A sprawling cast and deep family history invigorate this sequel.

Highland Circle of Stones

From the The Highland Healer Series series , Vol. 2

In the second volume of Karsner’s (Highland Healer, 2015) romantic fantasy series, a vendetta between powerful beings threatens the MacKinnon clan’s hard-won peace.

It’s the mid-18th century, just after the Battle of Culloden and several months after she thwarted the foul desires of Cmdr. Campbell and Lord Warwick, and Caitlin the Healer is beginning her new life with the MacKinnons. Originally hailing from the Isle of Skye, she joins the four brothers (Alex, Jack, Hector, and Ian) in their lodge on the Scottish Highlands. There, she wants to marry Alex and expand her knowledge as a Healer. Yet some people, like Jack, call her a witch because of her elemental abilities, bequeathed to her as one of the Creator’s Called Ones. Although she has hopes for her future, Caitlin, formerly a loner, must now deal with being surrounded by people, including Lady Millie Sinclair Warwick, whose baby she helped deliver. The Healer is also unaware that the jealous Drosera—who failed to woo Alex in the past—has insinuated herself into the MacKinnons’ lives, just in time for the wedding. Caitlin copes by visiting the nearby circle of Druidic stones, within which she can feel a presence calling to her. For the second installment of her series, Karsner creates an elegiac battlement on the first novel’s foundation. The narrative’s strongest theme is family; for example, as Alex kneels at his Mam’s grave, he thinks, “Everywhere we look we still see yer touch, and yer name always brings a smile to our faces.” It uses its fantasy elements sparingly, though it also depicts them beautifully, as when the wizard, Uncle Wabi, uses “time weaving,” moving “at a speed that had stars melting...and the colors of Aurora Borealis racing across the sky.” Readers may find a climax in the story’s midsection to be jarring; it’s a moment that could have ended the story, but Karsner instead continues weaving her plot. As a result, it gives the later events an episodic feel, rather than that of a single, grand arc. Nevertheless, a savage finale tests the clan and should rivet readers.

A sprawling cast and deep family history invigorate this sequel.

Pub Date: May 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943369-06-5

Page Count: 364

Publisher: SeaDog Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2016

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


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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Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it...

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Their mother's disappearance cements an unbreakable connection between a pair of poor-little-rich-kid siblings.

Like The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer or Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach, this is a deeply pleasurable book about a big house and the family that lives in it. Toward the end of World War II, real estate developer and landlord Cyril Conroy surprises his wife, Elna, with the keys to a mansion in the Elkins Park neighborhood of Philadelphia. Elna, who had no idea how much money her husband had amassed and still thought they were poor, is appalled by the luxurious property, which comes fully furnished and complete with imposing portraits of its former owners (Dutch people named VanHoebeek) as well as a servant girl named Fluffy. When her son, Danny, is 3 and daughter, Maeve, is 10, Elna's antipathy for the place sends her on the lam—first occasionally, then permanently. This leaves the children with the household help and their rigid, chilly father, but the difficulties of the first year pale when a stepmother and stepsisters appear on the scene. Then those problems are completely dwarfed by further misfortune. It's Danny who tells the story, and he's a wonderful narrator, stubborn in his positions, devoted to his sister, and quite clear about various errors—like going to medical school when he has no intention of becoming a doctor—while utterly committed to them. "We had made a fetish out of our disappointment," he says at one point, "fallen in love with it." Casually stated but astute observations about human nature are Patchett's (Commonwealth, 2016, etc.) stock in trade, and she again proves herself a master of aging an ensemble cast of characters over many decades. In this story, only the house doesn't change. You will close the book half believing you could drive to Elkins Park and see it.

Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it contains.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-296367-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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