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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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

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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A breezy tale perfect for a day at the beach, this one’s a real winner.

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THE HATING GAME

Lucy Hutton absolutely detests her office mate Joshua Templeman. He’s a pompous, self-important, obnoxious ass. But, she’s got to admit, he is pretty cute.

From the moment they meet, a result of the unwelcome corporate merger between their employers, Lucy and Joshua are at odds. Joshua is assistant to the CEO of what was once Bexley Publishing, a numbers-crunching, foosball-playing frat house–cum-business. Lucy is assistant to the CEO of the now-defunct Gamin Publishing, a Birkenstock-clad, free-flowing commune of literary purists. When the two companies begrudgingly become one, so does the executive suite. Thus begins this hate-at-first-sight romantic comedy. Lucy and Joshua’s daily interactions include the staring game, the mirror game, and the HR game, each played with the intensity of the Hunger Games. Their mutual antipathy grows when a new executive position opens at Bexley-Gamin Publishing and both Lucy's and Joshua’s bosses think their protégés would be the perfect choice. Here the high-stakes game begins. After yet another 60-hour work week, which now includes prepping for upcoming interviews, Lucy logs off of her computer (Password: IHATEJOSHUA4EV@) to head home, but not before her rival hops into the elevator with her. When Joshua hits the emergency button and stops the ride, Lucy is certain her nemesis is going to kill her. Instead, he plants a (completely consensual) kiss on her that awakens something she hadn’t known existed. Debut novelist Thorne delivers something nearly impossible: an entirely predictable plot that is also completely fresh, original, and utterly charming. From the opening page, readers will know the outcome of Lucy and Joshua’s relationship, but what happens in between is magic. From Lucy’s hilarious inner dialogue to Joshua’s sharp retorts, the chemistry between them is irresistibly adorable—and smokin’ hot.

A breezy tale perfect for a day at the beach, this one’s a real winner.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-243959-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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