Good escape reading in this tale of love and tough decisions in Venice.

BENEATH THE LION'S WINGS

In Nardin’s romance, a young woman’s life radically changes when she decides to leave America for Venice and a handsome gondolier.

Victoria Greco, 30, leads a busy life as executive assistant to a high-powered Hollywood talent agent and hopes to break into agenting herself. On a rare vacation, Victoria visits Venice, Italy, where a muscular, golden-haired young man named Alvise Moro serves as her gondolier. Although he has a degree in Italian literature, Alvise comes from four generations of gondoliers, and there’s no job he’d rather do. They’re immediately and mutually attracted; though Victoria is usually cautious, she tells herself “I’m on vacation. Why not enjoy a little romance?” Though Victoria doesn’t consider Alvise her dream guy (“The man she’d marry would have to be a successful business man to compliment [sic] her own desired success”), she misses him terribly in California. Before long, one door opens as another closes. Alvise visits and proposes to Victoria just as her boss gives the bad news: no promotion this year. Marrying a man she barely knows, moving to Venice, and giving up her career might not make sense, but “there was no negotiating with the heart.” Naturally, nothing is as easy as Victoria had hoped, and she must tackle several obstacles on the way to giving her heart what it wants. In her well-researched debut novel, Nardin does a fine job evoking Venice’s atmosphere, culture, and history. The particular practices and customs of gondoliering, along with women’s efforts to enter the profession, make for absorbing reading. Victoria’s new job—selling high-end jewelry—is also enjoyably luxurious. Given the highly romanticized love affair, the book benefits from its grounding in realistic conflicts that arise from Victoria’s situation, whether it’s the constant secondhand smoke in Europe, a critical Italian mother-in-law, or dealing with international law. Even so, it’s more than a little hard to accept that an ambitious career woman who’s always valued material success would so suddenly and completely change her plans, giving up a great deal of personal autonomy, privacy, and power.

Good escape reading in this tale of love and tough decisions in Venice.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 979-1-2200259-0-4

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Waterline Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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