A sensitively drawn portrait of the healing power of love.

READ REVIEW

EGGPLANT MAN

A chance encounter unites two unlikely black soul mates in this debut novel.

For Ruby, it is another hot and humid August afternoon in Harlem. Her day begins with a tour of the neighborhood, rummaging through the trash for trinkets and treasures before the garbage collectors come and take it away. A native of Metairie, Louisiana, Ruby found herself among Harlem’s homeless after a series of tragedies left her destitute. For nearly 20 years, she has followed the same routine, until she encounters a man leaning against the wall of a barbershop. His regal bearing fascinates her and she gives him a gift, a piece of eggplant skin she calls his “skin-mate,” and renames him Eggplant Man. The stranger, LeRoy Vaughn Reed, is a gifted musician who ended up homeless after serving time in prison for a crime he did not commit. Their connection is instant and powerful, but Ruby hesitates to act on her feelings, fearful of her mother’s admonition that “people die and men leave.” Despite her concerns, she is ready to pursue her attraction to LeRoy, and they discover that they have a natural rapport. Happiness is within their grasp when tragedy threatens to separate them forever. De Leaver’s novel is an incisive portrait of two people finding a second chance at hope and love. The narrative focuses exclusively on Ruby and LeRoy and they are nuanced characters whose attraction never feels forced for the sake of the narrative. The author is particularly adept at developing their stories through flashbacks and carefully chosen details, such as Ruby’s strict adherence to a specific radius when looking through garbage, which reveal how they navigate their lives on the streets of Harlem. The prose is spare and lyrical, and effectively incorporates poetry and song lyrics to express Ruby and LeRoy’s innermost hopes and fears (At one point, he muses about his skin color: “Now I walk with head held high / And wisdom under my cap / Knowing that my fear did die /And it’s beautiful to be black”). That said, the book is short and, although De Leaver builds a solid foundation for their relationship, the final chapters move so quickly that additional opportunities for character development are missed.

A sensitively drawn portrait of the healing power of love.

Pub Date: June 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4808-4163-5

Page Count: 134

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more