Well-written historical fiction stuffed with action and adventure.

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CIBOLERO

In Lopez’s novel, a father’s search for his abducted daughter toggles back to his own past and the larger picture of the exploitation of New Mexico in the mid-19th century.

Antonio Jose Baca wishes only to raise his family in peace on his ranchito near the Pecos River in New Mexico. A ragtag detachment of Texas Rangers shows up, hungry and lost, and in the space of an hour, they have roughed up his wife, shot their young son (he survives), kidnapped their daughter, Elena, and high-tailed it back to Texas. Antonio, of course, sets out after them. He does have an advantage. In his youth, he was a cibolero, a buffalo hunter, on those forbidding plains still called the Llano Estacado. He is an expert tracker, and his blood is up. In a series of flashbacks, we learn the geography of the area and its history that goes back centuries. We learn how the Civil War would affect things and how the rise of Texas threatened the nuevomexicanos from the beginning (“So far from God…and so close to Texas”). After 1848, the U.S. claims New Mexico, and immigrants—gringos—come pouring in. Suddenly, the nuevomexicanos and Indigenous people are second-class citizens and displaced on their own land, and the arrogant gringo soldiers are deservedly hated. Revolts are mounted but inevitably and brutally put down. We follow Antonio until the end of his quest.

Lopez is an authority on New Mexican history and topography, and his novel rings true throughout. He is also a very talented writer with nary a false step (“To the Tejanos the llano is a useless desert, Antonio thought. To the Indians and Ciboleros, it is a world filled with life”). Antonio is well drawn, and Lopez is even better with his villains. Those Texas Rangers differ from an outlaw gang only because their leader, Capt. Travis Russell, has a conscience. The others range from simpletons to the truly psychopathic, especially one J.D. Calhoun, scion of Texas money. Again one thinks of arrogance, a defining and infuriating trait of these interlopers—the Texas gang, Gen. Stephen Kearny who rubbed the nuevomexicanos’ noses in the American takeover, the drunken, murderous troopers, the condescension of Kit Carson and Charles Bent. (One can’t help but cheer when Bent’s head is paraded around Taos on a pikestaff.) Especially satisfying is the way the Ranger contingent is thoroughly spooked when two of the young troopers run into serious trouble. They assume the feared Comanche are to blame. Antonio is the relentless avenger, particularly deadly, and one feels the noose tightening. There are all sorts of side stories here, too, each a little nugget, and small episodes, like the murder of Nathan, a Black man, and Antonio’s efforts to rescue his orphaned children. And keep your eye on Josiah Smith, “the preacher.” There are nasty surprises and, oddly, some sweet interludes.

Well-written historical fiction stuffed with action and adventure.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-59-543567-8

Page Count: 182

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Honestly, who needs Nantucket. It could hardly be more fun than this book.

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THE HOTEL NANTUCKET

Bring on the fresh-baked gougères and the hydrangea-blue cashmere throws: A classic fictional setting—the grand hotel—gets the Hilderbrand treatment.

The beloved beach novelist’s 28th book is another tour de force, deploying all her usual tricks and tropes and clever points of view, again among them a character from the afterlife and the collective “we” of gossipy island residents. Our ghost is Grace Hadley, a teenage chambermaid who died under suspicious circumstances in a hotel fire in 1922. Grace’s lonely days are over when the historic property is purchased and reopened by a London billionaire. As Xavier Darling tells his general manager, Lizbet Keaton, their goal will be to get five out of five keys from Shelly Carpenter, an undercover hotel blogger who has not awarded top honors to any spot visited so far. A gorgeous remodel, a sterling staff, free treats in the minibar, and—of course, since this is Hilderbrand—an incredible restaurant where a disco ball drops from the ceiling every night at 9 p.m. and the chef is hotter than any dish on the menu are all in play as the first guests come streaming in. Which one is the hard-to-please Ms. Carpenter? Other addictive storylines include a rich kid cleaning rooms to expiate some mysterious, terrible thing he did this past spring, an evil beauty breaking up island marriages (instead of a gun in the drawer, there's a half-used Chanel eye shadow in Pourpre Brun), and the desperate attempts of Lizbet’s ex, who sexted with their wine rep, to win her back. One of the special services Lizbet creates for the guests of the Hotel Nantucket is a “Blue Book” containing all her recommended island itineraries. A real-life version is included as an appendix, giving the complete scoop on where to eat, drink, sunbathe, shop, and stay on the island, plus notes on which Hilderbrand novels happened where. If you’re ready to check out Chicken Box or to try the sandwiches on herb bread that lured the author to become a permanent island resident in 1993, the Elin Hilderbrand Bucket List Weekend really is a thing.

Honestly, who needs Nantucket. It could hardly be more fun than this book.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-25867-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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