Distinctive and satisfying romantic suspense.

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CATALYST

From the Flashpoint series

When an American aid worker disappears in South Sudan, an unlikely ally comes to her rescue in this sequel.

Gabriella Stewart Prime is the last woman Chief Warrant Officer Sebastian Ford ever expected to see at Camp Citron in Djibouti in Africa. Ten years ago, while working for her family’s company, Prime Energy, she defended an oil pipeline project that threatened to undermine Native American treaty rights. While his tribe’s land, the Kalahwamish Reservation in Washington state, was not jeopardized, Ford still opposed the project. Despite his anger over the pipeline, he finds her irresistibly attractive (“She had a maturity about her that had been missing before”). In the years since the project, Gabriella cut ties with her family, received a master’s degree in cultural anthropology, and changed her name to Brie Stewart. She is now a dedicated aid worker who plans to help villagers in South Sudan displaced by civil war. Later, when she disappears in the aftermath of the burning of a food storage depot, Ford’s team is assigned to find her. He discovers she has been abducted and taken to a market where she will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. After a dramatic rescue, Ford and Stewart find themselves falling in love and facing danger when an investigation is launched into the incident. The attack on the depot was not random and Stewart may be a pawn in an international conspiracy. The second novel in Grant’s (Tinderbox, 2017, etc.) Flashpoint series offers intelligent romantic suspense that moves with the urgency of a thriller. The well-researched and timely plot finds the heroes confronting the realities of famine in South Sudan while unraveling a complex scheme to secure oil rights in the region. Although the conspiracy at the heart of the story is complex, Grant successfully unites the various plot threads, and the action is gripping without being gratuitously violent. As with Tinderbox, the heroes are nuanced and their scenes sizzle with erotic tension. Stewart and Ford’s romance develops slowly as both struggle with their pasts and concerns that their relationship may not be accepted by others. Although newcomers to the series do not need to read Tinderbox to enjoy this novel, familiarity with the story might enrich the references to supporting characters Morgan Adler and Pax Blanchard.

Distinctive and satisfying romantic suspense.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944571-12-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Janus Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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