A tale that’s jam-packed with details of Kremlin life and palace intrigue, sure to appeal to history buffs.

THE RED STAIRCASE

THE ASCENSION OF PETER THE GREAT

Vollack’s (Memoirs of a Headbanger, 2018) epic novel of the early years of Peter the Great’s life offers readers a peek into 17th-century Russia.

In 1682, at age 10, Peter is named czar upon his half brother Fedor’s death. Peter’s grandfather, Czar Alexis, had two wives: Maria Miloslavsky, the late mother of Sophia, Ivan, and Fedor; and, Natalya Naryshkin, the current matriarch and Peter’s mother. Sophia, an ambitious woman of 25, uses her father’s death to instigate a murderous palace coup to become regent and thus re-establish the supremacy of the Miloslavsky clan. Peter, who’s “inquisitive and bright, vigorous and fit,” is to be co-czar with his older, dimwitted half brother, Ivan. As regent, Sophia is the power behind the throne—quite literally: At official events, she directs the boys from a hidden compartment behind their seats, because women aren’t allowed to appear at such gatherings. Natalya, meanwhile, with her trusted counselor Boris Golitsyn, dedicates herself to teaching Peter the art of leadership and survival: “Hold your tongue and mind your temper” when dealing with Sophia; meanwhile, she’s plotting Sophia’s demise. By age 17, Peter is married, awaiting the birth of a child, and recruiting “young men from all stations” to build a fortress. Although he’s rebellious and iconoclastic, he’s much admired by the people. Vollack’s prose is straightforward and descriptive throughout: “Boris Golitsyn stood patiently as an observer, robed and sweating in the warm sunlight.” He also effectively develops his characters by frequently including their thoughts in italics, as when Boris ruminates about Peter: “He inspires respect… we must remember to put him atop a horse whenever possible.” At another point, readers learn the reason for the establishment of Russia’s navy when Peter dwells on Sweden’s massive force: “How long before they find us too tempting….We must have a navy, he thought….Ultimately, a true port.”

A tale that’s jam-packed with details of Kremlin life and palace intrigue, sure to appeal to history buffs.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9994232-0-2

Page Count: 554

Publisher: Anthony Shelton Publications

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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