At best, overly complicated. At worst, problematic.



A penniless duke, an American heiress, a case of mistaken identity, and a marriage of convenience—does it add up to love?

Johnston's Mail Order Brides series, which started with Texas Bride (2012), comes to a close with this fourth volume. Marcus Wharton, the Duke of Blackthorne, buys Josie Wentworth from the Sioux Indians for a gold watch after seeing her brutally beaten. He brings her back to England to recover and then asks a friend to have her returned to her family in America. Instead, his new wife, recognizing that she's dying from consumption and that Marcus is fascinated with the fighting spirit of the girl he rescued, has Josie sent to work as a maid at Tearlach Castle on the Scottish border, where Marcus' orphaned nephews live. After a Pinkerton detective locates Josie and informs her that her family survived the Sioux attack that left her scarred and imprisoned and that she is, in fact, quite wealthy, her plan is to use her fortune to rescue the Duke's nephews, to whom she has become attached, from their life as victims of their feuding governess and housekeeper and abscond with them back to America. Does this already sound plot-heavy and a little confusing? Correct! And that's ignoring the new romance and possible scandal between Marcus' best friend and his little sister or the events in America with Josie's sisters. This isn't a terrible book—the writing is fine and the characters are interesting—but most of the drama and conflict are due to miscommunication. Some of that is understandable, since overseas communication was time-consuming and messages cross in the mail, but Johnston leans on it too heavily. The last quarter of the book feels rushed because of the dozen or so storylines the author tries to fit in. Beyond those fairly superficial complaints, the savage Sioux attack on Josie, which opens the book and lacks any kind of context, feels racist and unnecessary.

At best, overly complicated. At worst, problematic.

Pub Date: July 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17774-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bantam Dell

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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


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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