Conflict without character development leads to an unconvincing romance.

HOLD BACK THE DAWN

A vampire living a quiet country life saves a young woman and battles an old foe.

Centuries-old vampire Roan Cabrera lives as an unthreatening gentleman in a small English village in 1867. Rather than hunt and kill his prey, Roan quenches his thirst by feeding off hospital patients, lulling them into complacency by showing them the happiest minutes of their lives. Roan can read minds, turn into a wolf, and will himself anywhere; but disappointingly, the only nod Ashley (Twilight Desires, 2018, etc.) makes toward worldbuilding is labeling Roan’s special skills as “vampire magic.” Enter Kathryn Winterbourne, a young woman who fled her home after unwanted attention from her abusive stepfather. Kathryn is struggling to make it on her own when she is hit by a carriage and left for dead. After finding her, Roan feels an unexpected flare of attraction and decides to save her life. From there, the plot takes several inexplicable turns. Roan moves Kathryn into his home and hires a driver for her, but she never wonders what he might expect in exchange. Meanwhile, Roan realizes Pascual, a fellow vampire and old enemy, is hunting villagers in his territory. Roan actively searches for Pascual while Kathryn placidly whiles her days away reading, gardening, and ignoring her suspicions about why Roan only appears at night. The romance between them is dull and listless. Kathryn is a thinly developed character without agency, existing to be a love interest for Roan and a pawn for Pascual. The plot chugs along relentlessly, but no matter how dramatic the problem, Roan effortlessly solves it. The end result is that both Roan and Kathryn are strangely static characters; they say they’re in love but readers won’t be convinced.

Conflict without character development leads to an unconvincing romance.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4201-4739-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Zebra/Kensington

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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A breezy tale perfect for a day at the beach, this one’s a real winner.

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THE HATING GAME

Lucy Hutton absolutely detests her office mate Joshua Templeman. He’s a pompous, self-important, obnoxious ass. But, she’s got to admit, he is pretty cute.

From the moment they meet, a result of the unwelcome corporate merger between their employers, Lucy and Joshua are at odds. Joshua is assistant to the CEO of what was once Bexley Publishing, a numbers-crunching, foosball-playing frat house–cum-business. Lucy is assistant to the CEO of the now-defunct Gamin Publishing, a Birkenstock-clad, free-flowing commune of literary purists. When the two companies begrudgingly become one, so does the executive suite. Thus begins this hate-at-first-sight romantic comedy. Lucy and Joshua’s daily interactions include the staring game, the mirror game, and the HR game, each played with the intensity of the Hunger Games. Their mutual antipathy grows when a new executive position opens at Bexley-Gamin Publishing and both Lucy's and Joshua’s bosses think their protégés would be the perfect choice. Here the high-stakes game begins. After yet another 60-hour work week, which now includes prepping for upcoming interviews, Lucy logs off of her computer (Password: IHATEJOSHUA4EV@) to head home, but not before her rival hops into the elevator with her. When Joshua hits the emergency button and stops the ride, Lucy is certain her nemesis is going to kill her. Instead, he plants a (completely consensual) kiss on her that awakens something she hadn’t known existed. Debut novelist Thorne delivers something nearly impossible: an entirely predictable plot that is also completely fresh, original, and utterly charming. From the opening page, readers will know the outcome of Lucy and Joshua’s relationship, but what happens in between is magic. From Lucy’s hilarious inner dialogue to Joshua’s sharp retorts, the chemistry between them is irresistibly adorable—and smokin’ hot.

A breezy tale perfect for a day at the beach, this one’s a real winner.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-243959-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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