An entertaining read for Francophiles, foodies, and romantics.



In this follow-up novel, an American woman who left her husband to live in Paris discovers obstacles to living her dream.

Amy Brodie, first introduced in The Paris Effect (2016), abruptly left her Phoenix home and her husband, Will, for a Paris adventure after the death of her best friend, Kat. It was to have been a short trip, but after a brief visit home and argument with Will, she decided to stay on in the City of Light. Amy’s new landlady, Margaret, a 60-ish British expat who’s been lonely after her adult daughter’s disappearance, has two friends who’ve become Amy’s own: Hervé, self-absorbed but theatrically charming, and Manu (short for Emmanuel), who once dated Margaret’s daughter. Amy works for Manu’s catering delivery service, a good fit—she loves everything food-related and writes a blog called Fun French Food. On the day of Amy’s 30th birthday, Will shows up in Paris at the same time another unexpected guest arrives at Margaret’s house. Both visits introduce complications that upend Amy’s newly arranged and blissful life, giving her several questions to answer: Should she stay in Paris or return to Phoenix? Go through with her divorce or not? Uncertain, yet with a newfound trust in her intuition, Amy must make choices that will affect more than herself. Burns offers an appealing heroine in Amy, who has managed to let go of her self-admitted “insane” relationship with food in favor of one that’s fulfilling and creative, reflected even when describing Margaret’s apartment: “The butter-pat yellow walls, the chocolate and robin’s egg blue Aubusson carpet, the clove-dark beams.” Though such a novel could easily become shallow wish-fulfillment fantasy, Burns adds several layers of complication: secrets and lies to be unraveled; a history of grief and loss; and opportunities to prove Amy’s skill and resourcefulness, as when putting together a meal from an almost bare pantry. Amy’s voice is wry, honest, and articulate, a pleasure to spend time with.

An entertaining read for Francophiles, foodies, and romantics.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018


Page Count: 257

Publisher: Velvet Morning Press

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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