In markedly distinct styles, the authors of this group of diverse stories deftly land readers into distinct eras that together span several centuries.
The Double Cross
Softcover $13.95 (240pp)
The first in Carla Kelly’s new Spanish Brand series, The Double Cross is a late-eighteenth-century story set in the Comancheria region of the American frontier that encompasses a large part of both Texas and New Mexico. Don Marco Mondragon, a widower and juez de campo (rancher and brand inspector), is about to meet his unlikely future bride in the form of Paloma Vega, a downtrodden but spunky young woman working as an unpaid servant in her uncle’s home. Marco and Paloma are brought together by, of all things, a small yellow dog that has brought a bit of sunlight to Paloma’s dreary life, a dog which Marco purchases from her with the excuse of needing something to warm his feet. Thankful for the money, Paloma agrees to part with the dog but is nonetheless saddened by the loss of her only comfort. A local priest with good intentions schemes to unite man, woman, and dog but is met with obstacles along the way.
The reader eventually discovers that “The Double Cross” does not refer to a plan gone wrong but, rather, is the nickname of Don Marco’s own cattle brand. Kelly skillfully invites readers to share in this romantic adventure that is played out amidst scenes depicting the harsh landscapes and living conditions on the frontier—all punctuated with an assortment of unsavory characters pitted against the heroic.
Softcover $15.99 (320pp)
Admirers of Austen, Gaskell, and the Brontë sisters will enjoy this light tale of romance set in the early nineteenth century. The heroine, Kate Worthington, appears to be deadset against marrying. She has set her sights instead on an excursion to India with a favorite aunt, but her mother, angered by Katherine’s refusal to land a husband, won’t agree to the travel scheme so Kate escapes to Blackmoore, home of her childhood friend Henry Delafield. If Kate can obtain three proposals of marriage while she is there, she will be permitted to reject them and travel to India.
While the plot is a bit farfetched, Donaldson has used it to inject humor into the situation and takes the reader on Kate’s journey toward recognizing—and finally admitting—the name of her true love. The reader, of course, guesses his identity from the very beginning, but it is a pleasant read toward the story’s conclusion.
While Donaldson can turn a phrase well enough, readers may hope that her next work will be free of so many names and situations she borrows directly from her (obviously) favorite authors. Still, Blackmoore is light and easy to read, perfect for a day at the beach or over tea and crumpets served in the best china.
Escape from Paris
Softcover $13.95 (287pp)
In this tightly-written war thriller, the reader is brought into the scene quickly as the author introduces the characters in situ and one by one—characters whose fates will soon intertwine through heart-wrenching situations and pulse-stopping events. In the year 1940, during the German occupation of Paris, Lisa Rossiter and Eleanor Masson find themselves harboring a British soldier after his plane crashes. Under threat of execution for rendering assistance to enemies of the German armed forces, and at a time when the French Resistance is only in its infancy, these American sisters reach deep inside themselves for a strength they didn’t know they had. Outwitting and outrunning the Gestapo—in spite of their ruthlessly set traps for capturing hidden Englishmen and Jews—seems impossible, especially to these women who had no plans to become directly involved in anything of the kind.
Hart has a way of immersing readers seamlessly into each moment of action so that their hearts will be pounding full force by the end of this story of heroism, sacrifice, and unexpected bravery. Restored to its full length from a version first published in 1982, there are no words wasted in this gripping tale; it is a page-turner from beginning to end.
The Reluctant First Lady
Brown Books Publishing Group
Hardcover $24.99 (368pp)
Get ready for a change of pace and a quick touchdown into the political and personal lives of the president and the first lady. It may not be at all what one would expect, especially since this wife of a president has decided to forego the title and most of the responsibilities of “first lady.” Ashley Taylor prefers to continue, with no interruptions or distractions, her high-powered job at the Cameron Museum of Art in the Big Apple. She has told her husband, Michael, about her plans since before his campaign began, but he has always been hoping she would change her mind if he got elected. When Michael, his staff, and a significant portion of the public naysay her decision, Ashley goes to great lengths, including ditching the Secret Service bodyguards and literally running away, to pull her life into the shape she wants it to be in. She does come to realize she will indeed have to make some sacrifices and, in the end, compromise wins the day—but not without some interesting and quite creative solutions.
With a premise that challenges both mind and emotion, The Reluctant First Lady is a fun, energy charged read. Ellick provides a perfect balance of thought, action, and dialogue, along with well-timed backstory of the main characters, and she definitely gets the reader thinking, “What if?”