An enticing supernatural plot with an initially frisky pace hampered by excessive exposition.




From the The Epic Saga of the Master of Whitehall series , Vol. 1

A college student falls for the mysterious owner of a manor in this first installment of a paranormal romance series.

Katelyn Corbin, 21, surrenders to an “unseen force” in a recurring dream she’s had since the murder of her parents. When Katelyn arrives on the campus of her new school, the “open gash” in her soul attracts the protection of enigmatic, handsome, and wealthy College of Charleston patron James Thomas Dubois. Katelyn quickly forms a strong attachment to James, whose long hair looks “more European than American.” Ever the gentleman, he includes Katelyn’s new dorm roommate and best friend, Alexis “Lexi” Gordon, on excursions to his lavish home, Whitehall Manor, a huge colonial plantation that he lovingly restored. James reveals his true nature as well as his growing feelings for Katelyn during a visit to his old friend Charlotte Ann in New York City: “I want so much to give her the gift,” James says of Katelyn. Back on the Whitehall grounds, a snake bites Katelyn, and James saves her life with his blood. Soon James reveals all to her. A long session of sweet sex later, she must decide between James’ two offers—amnesia or his gift of immortal life—not knowing her choice will directly affect whether Lexi lives or dies. The eerie opening dream sequence in Veal’s (James’ Journey, 2016, etc.) novel creates a sexy inevitability (“All of a sudden I became aware of an unseen entity close by, sharing the darkness with me. It radiated an invisible strength, as if someone, or something, was standing right beside me”). But the promising tale, which paints an evocative portrait of a conflicted heroine, runs aground because of vague descriptions and narrative repetitions. For example, Katelyn observes of James, “Everything about him spoke of great wealth but a nicely subdued manner,” without providing vivid details. Single events are rendered multiple times. Katelyn and James’ first lovemaking episode is recounted first in real time, second via her inner dialogue, and third via another intellectual rehash. While informational, the repetitions deflate the building tension and slow down this intriguing, otherworldly story.

An enticing supernatural plot with an initially frisky pace hampered by excessive exposition. 

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9981044-0-9

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Virgin Vampire Publishers

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2017

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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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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.


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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