The final plot twist is no surprise, nor are others in these individual stories, but Harrison’s narration is breezy, and her...

THE RED DRESS

A garment that brings out a glamorous alter ego in its wearers is the catalyst for change in five lives.

British author Harrison (The Grass Memorial, 2002, etc.) begins her novella-in-stories with elegant Carolyn Summerby, beloved proprietor of a haute hat-rental shop and 40ish wife of high-flying businessman Oliver. Eager to shake up the tasteful image she’s so carefully cultivated in their affluent English village, Carolyn orders a custom-tailored, red satin dress for her silver-anniversary party. But when she senses something not quite right between Oliver and Saskia, the tattooed bohemian daughter of friends who is also the hat shop’s sole employee, Carolyn is forced to let go of long-held illusions about the state of her marriage—and to relinquish the party dress. Consigned to a secondhand store, the dress next makes its way to “stroppy, stocky, sideways Monica,” who finds romance and the perfect outfit, in that order. A group-home worker whose cropped hair and butch looks belie her desire to be courted by a towering he-man, Monica at last meets her match in firefighter Fergal and shows off her newfound identity. As for the dress, it soon passes to Pauline, a straitlaced receptionist with a live-in boyfriend whose cozy domesticity is derailed by her sudden attraction to a stranger named Jane; Jasper, a popular, soccer-loving teenager who also enjoys the feel of women’s clothing; and Maurice, a committed thespian who grudgingly accepts the job of directing a community-theater production and unexpectedly falls for a cast member.

The final plot twist is no surprise, nor are others in these individual stories, but Harrison’s narration is breezy, and her characters, if at times flat, can be endearing.

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-7278-6414-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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