A somewhat formulaic story, enlivened by amiable characters and a robust setting.




The latest romantic mystery from Pettersen (Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash, 2012, etc.) involves the disappearance of an aspiring jockey.

Twenty-something Megan Spence is somewhat older than many of her fellow classmates at jockey school, but she doesn’t let that deter her from her secret aim: to investigate the recent disappearance of her brother, Joey, from the school a few weeks prior. Megan goes through the exhausting paces along with everyone else, from grooming to track riding to classwork. One of her instructors is the strappingly handsome Scott Taylor, who also happens to be a private investigator. Sparks fly between Megan and Scott from the moment they meet, but Megan’s private, independent spirit prevents her from revealing her secret. It doesn’t help matters that Scott’s close friend is Garrett Baldwin, the head of the school. According to Baldwin, Joey was a drug addict who quit the school and disappeared. But although Joey had issues with drugs earlier in his life, Megan knew that he was now clean. Megan’s relationship with Scott heats up, but she doesn’t know how far to trust him. Scott hides a heartbreaking past experience with a drug-taking fiancée, and when he finds heroin that’s been planted in Megan’s bag, he jumps to the wrong conclusion. Soon Megan is trapped in a life-threatening situation with a Mexican drug cartel, and Scott must conquer his inner demons in order to find her before it’s too late. Pettersen devotes many pages to Scott’s and Megan’s psychological musings, but readers may feel these ruminations slow the plot’s otherwise enjoyably rapid pace. Pettersen sticks to familiar genre patterns, and mystery and romance fans may find the plot contains few surprises, although the author’s detailed descriptions of the racing atmosphere brighten the story. She deftly develops the relationship between Megan and Scott, even if their relationship suffers from an overabundance of simple misunderstandings—although for many readers, that may simply add to the fun.

A somewhat formulaic story, enlivened by amiable characters and a robust setting.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0988115125

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Westerhall

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2013

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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