Romance with a side of poignant family dynamics and a large, intriguing cast.

REMEMBER LOVE

A second-chance romance inaugurates a new Regency series about a family torn apart by lies and healed by love.

Devlin Ware, Viscount Mountford, is the favored heir of a beloved aristocratic family. At his family's annual ball, he has just been granted the love of Gwyneth Rhys, the neighbor he has longed for all his life, and is preparing to approach her father for her hand when he discovers his father in a compromising position with a woman who must be his mistress. In indignation, Devlin tells his father to send the woman away, loud enough for many of their guests to hear—a performance that gets him banished from Ravenswood Hall, his idyllic home. The first part of the novel shows a perfect world that collapses, a bit implausibly, into heartbreak and separation; the second charts the exile’s return from active duty in the Napoleonic wars after his father's death and the unexpected way Gwyneth reknits their bond while Devlin learns that righteous morality, duty, love, and forgiveness need not be mutually exclusive. Some readers may view the primary romance as being consigned to a subplot while a lot of space is spent on a meticulous word-picture of the family seat and portraits of the many secondary characters who will take the lead in later books. But readers who appreciate Balogh’s skill at linking her characters’ inner lives, surroundings, and social ties will find many pleasures here. Themes from previous series reappear: Those who rooted for the head of the Bedwyn family will see echoes in the older Devlin’s frostiness, with the added bonus of the character’s point of view; fans of the Survivors’ Club series may sympathize with his experiences in the army; readers who liked the Huxtable family’s resilience in the aftermath of its patriarch’s bigamy will enjoy this twist on a similar problem; and those who remember the author’s Welsh romances will welcome Gwyneth and her family for returning us to Balogh’s roots. There is one off note: In an apparent bid to criticize fat-phobia, one character’s body is repeatedly mentioned in fat-phobic terms.

Romance with a side of poignant family dynamics and a large, intriguing cast.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43812-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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