A nice romp through the back alleys of the Eternal City, all in a lighthearted tone more farce than tragedy.

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THE FOOD OF LOVE

A Cyrano de Bergerac first novel about a shy Roman chef who helps one of his waiters seduce an American coed with the perfect meal.

At 22, Laura Patterson is a bit more sophisticated and serious than the typical junior-year-abroader, and at the Anglo-American University in Rome (whose students tend to hang out in Irish bars and complain about Italian pizza), she stands out. For one thing, Laura actually has Italian friends, who have dutifully taught her not to order cappuccino in the afternoon and never to wear sneakers in public. So for Tomasso Masi, who has made a career of seducing tourists, Laura is a rare prize: a blond American who walks into his neighborhood bar and can speak (and swear) in Roman slang. Tomasso is a waiter at Templi, a restaurant so rarefied that you need to make reservations three months in advance, but he tells Laura that he’s a chef in order to lure her to his apartment for dinner and whatever else might follow. Fortunately for Tomasso, his roommate Bruno is a chef—at Templi—and the meal he concocts (and Tomasso passes off as his own) removes any qualms Laura may have had about spending the night. Tomasso is very happy, but the problem is that Laura has fallen in love as much with Bruno’s cooking as with Tomasso himself. So for several months Bruno goes along with the charade, secretly preparing meals and slipping out just before Laura arrives. Why such magnanimity? Mainly because Bruno (who has never had a girlfriend in his life) has secretly fallen in love with Laura himself. Will he ever let on? Cyrano, you remember, very nearly took the secret to his grave—but he wasn’t an Italian.

A nice romp through the back alleys of the Eternal City, all in a lighthearted tone more farce than tragedy.

Pub Date: July 19, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-03322-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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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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A trifle facile, but this decades-spanning drama is readable and engrossing throughout.

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A LONG PETAL OF THE SEA

Two refugees from the Spanish Civil War cross the Atlantic Ocean to Chile and a half-century of political and personal upheavals.

We meet Victor Dalmau and Roser Bruguera in 1938 as it is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican cause they support is doomed. When they reunite in France as penniless refugees, Roser has survived a harrowing flight across the Pyrenees while heavily pregnant and given birth to the son of Victor’s brother Guillem, killed at the Battle of the Ebro. Victor, evacuated with the wounded he was tending in a makeshift hospital, learns of a ship outfitted by poet Pablo Neruda to take exiles to a new life in Chile, but he and Roser must marry in order to gain a berth. Allende (In the Midst of Winter, 2017, etc.) expertly sets up this forced intimacy between two very different people: Resolute, realistic Roser never looks back and doggedly pursues a musical career in Chile while Victor, despite being fast-tracked into medical school by socialist politician Salvador Allende (a relative of the author's), remains melancholy and nostalgic for his homeland. Their platonic affection deepens into physical love and lasting commitment in an episodic narrative that reaches a catastrophic climax with the 1973 coup overthrowing Chile’s democratically elected government. For Victor and Roser, this is a painful reminder of their losses in Spain and the start of new suffering. The wealthy, conservative del Solar family provides a counterpoint to the idealistic Dalmaus; snobbish, right-wing patriarch Isidro and his hysterically religious wife, Laura, verge on caricature, but Allende paints more nuanced portraits of eldest son Felipe, who smooths the refugees’ early days in Chile, and daughter Ofelia, whose brief affair with Victor has lasting consequences. Allende tends to describe emotions and events rather than delve into them, and she paints the historical backdrop in very broad strokes, but she is an engaging storyteller. A touching close in 1994 brings one more surprise and unexpected hope for the future to 80-year-old Victor.

A trifle facile, but this decades-spanning drama is readable and engrossing throughout.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2015-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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