A high-spirited, romantic page turner.

THE BLUE-RIBBON JALAPEÑO SOCIETY JUBILEE

Ruthless gossip, philandering husbands, flawless makeup, hunky bartenders and true friendship bring Cadillac, Texas, into vivid focus. 

Brown (Just a Cowboy and his Baby, 2012, etc.) brings her cowboy-romance writing talents to bear on this hilarious tale of women in a gossipy small town. The social bully and queen of the town’s jalapeño club, Violet Prescott, may look ridiculous in her pantyhose and bottle-black hair, but she has spent her nearly 80 years on Earth controlling every woman in town. Dominating the other 20 women in her club, Violet insists on pantyhose and frames every blue ribbon won at the annual jubilee—blue ribbons that rightfully belong on the walls of Miss Clawdy’s Café, since Claudia Andrews concocted the soil in which the prize-winning peppers have grown for the last 40 years. But this year, she may have gone too far. Claudia’s daughters, Marty and Cathy, and their best friend, Trixie, run the Café. Cathy is engaged to Ethan, Violet’s lukewarm son with political aspirations. Faced with a prenuptial contract but no “I love you,” Cathy is beginning to reassess her plans, particularly after Violet arranges for the town to reconsider the Café’s zoning status. Having a weekly tryst with her no-good ex-husband is turning out to be more dangerous than Trixie bargained for. She’s less worried that Anna Ruth (Andy’s histrionic, hyperorganized new girlfriend—and most recent addition to the jalapeño club) will find out than that Cathy and Marty’s Aunt Agnes will shoot any man in her bedroom dead. It’s a good thing Darla Jean—former hooker turned preacher and savior of abused women—lives across the street, ready to run interference at a moment’s notice. Fast-paced, the intertwined tales collide along a bumpy road toward a surprising calamity at the jalapeño jubilee.

A high-spirited, romantic page turner.

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8126-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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