Combine Princess Bride with Germanic history circa 1500, add a dash of Lord of the Rings, and there’s a week of good fun in...

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THE CASTLE OF KINGS

As the early-16th-century Peasants’ War tears Palatinate Germany apart, Pötzsch (The Werewolf of Bamber, 2015, etc.) follows a young noblewoman’s epic quest, sparked by a signet ring once owned by the legendary Barbarossa—Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Agnes, preferring falconry to needlepoint, is the teenage daughter of Philipp von Erfenstein, Trifels Castle’s knight castellan. Her best friend is Mathis, son of Trifels’ blacksmith. Adventures begin when Agnes’ falcon, Parcival, returns from hunting, Barbarossa’s ring tied to his talons. Simultaneously, the countryside is beset by bandits led by Black Hans, a rogue knight. Since Mathis is fascinated with firearms and can work alchemy with gunpowder, von Erfenstein charges him with building a cannon to destroy Black Hans’ fortress. Pötzsch’s tale thereafter spins off in multiple directions. As Barbarossa’s ring sparks visions of past lives, Agnes is forced to marry a dastardly count, then she’s captured by camp-following white slavers and forced to loot battlefield corpses. Mathis is shanghaied into gunsmithing for peasant rebels led by a diabolical hunchback. After battles, imprisonment, and wounds, the pair reunites, learning that Barbarossa’s ring is linked to secrets hidden at a monastery. Central casting provides a wise old priest; a minstrel knight with surprisingly wicked sword skills; a merciless assassin dressed all in black; and dozens of distinctive bit players. The dialogue is offered in modern syntax, sometimes slipping into anachronisms, but Pötzsch paints picturesque landscapes, whether it’s damp, dark castles, the stink of a medieval tannery, or whirlpool-plagued Rhine River rapids, and offers esoteric information about arquebuses, falconets, landsknecht mercenaries, the Holy Lance, and a synopsis of the Hohenstaufen and Habsburg aristocracies.

Combine Princess Bride with Germanic history circa 1500, add a dash of Lord of the Rings, and there’s a week of good fun in this 600-page-plus tome.

Pub Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-31951-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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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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