A PLACE TO CALL HOME

A white-bread take on the stock elements of southern family saga—family secrets, eccentric relatives, the importance of place, and the girl who falls in love with a handsome boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Fourteen-year-old Roanie Sullivan, a motherless boy whose father, Big Roan, is a violent drunk, is an outcast in the small Georgia town of Dunderry. But nine-year-old Claire Maloney, the spoiled daughter of a large, prominent family, springs to his defense—offering him rides to school and helping to clear him when he's accused of stealing money. Despite his traumatic upbringing, Roanie is responsible and upright, and, after Claire's cousin Carlton knocks out some of his teeth in a fight, the Maloneys offer him a home. Roanie works hard around the Maloneys' farm and causes peace to break out between the family's warring matriarchs; meanwhile, he and Claire become best friends and swear a chaste love. Then Claire, seeking help after her Great-Gran has a car accident, stumbles into Big Roan's trailer; he hits her and threatens to rape her before Roanie shows up and shoots his father dead. Roanie is sent to a foster home, while Claire is left to brood about him. Shift then to 20 years later: Roan, who's nursed his passion for Claire but failed to get in touch, has become a millionaire real-estate speculator and adopted a son, Matthew, who, according to rumor, is the illegitimate child of Claire's uncle. When Roan learns that Claire, now a prizewinning reporter, has been badly injured while fleeing a wife-batterer who's angry about one of her stories, he seeks her out. The two fall effortlessly back in love, and the last hundred or so pages can only defer their happiness through red-herring complications. A cloyingly sweet love story whose willful heroine and grudge-bearing hero remain strangely unsympathetic.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-553-10334-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1997

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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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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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