new life for herself as a Rainshadow innkeeper and overcoming the trauma of imprisonment and heartache from her earlier marriage, Sedona is drawn to newly arrived ghost-hunter Cyrus Jones, a charismatic “cooler” who can damp out other people’s psi forces. Their physiques and talents mesh, and erotic thrills ensue. The breathless narrow escapes and familial conflicts will be familiar to genre fans, but they’re made intriguing by the otherworldly and esoteric setting and some complicated generational backstories. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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What a Lady Most Desires

Lecia Cornwall. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-233240-0

Cornwall’s nifty Regency meanders a bit, but it boasts a solid story with plenty of plot twists. On the eve of a definitive battle against Napoleon’s army, Lady Delphine St. James eyes Royal Dragoon Major Lord Stephen Ives across a crowded ballroom. Though he barely registers her presence, she boldly sets forth to greet him personally and wish him luck in the upcoming fight. When drunken Captain Rothdale intervenes, requesting a dance from Delphine, Stephen smartly rescues her. After being wounded and blinded in the battle, Stephen recovers all but his sight under Delphine’s tender care. But fellow Dragoons accuse him of theft and cowardice under fire, and the evil Rothdale has his eyes on Delphine’s dowry. Cornwall steadily develops both characters and plot, and the reader’s hopes ebb and flow with Stephen and Delphine’s shifting fates. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Perfect Man

Vicki Lewis Thompson. Signet Eclipse, $7.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-0-451-41931-6

Three friends each overcome the inconvenient presence of too much money and find love with their perfect cowboys. Melanie Shaw travels to Paris alone when her two besties back out of the trip. Freshly single and on a budget, she doesn’t expect to get mugged outside Notre Dame before checking into her hotel. Fortunately, billionaire Drew Eldridge is ready to step in and show her the town—and his bedroom. Large animal vet Astrid Lindberg is set to inherit a fortune of her own. Her hunky client Fletcher Grayson challenges her professional decorum even before he rescues her from a flooded river. Their passion is undeniable, but it might not be enough to overcome Fletch’s hesitations about Astrid’s wealth. Months after escaping from a stampede at a concert fire, Valerie Wolitzky is still traumatized. Corporate executive turned rancher Adam Templeton is ready to distract her with a hefty dose of cowboy seduction. All three stories are remarkably shallow but pleasantly escapist. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Song of the Fireflies

J.A. Redmerski. Grand Central/Forever, $14 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-4555-5506-2

A tense police standoff flashes back into a meandering story replete with poor decisions, dangerous codependency, and a frankly unbelievable ending in bestseller Redmerski’s standalone new adult romance. Warning bells go off with the introduction of Bray, who’s so “intimidating and pretty that the other girls know they had better befriend her or else end up her enemy.” Although they’ve loved each other since childhood, Elias and Bray have settled for being friends with benefits rather than admit their feelings. Elias thinks Bray is “too bold for her own good” and suffers from an “inability to form bonds with other people,” but when she’s implicated in the death of another young woman, he plots their escape. On the run, they careen from one bad decision to another until there’s nowhere left to go. Fortunately for them, Redmerski (Killing Sarai) resolves all with a leap ahead to a shiny happy future in which painful payback and healing are behind them. Romance fans will be disappointed with this dark melodrama of desperate characters and toxic faux-love. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Shatter

Erin McCarthy. Berkley, $14 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0425-27510-8

An unexpected pregnancy sparks a relationship in McCarthy’s fourth True Believers novel (after Believe), but the resultant trappings of melodrama fail to bring the story to life. College student Kylie Warner, heartbroken over her boyfriend’s infidelity with her best friend, has a one-night stand with her chemistry tutor, Jonathon “Darwin” Kadisch. During her subsequent pregnancy, they bond over her ex’s attempts to get her back, hyperemesis, and the work and worry of juggling school and baby-planning for both of them. Kylie and Darwin are both such practical, committed, stable people that even the best efforts of a genre-standard, one-dimensional villain can’t pull them apart long enough to generate real conflict. The characters are well depicted, but the clichéd obstacles in their way make the story forgettable and shapeless. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Sandpiper Island

Donna Kauffman. Kensington, $14 trade paper (323p) ISBN 978-0-7582-9281-0

Kauffman’s third visit to endearing Blueberry Cove, Maine (after Half Moon Harbor) solidifies the idea of the whole town as a quirky family. Blueberry Cove’s inhabitants love one another even while they’re process their own insecurities, and they prepare to fight the caricatured evil rich developers and those who want to sell out the town’s charm. Military veteran Ford Maddox thinks he’s content, quietly living in an isolated island tree-house at the seabird research station. When his baby sister, Grace, asks him to reach out to Delia O’Reilly, whose family’s beloved diner is about to be turned into a yacht club, he realizes that to help Delia, he’ll have to face the enduring emotions from their intense tryst 20 years earlier. An emergency rescue of adorable baby puffins gives Ford and Delia the time to develop mutual trust, bridge the gap between platonic comforting and hot sex on a ladder, and realize that they’ve been yearning to call each other family. Kauffman’s stories show that the bravery to reach for a connection is all we need to discover joy; she excels at expressing the struggles and joys of giving in to love. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Rival

Penelope Douglas. NAL, $14 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-451-47242-7

Douglas follows Bully with a gritty, racy new adult tale peppered with raw emotions. It has been two years since step-siblings Fallon Pierce and Madoc Caruthers laid eyes on each other. Without skipping a beat, they return to old habits, trading hateful barbs in public before abandoning themselves to emotional, raw, satisfying sex in private. But this time Fallon has a vengeful plan in mind, and Madoc’s emotions are caught between a rock and a hard place. Fallon and Medoc have equally painful stories that will crush the readers’s hearts as they watch the couple try to rebuild the bonds of trust and yet again separate. While stubbornness keeps them apart and a family crisis challenges their relationship, a little conniving from their friends brings them back together to confront the past. This smoking-hot, action-packed story is a powerful addition to the edgy side of the genre, and readers will eagerly anticipate the next installment. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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On the Record

K.A. Linde. Amazon/Montlake Romance, $12.95 trade paper (382p) ISBN 978-1-4778-2388-0

Brady Maxwell let Liz Dougherty leave. That’s Liz’s secret misery at the beginning of this tense, emotional sequel to For the Record. As Brady successfully campaigns for a seat in Congress, Liz devotes herself to journalism studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and her work as a reporter for the college newspaper. Eventually, she moves on to date Hayden Lane, her editor and an all-around perfect guy. While Liz is thrilled to be in a relationship she doesn’t have to hide for fear of destroying her partner’s career, the passion of her secret romance with Brady is missing, and every reminder of the politician leaves her longing for what she can’t have. Or can she? This is a mature and tender examination of a young woman struggling with questions of when to settle, when to fight, and how to move on. Liz might be hard for new readers to cheer for at the outset, but she earns their support as she grows. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Night’s Honor

Thea Harrison. Berkley Sensation, $7.99 mass market (304p) ISBN 978-0-4252-7436-1

Harrison’s enjoyable seventh Elder Races paranormal (after Kinked) takes a trip to the Vampyre demesne in San Francisco. The Vampyres are hosting their annual audition and auction for new human attendants. Running away from a dangerous Djinn, Tess Graham reluctantly offers her skills for auction and attracts the attention of Xavier del Torro, who serves the Nightkind King. Despite her fear of Xavier, she agrees to train as his attendant, understanding that she must eventually offer her blood without hesitation. The epitome of a Spanish nobleman, Xavier hides his interest in Tess behind politeness and professionalism, but he can’t help but be impressed by her determination to conquer her fear of his kind and succeed as an attendant. When she leverages his political connections to save herself, she also captures his heart. The world contains a great many different beings and types of magic, but even casual readers will be able to follow along and enjoy this fun and affecting episode. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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No Limits

Lori Foster. HQN, $7.99 mass market (432p) ISBN 978-0-373-77904-8

Muscles, mystery, and emotions dominate Foster’s Ultimate series launch. Cannon Colter helped save flirty Yvette Sweeny’s life. As much as he wanted to make her his, she was too young and the time wasn’t right, so he spent the next three years building a career as a mixed martial arts fighter and putting Yvette out of his mind. Then the death of Yvette’s grandfather reunites Cannon and Yvette in a small Ohio town. Yvette is finally able to confront her past, her feelings for Cannon, and her struggle to trust him, but can the sweetly burgeoning romance survive the machinations of those work against it? The romance simmers slowly and mystery is woven into the plot. Foster (Dash of Peril) cleverly builds three-dimensional characters to populate the predictable but well told and satisfying story. Agent: Paige Wheeler, Creative Media Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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