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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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