Uneven fare from the British Fforde, made forgivable by an appealing heroine.

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A PERFECT PROPOSAL

Fforde’s latest is a rambling, bighearted novel in which a young Londoner becomes entangled with a wealthy American family.

Sophie is a lovely girl, if a bit too easily pushed around. Her family, a group of self-centered academics, thinks she’s comparatively dim and treats her as their very own Cinderella. Her friends can’t understand why her boyfriends are needy moochers. And Sophie herself would like something more than waiting tables. She has a plan: Save enough money to take a tailoring and business course and open her own shop. But first she must look after Evil Uncle Eric while his housekeeper is away (her family insists—Uncle Eric is loaded, and they are hoping for an inheritance), and then she is off to New York to temporarily nanny for a local family. Uncle Eric proves a doll, but the nannying job falls through, leaving Sophie in New York with her transplanted friend Milly to play out scenes from Sex and the City. At an art opening, Sophie rescues a society matron about to faint. Matilda Winchester, an English war bride, is charmed by Sophie, but her American grandson, Luke, is not. Matilda treats Sophie to a day out and invites her to Thanksgiving dinner at her Connecticut house, but Luke warns Sophie not to get too close—he’s on the lookout for hangers-on. Sophie is undeterred by his rudeness and spends a lovely final week in America at Matilda’s mansion before she heads back to waiting tables and, of course, doing that favor for Matilda. As a child, Matilda stayed in a house on the Cornish coast; the house holds her happiest memories, and she wants Sophie to find it for her. Then Luke ends up in London, and the inevitable romance begins. Thinly crafted plot devices tear them apart before the same reunite them. This is a shame, as Sophie is a charmer, and real relationship problems (their differences in class, wealth, values) would have created a far richer romance if there were real jeopardy to the happiness.

Uneven fare from the British Fforde, made forgivable by an appealing heroine.

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-02429-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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