A poignant and heartfelt contemporary romance.

READ REVIEW

WILDFLOWER HEART

From the Wildflower House series

A widow recovering from a devastating accident finds hope and renewal in an unlikely place in this series opener.

Kara Lange Hart is no stranger to tragedy and loss. When Kara was 14 years old, her mother, Susan, abruptly left the family and was discovered dead two years later in Ohio. Later, Kara marries her college sweetheart, Niles, and moves to northern Virginia. After six years of marriage, she is thrilled to learn she is pregnant; but before she can tell Niles, the couple is involved in a car accident. Niles is killed instantly, and Kara suffers a miscarriage along with serious injuries. Bereft, Kara moves in with her father, Henry, to recuperate. When her father tells her that he is planning to purchase a Victorian mansion in an area of Louisa County called Cub Creek, she decides to move with him and stay until she can find a new job and place of her own. While the mansion needs renovating, Kara is struck by the property’s beauty, particularly the field of wildflowers behind the house. She soon befriends her new neighbors Nicole Albers, a real estate agent and close friend of her father’s, and Nicole’s brother, Seth, and settles into the quieter pace of life in Cub Creek. The move also prompts the usually reserved Henry to open up to Kara about his difficult childhood and the tragic circumstances of her mother’s death. Kara sees the possibility of a life in Cub Creek when a tragedy forces her to decide whether to leave her new friends or remain in the community she has grown to love. This first installment of Greene’s (The Memory of Butterflies, 2017, etc.) Wildflower House series is an affecting and emotionally resonant tale of love, loss, and the possibility of second chances that’s bolstered by a winsome heroine, well-drawn supporting characters, and a nuanced story full of surprising twists and turns. Kara is a strong and dynamic protagonist whose physical and emotional recovery from the car accident that killed her husband lie at the center of the tale. She is surrounded by a vivid and likable supporting cast, including Henry, a dependable, hardworking man whose taciturn nature hides a secret sorrow; and Seth, a former journalist and self-described “guy-of-all-trades,” whose friendship with Kara slowly blossoms into something deeper and more significant. The setting plays a major role in the story, and the author deftly brings the community of Cub Creek and the Victorian mansion known as the Wildflower House to life, from the friendly real estate agent who knows whom to call to have something repaired to the descriptions of the breathtaking beauty of the wildflowers (“As a mass, they raised their bright faces to the sun, gathered its rays, and reflected the light from bloom to bloom, ultimately bouncing it back to greet my eyes”). The briskly paced narrative also includes several well-developed subplots, including Henry’s revelations about his past and Kara’s exploration of her marriage to Niles. The tale may appeal to fans of Debbie Macomber or Nicholas Sparks.

A poignant and heartfelt contemporary romance.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4060-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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