Category Archives: romance

Erin Morgetstern — The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea is a story about the love of stories.

The main plot lies mostly underground in a world filled with stories—in books and paintings and sculptures and even in people. Zachary Ezra Rawlings finds an uncatalogued book with no listed author in the library. The book contains a story about him when as a young boy he missed the opportunity of opening a door painted on a wall. But the book is older than Zachary. How could the author know his story? His search for the source of the book leads him to the labyrinth of stories lying under his feet.

Morgenstern’s novel is filled with unrelated stories, fables, fairytales, and myths that intertwine and finally connect at the end of the book. These individual stories contain romance, loss, time and fate, humor…

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, but I was absorbed in this book and Morgenstern’s excellent writing. She has a fantastic imagination.

Elizabeth Haynes — Into the Darkest Corner

(spoilers included)

I almost abandoned this novel after the first few chapters because it bounced around too much in time and POV. First there was part of a trial (2005), then a murder scene (2001), a scene with Cathie, the protagonist, at work (2007), Catherine, an earlier version of Cathie, out drinking with friends (2003), and finally it gets into the rhythm of skipping back and forth between 2007 and 2003. At this point, I started to get hooked.

The personalities of Cathie and Catherine are entirely different. Catherine (2003) loves to party, drinks too much, sleeps around. Cathie (2007) suffers from severe OCD and PTSD. Catherine hooks up with sexy, mysterious Lee, who becomes more and more controlling and abusive. Cathie starts a cautious friendship with her neighbor Stuart, a psychologist who is unbelievably understanding of her weird behavior.

There is no mystery. The trial at the beginning tells us that Lee is the bad guy in the story. It’s obvious that Catherine and Cathie are the same person. It’s also fairly obvious that Lee probably murdered the woman at the beginning of the story (2001). At first, I thought the trial (2005) was for the murder.

But this is a well-written psychological suspense/thriller. It kept me reading throughout to find out what happens next. Haynes follows Catherine/Cathie’s personality changes in detail—Catherine’s downhill slide as her relationship with Lee becomes more controlling and abusive, and Cathie’s climb back to normality as she struggles to overcome her anxiety and OCD.

I would recommend the book to anyone who likes dark stories.

Erica Ferencik — Into the Jungle

I just returned from an awesome trip into the Amazon rainforest without leaving my home. All my senses are on overload. Erica Ferencik not only excites sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, she introduces you to a variety of alien cultures and characters, pulls at your emotions, plucks your heart strings, and teaches you about the unique environment of the jungle. She is an extraordinary storyteller.

Into the Jungle is my favorite read this year.

Carla Neggers — Keeper’s Reach

The novel has a complex and interesting plot. I didn’t figure out the bad guy until the end. This is somewhat unusual for me. A man is hit on the head and left to die in England. Later on, Emma is kidnapped and left in an old barn in Maine. There appears to be no reason for either event, except possible a package mailed from an art thief in England to Emma in Maine. A large group of suspects are considered—FBI agents, the art thief, a group who knew each other in Afghanistan and are meeting in Maine, Americans spotted in England before the first assault…. Everyone seems to be suspecting and watching someone.

Keeper’s Reach is part of a romantic suspense series. I’m not a big fan of romance, but Neggers keeps it as background noise and not the main plot of the story. Also, this novel jumps into the middle of the series, and it might be better to read the previous adventures first. The author does a reasonable job of filling us in about what happened in earlier books. It’s almost a stand-alone novel.

A few too many characters appear or are mentioned. We don’t need to know about some who aren’t part of the story. The main couple, FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, were on separate tracks, even in separate countries most of the time. They barely saw each other. The secondary couple, Colin’s brother Mike and agent Naomi MacBride, have a love-hate relationship—typical romance novel stuff.

The characters are interesting and the settings detailed. I could feel the cold of Maine in the winter.

Sandra Brown — Tailspin

Tailspin is a romance/thriller. The hero and heroine are being chased by so many people it sometimes feels like a melodrama; i.e. The Perils of Pauline. Rye, the hero, is constantly saving Brynn, the heroine, from disaster. I don’t think it was meant to be humorous, but I found humor in some the situations they encountered. Still, I enjoyed the read.

Rye is a bush pilot who takes extreme risks. The story begins when he flies through extreme fog to deliver a package to a doctor. He crashes (but survives) when someone shines a laser at him while trying to make an impossible landing. Brynn is a cancer doctor who is waiting for the package, a drug she wants to use to save a little girl’s life. Many people want to divert her—an influential senator who wants the drug for himself, Brynn’s doctor partner who wants the money and influence for saving the senator’s life, people who work for the senator and his wife, police, etc. etc.

The novel is complex and fast-paced. I read it to the end.

Nora Roberts — Shelter in Place

This month my library “books-by-mail” service sent two books by romance writers—Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts and Shattered Mirror by Iris Johansen. I’m not a fan of romance novels and had both authors categorized in my brain as a romance writers. But I read both, and neither were romance novels. I wasn’t thrilled with Johansen’s book. The characters felt flat to me. But Robert’s book was a different story.

I haven’t read anything by Nora Roberts in many years. Shelter in Place was a very pleasant surprise. The plot was intriguing, the characters pulled me in, and I enjoyed the visit to the Maine coast.

The story starts with a mass shooting at a Mall in Portland. We see this horrible event from several characters points of view. Robert’s follows some of the survivors through the next few years, all dealing with the shock to their lives in different ways. Then a serial killer starts murdering survivors.

In the last third of the book there is a romance blossoming. But that’s forgivable. Many good thrillers and mysteries serve up a side dish of romance.

I thoroughly enjoyed Shelter in Place.

Laura Lippman — Sunburn

Amazon classifies this book as a murder mystery/thriller, but it’s not your typical mystery. The plot revolves around a love story, but it’s not a romance novel. You might call it a psychological thriller. I don’t think it falls into any genre.

The story is about secrets and lies. Polly and Adam cross paths passing through a small town in Delaware. Both have secrets. Polly is running away from her husband and daughter, and she has a past that even they don’t know. Adam has been hired to find her. They fall in love and stay in the town for each other. But neither shares their secrets.

A woman dies in a fire in Polly’s apartment. It’s ruled an accident, but is it?

Sunburn is very strange story that follows no rules. But I like strange.

Sage Walker — The Man in the Tree

This novel kept me reading until 4 AM. As I said in my last post, science fiction can be almost any type of story. This one is a murder mystery, a romance, a generation ship story, a psychological thriller, hard science fiction, and much more.

The seed ship Kybele is almost ready to leave Earth after years of building and preparation, when a man is found dead in a tree. Helt Borrensen, the ship’s incident analyst is assigned the job of special investigator to determine if the death is suicide or murder and if murder, who is the killer. The investigation is complicated by the discovery that several of the colonists have apparently received large sums of money from an organization that opposes the seed ship leaving Earth orbit. The love story in the novel involves Helt’s attraction for the chief murder suspect.

Sounds like a romance novel, doesn’t it? But this is only a part woven into a complicated plot that explores the birth of a new world, human behavior and interactions, politics, multiple sciences, the controversy of surveillance, new ways to govern, creativity…the list goes on.

Sage Walker is an excellent storyteller.

Anne Corlett — The Space Between the Stars

Humans have expanded throughout the galaxy before a virus wipes out nearly all the population on every planet. Jamie Allenby wakes up alone on a remote planet she escaped to when her marriage was failing and she wanted “some space.” Zero point zero zero zero one percent survival rate, she had heard before her planet fell to the virus. After three days alone she finds two other people. They are rescued by two others in a small spacecraft looking for fuel. Their little band of survivors gathers two more as they bounce from planet to planet toward Earth.

This is not hard science fiction. I would call it “literary” or maybe “psychological” — a study in human behavior. Jamie isn’t sure what she’s searching for, maybe home. The small group includes an ex-priest, a prostitute, an ex-scientist who believes God has caused the apocalypse in order to start over, a young man with autism, the spaceship captain, and his engineer.

Corlette, with her first novel, has written an intriguing story that covers many issues that are relevant today, in the past, or our future.

This one kept me awake until 3AM to finish it. I look forward to more from Anne Corlette.

Dennis Lehane — Since We Fell

I met Dennis Lehane once at a book signing in Boston and I’ve seen him on television a few times. He seems like an easygoing likeable person with a twinkle of humor in his eyes. But Lehane writes dark stories. His characters are twisted. He examines his characters minds good and bad—their delights, doubts, and demons. Great stuff!

The first part of Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs from a childhood with a dominating mother and no father, through a successful career as a journalist in Boston and an unsuccessful marriage, to a breakdown on camera in Haiti while covering the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Her husband leaves her, she’s fired from her job, and she becomes a virtual shut-in.

Enter second husband, Brian Delacroix, who understands her (unlike first husband), treats her with loving kindness, and helps her overcome her phobias. Perfect husband…or is he?

The story is filled with questions, conspiracies, murder, and surprises. Is it a psychological thriller, a literary novel, crime novel, or something that doesn’t fall into any genre or category? It fits all three of my classifications of head, heart, and even some humor.

Charles River, Boston
Charles River, Boston

The setting is mostly in Boston, my favorite city in the world. It made me feel at home.

In my opinion, Dennis Lehane is one of the today’s best authors.