A solid romance with thrills, sex, and plenty of Southern charm.



In Lea’s debut romance novel, an emotionally damaged chef and a reclusive carpenter fall for each other while dealing with fallout from their pasts.

Twenty-five-year-old Bryant “Ant” Pembroke, the adopted daughter of the late Tom and Carly Pembroke, is part of Munford, Kentucky’s wealthiest and most-hated family. As the story opens, she’s just tracked down her biological father, Ty Monroe, who’s on his deathbed with stage 4 liver cancer. Ant never got to know him, but he was a friend and surrogate father to 26-year-old Orion “Ore” Black. Standing at 6 feet 6 inches and perpetually clad in flannel, Ore is, for Ant, “the image of a Brawny Paper Towel commercial.” When the pair meet at Mumford Memorial hospital, their mutual attraction is immediate, but each feels that they don’t deserve the other. Ant’s insecurity stems from a childhood of verbal abuse from her father as well as from her relationship with Rodney Picoult, a stalker ex-boyfriend who texts her five times a day; Orion considers himself a monster after a life-changing night in county jail eight years before. As their relationship progresses, there’s no dearth of action; in the span of a single night, Ty dies, Ant finds out the identities of her biological grandparents, Ant and Ore have sex for the first time, and the Pembroke estate gets trashed. And just when Ant and Ore begin to trust each other, there’s a close call involving Rodney. Overall, this is a compelling, well-conceived romance. Ant is an admirable heroine, fiery and capable of taking care of herself, while Ore comes off as a Southern gentleman with rugged sex appeal. There’s a cute makeup scene that’s reminiscent of The Notebook—rain pours down as the couple argues outside Orion’s beloved 1968 Chevy truck before they make amends (and love) in a house that he built. Lea’s prose can be repetitive; Ore always smells of “sawdust” and “spice,” and Ant is said to smell of lemon and rose multiple times. However, the novel is redeemed by the author’s ability to capture the intensity of physical attraction—how mundane actions, such as chopping vegetables or carrying furniture, suddenly become irresistible. She also shows a firm command of her book’s erotic scenes.

A solid romance with thrills, sex, and plenty of Southern charm.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017


Page Count: 393

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.


When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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