An interesting pairing is poorly served by uneven pacing and excessive monologuing.

THE INTIMACY EXPERIMENT

A rabbi hoping to increase attendance at his synagogue asks a former sex worker to host a lecture series called “Modern Intimacy.”

Ethan Cohen’s Los Angeles shul might be struggling to stay afloat, but he loves his work and the people in his congregation. Although the board hired him to make changes, they are uncomfortable with the nontraditional programming he uses to attract new members. Naomi Grant is a former porn star and now co–CEO of Shameless, a web platform of instructional materials to help people have healthier sex lives. Naomi’s unorthodox background has made it difficult to find an educational institution willing to let her teach in-person adult sex education classes. When Ethan meets Naomi at a professional conference, he asks if she would be willing to teach an eight-week seminar at his synagogue. Naomi seizes the opportunity; she hasn’t been to synagogue since her bat mitzvah and has been longing to reconnect with Judaism. Ethan and Naomi’s love story explicitly follows the arc of the Modern Intimacy lecture series, but the pacing suffers as a result. Their romance is full of stops and starts, driven by Danan’s choice to have an external structure rather than organic character growth move the plot. Threads are introduced, dropped, and then reappear suddenly. Several times, Naomi and Ethan reveal their emotional states by lecturing to an audience, even if the other isn’t present. It’s ironic that characters committed to intimacy disclose their feelings in long speeches instead of showing them through action or direct communication with their partner; consequently, their relationship feels flat and underdeveloped. The exploration of faith and identity will likely appeal to contemporary romance readers looking for a full-bodied, nuanced treatment of religion that is also nonjudgmental and sex-positive.

An interesting pairing is poorly served by uneven pacing and excessive monologuing.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10162-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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

IT ENDS WITH US

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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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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