Nora Roberts, “Whiskey Beach”

Book design, Meighan Cavanaugh; http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780399159893,00.html?Whiskey_Beach_Nora_RobertsIt’s the nature of an accusation: once tossed out, the stain remains. It’s unfair. It’s infuriating. And it’s human nature to judge, and judge easily. Eli Landon, a man deemed guilty in the court of public opinion, knows he is innocent of any crime other than plain foolishness. But proving it and wiping free the ugly smudge of guilt? It’s next to impossible.

Plot Overview: Family, Suspicion and Faith

Eli, a blue-blooded Boston criminal attorney, was preparing for a bitter divorce with his cheating wife, Lindsay; the battle he got, however, was entirely unexpected. Coming home hours after a vicious confrontation, Eli found Lindsay murdered, her head bashed in with a fireplace poker. He quickly became the prime suspect, and though the circumstantial evidence was strong, Eli was never charged.

One year later, he slinks back to the family home, battered and wounded, a soldier returning from a war he never wanted to fight. Bluff House is a balm on his wounds, as is the housekeeper, Abra. Despite his best efforts, Eli continues to fight for his innocence, even as he struggles to reconstruct his shattered life. No one, it seems, is safe around him, at least until he and Abra come up with a plan to snare the man determined to take Eli down.

Criticisms and Compliments

At first glance, Whiskey Beach doesn’t seem that interesting; a scarred man escapes to the beautiful family home on the beach to lick his wounds and recover. Naturally, he falls in love with the dusky, exotic and vulnerable housekeeper. The end. Judging a book by its cover, however, is absolutely the wrong way to go with Whiskey Beach. Yes, it has the typical and expected elements of a romance novel, but such is the nature of the genre. Eli Landon is also surprisingly complex, and while it’s not the first time Roberts has created a character who is a writer (just check out Grayson Thane in Born in Ice), Eli’s emotional journey is reflected in his own novel’s development. It’s a nice parallel.

The only disappointing part of Whiskey Beach is that Roberts doesn’t hold back the identity of private investigator Duncan’s murderer, though Lindsay’s murderer is left to be exposed at the end. The problem, aside from the killer(s) being predictable, is that Roberts is so skilled at surprising the reader with the antagonist (Montana Sky is a great example) that the reader can’t help but feel a little let down that she didn’t wait to reveal the whodunit in spectacular, shocking fashion.

Whiskey Beach is a good read, but it could have been better. Still, the pacing and writing is excellent, and Eli and Abra make for a believable couple.

Source:

  • Roberts, Nora. Whiskey Beach. Putnam Adult, 2013 ISBN 9780399159893

Sue Grafton, “A Is for Alibi”

St. Martin’s Griffin; http://us.macmillan.com/aisforalibi/SueGraftonEight years ago, Nikki Fife was convicted of murdering her husband, Laurence Fife. Nikki went to prison, and the community wiped itself clean of the scandal. Now out on parole, the ethereal murderess continues to proclaim her innocence and decides to hire private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Although it’s not her first time investigating, Kinsey finds the case puzzling. She can’t seem to grasp the details of the full picture; if the case were a puzzle, she would still be assembling the edge pieces.

Plot Overview: Murder, Misdirection and Misinterpretations

Kinsey is a woman who lives without attachments. She has no boyfriend, though she’s twice divorced, no pets, no plants, nothing that requires any sort of maintenance. She’s the clichéd footloose and fancy-free. So when a client like Nikki Fife comes along, and Kinsey needs to travel to find answers, it’s easy to pack up and go.

The P.I. follows what little leads there are, including the related death of Libby Glass (so far ignored by the court system). But as she makes her way from Santa Teresa to Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back, Kinsey finds herself baiting an unknown assailant. Someone is stalking her. And when a fresh body turns up, Kinsey knows she’s on the right, if dangerous path.

What Kinsey also struggles with – besides the vagueness of the case – is her budding relationship with Charlie Scorsoni. He’s handsome, magnetically sexual and a suspect in the case. For the first time, the loner can’t find her balance, her objectivity, her instincts. Her investigation is, plainly, a mess. Only a persistent P.I. can’t sort it out, and Kinsey gnaws at the case as a dog with a bone.

Criticisms and Compliments

At first, A Is for Alibi seems like it should fit into the chick-lit/mystery genre; it’s a book about a woman, written by a woman and ostensibly read by women. However, unlike Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, who absolutely fits into the chick-lit/mystery genre, Kinsey Millhone is a more traditional detective. She’s tough and street-smart, a former cop who rejected the business of good-and bad-police doing to pursue her own investigations with her own ethics and principles. She’s got attitude and brains, and God help the person who gives her the run around or irritates her. This woman has a thick skin and a brilliant brain.

Unlike many other mystery novels, as well, A Is for Alibi is written in the first person. Typically, a mystery novel is written in third person so as to provide additional points of view and clues; first person, on the other hand, only provides the point of the view of the main character, so the reader learns as the character learns. It’s a more limited, but infinitely more challenging way to write, and Evanovich employs such a point of view in a skillful, efficient way. Kinsey is a methodical, instinctive detective, and her journey from assignment to investigation to conclusion is logical, fast and entertaining. It is, to use a cliché, “unputdownable” (not unlike Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy, also written in first person).

A Is for Alibi is, simply, a fantastic read. It’s a smart novel with smart writing, and Kinsey Millhone should be one of literature’s favorite detectives (or private investigators).

Source:

  • Grafton, Sue. A Is for Alibi. St. Martin’s Griffin (Reprint edition), 2008 ISBN 9780312353810

Sandra Brown, “Fat Tuesday”

Grand Central Publishing; http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/sandra-brown/fat-tuesday/9780446605588/Burke Basile is like any great detective: smart, hardened, quiet. Mustachioed. He’s the Magnum P.I. of New Orleans, if slightly less charming. Circumstances, however, have turned the once effective investigator with loads of integrity into a traumatized, rogue officer intent on revenge; his partner and best friend, Kevin, was killed in a drug bust – and it was Burke’s fault. Embittered with grief, Burke blames Pinkie Duvall, lawyer extraordinaire and downright dirtbag, for the failed mission. And there’s only one obstacle in Burke’s path to the scummy defense attorney: Pinkie’s lovely and innocent wife, Remy.

Plot Overview: Deception, Kidnapping and Love

After accidentally killing his partner, Burke is buckling under the guilt and the rage. His marriage crumbles, Kevin’s widow asks him not to visit anymore, and powerful criminals have their fingers in the New Orleans police department. Topping off that sundae with a nice juicy cherry is the acquittal of the drug kingpin behind the botched bust. Witnessing flamboyant Pinkie at the helm of a disappointing trial, Burke, a man of ethics and black-and-white justice, gives up.

He resigns from the department then crafts a plan of revenge to steal what Pinkie holds most dear: his wife. Gathering a posse of colorful personalities, like Gregory, a gay hustler who dreams of being an actor, a madam’s most talented girl and an old friend who lives deep in the bayou, Burke kidnaps Remy. The one element he hasn’t counted on? His undeniable attraction to the Cinderella-like woman whose Prince Charming husband has a heart like stone and hands that too easily slap and abuse.

Criticisms and Compliments

Sandra Brown, like Nora Roberts, excels at romantic suspense more than straight romance (just look at Prime Time). And like Roberts, Brown’s earlier novels are her best. Fat Tuesday may not be as well-written and engaging as Envy, but it’s close. The plot, though clichéd at times, has a terrific number of twists and turns, the characters, especially Dredd and Gregory, are memorable, and the romance between Burke and Remy feels sincere and sweet. But the shining star of Fat Tuesday is the city itself, New Orleans.

In a place of grit and glamour, dark alleys and masquerade balls, New Orleans is a place for the basest of human desires. It’s dirty and sexy and romantic and boisterous. There’s corruption in every office, and greed runs through the streets like a flood of water. Yet while the city itself appeals to the glitzier and more ambitious of folk, the bayou is really where life teems and death preys – by way of gators. So for the bad guys, the muscle, the brawn without the brains, the employees of Pinkie Duvall, the swamp is where they meet their maker. And where Burke and Remy discover the tender, rosy first days of true love.

Fat Tuesday is not just a book for fans of romance, fans of suspense, fans of Mardi Gras, it’s a book for those who just enjoy a good story set in a good city. A must read.

Source:

  • Brown, Sandra. Fat Tuesday. Grand Central Publishing, 1998 ISBN 9780446605588

Karen Robards, “Guilty”

Karen Robards, GuiltyMistakes can be easily made but not so easily rectified. For Kate White, formerly known as “Kat,” the mistake she made as a teenager has faded into the past, though it hasn’t completely disappeared. She’s reinvented herself and has become a mother and a lawyer; as the new Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia, she has respect and prestige – and a lot to lose. So when that mistake comes waltzing back in her life, gun in hand, she’ll do anything to protect herself and her 10-year-old son.

Plot Overview: Redemption, Identity and Motherhood

As a foster child, Kat, as she was known, was all too aware that some people are innately bad. Seeking to escape her foster parents – and predators – Kat rode off into the night with her then boyfriend and band of wild-riding friends. Just hours later, a police officer lay dead, and Kat melted into the shadows.

10 years later, and with a son, Kat has turned into Kate, a scrappy ADA in Philly. On one of her first days in court, the defendant whips out a gun and shoots the judge. The courtroom erupts in chaos, and bullets fly around, catching and pinning down innocent bystanders.

Kate is taken hostage by one of the gunmen, and in the tunnels of the courthouse that lead to the holding cells, she is confronted with a man from her past, a man who knows her involvement in the shooting from so long ago. He could easily destroy her career, ruin her reputation, take away her ability to provide for her son. So Kate, with the knowledge of a former streetwise runaway, does what she has to do.

Detective Tom Braga is in charge of investigating the courtroom shooting, and he knows that Kate is innocent – and hiding something. Swayed by her ambition and her love for her son, Tom finds himself crossing the sacred line between detective and witness. But until Kate opens up, Tom can only have his pistol at the ready for when suspect after suspect starts poking around.

Criticisms and Compliments

Robards excels at the romantic thriller, and Guilty is no exception. The story is good, the chemistry hot, the heroine vulnerable yet determined, the hero world-weary and tough. Although it is not as emotionally wrenching as Vanished, Guilty is gritty and suspenseful and intense. That said, Robards, as in most of her novels, includes the element of motherly love; whether it’s a mother and missing child, a single mother and her son, an elderly mother and her daughter, the relationship is instinctual and fierce. In Guilty, Kate is willing to go to any length to ensure her son’s survival, even willing to sacrifice her own. It’s an admirable quality.

While the characters and plot in Guilty are top notch, the one anomaly is the “darkness.” When Kate is playing basketball with her son in the driveway, only a dim bulb lights the mother and son and the hoop. The darkness that shrouds the house, the neighbors, the mysterious and threatening men, is like its own entity, its own character. The darkness in Guilty seems to be more terrifying, more enveloping than any bad guy or mobster or escaped convict.

Overall, Guilty is absolutely worth a read, and it is an easy, gripping one at that.

Source:

  • Robards, Karen. Guilty. Signet, 2009 ISBN 9780451226693

Karen Robards, “Shattered”

What happens to that girl in high school who had everything? She was popular, beautiful, well-liked. She had wealthy parents, all the opportunities, all the best materialistic things in life: fancy cars, designer clothes, country club memberships. She had the attention of the athletic boys, the popular boys, the rich boys – and she knew how to flirt and manipulate them. Lisa Grant was one of those girls. But 10 years after high school, where does she stand? Where is her career, her family, her love life? In Lisa’s opinion, her fast-moving life has come to a screeching, shocking halt.

Plot Overview: Family, Loyalty and Love

Lisa Grant’s life in Boston was great – until her law firm failed, she lost her job, and her mother became ill. Resigned, she moved back to her home town, tucked away her pride and went to work as a research assistant – a demotion – for Scott Buchanan, her former neighbor and love interest. She is desperate to keep up appearances for her beloved mother, but taking care of the bills and her mother’s healthcare is quickly draining her savings.

Stuck and frustrated, Lisa is passing the time day by day, enduring her poor treatment at work and cherishing what time she has left with her mother at Grayson Springs, their sprawling horse farm. When another lackey shows Lisa a mysterious unsolved crime file, it sparks her interest. The mother of the murdered family could be her twin, her doppelganger, even her sister. Curious, Lisa starts poking into the case, not realizing that doing so puts her life – and her mother’s – in danger. Good thing she has hunky Scott to save the day.

Criticisms and Compliments

Shattered is a decent read, but it doesn’t have that same spark as Vanished or Guilty. Lisa isn’t a likeable character, though it is easy to feel sympathy for her situation. Her crisis of identity is traumatic, and with her mother’s declining health, the fire to her home and her conflicting feelings for Scott, she is struggling to stay balanced. That said, she seems spoiled and entitled and resentful of having to move home and work under the poor boy from down the road. She is, on occasion, manipulative and bratty, resorting to immature behavior. She is interesting and vulnerable, certainly, but not appealing.

Despite Lisa’s character, Shattered displays Robards’s consistently good writing, and the suspense is top notch. Like most of her novels, Shattered also has a deliciously twisted ending; every reader loves being surprised at the end of a page-turning, thrilling read. As far as romantic thrillers go, Shattered is good; it has great plot twists and genuinely spooky passages. A decent read.

Source:

  • Robards, Karen. Shattered. Signet, 2011 ISBN 9780451233547

James Patterson, “1st to Die”

It’s an interesting idea, the teaming of minds, of professions, of experience. A prosecutor who knows strategy, a medical examiner who focuses on the details, an investigator who can analyze behaviors and motives, a budding reporter who has gumption, spunk, the ability to dig in and research. That they are women adds that something extra, that bond between sisters, the emotional connection that allows them to understand each other as well as their suspects. So when a serial killer begins stalking and killing couples on their wedding night, the four ladies of the Women’s Murder Club put their brilliant heads together to figure him out.

Plot Overview: Deception, Murder and Sisterhood

Lindsay Boxer is a dedicated detective, sworn to right wrongs, fight for justice and put away the bad guys. Phillip Campbell is one of those bad guys. He targets couples on their wedding nights, killing them and stealing their wedding rings. He leaves devastated families in his wake, and his ruthlessness brings out Lindsay’s ferocious determination to find him.

As Lindsay puts together clue after clue, Cindy Thomas, a reporter with the “San Francisco Register,” sneaks onto the crime scene. Her brazen attitude and resourcefulness earn her Lindsay’s respect and agreement to be a source.

With the additional help of Dr. Claire Washburn, a medical examiner – and Lindsay’s best friend – and Jill Bernhardt, a deputy district attorney, Lindsay and Cindy begin to analyze Phillip Campbell, his motives and his victims. Campbell might be cruel and sadistic and a killer, but he’s no match for these hard-working and insightful women.

Criticisms and Compliments

Many reviewers and critics have commented that Patterson’s Alex Cross series has begun to decline. The quality of the writing isn’t as good, the plots are stale, the characters are shallow. But Patterson’s introduction of the Women’s Murder Club could be his comeback; the novels are excellent. Like in Sundays at Tiffany’s, Patterson, with (uncredited) help, is able to understand women’s minds and how the gender works and processes emotional, mental and physical blows.

The real star of 1st to Die, and its narrator, is Lindsay Boxer. In other circumstances, she and her friends would be a little flat, despite the creation of their club. The addition of her blood disease, however, adds a little heart, a little depth to what could easily be a stereotypical character. She has the world-weariness, the strict adherence to rules, the hint of a rebellious nature when the rules are a hindrance and the dysfunctional family of a standard investigator. Thankfully, she also has her sisters, the members of the Women’s Murder Club, to keep her righted.

As the first in a successful series, 1st to Die is a good introduction to Lindsay and her gal pals and has all the ingredients of a good whodunit: red herrings, tragedies, action, deliciously evil antagonists, the death of a loved one. Keep an eye out for the short-lived television series that ran from 2007 to 2008 on ABC and can be found online.

Source:

  • Patterson, James. 1st to Die (Women’s Murder Club). Grand Central Publishing, 2005 ISBN 9780446696616

Sandra Brown, “Smash Cut”

Sandra Brown is the writer of classic suspense novels punctuated with romance and lust; she continues her streak with Smash Cut. A novel glorifying obsessions and violent sociopathy, Smash Cut focuses on the mind of Creighton Wheeler, one of Brown’s most terrifying antagonists yet. Targeting Julie Rutledge  and Derek Mitchell, Creighton enacts one movie scene after another in brilliant violence, much like the “smash cut” technique of movies. The result is a bloody, creepy thriller that celebrates movies and scandal.

Plot Overview: Movies, Violence and Lust

When Paul Wheeler is murdered by a masked assailant, Julie Rutledge, Paul’s long-time girlfriend, is convinced the act was committed by his nephew, Creighton, a selfish, mentally unstable millionaire. He is obsessed with movies, and could easily have pulled off the murder for his own entertainment. Julie does all she can to convince the police of Creighton’s guilt and even goes so far as to sabotage his chance for a good defense.

After being seduced by Julie aboard a flight from Paris to Atlanta, Derek Mitchell is suspicious of both her and Creighton Wheeler. A lawyer, Derek uses the tools at his disposal – his brain and his private detective – to try to weed out the lies from the truth. As he gradually accepts Julie’s innocence and Creighton’s culpability, he finds himself falling in love. When Creighton discovers the relationship, he fixates on the two, committing heinous, despicable acts; but, his violence only serves to bring the two lovers closer together. The question is, can Julie and Derek work together to convince the police of Creighton’s guilt?

Criticisms and Compliments

Brown is known for her unflinching portrayals of depraved, truly horrible human beings, and Creighton Wheeler certainly fits that mold. He is a terrific antagonist: sociopathic, unrelenting in his actions, merciless. In fact, Smash Cut is built around Creighton’s story, his motives and personality, rather than the love story between Julie and Derek. Julie and Derek are endearing, but not original, and their plot line can feel a little stale, particularly as it closely parallels the love story of The Alibi.

Smash Cut is another hit, though some aspects of it – stereotypical characters, unoriginal love story – are not as appealing. However, Brown is a terrific writer, and she does not shy away from exploring the violent tendencies of her antagonists. Engaging and exciting, romantic and passionate, Smash Cut is the perfect book for a rainy afternoon.

Source:

  • Brown, Sandra. Smash Cut. Simon & Schuster, 2009 ISBN 9781416563099

Karen Robards, “Vanished”

Karen Robards presents a chilling thriller with Vanished. Disturbingly close to reality, Vanished is a story of loss, grief and death – the death of loved ones, the death of a happy life and the death of hope. As Robards cleverly weaves together a tale of friendship and family, she mercilessly probes the wound of a woman who longs for the return of her only child.

Plot Overview: Grief, Loss and Love

Seven years ago, Sarah Mason’s daughter, Lexie, vanished from a crowded park. As the police and the FBI gradually lose hope that Lexie will ever be found, Sarah begins to shut herself off from the world. She packs up her life, moves to a nondescript house on a nondescript street and shoves all of her mementos of Lexie into a bedroom closet.

Sarah manages to slowly rebuild her life, but in her guilt- and grief-stricken state, deprives herself of any pleasure. Her only companions are her loyal, ugly dog, Sweetie-Pie, and former FBI-agent-turned-private-investigator Jake Hogan.

After surviving a gas station hold-up, Sarah returns home to heal. That night, however, she gets a call – from five-year-old Lexie. As Sarah is haunted by her memories, unexplained reminders of Lexie begin to appear: her toys tumbling out of the closet, a shared word traced onto a dirty car window, more phone calls. Revitalized by the hope that her daughter might be alive, Sarah sacrifices her life, job and friendships to find Lexie.

Steadfastly by Sarah’s side, Jake Hogan is her most loyal – and only – friend. Although he has been in love with Sarah nearly as long as Lexie has been missing, he maintains a safe, friendly distance from Sarah and her emotional fragility. As he uses his skills to help her find Lexie, he takes one step away from friendship and one toward love. Together, he and Sarah reopen the investigation and, inevitably, fall in love.

Criticisms and Compliments

Like Harlan Coben, Karen Robards knows how to write a successful thriller. With plot twists combined with love and lust, Robards has a winning combination with Vanished. Robards’s writing, however, tends to involve long, rambling sentences and pages crowded with words. While some writers may use few words to describe, Robards uses many.

Her endings are consistently shocking, though in the case of Vanished, “shocking” trips over into “horrifying.” A deeply disturbing and, at times, spooky novel, Vanished should be read with caution. Robards seems aware of the extremity of Vanished’s resolution as she tempers the novel with humor. Overall, Vanished is an intriguing read, but one to handle with emotional detachment.

Source:

  • Robards, Karen. Vanished. Signet, 2007 ISBN 9780451221018

Sandra Brown, “The Witness”

The town of Prosper, South Carolina, is an idyllic place, the home of good values, strong families and fine Southern cooking. Sure, it has its share of hillbillies and low-class criminals, but Prosper is becoming richer and less crime-ridden every day. Unbeknownst to Kendall Burnwood, the town’s newest prosecutor, this deceptively passive town also houses a dark secret: a brotherhood of men determined to keep Prosper “pure.”

With corruption, racism and bigotry as their foundation, this particular clan of men – more violent and extreme than The Klan – runs Prosper. Those deemed unworthy are marked for “extermination.” Between crucifixions, dismemberments and murders, these men quietly exert their power, all in the name of God. Kendall’s efforts, however, will potentially bring this group to its knees, making her a dangerous foe, one worth hunting down.

Plot Overview: Love, Racism and Escape

For Kendall Deaton Burnwood, her desire for self-preservation and her need to protect her newborn son outweighs any potential need for love and companionship. After having stumbled upon her husband and father-in-law’s “hobby,” she flees, only to be discovered by the FBI. A fugitive, Kendall is escorted back to South Carolina by John McGrath, a U.S. Marshall. When their car crashes and John suffers from amnesia, Kendall, left with few choices, passes herself off as John’s wife, a deception that leads to a series of confrontations and illicit encounters.

For John McGrath, his amnesiac state sets his world on a tailspin. He struggles with maintaining his honor, his devotion to right – versus wrong – and his growing attraction to Kendall. His instincts warn him of Kendall’s lies, but his inability to regain his memory leaves him limping, literally and figuratively. It’s only when he succumbs to temptation, when he lets his guard down, that his memory returns and reality sets in.

Criticisms and Compliments

Take amnesia, add a dash of lust, mix with clandestine affairs and top it off with racism to create The Witness. Sandra Brown, with admirable consistency, presents another bestseller, one that combines love and intrigue to make a must-read. Like Exclusive, The Alibi and Ricochet, Brown is at the top of her game. Although she strays from her typical settings of Texas and New Orleans, her apt descriptions of life in fictional Prosper, South Carolina, make for a novel that is both intriguing and crowded with scandals. In a standard Brown move, The Witness concludes with a startling revelation.

With endearing characters, such as Kendall Deaton Burnwood’s brassy best friend, Ricki Sue, Brown provides a balance to her shadier, more disturbing characters. As Brown’s graphic narrative lends itself to unsettling scenes, so is it a perfect playground for her antagonists, particularly Gibbons Burnwood, Kendall’s father-in-law. The resulting confrontation between good and evil – laced with bouts of love and lust – propels The Witness forward at a swift pace.

Source:

  • Brown, Sandra. The Witness. Hodder & Stoughton, 1996 ISBN 9780340961803

Sophie Kinsella, “The Undomestic Goddess”

Sophie Kinsella, author of chick-lit hits like the Shopaholic series, Remember Me and Twenties Girl, produces another charming novel with The Undomestic Goddess. Rife with humiliating moments, The Undomestic Goddess is good for a few, even several laughs.

Samantha Sweeting is a brilliant lawyer but somehow gets roped into working as a housekeeper in the suburbs of London. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any domestic skills. She is incapable of doing laundry, fixing a meal, even vacuuming. With the help of new friends and a new love interest, Samantha begins to learn a little about housekeeping – and a lot about herself.

Plot Overview: Humor, Fulfillment and Vindication

Samantha is a high-flying lawyer at Carter Spink, one of London’s most prestigious firms. When she is on the verge of being named partner, she makes a critical mistake, costing one of the firm’s clients 50 million pounds. Shocked by her simple mistake and her certain termination, Samantha flees the office. She dazedly makes her way to the London countryside, where she is mistaken by a generous, if clueless couple as being a housekeeper. Uncertain what to do, Samantha plays along – until she realizes she’s actually been hired.

Hiding in the countryside, Samantha undergoes her own transformation. As she struggles to learn how to cook and clean, she gradually sheds the stress and unhappiness of her former career. In a happy turn of fate, she also meets Nathanial, the estate’s hunky gardener. Her feelings for Nathaniel grow – at least until she discovers his hatred of lawyers. The question is, can Nathaniel overcome his prejudice towards lawyers? And, if Nathaniel can get over his lawyer hang-ups, can Samantha summon her courage and face her former employers when she discovers she’s been wrongly terminated?

Criticisms and Compliments

By itself, The Undomestic Goddess is a sweet, humorous read. Kinsella easily blends humiliation with vindication, and like most of her protagonists, Samantha Sweeting is a little kooky. Compared to Kinsella’s other novels, however, The Undomestic Goddess falls a little short. It is funny, but it doesn’t reach the comic heights of cringe-worthy novels Twenties Girl or Can You Keep A Secret?.

In The Undomestic Goddess, Kinsella pairs Samantha’s lack of housekeeping abilities with her mother’s feminist ideals. This juxtaposition of opposing ideals doesn’t make for the funniest material, though Kinsella certainly tries. The strength of this novel actually lies in Nathaniel, its well-developed love interest. While potential boyfriends tend to appear superficial in Kinsella’s novels, Nathaniel, vulnerable yet strong, is a solid match for Samantha.

Despite its weaknesses, The Undomestic Goddess is still delightful. Fans of Kinsella will be pleased by the novel, which has a fantastic ending, and women trying to juggle between careers and housework can easily relate to Samantha. Overall, The Undomestic Goddess is cute and light, perfect for vacation reading.

Source:

  • Kinsella, Sophie. The Undomestic Goddess. Dell, 2007, ISBN 9780440242383