Reads like a factual memoir, but for fiction there’s too much history and not enough plot.

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EXPIATION

The new novel from Messel (Sunbreaks, 2009) is a story of true love deterred as high school sweethearts are torn apart by the social upheaval of the ’60s and ’70s, only to find each other again on the eve of the new millennium.

Dan is a father, widower and successful writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. When he returns to his childhood home of Seattle for his mother’s funeral, he unexpectedly reunites with his high school sweetheart Katie. They begin to pick up where they left off years ago, and Dan wonders why the perfect couple of the handsome quarterback and gorgeous cheerleader ever parted in the first place. The novel may be fiction, but it’s set in the very real and contentious history of California during the ’60s and ’70s and is at its best when the characters are directly involved in the time period. The chapters dealing with the Berkeley riots are especially vivid and exciting, as Dan drags his college girlfriend (and eventual first wife) through clouds of tear gas for the scoop that will jumpstart his journalism career. Other newsworthy happenings, from Vietnam to the Zodiac killings, along with more modern milestones such as Y2K and the “Battle of Seattle,” are mentioned but never play as large of a role as the events in Berkeley, and the novel sometimes feels more like an account of how minor the impact of historical events can be on two people’s lives rather than the other way around. Once Dan and Katie are back together there’s little conflict, with the book focusing more on how Dan strayed from Katie and eventually found his way back. The couple comes across natural enough when together, though the stiff, overly verbose dialogue occasionally distracts from their chemistry.

Reads like a factual memoir, but for fiction there’s too much history and not enough plot.

Pub Date: March 8, 2010

ISBN: 978-1426928543

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2010

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On the day her fiance came out and left her at the altar, Faith escaped to the West Coast, where she’s had a thriving...

THE BEST MAN

When Faith Holland was abandoned at the altar three years ago, she left her hometown for San Francisco to regroup; coming home to Manningsport, she’ll have to confront her past and Levi Cooper, the disturbingly handsome chief of police she blames for ruining her life.

On the day her fiance came out and left her at the altar, Faith escaped to the West Coast, where she’s had a thriving professional life and a comical romantic life. Summoned home for a few months to work the harvest at her family’s winery and help with some crisis management, Faith realizes that some things in her small town will never change—for the good or the bad—but she knows the time has come to establish a new reality with her ex, her family and maybe even Levi Cooper, the best man who forced Jeremy to be honest with her and himself on their wedding day. It’s so much easier to blame and despise him; if she lets down her guard, she might have to deal with their short but profound shared past and her own guilt and secrets from a long-ago tragedy that has haunted her for most of her life. Higgins’ newest heart-tugging romantic comedy juggles a spectrum of emotionally powerful elements, including the death of a mother, the abandonment of a father and a sigh-worthy high school romance gone awry. With her typical engaging voice, compelling storytelling and amusing dialogue, Higgins keeps the audience flipping through pages as quickly as possible, but it is her spot-on ability to make her characters at once funny, authentic and vulnerable—vulnerable to the point of breaking, so they can heal, stronger and better and more able to love—that is her true genius and guarantees most romance fans will both laugh out loud and get teary, sometimes at the same time. Another sweet, touching must-read for Higgins fans and anyone who enjoys a perfect combination of humor and romance.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-373-77792-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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