An engaging cast of characters grapples with themes from family legacies to social media marketing while the romance between...

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A DUKE BY DEFAULT

From the Reluctant Royals series , Vol. 2

A rude sword maker clashes with the spunky socialite who has been sent to drag him into the 21st century.

Portia Hobbs’ hard-charging parents can’t understand why she prefers acquiring graduate degrees and internships to joining the family business in New York. When she wins an internship to work with a master swordsmith in Scotland, Portia knows it’s a perfect way to put her art history background to good use. Where her parents see flighty selfishness, Portia sees opportunity and excitement. Her new boss, Tavish McKenzie, is a taciturn silver fox with a healthy skepticism of modernity. He’s gruff with Portia, who nevertheless manages to wield her social media and marketing savvy to raise Bodotria Armory’s profile. Portia is a charming blend of bravado and insecurity, a woman whose summer in Scotland will reveal her innate worth even if her skills are not the kind her family can appreciate. A brusque British artisan falling for a spoiled, spunky American is a familiar trope, but Cole (A Princess in Theory, 2018, etc.) invests it with complexity by giving Portia not just vulnerability, but a journey of self-discovery that includes strong female friendships. Another well-known romance trope, secret royalty, gets the same treatment. Tav’s mother was a Chilean refugee when she began an affair with his biological father, whom she left after he inherited a dukedom. Tav had always known the story, but he thought of his mother as a victim of a powerful man; learning now that she'd made her own choices, he has to make sense of a new origin story while grappling with an abrupt status shift from artisan to aristocrat. While Portia and Tav’s characters are irresistible and their culture-clash repartee is genuinely witty, their romance seems abrupt. A continued friendship with benefits seems just as likely as a happy-ever-after for these two, and while their relationship might eventually develop into something lasting, readers might appreciate a cameo by “Maid Freckles” and “#swordbae” in the next installment of the series, just to be sure.

An engaging cast of characters grapples with themes from family legacies to social media marketing while the romance between a gruff swordsmith and his unorthodox apprentice is more parry than attack.

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268556-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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