Who has the patience for a hero this cloying and self-important, or for plot turns this clunky?

THE GYPSY MADONNA

Stolen art, Nazi collaborators in WWII rural France and a larger-than-life guitar-twanging American named Coyote add up to no more than lukewarm melodrama in British romance novelist Montefiore’s second to appear in the U.S. (after Last Voyage of the Valentina, 2006).

In 1985, Manhattan antiques-dealer Misha is shocked to discover that his beloved dying mother, Anouk, possesses a Titian masterpiece when she tries to donate it to the Met, which cannot authenticate the painting’s rightful owner. When Misha’s stepfather Coyote, who abandoned Misha and Anouk 30 years earlier, shows up, Misha turns the aging homeless man away. Immediately full of questions and regret, Misha then sets out to solve the mystery of the painting and to uncover the truth about his own history. He returns to the village in Bordeaux that he and Anouk left when Misha was seven. Until the war, Anouk had been the nanny at a privately owned winery/estate. After the war, the villagers denounced Anouk as a traitor for marrying Misha’s father, a German officer. Witnessing her brutal humiliation caused Misha to become mute. Anouk continued to work at the estate, now a hotel, until the handsome American Coyote arrived. While Anouk and Coyote fell in love, his affectionate attention gave Misha back his voice. Coyote brought them to New Jersey, where they lived happily until Coyote disappeared. In Bordeaux, Misha learns that, despite appearances, both his mother and father were anti-Nazis and that Coyote had not abandoned Misha and Anouk; he’d been in prison for murder. A mama’s boy who has never connected intimately with any other woman despite numerous gratuitous, uninspired sex scenes, Misha finds true love with Claudine, whom he first loved when he was six and who now leaves her husband to return with Misha to America. The million-dollar painting becomes largely irrelevant.

Who has the patience for a hero this cloying and self-important, or for plot turns this clunky?

Pub Date: March 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-7432-7889-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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