POLITE SEX

For his fifth novel, Wilcox (Sort of Rich, 1989, etc.) leaves the everyday comedy of small-town Louisiana for more serious matters in New York City, where a few Tula Springs natives struggle with ambition and disappointment, and faith and disillusion. Wilcox plays with perspective in a narrative that jumps back and forth in time as he follows the lives of two Louisiana girls who come to the big city in the early 70's with seemingly opposite goals. The high-minded Emily Brix, whose parents are pretty low on the Tula Springs social ladder, wants to conquer the serious stage fresh from her years at Smith. Instead, she finds herself working as a ``glorified receptionist'' for a Times Square movie-production company, where she reads countless scripts that offend her lofty cultural standards. This petite, virginal, self-effacing blonde eventually marries Hugh Vanderbilt, a well-healed graduate student in theology at Union, whose practical proposal leads to an unromantic marriage. Meanwhile, Clara Tilman, a hometown beauty and friend of Emily's sister, decides to become a model to escape her abusive boyfriend back home, the studly F.X. Pickens (the future coke-head ex-con of Modern Baptists). With luck and newly acquired savvy, Clara exploits her southern belle act and earns modest fame as a TV actress while Emily's life spirals downward. Her acting career never takes off; her marriage falls apart; and she finds herself a dumpy 40-year-old living in cramped quarters and working at a test-preparation center. Things are never as clear as they seem here, and Wilcox's narrative style allows him to return to key events, exposing the passionate and messier truths of everyone's sexual behavior. Emily proves the most serious misrememberer- she's also a sexually repressed expert at denial who shares a dark secret with her alter-ego Clara. A surprisingly ordinary fiction from the otherwise gifted Wilcox, whose first venture outside Tula Springs drifts, with little humor to steer it straight.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-016356-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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