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ROME'S LAST NOBLE PALACE

A dramatic and often satisfying tale with supernatural elements.

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Sullivan’s romantic ghost story tells the story of two young women in Rome, a century apart.

In 1896, American Isabelle Field’s very rich Auntie Elizabeth, also known as Princess Brancaccio, has married into Italian aristocracy and has been asked to find a suitable match for her poor relation. In 2006, Sophie Nouri, a graduate student in Persian art history, is interning at the Brancaccio Palace, which is now an art museum. The connection between the women is that both, in their own time, live in a certain room on the top floor of the palace in the servants’ quarters. Isabelle is a spirited young woman and a talented fashion designer who has more modern ideas than her aunt does; the latter has her eye on an odious fop, Count Massimo, as a marriage match for her niece. Meanwhile, Isabelle and an attractive operatic tenor, Lamberto Perelli, fall in love. Sophie meets Sayed Ahmadi, an Iranian man who’s brought on as her assistant and who’s fluent in both English and Italian. Both women experience terrible traumas, but their lives have very different outcomes. Sophie’s storyline includes what appear to be encounters with a ghost, who seems to want to warn her of impending danger. Sullivan is an experienced historical novelist, and in this novel she displays a great love of Italy, which she clearly knows well; her sense of place is meticulous throughout, as when Sophie reflects on her initial explorations: “One more church to explore, one more picturesque twisting street tempting her to follow its path, one more piazza drenched in sunshine, character, and local flavor in which to sit and drink a coffee, watching the people passing by.” Some readers may find Sullivan’s prose style to be overheated, at times; tears “well up” or “prick” with alarming frequency. But the blending of the two well-paced stories is gracefully managed, as is the idea that social change is inevitable—even in 1896, as Isabelle breaks loose from her aunt’s domination, which is no small thing in the rigid fin de siècle society.

A dramatic and often satisfying tale with supernatural elements.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2023

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2023

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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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