A simplistic but well-written love story.

A SCANDALOUS HUSBAND

Pettersen’s (Studs and Stilettos, 2013) sweet cowboy romance challenges the notions of trust and forgiveness when those you love betray you.

Dani Tattrie is struggling to keep her ranch afloat while her husband, ex-biker Dex, does prison time after engaging in the ultimate betrayal and shutting her out. Her shattered heart is in as much disrepair as her ranch, but she’s a survivor, determined to do what it takes to recover and find her feet again. While Dex carefully navigates prison to ensure his own survival, Dani is being ruthlessly courted by Jeffrey, a town cop whom her minister father adores. Dex offers no excuses for what he’s done, but in prison, he’s risking his own future to protect others. Jeffrey is blatantly portrayed as a one-dimensional, manipulative mismatch for Dani, which winds up making Dani look weak and unsympathetic for falling for him as much as she does. Although Dex’s experiences in prison are vividly written, engaging and realistic, the real story doesn’t begin until halfway through the book, when he’s released from prison and returns to try to reclaim his old life with the wife who no longer trusts him. The extensive scenes between Jeffrey and Dani, which often illustrate his lack of support for her horse world and his insistence that she sell her beloved ranch, can feel redundant at times, making readers impatient for Dex and Dani to finally start interacting. When they finally get together, the chemistry between them is palpable, and as trust slowly regrows, it’s enjoyable to witness true love blossoming for a second time. Yet it seems that their entire conflict could have been cleared up by a simple conversation before the book even begins. The horse scenes in the book are wonderfully rich, showcasing Pettersen’s expertise and passion for horses. The surprise ending with Dani’s brother has an unexpected, clever twist, but the resolution feels rather incomplete since some characters never get their dues.

A simplistic but well-written love story.

Pub Date: July 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0988115170

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Westerhall

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2014

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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