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JUST RIVER

A shrewd and vibrant story of the resilience of ordinary people.

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Diverse residents of a small industrial city seek happiness against the odds in a madcap novel about class and love.

Set in the last days of the 20th century in a crumbling, but still grittily colorful, industrial city in upstate New York, the story opens at “The End”—a scene of destruction that unravels in vignettes and still shots: a car upside down in a river; a diary floating away, its sentences dissolving in the water; a man with a gunshot wound flailing in the rapids. The narrative then rewinds to “The Beginning,” in a courtroom where 21-year-old Garnet Harlow, author of the aforementioned diary, is on trial for pushing an armoire over on her boyfriend, Ethan Thaxter, owner of the drowned car. Certain that the jury will take Ethan’s pattern of abusive behavior into account, Garnet is stunned to find herself convicted of assault and sentenced to two years in prison. Equally shocked are her mother, Carol, a cashier at the local community college cafeteria, and her best friend, Sam, a gay man navigating the dangers of toxic masculinity with matter-of-fact courage. Carol and Sam, both in their 40s, bolster each other against hopelessness in their furtive searches for romance. They both also offer Garnet what support they can as she finds herself facing bullying by fellow inmates and the continued manipulations of Ethan, whose wealthy background makes her a target in prison. Fraser’s narrative is written with notable humor and compassion, combining elements of screwball comedy with savvy class analysis. It’s clearly shown that the inequity between the wealthy and the working class is what lands Garnet behind bars; it’s a system in which “there’s only justice for the people who can pay for it.” The plot effectively shows the dangers caused by a lack of options for those who aren’t born to privilege. The work’s outlook is far from hopeless, however, and the indomitable central characters find that it’s their vulnerability, when shared, that gives them the strength they need to prevail.

A shrewd and vibrant story of the resilience of ordinary people.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-68433-814-6

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2021

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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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FUNNY STORY

Henry fans, rejoice: This is her best yet.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A recently dumped librarian finds herself fake dating her polar opposite.

When Daphne Vincent’s fiance, Peter, dumps her, she’s shocked—but the worst part is that he’s leaving her for his gorgeous best friend, Petra, the woman he’d always told Daphne not to worry about. Now Daphne has to move out of Peter’s home and restart her life in the small Michigan town where she’d moved to be with him. Salvation comes in the form of Miles Nowak, Petra’s ex—he has a tiny spare room in his apartment, and he understands what it’s like to wallow in heartbreak. Daphne feels lucky to have her dream job as a children’s librarian, but other than that, she feels adrift and friendless in Waning Bay—and then she and Miles get invitations to Peter and Petra’s wedding. In a momentary lapse of judgment, Daphne not only says she’ll attend the wedding, but tells Peter she’s dating Miles. It would be the perfect way to show Peter and Petra that they’ve moved on…if only it were true. In the grand tradition of fake-dating romances, Daphne and Miles pretend to be in love, getting to know each other while having various adventures and misadventures. Daphne quickly learns that although she’d dismissed Miles as a pothead with a lack of direction, he’s actually a good time—and a loyal friend. But Daphne knows she needs to get out of Waning Bay, so this fake relationship can’t lead anywhere…can it? Reliable bestseller Henry has written another surefire hit that manages to be dramatic, sexy, and fun. Miles and Daphne have chemistry that leaps off the page, and their will-they-or-won’t-they energy propels the story to its satisfying conclusion. Daphne is an immensely likable character, one whose past realistically informs her current relationships. The world of Waning Bay is charmingly quirky, and Daphne’s co-workers at the library are endearing. As always, Henry’s biggest strength is the sharp, often hilarious dialogue that makes the story a joy to read.

Henry fans, rejoice: This is her best yet.

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780593441282

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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