FOOLSCAP

A high-spirited romp through the lower depths of academe, as repressed theatrical scion/drama prof Theodore Ryan— taking inspiration from his sozzled friend Joshua ``Ford'' Rexford, the distinguished playwright whose biography Theo is writing—seizes the day and finds a daring, joyous, illegal way to get his own play on the boards. Theo's play, Foolscap, a historical fantasy about Sir Walter Raleigh's attempt to write a play about himself just before his execution, has been ignored by the few people who've seen it as dated and unplayable, leaving Theo becalmed at North Carolina's Cavendish University, home to senile President General Irwin Kaney, football- coach-turned-Provost Buddy Tupper, Jr., and so on down the line (a long, manic line, in a procession worthy of David Lodge) to the latest high-profile hires, conference perennial Jane Nash-Gantz and fat-cat Marxist Herbert Crawford. Theo's scheme to keep his old nemesis Scottie Smith from taking over as artistic director of Cavendish's theater emboldens him first to audition for the spring production of Guys and Dolls and then to show Ford his dusty manuscript—but Ford, hours after pronouncing the play great, elopes to England with a graduate student, and Theo hatches a plan to pass Foolscap off as Raleigh's work by arranging to have a forged manuscript ``discovered'' with the unwitting help of retired Renaissance scholar Dame Winifred Throckmorton. At story's end, Theo will have completed two wildly successful plays, neither of which he can claim as his own—but he'll also have found (finally) not only true love but a sense of reconciliation with Ford's ghost (which puts in some comically literal appearances), his own trouper parents, and his vocation. Even looser-limbed than Handling Sin (1986)—the logic of Theo's mad dash to freedom won't always stand scrutiny—but thickly planted with hilarious grotesques and gorgeous comic episodes that make scrutiny your least likely reaction.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 1991

ISBN: 0-316-54527-9

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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