An entertaining historical novel with just the right amount of romance and mystery.

SOPHIE AND JULIET

FROM RAGS TO ROYALTY

In the latest novel in Kennedy’s (Bobbin’s Journal, 2017, etc.) Victorian Collection, a star-crossed birth leads to unexpected romantic entanglements and family secrets.

The Earl of Grayton is accustomed to a life circumscribed by the social constraints of his upper-class lifestyle. While traveling to his boyhood estate, he meets with a lower-class farmer named William Whitmore and his wife, Anne. Grayton has a connection to the Whitmores; the night that his son, Henry, and their daughter Sarah were born, “two shooting stars crossed paths in the heavens,” and King George III believed that this was an auspicious omen. Hoping to foster a connection between the two children, Grayton entrusts his own son’s upbringing to the Whitmores. His daughters, Margaret, Mary, Victoria, and Elizabeth, are initially reluctant to befriend the other family; however, they all grow closer after Grayton’s wife, Elizabeth, dies in a tragic accident. Margaret is interested in medicine and uses her skills to help the Whitmore family. When Grayton meets Anne’s sister, Jane Stewart, he falls in love, but he’s worried about how society might react to their marriage. Teenage Henry intends to propose to 15-year-old Sarah, as well, so Grayton turns to King George III for his blessing. Unbeknownst to Grayton, the request may unlock a family secret. Kennedy’s novel offers an appealing mix of romance and mystery, bolstered by strong character development and unexpected plot twists. The fast-paced narrative includes a large cast of fictional and historical characters. Grayton and the Whitmores are strong leads whose friendship endures despite their keen awareness of their society’s class structure. Kennedy deftly and sensitively explores the culture’s expectations for both families. Her inclusion of King George III and his wife is clever and occasionally playful, and a brief prologue offers additional historical insight and context. The romances between Grayton and Jane, and Henry and Sarah, are poignant, and Kennedy skillfully ties these relationships to a mystery that involves a friendship with the king.

An entertaining historical novel with just the right amount of romance and mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1945494116

Page Count: 159

Publisher: Kennedy Literary

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2017

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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