Though the romantic sparks never take off, this novel might be worth a try for fans of Narnia and romance.

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CAN'T HELP FALLING

Isaac (Close to You, 2016) follows up her Tolkien-obsessed debut with a second novel, for fans of C.S. Lewis.

Emelia Mason wants to reinvent herself. She leaves behind a sordid past as a tabloid journalist in Los Angeles and moves to Oxford, England, in search of atonement after chasing a scandal that led to the death of a wealthy English socialite named Anita. With a new identity, Emelia gets a job with the charity Anita had founded, SpringBoard, determined to rebuild it after Anita’s death. Emelia, feeding a love of Narnia since her childhood, is also obsessed with wardrobes. She climbs into one in an antiques shop and subsequently falls out of it at the feet of Peter Carlisle, an Olympic rowing hopeful who happens to be in the same antiques shop looking for the perfect teacup to give his mother for her 60th birthday. After a brief exchange about The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Emelia and Peter can’t stop thinking about each other. It turns out Peter has his own connection to Anita and SpringBoard; Anita was his cousin, and he is on the Board of Directors of her charity. As Peter and Emelia begin working together on a fundraising ball, Emelia continues to hide the truth about her past as a tabloid journalist and her connection to Anita. This novel has its charms in its Oxford setting and its Narnia nerd-ism, but the plot relies too heavily on coincidence and then staggers along to an anticlimactic conclusion, lacking any of the magic, adventure, or tension of the classic novels it pays homage to. There is little chemistry between Emelia and Peter, making the novel feel less like an inspirational romance and more like a morality play.

Though the romantic sparks never take off, this novel might be worth a try for fans of Narnia and romance.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1734-3

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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