Thriller fans will find so much space devoted to Gia and Jake’s sexual acrobatics that little time is left for the plot to...


A small Tennessee mountain town is awash in sex and scandal in Belle’s first novel.

Gia Andrews, a disaster relief worker, is also a convicted murderer’s daughter. Her father, Ray, was convicted of killing his wife and Gia’s stepmother, Ella Mae, and sentenced to life in prison. But Ray is dying, and prison officials are releasing him on compassionate grounds; Gia’s uncle Cal, a prominent lawyer, has recruited her to return home from Kenya to care for her dad in his home in Rogersville. Despite the fact that she hasn’t seen her father since she left many years ago, she returns, believing her brother, Bo, and sister, Lexi, will help her, but she finds that neither wants anything to do with their father. Her nearest allies turn out to be the home-care worker Uncle Cal has hired, Fannie, and the new man she meets, a bar-and-grill owner named Jake. When Gia meets a law professor planning to write a book about wrongful convictions, he tells her he believes Ray didn’t kill Ella Mae and that Cal, who was Ray’s attorney, didn’t mount much of a defense. After looking into these allegations, Gia discovers her stepmother had an affair with another man and wonders whether her father could be innocent after all. While trying to unravel the mystery of who really killed Ella Mae, things heat up between Gia and Jake, and suddenly the mystery takes a whole new direction. Belle’s a smooth writer whose characters are vibrant and truly reflect the area where the novel is set, but the plot—while clever—takes a back seat to Gia’s and Ella Mae’s separate, but equally steamy, sexual exploits.

Thriller fans will find so much space devoted to Gia and Jake’s sexual acrobatics that little time is left for the plot to develop.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1722-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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