An engaging read about a widow unearthing her family history.



After a tragic accident, a young mother finds inspiration in the 19th-century diaries of her great-great-grandmother in this debut novel.

Readers meet Rachel Tate in her favorite room, the kitchen, preparing a sumptuous weekend breakfast for her husband, Hayden, and their three young sons: 8-year-old Jake, 5-year-old Randy, and baby Ollie. Before the day is over, Hayden drowns rescuing Randy, leaving Rachel devastated. For weeks, she is barely able to climb out of bed. Then her mother, Meredith, asks for help. It is time to move Rachel’s grandmother, whose heart is failing, into her parents’ house, and here begins the protagonist’s discovery of her family’s maternal history. First it is the uncovering of an old photo of Anna and Sal, Rachel’s great-great-grandparents. Then she finds three journals Anna kept during her first years as a young bride, farming the arid plain outside Pueblo, Colorado. It turns out that Anna also lost her first husband, John, in an accident. She was left with an infant son and a child on the way. As Rachel reads the diaries to Gram, she begins to appreciate her grandmother’s mantra: “We’re Murdocks. We can do hard things.” Crystal moves beyond the confines of the diaries to narrate Anna’s story in greater detail, skillfully interrupting the primary tale of Rachel’s gradual progression with chapters devoted to Anna and her struggles. The author’s attention to the particulars of Anna’s daily chores brings the late 19th century to life and serves as a nice counterpoint to Rachel’s 21st-century conveniences. Generally well-crafted prose and realistic dialogue in this promising first novel are occasionally overwhelmed by Crystal’s obvious fondness for similes: Rachel’s “eyes felt like hard boiled eggs rolled in sawdust” and “Fear filled Rachel’s limbs like water-soaked timbers.” And there are a couple of small errors, as when a diary entry involving Anna’s first husband is incorrectly dated “1891,” by which time John would have already died. But foodies should enjoy Rachel’s passion for cooking and her devotion to complicated meal preparation, which will leave readers reaching for the nearest snacks.

An engaging read about a widow unearthing her family history.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5462-1654-4

Page Count: 342

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2018

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


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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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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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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