Unremarkable contemporary romance, cleverly plotted but vague and implausible in the details, and lacking the spark that...

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HOW TO MARRY A MATADOR

An American woman traveling to Madrid for an acquisition deal wakes up to find herself married to her dramatic and attractive Spanish colleague; she must decide whether she will seek an annulment or give in to her new husband’s pleas to stay married.

The second novel in Baird’s Girls on the Go series turns the classic romance plot amusingly inside out, starting with the marriage, then the presentation of the new bride to family, complete with a claim of a pregnancy that doesn’t exist, and finally to the courtship that creates the happy relationship. Fernando Garcia de la Vega, heir to the beautiful land that supports his family as well as to the talent of his family bullfighting legacy, will lose the property left to him by his grandfather if he does not marry and produce an heir within the next year. Still, he insists that his impromptu wedding to Jessica Bloom was not mercenary but the hand of fate and opportunity. Jessica, supported by phone calls to her sensible friend Evie in New York, jumps to invalidate the wedding before the paperwork is finalized. But she’s lulled into delaying her plans by Fernando’s mother, European adventure and Fernando’s dreamy accent and sexy smile. A series based on the idea of passion in exotic locales needs to evoke the beauty of the location much more strongly than this novel does. Descriptions of the thrill of being in the Spanish countryside are as lukewarm as those of the romantic chemistry and sexual encounters between the couple. The lack of grand drama also makes it less believable that Jessica—a successful, single businesswoman—would give up her own ambitions for a bit of romance.

Unremarkable contemporary romance, cleverly plotted but vague and implausible in the details, and lacking the spark that makes travel romance sizzle.

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985123581

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Winter Wedding Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2012

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Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

NO REMORSE

Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.

Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.

Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980806601

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Marq Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

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With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the...

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.

Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?

With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984991808

Page Count: 389

Publisher: First Snow Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

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