Nesbitt (Across the Cheyenne River, 2014, etc.) spins a leisurely sagebrush romance with the mystery crowded into the...

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DON'T BE A STRANGER

A suspiciously low cattle count is the least of the problems for Lawrence Elwood and his fellow cowpunchers—or, as they may well be, rustlers—at the Crown Butte Ranch.

Elwood likes to keep things simple: the sun warm overhead, the breeze cool on his face, the cry of a whippoorwill for entertainment. But complications keep arising. Someone just might be stealing cattle from Crown Butte owner Rand Sullivan’s herd—someone like Crown Butte hands George Crandall and Paul Beckwith. Jim Farley, the loudmouthed stranger who insists on buying drinks for his companions at the Northern Star Saloon, just might be bank robber Jude Ostrander. Mac Driggs and Gus Haden, a pair of cowpunchers fired from the Top Rail, have signed on with Tad Jennings, the new owner of the Drumm Ranch, whose sidekick, Josh Armitage, seems even less trustworthy than his boss. Independent ranch hand Angell Gunn seems awfully quick on the trigger if he thinks you’re following him or if you get ahead of him on the trail. And Elwood could always wonder, if he were so inclined, why D.W. Stanley hanged himself soon after walking into town—or whether he had help. The big question, however, is whether Josephine Newton, who’s fled her cheating husband in Omaha to stay for a spell with Sullivan’s wife, Ellen, her old friend, will ride off into the sunset with Elwood or whether he’ll have to solace himself with Sylvie Lamarre, the flirtatious general store clerk from Montana.

Nesbitt (Across the Cheyenne River, 2014, etc.) spins a leisurely sagebrush romance with the mystery crowded into the closing chapters, after the serious gunplay has already begun.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4328-2929-2

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Five Star/Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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