Sentimental but absorbing.

READ REVIEW

THE GIRL IN THE YELLOW SCARF

From the Opus Series series

An African-American musician composes a work inspired by a white homeless woman’s life story in this novel.

Thanks to a prologue, readers know that Mike Monroe’s Broadway musical is a success, early reviews predicting it’ll be a lasting hit. That’s in 1982, but the novel soon turns to 1979, when Mike, 22, is struggling to make it as a Manhattan piano man rather than completing his MBA at NYU and joining his family’s Harlem grocery business. At the soup kitchen where he volunteers, Mike meets artist Sarah Davis, 19, originally from Kentucky, who is orphaned, homeless, and diabetic. Mike is transfixed by her porcelain complexion, silky red hair, and violet eyes—and her angelic though untrained singing voice. Mike and Sarah play and sing in a new duo, so successfully that Sarah can afford her own place. The pianist finds that Sarah’s voice and her life rouse a creative frenzy; with help from a small inheritance, he begins writing an opus based on her story in several movements: “It had to show that no matter how arduous the journey, faith, hope, and love could see you through.” Through complications—Mike’s drinking and guilt about his father’s death, a neighboring writer’s crush on Sarah, Sarah’s health, romantic upsets—the two work on The Girl in the Yellow Scarf, finding the perfect musicians to collaborate with. Their first performance in the park gets rave reviews, but tragedy follows. The story continues in a planned sequel, The Piano Man. In his debut novel, Frigard captures some feelings and themes familiar from Jonathan Larson’s Rent, which similarly focuses on struggling young artists and musicians, though these characters have it easier. And, unlike a musical, a novel can simply declare that music/singing is amazing without having to prove it. Perhaps conveniently, Sarah’s vocals tend to be “wordless,” and Frigard offers no example lyrics to show Mike’s talent. This and some fairly shameless heartstring-tugging weaken the novel; nevertheless, scenes showing the pieces falling into place for Mike’s opus are satisfying.

Sentimental but absorbing.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-983575-41-9

Page Count: 298

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 14, 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 clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

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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