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ABOVE THE SALT

Operatic, sometimes soap operatic, and memorably vivid.

Vaz follows star-crossed 19th-century lovers over eight decades and two continents as their personal crises intersect with Portuguese and American history.

Poetic language creates a dreamy, over-the-top atmosphere in which “air sighed like a church organ’s coda” for this sweeping saga of thwarted love overstuffed with characters and events. Over and over, soul mates John Alves and Mary Freitas reunite only to separate. Unlucky timing, world events, and meddling by mean-spirited acquaintances are the main culprits, although the lovers’ impetuous choices also play a role. They first bond as children in 1846 on the Portuguese island of Madeira shortly before local Catholics violently attack Protestant converts; John’s family are converts who must flee, Mary’s father a Catholic whose religious tolerance gets him in trouble. When they next meet in 1860 Illinois, Mary, not yet 21, is engaged to another man. Edward Moore is a wealthy American 10 years Mary’s senior who has employed her to run his greenhouse. While John is the novel’s leading man, a model of rectitude and unwavering passion, Edward is more complicated and therefore more endearing. His sense of privilege and social awkwardness is offset by self-awareness, sensitivity, broadmindedness, and progressive attitudes—for instance, he pays Mary as much as a man. Mary’s passion for John survives dramatic events—phony letters designed to tear them apart, parental disapproval, the mistaken belief he has died—but is never tested by actual daily life together. Edward and Mary push and pull each other in their professional as well as their emotional partnership. While she always adores and idealizes John, Mary underestimates Edward for years. The love triangle plays out against the backdrop of history. The Civil War and the San Francisco earthquake play disruptive roles, and Lincoln is one of many historic figures with whom the characters interact.

Operatic, sometimes soap operatic, and memorably vivid.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781250873811

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THIS SUMMER WILL BE DIFFERENT

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

A florist attempts to avoid her best friend’s brother—and their powerful chemistry—on Prince Edward Island.

When Lucy Ashby visits her best friend Bridget’s family home on Prince Edward Island for the first time, Bridget gives her three rules: Eat your weight in oysters….Leave the city behind. And, most importantly, Don’t fall in love with my brother. Unfortunately for Lucy, she sleeps with Felix basically the second her plane lands, unaware that he’s Bridget’s brother until it’s too late. Lucy has never felt understood or accepted by her immediate family, and Bridget is one of the very few people she allows into her inner circle, so Lucy’s desperate to abide by these rules. And so she and Felix try to avoid each other on every one of Lucy’s visits to PEI over the years. And, of course, they fail spectacularly, always returning to each other when they’re in between relationships. But it’s never been anything serious…Lucy makes sure of that, backing off whenever her emotions feel too strong. In her “real life” back in Toronto, it’s easier for Lucy to avoid thinking of Felix as she runs a busy floral shop, working herself into the ground. But when Bridget asks Lucy to come to PEI for an emergency girls’ trip less than two weeks before Bridget is supposed to get married, Lucy drops everything to be there for her best friend. She doesn’t expect to find Felix there, along with feelings that are stronger and more difficult than ever to ignore. Even more than jeopardizing her relationship with Bridget, Lucy is afraid that giving in to her feelings could ruin the life she’s worked so hard to build. Fortune, the author of hits like Every Summer After (2022), gives readers another refreshingly summery story full of angst, romance, and sex scenes aplenty. The PEI setting is a beautiful backdrop for Lucy and Felix’s secret hookups and Lucy’s journey of self-discovery as she learns how to stand on her own two feet as a business owner, friend, and daughter. In addition to frequent (and welcome) Anne of Green Gables references, there are oysters galore and many sandy, windy scenes that transport readers straight to the island.

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780593638880

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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