Strong, smart characters and a daring quest result in a Victorian love story with a charmingly modern sensibility.

A MODEST INDEPENDENCE

From the Parish Orphans of Devon series , Vol. 2

An independent woman struggles to reconcile love and freedom in this historical romance.

Book 2 of Matthews’ (A Holiday by Gaslight, 2018, etc.) Parish Orphans of Devon series picks up with Jenny Holloway and Thomas Finchley, two characters familiar to readers of the first installment. Jenny, a former lady’s companion, has been gifted an inheritance and seeks adventure. But her money is controlled by Tom, a talented lawyer who trades in secrets. When Jenny sets out for India in search of a cousin who is presumed dead, Tom is compelled to accompany her. The pair, posing as brother and sister for propriety’s sake, embark on a long journey to Delhi. Their time together in close quarters on ships and trains only strengthens their mutual attraction. But Jenny is loath to give up her newfound liberty for a man, even one as kind and unusual as Tom. Though he tries to convince Jenny that he would never infringe on her autonomy, the realities of being a woman in Victorian society weigh heavily against him. The couple’s journey across Egypt and India is full of colorful and descriptive prose. Jenny’s first taste of spicy curry and the international blend of humanity on the streets of Calcutta firmly situate readers in a striking past. As always, Matthews’ attention to historical accuracy is impeccable. From the rigid standards and expectations of Victorian courtship to the siege of Jhansi, she has clearly done her research. Her characters are a refreshing change from the typical genre protagonists; for example, there is “nothing particularly remarkable about Thomas Finchley,” the author writes. Yet his intellect and unabashed kindness are the stuff of true romance. As Jenny amusingly observes, a man who can navigate bureaucracy is far more useful than the white knights of penny novels. While Tom’s relationship with Jenny remains mostly chaste, Matthews manages to imbue their interactions with an enviable romantic tension.

Strong, smart characters and a daring quest result in a Victorian love story with a charmingly modern sensibility.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9990364-9-5

Page Count: 399

Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 34

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more