A fine-grained and emotionally satisfying medieval adventure.


From the Second Son Chronicles series , Vol. 1

In this debut historical novel, a young lord is held captive and recalls pivotal moments in his life.

It is a time of peace, and Alfred is the king’s grandson. He’s also the second son of a second son, making him “twice removed from the advantages of inheritance.” And yet, the king adores Alfred for his interest in animals, kind disposition, and potential for greatness. Just over a year ago, he married Lady Gwendolyn from the northern Kingdom of the Lakes. A sharply curious girl, she’s interested in more “than just sewing and dancing,” making theirs a match based on intellectual and emotional compatibility. Her presence in his life makes up for John, Alfred’s loutish older brother, who cares only for drinking and stirring up trouble. Eventually, the king sends Alfred on a mission. He ventures west, toward the unorganized territories, to help his Uncle Harold build a dam. Alfred must also investigate the movements of the disgraced knight Ranulf and his villainous sons. But when the dam builders’ camp is attacked, Alfred is taken prisoner. His captor, a man named Ralf, is determined to earn a ransom by taking the king’s grandson farther and farther west. Even if he escapes, can Alfred traverse hostile country and survive? Taylor crafts a slender but detailed series opener that unfolds mainly through flashbacks. While captive, Alfred remembers the highlights of his teenage years, including sword practice; taming his colt, Star Dancer; and losing his virginity to a barmaid at John’s behest. Valuable lessons come from the king, such as, “Only when survival is assured can a man consider such things as improving his status in life” and “Only when he’s reasonably comfortable can he...consider greater contributions to society.” Perhaps most appealing to modern audiences is the king’s kindness toward Alfred. The monarch tells the young man he can refuse to marry Gwen if he feels no spark for her. Battlefield intrigue and the medical expertise of monks add pleasant intricacies to the narrative. The splendid finale closes the author’s introduction to her medieval world and provides good bones for the sequel.

A fine-grained and emotionally satisfying medieval adventure.

Pub Date: July 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-063-8

Page Count: 183

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.


From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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