The House on the Beach, by Linda Barrett ****
This well-written story starts out, in this review’s opinion, a bit slowly, but when the potential relationship catches fire, the protagonists become real and fully realized. I found the location as compelling a character as the people and will certainly be buying more Pilgrim Cove books.
Matt and Laura shared one kiss as teens when she was visiting his hometown, Pilgrim Cove. Now, seventeen years later, grieving her mother’s death, hurt by an uncaring boyfriend, and on tenterhooks regarding her own health, Laura returns to the Cove, but only for a few months’ R&R. When she runs into Matt again, three months starts to seem way too short. But she has a career that needs her attention, a sister who wants her to move from Boston to Atlanta, and a secret she’s afraid to share with Matt. If she does, what are the chances he’ll react like the ex-boyfriend?
Matt, a widower with two young sons, a pillar of the tight little community, has troubles of his own. The younger of his boys has taken what Matt feels could be a tragic liking for Laura, because he worries that her leaving will be too hard on the child. In a small town full of well-meaning busybodies, it seems impossible for him to casually get to know the grownup Laura a whole lot better, which he yearns to do. He isn’t quite sure he’s ready for the kind of emotional bond he knows she deserves. Should he pursue a short-term relationship with her and try to keep her apart from his children?
The conflicts between these two as they fall inexorably in love work against their ever managing a permanent relationship—especially after Laura admits the truth about her health to Matt. Then, the question is, can he deal with it?
A Question of Will by Alex Albrinck ****
With this, the first book in the Aliomenti Saga, Albrinck has found himself another faithful reader. He’s filled the novel with many of the elements I like best in Science Fiction, but I’m not going to say what they are—to do so might be seen as a spoiler, because the author carefully reveals them in a beautifully measured manner. The story begins with billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Will Stark, in a panicked race against time to save his wife and six-year-old child from certain death at the hands of people in possession of greater power than Will has ever envisioned. Nearly at his destination, he is captured by a trio who dress as The Three Musketeers. They accuse him of breaking Oaths he has no memory of having taken. The penalty is death—not only for him, but for his family.
Then his house explodes. Along with life as Will knows it.
He wakens in a strange place where those in charge of him can do amazing, unbelievable things. There’s a young woman whose very presence can calm him, a man who appears to hate him on sight yet does nothing overtly to harm him, and another, older man from whom he learns many things, though what Will learns, as he comes to believe it and finds himself also capable of feats beyond his dreams, does little to clear up his confusion nor allay his grief over the loss of his wife and son.
A thousand years ago, a small group of men in England believed that, with the right diet, the right treatment, the right teaching, they could create, through eugenics, slaves that grew stronger, lived longer, and thus brought a greater return on their owners’ investment. This worked, and the Aliomenti began, slowly, to better the world. However, as time passed, they grew too rich, too powerful, too able to steer society and commerce along paths that did not serve the general population. They chose to enrich themselves and let the world go hang.
A faction of the Aliomenti, disgusted by this greed, broke away, becoming the Alliance, determined to use the extraordinary abilities they’d developed for the good of all. The Aliomenti wants none of this and use their powers, embodied in The Hunters and The Assassin, to destroy the Alliance who are few in number, but strong. The Alliance needs Will Stark in their fight against this egotistical, controlling body. Will isn’t sure he’s the man to take on such a powerful foe, but when he discovers there’s a remote chance he could actually save his family, though it might mean his own death, Will doesn’t hesitate.
I would have awarded this novel 5 Stars but for a startling lack of detail early on when Will is first in the hands of the Alliance. Incarcerated in a plain white room and visited frequently by those in control of his destiny, despite the author being in Will’s point of view, Will never asks his captors, rescuers, whatever they might be, for so much as a slice of bread or a glass of water. Nor do they offer. While I don’t feel this should be more than a minor focus of the story, with the richness of Albrinck’s prose making his world so real to me, the lack continued to haunt me until deeper into the story when food and drink were finally mentioned in passing.