A vibrant manor tale with a striking protagonist who is a bit too perfect.



A California heiress with a doctorate heads to her ancestral home in this debut novel.

Gemma Alexandra Lancaster Phillips has recently finished her doctoral dissertation but is hesitant to accept a professorship, wondering if there’s something more she can do. After catching her boyfriend, Michael West, kissing another woman shortly after graduation, the Malibu-based daughter of famous actress Jillian Phillips—and an American-born descendant of British royalty—receives an invitation to help her cousin Evan Lancaster, the eighth marquess of Kentshire. Evan must ready Cherrywood Hall, the family home in England, for a life-changing competition. The winner will serve as the location for a major new television series, Castlewood Manor, which will lead to a significant boost for Cherrywood Hall’s vineyard and outreach opportunities to the local community. Gemma soon fits right in, putting her doctorate to use in digging up family history in the form of hidden diaries and wardrobes; falling head over heels for Evan’s best friend and business partner, Kyle Williams; and feeling a special connection to Pippa, her dead great-great-aunt, who saved Cherrywood Hall from ruin in the early 20th century and whose glamorous, renegade spirit is still present in every corner of the estate. Unfortunately, the fun is soon tinged with mystery as competing estate owners begin dying under strange circumstances—everything from sudden car accidents to tea-party strychnine poisoning—and Gemma sets out to save Cherrywood Hall once and for all. In this lucid series opener, Barton isn’t sparing with delicious details about the beautiful family estate, Pippa’s extensive and gorgeous collection of dresses, and the countless meals and teas prepared by the resident butler for Gemma and her friends and family. Fans of TV shows like Downton Abbey will no doubt be drawn in by the “everything old is new again” escapist fantasy of Gemma’s vivid and entertaining adventures in bucolic England. But Gemma never displays any faults or vulnerabilities. She’s tall, blond, and stunning as well as wealthy, intelligent, and charming, and nearly everyone falls in love with her on first meeting. If Gemma were a little less perfect and a little more relatable, the story would be more effective and enjoyable.

A vibrant manor tale with a striking protagonist who is a bit too perfect.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984195-82-1

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A well-turned, if predictable, installment in the popular series.


With the United States the “closest [it’s] been to war” in a lifetime, intelligence operative Jack Ryan Jr. faces stiff odds in trying to avert disaster with China.

Trouble with China begins brewing (yet again in the Clancy books) with the rendition of a Chinese scientist and the killing of his American brother, a specialist in machine learning. With a sniper attack on the German outpost of The Campus, Ryan’s “off-the-books” agency, and the downing of an American plane over the South China Sea, U.S. efforts to recover a Chinese undersea glider capable of detecting a $3 billion American stealth submarine are in jeopardy. Things look especially grim with the capture of crash survivor John Clark, Ryan’s boss and a close compadre of his father, President Jack Ryan Sr. With Ryan Sr. still shaken by the abduction of his wife a year ago and Ryan Jr. doubtful of his abilities as a team leader, it's up to intelligence director Mary Pat Foley to calm the waters with her expertise and strong will. One possible outcome is a Chinese attack on Taiwan. In Bentley’s third outing in the series, it takes a while to get past cookie cutter stuff: Many pages go by before the reader knows what all the tense language, chase scenes, and international travel are about. But the book's cool, checkerboard efficiency eventually takes hold. And the streaks of vulnerability that run through the Ryans impart a human dimension that most such thrillers lack. Bentley also takes pains to distinguish the novel from fake fiction: “Unlike in the movies, getting struck by a rifle round moving at several thousand feet per second was not insignificant.”

A well-turned, if predictable, installment in the popular series.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422786

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023

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