Mindless froth that Austen addicts will love.

AUSTENLAND

Yet another player in the literary parlor game of re-writing Jane Austen.

From the dedication to Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries, Hale, author of YA novels (River Secrets, 2006, etc.), lets the reader know her tongue is firmly in cheek. Hale’s heroine, Jane Hayes, is a single New York professional with a secret passion for Pride and Prejudice—not the novel, but the more over-the-top romantic screen versions, particularly the one starring Firth. Shortly after her Great-Aunt Carolyn discovers Jane’s obsession, the old lady conveniently dies, having bequeathed to Jane a three-week stay at Pembrook Park, a fantasy version of a Regency England country estate (modern plumbing, but no cell phones allowed). Temporarily re-christened “Miss Jane Erstwhile,” Jane soon finds herself plopped into the center of several Austen novels rolled together. Her fellow guests are the pathetically needy “Miss Charming” and the gentle, genuinely charming “Miss Heartwright.” Knowing that the hosts and male guests are clearly actors does not keep Jane from confusing fact with fantasy. As she resists the falseness of the situation, she falls into a contemporary fling with Martin, an actor playing a gardener on the estate, with whom she watches television and makes out. She also finds herself drawn to “Mr. Nobley,” a Darcy stand-in. But is it the character being played whom she’s attracted to? Or the man playing him? The novel is clever in its depiction of the many ways in which romance can fall away, and Jane is no fool as she attempts to sort out the real from the make-believe. Readers will be as surprised as she is by some of the twists. But ultimately this is a romance novel in which lovers who are meant to be together overcome miscues and misunderstandings before the final clinch.

Mindless froth that Austen addicts will love.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-59691-285-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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