The A List

By J.A. Jance

Gallery Books

$27.99, hardcover

Dr. Edward Gilchrist has a hit-list. He has even tattooed the initials of his intended victims on his arm, crossing each one off as he or she is disposed of.

These are the people who, in his own mind, at least, have “wronged” him in some way. One such intended victim is Ali Reynolds of High Noon Enterprises, who aired his misdeeds years earlier, during her years reporting news on TV.

Much of the book involves the back story, which includes a mother seeking help to save the life of a son whose existence depends upon the donation of a kidney.

The boy was conceived through in vitro fertilization, and neither the mother nor her husband is a match, but the possibility exists that the donor may have sired other children who would be.

What she discovers is the information she was given at the time of the youth’s conception was a lie. The semen donor was actually the doctor in charge of the matter.

Before long, she finds over a dozen of her son’s half-siblings, and one of them agrees to provide the kidney that will save the youth’s life.

The doctor/father is eventually tried and imprisoned for life, feeling he is the victim, rather than the perpetrator. With the financial help of his wealthy mother, he finds a fellow prisoner who will eliminate the people he holds responsible.

One by one, the victims are killed, with little indication their deaths were not explained in a less evil manner.

Ali is the last remaining name on the list, and the conspirators plan for her death. Thanks to a super-intuitive computer’s help, she is warned of the threat, but does she have time to counter it?

I always enjoy J.A. Jance’s series featuring Ali Reynolds and have probably written in reviews of each one that it’s my favorite. So is this one.

The plethora of half-siblings is a great touch, Jance’s expertise at characterization makes Hannah Gilchrist, one of the conspirators, remarkably believable, and the story is wrapped up in a satisfying manner.

After a couple of reading “duds,” I stayed up till the wee hours to finish this one, enjoying every page.

Blue-Eyed Devil

By Lisa Kleypas

Kindle, $7.99

As the only girl in her family, Haven Travis is over-protected by her three brothers and her father, and unprepared for the cruelty of an over-possessive and abusive husband.

She puts up with his cruelty – both mental and physical – for what I felt was far too long. Finally, shoved out of their apartment in a robe and bare feet, she finally develops a spine and leaves him.

Although she welcomes her family’s emotional support, she vows never again to be left at the mercy of any man.

This experience with “true love” has left her so leery of dependency that it’s almost – but not quite, of course – impossible for her to accept the friendship of Hardy Cates.

Although he may appear overly macho, she soon discovers Hardy is both gentle and thoughtful, particularly after realizing Haven’s vulnerability.

A self-made man who has come from poverty to earn a fortune, he has clashed previously with Haven’s family, but with her welfare at stake, both sides are willing to forget past grievances.

His character is presented with such clarity that he steals readers’ attention from Haven, who appears in the beginning to be the book’s “star.”

This is basically a light romance novel, and it contains plenty of hot scenes, but it’s several levels above what readers have come to expect from that genre.

I’ve read many of Lisa Kleypas’s books through the years, and have enjoyed most of them, but this is by far my favorite to date.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton

By Julia Quinn

Avon Books

$7.99, paperback

Penelope Featherington has always been the kind of young woman who fades into the woodwork, even though she is endowed with better than average good looks and sly wit.

She has loved Colin, the brother of her best friend, Eloise Bridgerton, for years, and although he has always been a friend, he sees her as a child.

Now, though, after returning home after years abroad, he realizes she is not only an adult, but a beautiful and desirable woman.

Like the rest of their society friends, the Bridgerton family has become engrossed in a search for Lady Whistledown, the writer of a society publication that has been circulated for the past decade.

When a local woman offers a reward for finding the writer of this au courant paper, which exposes secrets and pokes fun at the ton, the Bridgertons and their friends happily join in the search.

Penelope suggests they look first at the donor of this prize, while others have very different ideas about the writer’s identity.

Along the way, Colin tries to work out a future that will satisfy his ambitions, along with his love for Penelope, while she attempts to hide her fear that unless he succeeds, he will disappear again.

Despite a somewhat slow portion near the end, it’s a thoroughly satisfying romance novel.

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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