Well-crafted characters and an inventive plot.

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THE DUKE OF HER DESIRE

A charming sequel to A Most Unlikely Duke (2017).

Unwed at the advanced age of 22, Lady Amelia is fully aware that her chances of making a good match are dwindling by the day. Her brother understands this, too, which is why he has asked his friend Thomas, Duke of Coventry, to help his sister find a husband before the season ends. Now, anyone who has ever read a Regency romance—or seen a Shakespeare comedy or watched a movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant—knows how this story will end, but that’s an essential element of the genre. No one reads Regency for cliffhangers and dramatic plot twists. The fun is in experiencing an old tale made fresh, and Barnes certainly delivers that. She wastes no time in establishing that her heroine and hero are attracted to each other, and the stumbling blocks on their way to happily-ever-after feel honest rather than contrived. Amelia isn’t just a woman of woefully advanced age; she is also a woman new to society, trying to adapt to her new station after a childhood of poverty and degradation, which ended when her brother unexpectedly inherited a title. Her desire for independence is complicated—she doesn’t want to marry without love, but she doesn’t want to be a lifelong burden on her brother, either—and she is discovering that shopping for bonnets and taking tea with the gentry don’t give her the same sense of purpose and accomplishment that caring for her brother and her sisters did. Her desire to do something meaningful turns into a plan that brings her into conflict with Thomas, but it also happens to fit with his own liberal (for his day) political leanings. This is all to say that Barnes creates early-18th-century characters that appeal to contemporary sensibilities without requiring strenuous suspension of disbelief. But this is still an entertainment—more Barbara Cartland than Elizabeth Gaskell—and there is real pleasure in seeing these characters joyfully united.

Well-crafted characters and an inventive plot.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 0-06-256682-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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