Tame thriller, simply written—but Sparks’s name should sell it.

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THE GUARDIAN

The megaselling writer of just-folks tearjerkers (Nights in Rodanthe, not reviewed, etc.) tries his hand at suspense—with lackluster results.

Her husband lost his fight against brain cancer, leaving Julie Barenson a young widow, and she still doesn’t quite know what to do with her life. But the Great Dane puppy that arrived shortly after Jim’s death, along with a suitably sentimental note, has grown up into her best pal (and guardian, just like Jim, who, the reader is assured, is watching over Julie from heaven). Now that Julie is finally ready to date, she finds slim pickings in Swansboro, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks. There’s Mike, an amiable jack-of-all-trades, failed musician, and the younger brother of Jim’s best friend—but not exactly ambitious. Still, Julie’s background hardly allows her to be too picky: she’s the daughter of an alcoholic, single, oversexed mother without two nickels to rub together. Then Richard Franklin, a consulting engineer on the Intracoastal Waterway, comes in to get his hair cut at the beauty shop. Julie dates him a few times, but there’s something odd about him. He’s awfully jealous, though he hardly knows her. And controlling. No one knows that he grew up in horrible circumstances: viciously battered by his drunken father, he hides a murderous rage at everything. Years ago, the cops thought his father’s death from carbon monoxide poisoning was an accident . . . and no one saw his son spit into his father’s grave. Foster care only hardened the boy, who beat up anyone who crossed him, attacked his college roommates, killed his first wife, assumed the identity of a man he murdered by the side of a lonely road . . . . Gee, could he be the guy who’s stalking Julie? Mike decides he’d better protect her. “Richard” is so nasty he might even shoot her dog. Julie endures the stalking and whatnot for a while, until the plot limps to its predictable conclusion.

Tame thriller, simply written—but Sparks’s name should sell it.

Pub Date: April 8, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-52779-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

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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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

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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