A pleasing cross-genre novel.

THE COMYN'S CURSE

From the Highland Spirits series , Vol. 1

A novel that mixes Scottish history, an ancient curse, and a hint of romance.

After her fiance breaks up with her via text, Aubrey Cumming finds herself at a loss. After all, she moved from Pennsylvania to the town of Harrington, New Jersey, for him. After a pity party with two of her friends, she returns to work at her bookstore job. There, her Scottish boss, Angus MacKintosh, offers her a trip to Scotland to visit the land of her ancestors and get over her ex. Her boss even found her a place to stay for free, with just one catch—she’ll have to find a way to break a curse placed on the MacKintosh family back in 1442: “none shall be loved truly, but always in vain.” To break it, a Cumming must fall in love with a MacKintosh. In Scotland, Aubrey takes her time enjoying life as a tourist, but it isn’t long before she meets two strapping Scottish gentlemen, Finn Cameron and Connor MacConnach. But in the wake of Brexit, Scotland is still fighting for its independence from the United Kingdom, and the Caledonia First campaign has powerful enemies as well as a traitor in their midst. Author MacKinnon (Whiskey Dreams, 2018, etc.) offers a little something for everyone in this novel, including a love triangle, supernatural elements, political intrigue, dramatic history, and beautiful scenery in a truly epic tale. Aubrey’s time in Scotland is broken up by glimpses of the past, which show how the family curse came about. The well-developed main characters are backed up by a host of entertaining and lovable secondary players. It’s clear the author did her research about the country, history, and landscape, which may cause some readers to do further research, if not book tours of their own. This novel is also highly recommended for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, as its fans will find many hidden and not-so-hidden references to it in the text.

A pleasing cross-genre novel.

Pub Date: March 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73383-840-5

Page Count: 356

Publisher: DartFrog Books

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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