Meandering plot and cardboard people in this mainstream debut from romancer Samuel.



A conventional tale about a wayward daughter who returns home with her troubled teenage son.

Jewel Sabatino’s New York apartment is going co-op—but, fortunately, she just inherited her aunt’s house back in Pueblo, Colorado. So she moves back to her hometown with best friend Michael, a gay restaurateur, and her son Shane, the product of an adolescent romance with a musician now dead. The family welcomes her with open arms except for her father, still sulking because Jewel dropped out of school at 17 to have her baby. The stern patriarch, in fact, hasn’t spoken to her since then, though everyone else has forgiven her. Earth mother Jewel gets going by baking dozens of pies for local restaurants and caring for Michael, now near death from AIDS. Although her older sisters Jordan and Jasmine have kept in touch over the years, Jewel has a lot of catching up to do, especially now that her baby sister Jane is about to be married. Jewel realizes that she’s getting older: her bridesmaid’s gown only magnifies her bulges, and her hair is much too long. Reaffirming her womanhood, she decides that it’s okay to be 40 and even, in a notably weak scene, gives thanks to every part of her body, from her fingertips down to the “dark secret between her thighs.” All this succulence is deeply appreciated by her new lover, Michael’s brother Malachi, a six-foot-six hunk for whom Jewel is apparently all he could ever want in a woman. The two ride around on his huge motorcycle when not exchanging passionately meaningful looks and paperback-romance dialogue or shaking their heads over rebellious Shane’s predictable shenanigans. Meanwhile, trite wisdom is exchanged among the women of this Sicilian-American clan as onions are chopped and sauces stirred—and as Jewel muses on the meaning of it all.

Meandering plot and cardboard people in this mainstream debut from romancer Samuel.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-44565-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


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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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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