Though grittier than the average Regency or Victorian romance, à la TV shows like Peaky Blinders, this is a new bottle with...

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WICKED AND THE WALLFLOWER

From the Bareknuckle Bastards series , Vol. 1

In the first novel of the Bareknuckle Bastards series, two outcasts meet at a glittering London ball but fall in love in the city’s darkest corners, beginning a saga that links a family across British society.

Devon “Devil” Culm, a rich crime lord and the oldest of a group of three half brothers born out of wedlock to a duke, is determined to stop one of them from breaking an old oath. When wallflower Lady Felicity Faircloth appears in his path, she seems to be the ideal instrument for his plan—till his attraction to her gets in the way. MacLean introduced Felicity as an aging debutante in The Day of the Duchess (2017) and awards her a cross-class romance in this novel. Though Felicity is the daughter of a marquess, a loss of popularity as she gets older prompts her to rashly tell her former friends at a society event that she's engaged to a reclusive duke. While her new “fiancé” has his own reasons for going along with her lie, she finds it impossible to commit to him after several intimate encounters with Devil in the rougher neighborhoods of London. While an aristocratic heroine who can easily slip away to meet a mystery man in a warehouse, a brothel, or a rooftop is not uncommon in the genre, the electric attraction that can help a reader ignore such implausibilities is not established convincingly enough at the start. This is partly because the backstory that can revitalize the novel's tropes—the hero who decides to use a woman for vengeance but loses his heart, the sheltered virgin who flouts convention and then discovers she’s been a pawn—isn’t fully clarified till the last quarter. As a result, the plot and characters’ motivations feel predictable and yet muddled. The climax and eventual resolution is satisfying but throws the weaknesses of the initial chapters into sharper relief.

Though grittier than the average Regency or Victorian romance, à la TV shows like Peaky Blinders, this is a new bottle with old wine—a Horatio Alger–style hero who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and a poor little rich Englishwoman whose problems amount to choosing between different wealthy suitors.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-269197-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

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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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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