A cute concept undercut by awkward writing, inconsistent, simplistic characterization and too many implausibilities to allow...

THE BLOSSOM SISTERS

When Gus Hollister’s gold-digger wife throws him out, he works to re-establish ties with his grandmother and great-aunts, whom he’s ignored since his marriage and who have a few secrets of their own.

CPA Gus Hollister is blindsided on the last day of tax season when wife, Elaine, demands a divorce, forcing him out of his own house, which his grandmother paid for. Since their marriage, Elaine has convinced him to ignore his grandmother and her two sisters, the women who raised him and whom he loves more than anyone in the world. Now he must work to get back in their good graces, and in the process, he’ll find out that those ladies and a posse of local seniors have started local and online businesses selling a spectrum of interesting, varied products. Elaine, the gold digger, expects to take him for everything he’s worth, including his house, his car, half his business and even his inheritance. Lucky for Gus, he’s an all-round-good guy no one can stay mad at—oh, and that he has a world-famous, billionaire hedge fund manager as a best friend, who is willing to fund his divorce attorney—the best ever, of course—and a full firm of private investigators.  And how fortunate that Elaine is not only a bona fide gold digger (a term used repeatedly throughout the text), but also a practicing high priestess of witchcraft with a long background of deception, shrewish behavior and all-round-villainess tendencies. (And how unfortunate that Gus wouldn’t listen to all of his relatives and friends when they told him not to marry her.) Not to worry, though, Elaine has her next mark in sight, and Gus is just lucky enough that she’ll move on to the next guy and uncharacteristically decide to cut her losses and legal property rights and leave Gus alone. Meanwhile, Gus will help his grandmother and friends streamline their operation, and maybe he’ll even fall in love.

A cute concept undercut by awkward writing, inconsistent, simplistic characterization and too many implausibilities to allow us to take the book or the ending seriously.

Pub Date: April 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7582-8671-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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