Though breathlessly chaste and sprinkled with clichés, this novel will satisfy the romantic who longs for a world of...

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ISABEL

A medieval romance with a supernatural slant.

As a nobleman’s adopted daughter, Isabel should be wearing beautiful dresses and spending her days embroidering and learning music and languages, not sleeping in the stables and wearing men’s muddy clothing and sword fighting and falling in love with Mathew, a thief-turned–dashing stable boy. But in the days of knights, kings and ladies, Isabel is a free-spirited, unconventional young woman. When her adopted father and his friend Sir John Scotch agree that Isabel’s independence must be nipped in the bud, they send Mathew away, forcing Isabel to decide whether she wants to submit or rebel. Her decision is complicated by the arrival of charming James, who has been sent by Sir John to look after her. As James attempts to gain her trust, Isabel finds that her feelings for him have begun to rival the love she has for Mathew. But she also suspects that there’s something strange about James—his power over her, for one, seems almost supernatural, and there’s something in his eyes that suggests a sinister knowledge outside of reality. When James reveals that he has been hired by Sir John to turn Isabel against her adoptive father, it becomes clear that James, too, has discovered that his calculations have their limits when faced with Isabel’s beauty and magnetism. Compromised in his mission, James must depart, leaving Isabel even more torn between her desires. Mathew’s return leads to further emotional confusion, as even more suitors vie for Isabel’s affections—some going so far as to make unearthly bargains to get what they want, throwing the kingdom into chaos. Author Schoeman adds a clever twist to the classic medieval romance, not only enhancing the plot but tapping into a contemporary hunger for the supernatural. The writing can be overwrought and often plodding—“Isabel gasped with the crushing of her heart from being turned away”—yet Schoeman moves the story along through unpredictable shifts and surprising intricacies.

Though breathlessly chaste and sprinkled with clichés, this novel will satisfy the romantic who longs for a world of chivalry and sorcery.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491715147

Page Count: 406

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2014

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Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

WINDOW ON THE BAY

Macomber (Be a Blessing, 2019, etc.) threatens to set her latest beach read in Paris, but her characters have other plans.

Maureen Zelinski and Jenna Boltz have been friends since college. Years ago, their plans to go to Paris were thwarted when Maureen found out she was pregnant. Now that they’re both single mothers whose children have left the nest, the time is right to dust off their passports and try again. In a somewhat disappointing turn of events, Maureen and Jenna don’t make it to Paris just yet. Instead, they stay in Seattle and pursue new love interests. Jenna, a nurse, meets orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rowan Lancaster in the emergency room after her mother falls and hurts her hip. Maureen, against her better judgment, accepts a date with Logan, a union plumber who frequents the library where she works. Jenna is afraid to date a co-worker after her workplace romance with her ex failed, but when Rowan proves to be a good listener, she’s more willing to discuss her options. Maureen doesn’t think she’ll fit in with Logan and his beer-drinking buddies, but she’s surprised when she enjoys their date at a football game. Meanwhile, Jenna worries about her children, Allie and Paul, as they navigate college and life. Though the story is primarily told from the two mothers’ perspectives, Allie breaks into the narrative with a surprising connection to Rowan. Maureen’s daughter, Tori, also takes on the role of confidante. The happy endings (and potential travel plans) unfold with a touch of realism to contrast the idyllic backdrop of the Pacific Northwest.

Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-18133-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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