An absorbing political tale undermined by sententious preaching and verbose prose.

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BOUGAINVILLEA EXILE

In this historical novel, three couples join forces in the murky underworld of espionage to help defeat Hitler’s march to European domination.

Emil and Magda Franz, an accomplished Jewish couple, are compelled to leave their native Germany when Nazi anti-Semitism overtakes it. They move to balmy Southern California. But they do not live quietly, marshaling their considerable political influence—Emil takes secret meetings with President Franklin D. Roosevelt—to form a “group with extraordinary abilities” that they can “trust implicitly to look for the strings, the gears moving the theater of the macabre that is this war.” To that end, Emil assembles six talented young adults: two married couples (Laura and Greg Macklin and Rory and Sybil Ellis-Rhys) and two individuals destined to become one (Nessa Eiles and Drax Shaw). One of Nessa’s high school teachers, Steven Etchberry, works closely with Emil, and as a result she comes to his attention—he’s inexplicably impressed by her high school valedictory speech, a long-winded sermon about the evils of selfish ambition. Nessa is at first recruited as an information liaison, a way for Emil’s organization to deliver communications to Roosevelt and Winston Churchill without involving their untrustworthy intelligence services. Later, she graduates to more dangerous work, using her expertise in physics (peculiar for a budding screenwriter) to spy on the German government’s progress in making an atomic bomb. McGinnis (The House on Kalalua, 2016, etc.) follows the group beyond World War II and documents the United States’ embattled relations with the Soviet Union and the pernicious rise of McCarthyism. The plot is brimming with action, intrigue, and captivating characters (Emil and Magda appeared in the author’s 2015 debut novel, Five Cats of Hamburg). In addition, the romance between Nessa and Drax—and the strain put on it by the war—is sensitively depicted. But this unabashedly moralizing work is drawn in heavy-handed brushstrokes—the author seems more eager to proselytize against “rabid capitalist profiteers” than tell a story. McGinnis is inclined to caricature—Nessa’s boss, a “tight-assed Republican,” even has a cartoonish name: Buckley Brentwood. Finally, the dialogue is ham-fistedly overwrought and follows Nessa’s achingly earnest desire to “replace the god Mammon with a social conscience.”

An absorbing political tale undermined by sententious preaching and verbose prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5394-9929-9

Page Count: 348

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 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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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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