Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The High Rocks, by Loren Estleman

Loren Estleman
ISBN: 0-812-53566-9
Book #07-017

After three years of harsh winters, the people of Staghorn, Montana, have their work cut out for them in recovering from the depradations of severe weather. As bad as they have it, however, that Bear Anderson has it worse. Bear lives alone in the heights of the Bitterroot Mountains, where he works as a trapper when he's not busy hunting down and scalping Flathead Indians in revenge for their massacre of his family. Unfortunately, Bear's quest for vengeance has created a political impasse: the US government wants to negotiate a peace treaty, but the Indians won't cooperate until Bear is brought to justice.

Enter Page Murdock, US Deputy and childhood friend of one Bear Anderson. Murdock agrees to try to bring Bear down from the mountain, but it's going to take a lot of skill and even more luck. There's a trio of bounty hunters trying to beat Murdock up the mountain, and the Flatheads have decided to take matters into their own hands and bring the big man down themselves.

Loren Estleman has written a cunningly convoluted story that twists and turns like the narrow passages in the mountains he writes about. Murdock is a likeable protagonist, and Estleman makes Bear sympathetic and scary at the same time. As in the best caper yarns, the upper hand changes frequently, and Estleman keeps the action coming relentlessly. THE HIGH ROCKS is a hard-charging story in which the protagonist faces danger from every direction: the bounty hunters, their prey, the Indians, his former friend, and a pack of ravening wolves that shadow him on the trail. Readers will want to read more about Page Murdock.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Stone Prince, by Gena Showalter

Gena Showalter
ISBN: 0-373-77007-3
Paranormal Romance
Book #07-16

Katie James has five older brothers and a father who has very decided ideas about what a woman's place is. At six feet tall and in great shape, however, Katie is hardly a frail, wilting flower of a woman. She makes her living buying and restoring houses, then reselling them for profit. Her current project, a Victorian home, comes complete with a pleasure garden which features nude statues in various poses of self-gratification.

One of those statues holds an irresistible allure for Katie, and she daydreams about it constantly. When she finally gives in to her fantasy and kisses the statue, it comes to life in her arms. Jorlan en Sarr was encased in marble through a curse by his brother. Jorlan has two weeks to make Katie fall in love with him or he'll turn back into marble, and this time, the transformation will be irrevocable. Katie is definitely attracted to this warrior from another world, but his domineering masculinity is all too reminiscent of the James family males, and Katie is determined not to fall for a man who cannot recognize her as his equal in all things.

THE STONE PRINCE is a funny, frisky fable that many readers will find completely enjoyable. Its biggest weakness is the repetition of the same arguments about whether or not Katie will obey Jorlan. Katie's rules and Jorlan's counter-rules are amusing, and Jorlan's weapon of choice is truly giggle-worthy. The secondary characters are not fully developed and are mostly given short shrift(particularly Jorlan's mother), a flaw which could be remedied in a future book since this is first in a series. (The preview of Showalter's next book doesn't seem to leave that possibility open.) However, readers who wanted to know more about Jorlan's home planet of Imperia are likely to enjoy THE PLEASURE SLAVE, Showalter's follow-up to THE STONE PRINCE. Katie and Jorlan were fun to read about, but THE STONE PRINCE left this reader wanting more, and not in a good way.