Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review - 'Two Brides Too Many' by Mona Hodgson

Mona Hodgson made her mark in the realm of children’s books, delightful stories geared toward sharing uplifting messages with youngsters. With “Two Brides Too Many,” she moves into the world of adult romantic fiction. Hodgson uses all of the lessons learned on more than twenty juvenile books to bring Cripple Creek, Colorado to vibrant life.

The four Sinclair sisters live in the structured civility of Portland, Maine in the late 1800s. When their widowed father is transferred by his employer to Paris, the girls find life turned inside-out. They must leave the company-owned house in which they live. Unable to accompany their father to Paris due to the constraints the company set, they must make alternative plans.

Father has a plan. Kat and Nell will find husbands-in Colorado! They begin correspondences with their respective intended husbands and make the long trip west, only to find no one to meet them at the end of the journey. Far from home and with only each other for comfort, the girls must cope with the strange new world to which they have come.

Hodgson builds a carefully researched stage for the action of her book. History and nature provide spectacular settings for a switch on the classic “fish out of water” tale. Cripple Creek in 1896 was an untamed mining town, prone to fires and danger. 

She takes no simplistic routes as she crafts a moving and exciting story of faith, family and romance, seasoned with a strong dose of adventure. We watch two city girls grow into capable women as they face challenges and disappointments on the road to romance. The story is satisfying, with a few surprises along the way. 

One mark of a good book is that it leaves you looking forward to the author’s next work. “Too Brides Too Many” definitely hits the mark. Hodgson’s next adult book, “Too Rich for a Bride,” is scheduled for limited release in October 2010, with general release to follow in May 2011. I’ll

“Two Brides Too Many” by Mona Hodgson
Published by Waterbrook Press
ISBN 978-0-307-45890-2

Mona Hodgson:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book review-'Love Finds You in North Pole Alaska' by Loree Lough

When I read a romance, I want a couple of things: believable people I can care about, an interesting setting and a twist. Summerside Press has undertaken the ambitious project of a series of romance novels set in each of the fifty states, but not in the readily identifiable main cities. The books take place in small towns with unusual names. The “Love Finds You in” series promises to introduce us to a variety of places and authors over a period of several years.

I first encountered the series at my local Christian bookstore with Loree Lough’s entry, set in North Pole, Alaska. With a name like that, I know I’m going to love the town, if nothing else. But Lough worked her usual magic and delivered a touching story along with the delightful locale.

Sam Sinclair is determined to make her own way in the world, away from the security of her family in Baltimore, MD. To that end, she accepts a job cooking at a North Pole, AK hotel and heads northwest in an old RV. She loves all things Christmas with a passion and just knows that North Pole is the place for her, even though she hates cold.

Bryce Stone is a Marine recovering from injuries received in the service of his country. He has returned home to North Pole, in spite of the all-year-long Christmas theme of the town. He isn’t Scrooge, but he isn’t far from it. Stone’s Aunt Olive runs the family store for him, a wildly eclectic Christmas boutique named Rudolph’s.

Both Sam and Bryce have unresolved issues plaguing them. Sam arrives in North Pole to find her promised job gone. Bryce doesn’t want to run a shop, especially not one so unabashedly Christmas-y. 

When these two clash, they clash with the impact of two runaway trains. Can the uptight Marine and the elfin-spirited chef overcome their differences to find love? Half the fun of any romance is seeing what the two leads must do to get to the point of admitting their love. 

Lough creates a romantic story with a light touch, letting her characters tell their stories with a natural flow. Don’t expect a weak story, though. She has built a strong frame to showcase the plot, with plenty of humor and drama along the way.

I will be looking forward to other books in the series, as well  as other books by Loree Lough.

'Blue Bloods' -review of new television series

"I began watching "Blue Bloods" because I'm a Tom Selleck fan. I kept watching because I found Len Cariou in the cast. Then the family interactions pulled me in and I was hooked.

This new drama offers family, police work and intrigue."

The pilot episode introduces the Reagan family, multi-generational New York public servants. Grandfather Henry Reagan (Cariou), a crusty old-school retired Police Commissioner, walks with a cane because of a hip replacement. Francis “Frank” Reagan (Selleck), the current Police Commissioner, displays grace under fire in press conferences and confrontations with the mayor. 

Frank’s offspring fill much of the cast. Son Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) has risen to the rank of Detective after serving in Iraq. Erin Reagan-Boyle, played by Bridget Moynihan, serves in the District Attorney’s office. Jameson “Jamie” Reagan Will Estes) graduated Harvard Law School, but opted to join the force. We learn that another son, Joe, has died while serving on the force.

Family doesn’t end there. Danny is married and has a young son. Erin has a daughter and is the process of seeking a divorce. Jamie has a steady girlfriend, an attorney.

In this first episode, we experience a blend of family drama, police procedural and legal wrangling. A diabetic kidnapped child sends Danny and his partner (Flex Alexander as Detective Demarcus) on a hunt to find her before the medical issues can kill her. Danny’s intense interrogation techniques result in her rescue and possible contamination of the evidence that can convict the abductor. 

Danny and Erin clash over the case, a judge will release the predator if no new evidence turns up and the detectives go to work reviewing cold cases and trying to find a way to keep a monster off the street. Forget the fancy crime lab stuff; this case is resolved with good old-fashioned elbow grease, as the detectives sift through cartons of evidence.

I enjoyed the familial relationships. At a Sunday dinner, the bickering gets intense and Frank commands order with a statement. His quiet, dignified authority seemed a little weary, as though he had refereed so many of these melees in the past that he could do so automatically. 

The action parts delivered excitement without a lot of camera gimmickry. No multi-image screens, no rapid fire scene changes – just straightforward storytelling. Without the distractions, the story becomes the star instead of the camera. I especially appreciated that aspect. One nearly claustrophobic scene in a storage facility impressed me with the way it made me feel the place, not just see it.

Because so many levels of service are portrayed, we have a wide variety of options for future conflict. From a rookie getting to know the streets to a hard-nosed detective, a stressed-out assistant DA and the Commissioner under assault by the media and the politicos, we can expect fireworks from a lot of directions. Hints of corruption introduced near the end of the story promise tension, too.

Opportunities for romance exist, as well. Both Henry and Frank are widowed. Jamie is dating but may be unsettled in that relationship. Erin is seeking a divorce, setting her free for future involvement. 

The language was brusque, but not laden with obscenities, which I liked. An occasional, appropriately placed swear word packs a lot more impact than an endless string of them. Hooray for scriptwriters who didn’t take the easy out! Some of the lines held currents of double-meaning, a great way to leave us wondering who knows what.

All in all, I’m looking forward to the next episode. I want to learn more about this family of “Blue Bloods” and where they’re headed. The ensemble works well together. Thanks, CBS, for a program that gives us people to understand rather than just a lot of fancy camera work. I’ll be watching next week.

“Blue Bloods” airs Friday nights at 10 eastern, 9 central.

Internet Movie Data Base: Blue Bloods
CBS: Blue Bloods