A decidedly dark tale for those with funny bones, strong stomachs, and open minds.

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Love, or The Witches of Windward Circle

Love, lust, and the occult combine in Allende’s deliciously humorous debut novel.

A small cottage in Venice, California, 1912. The household matriarch—a witch with a nefarious past—is dying and looking for absolution. She leaves behind three daughters: a pair of beautiful and narcissistic brats and one ugly, forgotten young girl. The youngest becomes the novel’s woeful protagonist whose misadventures form the backbone of this unique tale. In an unexpected twist on “Cinderella,” the nameless and voiceless girl becomes the household slave. Shunned from infancy, she has been kept in a crate, reviled by her family, and forced to care for her ungrateful half sisters. While the older sisters enjoy raucous satanic parties, cavorting with scores of dark creatures, the youngest sits at home and is told that if only she would clean more, maybe she could make it to the next demonic ball. As the years drag on, the nameless woman becomes increasingly obsessed with a desire to become young and beautiful, stumbling along as she attempts to achieve her goal. The novel’s strength is its humor, a tongue-in-cheek examination of all things occult. Allende juxtaposes the grotesque and the absurd, with often hilarious results. Readers are treated to the scene of a mother berating her youngest for ruining her prized curtains as she’s literally being dragged into hell. The novel is full of these moments in which characters fervently pray to God that their evil, murderous plans will be successful. It's darkly funny, but at times, gratuitous violence blurs the line between humor and gore: child sacrifices, multiple beheadings. A multitude of richly drawn characters adds color, such as a demon with a penchant for lipstick who helps his mistress in her quest for youth. Readers with an interest in Southern California history will enjoy subplots that look at Venice’s beatnik past as well as the rise and fall of The Gas House, a real landmark.

A decidedly dark tale for those with funny bones, strong stomachs, and open minds.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-942600-49-7

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

THE DECEPTION

A successful businesswoman hires a smooth-talking bounty hunter to find a lead on her sister’s murder.

Kate Gallagher was the only one available to identify her younger sister Chrissy’s body after she was found dead, having run away from home two years earlier. Since Chrissy succumbed to drugs and turned to sex work to survive, her murder isn't taken seriously by the local homicide department. Kate is filled with grief and regret at not having been there for her sister, and she’s determined to find her killer as a kind of penance. Jason Maddox is the charming man Kate almost hooked up with at a local bar. He also happens to be on the payroll of the most successful investigation company in Dallas. He’s all too eager to help Kate out and spend more time getting to know the blonde he danced with at the Sagebrush Saloon. At first, Kate and Jason vow to keep things professional until the case is solved; there’s obvious attraction that they’re willing to pursue at a later date. But the increasing sense of danger mixed with Kate and Jason’s close proximity proves to be too heady of a combination. The tension never lets up as the pair visit seedy bars and interrogate unsavory characters. With a steamy romance and undeniably hot chemistry, the main characters are well matched. They’re both driven, slightly stubborn, and enjoy the adrenaline rush of catching criminals. Martin (The Conspiracy, 2019, etc.) doesn’t skimp on graphic, violent details as Chrissy’s murder leads her couple to something much bigger: human trafficking. Though not for the faint of heart given its weighty material, this is an un-put-down-able page-turner that’s sure to satisfy fans of romance and thrillers alike.

A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-335-00769-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin HQN

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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