An effective infomercial—and guest-room sleep-aid—for Inn BoonsBoro.

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THE NEXT ALWAYS

In Roberts’ new series launch, the conversion of a tumbledown Maryland hotel into a boutique country inn fails to expel an extremely shy resident ghost.

The first half of the novel, essentially an extended prologue, is painstakingly slow. As Roberts demonstrates a newfound passion for construction minutia (perhaps because she renovated and owns Inn Boonsboro in real life), the activities of architect Beckett Montgomery and his two builder brothers as they retrofit a historic building in Boonsboro (near the Antietam battlefield) unfold almost in real time. Working under the supervision of their benevolent tyrant of a mother, the brothers exchange good-natured macho gibes as they appoint the Inn-to-be with the most opulent tile, woodwork and fixtures. Amid all the bromance, Beckett watches longingly as his crush since grade school, Clare, goes about running her amazingly profitable independent bookstore while raising three unruly boys alone. (Her soldier husband died in Iraq.) Does she or doesn’t she notice him, Beckett muses ad infinitum. Meanwhile, Clare tells herself that Beckett is not really interested, just being kind to a war widow. Once this minor miscommunication is cleared up, the two begin a tentative relationship, however, the necessity of introducing obstacles to true love has Roberts stretching for things for them to squabble about, including the sighting by Clare’s youngest son of a ghostly lady dressed in an old-timey long gown, staring from an upper story window of the Inn. (The ghost, nicknamed “Lizzy,” has betrayed her presence to Beckett and a few others only with a scent of honeysuckle and a penchant for opening doors.) Cartoonish villain Sam, the spoiled, indolent son of the area’s wealthiest family, stalks Clare and tries to take indecent liberties, but his belated appearance, and his failure to pose a believable threat, do little to propel the plot. The fictional doppelganger of Boonsboro is an anachronistic bubble, seemingly untouched by the blight besetting so many American small towns.

An effective infomercial—and guest-room sleep-aid—for Inn BoonsBoro.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24321-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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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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