WAITING TO EXHALE

Talk about timing! With relations between African-American men and women in the spotlight as never before, here comes McMillan's report from the front: her bawdy, vibrant, deliciously readable third novel (Mama, Disappearing Acts) is the story of four black women friends and their frequently disastrous encounters with black men. The four are in their mid-to-late 30s, middle-class women making good money, and they live in Phoenix. Savannah, who has everything she wants except a man, has just moved from Denver, partly to be close to best friend Bernadine, whose 11-year-old marriage has collapsed. Super-successful ``buppie'' (black yuppie) John has tricked Bernadine every which way, but his greatest betrayal is crossing the color line to snare a California blond; now Bernadine must raise their two kids alone. Her friends Robin and Gloria are not having any better luck: Robin is a backsliding bubblehead whose study of astrology has not cured her weakness for ``pretty men with big dicks'' who use and abuse her, while the only male in overweight, matronly Gloria's life is her teenage son Tarik, a source of both anxiety and pride. We watch these women in a swirl of motion: working, partying, dishing, dating, and consoling each other on their misfortunes with men. Their consensus is that ``black men play too many games'' and are terrified of making commitments, even if they're buppies (``riffraff comes in all kinds of packages''). Two points here: First, McMillan's novel is not indiscriminately bashing brothers—there are good men out there (both Bernadine and Gloria have fine prospects by the end), and women cannot escape all the blame (Savannah's inability to say the three magic words costs her dearly). Second, these women do not mope. The story's best scene has them falling-down drunk at Gloria's hilarious birthday party; indeed, they are as timeless as Molly Bloom or the Wife of Bath in their robust sensuality. A novel that hits so many exposed nerves is sure to be a conversation-piece: it has heart and pizzazz and even, yes, the sweet smell of the breakthrough book.

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-670-83980-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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