A guilty pleasure just dying to be read on a Rio beach during Carnival.

BURNING CANDLES

A marriage of convenience between an American woman on the run from her past and a Brazilian cop out for justice gets complicated in this hothouse thriller.

Newlyweds Rosalinda and Gilberto da Costa have secrets. Her name is actually Linda Rose Armbrust. She met Gilberto, a cop, in a Denver pawnshop, where she was trying to cash in on her grandmother’s ring. Gilberto, way out of his Brazil jurisdiction, came to her rescue after she killed a man who was unfortunately the “worthless son of some Rocky Mountain crime boss.” Gilberto gallantly disposed of the victim and, initially more out of lust than love, proposed they marry and live together in Belo Horizonte in Brazil. Gilberto did not tell Roz that he was previously married to a woman who was brutally murdered and that the baby she was carrying was cut out of her and is still missing. Now, Roz is in a foreign country, does not know the language, and is haunted by migraine-enhanced paranoiac fears that the Denver mobster will find her. All of this may or may not be connected to a rash of deaths involving women who have been the fatal victims of botched abortions. To make matters worse, Gilberto’s formidable mother does not approve of Roz and seems capable of all kinds of measures to subvert their marriage (“One doesn’t question Dona Anabela,” a character ominously warns). The team of Star and Beatty (Dancing for the General, 2017) has fashioned not so much a mystery as a soap opera. There are melodramatic revelations scattered throughout (“He was the only link Gilberto had to the dark, forbidden cult that was involved in his first wife’s murder”), and basic expository information is repeated as if readers had missed the previous day’s episode and needed to be brought up to speed. But just as with a soap opera, it is easy to get swept up in the story even when credulity is strained to the limit. Roz is a sympathetic heroine, and readers will root for Gilberto, who defied expectations he would join the family gemstone business to become a cop. A strong sense of place is another virtue in this enjoyable, fish-out-of-water tale.

A guilty pleasure just dying to be read on a Rio beach during Carnival.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9893578-9-0

Page Count: 333

Publisher: D. M. Kreg Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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