An intimate and remarkable family saga.

WE ARE THE KINGS

Torres’ debut novel tells interwoven stories of three generations of brilliant, complicated women—and a ghost.

While traveling in South Africa with her boyfriend, Marcella glimpses an unknown but oddly familiar woman through a train window and is suddenly flooded with memories of her grandmothers, Adele and Nana, and other notable women in her life. This opening leads into a story that offers a nuanced exploration of a complicated family history. Marcella’s father came from a wealthy Protestant family, and her Jewish mother’s family owned a deli in Providence, Rhode Island. Over the years, Marcella, her sisters Isabella and Alessandra, her mother, her aunt Joan, and her grandmothers all experience volatile and difficult relationships with their own fathers, boyfriends, and husbands. Glamorous Adele, living alone on an elegant seaside estate, believes that she’s been haunted and protected all her life by the spirit of a nameless woman—an apparition that also appears to other female members of the family on rare occasions. Marcella narrates the women’s intersecting tales in a voice that combines snarky, self-deprecating humor, keen psychological insight, and affectionate tenderness. The episodic work effectively examines the ways in which women are forced to shrink themselves to accommodate men and how they still manage to express their own brilliance, nonetheless. Torres’ writing is vivid, moving, and often funny as it homes in on telling details, as when Marcella’s boyfriend Keith is described as “wearing Dad Nikes without any evidence of shame.” Her characters are well rounded and authentic, and she takes her time to paint a fully realized portrait of a family with unspoken secrets and unshakeable bonds and an emotional landscape in which what is unspoken is at least as powerful as what is. The novel’s nuanced treatment of complex themes, including death, divorce, illness, sexism, racism, and even the supernatural, makes this a very impressive debut, indeed.

An intimate and remarkable family saga.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-954805-13-2

Page Count: 255

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

HORSE

A long-lost painting sets in motion a plot intertwining the odyssey of a famed 19th-century thoroughbred and his trainer with the 21st-century rediscovery of the horse’s portrait.

In 2019, Nigerian American Georgetown graduate student Theo plucks a dingy canvas from a neighbor’s trash and gets an assignment from Smithsonian magazine to write about it. That puts him in touch with Jess, the Smithsonian’s “expert in skulls and bones,” who happens to be examining the same horse's skeleton, which is in the museum's collection. (Theo and Jess first meet when she sees him unlocking an expensive bike identical to hers and implies he’s trying to steal it—before he points hers out further down the same rack.) The horse is Lexington, “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history,” nurtured and trained from birth by Jarret, an enslaved man who negotiates with this extraordinary horse the treacherous political and racial landscape of Kentucky before and during the Civil War. Brooks, a White writer, risks criticism for appropriation by telling portions of these alternating storylines from Jarret’s and Theo’s points of view in addition to those of Jess and several other White characters. She demonstrates imaginative empathy with both men and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness, as when Theo takes Jess’ clumsy apology—“I was traumatized by my appalling behavior”—and thinks, “Typical….He’d been accused, yet she was traumatized.” Jarret is similarly but much more covertly irked by well-meaning White people patronizing him; Brooks skillfully uses their paired stories to demonstrate how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable when a Union officer angrily describes his Confederate prisoners as “lost to a narrative untethered to anything he recognized as true.…Their fabulous notions of what evils the Federal government intended for them should their cause fail…was ingrained so deep, beyond the reach of reasonable dialogue or evidence.” The 21st-century chapters’ shocking denouement drives home Brooks’ point that too much remains the same for Black people in America, a grim conclusion only slightly mitigated by a happier ending for Jarret.

Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-39-956296-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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