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BISHOP'S GAMBIT

Thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.

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Two secret agents must pretend they’re married while investigating strange phenomena in this second installment of a paranormal romance series.

In Bishop Takes Knight (2019), Henrietta “Rhett” Bishop began work at New York City–based Redclaw Security—not, as she thought, a detective agency but one devoted to protecting shape-shifters. The agency also tracks down powerful, dangerous artifacts possessing technology that is too advanced for 1955, and maybe of extraterrestrial origin. Rhett and Dr. Peter Knight, a brilliant British scientist, are the only non–shape-shifting staff members and also share a romantic attraction (plus one “toe-curling kiss”). Now, the budding relationship has stalled. This puts the two in an uncomfortable position when they’re assigned to pose as a married couple, the better to investigate odd, possibly artifact-related occurrences (including UFO sightings and a death from spontaneous combustion) in deepest suburbia. The case does give Rhett a shot at redemption, and she has a few cards up her sleeve, such as a devoted shape-shifting dog/velociraptor. As Rhett and Peter investigate housewives, neighborhood kids, golfers, backyard barbecuers, and other suburban denizens, they’re also stalked by a thief who’s after their gizmos; meanwhile, their mutual ardor grows. One way or another, there will be fireworks. Dean again cleverly combines SF, a detective story, and romance in a way that works on all levels. Rhett is an engaging narrator; she’s brave, adventurous, and caring, with a strong sense of humor: “The neighborhood scene was idyllic. I didn’t trust it one bit.” She’s a good match for Peter, whose genius with engaging, quirky gadgets matches her investigative zeal. The mystery keeps surprises in store, providing an unexpected and satisfying resolution. The novel does have a few anachronisms (“I’m about to make Rian Stirling an offer for my services he can’t refuse”) but not enough to diminish readers’ enjoyment.

Thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-69-194795-7

Page Count: 303

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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