A tale with an intriguing historical setting and time-travel premise marred by a few missteps.

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HOME TO MCCARRON'S CORNER

LILY'S STORY

A 21st-century physician finds herself in 1763 in this prequel.

Lily Van Der Houghton feels lost. She’s just been dumped by her longtime boyfriend, and she can’t make a choice of a medical specialty, torn between emergency medicine and obstetrics/gynecology. So she decides to hike Georgia’s Jacks River Falls, where she got hopelessly lost at 10 years old—maybe this time she’ll find her way. Instead, when she encounters a Cherokee named Shadow Wolf and his white wife, Ginny, she learns she’s slipped more than two centuries back in time in order to fulfill a prophecy. Ginny and Wolf are destined to have a daughter, “the Bright Star of Hope,” who will save the Cherokee from their tragic future, and Lily’s role is to deliver that child and bear a son of her own, “the Red Wolf,” the Star’s protector. Sure enough, Lily falls in love with Ginny’s adopted brother, Irishman Marcus McCarron, and conceives a child. But their road is a rocky one, strewn with misunderstandings, family secrets, and pain. Can this modern woman learn to live in a time long past? Has she at last found where she belongs? Middleton’s (Beyond McCarron’s Corner: Sassy’s Story, 2018) first novel was set during the American Revolution. This prequel deftly focuses on a little-spotlighted time period, bringing to life the food, fashions, and even the medical treatments of long ago. But it’s odd how quickly Lily makes the decision to stay in the 1700s, marrying Marcus in the first 50 pages; even if she’s estranged from her mother, doesn’t she have friends? Co-workers? Someone in the future who wonders where she’s gone? And the author’s careful attention to historical detail can’t overcome how she handles race, particularly in treating Marcus’ past as an “Irish slave.” She repeats myths about African slaves being more valuable than Irish ones and dwells on Marcus’ trauma rather than that of the black slaves his adopted family owns.

A tale with an intriguing historical setting and time-travel premise marred by a few missteps.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-106-2

Page Count: 229

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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