Despite this novel’s slow start, Peter and Sam are a likable duo, and readers will be on the edges of their seats as they...

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PREMIERE

A LOVE STORY

The play’s the thing in this enchanting starter to Ewens’ (Catalina Kiss, 2012) romance series.

Samantha “Sam” Cathner is both grateful and nervous when her childhood friend Peter Everoad returns to California to work on his new play, Looking In. She’s the assistant creative director of the Pasadena Playhouse, and she trusts that anything Peter writes will draw a crowd there. But it turns out that the script is about Peter’s unfinished emotional business with Sam—and even he doesn’t know how the story will end, even as he’s writing the final scenes. It’s a tightly crafted premise, and the story ends with Peter moving to New York City to escape the aftermath of his father’s suicide, leaving Sam brokenhearted just as she and Peter were becoming more than friends. The tension between them is most convincing during play rehearsals: Sam is livid as she watches a professional actor portray her character, “Sally,” as a superficial debutante, while Peter instructs the actor playing “Phillip” to make the audience sympathize with him. However, the novel’s detours into the nuts and bolts of theater production, although detailed and authentic, tend to stall the action. The second act is more successful, as it brings the couple’s lost love into the present moment, with a touch of Hollywood romance. Peter chooses a historic movie theater on Catalina Island, where he and Sam used to spend vacations, to stage a grand gesture that would make anyone swoon. But an unfortunate twist leaves Sam in the same place that Peter left her in years ago, stuck by herself just when she needs him most—only this time, Peter can’t use his youth, or his father, as an excuse. In a character-defining moment, he’ll have to decide how their love will continue after the curtain falls.

Despite this novel’s slow start, Peter and Sam are a likable duo, and readers will be on the edges of their seats as they wait to see if the play has a happy ending.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990857112

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Premiere

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2014

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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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