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ONE-STAR ROMANCE

The immaturity of the main characters sours some sizzling banter.

An aspiring writer butts heads with a stuffy academic as they’re routinely thrown together to celebrate their best friends’ milestones.

Natalie Shapiro is surprised when her longtime best friend, Gabby, says yes to a proposal from her boyfriend, Angus; they haven’t been dating for long and don’t even live together. Natalie meets Rob Kapinsky, Angus’ best friend, at the couple’s surprise engagement party. Sparks fly immediately when the two strike up a conversation: Rob is pursuing a Ph.D. in linguistics on the West Coast, and Natalie is a writer who’s decided not to get an MFA since she’s already working several jobs to pay off her student debt; although they both obviously love language and reading, they don’t see eye to eye when it comes to writing and academia. They reunite for Gabby and Angus’ wedding, where it’s revealed that Rob had panned Natalie’s debut novel on Goodreads, leading to a string of further bad reviews and jeopardizing a future book deal. This begins a pattern of Rob and Natalie turning up in each other’s lives at the behest of their friends and, despite sniping at one another, finding an attraction between them. The banter is fantastic, but Rob and Natalie are less than compelling leads. They’re rude, judgmental, and classist. For example, Natalie makes snide remarks about Angus’ looks in her internal monologue, which she uses to create a thinly veiled character in her first book. Rob is an academic from an academic family and clearly has some misconceptions about the “uneducated.” It will take a lot of work to get past these initial impressions; while the characters do inevitably grow and change to achieve their happily-ever-after, the experience isn’t entirely pleasant for the reader.

The immaturity of the main characters sours some sizzling banter.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9780593438213

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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