ROMANCE

From a Jamaican writer now living in Britain, an overly schematic tale of immigrant anger and alienation. Set in contemporary London, Riley's (A Kindness to the Children, 1992, etc.) domestic tale about two Caribbean-born sisters who are coping with racist whites and sexist black males is framed, clumsily at times, by political ideas. The characters, struggling to find themselves, expound soberly on such topics as racism and feminism while taking their tea or cooking their dinners. Desiree has always been the responsible one, raising younger sister Verona after their father was killed in a car crash, then marrying the seemingly stable John, a fellow immigrant, and bearing and caring for two daughters. On the other hand, overweight Verona still lives with Desiree at the advanced age of 27, has been stuck for the past 12 years in a dead-end job at a mail-order company, and spends much of her time reading romances and eating candy. As the story begins, Desiree is terrified by the possibility that she might have cancer. John, too, is in a bad patch; among other things, he won't support his wife's desire to go back to school. And Verona has not only been unjustly fired but won't be able to get a job reference job from her previous employer. (This is only her latest uncomfortable secret; the others include the fact of her rape at 14 by Desiree's boyfriend Ronnie.) John blames racism for his failure to be promoted at his own job, and he's far from pleased when Desiree has to have a hysterectomy. But as she's recovering, John's grandparents unexpectedly arrive from Jamaica and manage to turn the family's fortunes around by sheer force of their wisdom (``Granny Ruby was right: there never had been anything to liberate herself from but herself''). By the close, Desiree and John grow closer, Desiree indeed returns to school, and Verona even sheds some of her secrets. Vivid writing, compromised by clichÇs and didactic undercurrents.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-7043-4508-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Women’s Press/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

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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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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