by Barbara SamuelSeptember 2007
The man who came in from the cold
Agnes and the Hitman is the vivid and colorful second offering from the highly successful team that brought us last year's Don't Look Down: Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. Cranky Agnes is a food writer with a community tangle of ties to the mob. Her best friend is the granddaughter of a Don, and she's just written a cookbook with mobster Joey The Gent. She's also arranging a wedding for the daughter of an old friend, in return for mortgage payments on the house Agnes loves, a house that once belonged to a mobster who went to sleep with the fishes after a heist that netted $5 million in unmarked bills, along with some serious bling. When the redneck descendants of another mobster try to kidnap Agnes' dog, Joey sends in his nephew, Shane, a hitman for a secret government agency, to look out for Agnes, and the fun begins. Laced with gunfire and great sex, Agnes and the Hitman is a smart, funny caper that should appeal to readers of both sexes.
WHERE THE DARK SIDE LIVES
Mercy Holling has never been certain that she's human. Gifted or cursed with the ability to make others do whatever she wants them to do simply by suggesting it and pressing them to do so, Mercy has decided to try to use her powers for good and is opening a hypnotherapy practice. In Beg for Mercy by Toni Andrews, lone wolf Mercy finds herself suddenly breaking her vow to never deliberately use her special ability or let anyone get close. Drawn to defending a woman who needs her, Mercy tumbles into a dark world where she meets two men. One is a sophisticated and dangerous man she finds she cannot control, who might have the keys to the secret of Mercy's parentage. The other is a man she might very well be falling in love with but he's the type who hates secrets, and how can that possibly work out? Andrews has a hip and sophisticated voice that manages to be moody, rich and believably paranormal. This is a page-turning start to what promises to be a very intriguing series.
A WALTZ OF WIT
Love Letters from a Duke is the latest in Elizabeth Boyle's very popular series of Georgian romances. Felicity Langley is a sensible girl. She has assembled an all-inclusive guide to the marriageable men in England called The Bachelor Chronicles, a pursuit that has led her to realize her own best match will be with the Duke of Hollindrake. To that end, she begins a correspondence with the Duke, and their betrothal is imminent as the novel opens. What the Duke does not know is that the sisters are penniless, and only Felicity's cleverness has allowed them to assemble a respectable front, one that includes hiring a footman who is much too handsome and much too forward and one who raises a most inappropriate passion in Felicity. What Felicity doesn't know is that she is not the only one juggling a few secrets! RITA-winner Boyle has turned a classic of mistaken identity into a rollicking comedy of romantic manners.
THE MOMMY YEARS
Four mothers of young children connect via a support group in the town of Orange Cove, Florida, in Mommy Tracked by Whitney Gaskell a book that's more substantial than its title would suggest. There is single mother and food writer Anna, who has sworn off men until her darling son is raised; Grace, a stay-at-home mother of three daughters who is obsessed with the extra weight she's carrying and can't seem to see how fantastic her life is; cool-headed, career-tracked lawyer Juliet who has a the luxury of a stay-at-home husband to care for their twin girls; and Chloe, with a newborn and the sloppy pajamas to prove it, who is struggling to make sense of her husband's inability to participate in family life at all. There are few periods more challenging for women than the pre-school years, and this compassionate novel captures that time in all its endearing, slovenly, enchanting glory.
Barbara Samuel's next novel, about a chef in Aspen, will be published next year. In the meantime, she's blogging at www.awriterafoot.com.