Standard romantic pabulum, but Alcott fans will find interesting tidbits to savor.



The title pretty much says it all about this first novel from McNees, an entry into the new subgenre that imagines the love life of spinster authoresses. 

In her early 20s, Louisa moves to Walpole, N.H., for the summer with her financially strapped family: rigidly idealist father Bronson (portrayed with far more complexity in Geraldine Brooks’s Pulitzer-winning March), loving mother Marmee and sisters Anna, Lizzie and May, all obviously recognizable as the models for the Little Women characters. While Marmee hovers over frail Lizzie and spoils immature May, Anna and Louisa get to know the young people of the town. Conventional Anna falls in love with Nicholas Sutton, a wealthy young man who clearly reciprocates her feelings. Louisa, who already has literary aspirations, tries to resist her attraction to Joseph Singer, whose father runs the local dry-goods store and whose younger sister becomes May’s best friend. Louisa is as rude as possible to Joseph, but eventually his intelligence and sensitivity wear her down and the two share a kiss. But at a harvest dinner soon after, Mr. Sutton announces the engagement of Nicholas’s younger sister Nora to Joseph, an arrangement made by the fathers. Unfortunately, Joseph’s father is not only deathly ill but also on the brink of financial ruin, while heiress Nora requires a respectable fiancé to rehabilitate her tarnished reputation. Louisa is crushed, but she and Joseph rendezvous and make love. Nicholas dies in an accident; Anna leaves home to become a teacher; the Alcotts leave Walpole; and Louisa heads to Boston. She is despondent over a lack of publishing success when Joseph shows up. They make plans to run away, but then she receives word that The Saturday Evening Gazette has accepted her story, and she stands Joseph up at the station. Years later, now a famous author, she returns to Walpole to see him once again.

Standard romantic pabulum, but Alcott fans will find interesting tidbits to savor.

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-399-15652-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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