A blend of clichéd Euro-travel brochure, celebrity fan fiction, middle school French lesson, and cultural obliviousness,...

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DREAMING OF MANDERLEY

A screenwriter’s assistant, naïve and hapless, falls for a wealthy Frenchman in Cannes.

Brown (Owning It, 2017, etc.) lets us know from the start that this is a contemporary retelling of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. But what dates the narrative, apart from the prudish heroine, are constant references to studio-era Hollywood, with the occasional mention of contemporary actors only highlighting the novel’s peculiar dustiness. Perhaps in further ill-conceived homage to last century's gothic genre, the heroine, Manderley, is a teary-eyed, put-upon orphan. She is also clumsy and has a tiresome inner life and limited language skills. The last is particularly odd since she has a degree in literature and is praised for her way with words by the hero, Xavier de Maloret. He is equally flat, appearing without explanation every time Manderley is in danger, spilling something, or stumbling. He also broods in five-minute intervals between taking her on long drives and kissing her ears and neck. Their monthlong acquaintance involves almost no other sexual intimacy, and after they elope, she is panicky about the wedding night. The attitude makes little sense in a contemporary romance with a 20-something who works in the movie industry; perhaps it should have been a time-travel romance where a sheltered Victorian woman is dropped into the modern world? This could have justified a conversation in which Manderley says the fight for women’s rights has been detrimental to them. On the plus side, it distracts from other problems: the hero’s annoying repetition of the endearment “ma bichette,” the heroine’s casual mention of servants when she was growing up in her antebellum-era house in the American South, Brown’s wholesale retaining of Du Maurier’s misogynistic portrait of the hero's first wife, and her labeling of a bad guy as a Romani/gypsy.

A blend of clichéd Euro-travel brochure, celebrity fan fiction, middle school French lesson, and cultural obliviousness, this neogothic provides zero thrills.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5161-0113-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

THE DECEPTION

A successful businesswoman hires a smooth-talking bounty hunter to find a lead on her sister’s murder.

Kate Gallagher was the only one available to identify her younger sister Chrissy’s body after she was found dead, having run away from home two years earlier. Since Chrissy succumbed to drugs and turned to sex work to survive, her murder isn't taken seriously by the local homicide department. Kate is filled with grief and regret at not having been there for her sister, and she’s determined to find her killer as a kind of penance. Jason Maddox is the charming man Kate almost hooked up with at a local bar. He also happens to be on the payroll of the most successful investigation company in Dallas. He’s all too eager to help Kate out and spend more time getting to know the blonde he danced with at the Sagebrush Saloon. At first, Kate and Jason vow to keep things professional until the case is solved; there’s obvious attraction that they’re willing to pursue at a later date. But the increasing sense of danger mixed with Kate and Jason’s close proximity proves to be too heady of a combination. The tension never lets up as the pair visit seedy bars and interrogate unsavory characters. With a steamy romance and undeniably hot chemistry, the main characters are well matched. They’re both driven, slightly stubborn, and enjoy the adrenaline rush of catching criminals. Martin (The Conspiracy, 2019, etc.) doesn’t skimp on graphic, violent details as Chrissy’s murder leads her couple to something much bigger: human trafficking. Though not for the faint of heart given its weighty material, this is an un-put-down-able page-turner that’s sure to satisfy fans of romance and thrillers alike.

A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-335-00769-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin HQN

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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