An adorably sweet Tinseltown romance, perfect for a day at the LA beach.

The Average Girl

Lighthearted fiction about a woman who gets paid to help regular people meet famous people in seemingly chance encounters.

Debut novelist Goode introduces her sassy heroine, Olivia Fowler, as she orchestrates an “accidental” meeting between a popular celebrity and one of his awestruck fans. Olivia owns her own business in which she creates these ostensibly random run-ins. Olivia focuses on what will motivate the celebrity, not the client, to strike up a conversation; for example, she advises a client to join a local soccer team with which the celebrity sometimes plays. She’s good at her job and she knows it. Indeed, everything is running smoothly until she meets Alexander Young, a much-loved actor, truly by chance, and he takes a romantic interest in her. Perhaps because of all the training she’s given clients over the years, Olivia soon finds herself charming the pants off one of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs. It’s not long before she finds that, against her better judgment, she and Alexander have become a couple. What will happen if her clients see a photo of them in a tabloid, or, worse, if Alexander finds out what she does for a living? As Goode builds the suspense in this fast-paced story, readers will find themselves rooting for Olivia despite her profession’s moral ambiguity. The author shows particular strength at creating likable, hip characters who forge realistic, meaningful bonds with one another. Despite the blithe nature of the story, the players are multidimensional and nuanced, which results in a more complex scenario than initially meets the eye. Readers may sometimes be required to suspend disbelief as Olivia so easily finds ways to meet one A-list celebrity after another, but the payoff in seeing how she resolves her own complicated situation is worth it.

An adorably sweet Tinseltown romance, perfect for a day at the LA beach.  

Pub Date: June 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9961769-1-0

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Beach Blanket Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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