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An Amish Christmas Love: Four Novellas

Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid, and Kelly Irvin. Thomas Nelson, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-5291-1870-7

Wiseman (An Amish Year), Clipston (The Beloved Hope Chest), Irvin (Upon a Spring Breeze), and Reid (A Dream of Miracles) lend their considerable talents to this enjoyable Christmas collection. In “Winter Kisses,” Wiseman provides a multigenerational romance. When three men of similar ages rent out their Daadi Haus (guest house), a grandmother and mother (both widowed) and an unmarried daughter are all smitten, but a one-to-one pairing is not without its complications. Clipston’s “The Christmas Cat” is a tale of remembered love as well as love of neighbor. Emma Bontrager is lonely on her first Christmas without her husband of 45 years. After a rotund orange tabby arrives and makes himself at home during a snowstorm and four local youth come to check on her, she shares the memories of her long-ago courtship and early married life. Irvin’s “Snow Angels” features David Byler who must choose between a faith-filled future with his Amish sweetheart or leaving the community to pursue a woman he had romanced during his rumspringa. In Reid’s “Home for Christmas,” Ella Whetstone and her canine companion Lulu inherit her aunt’s farm, forcing her to return to the Amish community she left at six years old. The four novellas vary in style and substance, but all are feel-good stories perfect to indulge in during the busy holiday season. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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An Inconvenient Beauty

Kristi Ann Hunter. Bethany House, $14.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1827-9

Hunter’s final installment in the Hawthorne House series will delight those already invested in the series as well as any reader who enjoys stories set in Regency-era England. Finally it’s time for family patriarch Griffith, Duke of Riverton, to find love after seeing all his siblings happily married. His chosen bride, Miss Frederica St. Claire, isn’t sure about the attentions of a duke though, and may be in love with another anyway. It’s her cousin, Isabella Breckenridge, who is the center of attention instead, with her stunning beauty and flirting ways. Griffith is attracted to her, and she is beginning to warm up to him, but there is much more to her story than anyone guesses. Although she maintains a beautiful façade for her society debut, Isabella’s uncle has been pressuring her to use her single status to help him out of financial straits. Will the duke ever dance with Isabella? Will her uncle’s plans succeed? As the London Season plays out, secrets are revealed, past loves return, and hearts align—despite a fair amount of underhanded conniving—to create a fitting finale to the series and a lovely addition to the Regency genre. Agent: Natasha Kern Literary Agency (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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In His Majesty’s Service

Elizabeth Silver and Jenny Urban. Riptide, $18.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-62649-649-1

In this space opera romance from Silver and Urban (Fae Haven), the leads just can’t keep their hands off each other, fast-tracking the central relationship from casual lust to mutually protective love. This inevitably leads to shortchanging the cultural implications of a mystical system in which soulmates have matching birthmarks but marriage and the deeper “bonding” of bloodborne telepathy can happen without a match. Lord Anders Hawthorne, aka Crown Prince Philip, is traveling in disguise to the funeral of the king of the Drion Collective. He starts an intense fling with flight-loving Capt. Zachary O’Connell. After an attack on the ship, Anders discloses both his true identity and their birthmark match to Zach. He feels that public acknowledgement of the relationship is the only way to protect his claim to the throne, but Zach is resistant to being grounded as prince consort. The forgettable political plot brings a little structure to what would otherwise be hot quasimilitary porn, but the stereotyped antagonists are given little more motivation than a facile power grab. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Miss Leslie’s Secret

Jennifer Moore. Covenant Communications, $14.99 mass market (218p) ISBN 978-1-5244-0415-4

This inspirational Regency romance by Moore (Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart), set in the Scottish Highlands, is sweet and uplifting. When ex-soldier Sgt. Conall Stewart catches a young lad, Jamie, stealing from him, he returns the boy to his headstrong, independent mother, Aileen Leslie, who excuses away her son’s mischievous ways. Then Aileen discovers Conall’s war medal in her son’s pocket and realizes Conall was telling the truth. She orders Jamie to work for Conall as punishment, and it becomes a labor of love, honor, and respect. Conall becomes a surrogate father to Jamie, leading to spending more time with Aileen, who sees in Conall everything she’s ever wanted in a father for her son and a husband for herself. The trio naturally form a family unit, and, rather abruptly, Conall asks Aileen to marry him. But then a truth known only to Aileen and her nosy spitfire neighbor, Dores, is revealed, making their prospects as damp as their beloved city of Dunaid. Moore flawlessly works in a lot of cultural references, and though the romance is thin, it will still warm readers’ hearts. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Texas Fierce

Janet Dailey. Kensington, $26 (264p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0957-8

Dailey’s easy prose pairs perfectly with the low-key Texas town revisited in her fourth Tylers of Texas contemporary (after Texas Tall). With aspirations of being a rodeo star, 20-year-old Virgil “Bull” Tyler is breaking his neck riding the meanest bulls. He’s barely scraping by when old friend Jasper Platt shows up to tell him that Bull’s father has died, leaving everything to Bull. He knows that comprises a dilapidated house on a 2,000-acre scrub ranch called Rimrock. Even though he’d just as soon be as shut of that as he was of his father, an encounter with wealthy beauty Susan Rutledge makes him wonder what it might be like to marry and settle down there instead. Besides, he’d rather die than sell Rimrock to Ham Prescott, a vulturelike neighboring rancher who’s hellbent on getting the ranch—and Susan—for his own by any means possible. If becoming a rodeo star was tough, the odds against saving Rimrock and marrying upper-class Susan are staggering. The ensuing plot, characters, and happy ending are as satisfying and comfy as well-worn boots. Agent: Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Betting Vow: Unconventional Brides, Book 3

K.M. Jackson. Dafina, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0572-3

Jackson charms with the third in her Unconventional Brides series (after Insert Groom Here and To Me I Wed), a snappy contemporary that can be read as a standalone. Brazen supermodel and aspiring actress Leila Darling is ready to swear off men thanks to her slimy ex-boyfriend, who made it big at her expense with a humiliating, chart-topping song called “Darling Leila.” Straitlaced TV producer Carter Bain is aiming to land a big ad client by casting Leila in a mindless Three’s Company–style production, but Leila has her eye on a smart legal drama he’s casting. After losing a bet with Leila’s manager during an improbable poker game dare in Las Vegas, Leila and Carter make a cold business decision to marry. If they stay married for six months, Leila will have her choice of TV roles; if they can’t hack it, Leila will star in the sitcom. To their surprise, a satisfying and deep connection develops between Leila and Carter that has nothing to do with business, as is evident in Jackson’s thoughtful characterization. Leila and Carter are surprisingly sweet to each other, despite the marriage’s beginnings, and Jackson even manages to sell the poker game as a perfectly normal motivation for marriage. Agent: Rachel Brooks, L. Perkins Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Horizon

Fran Wilde. Tor, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7787-6

Spanning the ground and sky in a city of spires where people sail between their towers grown from living bone on wings of silk, the conclusion to Wilde’s fantastical trilogy (after Cloudbound) takes on violent political divisions, ecological desolation, and the imminent death of the only world the characters have ever known. Unaware of the extent of the danger threatening the bone spires, political leader Macal is trying to breathe life into his desperate community. Below, a young woman named Kirit and her companions have survived a fall from the sky only to discover that their city’s progenitor, an unimaginably giant creature, is being crushed and starved by the weight of the towers. When disaster hastens the city’s demise, some of the fallen begin to climb, hoping to save those who still live above, but the solution they devise for evacuation seems needlessly complicated; there’s no plausible reason that most of the citizens can’t simply glide down on their own wings. Despite this flaw, fans of the series will be satisfied by its conclusion. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Stranger of Tempest: The God Fragments, Book 1

Tom Lloyd. Gollancz, $24.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-4732-1317-3

Dark humor and mayhem are the order of the day in Lloyd’s enjoyable epic fantasy series launch. Interwoven multiple point-of-view characters and timelines immerse the reader immediately in the action, while allowing for gradual revelations about the world and greater context. Soldier and occasional mercenary Lynx brings both muscle and strategic skills to the Cards, a merc team led by commanders Anatin and Payl. The book opens with a rescue gone awry that gets the Cards in trouble with the religious Knights-Charnel, and soon the mercenaries are fleeing a number of dangerous enemies. Lynx was an increasingly reluctant participant in the wars of conquest of his native nation, So Han, and this history lends depth to his character. Lloyd (the Twilight Reign series) makes good use of limited magic, mostly in the form of creatively deadly weapons, and the detailed battle scenes will keep readers engaged, even when the pace falters a little in the final third of the book. Agent: Simon Kavanagh, Mic Cheetham Literary (U.K.). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound

Edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law. Laska Media (Ingram, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-9939696-9-0

This anthology of 23 speculative stories focuses on caregivers, whose own lives and needs often seem to fade into “the province of ghosts.” In Ian Creasey’s “The Dunschemin Retirement Home for Repentant Supervillains,” a lowly minion cares for his aging supervillain partner. Colleen Anderson’s “The Healer’s Touch” follows a nanomedicine doctor who’s overwhelmed by her capacity for empathy. In Tyler Keevil’s “Blinders,” an unusual guide dog helps a welder gone almost completely blind from years of grueling work. And in the collection’s strongest story, the profoundly sad “The Oracle and the Warlord,” by Karina Sumner-Smith, Andra is forced to watch her charge and would-be lover, a powerful oracle named Sayenne, surrender everything she has to the power of the dark waters from which she draws her prophecies, growing weaker with each one This is overall a strong collection, though it is weakened by a number of stories that are thematically pertinent yet lacking in one respect or another—A.M. Dellamonica’s “Bottleneck,” for example, relies too much on worldbuilding and loses all semblance of character as a result. Fortunately, the book starts and ends on high notes that balance out the disappointing entries and make it worth reading. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Raising Fire

James Bennett. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-39073-6

Bennett’s inventive and vivid continuation of the tale that began with Chasing Embers focuses primarily on the struggles of Ben Garston, the human form of the last dragon left on Earth. The others—along with all magical beings such as witches, trolls, giants, etc.—have accepted the Sleep that let humans forget about them for centuries. But now the magic truce is failing, some humans are seeking a talisman that would let them destroy the “monsters,” and Garston is beginning to suspect that he’s only a pawn to Blaise Von Hart, last representative of the fay, who is capable of playing a very subtle and very long game. Readers will be swept along by the vivid writing and frequent explosions of extreme violence. This is smart action storytelling, and Bennett is assembling the materials for a terrific conclusion. Agent: John Jarrold, John Jarrold Literary (U.K.). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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