A compelling scholarly mystery gives way to a steamy modern-day Persian romance.


A displaced English graduate student pursues ancient manuscripts of Sufi mysticism—and the obscure object of desire who embodies it—in travel writer Iyer’s finely wrought and sinuous second novel (after Cuba and the Night, 1995).

John Macmillan, a buttoned-up Englishman, breaks with the Old World and his girlfriend, Martine, to complete his dissertation on the mystical verse of Rumi amid the emotional New Age misfits of Santa Barbara. Under the tutelage of brilliant, laconic Iranian scholar Javad Safadhi, Macmillan steeps himself in the Sufi mystics—in verse that’s sensuous on the one hand, deeply sacred on the other—though he’s warned not to confuse the two: “Keep your life separate from your studies,” Safadhi advises. Macmillan hopes to unearth manuscripts that made their way to the West during the Iranian “Second Revolution,” but he encounters only obfuscation. When he meets the timid, waiflike, traumatized Camilla Jensen—a strange mixture of Nadja and Alice in Wonderland who speaks in the platitudes of her native California—Macmillan abandons his pursuit of manuscripts (plus the completion of his dissertation) in favor of oblivion with the knowing girl-woman. Iyer, despite his disclaimer of ignorance about Sufism and Iran, has delved deeply into mystical poetry, and his evident passion for it (and his knowledge of parallel strains in Buddhism and Hinduism) infuses the tale with erudite riches. A longtime visitor to California, Iyer gives a portrait of this “orphaned state” that’s vividly descriptive and utterly convincing. Overall, though, the desert-meandering narrative loses momentum as Macmillan puzzles over Camilla’s erratic behavior (she’s fond of making love in abandoned houses, then vanishing), a problem that Iyer hastily remedies by sending Macmillan off to India or England to meet shadowy characters who may enlighten him: The travel writer and novelist are still jockeying for position.

A compelling scholarly mystery gives way to a steamy modern-day Persian romance.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-41505-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...


An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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