An imaginative and witty retelling of universally acknowledged truths.

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PREJUDICE & PRIDE

Messina (The Bolingbroke Chit, 2015, etc.) reimagines a classic in her gender-bending, modern-day take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

In present-day Queens, New York, brothers John and Bennet Bethle are the spine of the Longbourn Collection’s development department. After some persuasion by their parents, they get their youngest brother, Lydon, an internship at the museum as well—but his definition of “internship” is practically synonymous with “Starbucks.” Mr. Meryton, executive director of the Longbourn, is always close by; he would “never trust an employee to do well what he himself could do perfectly”—that is, to land major funding from New York’s richest. Enter Charlotte “Bingley” Bingston, an enthusiastic socialite and chair of the Gold Diamond Advisory Board who's almost as smitten with the local rugelach as she is with John. Her best friend, Darcy Fitzwilliam, a fellow heiress, has a guarded and cold demeanor which earn her little favor from the rest of the cast. Things become complicated when Bennet runs into Georgia Wickham, an estranged childhood friend of Darcy’s, in the lobby of the Longbourn. The entanglements are knottiest at Bingley’s fundraising gala at Netherfield on Park Avenue. Collin Parsons makes his dazzling entrance just as Bingley quits the city suddenly. After 48 “Bingstons,” or days Bingley has been unreachable, both John, who refuses to pine for her, and Bennet, who was “dissed for the financial sector,” are loveless and in desperate need of distraction. When Collin invites Bennet to the Hamptons for a weekend, Messina raises the stakes even higher: there’s a surprise visit from Darcy, and by the time Bennet returns to the city, Lydon is being held by the FBI for grand larceny. It takes a lot of money, influence, and humbling before anyone reaches a mutual understanding. The characters get a little verbose at the end, slowing down the otherwise well-paced plot, but they’ve got quite a bit of explaining to do. Messina maintains the emotional depth of the characters with easy humor despite their wrestling with first impressions gone awry and the consequence of ill-held grudges.

An imaginative and witty retelling of universally acknowledged truths.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-942218-05-0

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Potatoworks Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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