A funny, immersive portrait of an unusual working relationship.

NOTE TO BOY

A teenager becomes the scribe of a former fashion icon in this debut literary novel.

Self-conscious 17-year-old Bradley McCreedy responds to an unusual job posting hung in the window of a newsagent’s shop in London: “Wanted!!! Urgent!!! Refined, respectable lady authoress seeks domestic assistant of same ilk. Usual rates.” When he calls the number, the daughter of his potential boss warns him he’ll be working for a dotty older woman, but that’s only the half of it. Eloise Slaughter lives in a stately but filthy mansion, as attentive to her wardrobe and makeup as she is inattentive to the dishes piled up everywhere. She hires Bradley not only to help straighten the place up—something the slightly OCD teen is glad to do—but also to help her with her memoirs. To hear Eloise tell it, she was the high priestess of London fashion in the 1960s and ’70s. Bradley thinks she’s off her rocker, but he takes the job, in part because Eloise doesn’t comment on the massive birthmark on his forehead. She’s certainly a dotty older woman—complete with a locked room he isn’t allowed to go into—but it turns out she isn’t lying about her past. At least not entirely. An unlikely friendship emerges, one that will pay dividends for both parties—at least so long as Bradley doesn’t overreach and bring the whole thing crashing down. Clark is a remarkable ventriloquist, alternating from the working-class vernacular of Bradley to the posh theatricality of Eloise with each chapter. Here, Bradley, who eventually moves into the mansion full time, comments on Eloise’s nocturnal activities: “She prowls at night. I hear her tip-tapping up and down the hallway. Mostly I reckon she gets up to fiddle with her puzzles—loves her jigsaws, Miss E—but sometimes she trots down the corridor in my direction. First time she done that, it got my heart pumping, I can tell you. Lying there, thinking, What if she comes in here and starts acting all weird an’ that?” The characters are richly drawn, and readers will quickly become invested in the odd couple, as individuals and as friends. The story is a pleasure all the way through.

A funny, immersive portrait of an unusual working relationship.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-78-965093-8

Page Count: 291

Publisher: Unbound

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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