The fourth novel in the Hellcat Canyon series highlights Long’s deftness at staging small-town romance.

READ REVIEW

THE FIRST TIME AT FIRELIGHT FALLS

An elementary school principal with a Navy SEAL body woos a down-to-earth florist who realizes romance is worth fighting for.

Eden Harwood is too busy being a single mom to her 10-year-old and managing her thriving business to go on a date. Veteran Gabe Caldera really wants to change her mind. But when do two adults with too many obligations find the time to explore the possibility that they might be perfect for each other? It may have to be in the parking lot of the school where Gabe is the principal, or his office, or on a soccer field, or in a car in a secluded spot off the road. Long (Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, 2017, etc.) sets up a playful courtship between her protagonists, with every rushed conversation ending on a cliffhanger that they pick up the next time they cross paths. She’s also skilled at ratcheting up the sexual tension alongside the emotional connections that the two build through their repartee, which may make the reader nostalgic for a time before everyone filled out online dating profiles. The charm of the novel also comes from the fact that its setting has been fleshed out over several books, and the cast of characters in the town has expanded and deepened, echoing the author’s Pennyroyal Green historical romance series. The novel varies its tone well in the first half, mixing comic dialogue with hints of Gabe's and Eden’s secret depths. Though it succumbs a little to melodrama in the second half, when Eden’s past comes back to town, the overall impression is of lightness and hope. This blend of sweetness and conflict evokes Nora Roberts’ early Americana.

The fourth novel in the Hellcat Canyon series highlights Long’s deftness at staging small-town romance.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267290-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

THE DECEPTION

A successful businesswoman hires a smooth-talking bounty hunter to find a lead on her sister’s murder.

Kate Gallagher was the only one available to identify her younger sister Chrissy’s body after she was found dead, having run away from home two years earlier. Since Chrissy succumbed to drugs and turned to sex work to survive, her murder isn't taken seriously by the local homicide department. Kate is filled with grief and regret at not having been there for her sister, and she’s determined to find her killer as a kind of penance. Jason Maddox is the charming man Kate almost hooked up with at a local bar. He also happens to be on the payroll of the most successful investigation company in Dallas. He’s all too eager to help Kate out and spend more time getting to know the blonde he danced with at the Sagebrush Saloon. At first, Kate and Jason vow to keep things professional until the case is solved; there’s obvious attraction that they’re willing to pursue at a later date. But the increasing sense of danger mixed with Kate and Jason’s close proximity proves to be too heady of a combination. The tension never lets up as the pair visit seedy bars and interrogate unsavory characters. With a steamy romance and undeniably hot chemistry, the main characters are well matched. They’re both driven, slightly stubborn, and enjoy the adrenaline rush of catching criminals. Martin (The Conspiracy, 2019, etc.) doesn’t skimp on graphic, violent details as Chrissy’s murder leads her couple to something much bigger: human trafficking. Though not for the faint of heart given its weighty material, this is an un-put-down-able page-turner that’s sure to satisfy fans of romance and thrillers alike.

A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-335-00769-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin HQN

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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