In the author’s familiar meditative style, the novel demonstrates how family ties can be forged by patient and persistent...

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SOMEONE TO WED

A financial exchange turns into quiet passion as a scarred heiress and a down-at-the-heels aristocrat fall in love after their wedding.

In this third novel in the Westcott family series, Balogh (Someone to Hold, 2017, etc.) employs the classic “marriage of convenience” trope but without the rancorous couple often found in such plots. Wren Heyden has led the life of a recluse, fearing people’s reactions to a facial blemish. Raised by kindly distant relatives, she has shunned other intimacy but knows she must act if she is to have any family in the future. The target of her ambitious proposal is Alexander Westcott, the new Earl of Riverdale, who has unexpectedly inherited the decrepit neighboring estate. Alexander is taken aback by her offer but torn between offense and a nagging sense that Wren has hidden depths. This instinct, and the rationale that her money from a prosperous business could restore his holdings, convinces him to wed the woman who warns him she is a bad bet. As their courtship and honeymoon unfold, Wren sheds her veils to trust the growing love of her thoughtful spouse. In turn, Alexander is outraged when he learns who forced a fearful mask on his gentle wife but understands that she needs support in confronting her demons, not rescuing. Balogh constructs detailed portraits of both characters, but some members of Wren’s family seem like caricatures, and there’s too much screen time given to the many Westcotts seen in previous books, slowing the pace of the action to a crawl. The back story recaps also feel excessive though done in service of the idea that marriages are not just between two people.

In the author’s familiar meditative style, the novel demonstrates how family ties can be forged by patient and persistent devotion in marriage.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-58606-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Jove/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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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

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