Readers will root for these characters, wishing them Austen-worthy happy endings.

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THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY

In the insular post-World War Two gloom of an English village, seven damaged people soldier on, heartened only by their shared enthusiasm for Jane Austen.

Chawton, the village at the heart of this story, contains the small cottage Austen occupied before her death, and it's also a cauldron of repressed longing and regret worthy of a Victorian novel. James Knight, dying heir of the Knight estate, owns the cottage as well as a stately manor house. The embittered James has altered his will: Upon his death, his only child and caregiver, Frances, a reclusive spinster of 47, will be dispossessed and the estate entailed to the closest male relative. Frances and her father’s lawyer, Andrew, were once in love, but James forced them apart. Adeline, a former schoolteacher, is pregnant and widowed—her husband died in combat in the war’s closing days. Her physician, Dr. Gray, a widower who blames himself for his wife’s accidental death, is too guilt-ridden to act on his attraction to Adeline. After she loses the baby, her Pride and Prejudice–style bantering with Dr. Gray gives way to distrust, and each flirts with morphine addiction. “Sad, silent” Adam, who farms the estate, was introduced to Austen by a visiting American fan, Mimi, a Hollywood star, who, at 35, is about to be put out to pasture by a lecherous studio boss. Evie, compelled by circumstance to forego scholarly ambitions, is a housemaid for the Knights. She’s been secretly cataloging every book in the manor’s vast library and has discovered some potentially priceless Jane Austen artifacts. These lost souls, who have been misjudged by society and/or misjudge themselves, find healing through forming the titular society to preserve the cottage as a museum—as its real-life counterpart is today. More than a passing familiarity with Austen’s work may be a prerequisite to fully appreciating this book—Austen’s characters often seem more real to Jenner’s characters than their own relatives and neighbors. But, thanks to Jenner’s psychologically astute portrayals, the society founders themselves are very real and thoroughly sympathetic.

Readers will root for these characters, wishing them Austen-worthy happy endings.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-24873-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

SUMMER OF '69

Nantucket, not Woodstock, is the main attraction in Hilderbrand’s (Winter in Paradise, 2018, etc.) bittersweet nostalgia piece about the summer of 1969.

As is typical with Hilderbrand’s fiction, several members of a family have their says. Here, that family is the “stitched together” Foley-Levin clan, ruled over by the appropriately named matriarch, Exalta, aka Nonny, mother of Kate Levin. Exalta’s Nantucket house, All’s Fair, also appropriately named, is the main setting. Kate’s three older children, Blair, 24, Kirby, 20, and Tiger, 19, are products of her first marriage, to Wilder Foley, a war veteran, who shot himself. Second husband David Levin is the father of Jessie, who’s just turned 13. Tiger has been drafted and sends dispatches to Jessie from Vietnam. Kirby has been arrested twice while protesting the war in Boston. (Don’t tell Nonny!) Blair is married and pregnant; her MIT astrophysicist husband, Angus, is depressive, controlling, and deceitful—the unmelodramatic way Angus’ faults sneak up on both Blair and the reader is only one example of Hilderbrand’s firm grasp on real life. Many plot elements are specific to the year. Kirby is further rebelling by forgoing Nantucket for rival island Martha’s Vineyard—and a hotel job close to Chappaquiddick. Angus will be working at Mission Control for the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Kirby has difficult romantic encounters, first with her arresting officer, then with a black Harvard student whose mother has another reason, besides Kirby’s whiteness, to distrust her. Pick, grandson of Exalta’s caretaker, is planning to search for his hippie mother at Woodstock. Other complications seem very up-to-date: a country club tennis coach is a predator and pedophile. Anti-Semitism lurks beneath the club’s genteel veneer. Kate’s drinking has accelerated since Tiger’s deployment overseas. Exalta’s toughness is seemingly untempered by grandmotherly love. As always, Hilderbrand’s characters are utterly convincing and immediately draw us into their problems, from petty to grave. Sometimes, her densely packed tales seem to unravel toward the end. This is not one of those times.

To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-42001-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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