A smart and highly civilized tale about love, temptation, and second chances.

BEAR NO MALICE

A British clergyman struggles with his habit of falling for unavailable women in this Edwardian-era love story.

When the novel opens, Canon Thomas Cross is in the midst of an extramarital love affair with Julia Carrington, a wealthy parishioner. His guilt over their ongoing tryst has reached a crescendo, and he insists they put an end to their meetings. Several hours later, after Tom has conducted church meetings and visited sick patients at a hospital, his conscience is eased by having performed these good deeds. Unfortunately, as he heads home, he is kidnapped and driven far outside the city, where he is beaten and left for dead. As he languishes in the woods, he is discovered by Miranda Thorne, a local artist, who brings him back to the remote cottage where she lives with her brother, Simon. As Miranda and Simon nurse Tom back to health, the three form a bond, with Tom and Miranda taking extra-special notice of each other. As Tom regains his strength, he must return to London and attempt to find stability in his life. He hopes to discover the identity of his attackers and to live a more moral life. Unfortunately, he is unable to forget Miranda nor the pull he felt toward her. When Miranda’s brother marries and the Thorne family moves to London, Tom and Miranda rekindle their connection. As Tom and Miranda grow more deeply attached, unexpected obstacles to their relationship continue to crop up. Told at a slow and steady pace, this is a tale not meant for rushing. Details about the story's setting are conspicuously absent, as the author focuses instead on the characters’ thoughts and actions. Even so, the descriptions of characters’ interior emotional lives are sufficiently engaging to keep readers turning pages. The novel also contains many interesting details about the art circles of the era as well as the political inner workings of the English church. Written as a sequel to Harwood’s Author of Impossible Saints (2018), the book can also stand on its own.

A smart and highly civilized tale about love, temptation, and second chances.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-052-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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