Once again (as in The Courtyard, 2007), a potentially intriguing fictional family history is smothered by excessive niceness.

POSTCARDS FROM THE PAST

In Willett’s latest Cornwall cozy, a trio of aging siblings is threatened—but not enough—by their erstwhile stepbrother.

Ed and Billa St. Enedoc, who live in Mellinpons, a lovingly renovated former butter factory inherited from their parents, and their half brother, Dom, who lives nearby, are all retired and settling down to a comfortable routine of tea parties, nature studies and dog walking when the postcards start arriving. These missives, postmarked in France, hail from their stepbrother, Tris, whom they haven’t seen in 50 years, not since his father, Andrew, abruptly left Ed and Billa’s mother, Elinor, and disappeared, along with his son. The postcards are apparently intended to goad: Ed’s features an image reminiscent of a prized bicycle Tris appropriated, Billa’s a dog resembling her beloved Bitser, whose euthanasia was engineered by Tris; Dom’s is a reference to the fact that he is the illegitimate son of Ed and Billa’s father, Harry, born of a liaison which predated his marriage. What could Tris possibly want of the St. Enedocs now? The suspense of finding out what he's up to is the book’s main plot, which is not fleshed-out enough to stand on its own but must be padded with a subplot involving a 20-something university graduate, Tilly, the burgeoning IT business she runs with Navy wife Sarah and the growing affection of both young women for dishy curate Clem. Although Willett may doubt that the concerns of the older people are enough to carry the novel, in reality, Tilly’s and her cohorts’ predicaments seem banal and dull compared to the intriguing menace of Tris and the conflicted childhood memories he evokes. Willett’s determination to portray each character fairly and compassionately causes her to paint herself into a narrative corner: By allowing Tris a voice and evoking sympathy for him, she attenuates his power as the antagonist, thereby weakening the conflict and guaranteeing an anticlimactic denouement.

Once again (as in The Courtyard, 2007), a potentially intriguing fictional family history is smothered by excessive niceness.

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04633-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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