The answers are all too predictable, and readers hoping for a fresh, insider’s look at the country-music scene—or for...

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RESTLESS HEART

Judd’s first novel about the travails of a singer-songwriter torn between Nashville success and the pull of home.

Destiny Hart could never duck a dare, so when her high-school friends trick her into entering the Kentucky Idol talent competition shortly after graduation, no one expects her to win, leastwise Destiny herself. To the chagrin of her domineering father John, a retired Air Force colonel, she forgoes college to make it big in Nashville. Since running away from Wilmot, her small Kentucky hometown, the closest she’s come to a music career is waitressing at the Saddle Bar & Grill, the Nashville equivalent of Schwab’s Pharmacy, where country-music hopefuls come to be discovered. She’s understudying the bar’s current headliner, Mandy, a bleached blonde who’s as stubbornly healthy as she is tone-deaf. When high-school heartthrob Seth comes to visit, Destiny realizes that the attraction between them can no longer be ignored. But she’s bent on pursuing her dream of stardom wherever it takes her, and Seth is house-hunting in Wilmot and wants only to settle down and coach high-school baseball. Destiny’s big break finally comes, and in no time she has a record deal, a manager and a posse of publicists. Her song "Restless Heart" is chosen as the theme for a country music variant of The Bachelor reality show, and megastar Tammy Turner wants Destiny to open for her at Tammy’s new amphitheatre. But trouble at home is brewing. John and mom Sara are at odds over everything from Destiny’s career path to Sara’s midlife rebellion against military wifehood. Their other daughter Grace has fled the family turmoil to live with Destiny and carve out her own Nashville future. Can homebody Seth adjust to Destiny’s life on the road? Will Wilmot woes shortstop Destiny’s fast grounder to fame?

The answers are all too predictable, and readers hoping for a fresh, insider’s look at the country-music scene—or for celebrity dish—will be disappointed.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-451-22926-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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