An emotionally profound exploration of heartbreak.

READ REVIEW

MISTY CREEK

In this 19th-century drama, a woman heads to the desolate wilderness of Kansas in order to shake disturbing memories.

Elizabeth Beck suffers a transformative emotional trauma—the man she deeply loves, Jameson Elders, abandons her on their wedding day. Utterly devastated, she answers an advertisement for a new teacher’s position in Misty Creek, a small town in Kansas, a long way from her native Columbus, Ohio. This search for meaning and emotional restoration in what turns out to be a “barren wasteland” is sensitively depicted by Vander Velden: “When she had left Columbus, what seemed an eternity ago, she felt confident she would find freedom from painful memories. A new life, new possibilities but this emptiness, a world devoid of hope could not be the answer she sought.” She’s astonished by the bleakness of the land and the “seemingly unending emptiness,” conditions that force a hard, “tenuous life” on its inhabitants. But danger lurks even in the vast nothingness of her new environment—Elizabeth believes she is being spied on, even stalked, and discovers that five teachers before her left suddenly and without explanation. The author artfully juxtaposes the sullen wretchedness of Kansas’ prairies with the gloominess of Elizabeth’s broken heart. And an unlikely friendship she forges with local miller Matthew Sonnefelt—a “tall dusty man, a man of labor” who initially leaves her “repulsed”—is intelligently, delicately crafted. The story unfolds patiently, even languorously at times, but never slows to a tedious pace—Vander Velden’s precisely incisive prose and the plot’s simmering violence will keep readers reliably engrossed. This is a haunting story, quietly powerful and moving.

An emotionally profound exploration of heartbreak.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64111-065-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Palmetto Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2020

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Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

WINDOW ON THE BAY

Macomber (Be a Blessing, 2019, etc.) threatens to set her latest beach read in Paris, but her characters have other plans.

Maureen Zelinski and Jenna Boltz have been friends since college. Years ago, their plans to go to Paris were thwarted when Maureen found out she was pregnant. Now that they’re both single mothers whose children have left the nest, the time is right to dust off their passports and try again. In a somewhat disappointing turn of events, Maureen and Jenna don’t make it to Paris just yet. Instead, they stay in Seattle and pursue new love interests. Jenna, a nurse, meets orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rowan Lancaster in the emergency room after her mother falls and hurts her hip. Maureen, against her better judgment, accepts a date with Logan, a union plumber who frequents the library where she works. Jenna is afraid to date a co-worker after her workplace romance with her ex failed, but when Rowan proves to be a good listener, she’s more willing to discuss her options. Maureen doesn’t think she’ll fit in with Logan and his beer-drinking buddies, but she’s surprised when she enjoys their date at a football game. Meanwhile, Jenna worries about her children, Allie and Paul, as they navigate college and life. Though the story is primarily told from the two mothers’ perspectives, Allie breaks into the narrative with a surprising connection to Rowan. Maureen’s daughter, Tori, also takes on the role of confidante. The happy endings (and potential travel plans) unfold with a touch of realism to contrast the idyllic backdrop of the Pacific Northwest.

Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-18133-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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

OUTFOX

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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