GIRLS WITH BAD REPUTATIONS

Readers will no doubt chant for an encore.

The Lillys return in this follow-up to The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes (2021), with new romance and more music-industry drama.

Ever since Kayla Whitman’s older brother, Zach, handed her a pair of sticks and encouraged her to play, she’s never felt more herself than she does behind a drum set. But having been born Katherine Yolanda Larrington, daughter of celebrated academics Geoffrey and Gisele Larrington, comes with a lifetime of high expectations. Kayla knows that her life as a college dropout who’s the drummer for up-and-coming rock band the Lillys would never meet her mother’s exacting standards, so she’s decided to keep her two lives—in one, the dutiful daughter; in the other, following in her late brother’s footsteps as a touring musician—entirely separate. Tyrell Baldwin also understands something about not living up to expectations. Barely coping with the fallout of having been kicked out of school after false accusations of plagiarism and assault ruined his chances at an academic career, Ty is living at home with his grandfather when he’s offered a job as a tour bus driver for the Lillys. When Kayla and Ty bond over a shared love of books, their connection quickly turns romantic. But as the Lillys’ star continues to rise, media scrutiny follows, and both Kayla’s and Ty’s pasts are put under a spotlight. And they’ll have to decide whether to wilt or grow in its glare. The author tackles a lot in this sequel—including weighty topics such as death, grief, microaggressions, racial profiling, and false imprisonment—which sometimes results in tonal whiplash. But the characters are compelling and richly drawn, and the text smartly leans more on sharp dialogue in this installment.

Readers will no doubt chant for an encore.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728261997

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

FANGIRL DOWN

This golf romance is a winner.

A professional golfer trying to make a comeback hires his biggest fan to be his caddy.

Despondent and demoralized at his terrible season, professional golfer Wells Whitaker decides to quit the pro circuit. He’s already been dumped by his mentor, his sponsors, and his agent—why not throw in the towel himself? The only person left on his side is Josephine Doyle, his most devoted fan, a woman so dedicated to his career that she’s given herself the moniker “Wells’s Belle.” Josephine has been following the golfer’s career for years, and she can’t help but feel betrayed when he abandons the game. After a hurricane destroys her family’s Palm Beach pro shop, Josephine is surprised to find Wells at her door. He’s had a change of heart and is determined to give himself one last chance on the pro circuit. Wells has secured a spot at an upcoming tournament in San Antonio and wants Josephine to be his caddy. She can’t say no. The money she earns will allow her to rebuild the shop and afford health insurance, which is crucial for managing her diabetes. Once they’re at the tournament, their obvious camaraderie and their chemistry make them the target of gossip and speculation in the press. Wells feels intensely possessive and protective of Josephine while still respecting her autonomy, and Josephine learns that her faith in him was not misplaced. Although several of the initial plot pieces feel manufactured, the emotional connection between Josephine and Wells is vibrant and alive. They fit together perfectly, with each growing and benefiting from their professional and romantic partnership. Bailey delivers her trademark high-heat, spicy romance, but it’s the emotional connection between Wells and Josephine that makes the book a winner.

This golf romance is a winner.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9780063308367

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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