Historical fiction with a touch of romance and a list of sources for readers interested in following up on the bloody...

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THE RELUCTANT HIGHLANDER

In this medieval romance, a young knight and a sheltered teen join in holy arranged matrimony while feudal unrest ripples around them during the rule of James I, King of Scotland.

Scott (Devil’s Moon, 2015, etc.) immerses us in a tale of the conflict between Highlanders and royalist Borderers as it impinges on a young couple. The night that Sir Àdham MacFinlagh first meets lady-in-waiting Fiona Ormiston, she has snuck away to swim in the river. This is the first indication of her unusual skills and spirit. Àdham finds himself drawn to Fiona even as political maneuverings take up his time. Noticing his interest, the king proposes an alliance between the warrior and this daughter of one of his loyal nobleman from the borderlands. Àdham and Fiona are sketched with individualized personalities, but her insistence on wandering by herself in the Highlands she has recently termed frightening is frustratingly illogical. Scott sets up this tendency in order to justify the final act of the story (and Fiona is only 18), but the behavior feels inane. Characters from Scott’s previous books make cameo appearances, and their presence creates the sense of a historical narrative composed of minor episodes. There is considerable focus on the minutiae of the period, including dress, geography, political factions, social etiquette, and historic battles. The result is a detailed medieval world picture, but the romance takes a secondary role, feeling like a minor panel in a large tapestry. Though the book is billed as a love story, it's not clear why the two leads are in love with each other, nor indeed what the “reluctant” in the title is referring to.

Historical fiction with a touch of romance and a list of sources for readers interested in following up on the bloody clashes of 15th-century Scottish clans.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5040-1619-3

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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