A sometimes sedate and other times luminous story of rejuvenating love.

A LIGHT ON ALTERED LAND

An unsought, late-in-life love blossoms between two women in Bohan’s quiet gay romance.

When Ellie Belmont, a 65-year-old retired writing teacher, spots 68-year-old, retired psychotherapist Kathryn Kepler in a Minneapolis Starbucks, she experiences the first twinge of desire she’s felt since the death of her wife, Mary, three years before. Kathryn, whose husband recently divorced her to take up with a younger woman, is straight, but that proves no obstacle to their bonding over tea and dirty chai latte—so simpatico are their personalities and outlooks. Their relationship builds very slowly over lunch dates, shopping excursions—in which Kathryn gives the couture-allergic Ellie a style makeover, although both abjure makeup as being unhealthy and unnecessary—and deep, heart-to-heart talks. Along the way, Ellie introduces Kathryn to her circle of gal pals, and Kathryn feels a growing appreciation for Ellie’s “finely sculpted lips” and “long black lashes.” The narrative kicks up a gear when Kathryn tags along on Ellie’s road trip to her niece’s marijuana farm in California to score some illegal cannabis oil for a friend with Lyme disease, with a stop in Yosemite National Park for sightseeing and snowshoeing; in a hotel room, their brewing attraction finally explodes into rapturous passion. They also pay a visit to Kathryn’s daughter, Jenn, a prickly, insecure woman who’s affronted by the fact that her mother is now dating a woman. A more pressing crisis erupts when Ellie and Kathryn are caught in a multicar highway accident.

Despite this, there’s not much overt drama in most of Bohan’s story of second chances and newfound intimacy, which mainly plays out in long conversations that tend toward serious and even grave matters. There’s much talk of coping with caretaking duties, end-of-life arrangements—“Cremation appeals to me more, even though it consumes fossil fuel”—and assisted living options for seniors; on a spiritual note, Ellie recalls Mary’s numinous presence in the house for a few hours after her passing while Kathryn tells of a dream visitation from a departed friend who told her that death is simply a transition to another plane. Ellie introduces Kathryn to lesbian culture, music, and politics, and they discuss gender roles—including Ellie’s resentful opinions regarding “young butch lesbians…becoming transmen” and trans women identifying as lesbians, which Kathryn challenges. Bohan’s prose is refined and psychologically nuanced, but it sometimes feels bloodless, and the couple’s interactions often lack a spark. However, as their relationship deepens and grows more carnal, so does the author’s writing as she explores the wounds and wisdom that accrue to women of a certain age: “She contemplated the sag in her abdomen that all the crunches in the world would not reduce. The creped neck, the fine hatch work around her eyes and mouth. This is what she had to give to Kathryn, bless her….But one day it would all be empty, just as Mary’s clothes had been, and all this all this wonder would be gone.” When Bohan puts her characters’ love to a harder test, it achieves more resonance.

A sometimes sedate and other times luminous story of rejuvenating love.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-65411-087-1

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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