A modest international romance, likely to please fans of the genre.

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Only Wheat Not White

In Dixit’s (Wrong Means Right End, 2012, etc.) romance, a young Indian woman must make her way personally and professionally in America.

Eila Sood isn’t sure what to expect when she arrives in New York from Delhi: after all, she’s never visited the country, and she hasn’t seen her sister Sheela in seven years. Sent as an envoy from her aging parents, she hopes to repair ties with her sibling, who was cast out from the family for wedding an American man. But despite marrying for love, Sheela’s relationship with her husband is rocky, and Eila finds her sister trying to re-create a slice of India in suburban New Jersey. But Eila has her own problems: just as she’s beginning to adjust to her new job in Manhattan, her hours get cut in half; she winds up doing the books for a strip club and then working as an assistant for Brett Wright, the owner of a local upscale restaurant. Brett is intense, maddening, often rude, but always sexy, and from the moment Eila gets off the plane at JFK, she keeps running into him where she least expects it. Although she initially wants nothing to do with him, she inevitably gets pulled into his world—and she may finally have to face the fact that she isn’t putting up much of a fight. But how can she be the second child to go against everything her parents believe? This fourth novel from Dixit treads familiar narrative ground from an uncommonly explored cultural perspective. The exploration of Eila and Sheela’s relationship, and Sheela’s conflicting feelings about her marriage, are the strongest parts of the novel. Eila and Brett’s relationship, however, may be enjoyed by romance fans, but will be less persuasive for general readers. Anyone who’s read Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey will be familiar with the story of a clumsy, insecure protagonist falling for a brooding, unattainable man, but the transition from Eila and Brett acting rudely to each other to realizing they’re in love is so quick that it feels jarring. He comes across as nothing more than a fantasy—and one that never comes down to earth.

A modest international romance, likely to please fans of the genre.

Pub Date: June 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9903884-0-1

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

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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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