THE DISAPPOINTMENT ROOM

Phelps and Grimes’ debut tells the story of how Charles Knight, the heir apparent to Coffin Point, a large South Carolina plantation, was raised during the supposedly idyllic years before the Civil War.

The tale centers on Madeline Knight’s decision to abandon her disappointing son to the care of Munday, the nurturing “Big House” slave. Munday becomes Charles’ surrogate mother, and her daughter, Helen, is Charles’ only childhood companion. The authors skillfully weave in historical details about slavery, plantation life, national and regional politics as well as a little romance and intrigue. The Southern drawl and slaves’ Gullah dialect add authenticity, as does the presence of witchcraft and other cultural details about slaves and their privileged owners. Some strategic twists and turns hold the reader’s interest, and the characters—with the exception of the status-seeking, power-hungry Madeline—earn the reader’s empathy. Charles, Munday and Helen leave South Carolina for Boston, via war-torn Washington, D.C., where Charles confronts his long-lost mother. This bold step releases him to pursue freedom with his true family. The trio rejoices at their arrival in Boston, but racial segregation and second-class status dim their hope for freedom. Despite his happy marriage to Helen, Charles remains enslaved by dreams of returning to Coffin Point. Their experience brings readers to a new understanding of freedom, nudging us to examine our own forms of slavery—to possessions, power and status. Yet amid this serious thinking, it’s difficult to overlook some of the novel’s shortcomings. The timeline leading up to Ft. Sumter is mixed-up, and it is somewhat hard to believe Charles’ intimate knowledge of the Charleston Harbor given his sheltered upbringing. Straightening out these details and correcting some misspellings and syntax errors will make this enjoyable tale all the more engaging. Initially, the abrupt ending is disappointing, but upon reflection, readers will come to understand the brevity. The period detail, poignant story and credible characters make this a pleasurable, satisfying read. 

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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