Suspense at the expense of credibility.

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THE SURROGATE

A surrogate-for-hire runs for her life in the latest from Wall (A Good Man, 2005, etc.).

Jamie Long is desperate. Orphaned at six and estranged from her half-sister, the college dropout is mired in credit-card debt incurred while nursing her dying grandmother. An ad answers her prayers, offering $100,000 and a lifetime income to bear a child for gorgeous, pushing-50 televangelist Amanda Hartmann. The secrecy surrounding her artificial insemination with sperm from Amanda’s current gigolo/husband/personal trainer Toby is normal, she is assured by the Hartmanns’ lawyer. So is Jamie’s isolation at the family ranch in a remote stretch of the Texas Panhandle. Housekeeper Montgomery handles all of Jamie’s correspondence with the outside world—or not. Amanda’s diminutive brother Gus, a kingpin who runs the Hartmann oil/Christian Voter Alliance/lobbying enterprises with Soprano-like ruthlessness, reluctantly endorses Amanda’s scheme to fake pregnancy so that her devotees will assume she has birthed her own miracle child. The inseminating sperm was actually harvested from Amanda’s son, who was supposedly killed in an ATV accident but is actually in a vegetative state, being kept alive in a secluded tower of the ranch. Nearby lies supposedly bedridden matriarch Mary Millicent, Amanda’s predecessor in charismatic preaching. Secretly ambulatory and thoroughly versed in the generational curses of the Hartmanns, Mary sneaks out to warn Jamie that once Amanda “delivers,” the presence of the surrogate will be considered problematic. And Gus has no scruples about eliminating problems—like Amanda’s first husband, for instance. Jamie flees, has her baby alone and goes on the lam. After a near-kidnapping, she reunites with childhood crush Joe, making for a steamy sex-on-the-beach scene with no babysitter in evidence. Handily evading Gus’s thugs, Jamie and Joe call Amanda’s bluff in public and hope she’s more susceptible to scandal than most televangelists. By then, the plot’s banality has surpassed even the conventions of melodrama, with no redeeming depth of character.

Suspense at the expense of credibility.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-5851-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2006

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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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