Earnest, but the main characters’ saintliness dilutes the drama.



A nun-in-training finds her true calling caring for a dysfunctional Angeleno family in Samartin’s determinedly upbeat third novel (Tarnished Beauty, 2008, etc.).

Sent by her Mother Superior to live in the world for six months before taking final vows, 21-year-old El Salvadoran refugee Ana accepts a temporary position with Adam and Lillian Trellis, caring for their hellion preschooler Teddy. Lovely, spoiled Lillian is pregnant. Brooding, ruggedly handsome Adam, a financier, intimidates yet captivates Ana. Homage to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is obvious throughout, beginning with the dark secret in Adam’s past. Once a piano prodigy, he hasn’t touched the family Steinway since his parents and chauffeur died in a car crash while en route to his recital. Live-in housekeeper Millie, the chauffeur’s widow, is now a wretched alcoholic whom Adam continues to employ out of guilt. Lillian, an unapologetic nymphomaniac, takes a succession of lovers, including Adam’s brother Darwin. When Teddy almost drowns as a result of Lillian’s insistence that fencing the pool will ruin her cocktail party, Ana rescues the boy and is rescued herself by Adam. Soon she’s infatuated but keeps her devotion a secret. Thanks to Lillian’s indifferent parenting, Ana’s hiatus from the convent stretches to 20 years. She becomes indispensable to the family and restores a semblance of peace. Millie joins AA, Adam begins playing piano again; only Lillian is incapable of change. Once their two children are grown, she leaves Adam, freeing him to confess his love for Ana. The new couple’s happiness is tempered by a diagnosis of cancer. Like Jane Eyre, Ana becomes the master’s caregiver. She also becomes pregnant, but unlike Mr. Rochester, Mr. Trellis dies before learning the blessed news. No spoiler here: The narrative begins with Ana at her beloved’s deathbed and bounces confusingly around in time from then on. In contrast to Samartin’s previous novels, the temptation to let romanticism deteriorate into shameless sentimentality was seemingly irresistible this time.

Earnest, but the main characters’ saintliness dilutes the drama.

Pub Date: July 21, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4952-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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On the day her fiance came out and left her at the altar, Faith escaped to the West Coast, where she’s had a thriving...


When Faith Holland was abandoned at the altar three years ago, she left her hometown for San Francisco to regroup; coming home to Manningsport, she’ll have to confront her past and Levi Cooper, the disturbingly handsome chief of police she blames for ruining her life.

On the day her fiance came out and left her at the altar, Faith escaped to the West Coast, where she’s had a thriving professional life and a comical romantic life. Summoned home for a few months to work the harvest at her family’s winery and help with some crisis management, Faith realizes that some things in her small town will never change—for the good or the bad—but she knows the time has come to establish a new reality with her ex, her family and maybe even Levi Cooper, the best man who forced Jeremy to be honest with her and himself on their wedding day. It’s so much easier to blame and despise him; if she lets down her guard, she might have to deal with their short but profound shared past and her own guilt and secrets from a long-ago tragedy that has haunted her for most of her life. Higgins’ newest heart-tugging romantic comedy juggles a spectrum of emotionally powerful elements, including the death of a mother, the abandonment of a father and a sigh-worthy high school romance gone awry. With her typical engaging voice, compelling storytelling and amusing dialogue, Higgins keeps the audience flipping through pages as quickly as possible, but it is her spot-on ability to make her characters at once funny, authentic and vulnerable—vulnerable to the point of breaking, so they can heal, stronger and better and more able to love—that is her true genius and guarantees most romance fans will both laugh out loud and get teary, sometimes at the same time. Another sweet, touching must-read for Higgins fans and anyone who enjoys a perfect combination of humor and romance.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-373-77792-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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