Friday, December 23, 2011

Hidden Summit - A Virgin River Novel by Robyn Carr

Hidden Summit - A Virgin River Novel. Robyn Carr. An MIRA book from Harlequin. 352 pages. ISBN #: 9780778313007.

Leslie Petruso and Conner Danson are some duo! Both are loaded with pain and look forward to a life unencumbered with a member of the opposite sex. Leslie was married to a man who wound up cheating on her and now, even though they are divorced, just won't leave her alone. So she leaves to take a job as far away as she can get from him as she knows her old friends and neighbors either pity her or wonder what she did to push Greg into the arms of another woman who is now carrying a baby he swore he never wanted when married to Leslie. Off she goes to a job where her former skills are respected and people seem more than kind and welcoming!

Conner Danson is divorced as well from a woman who slept with anyone available, almost to the point of an illness. Add to that he was unfortunate enough to witness a murder. While he is waiting to testify against the successful businessman killer, his business is burned to the ground and he receives threats of worse to come in the future if he dares to go to court. So he has been placed under protection with an alias and arrives in the same town as Leslie. But he's not so comfortable with that for many reasons the reader will learn.

When Leslie and Conner meet, both are very careful not to get connected even though the sparks are very clear to each one. As time goes by, both begin to talk, date, and then on to a hot, steamy closeness that belies their original intentions. However, things become complicated on both sides when Greg appears on the scene and Conner wants to share the truth with Leslie.

The pages fly by in this quick-paced, tense, emotional, and passionate story that will thrill every reader who loves romance fiction. Robyn Carr knows how to craft a great story within the romance that keeps the reader flying through the pages, wanting to have the mystery elements come to a satisfying closure but totally unsure until the very end how that will be accomplished. Great story, Robyn Carr!

Voices of the Dead by Peter Leonard

Voices of the Dead. Peter Leonard. Introduction by Elmore Leonard. The Story Plant. January 2012. 320 pages. ISBN #: 9781611880328.

Harry Levin, is a scrap metal dealer who has become successful businessman. His life is turned upside down when his daughter is killed in a car crash. He travels to Washington D.C. and then Germany to find the man who callously killed his daughter and received no penalty for this horrific murder. But when he finally figures out who the man actually is, he tries to approach him and is attacked by the man's bodyguard. Fortunately, Harry has no problem handling the attacker but he is horrified by the callous treatment of the man who killed his daughter, a casual offer to pay for the funeral. This simple, poignant tale, in which Harry himself barely displays any emotion other than anger and some mention of tears, becomes even more terrible when Harry discovers that this man is the notorious Ernst Hess, now a German diplomat still carrying out unbelievably awful deeds!

The reader learns that Harry Levin is a Holocaust survivor who escaped being shot to death by playing dead and then crawling out of a hole filled with other dead bodies during World War II. After following Hess, he discovers Hess is still doing something to Jews that absolutely must stop. The story of the chase between the two, with Hess realizing who Harry is and determined to stop him from pursuing his course and Harry looking for proof to finally get some justice on many levels, is tautly plotted and gripping on every page.

This is a story that must be told, even if it is in fiction form, for it is still occurring in some parts of the world today. No spoilers here - there is so much more that will hold the reader in awe and horror, but one can't stop reading...and hoping that justice must be accomplished. What a story - fine, fine writing Peter Leonard!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Poor Richard's Lament: A Most Timely Tale by Tom Fitzgerald

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Poor Richard's Lament: A Most Timely Tale. Tom Fitzgerald. Hobblebush Books. 2012.  640 pages. ISBN #: 9780984592135.

Expediency is the heart of Tom Fitzgerald's foray into the imaginary life of Benjamin Franklin. For two hundred years have passed since the death of this notable American hero, years that Ben has had to pen the story of his life and include all of his wrongdoings. But Ben has left out quite a bit, and now he stands before his colleagues, now Judges, Alexander Wedderburn, John Adams and the Reverend William Smith. In multiple scenes that almost seem like Scrooge being judged in the well-known A Christmas Carol, heavenly swirls of colors, smoke, and lightning flashes accompany each new revelation that surprisingly damns this historical giant!

For as we proceed, we come to learn that while Ben lived by the virtues of Industry, Frugality, Resolution, Order, Cleanliness, Silence, Chastity, Sincerity, Temperance, Justice, Moderation, and Humility, Expediency was forefront in the way he treated his family. A fine balance of humor and tragedy fill each story as we learn of Ben's abandonment of his wife for years at a time, a sickly woman whose greatest yearning was for the return of her beloved husband. When Ben turned from loyalty to King George III of England, he unfortunately demanded his son William do the same and disowned him as a son after he refused to do so. He who taught his son to always be loyal betrayed both King and progeny forever! 

Fitzgerald is ruthless the way he has the Judges present scenes of Ben and other citizen's slaves being ordered around, beaten, and even tortured to death for amusement. He who spoke about the equality of all denies both the equality of women and slaves. While this sounds severe, Fitzgerald does manage to combine irony, some funny scenes, and a buffoon-like characterization of the Judges that keeps the reader intrigued and flipping the pages.

Finally, Ben is allowed to visit contemporary Philadelphia and other American cities he formerly knew and make a difference. But history repeats itself not for Ben but for others who supposedly admire him but certainly live lives that are bound by the same sense of expediency and hypocrisy, some almost ridiculous and some with horrific results. They include a President and his aide who will do anything to guarantee winning the next election, a drug-free man trying to forge a new life clean of the killer crack and helping others to live instead from a life of dignity and self-respect.

Poor Richard's Lament is certainly not light reading, however this description hardly covers the amazing breadth of Ben's life and influence that is covered herein. Ben is a sympathetic Petitioner and it is the potent scenes that speak most loudly, much more than anyone else's pompous words. This novel is so cleverly constructed and so informative of what the reader probably doesn't know about Ben Franklin's life that the reader is riveted to every page and more so as one progresses. Yes, Ben, "make one's self acceptable in one's own eyes the eyes of others foremostly." Great literate historical fiction - one of the most cleverly crafted novels this reviewer has read in years!!!