Based on a true story, we’re told, but Martin’s overheated plot keeps us from believing a word of it.



Inordinately busy first novel by the Texan author of The Least You Need to Know (stories: 1996).

It begins wonderfully, establishing the contrasting but intertwined existences of two families in the West Texas town of Denton during the 1920s. Yardman Little Washington Jones lives with his feisty wife, Eugie, and daughter Camellia in the peaceful black ghetto of Quakertown. Little’s primary employer, wealthy white businessman Andrew Bell, resides “up the hill” on Oak Street; his wife drinks “tonic” for her nerves, and his son, Kizer, is crippled. Martin quickly establishes a network of complex relationships, exploring his characters’ public and secret lives in both present action and extended flashbacks. Camellia, a light-skinned schoolteacher, falls in love with feisty black war veteran Ike Mattoon but can’t forget Kizer, a childhood friend who has always loved her. There’s also a relationship with a white man buried in Eugie’s past life, and every imaginable chicken comes home to roost when goodhearted Mr. Bell stands up to the Ku Klux Klan and spearheads a plan to buy out Quakertown’s homeowners at fair prices and move them to even greener pastures, some distance from downtown Denton. Ike’s refusal to truckle to racial prejudice, Kizer’s determination to have Camellia even if she’s another man’s wife, Andrew Bell’s frustrated benevolence, and the Candide-like Little’s earth-wisdom (“Treat a flower or a tree right, and it makes your life pretty”) are all cruelly tested. A threatened abortion, an accidental fatal shooting, at least one too many ponderously symbolic conflagrations, and the climactic release of Ike’s aggrieved violent impulses—these are only a few links in the chain of catastrophes that undermines the loving patience with which Martin, a fine stylist but a disastrous plotter, has created fully rounded characters deserving of a better fate than this novel’s ill-judged collapse into trite melodrama.

Based on a true story, we’re told, but Martin’s overheated plot keeps us from believing a word of it.

Pub Date: June 25, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-94583-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


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 clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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