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PRETEND WE ARE LOVELY

In prose that ambulates between stark, hallucinatory, fuddled, and chewy according to the guiding character’s point of view,...

In Reid’s debut novel, a family must navigate the secret currents of guilt, obsession, loss, and—most dangerous of all—hope in this pitch-perfect examination of two Southern seasons in 1982.

Enid, Vivvy, Francie, and Tate are a nuclear family in the most traditional sense of the word. Tate, self-indulgent and perpetually flummoxed, is a professor of philosophy at the nearby college. Francie’s mania for precision has found its expression in the micromanagement of her household and her daughters’ lives while the two girls, poised on the brink of developing into women, range the lush, brambly suburbia of their childhood with the freedom of a bygone age. However, jutting from the placid surface of their domestic routines, the jagged topography of the family’s past threatens to overwhelm both their present and their future. Set seven years after the accidental death of their oldest child, Shelly, the present day of this fever-bright novel of desire and withholding sees Tate and Francie estranged and Francie in the middle of an anorexic episode wherein she has reduced herself to a list of her articulate bones and her “spinning gold ring.” Enid, who takes after her father, deals with the stress of her home life by hoarding food, retreating into vividly sensory fugue states wherein she overeats to the point of illness. Vivvy, more like her mother, denies herself and channels her rage, fear, and longing into violence against her surroundings, her sister, herself. As the novel spins toward its climax, Reid intensifies each of the elusive, flickering perceptions of her characters in turn, creating a story that proceeds through a montage of tactile sensory indulgence.

In prose that ambulates between stark, hallucinatory, fuddled, and chewy according to the guiding character’s point of view, Reid masterfully denies her novel the impulse to solve its characters’ problems, leaving the reader with the brutal task of lingering within their experience.

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941040-66-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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SEEING RED

As the plot grows more complicated, it also sheds believability, leaving sex and witty banter to carry the day.

Brown (Mean Streak, 2014, etc.) ticks off the boxes that elevate her books to the bestseller lists in this sexy romantic thriller set in Texas.

Rock-jawed hero with a dark past: check. Strong-willed, beautiful woman who resists his charms: check. A Whitman’s Sampler of bad guys: check. And finally, a convoluted and not always plausible plot: check. In this latest outing, readers meet TV journalist Kerra Bailey, whose family was torn apart years ago by a hotel bombing that killed 197 people in Dallas. Just in time for the 25th anniversary, Kerra scores an interview with the notoriously private Maj. Trapper, who saved her life, among others, when he emerged from the blast to lead the survivors out of danger. There's an iconic, prizewinning photo of the major carrying a little girl from the wreckage, but the child has never been identified—until now, when Kerra goes public with the information that it was her. Just after they finish filming the interview in his home, the major is shot, and an injured Kerra escapes in the confusion. The major’s son, disgraced Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent John Trapper—a name M*A*S*H fans will appreciate—steps in, igniting a chain of events that leads to murder, intrigue, betrayal, and a series of dark revelations. As with most of Brown’s heroes and heroines, there’s palpable sexual tension between Trapper, whose taut rear occupies ample literary real estate, and Kerra, who when dealing with Trapper feels “like he’d lightly scratched her just below her bellybutton” when he’s not making her “pleasure points throb.” The complex plot plays out in a round of reveals that don’t always make a lot of sense, but that’s not why Brown’s fans read her books. They check in for the witty, pitch-perfect dialogue and fluid writing. A master of her genre, Brown knows how to please her most ardent readers but relies too often on the same basic formula from novel to novel.

As the plot grows more complicated, it also sheds believability, leaving sex and witty banter to carry the day.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7210-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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ON MYSTIC LAKE

Hannah, after eight paperbacks, abandons her successful time-travelers for a hardcover life of kitchen-sink romance. Everyone must have got the Olympic Peninsula memo for this spring because, as of this reading, authors Hannah, Nora Roberts, and JoAnn Ross have all placed their newest romances in or near the Quinault rain forest. Here, 40ish Annie Colwater, returns to Washington State after her husband, high-powered Los Angeles lawyer Blake, tells her he’s found another (younger) woman and wants a divorce. Although a Stanford graduate, Annie has known only a life of perfect wifedom: matching Blake’s ties to his suits and cooking meals from Gourmet magazine. What is she to do with her shattered life? Well, she returns to dad’s house in the small town of Mystic, cuts off all her hair (for a different look), and goes to work as a nanny for lawman Nick Delacroix, whose wife has committed suicide, whose young daughter Izzy refuses to speak, and who himself has descended into despair and alcoholism. Annie spruces up Nick’s home on Mystic Lake and sends “Izzy-bear” back into speech mode. And, after Nick begins attending AA meetings, she and he become lovers. Still, when Annie learns that she’s pregnant not with Nick’s but with Blake’s child, she heads back to her empty life in the Malibu Colony. The baby arrives prematurely, and mean-spirited Blake doesn’t even stick around to support his wife. At this point, it’s perfectly clear to Annie—and the reader—that she’s justified in taking her newborn daughter and driving back north. Hannah’s characters indulge in so many stages of the weeps, from glassy eyes to flat-out sobs, that tear ducts are almost bound to stay dry. (First printing of 100,000; first serial to Good Housekeeping; Literary Guild/Doubleday book club selections)

Pub Date: March 31, 1999

ISBN: 0-609-60249-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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