A tale of love and loss with ample atmosphere but underdeveloped characters.


The Lemon Spell

After a tragedy rips her family apart, a woman seeks closure in a witch-filled village in this short novel.

Debut author Kumar spins a tale of redemption and folklore. A common refrain for Rebecca, wife of Jai and mother of young Sunny, is that her husband should “be more responsible.” She notices that Sunny often comes home injured after outings with his father. On a trip to Wisconsin for their wedding anniversary, Jai’s sense of spontaneity proves disastrous: as Rebecca stands looking out at a waterfall, she sees Jai and Sunny running across a rickety bridge. Sunny falls and Jai jumps to save him, but Rebecca knows, as she stares frozen in horror, that they don’t know how to swim. Jai and Sunny drown, leaving Rebecca lost and alone. Later, she visits a fortuneteller to ask about her own fate. She’s told that if she wants to speak to the spirits of her family, she can try visiting an Indian village called Chudailpur. The fortuneteller also says that she has an acquaintance there. Rebecca sets off to India immediately and learns of a powerful witch named Savli who may be able to help her. Meanwhile, Jai toils in the afterlife; Sunny is nowhere to be found, and it becomes Jai’s mission to locate him and become a more responsible parent. The novel’s supernatural elements bring the story to life, and they’re all inventively devised. As a result, the lines between the physical world and the spiritual one blur as Rebecca and Jai confront strange forces in order to contact each other. Many of the characters, though, and particularly Rebecca and Jai, feel wooden and seem more like pawns than real people. Overall, this brief, straightforwardly written story flies by, but readers may find that the village of Chudailpur and its witches linger longer in their minds than the family at the center of the narrative.

A tale of love and loss with ample atmosphere but underdeveloped characters.

Pub Date: May 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5086-1039-7

Page Count: 132

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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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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