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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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