Moody (Loose Ends, 2013, etc.) knows how to build suspense, but it’s hard not to keep yelling “don’t go there” at the drippy...

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A FINAL RECKONING

A woman desperate for peace of mind looks for it in an unlikely place—the English country house where her sister was murdered.

When Chantal Frazer arrives at the luxurious Weston Lodge in Oxfordshire, it’s not to enjoy a resort getaway but to be where her sister Sabine had worked as an au pair when the Lodge was a private home. Twenty-three years earlier, the Honorable Clio Palliser, Sabine’s employer and then-owner of Weston Lodge, was arrested for stabbing her two sons and Sabine to death. Gavin Metcalfe-Vaughn, a young friend of one of the sons, managed to escape. Now, he’s also come to the Lodge in its new incarnation. While the recently widowed Chantal is seeking answers about that bloody night, she falls in love with Gavin. After his initial visit to the Lodge, Gavin wants Chantal to let the past stay past. But she can’t dismiss the persistent notion that the unhappy Clio, who disappeared after serving her sentence in a high-security mental hospital, is innocent. Both of Clio’s husbands and some valuable works of art are missing as well. In her obsessive search for answers about her sister’s death, Chantal will also encounter a secondhand lover, a determined detective and an addled neighbor, as convolution follows convolution en route to an implausible resolution of past and present secrets.

Moody (Loose Ends, 2013, etc.) knows how to build suspense, but it’s hard not to keep yelling “don’t go there” at the drippy heroine in this overwrought thriller.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8288-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Anyone who believes in true love or is simply willing to accept it as the premise of a winding tale will find this debut an...

ONE DAY IN DECEMBER

True love flares between two people, but they find that circumstances always impede it.

On a winter day in London, Laurie spots Jack from her bus home and he sparks a feeling in her so deep that she spends the next year searching for him. Her roommate and best friend, Sarah, is the perfect wing-woman but ultimately—and unknowingly—ends the search by finding Jack and falling for him herself. Laurie’s hasty decision not to tell Sarah is the second painful missed opportunity (after not getting off the bus), but Sarah’s happiness is so important to Laurie that she dedicates ample energy into retraining her heart not to love Jack. Laurie is misguided, but her effort and loyalty spring from a true heart, and she considers her project mostly successful. Perhaps she would have total success, but the fact of the matter is that Jack feels the same deep connection to Laurie. His reasons for not acting on them are less admirable: He likes Sarah and she’s the total package; why would he give that up just because every time he and Laurie have enough time together (and just enough alcohol) they nearly fall into each other’s arms? Laurie finally begins to move on, creating a mostly satisfying life for herself, whereas Jack’s inability to be genuine tortures him and turns him into an ever bigger jerk. Patriarchy—it hurts men, too! There’s no question where the book is going, but the pacing is just right, the tone warm, and the characters sympathetic, even when making dumb decisions.

Anyone who believes in true love or is simply willing to accept it as the premise of a winding tale will find this debut an emotional, satisfying read.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-57468-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A bright, funny, hopeful tale of untangling family knots.

THE STAR-CROSSED SISTERS OF TUSCANY

For generations, the second-born daughters of the Fontana family have been cursed with loveless lives. Can Emilia and her cousin Lucy finally break the spell?

Enraged that her beautiful younger sister might have beguiled her boyfriend, Filomena Fontana cast the curse long ago. Since then, family lore has held that every second-born daughter is doomed. Two hundred years later, Emilia and her older sister, Daria, scoffed. That is, until 7-year-old Emilia had to make a family tree for her social studies class and noticed the inescapable truth: There were no marriages among the second daughters. Even her free-spirited cousin Lucy, herself a second daughter, can’t manage to keep a boyfriend past the fourth date. Now pushing 30 and still single, Emilia’s resigned to her fate of working in the family bakery and living in her tiny third-floor apartment in the family home in Bensonhurst, aka Brooklyn’s Little Italy. Her Nonna Rose rules the roost with an iron first, watching Emilia’s every move and even banning her from communicating with her mysterious Great Aunt Poppy, herself a second daughter and the only relative willing to talk about Emilia’s late mother. But when Poppy sends Emilia and Lucy an invitation for an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy—and promises that she can break the curse—how can Emilia refuse? Nonna might be furious, but the possibility of learning more about her own mother makes up Emilia’s mind for her. Once in Italy, Emilia and Lucy discover the truth about not only the curse, but also themselves, not to mention Poppy’s own secrets. Spielman (Sweet Forgiveness, 2015, etc.) deftly spins Emilia’s story, layering in the backstory of how Poppy and Rose immigrated to America, with Rose following her husband, Alfonso, but Poppy losing the love of her life. Or did she? Along the way, Spielman twists our fairy-tale expectations about love, curses, and happy endings.

A bright, funny, hopeful tale of untangling family knots.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0316-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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