This debut novel will resonate with some and make others want to grab the main character, shake her by the shoulders and...

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JUNO'S DAUGHTERS

Saffran’s tale of an unconventional mother and her two daughters takes readers to the islands of the Pacific Northwest.

The Juno in the title is Jennifer “Jenny” Alexander, mother to 17-year-old Lilly and 13-year-old Frankie. Lilly, gorgeous, rebellious and aware of her own sexuality, is a recent high-school graduate working her way not through college but through all the men on tiny San Juan Island. San Juan, which is only reachable by ferry from the mainland, is part of a chain of small islands where life is still stuck in the peacenik hippie years. In fact, most of the residents of San Juan are aging hippies themselves. Dale, an unapologetic dirty old man, and his wife, Peg, each year bring a Shakespearean play to the islands. They stage parties where guests bring hash brownies and are famous for holding a rehearsal in which the cast appears in the nude. Jenny, a weaver who barely squeaks out a living, fled to San Juan when her rock guitarist husband, Monroe, beat her one time too many. The girls have grown up in a time warp on the island, without television or computers. But Frankie suffers from the looming loss of her best friend, Phoenix, who is moving to the mainland to escape the isolation. Lilly and Jenny, meanwhile, both lust after the same man, an actor slated to play Trinculo in The Tempest. Lilly, dreadlocked and occasionally stoned, puts a full court press on Trinculo, but he prefers Jenny. The three Alexander women are cast in the production, which opens the door for emotional drama and much second-guessing. Saffran’s prose is wonderful, but her characters wax self-indulgent at times: Jenny congratulates herself that her children only use organic drugs instead of the hard stuff like kids on the mainland. The author also inexplicably plops a chapter written in script form in the center of the book, an unnecessary distraction that breaks the rhythm of the writing.

This debut novel will resonate with some and make others want to grab the main character, shake her by the shoulders and tell her to grow up already.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-452-29673-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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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 clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

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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