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A MOMENT OF LIFE

SIMPLIFIED PHILOSOPHY OF LOVE AND PASSION

An initially intriguing but ultimately unremarkable novel about love and marriage.

In Mahdjik’s debut novel, two Victorian spouses warm up to each other within the strictures of their arranged marriage.

Lord Albert Granville and his wife, Lady Helen, have been married for two months, but they really don’t know each other. Their marriage was arranged, and Albert assumes Helen only married him because she was forced to do so by her merchant father. Albert, for his part, married Helen in order to salvage some respectability for his family after an affair derailed his previous engagement. Since the wedding, they’ve dined separately, slept in separate rooms, and barely exchanged a word. It is only when Helen sprains her ankle while horseback riding and is cooped up in the house that Albert finally begins to pay her some attention. Some light joking leads to the realization that the two have much in common—both were raised by surrogate mothers after their real mothers died when they were young—and share some sexual chemistry. An afternoon of conversation slowly upends everything that each believed about the other, and the promise of an upcoming ball provides an opportunity for a true romance to blossom. Is it possible that these two people might find real love in their transactional Victorian marriage? The author’s prose is sharp and attentive, documenting the slow build of attraction between Albert and Helen in the context of 19th-century formality: “[O]ne always needed a lot of imagination to merely guess what the legs and thighs of a lady might look like under all those slips and petticoats. That was why a mere glance at the calves of his wife aroused great excitement in Albert, an excitement that he was barely able to restrain.” Despite its romantic subject matter, the short novel is essentially a philosophical dialogue, growing increasingly allegorical (and tedious) as it goes along. Its didacticism and lack of plot complexity make the reader thirst for a real Victorian novel, one offering a more variegated view of love than this slim work.

An initially intriguing but ultimately unremarkable novel about love and marriage.

Pub Date: March 8, 2023

ISBN: 9798386152833

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2023

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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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