A provocative thesis that develops into a riveting dissertation on true love.

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Murphy's Path

In this love story, a chance encounter brings two doctoral candidates together just as they’re about to make the dumbest mistakes of their lives.

Patrick Murphy was considering becoming a priest when an awkward encounter with a so-called friend changed the course of his career. Now he’s engaged to Bianca Alfaro, a manipulative and demanding princess who is determined to drag him down the aisle at any cost. Their relationship devolves in both hilarious and heartbreaking ways as Patrick discovers that the way to his heart is through his head when he meets his intellectual match. Hero Delphinia Fairchild is working as an advice columnist while pursuing her doctorate in psychology when she and Patrick are paired on a class assignment. That the heroine of the story is named Hero is the first of many literary allusions and jokes about romance novels. Although the characters quote Wordsworth and visit museums, they’re not sensible enough to listen to their hearts. Scandal, misunderstandings, and bad decisions ensue as Patrick fights his lust for Hero while she grows dangerously attached to her needy boyfriend, Kamal. But Hero happily indulges Patrick’s wanderlust as they tour California, England, Spain, and Morocco while Bianca and Kamal jealously wait for them to call home. Throughout Questman’s (The Misadventures of Double Dog Darrenger & Gappy Jack Daniels, 2016) novel, the multilingual characters have lively snippets of conversations in Gaelic, Spanish, French, and, Arabic, with translations provided in a glossary at the end of the absorbing book. A variety of topics, including literature, opera, religion, psychology, history, and the couple’s mutual love for cats, makes their conversations all the more enjoyable, especially when shared with memorable minor characters like Hero’s artist mother, Lorena, and her protective brother, Dante. Although they are initially set up as adversaries, Hero and Patrick discover early on that they have more in common with each other than with their current partners, and this inspires them to actively pursue what they truly want instead of living to please others.

A provocative thesis that develops into a riveting dissertation on true love.

Pub Date: June 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9973041-9-0

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Blurb

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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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