A well-crafted contemporary romance.

READ REVIEW

HEARTS ON FIRE

A ST. CAROLINE NOVEL

A woman’s return to her hometown forces her to confront secrets from her past and discover an unexpected new love in this sequel.

Becca Trevor is not surprised when her family’s business, Quilt Therapy, burns to the ground the night she returns to St. Caroline, a bucolic town on the eastern shore of Maryland. A self-described “whirling dervish of disaster,” she finds that wherever she goes, trouble follows. That night, she is surprised to see Jack Wolfe among the firefighters. Firefighting is a proud tradition in his family, but Jack seemed destined for something more. Most folks believe he is employed by a tech company in California, but in reality he dropped out of law school and works as a security guard and volunteer firefighter. The Trevor and Wolfe families are close, and Becca and Jack had a drunken romantic encounter the night of high school graduation. She got pregnant and left for Ohio to have the baby. Their daughter was adopted by a loving single mother, and Becca intends to keep the child a secret from Jack and their families. Their renewed friendship quickly turns romantic; however, when their daughter’s adoptive mother contacts Becca, she faces a difficult choice that could affect her relationship with Jack. This second novel in Gabriel’s (Chiaroscuro, 2017, etc.) St. Caroline series offers a compelling romance supported by nuanced characters. Becca and Jack are appealing protagonists whose comfortable and easy rapport blossoms into a second-chance romance that never seems contrived for the convenience of the plot. The author is particularly adept at developing romantic tension through playful and erotic scenes of flirtation. Gabriel also successfully strikes a delicate balance between Becca and Jack’s relationship and the family tragedy the couple face. Jack’s mother, Angela, is terminally ill, and the effects of her illness on her family and friends are heartbreaking and sensitively drawn. That said, although it is plausible that Becca could keep her pregnancy a secret from Jack and his relatives, it is incredible that she could successfully conceal it from her own close-knit family. Still, this engaging tale may appeal to fans of Elin Hilderbrand.

A well-crafted contemporary romance.

Pub Date: June 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5472-7074-3

Page Count: 290

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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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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