Reviews & Comment

Mazatlan Confidential Sweet Spot, Linton Robinson

Linton Robinson’s  novel of corrupt politicians, Mazatlan Carnival and baseball has all the credentials for a block-busting read: gritty, graphic and gripping. This is a fortuitous find among the many thousands of titles that are published every year and well-worth the effort. Fans of Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler and Tennessee Williams will discover resonances with Robinson’s main character, Raymundo Carrasco – retired, short-haul, major league star turned investigative journalist and local government flunky.

The depth of this novel is astonishing and the skill with which Robinson interweaves his dramatic motifs is a lesson in craft for any writer. Robinson’s command of his metaphors is masterful. The background information needed to create the depth of this story is fed through Carrasco’s columns and his insights about his native city and fellow citizens. If you thought you knew something about Mexico, this book will set you straight.

Carrasco has returned to his native Mazatlan after a few seasons over the border where he held his batting average steady – good enough for the Majors. Despite his success, he hasn’t found that “sweet spot” in his life. Although it seems a foolish choice, with the murders and mayhem of all the vultures surrounding him, he seeks that moment working for the mayor’s office press team. Just when his life can’t get worse, it does, spiraling into gruesome hilarity and poetic decadence.

Despite the relentless brutality, this novel is a glorious celebration of humanity in all its joyful exuberance and soul-destroying routine.

Sweet Spot is a novel I can recommend. It is thoughtful, intense and violent. It is also hilarious and beautiful in its compassion for all we poor/pure souls seeking that moment of absolute perfection.

While I read this, word for unrelenting word, I realized that the United States’ most intimate foreign relationship is mutually dependent and as destructive as Mundo’s love affair with Mijares.

Earlier Reviews: Love in Bloom, Sheila Roberts; Samson’s Lovely Mortal, Tina Folsom; When Love Comes, Leigh Greenwood, Lyonesse Abbey and Time at Tarragon, Jill Tattersall; Amaury’s Hellion, Tina Folsom

Love’s Ablooming Miracle, 15 Aug 2010

Love in Bloom (Paperback), Sheila Roberts This is a florist shop spin on the heart-wrenching tale of Cyrano with the role of the poetic dreamer played by Hope Walker, who turns her writing talents to the aid of her younger sister, Bobbi, to win the heart of the Roxanne of the piece, Jason Wells, the builder, not that Jason needs much winning. One look at Bobbi, the not-too-bright but oh-so-pretty ne’er-do-well, and Jason consigns Hope, although as pleasing to the eye as her sibling, to the debris under the counter.

Although her heart has been captured by the dusty-booted construction company boss, Hope conceals all of her many advantages as well as her courage, to give her sister a break in love. Bobbi has had a few lessons but doesn’t seem to learn. This book is rich with flower lore, gardening tips, homegrown wisdom and touching moments that resonate after the book is returned to the shelf. Apart from the occasional ‘hottie’-cringe, this is a charming, engaging read. My copy is a handsome edition, printed on paper that retains the scent of wood pulp and, even after 27 hours of rough handling during my flight across the Atlantic, the spine is still unbroken.

Sizzling, steaming, spontaneous combustion, 24 Oct 2010

Samson’s Lovely Mortal (E-book), Tina Folsom From Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, western culture has been fascinated by the lore of the blood-sucking undead. In the 1970s, Leonard Wolf’s The Annotated Dracula served well to explain to scholars and academics what was going on in the collective, suppressed imagination of successive generations but the dream of immortality – at any cost – has never lost its grip. Tina Folsom’s novel of romance at the vampire security firm of Samson Woodford is rich in heat and humor. Samson suffers from erectile dysfunction following the betrayal of his mate-to-be, Ilona.

No human medical miracle can help him and neither can the efforts of his many friends to reawaken his carnal interests. By stroke of a well-conceived and -crafted coincidence, Samson meets Delilah – an ordinary number-crunching auditor who is pursued to his front door by a dream come to reality. Samson mistakes the lovely Delilah for his friends’ latest effort to entice his manhood out of its flaccidity. Unfortunately for Delilah, the warm, safe arms into which she falls are those of a vampire. Despite her deep attraction to the wealthy bachelor and their torrid involvement once he has apologized for his presumption, Delilah is not ready to accept ‘forever’ on his terms.

Anne Rice is credited with the rejuvenation of vampire literature with Interview with a Vampire in the Seventies and her Vampire Chronicles sated the passions of several generations. In the last decade of the 20th Century, we had the teenage angst of Buffy and Angel. Over the past decade, we have been introduced to legions of vampire lovers – teenage hearts aflutter for the ageless, immortal Romeo. Samson’s Lovely Mortal is for grown-ups, with elements of intrigue, betrayal and loss – blood-curdling horror as well. A Scanguards Vampires volume. Explicit, full-on and non-stop.

Beauty and the Beast in Cactus Bend, 6 Nov 2010

When Love Comes, (Paperback) Leigh Greenwood When Loves Comes is one of those books that takes hold of your heart-strings and doesn’t let go. I first heard about Leigh Greenwood from an interview on an e-book publisher’s website. I’d been in conversation with a male colleague about whether men can write from a woman’s point of view and vice versa.

I decided to read Greenwood to satisfy my curiosity – how do men write sexual, romantic and emotional fiction? Greenwood is one of a few men (at least as far as I know) who writes romance fiction. Thousands of men write about sex and love – not the same thing. Take, for example, On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan) – a novel devoted to a sexual encounter destined to overwhelm the lives of the two people involved.

In When Love Comes, Broc Kinkaid is one of a band of close friends who have survived the American Civil War. His scarred face makes women faint and more fortunate men mock him. Amanda Liscomb is lovely but she wants to be valued for her ability, not her perfect figure. These two are brought together by Kinkaid’s unusual loss of temper for which he is sentenced to collect a debt. The mystery of the debt and the dangers that befall Amanda and her ranch hand drive the story with skill to the rich conclusion of reconciliation and Kinkaid’s realization that he is more than a disfigured face.

I found this book a touching and rewarding experience.

Dipping into the Past to Read the Present
, 13 Nov 2010

Lyonesse Abbey & Time at Tarragon, Jill Tattersall

Now, this book was a revelation and sparked my interest in the romance genre. Lyonesse Abbey is gothic romance at its best. Fun and memorable. It is a Regency novel without all the ton and travail  and titillation of more recent interest. The heroine is won in a card game – where have you read that before? Lyonesse Abbey was first printed in 1968, so who came first with this concept?

Tessa Howard is a free-spirited, forgiving soul whom Damon Tregaron believes will find it in her heart to forgive him for all his transgressions. He doesn’t expect any other kindness, least of all, love. The Abbey hides the secret of Damon’s dark past and Tessa risks her life to reveal the mystery, hoping to gain his love. This book is now out of print. I found it – many years after I read it – and bought it immediately.

A Time at Tarragon is another of Tattersall’s Regency novels. Mary Graham, an impoverished young woman, is given work to be her godmother’s lady’s maid. The story begins when Mary is near the end of her life and reflects back on the moment she realizes that she has fallen in love with the heir to Tarragon, a delicious and kind-hearted miscreant. Her introduction to life below-stairs, the hard work and weariness of her life are only lightened by her frequent escapes to dance on the roof.  This book is available in paperback at Amazon. I found my 1st Edition, hardback at a book jumble. Hardcover copies now sell for £29.23.

Other books by Jill Tattersall are: The Midnight Oak, A Summer’s Cloud and Enchanter’s Castle. There are many more. Type this author’s name into a search and you’ll find an artist as well as the author.

Amaury’s Hellion: Vampire in Agony, 6 Nov 2010

Amaury LeSang is a 400-year-old vampire, tricked into becoming one of the species in order to provide for his family. His first act of vampirism is so appalling to him that he accepts a curse that drives him, for relief, to sexual excess. Until he meets Nina, a feisty human determined to kill him and all the other Scanguards vampires, he is condemned to constant pain.

Nina has a special gift, making her impervious to the power of Amaury’s curse but not his sexual allure. She has no trouble killing other vampires but is rendered helpless to resist this one’s charms – of which he has many, huge and varied.

Amaury’s Hellion moves forward on a gripping mystery of murder and out of control vampire bodyguards. Following my experience with Tina Folsom’s first novel in the Scanguards series, Samson’s Lovely Mortal, I looked forward to Amaury’s Hellion and was delighted. Folsom writes uncompromising scenes of physical encounter. Neither of the first two novels in this series are for the faint-hearted and they satisfy the parameters of the paranormal erotic romance.

But I have to ask, how is it acceptable that `good’ vampires purchase their blood from donor banks? As a blood donor from early adulthood, the idea my blood can be sold in this way was a source of anxiety, so much so that when, after reading both books, I was called to my regular donor session, I asked. I was reassured to learn that the service has strict controls. Paranoid? Perhaps, but I recall a scandal regarding the use of transfusion to allow an English rock star, whose heroin addiction kept him from meeting his contract commitments, to enter the US for a tour.

For a scholar’s approach, have a look at The Annotated Dracula and for the start of it all: Dracula and Interview with a Vampire. (See above review of Samson’s Lovely Mortal for links).

Tina Folsom’s third book in the Scanguards series, Gabriel’s Mate, was published on 3 December 2010. Sneak preview: Tina Folsom: Independent Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.