A charming and compelling tale about an American traveler trying to navigate British high society.

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A FINE HOW DO YOU DO

A Pennsylvania weather forecaster makes a trip to England’s Lake District and finds himself caught up in the intrigue of upper-class life in this debut novel.

Eric Sanders, a timid newspaper weatherman from Altoona, is riding on a train from London to Cumbria when, by chance, a party of strangers joins him in his compartment. One of them, an enigmatic, well-dressed elderly woman, takes an immediate shine to Eric. After offering him a cup of Dubonnet, she introduces herself as Madame Alma Boeld of Ambleside. Ignoring Eric’s intentions to seek residence at an inn, she invites him to her home. As Eric is about to alight the train, he stumbles and is found by Alma and her driver. As if in a dream, Eric is whisked away to Alma’s country abode, where he is tended to by the housemaids and settled into a beautiful bedroom. When he awakes, he finds himself in the world of the fashionable elite. Alma has decided to throw a “ ‘better than never’ 65th surprise birthday celebration” for him. They are joined by Alma’s close friends and family, with whom Eric appears awkward and somewhat out of his depth in this unfamiliar environment. The sense of intrigue further escalates when it is revealed that Eric is married and has left his wife alone to embark on what appears to be a whimsical vacation. Dickson’s novel is brilliantly enthralling as it poses many questions early on. As the story unfolds, the tears and ties among its main characters are gradually disclosed, making for compulsive reading. But the dialogue can prove somewhat tedious, as the author unsuccessfully mimics the phrasing and verbiage of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves in an attempt to represent upper-class conversation: “I have been pondering this very predicament most of the night and early morning and I believe I can settle this entire situation without a lot of fanfare and without the ruination of your family name.” Furthermore, the tale struggles to capture the feel of one particular age, seeming to float between Wodehouse and Downton Abbey, despite the chauffeur driving a 1970 Bentley. This could be excused as the timelessness of high-society elegance but more realistically points to an overseas author imprecisely imagining the English aristocracy from afar. That matters not a jot when the story is this good.

A charming and compelling tale about an American traveler trying to navigate British high society. 

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-9822-5

Page Count: 372

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2017

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Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

WINDOW ON THE BAY

Macomber (Be a Blessing, 2019, etc.) threatens to set her latest beach read in Paris, but her characters have other plans.

Maureen Zelinski and Jenna Boltz have been friends since college. Years ago, their plans to go to Paris were thwarted when Maureen found out she was pregnant. Now that they’re both single mothers whose children have left the nest, the time is right to dust off their passports and try again. In a somewhat disappointing turn of events, Maureen and Jenna don’t make it to Paris just yet. Instead, they stay in Seattle and pursue new love interests. Jenna, a nurse, meets orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rowan Lancaster in the emergency room after her mother falls and hurts her hip. Maureen, against her better judgment, accepts a date with Logan, a union plumber who frequents the library where she works. Jenna is afraid to date a co-worker after her workplace romance with her ex failed, but when Rowan proves to be a good listener, she’s more willing to discuss her options. Maureen doesn’t think she’ll fit in with Logan and his beer-drinking buddies, but she’s surprised when she enjoys their date at a football game. Meanwhile, Jenna worries about her children, Allie and Paul, as they navigate college and life. Though the story is primarily told from the two mothers’ perspectives, Allie breaks into the narrative with a surprising connection to Rowan. Maureen’s daughter, Tori, also takes on the role of confidante. The happy endings (and potential travel plans) unfold with a touch of realism to contrast the idyllic backdrop of the Pacific Northwest.

Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-18133-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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