Well-crafted commercial fiction displaying intelligence and nuance as Julie ponders Hollywood’s dizzying fantasy/reality...

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A TOUCH OF STARDUST

Sticking to her formula of situating imaginary characters in historical events (The Daring Ladies of Lowell, 2014, etc.), Alcott sends her feisty heroine to observe the filming of Gone With the Wind.

At first, it looks as though Julie Crawford will be packing her bags to go back to Fort Wayne, Indiana; she’s delayed as she hurries to the burning of Atlanta to deliver a message from the studio to David Selznick, and the producer fires her on the spot. Fortunately, Julie has caught the eye of assistant producer Andy Weinstein, who introduces her to a fellow Fort Wayne refugee: screwball comedy queen Carole Lombard, whose open affair with still-married GWTW star Clark Gable is making Selznick very nervous. Soon Julie is Lombard’s personal assistant and having regular dinners with handsome, intense Andy. The fact that she’s dating a Jew, Julie is well-aware, would appall her parents, who are already unhappy that she’s dumped her high school sweetheart to pursue a career as a screenwriter. Alcott makes good use of her research to portray the turbulent GWTW shoot, Lombard’s earthy personality and genuine love for the equally no-BS Gable, and Julie’s introduction via Andy to the more intellectual side of Hollywood culture (a Herman Mankiewicz dinner party; a meeting with her idol, pioneering screenwriter Frances Marion). Julie and Andy’s tender but bumpy affair is also nicely depicted. Consumed with anxiety for his grandparents in Nazi Berlin, furious when he confronts anti-Semitism in America, he plans to leave Hollywood’s dream factory; he’s supportive of Julie’s ambitions but unsure that she’s got the backbone to stand by him or to stand up to her parents about their relationship. Their ups and downs are slightly contrived, but Alcott’s canny blend of Hollywood lore and a strong personal story is ultimately effective.

Well-crafted commercial fiction displaying intelligence and nuance as Julie ponders Hollywood’s dizzying fantasy/reality disconnect.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53904-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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