A provocative and sensitive portrait of love developing in the most unexpected of places.

Hard Road Home

A chance encounter leads to an unexpected connection for a young receptionist and a reserved trucker in this contemporary romance.

Amanda Swenson’s life is primarily defined by the expectations of her family and the demands of her job as a receptionist for a small medical practice in western North Dakota. Shy and introverted, she’d like to be more confident and assertive, particularly at work. Her mother wants her to meet people and start dating, but she’s had little success with relationships. Her luck begins to change the night her older brother, Mark, invites her to dinner. Mark, an oil company employee, brings along a friend, trucker Clayton Sloan from Kansas. She is immediately drawn to Clayton, who’s friendly but reticent (“Amanda had never met anyone from Kansas. She began to appreciate the state in a whole new way….When she felt herself leaning toward him like a daisy to the sun, she straightened up immediately”). Clayton is not looking for love. A tragedy and untenable bank loan have threatened the family farm. Determined to help his parents save it, his sole focus is earning enough money to pay off the loan and launch an organic wheat venture. He’s attracted to Amanda but feels he has nothing to offer her. Despite his reservations, a relationship slowly blossoms that raises Amanda’s confidence and opens Clayton’s heart to the possibility of love. Dopson’s (The Light at the End of the World, 2002, etc.) novel successfully combines the sensitivity and insight of a character study with a slow-burning, provocative romance. The exceptionally well-developed protagonists are bolstered by realistic settings and a dynamic and multilayered supporting cast. The strongest elements of the story are the leads, Clayton and Amanda. Their situations are relatable thanks to Dopson’s carefully crafted prose and naturalistic dialogue. While Clayton and Amanda’s relationship anchors the story, the secondary characters are more than just set decoration; they are equally vital parts of the narrative. Two of the most compelling supporting players are Mark and his long-term girlfriend, Jessica. The Bakken oil boom in North Dakota is vividly rendered and allows the author the opportunity to explore the effect the long hours and dangerous work conditions have on individuals and families.

A provocative and sensitive portrait of love developing in the most unexpected of places.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9712123-5-0

Page Count: 426

Publisher: Angelfire Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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


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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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