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Finding Glory

Sara Arden. HQN, $7.99 mass market (376p) ISBN 978-0-373-77948-2

The unusual premise of the third Home to Glory contemporary (after Unfaded Glory), set in tiny, insular Glory, Kan., is undermined by a poorly contrived climax and the juvenile behavior of the heroine. After Gina Townsend's sister dies from a drug overdose, Gina swears to give her six-year-old niece, Amanda, a good and happy life, even if it means setting aside her pride and going after Reed Hollingsworth, Amanda's father and Gina's longtime crush, for much-needed child support. Reed had no idea he was a father until the child support lawsuit landed on him; now he will do anything to be part of Amanda's life, even if it means making peace with one of the women he blames for keeping him from her. To Reed and Gina's mutual shock, the judge—a friend of Gina's conniving grandmother—suggests that they get married to provide a stable home. The two are forced to set aside their differences and face their fears, and soon the modern-day arranged marriage becomes something more intimate. The main characters overindulge in hysterics, and Arden has a too-immediate fix for every problem, but fans of witty romance will appreciate the catchy and humorous dialogue. (June)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Vicious Cycle

Katie Ashley. Signet Eclipse, $15 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-451-47491-9

Ashley (The Proposition) piles on graphic raunch in this biker-themed series starter, which fits neatly into the contemporary romance genre of good girls and the very bad boys who love them. Deacon Malloy, the sergeant at arms for the Hell's Raiders motorcycle club, has made it his life's work to care for his adoptive family—even if it means using his fists. When he learns he has a young daughter, Willow, his world of chrome and blood must shift to include hair ribbons and ballet. Kindergarten teacher Alexandra Evans has developed a special bond with Willow, and she goes above and beyond when Willow's life is threatened by a rival motorcycle club. Having broken through Deacon's daughter's reserve, can Alex reach Deacon's heart before war erupts? The explicit, sometimes overly graphic language and dramatic events detract slightly from an otherwise deliciously raw and gritty story. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Moonlight on Nightingale Way

Samantha Young. NAL, $15 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-451-47561-9

Concluding the On Dublin Street series, Young's final visit to Edinburgh finds freelance editor Grace Farquar facing off against neighbor and nightclub manager Logan James MacLeod, who offends her sensibilities with his revolving door of loudly satisfied women. Logan can't decide whether Grace is prim or snobby, but he's sure she's too good for him, since he's spent time in prison (for the relatively good cause of assaulting his sister's abusive boyfriend). He can't help but be impressed by Grace's strength and generosity when she supports his teen daughter, who's suddenly appeared in his life. Once again, Young offers a passionate and modern romance that readers will embrace, with a proper epilogue ensuring that the hard-earned happy endings for the series' three couples are long lasting and filled with happiness. Readers will be very sad to say farewell to Dublin Street. (June)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Wrong Man

Kate White. Harper, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-235065-7

New York City interior decorator Kit Finn, the heroine of this absorbing novel of suspense from bestseller White (Eyes on You), has a one-night fling with Matt Healy, a man she meets at the end of her vacation on Islamorada in the Florida Keys. Then, on her way to the Miami airport, Matt calls to invite her to dinner at his Manhattan apartment. When Kit arrives for their date, the door is opened by a stranger who claims that he's Matt Healy, who's as surprised to see her as she is to see him. Kit resolves to find out why the man she met in Florida used someone else's identity, and what his motivation was for luring her to an apartment not his own. Her pursuit of the answers is fraught with danger to her coworkers, her business, and most especially herself. Kit doesn't know whom to trust or where to turn as the plot builds to an exciting, well-executed conclusion. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Loved Ones

Mary-Beth Hughes. Atlantic Monthly, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2249-0

The latest from Hughes (Wavemaker II) begins just before Christmas 1969: the snow is coming down fast when Jean Devlin pulls out of her driveway and pauses in the quiet hush of the storm—in part because she can't see, but also to think and remember. The pages that follow set the tempo and sensibility for the rest of the novel, a patchwork of present and past, stitched together so seamlessly it can be unclear when one ends and another begins. This fluidity feels honestly captured and articulated, but a basic clarity is often sacrificed as a result. While Jean alludes to the pain of her past—a dead son, a wayward husband, and a beloved but unruly brother—she watches the snow and feels her solitude deepen. Hughes's novel is tender and sympathetic, but the cascade of familial references, and the snippets of memory that aren't fully explained or connected, never quite catch. As the book evolves and time moves along, through 1970 and into 1971, who, exactly, the characters are continues to feel too slippery, too subtle, too elusive. Despite the gorgeous precision of nearly every sentence (or perhaps because of it), the essential grounding of time and place feels obscured more often than not—like something in a snowstorm that's right there but can't quite be distinguished. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Last Pilot

Benjamin Johncock. Picador, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-06664-0

Using the early days of the U.S. space exploration program as a backdrop, Johncock’s impressive debut laces fact with fiction to tell the tale of Jim Harrison, an Air Force test pilot, and his wife, Grace. The story opens in the Mojave Desert in 1947, where Jim pushes innovative aircraft to their extremes and rubs elbows with the likes of Chuck Yeager and Jack Ridley. Jim and Grace pine for a child and eventually welcome a daughter, Florence. But Florence becomes gravely ill at the age of two, and despite his vast knowledge of cutting-edge aerospace technology, Jim can do little to save her life. Devastated, he throws himself into his work instead of mourning her death, volunteering for the upstart NASA program and moving with Grace to Houston. Once there, Jim must race against a ticking clock—the president expects a mission to the moon by 1970—and he slowly drifts away from Grace, develops anxious ticks, and suffers through disturbing visions of Florence, all as he prepares to participate in one of the Gemini space shuttles. Jim’s story is fascinating, and the author writes with a strong ear for dialogue, which rattles the pages with intensity. A marvelous, emotionally powerful novel. (July)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Meursault Investigation

Kamel Daoud, trans. from the French by John Cullen. Other Press, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-59051-751-2

Camus’s The Stranger is vividly reimagined in Daoud’s intensely atmospheric novel (a finalist for the Prix Goncourt), which is told in a meandering monologue by the adult Harun, over the course of several visits to a bar in Oran, Algeria. Harun’s older brother, Musa, an Algerian Arab, was shot by the Frenchman Meursault on an Algiers beach in 1942; his body was never recovered. Musa’s missing corpse casts a long shadow over Harun, “condemned to a secondary role” by his widowed mother as she drags him on an interminable investigation into the death, taking the two from the Bab-el-Oued neighborhood of Algiers to the town of Hadjout, in northern Algeria. Determined to “organize the world” through language, the teenage Harun masters French in flashback, and he is 27 by the time a chance encounter offers him an opportunity to irrevocably alter his fate. As Harun meditates on guilt, alienation, and his failed affair with Meriem, a university student, his quarrel is revealed to be not just with his mother and Meursault, but with post-Independence Algeria and God himself. Ultimately, Harun identifies more with his brother’s killer than with his own zealous countrymen. The ghostlike “double” he sees in the bar where the tale is told may be Camus himself: “I’m his Arab. Or maybe he’s mine.” Daoud resists affirming which interpretation is “truer,” and readers will be captivated by the ambiguity. (June)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Trailer Park Fae

Lilith Saintcrow. Orbit, $15 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-27785-3

Saintcrow’s urban fantasy series launch is expertly crafted with heartbreak and mistrust, far darker and lovelier than the title suggests. Widower Jeremiah Gallow—a half-human, half-Sidhe former armormaster to the Sidhe queen of the Summer Court—is living a carefully mortal life as a construction worker in our world. He’s unaware of a plague sweeping through the Summer Sidhe, possibly sent by the lord of Unwinter. When Robin Ragged, also half-Sidhe, dodges an Unwinter knight and seeks shelter in a rundown bar, Jeremiah can’t help but notice her, and her resemblance to his dead wife unexpectedly draws out his protective instincts. Robin, a rare Realmaker (someone who has the ability to make objects that have unfading enchantments), is the queen’s chosen courier for the newly discovered plague cure. But when the queen takes Robin’s adopted child as her new plaything, Robin bargains for the boy’s life, setting off a chain of events that will bring about open war between the Summer and Unwinter courts. Saintcrow’s artful, poignant descriptions remain with the reader long after the tale’s end, as does the persistent sense of dark, unsettling unease. Agent: Miriam Kriss, Irene Goodman Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Head Full of Ghosts

Paul Tremblay. Morrow, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-236323-7

Is the protagonist of this book a demon-possessed victim or a clever, manipulative teen? This savvy tale of horror tantalizingly keeps the reader waiting for an answer. When 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett begins behaving as though she’s demonically possessed, her Massachusetts family starts a reality-based television show, The Possession, to earn the money they desperately need to keep their household together. But is Marjorie really channeling a creature of supernatural evil, or is she just good at Internet research, which keeps her one step ahead of her gullible parents and doctors? Marjorie’s younger sister, Meredith, who is recounting these events 15 years after her family’s ordeal, even wonders whether it’s possible for Marjorie “to be both possessed by a demon and faking it too.” Tremblay paints a believable portrait of a family in extremis emotionally as it attempts to cope with the unthinkable, but at the same time he slyly suggests that in a culture where the wall between reality and acting has eroded, even the make believe might seem credible. Whether psychological or supernatural, this is a work of deviously subtle horror. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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All That Followed

Gabriel Urza. Holt, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-62779-243-1

Set in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Urza’s debut novel is as subtle and enveloping as the txirimiri, a Basque word for “rain so fine that an umbrella is useless against it.” The village of Muriga, a Basque stronghold dominated by a “looming fortress” that was once the site of a massacre during the Spanish Civil War, is picturesque and sinister in equal measure. It is a town proud of its antifascist past but bedeviled by a strain of separatist extremism that leads several teenagers to murder a local politician. The novel is narrated by three townspeople, each providing a first-person account that cautiously circles the political crime in increasingly tight orbits: Joni, a transplanted American teacher of English, who, despite having lived in Muriga for half a century, is still considered a stranger; Mariana, the widow of the slain politician who is convinced that the ghost of her kidney donor, a young terrorist killed by the police, is haunting her; and Iker, a student of Joni’s and one of the perpetrators of the attack. Deceptions and past tragedies come to light, but most remarkable is how Urza thematically handles the violence lurking in an insular community. Be it a Basque town with its own language and history, a transplanted organ, or a nonnative inhabitant, everything in this tense novel revolves around the notion of an ineradicable foreignness that inexorably leads to bad blood. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 04/17/2015 | Details & Permalink

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