Novels to Start Out the New Year

Kathi Isserman points us to some of her top picks on the shelves now.\r

Babies, Bikes & Broads, Cynn Chadwick (Bywater Books): The third novel in the Cat Rising series is part romance and part dramatic fiction. Cat finally comes home after her brother’s wife suddenly dies. She only expects to be in Galway, North Carolina for a short time, leaving behind her married lover in Scotland, but Cat soon realizes that her future lies in her hometown. As the book progresses, we see Cat grow, gain perspective about her past and her failed love relationships and resolve to move forward. Chadwick has created a multifaceted character; she is flawed, but she gains redemption through her attempts to reconnect with the people from her past. The ending is philosophical, but not preachy or trite.


Playing for First, Chris Paynter (Blue Feather Books): I love a well-done sports story and this is one of them. Amy Perry plays pro ball for a women’s league while trying to make it into the majors. This book details one year of her life in that pursuit. Amy is a closeted lesbian who feels the need to protect herself and her budding career, but she falls for the out sports reporter covering her. Although romance runs throughout the story, the author soft plays it, adding another layer by realistically illustrating how Amy’s male teammates treat her, as well as the harassment, sexism and rampant homophobia in sports at every level. Paynter’s storytelling sends a convincing message that makes this book well worth a read.


It Should Be a Crime, Carsen Taite (Bold Strokes Books): Law professor Morgan Bradley and her student Parker Casey are potential love interests, but throw in a high-profile murder trial, and you’ve got an entertaining book that can be read in one sitting. Taite also practices criminal law and she weaves her insider knowledge of the criminal justice system into the love story seamlessly and with excellent timing. I find romances lacking when the characters change completely upon falling in love, but this was not the case here. As Morgan and Parker grow closer, their relationship is portrayed faithfully and their personalities do not change dramatically. I look forward to reading more from Taite.


The Reluctant Daughter, Lesléa Newman (Bold Strokes Books): It’s an understatement that Lydia Pinkowitz does not get along with her mother and yet she constantly seeks her love and approval. But Lydia must make some difficult decisions when her mother faces a life-threatening illness. Through Lydia, her partner and her family, we learn about forgiveness, the fleeting nature of life and the fact that it’s never too late to discover one’s family. The novel is exceptionally written, engaging and warm. It is a book that a daughter can share with her mother—which this reviewer did—and also a love story that can be enjoyed again and again.


From Hell to Breakfast, Joan Opyr (Blue Feather Books): Crazy things are happening in Cowslip, Idaho with Bil, her partner and their families. Someone killed dope dealer Jake Peterson on Bil’s mother’s newly acquired property. To solve the whodunit, we must journey through this corrupt town’s escapades. With snappy, witty dialogue to lead us, there’s no rambling in this tightly crafted, fun read. Opyr’s storytelling and writing is much improved from her debut novel Idaho Code.


The Mirror and the Mask, Ellen Hart (St. Martin’s Minotaur): In the newest Jane Lawless mystery, Jane is a part-time private investigator hired by Annie Archer, her new girlfriend, to search for Annie’s stepfather. According to Annie, all is not well with her stepfather’s new family and his supposedly loveless marriage. Then, when his wife is murdered, Annie’s stepfather becomes the main suspect. Hart never goes from A to B in her mysteries, so we are treated to several subplots and multiple threads where anyone could be the murderer. Annie’s history, as well as her stepfather’s, is meticulously exposed with many surprises. In the end what we get is a very satisfying murder tale and an unresolved ending that’ll have you begging for more.


The High Priest and the Idol, Jane Fletcher (Bold Strokes Books): Better than Lord of the Rings, the fourth book in the Lyremouth Chronicles is mesmerizing, transporting the reader to a fictional world of fantasy, magic and sorcerers. Tevi, the exile, and Jemeryl, the sorcerer, are bound by love and fidelity. In their attempt to save their coven and restore its magic, they battle against all odds. This novel is pure old-fashioned adventure, powerfully executed.



Beggar of Love, Lee Lynch (Bold Strokes Books): Lee Lynch likes to revisit favorite characters and in her newest book she returns to “old friends” Jefferson, LilyAnn and Angela and also includes cameos by Frenchy and Annie Heaphy. Beggar of Love is really the story of Jefferson coming of age and coming out in NYC in the '70s and '80s to the present. Jefferson, a studly butch, is cheating on her girlfriend, Ginger, right and left, just beggin’ for love in all the wrong places. She finds out, quite possibly too late, that passion without love is not everlasting. Lynch’s writing has matured over the years, and this story reflects that. The novel is a silky smooth read, epitomizing classic American literature.