Private Lines

A business-driven debut thriller, laced with romantic entanglements.
Gates’ (Walking to Israel, 2014) novel, set in 2003, is split into two interlocking parts: One is set in Milwaukee, the other in France. Tyler is a handsome, brash international executive for a major American telecom company, GlobeAll, looking to close a substantial deal in France. But Delphine, the chief negotiator for the French company, FranceFon, resists signing on the dotted line. Their tug of war becomes more complicated when their attraction threatens to blossom into something more than professional friendliness. She eventually discloses the source of her discomfort with the deal—she strongly suspects Tyler’s company of deeply unethical and illegal practices. Later, back in Milwaukee, Carly, a GlobeAll regional executive, hears swirling rumors about her company, and she soon makes Tyler’s acquaintance. They struggle to process the revelations about the company they love and discover that they share a crackling sexual tension. The artful prose effectively captures the sensual dynamism that underscores the entire narrative: “He held the bottle up to her, smiling again, so beguiling that he hardly resembled the man she’d recently known. He seemed like the one she’d met last summer, the one who’d gazed longingly and listened patiently and loved so thoroughly that it still made her wet to recall.” The author also does a credible job of educating readers about the complexities of the telecom industry without burying them in confusing jargon or gratuitous detail. (Gates is an international telecom expert and even went to the same business school as her protagonist, Tyler.) She also nicely juxtaposes the jagged cynicism of big business with the tenderness of the love stories.

A light, entertaining tale of love and commercial intrigue.

Pub Date: April 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0988890688

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Wells Street Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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