A learned, absorbing tale of bondage, freedom, war, and peace.

THE BOHEMIAN AND THE ABOLITIONIST

A CIVIL WAR NOVEL

Prehn’s debut historical novel drops readers into the commingling world of artists, abolitionists, and free spirits in the Greenwich Village of the late 1850s and early 1860s.   

The opening pages of this sprawling work introduce 24-year-old Wendell Harte Parry, a rising American painter for whom “financial success seems more elusive even than fame.” Soon after his return to New York City from a grand tour of Europe, just before the Civil War, Wendell meets Lillian Flax, a pretty young woman who “gave him a smile that made him feel, foolishly, that he was falling.” Within a few pages, Walt Whitman—in the flesh—serenades them with his poem “To a Stranger,” which Prehn—in a gesture that might have horrified the real-life Whitman—center justifies on the page. To Wendell’s displeasure, Lillian turns out to be married to cruel shipping mogul Henry Ferguson, who happens to be Wendell’s patron. Before long, Lillian’s abolitionist activity, and particularly her support for the radical John Brown, puts her in danger. Although he promised Lillian that he wouldn’t pick up a gun, Wendell joins the Union Army and later struggles for his life at Bull Run, where “death and gun-powder hung in the air like the devil’s laundry.” Prehn has quite obviously done extensive research, and she’s effectively fluent in the cultural currents of the era. She convincingly presents a whirlwind of real-life famous figures: actress and writer Ada Clare teaches Wendell what a bohemian is, and he, in turn, becomes one himself; painter Frederick Church and Wendell critique and celebrate one another’s work; author Louisa May Alcott welcomes Wendell and Lillian to her home and joins them to visit Henry David Thoreau in Massachusetts. The characters’ conversations—about the latest New York Tribune column by Karl Marx, say, or the dangers of harboring fugitives—often seem as if Prehn had only just overheard them. As a result, her novel is not just a rousing story of two lovers—it also offers readers a welcome historical education.  

A learned, absorbing tale of bondage, freedom, war, and peace.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-89290-9

Page Count: 500

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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