A playful and engaging commentary on the pitfalls of attachment phobia.

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THE TWO-DATE RULE

A fiercely independent young woman meets a nearly perfect firefighter and reconsiders her personal commitment to staying single in this sexy contemporary romance.

Willa Frank may have grown up with an alcoholic single dad who struggled to support his family, but she now owns a successful business, and she’s not about to let anything threaten her success, least of all a man. To that end, she has a long-held policy that she won’t go on more than two dates with the same guy. Willa’s system seems to be working just fine until she meets Grady Billman. Approached by Grady during a girls’ night out, Willa first thinks he’s a stripper. Grady is actually a smokejumper who leaps from planes to put out fires for a living, a job that requires long periods of travel and makes him totally ill-suited for a relationship. Willa’s supposition that Grady is the perfect guy for her next two dates quickly proves problematic when date No. 1 sizzles with unique and electric chemistry. In order to circumvent Willa’s two-date rule, she and Grady devise increasingly ridiculous rationales as to why subsequent meetups don’t “count” as dates. (Hiking isn’t a date because there’s nothing romantic about exercise.) As they spend more time together, Willa begins to question her personal policies. Unfortunately, when she lets her guard down, she loses a big client and takes it out on Grady, making it unclear whether she will ever get out of her own way and allow herself true happiness. Told in the third person, the story shows both Willa’s and Grady’s thoughts throughout. As fun and flirty as the book first appears, Willa has serious anxiety caused by her difficult upbringing, and Grady has deep commitment issues of his own. Fenske, the author of Snowbound Squeeze (2020), handles these issues with insight and grace throughout this fast-paced, nuanced tale. The author also manages to include several interesting details about the life of smokejumpers without interrupting the swift flow of the action-packed plot. Complete with hot sex scenes, snarky double-entendres, slapstick humor, and quirky girlfriends, this comedic romp through modern-day dating checks all the romance boxes.

A playful and engaging commentary on the pitfalls of attachment phobia.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-743-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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MERCY

Despite kilt-wearing characters right out of Brigadoon, Picoult (Picture Perfect, 1995, etc.) persuasively explores a mercy killing in a small Massachusetts town and the subject of spouses who love too much. Wheelock has been home to the tradition-upholding MacDonalds and their hereditary chieftains since the 18th century, when the clan fled Scotland after the British defeated them in battle. Each clan chief has inherited more responsibilities over time, and the current laird Cam MacDonald is, like his father before him, the local chief of police. Cam yearns to travel and, though married, finds wife Allie's devotion stifling. Allie, a florist, has in turn suppressed all of her own opinions and pleasures for the sake of making Cam, whom she adores, happy. As the story begins, another MacDonald, James, has demonstrated his overwhelming love for wife Maggie in a very extreme form: James turns himself in to cousin Cam after admitting that he has smothered Maggie at her request because she was terminally ill with cancer and could no longer stand the pain. While the quality and wisdom of James's devotion to his wife will be tried in public, Allie's love for Cam will also be tested as free spirit Mia arrives in town. Mia has been everywhere and seen all the places Cam dreams of; she is also a whiz with flowers and gets immediately hired by Allie. While Allie helps James's lawyer find witnesses who will attest to his devotion to Maggie (he's now being tried for murder), Cam and Mia have an affair. A heartsick Allie learns of it, throws Cam out, sells all of his belongings, and then tries to forget him. But true love is resilient, and Allie, like James, having learned the price of being ``the one who loves more,'' will now try for greater balance. Overly predictable characters aside, Picoult does manage this time to bring trendy, headline-grabbing themes to life. (Literary Guild alternate selection)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 1996

ISBN: 0-399-14160-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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