The Fifth Doctrine

By Karen Robards

Mira Publishing

$26.95, hardcover

If espionage fiction is something you enjoy reading, Karen Robards’ “Guardian” series, of which this is the third novel, is one you’ll probably love.

Robards’ earlier books, the ones with more straightforward mysteries, have been among my favorites for a long time, and although this one started off well, it seemed to bog down toward the last hundred or so pages.

It’s a thrill a minute, but for full enjoyment, you probably need to be “into” futuristic (at least I hope it’s not really a national security threat) plot devices, such as the remote control of a car.

This is just one of the imminent threats of death faced by the major characters, Bianca St. Ives and Colin Rogan.

My major problem was I was never fully able to care about either of them. They were just there to move the action around.

In addition, I found the multiple sidebar plots irritating and thought it was far too obvious throughout the chronicle of Bianca’s career that her days as a spy are far from over.

All that said, if you love breathlessly paced novels in which national disaster, as well as the elimination of the major character, are no more than a couple of heartbeats away, you’ll probably consider this a new favorite.

I don’t, and I didn’t.

I much prefer Robards’ early novels, in which romantic suspense rather than the fear of world catastrophe drives the reader to devour every word.

Of Books and Bagpipes

By Paige Shelton

Minotaur Books

$25.99, hardcover

Delaney Nichols, who is employed in a rare book and manuscript shop in Scotland, is asked by her employer to pick up a rare comic book.

When she arrives in the spot designated for the purchase — the ruins of an old Scottish castle — she discovers the body of a man who is apparently a re-enactor in a historic skit.

She finds the book she was supposed to buy, but it does not contain some information she expected. She calls police about the dead man, but does not reveal anything about the book to them.

From this point, she is immersed in her own investigation of the murder, trying to discover the victim’s identity, as well as that of his assailant, and uncovering some surprising secrets about her employer, as well as other characters.

As for the latter, I found too many thrown into the mix, sometimes with no good purpose, and both names and dialog that were sometimes irritating.

It’s entirely possible I just haven’t been in a good mood or something, because I rarely read two books in a row that I can’t recommend.

At any rate, I found this one overly wordy and too often confusing, requiring some re-reading to gain understanding.

My advice would be not to waste time on it.

The Sum of All Kisses

By Julia Quinn

Harper Luxe

$19.99, trade paperback

In my opinion, it’s well past time to abandon the descriptions of the Smythe-Smith, et al, family musicales. While these were once amusing, they have lost their appeal to those of us who have read about them several times before.

Otherwise, this was a Julia Quinn story about various family members’ romances that is entertaining and absorbing, taking one of the numerous female members from spinsterhood to wedded bliss in a highly satisfying manner.

Those of us who have become addicted to the series will remember the duel between best friends Hugh Prentice and Daniel Smythe-Smith, which resulted in the exile of Daniel and the permanent injury to Hugh.

With Daniel finally home, and the friendship between the two cobbled together, he is about to be married and Hugh is among the friends attending the parties and ceremonies in that connection.

Also among the innumerable relatives and friends on hand for these events is Lady Sarah, who apparently failed to receive notice of the cessation of hostilities between the two men.

An outspoken young woman whose debut was postponed for a year because of the furor following that duel, she still harbors resentment against Hugh, and tells him about it in tones that reverberate throughout.

In the kind of story Quinn is so adept at writing, the barbs become Cupid’s arrows somewhere along the way, and these two fall in love.

It might seem impossible at the start, but Quinn manages to make it all believable in another of her signature historical romance novels.

Marie Beth Jones is a published author and freelance writer based in Angleton. Contact her at 979-849-5467 or 1mbjones@nnewwave.com.

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