An enemies-to-lovers romance that deserves to be savored.

AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE

From the Palace of Rogues series , Vol. 4

Desire and disdain collide as an opera singer who's been publicly shamed clashes with a priggish, aristocratic military hero.

Soprano Mariana Wylde seeks refuge at the London docklands boardinghouse known as the Palace of Rogues after a duel between a former lover and a current fan makes her a tabloid scandal. To her dismay, Gen. James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk—who's lodging there temporarily while writing his memoirs—takes an immediate dislike to her for her perceived debauchery. Initial skirmishes between the two culminate in a mean-spirited action on his part, precipitating an apology and a period of forced proximity between them. While the duke, who speaks Italian, gives private lessons to the soprano, who only sings it, they begin to slowly share their fears and traumas, and the two bruised souls drop their bellicose facades and begin a secret affair. Despite their electric attraction, however, her disrepute presents an insurmountable barrier to a legitimate relationship in his eyes, yoked as he is to his own reputation as a moralist. Long specializes in crafting tension between people whose sexual and intellectual compatibility are at odds with their place in social hierarchies and prescribed gender roles. But even as British society seems unlikely to accept this union, the plucky proprietresses of the Palace of Rogues and the other charming lodgers there model alternatives to a conventional life. It's up to the duke to overcome his black-and-white perspective as he comes to see how sexist stereotypes demonize nonconforming women while excusing men. If the novel’s agenda is obvious—questioning the patriarchal hypocrisy that condemns women after taking away their choices—the execution is subtle and moving. Scenes where the protagonists’ spoken words compete with their body language mirror the strain between socially dictated mores and individual desire. The only sour note is the hero’s background, which falls into a long romance tradition of British imperialists—one that needs to be retired, or at least interrogated.

An enemies-to-lovers romance that deserves to be savored.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304509-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Lots of buzz after a seven-year hiatus, but even die-hard Outlander fans might need more action.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE

The ninth book in Gabaldon’s Outlander series finds the Fraser family reunited in the midst of the American Revolution.

It’s 1779, and Claire and Jamie Fraser have found each other across time and space and are living peacefully in the American Colony of North Carolina. This novel opens with the mysterious return to Fraser’s Ridge of their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children. In a previous book, Brianna’s family time-traveled to 20th-century America and planned to stay there permanently. It’s clear that Jamie and the others expect the troubles the family faced in the future will follow them to the past; unfortunately, after their return, the book pauses for several hundred pages of exposition. Gabaldon reintroduces characters, summarizes past events and tragedies, and introduces new characters. The text features not one but two family trees (the one in the back is updated to include the events of the book), and readers will need both to keep track of all the characters and relationships. The Outlander series has always been concerned with themes of time and place, and this novel contains intricate details and descriptions of daily life in Colonial America, clearly the result of countless hours of research. But Claire and Jamie have always been the major draw for readers. Now that they are grandparents, their love story is less epic and more tender, exploring the process of aging, the joys of family, and the longing for community and home. The last third is more plot-driven and action-packed, but the cliffhanger ending might leave readers feeling as if the book is just filler for the promised 10th installment.

Lots of buzz after a seven-year hiatus, but even die-hard Outlander fans might need more action.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-101-88568-0

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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A heartfelt look at taking second chances, in life and in love.

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BEACH READ

Two struggling authors spend the summer writing and falling in love in a quaint beach town.

January Andrews has just arrived in the small town of North Bear Shores with some serious baggage. Her father has been dead for a year, but she still hasn’t come to terms with what she found out at his funeral—he had been cheating on her mother for years. January plans to spend the summer cleaning out and selling the house her father and “That Woman” lived in together. But she’s also a down-on-her-luck author facing writer’s block, and she no longer believes in the happily-ever-after she’s made the benchmark of her work. Her steadily dwindling bank account, though, is a daily reminder that she must sell her next book, and fast. Serendipitously, she discovers that her new next-door neighbor is Augustus Everett, the darling of the literary fiction set and her former college rival/crush. Gus also happens to be struggling with his next book (and some serious trauma that unfolds throughout the novel). Though the two get off to a rocky start, they soon make a bet: Gus will try to write a romance novel, and January will attempt “bleak literary fiction.” They spend the summer teaching each other the art of their own genres—January takes Gus on a romantic outing to the local carnival; Gus takes January to the burned-down remains of a former cult—and they both process their own grief, loss, and trauma through this experiment. There are more than enough steamy scenes to sustain the slow-burn romance, and smart commentary on the placement and purpose of “women’s fiction” joins with crucial conversations about mental health to add multiple intriguing layers to the plot.

A heartfelt look at taking second chances, in life and in love.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0673-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Jove/Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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