SCORING WITH SANTA

From the The Second Chance Series series , Vol. 1


Roemer (Naked in 30 Days, 2016, etc.) and Rose (His Human Slave, 2016, etc.) deliver an erotic romance that features a battle of the sexes between a fitness club owner and a football legend. A romance novel is only as good as its heroine, and recent divorcée Brandy Love doesn’t disappoint. She’s the smart, capable owner of Phenomenal Physiques, a health club whose demands led to the demise of her marriage. Between work, her kids, Sam and Claire, and her tense relationship with her ex-husband, Justin, she has no room for a love life. That is, until beloved high school football coach Rick Morehouse shows up at the gym to assist with some physical therapy for one of his star players and Brandy invites him to dress as Santa Claus for an upcoming charity event. The former Houston Texans quarterback, according to the narration, “had [Brandy’s] panties dampening just from being in sniffing distance,” but she’s determined not to be sucked in by his charm—until a late-night rendezvous in the men’s room leaves them both begging for more. There’s a catch, though: due to Rick’s single-parent upbringing, he has a strict rule against dating single mothers. Set in Houston, the novel has a definite Friday Night Lights vibe, depicting a world where football reigns; for example, Brandy and Justin are at odds about Sam’s desire to play on the high school football team, Rick is the subject of many a local sports column, and a playoff game serves as the book’s climax. The conservative setting also allows the characters to challenge traditional values. The sex scenes are as spicy as a bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce; Brandy’s agency is always respected, and she gives just as good as she gets. Outside of the bedroom (or weight room or whatever the case may be), Brandy muses on the meaning of being a woman, wife, and mother. Indeed, for a romance novel, it addresses nonromantic matters in some detail, as in a plotline involving Brandy’s friend Meg navigating a career change. On the whole, the book benefits from the dual authorship of first-time novelist Roemer and romance veteran Rose. It’s well-crafted and polished, speaking to Rose’s experience, while also offering Roemer’s fresh voice and point of view. A sexy tale for modern women that’s as steamy as a locker room shower.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62601-325-4

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Riverdale Avenue Books, LLC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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