An engaging story about a clergyman’s crisis of conscience.

THE PASTOR

In Treat’s (Our Stories of Experience, Strength & Hope, 2005) novel, a small-town pastor confronts a mystery surrounding the death of a member of his congregation.

Pastor Brian Matterson leads a small community of the faithful at All Saints Lutheran Church in Martin Valley, a suburb of Minneapolis. As the story commences, Brian, a recovering alcoholic with a dogged sense of duty, is trying to handle various everyday challenges with good humor when tragedy strikes: A member of his congregation, Candy Vinter, has hanged herself in her family home. She’d been dealing with breast cancer and the effects of chemotherapy, but even so, the chance that she might commit suicide had never crossed Brian’s mind. When he visits the family—her husband, Mickey, and their children—he senses something secret underneath the surface of their grief. After police investigate further, Brian finds himself confronting conflicting sets of priorities; meanwhile, he continues to juggle his ordinary responsibilities, including other family tragedies. Treat, a Lutheran pastor himself, portrays Brian’s world with three-dimensional texture so that even the daily details of life at All Saints become surprisingly gripping reading. For example, at the story’s outset, Brian faces the normal array of headaches that face any pastor, including a young couple seeking marriage counseling, and a leaking roof that the church can ill afford to repair since All Saints’ revenues have been declining along with the membership. Throughout, the author imbues his protagonist with a thoroughly believable humanity; at one point, for instance, he’s privately annoyed by his imperious secretary: “There were plenty of times Brian fantasized about ways to move her out of the job or get her to retire, but that was a political hot potato that could end up in a church schism if it went sideways. Truth be told, he would be lost without her.”

An engaging story about a clergyman’s crisis of conscience.

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5434-7905-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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