A strong female lead, laugh-out-loud scenes, and an authentic pro-football setting are offset by an overstuffed romance plot...

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FUMBLED

A hardworking single mom comes face to face with the gorgeous star athlete who got away in the second installment of a football romance series by a fresh-voiced newcomer to the genre.

Poppy Patterson doesn’t love her job as a scantily clad server at a nightclub in downtown Denver, but she loves the way it supports her as a single mother to 9-year-old Ace. Ten years have passed since Poppy, pregnant and abandoned by her family, fled Indiana to raise her son and try, unsuccessfully, to forget his father. TK, the famously fun-loving starting wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs, never understood why Poppy left him back in high school, since she never told him she was pregnant. When they run into each other at the club, their sizzling attraction is just as strong as ever: “TK unravels me in ways I thought impossible. I’ve lived such a guarded, half-life for so many years, he’s a shock to my system.” Poppy questions her past decisions as she and TK try to work their relationship out. Martin (Intercepted, 2018) expertly parlays her experience as the spouse of a former NFL player into compelling scenes not just of big games, but of lesser-explored preseason matchups, training camp, and the social dynamics Poppy must face as the new girlfriend of the star player. Poppy leaps off the page as a contemporary biracial woman navigating dating, motherhood, and career with seriousness and a fantastic sense of humor. TK’s character is less distinct, partly due to the novel’s deep first-person point of view. Martin sets up some big-stakes tropes—reunited lovers, secret baby—but they lack the emotional payoff readers expect because she rushes through them to set up even more. By the time Poppy throws up yet another barrier in Chapter 37, readers might be tempted to give up as well.

A strong female lead, laugh-out-loud scenes, and an authentic pro-football setting are offset by an overstuffed romance plot that makes this more of a field goal than a touchdown.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49197-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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