Energetic melodrama in straightforward style from the ever-popular Michaels (Plain Jane, 2001, etc.).

LATE BLOOMER

Just what did happen under the Judas tree so long ago?

Cady Jordan suffered a head injury when she flew through the air on a bicycle attached to a cable slung from the Judas tree—and, years later, she still doesn’t remember much about it. Her childhood buddies dared her to do it, and someone threw a rock that killed Jeff King, the neighborhood bully, who jumped on the bike with her at the last minute. The papers had a field day, even accusing ten-year-old Cady of killing teenaged Jeff, but the case was never resolved. Partially paralyzed for three years after the accident, Cady presently lives alone, in California, writing technical manuals for a living. Now, 20 years later, her ailing grandmother, a former movie star who took a stage name so as not to embarrass the strait-laced family, summons Cady to her Pennsylvania mansion. Cady gets a German shepherd for company and drives off to meet her legendary grandmother. Lola turns out to be quite a character, of course, at once imperious, kind, loving, self-absorbed, etc. She’s buried six husbands and is bedridden with osteoporosis, but she’s determined to help her granddaughter find happiness. When Cady’s friends hear she’s back in town, they convene to rehash the old case, well aware that they’d let everyone think Cady was the guilty party. Andy and Amy Hollister say they were throwing rocks to get Jeff away from Cady. Peter, a lawyer, doesn’t think they can prove it. Boomer Maxwell, now chief of police, gets involved, and the small town is abuzz as reporter Larry Denville digs through old clippings and investigates up a storm. At long last, the culprit feels remorse, tries to wash away the guilt under a scalding shower—and ends up in a burn ward.

Energetic melodrama in straightforward style from the ever-popular Michaels (Plain Jane, 2001, etc.).

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-7434-5778-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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A well-crafted and charming debut romance.

THE KISS QUOTIENT

A woman with Asperger’s falls in love with the escort she hires to teach her about sex and relationships.

Stella Lane’s job as an econometrician is perfectly satisfying, but now that she’s 30, her mother expects her to look for a husband and start producing babies. Stella has never enjoyed dating or sex, so when a male colleague she’s cautiously interested in rudely suggests she should “get some practice,” she takes his advice to heart. Enter Michael Phan, a man as gorgeous as any K-drama star, who abandoned his promising career as a fashion designer and started escorting to pay for his mother’s cancer treatments. At their first appointment, Michael refuses to rush into sex with a woman so frozen with discomfort, regardless of whether or not she’s paid him. Stella, both deeply attracted to him and grateful for his kindness, asks him to consider a long-term arrangement. Michael is hesitant after a past experience with a stalker client, but he recognizes her vulnerability and is overcome by an instinct to protect her. Hoang is sure-footed in her character development; Michael and Stella both have robust, sympathetic stories and complicated, loving families. The initial sizzling sexual chemistry deepens into a satisfying romantic relationship. Both of them are plagued with insecurities even though they are generous and nonjudgmental with each other. Stella is nervous about revealing her Asperger’s to Michael, but he accepts her unconditionally. Michael keeps his escorting a secret from his family and struggles to separate his own identity from that of his con-man father, but Stella judges him on his own merits. An unnecessary late-stage plot twist feels forced and inorganic, but it’s a small misstep.

A well-crafted and charming debut romance.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-49080-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

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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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