Beautifully written, both sharp and bighearted, funny and true.

THE BLACKMAILER'S GUIDE TO LOVE

A juicy roman à clef sympathetically imagines two young women on opposite sides of an extramarital affair.

"It is 1978 and Mel is twenty-five years old"—and like her creator did at that time, she works at a magazine which seems to be Esquire for a jerk who seems to be Gordon Lish, who recklessly edits the stories of a man who seems to be Raymond Carver. Also like Thurm, Mel is about to have her own first story published in the New Yorker at the age of 25, and she will go on to write "stories mostly in the present tense, mostly about the infinite ways, large and small, in which her characters manage to disappoint one another"—a perfect description of the selection of Thurm's stories written between 1979 and 2021 and just published as Pleasure Palace. And after she endures the events that begin on April 14, 1980, when she finds an angry note from another woman in her husband's backpack, Mel knows that "she will, the instant she’s good and ready, write the only [novel] she’s certain she is capable of writing...she’s already confident of the title: The Blackmailer’s Guide to Love." It turned out to be Thurm's ninth novel, actually, and in addition to evoking the experience of the betrayed young writer, it also fully imagines that of her nemesis. The plight of Julia Myerson unfolds in chapters that alternate with Mel's. Abused as a child, divorced from an awful man, unable to make progress on her dissertation, Julia is cobbling together a living as a dog walker and a caregiver to an elderly couple. After her longtime therapist commits suicide by jumping off a bridge, she becomes the patient of Charlie Fleischer, a caring psychologist with a sweet face, a warm smile—and a wedding ring. "She’s not stupid: she’s fully aware that falling for your therapist is a 'thing,' that it’s something that happens all the time, every day of the week. But that doesn’t render what she feels for Charlie any less meaningful, any less potent, does it?"

Beautifully written, both sharp and bighearted, funny and true.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953002-00-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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