Despite the book’s anachronisms, the theme of marriage as a working partnership succeeds.

THE LAND STEWARD'S DAUGHTER

A middle-class daughter and a titled son encounter obstacles to their relationship in this Regency-style romance.

In 1815, marriage is in the air at Blackmore Park, the Hampshire estate of the Duke of Blackmore, as the family readies for an engagement announcement, a match between the Duke’s older son and a friend’s daughter having been arranged long ago. Helping the Duchess plan the event is Elaina Walker, 25, who’s lived in a set of rooms at Blackmore with her father, the Duke’s land steward, since her mother died. But Elaina’s thoughts lie with wondering whether Montgomery’s younger brother, Capt. Lord William Winter, will ever return from the Peninsular Wars. They’ve been close friends since childhood and corresponded frequently over 11 years apart. Though she’s had suitors, Elaina has turned them down; her heart belongs to Will, but surely he doesn’t still feel the same way...does he? Besides, Elaina has a small dowry, her titled mother having disobliged her family by marrying a commoner, and though the girl is treated well by Will’s parents, they very much want him to wed a woman of fortune. Nevertheless, Will’s sudden return leaves no doubt that their childhood feelings have matured into a blazing passion. Despite Elaina’s deep misgivings over familial disapproval and her suitability for Will, they elope and move into Larkspur Castle, a sadly run-down estate given to Will by his father. The newlyweds both pitch in to make a go of it, aided by Elaina’s knowledge from her father about the practicalities of estate management. The couple has many obstacles to overcome and much hard work to do to make a success of Larkspur—Elaina must even labor in the fields—and Will struggles with wanting his father’s approval. He’s also jealous of Elaina’s former suitor, banker Giles Hunt, while Elaina worries that her husband will blame her for their financial struggles. Until they can get past these difficulties, their marriage hangs in the balance.

Michaels ably employs many familiar romance-novel elements, and she also successfully ventures beyond the genre’s conventions by continuing the story past the wedding and honeymoon. Erotic scenes are well handled, both tender and hot; the writing is explicit but not pornographic. By working together to make Larkspur profitable, Elaina and Will notably demonstrate their best qualities, not just their compatibility in bed, and readers will of course root for them. Historical inconsistencies, however, detract from the period feel, such as modern usage: “Uptight” dates from the mid-20th century, and “cost-efficient” from 1970, for example. It’s also strange that Will’s military career is described as “whimsy” or an inappropriate choice when the gentry’s second son’s joining the army was entirely conventional. Characterization can also be inconsistent; although Will’s parents take Elaina in, are generally kindly, and have all the usual expectations for their sons, Will thinks of them as “wolves.” Still, the young couple’s relationship is well drawn, and they’re immensely likable.

Despite the book’s anachronisms, the theme of marriage as a working partnership succeeds.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7351401-1-7

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Mildred Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

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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