A complex and compelling romance with an underdeveloped heroine.

READ REVIEW

THAT’S NOT A THING

An open-hearted lawyer is forced to choose between her fiance and her dying ex in Friedland’s (Trouble the Water, 2018) novel about love and forgiveness.

Meredith Altman is a successful Jewish attorney living in Manhattan and planning a wedding to handsome Aaron Rapp, a pediatric surgeon. However, in 2017, a celebratory dinner with friends changes everything: The Tribeca restaurant’s chef and owner is Wesley Latner, Meredith’s ex-fiance, whom she hasn’t seen in five years. Old feelings resurface in the form of flashbacks to their young love and Wesley’s unwavering support for Meredith’s tenuous family situation, which had her parents on the verge of divorce before her mother’s cancer diagnosis. Years later, to escape from the stress of the plans for their son’s wedding, Wesley’s parents set out on a vacation and were killed in a plane crash, causing a grief-stricken Wesley to blame Meredith for their deaths before he moved to London. Now that she’s engaged to another man, Meredith seeks closure before Wesley drops a bomb: He’s been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, and his body is rapidly deteriorating. Without consulting Aaron, Meredith invites Wesley to move into the apartment they share, and one intimate moment between Meredith and Wesley threatens Meredith’s relationship with her fiance as well as her sense of self. Can Aaron forgive Meredith for her slip, or is the dying Wesley the one Meredith was meant to be with all along? Friedland’s sharp prose and plotting make Meredith’s dilemma a relatable one: The pull between past and present can be difficult even when a debilitating illness isn’t part of the mix. But Friedland keeps the reader guessing about what Meredith will do—not only about her romantic partners, but also about her career as a lawyer who caters mainly to big tobacco companies. Unfortunately, the development of Meredith’s character often gets lost as she seeks to care for others: her parents, her future in-laws, the former and current men in her life. Though her do-gooder spirit is firmly established, not much else of Meredith’s personality is.

A complex and compelling romance with an underdeveloped heroine.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-030-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2020

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Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

WINDOW ON THE BAY

Macomber (Be a Blessing, 2019, etc.) threatens to set her latest beach read in Paris, but her characters have other plans.

Maureen Zelinski and Jenna Boltz have been friends since college. Years ago, their plans to go to Paris were thwarted when Maureen found out she was pregnant. Now that they’re both single mothers whose children have left the nest, the time is right to dust off their passports and try again. In a somewhat disappointing turn of events, Maureen and Jenna don’t make it to Paris just yet. Instead, they stay in Seattle and pursue new love interests. Jenna, a nurse, meets orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rowan Lancaster in the emergency room after her mother falls and hurts her hip. Maureen, against her better judgment, accepts a date with Logan, a union plumber who frequents the library where she works. Jenna is afraid to date a co-worker after her workplace romance with her ex failed, but when Rowan proves to be a good listener, she’s more willing to discuss her options. Maureen doesn’t think she’ll fit in with Logan and his beer-drinking buddies, but she’s surprised when she enjoys their date at a football game. Meanwhile, Jenna worries about her children, Allie and Paul, as they navigate college and life. Though the story is primarily told from the two mothers’ perspectives, Allie breaks into the narrative with a surprising connection to Rowan. Maureen’s daughter, Tori, also takes on the role of confidante. The happy endings (and potential travel plans) unfold with a touch of realism to contrast the idyllic backdrop of the Pacific Northwest.

Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-18133-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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