Summer Reads – Any Genre (2014-2015)

Diane Giarrusso

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Hell on Wheels – Julie Ann Walker
Appeal Factors: Pacing: Fast; Characterizations:multiple POVs, fairly stock characters, but M/F protagonists are more complex and it’s clear there will be sequels to this first one as many characters were introduced; Language/Style: accessible with humor and a few military terms, there are war/political situations that set both the character and story arcs, feisty females and stoic alphas; Tone/mood: Suspenseful, some scenes are brutal and gruesome but they are also short, a lot of sexual tension which culminates in intense sex in the second half of the book; Frame: Black Knights is a dark ops organization with the cover of a high end motorcycle shop, there are many characters and heroic activities; Storyline: Character centered, the backstories that influenced the characters, the irresistible force of love and sex.

Ali Morgan shows up at the Chicago motorcycle shop, Black Knights, she announces that someone is after her–and it appears her dead brother is involved. Since her brother Grigg died on an op, Nate “Ghost” Weller, Grigg’s best friend, wants to find out what’s happening. He’s been in love with Ali since forever, but she’s been off limits as the sister of his best friend. Ali and Nate become lovers, but there are things he can’t share with her about what Grigg was doing and these get in the way of their relationship.

Sequels are titled: In Rides Trouble; Rev It Up; Thrill Ride; Born Wild, and Hell for Leather.

Comparison to the empress of this subgenre: Suz Brockmann. Suz is the Lays potato chip brand—you can’t stop at one—they’re the best. Unfortunately Lays is sold out and I have to choose another brand… Maybe Ruffles…Maybe Utz. They’re still good, but not like Lays! Romantic Times blurbs: “Walker is ready to join the ranks of great romantic suspense writers”. Except for Suz, I’d agree. She’s certainly as good as anything that Nora Roberts or Sandra Brown is putting out lately.

I think I’d compare Walker more to Lori Foster—whose books I really like—about likeable and sexy alpha males and strong women in sticky situations. Foster has a few series out and I’ve enjoyed them all. Others compare her to Tara Janzen, Catherine Mann and Cindy Gerard–none of whom I’ve read yet.

Genre: Science Fiction
Fortune’s Pawn – Rachel Bach
Appeal Factors: Fast paces with plot twists revealed throughout the book; Interesting variety of human and alien characters including our kick-a** heroine, Devi; This is a plot and character driven novel, but the storytelling is solid; Dramatic, suspenseful, some romance and humor; Takes place on a trade ship whose crew holds many secrets; First in a series.

Deviana–Devi–Morris is a tough, sexy and talented mercenary whose ultimate goal is to serve as a Devastator– a troop of guards to the King. Hoping to advance more quickly, she joins a trade ship with a sketchy reputation as one of its security officers. While on board there are plenty of battles, intrigue, mysterious alien talents and some lovely romance. The intrigue and adventure becomes more complex the further along the book gets until a cliff-hanger ending that had me racing to put the next title on hold while simultaneously cursing my poor planning!

Definitely worth reading, especially if you want to try out some military, space opera SF.

Similar Authors: I think the tone and interaction between characters is similar to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series–something I’ve decided to call “accessible science fiction”. Accessible SF focuses on character relationships as much as action and the science-y parts are interesting but simply described. Of course, Devi is a great heroine–strong, gutsy and loyal!

Others liken this series/author to: Grimspace by Ann Aquirre; Andromeda’s fall by William C. Dietz; Honor Harrington by David Weber and the Vorkosigan series by Bujold.

Jan Resnick

Genre: Historical Romance
How to marry a marquis – Quinn, Julia
Appeal Factors: Pacing – fast; Characters – well-developed within genre stereotypes; Language – engaging, witty; Story – character-driven; Tone – steamy; Frame – Surrey, England 1815.

Elizabeth Hotchkiss, impoverished oldest of four siblings and their only source of funds, works as a companion and has finally realized her only remaining option is to marry for money. She has no experience with men or flirting so when she finds the book ‘How to Marry a Marquis’ in her employer’s library, she tries to use it as a guide. Elizabeth is very fond of her employer Lady Danbury but is unaware that Lady D is being blackmailed. Lady D brings in her nephew James Sidewell, Marquis of Riverdale and former agent for the crown, as an undercover estate agent to identify the blackmailer. This should appeal to most romance readers. It is light, a fast read, and results in a satisfactory HEA.

  • Agents of the Crown series #2.
  • Similar authors: Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Julie Garwood, Sabrina Jeffries, Lisa Kleypas, Catherine Coulter, Janet Evanovich – The husband list Genre: Historical Romance

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Ghost Moon – Robards, Karen
Appeal Factors: Pacing – fast; Characters – well-developed within genre stereotypes; Language – compelling; Story – character-driven; Tone – suspenseful, steamy; Frame – LaAngelle Plantation LA, 1999.

Nine years ago, Olivia eloped and was rejected by her family. Now, with her 8-year-old daughter in tow, she’s returning home from Houston at Aunt Callie’s request and finds her relationship with her step-cousin Seth is largely unresolved as is her mother’s mysterious death.

This should appeal to most romantic suspense readers. It is a fast, compelling read, and results in a satisfactory HEA.

Red flag: Olivia’s mother is killed by a serial child killer.

  • Similar authors: Mary Balogh, Linda Howard – Up Close and Dangerous, Joan Johnston -Nine years ago, Olivia eloped and was rejected by her family. Now, with her 8-year-old daughter in tow, she’s returning home from Houston at Aunt Callie’s request and finds her relationship with her step-cousin Seth is largely unresolved as is her mother’s mysterious death.

This should appeal to most romantic suspense readers. It is a fast, compelling read, and results in a satisfactory HEA.

Red flag: Olivia’s mother is killed by a serial child killer.

  • Similar authors: Mary Balogh, Linda Howard – Up Close and Dangerous, Joan Johnston – Shattered, Janet Evanovich & Charlotte Hughes – Full Scoop

Genre: Historical Romance
Nowhere near respectable – Putney, Mary Jo
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; Characterizations – unconventional heroine, good secondary characters; Language – engaging; Story – intricately plotted; Tone – steamy; Frame – 1812, London.

Leaving the home of her almost intended due to racial slurs, Hindu/British heiress Kiri is abducted by smugglers. Damian Mackenzie buys her freedom. When she returns her debt, she finds herself involved in thwarting plots against the British Crown. Lost Lords #3

  • Red Flag: Hindu British mixed marriages
  • Similar authors: Lorraine Heath – Lost Lords of Pembrook (She Tempts the Duke), Christine Feehan – Lair of the Lion, Julie Garwood, Mary Jo Putney

Genre: Romance; Women’s lives and relationships
The Apple Orchard – Wiggs, Susan
Appeal Factors: Pacing – fast; complex characters w/interesting, compelling back stories; character-driven; language – engaging; tone – heartwarming; frame – San Francisco & Archangel CA, contemporary, and Copenhagen 1941

From the high pressure world of restoring stolen treasures to their owners and the auction of high end antiques, Tess Delaney is sidetracked by an inheritance and a half-sister she never suspected existed. Staying in the small northern CA town of Archangel, she discovers a new life of simple pleasures, family and community.

Flashbacks tell an earlier story of WWII.

  • Similar authors: Susan Wiggs, Nancy Thayer – Island Girls, Robyn Carr, Linda Francis Lee – The Glass Kitchen, Debbie Macomber – Thursdays at Eight, Haywood Smith – Ladies of the Lake, Marcia Willett – A Week in Winter

Genre: Regency Romance
The Devil in Disguise – Sloane, Stephanie
Appeal Factors: Pacing – fast; Characters – well-developed within genre stereotypes, entertaining secondary characters; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – steamy; Frame – London, 1811.

Lady Lucinda Grey is the subject of a kidnapping plot. The Young Corinthians, a group of elite spies, order notorious rake Lord Randall to court her in order to be close enough to protect her. Randall’s ‘rake’ cover has been a useful disguise, but because of it he has to offer his best horse to get Lucinda to play along.

  • Similar authors: Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick, Stephanie Laurens, Lisa Kleypas

Women’s Lives and relationships/mystery
Goodnight Nobody – Weiner, Jennifer
Appeal Factors: Pacing – fast; Characters – complex, entertaining secondary characters; Language – Compelling, witty; Story – character-driven; Tone – dramatic, suspenseful; Frame – Upchurch CT, contemporary.

This novel is a little out of ordinary for Weiner. ‘Accidental’ mother of three and ‘not part of the in crowd’ suburban housewife Kate Klein may be moving up when she is invited to lunch by Kitty Cavanaugh, center of the in crowd. Unfortunately, when Kate arrives, she finds Kitty dead in a pool of blood with a knife in her back. Kate feels compelled to investigate Kitty’s death – it gives her purpose and direction. Help from her best friend Janie (of the carpet Siegals) adds humor; help from her former heartthrob Evan adds tension.

The murder is solved, but Kate’s future is open ended.

  • Similar authors: Susan Isaacs – Compromising Positions, Abby Drake – Good Little Wives, Robyn Harding – The Secret Desires of a Soccer Mom, Sara Paretsky – Critical Mass, Nicole Bernier – The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

Michelle Deschene

Genre: Police Procedural/Thriller
Peter Pan Must Die – John Verdon
Appeal Factors: Character; Tone; Pacing

Dave Gurney may be a retired police detective living in the Catskill mountains, but once a cop, always a cop, especially when a debt has been incurred to a former colleague, who shortly comes to collect. The investigation Gurney gets roped into was supposed to be simple: prove police corruption to get a guilty verdict on a prominent homicide case overturned. But the deeper he looks into the case, the less it makes sense, and for Gurney it soon becomes a matter of finding the person responsible for not one murder, but potentially for a number closer to one hundred.

This is the fourth Dave Gurney novel, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be someone’s first. Verdon establishes who Gurney is in the first chapter, adding layers of background information smoothly and where it doesn’t break the narrative’s stride, so that you’re able to read on without feeling as though you’re missing key pieces of the puzzle. Despite Gurney’s retired status, this book is decidedly a police procedural: slow and methodical, the case is approached from every possible angle. If step-by-step crime solving is your patrons’ bread and butter, this book should find its way into their hands.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Sabriel – Garth Nix
Appeal Factors: World-Building;  Story; Character

The first in a young adult fantasy trilogy, Sabriel begins the story of a young woman whose destiny catches up to her all too quickly. A powerful necromancer’s daughter with skills of her own, Sabriel ventures past the Wall into the Old Kingdom, where she faces a battery of trials, each one worse than the last, as she searches for her missing father.

As someone who reads for character, it took me a brief while to adjust to the plot-driven, deep world-building way of this novel, but when I did, when I really settled into the details of place and magic, the book came alive. Fans of adult or young adult high fantasy, those readers who like a fully-formed world and magic system to sink their teeth into, may go hard for this trilogy, which has a companion short story collection and forthcoming prequel.

  • Book two: Lirael
  • Book three: Abhorsen
  • Prequel: Clariel
  • Short Story collection: Across the Wall
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