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In this chick-lit set in London, the lives of six people and one dog intertwine during the search for love.

Jimmy, generally exhausted by life, meets and courts good girl Sandy before falling for her fashion-designer best friend, Linda. They strike up a laidback relationship until he falls for Eileen, the waitress at a nearby cafe. Linda cheats on Jimmy with a guy named Ramirez, goes on a guilt-filled shopping spree and then flirts with her beau’s half-brother, Jacques. In the end, she finds real affection for Jimmy’s friend, Ian, a local judge. But don’t count out Sandy, who, in the end, finds love with sad-sack, momma’s boy Peter. Jimmy’s dog, Fatty, oversees the madness and gives solid advice. Just as in Love Actually (also set in London), we’re welcomed, through several twists and turns, into these characters lives and minds and wade with them through their dating mistakes as they search for “the one.” At first, no one seems connected, until the reader slowly pieces the story together and makes connections between the struggling singles. What the book ultimately lacks is that sometimes tiresome but often winning chick-lit formula of guy-gets-girl, guy-loses-girl, guy-wins-girl-back. With spark, wit and well-written characters, even the most “been there, done that” storyline can succeed within that set-up. Here, the characters are saddled with little back story, silly dialogue and lazy life ambitions. The writing is missing the flow and ease of phrase that keeps storytelling from getting cliché and cringe-worthy. In a solid love story, the author’s work with words becomes invisible as readers become entranced with the romance unfolding on the page. With a love story that grows tiresome too quickly (starting with two best friends fighting over a man doesn’t help), readers never invest in—and therefore have trouble caring what happens to—the people they’re reading about. Even those with the most unquenchable desire for a breezy meet-cute will have trouble swallowing this clumsy charade.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-434987075

Page Count: 177

Publisher: RoseDog

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2011

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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