A tragic pretext allows relationships to blossom in James’s sometimes laborious novel.

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LOVE AND DEVOTION

With the sudden death of her sibling, a woman pitches in to take care of two orphaned children in this cozy, overstuffed domestic drama by English novelist James (Paradise House, not reviewed).

Felicity née Swift and her husband are killed in a car accident, leaving their two children, Carrie, 9, and Joel, 4, in the care of Felicity’s adored single sister, Harriet. A computer programmer in Oxford, Harriet has to quit her job and sacrifice her new boyfriend in order to move back home to Cheshire with her parents to care for the kids entrusted to her. It’s rough going at first, as the children are traumatized and often act out, and the grandparents, Bob and Eileen, are elderly and have issues of their own—Bob, a former salesman, enters into an affair to assuage his grief at the death of his beloved Felicity. Moreover, Harriet doesn’t really like children, and simply wants to get another job and house nearby. While probing her sister’s computer messages, Harriet finds that Felicity was involved in a hot affair with a man not her husband. In parallel complications, Will Hart moves across the street from Harriet in Cheshire, trying to put his life back on track after years of being divorced from the punishing Maxine, while maintaining sturdy relationships with his teenaged daughters, Gemma and Suzie. He becomes Harriet’s love interest, though there are others, and Will has to convince the much-younger Harriet that he is a worthy candidate by undergoing enormous grief of his own, first with Suzie’s pregnancy and abortion, then after her bizarre brain hemorrhage and death. Harriet explores transformed friendships with longtime neighbor brothers Miles and Dominic, the latter a Cambridge aesthete who loved Felicity dearly. The story tracks Harriet’s progress, both professional and emotional, as she finds a new job and new boyfriend, and in the end makes peace with the status quo.

A tragic pretext allows relationships to blossom in James’s sometimes laborious novel.

Pub Date: April 15, 2006

ISBN: 0-75286-545-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Orion/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2006

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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