By the time the novel belatedly reaches the big reveal, the reader has passed the point of caring.

Two men walk into a pub, and they drink and talk until they can’t do either for much longer.

Much of Irish novelist Doyle's latest is made up of dialogue, unattributed, as recounted by a man in his late middle age named Davy. He's joined by Joe, a drinking buddy from his Dublin youth, though decades and geography have left some distance between them. Davy and his wife have long lived in England. He returns (alone) to visit his widowed father in Dublin, where Joe still lives. Neither of them drinks much anymore, but now that they're reunited, they decide to do it up like old times. As their talk gets more drunken, sloppier and circular, those old times are very much on Joe’s mind, because he recently left his wife for Jessica, a woman he had first met in those long-ago pubs with Davy and hadn’t seen for almost four decades. So they talk of who they were and who they are, their marriages and their families, since neither knows the other’s much at all. In some ways, they no longer know each other well. Yet they know each other better than anyone else does, as the much younger men they once were. And perhaps still are? As Joe confesses and Davy badgers him, Davy also shares with the reader at least some of what’s on his mind: his own marriage and something he doesn't want to share with Joe. He keeps checking his phone for a call that doesn’t come. They keep ordering another round, pints that neither of them really wants. “The drink is funny, though, isn’t it?” says Joe. “You see things clearly but then you can’t get at the words to express them properly.” Whatever clarity they are finding isn't all that clear to the reader, who is beginning to find their company as exhausting and interminable as they do. It seems that Davy is hiding something, burying something, doing his best to escape something from which there is perhaps no escape. Eventually, they have to leave.

By the time the novel belatedly reaches the big reveal, the reader has passed the point of caring.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-8045-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022


Intelligent and thoughtful but not quite at this groundbreaking writer’s usual level of excellence.

An obscure English novelist and a missing-heir trial are the real historical springboards for Smith’s latest fiction.

Eliza Touchet is cousin and housekeeper to William Ainsworth, whose novel Jack Sheppard once outsold Oliver Twist but who, by 1868, has been far eclipsed by his erstwhile friend Dickens. Widower William is about to marry his maid Sarah Wells, who has borne him a child. Characteristically, he leaves the arrangements to Eliza, who manages everything about his life except the novels he keeps cranking out, which his shrewd cousin knows are dreadful. The new Mrs. Ainsworth is obsessed with the man claiming to be Sir Roger Tichborne, heir to a family fortune who was reported drowned in a shipwreck. The Claimant, as he is called, is likely a butcher from Wapping, but Sarah is one of many working-class Britons who passionately defend him as a man of the people being done wrong by the toffs. Eliza gets drawn into the trial by her fascination with Andrew Bogle, formerly enslaved by the Tichbornes in Jamaica, who recognizes the Claimant as Sir Roger. A Roman Catholic in Protestant Britain and William’s former lover who's been supplanted by a younger woman, Eliza feels a connection to Bogle as a fellow outsider. (Some pointed scenes, however, make it clear that this sense of kinship is one-sided and that well-intentioned Eliza can be as patronizing as any other white Briton.) Smith alternates the progress of the trial with Eliza’s memories of the past, which include tart assessments of William’s circle of literary pals, who eventually make clear their disdain for his work, and intriguing allusions to her affair with William’s first wife and to her S&M sex with William. (Eliza wielded the whips.) It’s skillfully done, but the minutely detailed trial scenes provide more information than most readers will want, and a lengthy middle section recounting Bogle’s African ancestry and enslaved life, though gripping, further blurs the narrative’s focus. Historical fiction doesn’t seem to bring out Smith’s strongest gifts; this rather pallid narrative lacks the zest of her previous novels’ depictions of contemporary life.

Intelligent and thoughtful but not quite at this groundbreaking writer’s usual level of excellence.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780525558965

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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