Be patient—once the Le Creuset pot finally starts boiling, this book earns its place on the beach blanket.

SUMMER ON THE BLUFFS

A self-made Black millionaire invites her three goddaughters for a last Martha's Vineyard summer—at the end of which one will get the mansion.

In the first volume of a planned trilogy, Terry McMillan meets Elin Hilderbrand: There are strong Black women in a lovingly detailed coastal Massachusetts location amid clothes, food, and long-kept secrets. Hostin's grande dame, New Orleans–born Amelia "Ama" Vaux, once known as the "Witch of Wall Street," has buried the other half of her long, seemingly perfect marriage. Power lawyer Omar Tanner, "a quiet man who looked good in suits"—almost every man in this book looks good in or out of suits and resembles Denzel Washington, Billy Dee Williams, Dev Patel, or Paul Newman's little brother—has collaborated with his wife on her fairy godmother project. Instead of having their own children, they chose young Perry, Olivia, and Billie, filling their plebeian lives with monied ease and Vineyard summers in the elite Black enclave of Oak Bluffs. Now Ama is ready to pass on Chateau Laveau to one of them while bestowing equal, but unnamed, gifts on the others. She arranges several months off for all three women, now a high-powered lawyer, financier, and marine biologist (she's a witch, all right), and flies them up for a summer that promises to end with not just the gifts, but with revelations. It takes a little too long to get there, though some may enjoy the leisurely setup and relentless name-checking—a concordance of the Black visual artists, musicians, authors, actors, designers, and celebrities mentioned here, along with the New York and Martha's Vineyard restaurants and bars, could be a valuable book in itself. Hostin's most serious weakness is substituting catalog copy for characterization—one character "look[s] fierce in a charcoal-gray Rachel Comey jumpsuit"; another "add[s] a pair of playful Sophia Webster sneakers"; Ama chooses a "chinoiserie pattern...as recherché and mysterious as her eldest goddaughter."

Be patient—once the Le Creuset pot finally starts boiling, this book earns its place on the beach blanket.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299417-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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