An offbeat story that offers unexpected twists on a familiar setup.

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A FIGURE OF LOVE

From the The Academy of Love series , Vol. 2

A historical romance featuring a widow and an uptight British gentleman who find love.

As the story opens, it’s 1817, and Gareth Lockheart is listening to Sandford Featherstone, his guide to the behavior of the English aristocracy, talk about how many puppies he’d need to raise hunting dogs. All Gareth wants to do is get back to his investment projects, but in order to do business with the upper echelons of British society, he must learn to act like an aristocrat. He already has the lavish country house—it just needs the finishing touches, such as a beautiful garden. Widowed gardener Serena Lombard originally comes to Gareth’s country home to talk over possible design plans for improving the estate, but leaves with total control over the whole design and construction project. She initially finds Gareth’s straightforward and humorless manner mildly amusing, but the more time they spend together, the more she realizes that her feelings for him run deeper. As time goes on, though, the two grow closer, and Serena begins to rely on him—and even reveals some of the darkness in her past. However, Gareth needs an aristocratic wife to be seen as a perfect British gentleman, and both he and Serena know that she’s not it. It soon becomes clear that their love might not be enough to keep them together. Spencer’s second novel in the Academy of Love series, following 2019’s The Music of Love, manages to feel original, despite its very traditional opposites-attract storyline. This is due in part to the inclusion of Serena’s dangerous past, her young son, and Gareth’s desperation to fulfill a role that he doesn’t particularly care for. The attraction between the two main characters is clear from their first meeting, and their banter and occasional awkwardness around each other makes for a consistently entertaining read. Serena’s past provides an exciting twist that will satisfy readers looking for something a little different in the historical romance genre.

An offbeat story that offers unexpected twists on a familiar setup.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951662-02-8

Page Count: 329

Publisher: Crooked Sixpence Press

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2020

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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MERCY

Despite kilt-wearing characters right out of Brigadoon, Picoult (Picture Perfect, 1995, etc.) persuasively explores a mercy killing in a small Massachusetts town and the subject of spouses who love too much. Wheelock has been home to the tradition-upholding MacDonalds and their hereditary chieftains since the 18th century, when the clan fled Scotland after the British defeated them in battle. Each clan chief has inherited more responsibilities over time, and the current laird Cam MacDonald is, like his father before him, the local chief of police. Cam yearns to travel and, though married, finds wife Allie's devotion stifling. Allie, a florist, has in turn suppressed all of her own opinions and pleasures for the sake of making Cam, whom she adores, happy. As the story begins, another MacDonald, James, has demonstrated his overwhelming love for wife Maggie in a very extreme form: James turns himself in to cousin Cam after admitting that he has smothered Maggie at her request because she was terminally ill with cancer and could no longer stand the pain. While the quality and wisdom of James's devotion to his wife will be tried in public, Allie's love for Cam will also be tested as free spirit Mia arrives in town. Mia has been everywhere and seen all the places Cam dreams of; she is also a whiz with flowers and gets immediately hired by Allie. While Allie helps James's lawyer find witnesses who will attest to his devotion to Maggie (he's now being tried for murder), Cam and Mia have an affair. A heartsick Allie learns of it, throws Cam out, sells all of his belongings, and then tries to forget him. But true love is resilient, and Allie, like James, having learned the price of being ``the one who loves more,'' will now try for greater balance. Overly predictable characters aside, Picoult does manage this time to bring trendy, headline-grabbing themes to life. (Literary Guild alternate selection)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 1996

ISBN: 0-399-14160-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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