While offering scrumptious recipes, this tale of a baker embracing God’s path to true love lacks a convincing plot.

Patti Cake

A wistful and talented dessert maven hopes to find the Christian man of her dreams in this debut faith-based romance.

Patti Murray is known as “Patti Cake” for her superb cake-decorating skills as well as her delicious recipes. Her home business, Exquisite Cakes, is steadily growing in Santa Rosa, California. She’s content in her professional life, but her personal life is lagging. She wants to marry and start a family but feels strongly about marrying a similarly devoted Christian. Patti often talks to God about what she wants in a mate, and hopes that he can deliver someone appropriate to “capture the spirit of true, unending love.” When Patti is least expecting it, not one but two contenders materialize. She literally runs into Dr. Cal Ripland, a local dentist, in several ill-fated episodes. He’s a quiet man but she feels drawn to him. While he weathered a loss when his wife died, he still manages to hang onto his faith. Jim Callahan storms onto the scene with his outsized, film star personality to buy a cake for his sister’s wedding, and attempts to impress Patti with the trappings of his fame. He’s passionate and handsome, but she questions whether he really possesses the personal character she desires. She’s torn between the two men until meditating on her personal beliefs, and their faith, makes it clear who is the right match. Ingersoll’s decadent descriptions of Patti’s cake and pie recipes and the inclusion of full recipes in the appendix help their sweetness jump off the page with mouthwatering detail. But the dialogue is often stilted. Jim’s character becomes trite, with an unnecessary kidnapping and gun battle right out of a Hollywood film. The clunky, repeated phrase “the actor Jim from the movies” appears too often. The ending then rushes into an implausible resolution. While the tale should appeal to Christian romance fans, general audiences will likely find the frequent, page-long conversations with God too slow-paced.

While offering scrumptious recipes, this tale of a baker embracing God’s path to true love lacks a convincing plot.

Pub Date: April 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-9471-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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