An often pleasing combination of romance and suspense.

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Ripples

A principled young journalist in the early 1990s tackles the case of her career in Lew’s debut novel.

Newspaper reporter Ariella Richardson meets the handsome, formidable Dr. Sam Becker when she interviews him about his breakthrough research on cervical cancer. Becker has a severe dislike of the media, but Ariella’s honesty, intelligence, and beauty breaks through his reserve. Ariella wants to specialize in women’s health stories and she covets the role of lead reporter on the health beat for the Boston Times. Thanks to her connection with Sam, she finds herself on the trail of two big stories involving the tobacco industry’s funding of cancer research and the horrifying murder of a pregnant woman. An interview with one of Sam’s test subjects leads Ariella to the realization that the murder suspect currently in police custody is likely innocent of the crime—and another doctor involved in Sam’s research may hold the key to finding the real killer. Sam struggles with Ariella’s willingness to place herself in harm’s way, and Ariella must decide whether she’s willing to sacrifice her personal life for her career. Lew’s novel offers a snapshot of several diverse Boston neighborhoods of the 1990s, but she also touches on social issues that are still in the news today, including women’s health, racial bias in law enforcement, and potentially explosive socioeconomic and racial tensions in society. She also highlights how some issues were still debatable in that era, such as whether the human papilloma virus has a connection to cervical cancer. Lew manages to tie several different narrative threads together while keeping the focus on Ariella and her relationship with Sam. Ariella is a spunky character who retains her independence despite Sam’s tendency toward control. Her naïveté, his temperament, and the power dynamic in their relationship smack of a Fifty Shades of Grey-like scenario. That said, Lew resists the urge to let Sam run the show, keeping Ariella at the center of the story.

An often pleasing combination of romance and suspense.

Pub Date: May 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9973533-1-0

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Tortoise Shell Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2016

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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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