A breezy, charming novel that finds humor in the societal pressures to find a husband.

HONEYMOON ALONE

A woman fakes her way through a London vacation in Macaulay’s comedic debut novel.

Third grade teacher Lucy Gray does not have much time for a love life, but everyone in her family has been getting married recently, and she can’t stand to attend her sister’s wedding alone. She begs a co-worker to come and pretend to be her boyfriend, but he ends up making out with her cousin in the photo booth—a fact that everyone discovers just as Lucy is giving her maid of honor speech. Afterward, the wedding psychic (it’s an ’80s-themed wedding) tells Lucy she needs to start listening to signs from the universe. It turns out that her sister, the indecisive Marian, booked two Christmastime honeymoons, and after she and her husband leave on their cruise to the islands of Greece, Lucy realizes there’s an unused hotel suite sitting in London. “I just happened to hear a message from someone in London because Marian happened to forget to cancel her reservation – something she’d never do in a million years,” thinks Lucy. “If this isn’t some kind of sign, then….” The only problem is that, while staying at the honeymooners-only Chaizer London, she’ll have to pretend to be Marian…and keep making excuses for why her new husband isn’t with it her. While reconnecting with an old classmate who happens to be in town, Lucy finally begins to feel a bit of freedom. Cary Stewart is an actor—a handsome one at that—and he proves amenable to stepping into the role of temporary husband. However, as her ruse attracts the attention of overzealous hotel employee Oliver Burke and her family back in Massachusetts begins to interfere, Lucy’s honeymoon-for-one transforms from a relaxing getaway into an increasingly complicated deception. Macaulay’s prose is smooth and funny, capturing Lucy’s family-related neuroses: “The next day, as I step outside The Chaizer into the morning sunshine, I am sad to report that it still hasn’t rained. Not once. In London. London, a place known for its rain. And Prince William. It’s almost as if my mother called Mother Nature and told her, mother-to-mother, to hold off until I left, just to spite me for embarking on this fool’s mission.” The plot is fairly absurd: Why would any hotel care whether or not its guests were really on their honeymoon? But Macaulay unfurls it in such a pleasant, slightly goofy way that its many contrivances seem forgivable. Lucy is an enjoyable protagonist, and her enthusiasm for the places she visits rubs off on the reader. The supporting characters are likable as well, and Macaulay’s portrayal of Lucy’s cartoonishly overbearing family—mostly in the form of blog posts—is truly anxiety inducing. Readers looking for a lighthearted love story with plenty of London coziness and Christmas cheer can do far worse than Macaulay’s charming vacation story.

A breezy, charming novel that finds humor in the societal pressures to find a husband.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 261

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2019

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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