A competent debut from an up-and-coming author.

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TEMPORARY WIFE TEMPTATION

An executive needs a wife to gain his grandmother’s blessing to become CEO of the family business.

Garrett Song is one step away from achieving his lifelong dream of heading his family’s Los Angeles fashion empire. Shocked at his grandmother’s announcement that she's chosen a Korean heiress for him to marry and that he must marry her if he wants to be promoted, Garrett lies and tells her that he's already engaged. Garrett has given his entire life to the company, but he refuses to let his family dictate whom he’ll marry, even if the marriage would allow the Songs to enter into the jae-bul, the wealthy, entitled echelon of Korean society. Enter Natalie Sobol, an up-and-coming HR professional in his firm. Natalie is attempting to gain custody of her 6-month-old niece after her sister and brother-in-law died in a car accident. When Garrett asks Natalie to agree to a fake marriage to thwart his grandmother’s plan, Natalie realizes the appearance of being happily married might sway the court to rule in her favor. Lee’s debut novel succeeds as a category romance (belonging to the branded lines of shorter Harlequin romances published every month), as the book is jammed with popular romance tropes such as familial duty, fake engagement, and corporate espionage. Natalie and Garrett are likable characters who want to achieve their goals on their own terms, and when they team up as husband and wife, they discover they make each other stronger both professionally and personally. It’s especially poignant that Natalie, who is mostly unfamiliar with her own Korean heritage, mends the discord between Garrett and his old-fashioned grandmother. Some of the plot twists seem contrived or underdeveloped, and Natalie’s urgency to adopt her niece doesn’t feel convincing since the baby spends most of the time off-page with the grandparents who also want custody. Nevertheless, it’s a quick, enjoyable read.

A competent debut from an up-and-coming author.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-20894-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harlequin Desire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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A promising start to a series, provided Roberts can flesh out her derivative heroine.

THE WITNESS

A young woman in hiding from the Russian mob faces a difficult decision when she falls in love with a cop.

Abigail, 28, lives alone in the bucolic hamlet of Bickford, Ark., in an isolated house, fortified with firearms, a state-of-the-art alarm system and a vicious dog named Bert. When the town’s genial police chief, Brooks, suspects Abigail is packing while shopping for gourmet groceries, his curiosity soon morphs into courtship. Although she finds herself drawn to Brooks and to his welcoming, bohemian family, Abigail dares not reveal that her real name is Liz—which is not the only way in which she appears to be Roberts’ answer to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Gifted with an eidetic memory, an IQ over 200 and an affinity for cool, calculated mayhem, Liz/Abigail is a skilled hacker and a highly paid security consultant. In her spare time she investigates the Russian mob and the crooked federal agents who are responsible for her current predicament; whenever possible, she throws virtual monkey wrenches into the mob’s Internet scams. When she witnesses an altercation between Brooks and the wastrel son of a local magnate, she’s thrust back into the horror of the last time she witnessed a crime. At 16, rebelling against an unloving, controlling mother, Liz and a girlfriend, Julie, visited a Chicago nightclub run by the Russian Mafia, where Ilya, son of gang kingpin Sergei, and Alexi, a cousin, seduced them with Cosmos. Later, at Alexi’s lakeside home, Liz was an unseen witness to a hit on Alexi by Sergei’s enforcers, who also killed Julie. Managing to escape, Liz was forced to run again when two dirty FBI agents destroyed her safe house and murdered her guards. A person of interest to both the Feds and the mob, she’s been on the lam for 12 years. Before they can marry, Brooks must help Liz come in from the cold.

A promising start to a series, provided Roberts can flesh out her derivative heroine.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15912-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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