A breezy, lighthearted island story.

ISLAND LIFE

Cutler’s (West of Wisdom, 2006, etc.) latest thriller centers on a young man who finds greed, danger and love in a Caribbean paradise.

Recent college graduate Stacy Biddle decides to play hooky from the professional life his parents imagined for him. He takes a job at Island Life Charters on the beautiful, twin-peaked isle of St. Lucia in the Lesser Antilles. He’s no sooner begun when the Romarin, the sailboat belonging to company owner Franklin Ruddings, comes cruising into Rodney Bay without Franklin. Onboard is his frantic young wife, Amanda, who gives readers their first—and last—impression of Franklin: While shooting at dolphins in hope that their blood would attract sharks and cause a feeding frenzy, Franklin became so excited that he accidentally fell overboard, victim to the very sharks he attracted (“They grabbed his arms and legs and wagged their heads”). Franklin’s death causes the corporate sharks at Island Life to gather, especially his evil cousin, Richard Wronkle, who attempts to gain control of the company and sell it to the highest bidder. Stacy, caught up in these machinations, impulsively takes the Romarin out to sea, unknowingly transporting stowaway Amanda. The two face off against the Venezuelan police and a vividly described hurricane. Cutler’s Caribbean paradise is drawn with vibrancy and color, but some of the book’s dialogue sounds unnatural: During the hurricane, Stacy blurts out, “I didn’t know the sea was so heartless, could be so cruel. I didn’t know! I didn’t know!” As a main character, Stacy is something of a cipher, while descriptions of Wronkle’s villainous machinations are where this brisk narrative comes to life. A headlong plot and stray elements of whimsy combine to make the soap opera–esque events seem funnier than the author might have intended. Nevertheless, readers will likely be too entranced by the environment to complain.

A breezy, lighthearted island story.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466468566

Page Count: 344

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2012

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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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