A likable new talent chained to a creaky old plot.

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GODS IN ALABAMA

Date-rape and murder color the life of a high-school sophomore. Years later, she returns to her hometown to exorcise the demons, in a first novel based on delayed revelations.

Sophomore Arlene Fleet made a deal with God. She would stop being a slut, never lie or fornicate again, and leave town for good after graduation. All He had to do was hide the body of the boy she’d killed. True to her word, Arlene left tiny Possett, Ala., in 1987 and hightailed it to Chicago, for Jim Beverly had indeed vanished without a trace. Ten years later, Arlene is still in Chicago, a teacher and a Ph.D. candidate with a steady boyfriend, Burr. Then Jim’s old girlfriend, Rose Mae Lolley, materializes on Arlene’s doorstep, and Arlene realizes she must return to Alabama for damage control. In chapters that from this point on alternate between the present and the past, Arlene is an engaging narrator whom we want to trust, though that can be difficult. Take the murder. Jim, the heartthrob quarterback, had behaved horribly to Clarice, Arlene’s lovely cousin (the girls are as close as sisters). Arlene had pursued the sloppy-drunk Jim and knocked him out with his tequila bottle. Had one blow really killed him? Why wasn’t his body ever found? Why has it taken ten years for Rosa Mae to get on the case? There are questions in the present, too. Because of her “no fornication” pledge to God, Arlene’s two-year relationship with Burr has been touchy-feely but not sexual. Just how credible is that? Arlene and Burr drive down to Alabama to visit with Arlene’s formidable Aunt Florence, who raised her after her father died and her mother sank into a permanent, pill-popping depression. The homecoming is frosty, for Burr is black and Florence is a dyed-in-the-wool racist. But racial tensions take a back seat to a minute reconstruction of the past and a final Southern Gothic flourish.

A likable new talent chained to a creaky old plot.

Pub Date: April 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-52419-0

Page Count: 278

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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