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The Best Classic Romance Since Bogie Met Bacall...

Necessary Evil - Killarney Traynor

... And it's wrapped around a sweeping, intense family saga that dates back to the Civil War. In NECESSARY EVIL, multitudes of trespassers create senseless tragedies as they invade a multi-generational family farm in search of its legendary buried treasure.

Caught in the middle is Madeleine Warwick, struggling heroically to hold family and farm together - and failing. Her life gets even more complicated when two competing historians arrive on the scene, vying for two prizes: the bragging rights of finding the treasure, and the chance to win Madeleine's heart - which is locked away inside the grief and mistrust she feels after too many losses and betrayals.

Yeah, there's a lot going on here, all of it beautifully connected, and that's part of the magic of this story.

But for this reader - constantly lamenting the absence of classic romance in cinema and literature - the real magic is in the chemistry between Madeleine and her competing historians. Joe Tremonti was Madeleine's first puppy-love crush, and she much prefers him to the arrogant, sometimes condescending, always overconfident Professor Gregory Randall.

Heck, I preferred Joe, too. At first. But as Madeleine and Greg work together to decipher the clues that will finally resolve the mystery of the long-lost treasure, their relationship evolves from reciprocal dislike and disapproval (some of the verbal sparring is laugh-out-loud entertaining) to a deep mutual respect, to a friendship that could lead to something eternal. I was so hoping that Madeleine would choose Greg that I actually found myself silently cussing at Joe a few times.

But Killarney Traynor has a knack for throwing curveballs at her readers, and Necessary Evil is no exception to that talent.

This book is a five-star read on so many levels. For me, the pleasure of savoring a beautifully written classic romance - complete with mystery, intrigue, love, loss, and redemption - was an unexpected treat, and puts this novel at Number One on my "Best Reads of 2015" list. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Coming of Age the Hard Way: Burning Down Rome

Burning Down Rome - Melodie Ramone

Burning Down Rome is a 5-Star coming-of-age, rock'n'roll drama.

Kid, Joey, Cecily, and Tash are the band called "Cry Baby Jake". They're four determined, naive kids who take off on their own, recklessly chasing down a dream - one that the world tells them they can't reach. Certainly not on their own terms, and definitely not with their souls left intact. Yet they make it to the top by the strengths of their commitment to their music, their loyalty to their fans, and their love for each other.

The problem is, it's too much, too soon.

BURNING DOWN ROME is a gritty, realistic look into the world of the corporate music industry, contrasted with a backstory of a lifelong friendship and the redemptive power of a love that endures all things.

But more than anything else, this story is simply astounding. I read it straight through. Readers who think that they know Melodie Ramone are in for a massive, soul-searching surprise. Ramone retains her lyrical, almost poetic style of prose, yet incorporates it into a novel that redefines the word 'edgy'.

An Unforgettable Debut Novel...

Summer Shadows - Killarney Traynor

... from an author with a rare talent for writing true Literary Fiction.

It's a fascinating cozy mystery, but Summer Shadows is also written to pull the reader inside the struggles of a new family that is formed through tragedy. The protagonist is Julia, whose life is suddenly turned inside-out by a series of losses: Her job, her boyfriend - and worst of all, her beloved sister and brother-in-law.

Julia is entrusted with raising her sister's three orphaned children, and she moves her new family to a charming New Hampshire town, trying desperately to hold everything - and everyone - together. Coping with her own grief and confusion while caring for her shattered niece and nephews, Julia's life is further complicated by her eccentric (but wholly lovable) new neighbors, and the handsome police officer who lives close by - and by the house down the street, where a young artist was brutally murdered.

Everyone says that the murder was solved, but Julia disagrees. She's going to figure out what really happened. And the killer doesn't want her to do that.

The plot is excellent, well-defined, and the resolution had me chewing on my nails. It was seriously difficult to put the book aside, because Traynor writes like a river flows. But the character development is no doubt the most memorable aspect of Summer Shadows. I found myself so involved in rooting for this little family - so taken in by Julia's determination that they would not only survive, but live happily again - that the ending brought me to tears. Lots of them.