Sunday, July 31, 2016

Envy of Angels (Sin du Jour #1), by Matt Wallace (author), Corey Gagne (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, October 2015

Lena and Darren have lost their jobs at a fancy New York restaurant, and have not been having an easy time finding a new one. When they get a call from a chef they both thought had died, offering them jobs in his catering business, Sin du Jour, they leap at the chance.

First they have to audition to prove they'll be a fit with the crew and Sin du Jour's high standards.

Then they start to work, and run low on a crucial ingredient for the appetizers they're making. Darren enters the forbidden pantry...

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. And now they're crew, with permanent, not temporary, jobs. They now know who the clientele are.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, by Alyssa Wong

October 2015

Jen searches carefully for the right dates on Tindr; dates who will provide what she really needs. Jen is a kind of vampire; she feeds on bad thoughts.

And one night she hits the jackpot.

As this is a short story, it's tough to say anything more without spoiling the whole thing, but Wong builds setting, situation, and character with exquisite perfection.

I also reviewed her The Fisher Queen, last year.

Highly recommended.

This story and others I received as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards voters' packet.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Philosopher Kings (Thessaly #2), by Jo Walton (author), Noah Michael Levine (narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2016 (original publication June 2015)

Thirty years have passed since the founding of the Just City. The first period of its history ended with the Last Debate, when Athena turned Socrates into a fly and then left. The community split, and there are now four more cities in addition to the original, or "remnant" city. Apollo/Pythias has several grown or nearly-grown children, mostly sons but also a daughter, Arete, with his partner and votary Simmea, originally an Egyptian farmer's daughter.

The book opens with a tragedy, Simmea's death in one of the art raids that have become common in the years since the division. Apollo wants revenge, and goes after it in a seemingly rational, organized way. Those closest to him, including daughter Arete and some of his sons, know he's unhinged with grief. He leads an expedition, using the colony's ship, Excellence, to explore the region and seek "the lost city," the group that left with the other ship, the Goodness, and has never returned to the island.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Invisible Republic (Vol. 1), by Gabriel Hardman (author), Corinna Sara Bechko (author)

Image Comics, August 2015

The revolutionary regime that ruled a colonized moon for forty years has fallen, and there's general political and economic collapse and chaos. An offworld reporter is tracking down a story, when he stumbles on the journal of Maia Reveron, long-forgotten cousin of the deposed dictator. And what she has to say casts a very dark light on the man. The story proceeds to flip back and forth between Maia Reveron's story, and reporter Croger Babb's story.

The art is dark, dark enough that at times it's a bit hard to make out. I didn't find any of the characters at all easy to like. In the end, I didn't care what happened to any of them.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Divine, by Boaz Lavie (writer), Asaf Hanuka (artist), Tomer Hanuka (artist)

First Second, ISBN 9781596436749, July 2015

Mark's an ex-soldier, living his quiet life as an explosives consultant. He's got a wife, and a baby on the way, though, and a promotion he was counting on has been downsized out of existence.

He takes a short-term assignment "consulting" on explosives for the CIA in a little Southeast Asian country called Qualnom.

It's just two weeks. And although there's a war there, he's assured it's "a joke," too minor to matter.

But of course, he's going there to blow something up.

The acquaintance who connected him with the job shows him a tattoo he has on his arm, of a dragon, that he says he really saw the last time he was in Qualnom.

They're nearly done, and waiting on their pickup, when Mark sees a small boy, hurt, and way too close to the thing they're going to blow up, from the helicopter, when they're in the air.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Sandman: Overture (The Sandman #0), by Neil Gaiman (writer), J.H. Williams III (artist), Dave Steward (colorist), Todd Klein (letterer)

Vertigo, ISBN 9781401248963, November 2015

Sandman is the graphic novel series that made Neil Gaiman famous. Twenty-five years after Sandman first appeared, Gaiman returns to it with Sandman's origin story.

The art is beautiful. The story starts off confusing for me, but comes together beautifully. The characters are developed in a fine and convincing way.

I hesitate to say more about this. It seems to me to be important to discover the story as Gaiman and his co-creators unfold it for us. So this is a very short review.

Highly recommended. Read it!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Penric and the Shaman (Penric and Desdemona #2), by Lois McMaster Bujold

Spectrum Literary Agency, June 2016

It's four years after the events of Penric's Demon, and Penric is fully trained and invested as a divine; he's now Learned Penric. And of course, a sorcerer. He's serving at the court of the Princess-Archdivine. He is continuing his mostly scholarly work, as he and Desdemona become better acquainted and better at working together, when a Locator of the Father's Order arrives seeking assistance. He's been assigned to seek and bring back to Easthome a shaman accused of murder.

A killer shaman is dangerous; he can't pursue one without a sorcerer and at least a small armed troop. Unfortunately, Oswyl has had a difference of opinion with the sorcerer and troop originally assigned to assist him. They've gone off in pursuit in a direction he thinks unlikely on the evidence, and he's asking the Princess-Archdivine to supply the sorcerer and troop he needs.

She does, and the sorcerer, of course, is Penric.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Asymmetrical Warfare, by S.R. Algernon

Nature, March 2015

This is, in its own way, an amusing little gem of a story.

Earth is being invaded by aliens, and the narrative voice is the commanding officer of the invading aliens. It turns out the invasion is a mistake; they thought they were invading a world of stellate--starfish-like--beings like themselves, who when conquered will be wonderful additions to their expanding empire. This error arose from the Earth spaceships having star-like emblems on them, suggesting the invaders may have strong preconceptions about where intelligence can be found.

The entire cascade of consequences plays out on one three-column page in Nature.

Our narrator is so earnest and well-intentioned, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Read it!

I received this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards voters' packet.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Of Sorrow & Such, by Angela Slattery (author)

Macmillan Audio, October 2015

Patience Gideon is living quietly in a village in the English countryside. She has to live quietly; she's a witch. Her neighbors are, many of them at least, happy to avail themselves of her healing skills, but she knows too well this is always precarious. If she makes an enemy or catches the attention of the wrong churchman, she could burn.

(Let me pause here for a complaint. Everything suggests that this is post-Reformation England, not anywhere on the continent. In England, they didn't burn witches; they hanged them. Everyone sticks with burning in witch hunt stories, though, because it's more satisfyingly extreme and barbaric. Who needs facts?)

The Builders, by Daniel Polansky, ISBN 9780765384003, November 2015

I don't dislike talking animal stories. I'm quite fond of many of them. This one isn't being added to that list. I've enjoyed "band of rogues" stories, too. Again, not this one.

A mouse going by the title of "The Captain" is gathering his old gang together after five years. As he collects his comrades in crime, including a rat, a stoat, an owl an opossum, a badger, a mole...oh, who cares. There's no reason to care about any of thee character. They do have a goal, though, and that is overthrowing the toad who is current Lord of the Gardens and the skunk who is his Chancellor (and the real ruler, as well as their real enemy), and seize power themselves, the name of the toad's older brother.

We read endlessly of how unprincipled and lacking in loyalty even to each other the captain's gang is. The skunk and his supporters aren't any better, but we spend less time with them, so there's that advantage.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton (author), Caroline Lee (narrator)

Bolinda Publishing, ISBN 9781742149974, October 2010

Edie Burchill loves her mother but  has a somewhat distant relationship with her. They're too different. She's pursued her own life, and is now assistant chair at the tiny publishing house where she works.

It's so tiny that she and her boss are the only employees, now that the boss's partner and co-founder has died, but they have a well-earned reputation for producing quality books.

What Edie doesn't know is that her mother is more like her than she imagines, and there's a secret in her past that will mean more to Edie than she can imagine.

Seven Kill Tiger, by Charles Shao

This story published in There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House, December 2015

This review contains spoilers. Don't click on "Read more" if you don't want to read the spoilers.

A Chinese factory head in Zambia is looking at serious, even life-threatening, political problems because the innately criminal nature of the language. sub-Saharan Africans is bringing down both productivity and the safety of Chinese workers and their families to an unacceptable levels. And no, Shao doesn't even try to dress up what he's saying in more camouflaging language.

Spoilers below this.

You have been warned.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Obits, by Stephen King

This story was published in the collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner, ISBN 9781501111679, November 2015

Michael Anderson is a struggling, young, wannabe journalist, still living with his parents in Brooklyn, when he finds a webzine called Neon Circus. Calling it a scandal sheet would be unduly generous. Mike has just seen news of the death of a minor and scandal-ridden celebrity, and is moved to write a cruel and funny obituary, and send it to Neon Circus.

They buy it, and then they offer him a job, as the obit writer for the zine.

He enjoys his work, but he doesn't necessarily enjoy his co-workers. He especially doesn't enjoy his boss, editor of Neon Circus Jeroma Whitfield. When Mike reaches a breaking point of annoyance with her, he vents his annoyance in writing a nasty fictional obituary for her.

And Jeroma dies, in more or less the described manner.

What happens from there becomes the story. Saying more would be saying too much. It's very well done, with great character development and attention detail. I've seen some complaints that it just peters out without a real ending, but I don't agree. I think the ending is nicely handled, and I really enjoyed this.


I received this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards voters' packet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter (author), Edoardo Ballerini (narrator)

Harper Audio, June 2012

I liked this book, but good grief, it irritated me at at times.

It's set fifty years ago in Italy, and today mostly in Hollywood, with some side trips to points in between.

It's 1962, and Pasquale Tursi, just twenty-one, has inherited the family inn from his father. It's a tiny, mostly empty inn, in a tiny hint of a village on the Genoa coast. He's also inherited his father's dream of making it into a resort for wealthy American tourists, and he's single-handedly trying to build a beach on the rocky coast by digging out the rocks and bringing in sand. He's chest-deep in water holding one of the rocks when a boat approaches, bringing in a beautiful, blonde, young American actress.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Alliance of Equals (Arc of the Covenants #2) (Liaden Universe #19), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Kevin T. Collins (narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2016

Clan Korval is still in the process of recovering and rebuilding from the their abrupt relocation from Liad to Surebleak. The Department of the Interior is still out to destroy them. Daav and Aelliana are still caught between life and death in the not yet fully stabilized new bodies Uncle has made for them.

Padi yos'Galen, Shan's halfling daughter, is working as apprentice Trader on Dutiful Passage, She's lost time due to the disruptive effects of Plan B on everyone in the Clan, but she wants her full Trader's license as soon after her eighteenth name day as possible. It's just a little tougher because formerly friendly ports no longer are, and some don't reveal themselves until the Passage is in port and has started trying to trade.

Flashpoint: Titan, by Cheah Kai Wai

This story published in There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House, December 2015

The second of three stories nominated from There Will Be War X.

A new, cutting-edge Japanese military ship, JS Takao, carrying a new, secret weapon they plan to test on the edges of the solar system, is just arriving near Titan when the American base there hails them. They're being approached by ships that are behaving very much like approaching pirates--or perhaps someone's military, attempting an undercover attack, after which that country's military could "restore order." Can the Japanese help?

They can, and do. None of the attackers are taken alive, but the bodies recovered are all Chinese, fit, and of military age. When Chinese military ships approach very shortly after, there's not any realistic opportunity to consult Washington and Tokyo; the Americans and Japanese just have to make their own best decisions, make sure they document everything they do and why, and ensure that the Chinese reveal their hostile intentions first.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The World of Ben-Hur, by Mike Aquilina

Sophia Institute Press, ISBN 9781622823178, July 2016

Ben-Hur:A Tale of the Christ was a runaway bestselling novel in the late 19th century. It was a hit stage play, a hit movie of the silent era, and a hit Technicolor extravaganza of the 1950s.

But it all started with that novel by Lew Wallace, published in 1880. When he started writing, Wallace wasn't a Christian, but an unsatisfying conversation with a prominent atheist of the day left him curious. He decided he needed to do research, and that the right way to do that research was with the structure of using that research in a novel.

The basic story of Ben-Hur is this: Judah Ben-Hur is Jewish prince, a soldier, and friends with the Roman Messala. When Messala betrays him and he's sent into slavery, he digs in, regains his freedom, and seeks revenge. Along the way, he encounters Jesus Christ, with major implications for his life and his family's.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And You Will Know Her by the Trail of Dead, by Brooke Bolander

April 2015

Rhye is an AI, and like all AIs, a second-class citizen. It's not at all clear to me how these things work in this world, but she reports wandering the streets until age twelve, when she was snatched up to become a soldier. She was a soldier until she turned 25, and she was very, very good at killing. After her service, she earns a minimal living fighting in deathmatches.

Have I mentioned lately that I Don't Do Grimdark? No, probably haven't had occasion to because, in fact, I don't do grimdark. But this is Hugo season so, like Our Hero, I soldier on.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What Price Humanity, by David VanDyke

This story published in There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House, December 2015

Flight Lt. Vango Markis is a fighter pilot defending Earth and the solar system in a losing war against the invading Meme. (Yes, the invading Meme. One of his comrades in arms is a black man who goes by the nickname of "Token.") On his way back from a temporarily successful battle, Vango is in coldsleep.

When he wakes up, he finds he's in a very limited VR environment. He has to answer a series of increasingly annoying questions from a strangely formal doctor, and it soon becomes clear, or at least he concludes, that he was badly injured during that coldsleep journey home, and his body is being regenerated. When he's finally released into a wider VR environment, he finds he has twenty-three companions.

While all of them have served with some of the others, he's the only one who has served with all of them. He's also the senior in rank.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds

Tachyon Publications, ISBN 9781616961930, June 2015

Scur has been a soldier in hard-fought, far-future war between the Central Stars and the Peripheral Stars. It has finally come to an end with the negotiation of a ceasefire, but not everyone is ready to stand down immediately. Scur, a soldier for the Peripheral Stars, meets up with Orvin, a soldier for the Central Stars--and a sadistic war criminal. He captures Scur, and shoots a "slow bullet" into her leg, set to move slowly and painfully to her heart, and kill her. They're interrupted by the arrival of peacekeeping forces, and Orvin flees. With no other options, Scur picks up an available knife, and begins to cut the bullet out of her leg before it can progress too far.

The next thing she knows, she's waking up in a hibernation pod on a starship, her leg is completely healed, and something is very, very wrong.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Perfect State, by Brandon Sanderson

Dragonsteel Entertainment, March 2015

Perfect State starts with nearly every indication of being a fantasy. However, we quickly find that this doesn't quite match up. Kai is an emperor with seemingly magical powers, and loyal retainers, but, as we soon discover, he's also a brain in a jar. He's Liveborn; all those loyal retainers and everyone else in his worldwide empire are Machineborn.

In some sense, they are not really real.

As a Liveborn, Kai has some responsibilities outside his virtual world, and one of them is procreation. The Wode Scroll summons him from the Fantasy State that is his world, to a Common State where he can meet another Liveborn for the purpose of procreation. He is given a list, with compatibility scores; he chooses the woman at the bottom of the list--lowest compatibility.

He has a plan.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The CinderSpires #1), by Jim Butcher

Penguin Publishing Group, ISBN 9780698138001, September 2015

Humanity now lives in in a series of miles-high towers, called Spires, The Spires are ruled by aristocratic families, and travel between Spires, whether for trade or war, is by airship.

Predator is described as a merchant ship, but she's heavily armed, and her commander, Captain Grimm, is a former Fleet officer--the Fleet of Spire Albion, to which he is deeply loyal. He also prefers to be addressed simply as Grimm, and has a temper, which might be a factor in why he's no longer a Fleet officer. The airships are powered by crystals, and a crystal big enough to be the main power source of an airship takes decades or even centuries to grow, and is consequently close to priceless.

Very early on, Grimm and Predator are caught in an ambush, from which they escape but with damage to the main power crystal. Of course, Grimm wants one of those incredibly expensive power crystals, but he's also dealing someone who wants to buy his ship for scrap, to get the power crystal.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Now and Then Friends, by Kate Hewitt

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780451475596, July 2016

In the little Cumbrian town of Hartley-by-the-Sea, Claire West and Rachel Campbell were best friends as children, at least from Year Two through Year Five. But they came from very different backgrounds, and in Year Six things changed. Rachel's mother, the reliable working income in their household, fell and broke her back. Rachel became responsible for the care of her younger sisters. Meanwhile, Claire's wealthy family enrolled her in a tonier school than the village school they'd both attended till then.

Claire was too shy to walk out of the circle of rich girls who were suddenly her "friends," while Rachel was too proud to fight this apparent dropping of their friendship.

Fifteen years later, Rachel is still in Hartley-by-the-Sea, having given up her cherished opportunity to attend Durham University to support her family when their father leaves them, without explanation and apparently without a backward glance.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Penric's Demon (World of the Five Gods #1.5), by Lois McMaster Bujold

Kindle Edition, July 2015

Young Lord Pnric is on his way to his betrothal in Greenwell when, five miles out of town, he encounters a party of travelers. Learned Ruchia, a divine of the fifth god, the Bastard, en route to a house of that order, has suddenly fallen ill. In fact, she has had a heart attack, and is dying. One of her party has ridden off to get help from the town. Penric feels a need to help, even if the only help he can give her is to hold her hand as she dies.

She says she's accepting his help.

And suddenly everything changes.

Ruchia was a sorceress, and the demon she has carried for many years now needs a new home. It, or she, leaps to Penric.

His life is forever changed.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Daughter of Mystery (Alpennia #1), by Heather Rose Jones

Bella Books, ISBN 2940150664623, February 2014

Alpennia is a small country, probably near Switzerland, at perhaps, roughly, the Regency period in English history. This is a different history, though, and along with all the normal rites of the Church, there are the Mysteries, real visions and miracles, with their own rites and ceremonies.

Margerit Sovitre is an orphan whose guardians are her mother's brother, and her father's sister--who often do not see eye to eye. With a limited fortune of her own, and Uncle Fulpi having two daughters of his own to bring out, Margerit is getting one season to find a husband, maybe a second if necessary.

And then, quite unexpectedly, her godfather, Baron Saveze, dies, and leaves his wealth to her. He does not leave her his title, which goes to his nephew Estefan, with whom he has been on bad terms for a long time.

Margerit is suddenly wealthy, and also suddenly has an enemy. It's just as well the Baron has also left her his bodyguard, Barbara.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mouse & Dragon (Liaden Universe #7), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Bernadette Dunne (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, September 2012 (original publication June 2919)

Aelliana Caylon has survived her brother's attempt to kill her. Her mother, Delm Mizel, has declared her son and heir dead for his crimes. Daav yos'Phelium, Delm Korval, has taken her under his protection, now that she is able to say she does not feel safe in House Miz, el. And she and Daav are natural lifemates.

But Mizel views her simply as an asset, all the more valuable now that the heir is officially dead, and also resents her for having been the occasion of the events that caused his death. The Delm is determined to get her back and wring every bit of value out of her. Her brother's abuse of her has damaged her natural bond with Daav. And getting Ride the Luck offworld and starting a working, successful courier service is going to be even harder than she anticipated.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Murder Under the Covered Bridge (A Bucket List Mystery #1), by Elizabeth Perona

Midnight Ink, ISBN 9789738748954, July 2016

The Summer Ridge Bridge Club ladies are working their way through their "Sixty Lists," each woman's list of sixty things she wants to do before she dies. Getting caught doing one of the early items earned them the sobriquet "The Skinny-Dipping Grandmas." They're now working on another item, a sexy pin-up calendar, and they, or at least most of them, do not want to get caught doing this one.

The last picture that needs to be taken is Francine's, in a horse-drawn carriage, at the Roseville Covered Bridge, recreating her great-grandmother's scandalous escapade with the family's carriage driver. Joy is living out her dream, as an on-air feature reporter for the local tv station and is doing a piece on the Roseville Bridge and its history. Along with filming her segment, she's going to take the pictures of Francine and her husband Jonathan.

And despite Francine's paranoia about getting caught taking the sexy pictures, everything is going just fine. At least, it is until her cousin William ambles by, walking onto the neighboring land owned by a touchy local hermit, and  gets shot at from two directions.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans & Robots, by John Markoff (author), George Newbern (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781504614269, August 2015

Computers of all size and shapes have become a seamless part of our everyday lives. We carry in our pockets more computing power than Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins took to the moon. Robots are still mostly less visible, still doing most of their work in factories, in space, and in other settings where humans don't add enough value to justify the risk of lives.

And whether we call them computers or robots, right now they're still just machines.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Roots of Murder, by R. Jean Reid

Midnight Ink, ISBN 9780738748771, July 2016

Naomi "Nell" Nelligan McGraw is a woman from the midwest, who married the son of a newspaper owner in Pelican Bay, Mississippi. In time, Mr. McGraw Sr. died, Thom inherited the paper, and Thom and Nell ran it together.

Now Thom has been killed by a drunk driver, and Nell is a widow, raising their two children and running the paper on her own. It's only been a month, and she's just beginning to regain her emotional footing. It's a challenge being a single parent of a teenager and a pre-teen, but the paper is also a challenge. Nell is a good journalist, and a good editor, but Thom was the one with the people skills, good at handling the staff. Nell has no confidence in her skills in that area. She's managing, though.

Then she gets a call from Kate Brown, owner of the local bicycle shop. She was out hiking in the state park, and found a tree downed by the recent storm. In its roots, there were two skeletons. And they were clearly murdered.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunset Mantle, by Alter S. Reiss (author), Christopher Price (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, September 2015

Cete is a soldier who committed an act that resulted in him simultaneously receiving a belt of merit, a very high honor, and exile from what had been his home and country. He is traveling the world looking for a new place to be a soldier when he arrives in the remote Reach Antach, where at last he has a chance of employment.

The downside is that the Reach Antach is doomed, for reasons of politics and economics, and one soldier more or less, no matter how good, won't make much difference. Yet Cete has found a reason to stay. He's met a blind weaver-woman who creates beautiful works of art--including a Sunset Mantle that Cete very much wants. What he also wants is the woman herself--if he can have her without making her precarious circumstances worse. The sane thing for her to do is leave the city and go somewhere safe.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Last Witness, by K.J. Parker (author), P.J. Ochlan (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, October 2015

In a world that is recognizably not our 18th or early 19th century, the teller of this tale is a man with an interesting talent. He can take memories from your mind so neatly that you'll never know the stolen memory is gone. He's made a nice business of this. Some people will always have memories that are too painful and they wish to be free of. Others will have memories that it would make their lives easier to have someone else forget. Unfortunately, once he's removed a memory from your mind, he has it in his--forever.

And some of the people he does business with are dangerous men, who might want to eliminate the last "last witness." Eventually, he outwits the gambling compulsion he picked up somewhere along the line, and manages to retire in relative comfort, with little need to associate with other people at all.

That's when he discovers there's someone else in the world who has his talent, and e'sven fewer ethical standards. It's someone to whom he has a connection that's painfully close.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Saddled With Trouble (Michaela Bancroft #1), by A.K. Alexander (author), Michelle Scott (author), Suehyla El Attar (narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2016

Michaela Bancroft is having a rough time. She's in the process of divorcing her husband, Brad Warren, after ten years of marriage. Brad's new fiancee, Kirsten, is actively harassing her to get her to sign the divorce papers instantly--without holding out for the thousands of dollars Brad owes for the medical bills insurance wouldn't cover in pursuit of a pregnancy they never achieved. Her wild friend Camden has moved in with her while waiting for the settlement on her divorce, too. And with all the bills, Michaela is running her horse ranch on minimal help.

And then her beloved Uncle Lou misses a breakfast with her that he had suggested. She goes to his ranch--and finds him in his prize stallion's stall, with a pitchfork through his back.