The rarely seen but quite enjoyable novella form serves this maiden effort well.

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IN SHORT MEASURES

THREE NOVELLAS

A bestselling food writer tries his hand at fiction.

After 20 nonfiction books and cookbook collaborations, Ruhlman (Egg, 2014, etc.) has written three novellas linked by themes of nostalgia, midlife sexuality, marital fidelity (or lack thereof), and drunk driving. The first, In Short Measures, set at Duke University, explores a midlife reconnection between college lovers occasioned by the funeral of an important writing professor. The woman has remained at the college as a classic single-lady librarian; the man is a successful screenwriter in Los Angeles, married with children. Despite much literary window dressing—Gatsby is read aloud in its entirety; Ben Jonson and Shakespeare make contributions—the story of this interrupted affair has a bit of a romance-novel feel. The third story, Sally Forth, is similar to the first: again college lovers, one of whom is a writer, are center stage; again, their reconnection has dramatic consequences; again, the action is set among references to Hardy, Nabokov, Dickinson, etc. Fortunately, these two are separated by a quite different story, perhaps the most successful of the three. Strong Conspirators is more of an emotional thriller than a romance. Here, the central couple has good reason to yearn for "the way we were" since they are currently embroiled in covering up the truth about an alcohol-fueled vehicular homicide a few days before Christmas. The wife, who wasn't even in the car, lies to the police to protect her husband; the questions of whether or not they will get away with it and who they will become because of it create the most powerful narrative momentum in the collection. Strong Conspirators, which doesn't have characters who are writers and is not filled with literary hat-tipping, suggests the direction Ruhlman might best pursue if he continues to play this side of the street.

The rarely seen but quite enjoyable novella form serves this maiden effort well.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63450-225-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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