Darkly humorous look at grief, L.A.-style.

THE AFTER WIFE

After being widowed, a woman begins to see ghosts everywhere in Grazer’s breezy postscript to The Starter Wife (2005).

When her husband, John, a personal chef and cookbook author, is the victim of a hit-and-run while biking to the market, 40ish Hannah Bernal’s life is upended. A stay-at-home dad to the Bernals’ toddler daughter Ellie, John also ran their household (in Santa Monica’s fashionable NoMo district) and made meals that went beyond mere nourishment. Hannah’s colleague and best friend Jay, a trash-talking gay man, forms a “Grief Team” with two of Hannah’s eccentric girlfriends, to help her get back on her feet. But John’s death has imbued Hannah with a sixth sense. Under her backyard avocado tree, Hannah sees her first ghost, Trish, the former owner of Hannah’s historic house. Hannah’s side-chatter with ghostly interlopers at a business meeting gets her and Jay fired from their jobs in reality TV. The first time John appears, the parted spouses argue about topics serious (he let his life insurance policy lapse) and absurd (are Crocs shoes or sandals?). When John reveals that his hit-and-run killer was a Range Rover driven by a texting Momzilla, not a truck driven by the illegal immigrant who was arrested for the crime, Hannah goes to the aid of the immigrant, convincing the police to refocus their investigation. Unable to refinance her home and threatened with foreclosure (a Realtor frenemy is hounding her to sell to a tear-down entrepreneur), Hannah is a bit slow (especially for an ex-reality TV producer) to see the monetary potential in ghost whispering. A New Year’s trip to Palm Desert for high colonics, Team in tow, occasions arch commentary on what L.A. sybarites consider entertainment. Her friends have their own troubles, involving coyotes, Pomeranians, feckless married men and failed auditions. Hannah’s banter with interlocutors, corporeal or not, is the chief pleasure here, more so than the leggy and disjointed plot.

Darkly humorous look at grief, L.A.-style.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-52399-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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