A fine romance with a setting more interesting than its characters.

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MAYBE THIS TIME

Set against the backdrop of a chic Kansas City distillery, a woman plagued by years of bad luck finds love with her middle school crush–turned–new boss.

Jen Mackenzie and TJ Laughlin have known each other for more than a decade, but they wouldn’t exactly call themselves friends. After one disastrous project in government class, it became obvious that the two of them were like oil and water. Jen came from a poor background and had a penchant for getting into trouble. TJ was the typical preppy rich boy—a little stuffy and addicted to his parents’ approval. As adults, not much has changed. Jen is now working as a bartender for the Stag, a whiskey distillery owned by three men, one of whom is TJ. Twelve years after middle school, Jen is covered in tattoos, is one purchase away from getting hit with an overdraft fee, and is caring for her ornery mother, who has breast cancer. TJ’s dream to open a distillery was met with apprehension from his country club–loving father. But five years into the success of the Stag, he hopes his dad will come around. The distillery itself is perhaps the most exciting part of the book, from descriptions of the decor to the tasty cocktail offerings. Jen and TJ’s relationship operates much like it did a decade ago; Jen teases TJ, and he gets uptight and awkward. Rinse and repeat. Jen is a heroine who just can’t catch a break, and while her circumstances are a testament to her resilience, it can become tiring watching one bad thing after another happen to her. TJ and Jen do have a cute back-and-forth, antagonistic relationship, with neither one wanting to admit their feelings for the other. However, it would feel more fitting for characters in their teens rather than their 30s.

A fine romance with a setting more interesting than its characters.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-14000-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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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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