STAY WITH ME

Pure wish fulfillment for readers seeking steamy escapism.

Forbidden love cures all in Gray’s latest, following Come Back to Me (2015).

Didi Monroe is on her way to happily-ever-after. The white doctoral student is on track for her Ph.D. in psychology, is being wooed by a hot movie star, and is interning at a hospital for wounded soldiers. Then Didi meets Lt. Noel Walker, an angry, injured Marine, one of two survivors of an ambush in the most dangerous territory in Afghanistan. Walker suffers from PTSD, survivor’s guilt, a broken knee, and a case of psychosomatic blindness. When the two meet, professional and personal boundaries blur, and as their attraction grows, they struggle to suppress their feelings in every erotically charged encounter. The will-they–won’t-they–of-course-they-will plot keeps the tension high. Gray makes it easy for Didi, giving Walker only a wounded leg and temporary blindness rather than a missing limb or limbs like many of the other soldiers in the hospital. Didi and Walker appear to be white in the cover smooch; characters of color include physiotherapist José; wounded soldier Jésus Sanchez, the only other surviving member of Walker’s unit; Sanchez’s wife (who slaps him way too much); and her cousin, a disturbingly overbearing Latina in a kaftan who sets her sights on any soldier with a heartbeat and is the butt of jokes because she doesn’t meet the dominant beauty ideal.

Pure wish fulfillment for readers seeking steamy escapism. (Fiction. 16 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8847-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

YOUR FAULT

From the Culpable series , Vol. 2

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning.

A romantically entangled stepbrother and stepsister in Los Angeles navigate their tumultuous history and take their relationship to new levels in this translated title by an Argentinian author.

Nick and Noah are madly in love: Their mutual attraction is established as the book opens with Noah’s 18th birthday party, during which she and Nick have an explicitly described sexual encounter behind the pool house. This fiery scene sets the stage for twists and turns in the lovers’ journey, including a separation when Noah is forced to go on a monthlong mother-daughter European tour. But reminders of their pasts (chronicled in the 2023 series opener, My Fault) threaten to undermine their stability. Nick’s wealthy estranged mother makes an unfortunate appearance, while Noah is haunted by the trauma of her father’s violent death. The blend of everyday complications (jealousy, parental disapproval) with frothy visions of high-society life is at once lacking in subtlety and intimately irresistible. The series initially gained popularity on Wattpad, and the novel follows the episodic structure typical of works on that site; sensual encounters occur at reliable intervals. Still, the characters and their milieu feel formulaic, and the writing is stilted. The differences between the two—Nick is five years older and has an office job; Noah has just finished high school—makes their suffocatingly possessive relationship feel particularly squirm-worthy. Nick and Noah and their families read white.

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning. (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781728290768

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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