Secrets of the Porch

In Sellon’s (Carly’s Calling, 2003) second novel, a rebellious teenage girl is sent to live with her grandmother on a Nebraska farm.
Sixteen-year-old Sophie Mae Randolph has been adrift, both physically and spiritually, since her mother, Grace, died from cancer. After Sophie and her abusive boyfriend are caught holding up a gas station, she’s given a choice: head to a juvenile detention facility or go live with her grandmother Lila, whom she’s never met. Reluctantly, she chooses the latter. At first, the worldly Sophie dismisses Lila as an “old bat.” Eventually, however, she opens up to the older woman, especially after Lila shares the tragic story of why Grace, her only daughter, left home with the infant Sophie. Months pass, and Sophie thrives in her new surroundings, even beginning a tentative romance with a boy from her school. But Lila has a secret, and it isn’t until a dark figure from the past shows up at the farm one night that the truth is finally revealed. This is a charming fish-out-of-water story, and it’s hard not to sympathize as the spitfire Sophie adjusts to her new surroundings—after all, she’s traded sleeping under bridges for collecting eggs and forking hay. But farm chores aren’t the only thing that Sophie has to get used to; she also gradually allows faith to reenter her life. By listening to Lila “preach about God and everything he had blessed [her] with,” she eventually comes to terms with her mother’s death. This gentle exploration of how faith and forgiveness allow people to overcome devastating traumas centers the book and makes it more than just a simple tale of small-town secrets and romance. Sellon gracefully weaves past events into the present drama, crafting an engaging, multigenerational story. That said, a bloody denouement on the farm’s front porch strains credulity, and the ending wraps up the lives of these complicated characters too neatly. Overall, however, this is a satisfying tale of love, hope and redemption.
A sweet, smart story about growing up and learning to trust.

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1629945453

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


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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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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