Part thriller, part primer on child sex slavery, Priceless features a photojournalist who goes to Moscow on an assignment. The fluent Russian speaker has friends in Moscow from previous visits. They recruit him to help rescue young girls by going undercover and pretending to be a buyer for a club back in America. He weighs his responsibility to his wife and young daughter at home, and to the girls he might be able to save. When the plan goes awry, he finds himself in a desperate place. The book balances its dark themes and gritty substance with evidence that God is working even in the grimmest circumstances.
An old-fashioned historical romance novel set at Biltmore, the Vanderbilt estate outside Asheville, N.C., Maid to Match offers a little love, a little bit of history, and just enough evil-doing to make the plot go. When Biltmore's new mistress needs a lady's maid, Tillie Reese is one of the two candidates. If she gets the job, it would be a crowning achievement, fulfilling both her own and her mother's dreams. Her attraction to Mack, the new useful man, threatens the dream. Mack wants both to woo her and to rescue his sister from an orphanage under the care of a wicked man with a shiny exterior. The book offers an admiring look at Biltmore and its technological bells and whistles.
Craig wakes up one Sunday morning and tells his wife he's not going to church, a surprise move since he's a deacon. Instead he's going hiking, or is he? There's a car accident leaving one man dead and Craig in a medically induced coma. When he awakes he can't remember anything, including his family. For his wife Denise, the accident is a blessing. It's disturbing that her husband can't remember her or their two sons, but he's so much nicer than the pre-accident Craig. As he gets his strength back, secrets from his prior life emerge and threaten the new-found family harmony. For those willing to suspend disbelief, the book offers an equal dose of intrigue and romance.
In Cleveland at the end of the 19th century, a doctor and his four almost-grown daughters hardly miss the wife and mother who abandoned them 18 years earlier. Things get more interesting for the Allenhouses when a baseball fan takes a line drive to the face. His teammates bring the unconscious man to the doctor's house, where the sisters care for him. The slugger who hit the ball and the fielder who should have caught it hang around and flirt with the daughters. Romance is in the air, but so is trouble, in the face of the man who took away their mother. It's a romance novel, so everything turns out OK in the end as the sisters each find true love.
Martha McPhee's astute novel Dear Money (Houghton Mifflin, 2010) is a penetrating look at avarice. Protagonist India Palmer, a critically acclaimed mid-list novelist, is married to a struggling artist. Her books get reviewed in the right magazines, but they don't sell enough copies to pay for the lifestyle she covets. Then she makes a friend who is married to a banker, and her coveting takes flight. Wealthier friends choose private schools for their children; India and her husband do the same. India then needs certain clothes, birthday presents, parties-and soon she and her husband are in debt. When she meets a rich and bored bond trader who is looking for a challenge-he wants to turn her into a trader in 18 months-she takes him up on the offer, leaves her writing career behind, and jumps into big-stakes trading. McPhee captures the risk-fueled energy of the trading floor and the way small choices have huge consequences. The book ends months before the crash of 2007.
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