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UNLADYLIKE RULES OF ATTRACTION

A clunky but compelling society-adjacent historical romance.

A court musician is offered a fortune, but only if she finds a husband first.

Anya Marleigh is grateful to have more independence than most women, even if she’s a bit lonely. As a lady-in-waiting to Queen Charlotte, her primary role is to be available for “impromptu musical evenings.” Because she’s the illegitimate daughter of the late Earl of Beddington and his Indian mistress, she’s unlikely to marry, and with little contact with her family, one of her only acquaintances was the Dowager Countess Budleigh, until that lady’s recent passing. Then Anya is shocked to learn that she’s been left the bulk of the dowager’s considerable fortune, provided she marry before her 25th birthday, which is in just a few months. Along with this deadline, she’s assigned a trustee: Lord Damian Ashton, a Jamaican English gentleman who, like her, is not fully accepted in society. Damian and Anya have good reason to be suspicious of each other, and they get off on the wrong foot, although they can’t deny the sudden attraction between them. But with so much money at stake and the rest of the Budleigh family obsessed with claiming it, mysterious and troubling incidents begin to crop up in Anya’s life, putting her in danger even as she and Damian continue to explore their attraction. The second book in Murray’s Marleigh Sisters series can stand alone, and has many intriguing elements, but unfortunately, the plot is often undermined by clunky writing and uneven pacing. In addition, though the chemistry between Anya and Damian is considerable (and spicy), their connection makes the misunderstandings that come between them hard to understand. Despite this, the book is effective, as Anya and Damian’s love story explores the relationship between family and love from several different perspectives, as well as the impact of the British Empire on those caught between London and its many colonies. Healthy dashes of witty dialogue and complex characterization do much to keep the story engaging, and there’s a lot to be enjoyed by historical romance readers looking for a new approach to beloved tropes.

A clunky but compelling society-adjacent historical romance.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780063296527

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

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An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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