A discerning historical analysis combined with an affecting romance.

THE WIRE RECORDER

A love story explores the ramifications of McCarthyism during the Cold War. 

In this debut novel, Larry Hearn is a Hollywood screenwriter with a promising future. But in 1951, the House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenas him as part of its frantic search for seditious Communists infiltrating the film industry in the United States. He refuses to sell out his peers and defiantly rebukes questions about his membership in the Communist Party, instead delivering a rousing defense of his First Amendment protections. Larry’s rebelliousness, though, costs him his career. In the aftermath of his testimony, he’s blacklisted within the movie industry and never quite recovers professionally. His daughter, Sophie, is deeply affected by his experience, and after some shiftless years in college, she becomes the director of a private but tuition-free elementary school she envisions as an alternative to its racist, classist competitors. She eventually meets Steve Elwood—they were actually friends as very young children—an aspiring filmmaker, whose father, Arthur, was also a screenwriter blacklisted for his political affiliations. Sophie and Steve slowly fall in love, but their blooming romance is threatened by a dark secret in his family’s past, one that forces both of them to confront the different political legacies they inherited from their fathers. Levitt’s story is a historically sensitive rendering of an ideologically tempestuous time, and he’s to be commended for an impressively evenhanded portrayal unencumbered by obvious partisan allegiances. The author powerfully captures the profound paranoia of the early ’50s—one of Sophie’s grade-school teacher’s ominously remarks: “There are Communists right here in our community, living amongst us, plotting against us. Look at the movie industry. Communists and their fellow travelers are making movies again, just like they were in the forties.” In addition, the book’s authenticity is largely the result of its characters, drawn with realistic emotional complexity. But the plot’s pace is far too languorous—Sophie’s meandering before she becomes a teacher is described at luxurious length. Still, this is a keen peek into a tumultuous time in American history. 

A discerning historical analysis combined with an affecting romance. 

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9973107-0-2

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2018

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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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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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