A well-written piece of erotic fiction, starring a desperate heroine, for alpha-male fans.

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The Pawn

In this novel, debts force a young woman to auction off her virginity to the highest bidder.

Avery James, 19, the beautiful daughter of a rich and powerful man, was slated for success: she was attending Smith College and would probably have married Justin, headed for a political career. But when her father is convicted of fraud, heavily fined, and badly beaten up, she’s desperate for money. She turns to the Den, ostensibly a gentlemen’s club but in fact a meeting place for Tanglewood’s most powerful and dangerous men. She has no collateral, though—except for her virginity. Loan shark Damon Scott proposes auctioning Avery for a month’s use, which is bad enough, but worse is Gabriel Miller’s enjoyment of her predicament. He’s her father’s enemy, the one who turned him in, and perhaps the most dangerous man in the Den as well as being amber-eyed, broad-shouldered, and disturbingly masculine. Gabriel wins Avery with a million-dollar bid and, though he warns her not to trust him, she can’t help responding to his confident skills and overwhelming sexuality. Meanwhile, she learns more about Gabriel and what drives him, but despite moments when he seems to care, he’s determined to treat her like a pawn in his game—at least until the next planned volume in this series. Warren (To the Ends of the Earth, 2016, etc.), a prolific writer of alpha-male romances, uses some standard tropes here, but lifts her story with good writing. Avery’s relationship with her dad intriguingly complicates the plot, for example, and Gabriel also has father issues that help make sense of his character. The erotic scenes are well described, and Warren makes full use of her settings (for example, a storage room during a play’s intermission) to highlight Gabriel’s control and Avery’s helpless response: “He doesn’t even have to hold me down. It’s only his fingers on my clit that keep me pinned to that sofa….he’s patient, endlessly patient, while my body winds tighter and tighter.”

A well-written piece of erotic fiction, starring a desperate heroine, for alpha-male fans.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 190

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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