Romance

“The Book of Lost Fragrances” by M.J. Rose

 

Book Cover - Book of Lost Fragrances

MJ Rose delivers another suspenseful tale with The Book of Lost Fragrances.

 

A brother and sister have inherited the House of L'Etoile, and then discover the perfume company is in serious financial difficulty. They need a hit fragrance to save the corporation or else parts of it will have to be sold off, something Robbie does not want to do. Robbie feels that delving into the 250 year old family business history will uncover an ancient perfume formula that will save the day. He has the professional talent, but not the nose to sort through formulas that he knows the family possesses, somewhere hidden. His sister, Jac, has the nose, but not the interest in investigating something that she considers a fantasy. She is more pragmatic and wants to sell off bits to save the whole. Neither of them suspects at first that the lost fragrance could save more than just the business.

 

During the years since her mother’s death, Jac has suffered with unsettling dreams she does not understand. For a long time she (and others) thought she was mentally unbalanced and she never believed that she might be reliving the distant past. Her struggle with her own past, her trust issues, and her conversations with family ghosts – create a multi-layered, vulnerable lead character. We want her to make the right decisions, to be happy, trust, and find love again.

 

M.J. Rose believes that who we were influences who we are today, and her four books in the Reincarnation series apply that concept across the centuries. The Book of Lost Fragrances deals with the power of a love that endures from the time of Cleopatra. Fragrance is employed in the book as a memory tool to not only attempt to bring reincarnated lovers back together, but also as an aid in returning to a difficult time when one can undo mistakes and therefore ease the pain of the future. If it’s true that a memory tool exists and has that kind of influence, it would change the world as we know it. In The Book of Lost Fragrances, governments and religious institutions race to find this tool before it falls into the wrong hands.

 

The brother and sister have an interesting dynamic and as we learn the business and history of perfumery from the inside out, their desperate interaction rings true on every level, even after a murder is committed and Robbie is suspected. A former lover, who knows them both, adds tension and intrigue to the mystery. Dr. Malachi Samuels, a scientist working to prove that reincarnation exists, is a recurring character in the four books, continuing his search for ancient memory tools, sometimes involving others in dangerous schemes to achieve his own goals, always under scrutiny by the FBI.

 

Supporting characters are well written in this enthralling tale that addresses issues in Tibet and China, the Dali Lama, the French Revolution, lost and found again lovers, Cleopatra’s priceless perfume formula book, and more. Students of archeology will be drawn to the importance of ancient Egyptian pottery shards in the storyline.

 

Rose is a master at writing sensual descriptions and I found myself emotionally enveloped in the aromas of the flowers and herbs described. I was transported to memories of my own experiences with these same blossoms. The peonies in my own yard beckoned me, even though blooming season had long been over. 

 

Rose always does impeccable research in order to build the historical foundation for the ‘Reincarnation’ books. Each title spans several centuries and countries and she has openly admitted loving this part of her process. While working on The Book of Lost Fragrances, Rose sent the manuscript to a perfumer in France, who designed a fragrance (Ames Soeurs) inspired by the book. She subsequently showed the fragrance in NYC when the book was being launched. 

 

The Book of Lost Fragrances was on the ‘Indie Next List’ in 2012 and was named one of the Top Ten Mystery/Thrillers for 2012 by Publishers Weekly. While it is part of a series, it is a solid stand-alone title. Just don’t let it be.

 

For more information about M.J.Rose, the Reincarnation series, her other books, as well as her AuthorBuzz work, please visit www.mjrose.com

To read my review of "The Reincarnationist," go here.

 

 

 

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“The Stephanie Plum Series” by Janet Evanovich

 

Book Cover - Sizzling Sixteen

Janet Evanovich and her bounty hunter heroine, Stephanie Plum, have been linked for all time since the first Plum treat, “One for the Money,” was published twenty books ago.

 

Fans can’t get enough of the odd-ball characters, wacky adult plotlines and fab romantic triangle that inhabit every book. Ranger is a bounty hunter extraordinaire (among other talents) is always dressed in black, has a fleet of black cars and a small army of elite back-up guys at his disposal, and makes it his business to follow and protect Stephanie wherever she goes. Joe Morelli, Stephanie’s hunky former high school flame, is a Trenton detective who frequently works the other side of the law from Ranger. And Stephanie likes them both. A lot.

 

Stephanie works for her slimy cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman with questionable associations. The plus side? He can't fire her, no matter how bad she is at her job. They're family.

 

Over the years, Stephanie has become a little more skilled at taking down the skips (meaning she sometimes actually takes her not-always-loaded gun along) but she still needs help from Lula and Ranger to get the job done. With a side-kick like Lula (gun-happy and indulging in the worst diets on the planet) Stephanie faces down pimps and killers, armed with her need to pay the bills. She gets shot at, loses more cars than any insurance company would tolerate, and never seems to catch the perps on the first try. Steph still can’t commit in her relationships, but if she ever did, we might lose the duo of smoldering men.

 

Our gal Stephanie has the nuttiest family ever to sit down to 6:00 dinner. Grandma Mazur has been known to shoot at the dinner (with a gun, not a camera) and never misses a viewing at a funeral home. Dad keeps his fork buried in the roast beef and mashed potatoes and mumbles to get through the meals. Mom is the best cook in the Burg, but nips a little (okay – a lot) in the kitchen to help her cope with Stephanie’s still unmarried status and embarrassing occupation.  

 

“Sizzling Sixteen” was quick, funny and raunchy as always, with Stephanie, Lula and Connie (Vinnie's secretary) out to raise a million dollars to save Vinnie from the bookies who want to blow up the bail bonds office. This time, the most inept bounty hunters in the business have a lucky bottle to help them. Let’s face it, the fans don’t read the Plum books for the deep, insightful plots. We’re looking for quirky and we want to know what’s going to happen with Stephanie and the two handsome guys. Stephanie and Joe have broken up (or have they?) and she daydreams (and more) about Ranger. I wonder if sales of Bulgari Green have risen since the series began…

 

In “Smokin’ Seventeen,” Stephanie Plum still can’t decide who grabs her heart…Ranger or Joe. If you want to declare your choice publicly to the world, stickers you can attach to your clothing are included in the book. The bounty hunting part of this seventeenth installment in the series includes vampires (you have to read this one to believe it), dancing bears and guys trying to kill our cash challenged heroine. And this time Ranger’s crew has a pool to see how long it takes for Stephanie to blow up one of his sleek black cars. As always, a fun read for Evanovich fans. 

Book Cover - Takedown Twenty

 

 

I haven’t read my copy of “Takedown Twenty” yet, but once I start, phones, computer and all communication with the outside world will stop until I finish the last hilarious page. I hear that a giraffe named Kevin is running around the streets of Trenton, a mob boss is on the loose and Stephanie is playing Bingo at a senior center with Grandma Mazur in order to solve a murder. What could go wrong?
 

Please visit www.evanovich.com to see the latest news about her books, read about her recent collaboration with Lee Goldberg, and look at all the Ranger/Morelli/Plum goodies available.

 

 

 

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“Lowcountry Bribe” by C. Hope Clark

 

Book Cover - LowCountry Bribe

 

Seeing blood splattered all over the office is not the way I’d like to start the business day, but that’s exactly what Carolina Slade, Federal Agent for the Department of Agriculture near Charleston, South Carolina, encounters one morning. A co-worker, Lucas Sherwood, has committed suicide and Slade’s life is about to take a drastic turn for the worse as well.

 

Just when the business of giving loans to the local farmers seems to fall back into the normal routine, a hog farmer, Jesse Rawlings, arrives with a truckload of smelly, dead hogs, and attempts to bribe Ms. Slade into helping him get title to a farm in the area. In exchange for $10,000 and maybe a little action on the side. She’s not interested in either and it doesn’t take too long for her to report the attempted bribe to her boss. Her husband disagrees with her decision, is anything but supportive and constantly demonstrates why their marriage is on the rocks.

 

Enter Wayne Largo, Senior Special Agent, who arrives to investigate the incident. Mr. Largo and his partner, Eddie, feel that Slade needs to go undercover in order to nail Jesse for what he has done.

 

Slade never hesitates about reporting the bribe, but is surprised by the fallout. She is implicated as complicit in the very charges she has reported, and nobody is happy about the charges except the investigators. Even they seem to stop believing her version of the events. And the hog farmer knows where she lives.

 

C. Hope Clark delivers a story that includes corruption and greed, a scheme much broader in scope than a mere bribery attempt, kidnapping, tacky affairs, real estate fraud, and renewed interest in the case of Mickey Wilder, another co-worker who had disappeared the year before. Supposed friends turn out to be foes and the office is a hostile environment. Yup, Ms. Slade’s life is rapidly unraveling.

 

Slade’s bad marriage plays a twisty role in the story, not just as background for the character, but along the way brings a serious ring of truth to her inner thoughts. We see Slade shift realistically between hate, anger, disappointment, and frustration over the love that faded long before. We feel her pain at having/needing to end the marriage in order to move into happier/healthier direction. In one of the many moments of clarity about divorce she says, “Nobody wins.”

 

Carolina Slade is a bright, feisty, strong character who is up to everything thrown at her, and C. Hope Clark has wisely written Slade with a bit of vulnerability to soften the snarky retorts that slip out. At one point, her car is rear-ended twice by someone, but she has no proof, did not see the license and she dismisses the federal agents concern with, “Murder? We shared paint. Cut the dramatics.” And yet, her hand is shaking when she tries to use her key.

 

There are several great supporting characters. The bad guys are slimy, nasty and cold to the bone, but we also know that her dad and her best friend will always be there for her. The relationship that develops between Slade and Largo is an interesting one and fun to read as the two people grapple with their emotions.

 

The area of South Carolina in “Lowcountry Bribe” appears desolate, maybe even a bit creepy, at times. What came to mind was how easily somebody could get lost forever, without ever a possibility of being found. Terrific setting for this story.

 

The book is based in part on an actual bribery case in the author’s personal experience, although Ms. Clark has insisted the murders in the novel are fictional.

 

“Lowcountry Bribe” won the Silver Falchion Award at Killer Nashville in 2012 as well as the EPIC award for best mystery.

To read my review of the third book in the Carolina Slade series, "Palmetto Poison," go here.

For more information about C. Hope Clark, her books, and her marvelous Funds for Writers, please visit www.chopeclark.com

 

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“The Alibi Man” by Tami Hoag

Book Cover - The Alibi Man

 

Bestselling suspense author, Tami Hoag, began her professional writing career in the romance genre, but stretched that framework to include everything from comedy to suspense. Her strong female characters were savvy, contemporary types and readers connected.

 

As Hoag’s work shifted into the thriller/suspense realm, it reflected the rising audience interest in forensics and began to include more of the graphic details of the crime scenes and the violence visited upon the victims. Today, her bad guys are darker, more depraved, and her heroines more likely to engage in the kind of retribution that would raise the eyebrows of the faint-hearted. 

 

“The Alibi Man” returns former undercover cop, Elena Estes, to the hard, fast world of Palm Beach society and the nasty secrets lying beneath the surface. When a fellow horse groom and marginal friend is found murdered, Elena is drawn back into the life she’d like to forget and must deal with buried emotions she thought she had hidden from the world. Elena is grippingly portrayed as a deeply tortured soul, and we feel her pain as her personal life is laid before us chapter, by aching chapter.

 

The action in “The Alibi Man” is fast-paced, filling the pages with cold-blooded crime figures snipping off body parts, drug/sex parties, handsome polo stars, and a cop boyfriend.

 

The plot weaving the colorful characters together is less successful, only because I don’t quite buy that the rich and powerful would be dumb enough to get themselves into such stupid personal messes. One at a time, yes, but collectively? However, the name of the book may tell it all. Supreme arrogance probably dictates the need for an Alibi Man. Great read for Hoag fans, with graphic language and adult situations.

 

Written in 2007, “The Alibi Man” was followed by “Deeper than the Dead,” “Secrets of the Grave,” and “Down the Darkest Road.” “The 9th Girl” will be published in June, 2013. Hoag has written over thirty books, with fifteen consecutive titles hitting the NYT bestseller lists. “Night Sins” was made into a memorably chilling TV movie in the late 90s and is still shown in re-runs.

 

For more information about Tami Hoag and her books, visit www.tamihoag.com

 

 

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“The Preacher’s Bride” by Jody Hedlund

Book Cover - The Preacher's Bride

 

The power of Twitter can be remarkable. I ‘met’ Jody Hedlund a year ago while following a respected agent, Rachelle Gardner. Rachelle mentioned that “The Preacher’s Bride” was about to be released and I went to Jody’s blog, read it, then bought her book.

 

“The Preacher’s Bride” is an award winning, debut novel set in the time of Cromwell. I hadn’t read historical romance in a long time, and it was a pleasant surprise to return to that crowded arena with such a great, faith-based story. Elizabeth Whitbread defies the misguided leaders in her church in order to help a recently widowed man and his young children. John Crostin is determined to spread the Word of God throughout the countryside, but needs help with his household in order to do so. The two meet and despite many obstacles, help each other and unexpectedly fall in love.

 

The fight for religious freedom was a dangerous one in those days and being on the wrong side in politics sometimes landed you in jail (or worse) because of your religious beliefs. Hedlund based her novel on an actual couple, Elizabeth and John Bunyan, remembered in history because of “Pilgrim’s Progress.” John wrote this important piece of literature while sitting in jail for many years. It dealt with holding on to faith in the midst of incredible hardship, a tenet repeated in “The Preacher’s Bride.”

 

This book was a departure from what I usually review, but the memorable writing made “The Preacher’s Bride” a standout from the rest of its genre. It won the Colorado Romance Writers Award as well as the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. I looked forward to reading Hedlund’s second book, “The Doctor’s Lady,” (it took First Place in The Golden Quill awards) and I was not disappointed. “Unending Devotion” came out this year and “A Noble Groom” is scheduled for 2013.

 

For more about Jody Hedlund and her books, visit http://jodyhedlund.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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“The Reincarnationist” by M.J. Rose

 

"The Reincarnationist"

by M.J. Rose

 

A blinding flash from an explosion sends photojournalist Josh Ryder back into another era and into the life he left behind, over 1600 years ago. When he recovers from his near fatal injuries, he is back in the present, but his 21st century world has changed forever.

 

“The Reincarnationist” takes the reader on a quest to get to the root of Josh’s desperately disturbing images, a quest that uncovers a forbidden love in the time of ancient Rome and secrets that could change how the past merges with the present. Secrets for which people are willing to kill, no matter what the century.

 

Meticulously researched, “The Reincarnationist” delivers. Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, you will be intrigued by the plotting, the characters and the flashbacks between the centuries. And, you will completely believe that love has the power to reach across the ages to bring answers to the future that must be revealed.

 

I have a moviegoer’s approach when reading a work of fiction. I see the action and hear the dialogue as if I’m sitting in a movie theater and I become immersed as if I’m one of the participants. If the scenes don’t come alive for me, the author has left something on the editing floor.

 

In the case of “The Reincarnationist,” M.J. Rose has created an emotional, mental and visual canvas, a work easily transferred to the small or large screen. I hope that one day a movie producer will see the potential in this intelligent, fascinating tale. I’d love to have the DVD next to the book on my shelf.

 

"The Reincarnationist" was the first in this series. It was followed by "The Memorist," "The Hypnotist," and "The Book of Lost Fragrances," all as great as the first! Read the review of "The Book of Lost Fragrances" here.

*For more information about MJ Rose and her books, visit http://mjrose.com/content/

 

 

 

 

 

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