Psychodrama, romance and mystery mingle, but not cohesively.

SINS

In Coll’s debut novel, a brilliant mathematician’s childhood tragedies pave an ominous path for her work and marriage.

Cathryn Barrington-Weiss is only 8 years old when her father dies, her mother commits suicide and her brother goes missing. After a bout in a psychiatric hospital, young Cathryn goes to Germany to live with her new guardian, family friend Dr. Isaac Schlosser. The girl keeps quiet about the conversation she overheard between her father and a mysterious man right before he died, and a note her mother wrote explaining everything. Cathryn’s aptitude for math and science leads to her life’s work in quantitative psychologistics, a concept based on Asimov’s fictional science of psychohistory. While launching her project, affectionately named “little isaac,” Cathryn falls in love with the tenacious, controlling Carl von Wahrberg, an older man about to serve time for shady financial dealings. Her first and only night with him leads to twins and a new life together post-incarceration, in a town where people are not quick to forgive notorious Carl. A whirlwind of events leaves readers wondering what to anticipate. Coll is skilled in dropping enticements and dotting the tale with divergent characters such as Dr. Alison Burke, a fling from Carl’s past, and Therese, the nanny in love with Cathryn. But a multitude of unrealistic episodes impede the flow. Belief is hard won upon seeing the twins, who don’t meet their father until they’re 9 years old, fervently embrace him on sight. Readers may also find it difficult to trust Cathyrn’s unrelenting love for a man she spent only hours with 10 years ago. Coincidences—such as running into Carl a decade after their one night together the moment she arrives on his turf, ready to put her past to rest—contribute to a loss of confidence in an otherwise engaging narrative. Also, characters and plotlines disappear for long intervals: Little isaac, the brainchild Cathryn shrouds in security measures bordering on paranoia, is ignored for lengthy stretches, creating a disjointed effect in the storytelling. But a few surprises and a gratifying ending save face in this story of uncertain genre.

Psychodrama, romance and mystery mingle, but not cohesively.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466382176

Page Count: 290

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2012

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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