An homage to Jane Austen written with great intelligence, but also a large measure of maudlin theatricality.



A young woman defiant of social conventions must quickly find a husband to preserve her mother’s aristocratic lineage in this debut 19th-century romance. 

When Lady Catherine Claverton is born, her father, the earl of Delamare, immediately despises her, incensed that she is not only a girl who cannot carry on the family name, but disabled as well. Exiled to a country estate and estranged from her father, she becomes a fiercely outspoken nonconformist despite being treated like a “weak-minded invalid.” When her father is on his deathbed, she learns an extraordinary secret: Her mother was the Countess St. Clair, a title she held before she married the earl. This was kept from Catherine for fear she would be exploited by others for the wealth and influence a marriage to her would promise. But now Catherine, just 24 years old, realizes that the title is really an earldom, which means she can continue her mother’s family line if she marries and births a son. She has only two eligible candidates: First, Sir Lyle Barrington, a passionate gentleman who is reputed to engage in nefarious business practices and may only be feigning interest in her opportunistically. And then there’s the handsome Capt. Avebury, a talented and well-heeled sailor. There’s a romantic spark between them, but unbeknown to Catherine, he’s on the run from the Admiralty, wanted for serious crimes, including murder. Meanwhile, Catherine is haunted by a past of her own—she imprudently allowed a young artist to paint a risqué portrait of her, a work he uses to threaten her for favors. Austen’s ambitious story is a vivid commentary on the rigid manners of the time. She is unabashedly inspired by her namesake Jane Austen. The protagonist is a remarkably independent woman for the period, and Catherine’s character is powerfully drawn by the author (Sir Lyle “treated her almost as if she were a young widow, not an unmarried woman. Perhaps that was a consequence of her refusal to conform to society’s expectations. She almost liked it. She certainly appreciated that he thought her smart and independent”). Unfortunately, the incessant reminders of Catherine’s autonomy finally become tediously heavy-handed. In addition, the author has none of Jane Austen’s mischievous wit—this is a well-crafted tale, but a humorlessly melodramatic one as well. 

An homage to Jane Austen written with great intelligence, but also a large measure of maudlin theatricality. 

Pub Date: Dec. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73251-580-2

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Apollo Grannus Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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