A solid Victorian romance with appealing characters that suffers somewhat from a lack of original beats.

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A DUKE CHANGES EVERYTHING

First in a new Victorian series about three self-made London men, focusing on a beastly casino owner-cum-duke, the castle he inherited, and the shrewd, stubborn steward who doesn't want him to abandon it.

Nicholas Lyon is the ruthless and powerful owner of the most popular casino in London. Only some know he is also the second son of the late Duke of Tremayne, because he fled from violent abuse at the hands of his deranged father, spending his teen years on the streets. Everything Nicholas has, he earned, but a gnawing hunger for more persists. When his wastrel older brother dies, Nicholas inherits the title and returns reluctantly to Enderley Castle in Sussex. He plans to sell off the contents of the castle and lease the estate, never to return to the place that gave him his ghastly facial scar and still gives him night terrors. But the duke’s plans are imperiled when he meets his unexpectedly female—and attractive—steward, Mina Thorne. Nick is shocked "[to find] beauty in this blighted place.” For Mina, Enderley Castle is not only her livelihood, but her home and all she has ever known. She wants Nicholas to "see it differently, not as a burden but as an opportunity.” Their mutual attraction grows as they come to know each other. Carlyle (How to Woo a Wallflower, 2017) is less reliant than many of her peers on repressed desire and sexual situations to move the plot forward, instead focusing on friendship and romance, to good effect. Nicholas’ emotional confrontation with his buried past dominates the narrative, but Carlyle wisely makes room for Mina’s own arc, one in which she comes to question whether her devotion to Enderley is rooted not just in virtue, but also in fear of change. While the book is enjoyable, the author relies on too many popular tropes (the self-made aristocrat is especially overdone) without introducing fresh elements to compensate.

A solid Victorian romance with appealing characters that suffers somewhat from a lack of original beats.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-285395-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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