A tale that initially seems poised to challenge Cinderella conventions but fails to fulfill that promise, as if it wanted a...

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WHEN A DUKE LOVES A WOMAN

In the second novel in the Sins for All Seasons series, a duke looking for his runaway bride stumbles into the path of a Whitechapel businesswoman and finds himself rethinking his arranged marriage.

In a scene reminiscent of Lisa Kleypas’ beloved Dreaming of You, this Victorian romance by Heath (Beyond Scandal and Desire, 2018, etc.) begins with Antony "Thorne" Coventry being rescued from a mugging in the London slums by Gillie Trewlove. A tavern owner with a heart of gold and illegitimate parentage, she nurses the stranger back to health in her apartment. The reader is told that her solicitousness is partly due to her attraction to his naked (mostly unconscious) self, and he returns her feelings in between bouts of passing out. After a few discomfiting passages about this insta-lust and at least two in which the sole action consists of Gillie being startled by any move Thorne makes, it's a relief when he recovers and leaves. The plot is then padded by his decision to return to Whitechapel, which Gillie knows better than he does, and hire his new object of desire to locate his absconding fiancée—as one does. The nunlike, independent, workaholic Gillie, who has every reason to be wary of upper-class men, agrees to this scheme because she finds him inexplicably fascinating. Yet it's hard to like Thorne, who is not a rake but somehow shoddier—a good guy who is nevertheless more interested in sex than in thinking about its consequences for a single, working woman. Gillie, written as a gruff do-gooder, is more interesting at the beginning than after she gets involved with this bland romance-novel aristocrat. Nonetheless, the story might please fans of the “London slum” subset of historical romance, of which Elizabeth Hoyt’s Wicked Intentions is a notable example.

A tale that initially seems poised to challenge Cinderella conventions but fails to fulfill that promise, as if it wanted a claim to progressive politics but could not imagine a real alternative to gilded-cage tradition.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267604-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A thoughtful and pensive tale with intelligent characters and a satisfying romance.

THE LAST LETTER

A promise to his best friend leads an Army serviceman to a family in need and a chance at true love in this novel.

Beckett Gentry is surprised when his Army buddy Ryan MacKenzie gives him a letter from Ryan’s sister, Ella. Abandoned by his mother, Beckett grew up in a series of foster homes. He is wary of attachments until he reads Ella’s letter. A single mother, Ella lives with her twins, Maisie and Colt, at Solitude, the resort she operates in Telluride, Colorado. They begin a correspondence, although Beckett can only identify himself by his call sign, Chaos. After Ryan’s death during a mission, Beckett travels to Telluride as his friend had requested. He bonds with the twins while falling deeply in love with Ella. Reluctant to reveal details of Ryan’s death and risk causing her pain, Beckett declines to disclose to Ella that he is Chaos. Maisie needs treatment for neuroblastoma, and Beckett formally adopts the twins as a sign of his commitment to support Ella and her children. He and Ella pursue a romance, but when an insurance investigator questions the adoption, Beckett is faced with revealing the truth about the letters and Ryan’s death, risking losing the family he loves. Yarros’ (Wilder, 2016, etc.) novel is a deeply felt and emotionally nuanced contemporary romance bolstered by well-drawn characters and strong, confident storytelling. Beckett and Ella are sympathetic protagonists whose past experiences leave them cautious when it comes to love. Beckett never knew the security of a stable home life. Ella impulsively married her high school boyfriend, but the marriage ended when he discovered she was pregnant. The author is especially adept at developing the characters through subtle but significant details, like Beckett’s aversion to swearing. Beckett and Ella’s romance unfolds slowly in chapters that alternate between their first-person viewpoints. The letters they exchanged are pivotal to their connection, and almost every chapter opens with one. Yarros’ writing is crisp and sharp, with passages that are poetic without being florid. For example, in a letter to Beckett, Ella writes of motherhood: “But I’m not the center of their universe. I’m more like their gravity.” While the love story is the book’s focus, the subplot involving Maisie’s illness is equally well-developed, and the link between Beckett and the twins is heartfelt and sincere.

A thoughtful and pensive tale with intelligent characters and a satisfying romance.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-533-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Entangled: Amara

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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