A novel of leaden purpose rather than spirit.

IN DAHLIA’S WAKE

Editor (The Barbie Chronicles, 1999) and second-novelist (The Four Temperaments, 2002) McDonough follows a tidy, deeply predictable story about the death of a Brooklyn couple’s young daughter.

The freak car accident that killed seven-year-old Dahlia has left a deep fissure between Rick Wechsler, a successful Brooklyn podiatrist who was driving the car at the time of the accident, and wife Naomi, a teacher who now volunteers at the hospital where Dahlia was taken DOA. “There were so many ways in which she had failed Rick these days,” Naomi admits, and indeed, he spends a good deal of time trolling porn sites before succumbing to the needy advances of his single-mom office manager, Lillian. While at work at the hospital, however, Naomi has been spending some quality time with the chief of pediatrics, Michael McBride, a disheveled lapsed Catholic with a wife and two daughters of his own; when Rick impulsively confesses his dalliance, Naomi throws him out and finds field-leveling comfort with Michael. McDonough advances her carefully calibrated plot in alternating viewpoints, including that of Naomi’s mother Estelle, a dotty old lady of the Barbara Stanwyck era who tries to escape from her Riverdale nursing home because she can’t comprehend Dahlia’s death. The prose is unmemorable and bland. In McDonough’s hands, the reader is always safe and reassured, because there is no chance of deviation from her set-in-stone plot and no way the characters can evolve organically. They are as familiar as generic household products, from strong, selfless, sexless Naomi and randy Rick, entitled but not too smart, to the mismatched but well-intentioned Michael, who runs to church to confess, and the fetching, vaguely ethnic Lillian with her cheap taste in clothes and furniture. Even the accidents and coincidences are strenuously plotted, and a memory of poor Dahlia seems an afterthought.

A novel of leaden purpose rather than spirit.

Pub Date: April 19, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-50362-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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A promising start to a series, provided Roberts can flesh out her derivative heroine.

THE WITNESS

A young woman in hiding from the Russian mob faces a difficult decision when she falls in love with a cop.

Abigail, 28, lives alone in the bucolic hamlet of Bickford, Ark., in an isolated house, fortified with firearms, a state-of-the-art alarm system and a vicious dog named Bert. When the town’s genial police chief, Brooks, suspects Abigail is packing while shopping for gourmet groceries, his curiosity soon morphs into courtship. Although she finds herself drawn to Brooks and to his welcoming, bohemian family, Abigail dares not reveal that her real name is Liz—which is not the only way in which she appears to be Roberts’ answer to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Gifted with an eidetic memory, an IQ over 200 and an affinity for cool, calculated mayhem, Liz/Abigail is a skilled hacker and a highly paid security consultant. In her spare time she investigates the Russian mob and the crooked federal agents who are responsible for her current predicament; whenever possible, she throws virtual monkey wrenches into the mob’s Internet scams. When she witnesses an altercation between Brooks and the wastrel son of a local magnate, she’s thrust back into the horror of the last time she witnessed a crime. At 16, rebelling against an unloving, controlling mother, Liz and a girlfriend, Julie, visited a Chicago nightclub run by the Russian Mafia, where Ilya, son of gang kingpin Sergei, and Alexi, a cousin, seduced them with Cosmos. Later, at Alexi’s lakeside home, Liz was an unseen witness to a hit on Alexi by Sergei’s enforcers, who also killed Julie. Managing to escape, Liz was forced to run again when two dirty FBI agents destroyed her safe house and murdered her guards. A person of interest to both the Feds and the mob, she’s been on the lam for 12 years. Before they can marry, Brooks must help Liz come in from the cold.

A promising start to a series, provided Roberts can flesh out her derivative heroine.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15912-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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