A deeply felt but rather sedate exploration of love and new beginnings.

HE LANDS IN PALM SPRINGS

Gay priests, starting over in sunny California, weather mild relationship turbulence in this romance novel.

This follow-up to Shekleton’s Father Tierney Stumbles (2011) finds Joe Tierney, a gay Catholic priest who lost his job as pastor of a Midwestern parish after he publicly came out, arriving in the wealthy desert town of Palm Springs. He’s there to take a job as a housekeeper at gay resort Casa Vista Oro, and to repair his relationship with his ex-boyfriend, Kenny O’Connor,whom he’d dumped out of fear and shame. Kenny feels guilty that Joe contracted HIV from him, but he also has a new Marine boyfriend, Jasper Wylands, to whom he’s committed. Fortunately for Joe, another prospect emerges in an attractive, 23-year-old sex worker named Oscar Del Rio, a mature, thoughtful man who recognizes a kindred soul in Joe and establishes a platonic friendship with him—albeit one with lots of sexual tension. Complicating things is the arrival of Edward Brockton, an older, gay Episcopal priest who counseled Joe in the past and now hopes to kindle a romance with him—and maybe with Oscar, too. Meanwhile, Casa Vista Oro’s proprietor, Cy Anastasis, sets out to disrupt Joe and Oscar’s relationship because he fears that Oscar might contract HIV—and so he can continue enjoying Oscar’s services himself. Cy undermines Joe through subtle machinations, such as renting a room to Kenny and Jasper in the hope that seeing them together will send Joe into a breakdown, and trying to lure Joe into appearing in a porn video so that his halo of priestly idealism will be tarnished in Oscar’s eyes.

Shekleton’s yarn explores his characters’ psyches with sensitivity and nuance, and he subtly registers both the niceties of social pressure—“He was the image of a peón before the master: dark-skinned, sweaty and subservient,” the half Mexican, half Irish Joe reflects, when summoned by Cy for a talk—and the quiet intensity of longing: “ ‘I was falling in love with him,’ Edward said, just above a whisper. His eyes wet, he blinked back tears.” Unfortunately, the novel’s interiority means that nothing much happens beyond people ruminating and calling each other up for dates and having heart-to-hearts. The characters spend a lot of time gazing at one another, but when explicit sex occurs, it’s tastefully done and not at all disruptive. Joe’s angst over his HIV status and residual Catholic guilt feels overdone in a gay-friendly Palm Springs that welcomes him with open arms, and the moral dilemmas that Cy’s ploys pose—to be, or not to be in a porn film?—seem contrived and silly. Shekleton’s attempt to combine the setting’s hedonism with knotty spiritual depth means that characters often sound like couples counselors, even when he’s a sex worker talking about a ménage à trois (“The real point I want to make is...you are both attractive to me, as friends...and more than friends. Something we experienced fully last night”). As a result, the novel feels more sluggish than torrid.

A deeply felt but rather sedate exploration of love and new beginnings.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 199

Publisher: Mo Keijuk Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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