Past tense & a tense present
The HarperCollins library marketing team was in fine form and fine feathers in Las Vegas at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference. Among the titles the ladies buzzed was the latest from David Nicholls, Us(Harper, Nov. 2014; Prepub Alert, 5/12/14). Biochemist Douglas Petersen faces a crisis when his artist wife Connie, in bed at 4 a.m., tells him that after 24 years of marriage she is thinking of leaving him. The family is about to embark on a Grand Tour of Europe; their 17-year-old son, Albie, is starting college in the fall. An altercation with a guest in their Amsterdam hotel sends Albie off on his own, with the ever reliable Douglas in hot pursuit. I just adored Nicholls’s One Day, though I never got to see the film. His new work is another heart-tugger about love, happiness, family, and learning to let go. Weepy-eyed on the subway seems to be my constant state these days. Thanks, David.
One title presented at the Random House ALA book buzz especially piqued my interest: debut author Allen Eskens’s coming-of-age novel, The Life We Bury (Seventh Street, Oct.). College freshman Joe Talbert is new to the big city, having recently left his hometown and his alcoholic mother’s mania. Sadly, his younger brother, Jeremy, who suffers from autism, is among the jetsam of Joe’s former life. To complete a project for his biography class, Joe heads to the Hillview Manor retirement home, assuming he’ll find a willing interview subject among the elderly residents. What he doesn’t expect is convicted murderer and rapist Carl Iverson, out on parole now that he is dying of pancreatic cancer. Eskens’s first-person narration grabs the reader and never relinquishes its hold. Do things go a bit too easily for our young hero? Perhaps. But the nonstop puzzle solving and unrelenting tension offer a huge payoff.
Then there’s Mary Balogh (rhymes with Kellogg; I asked her). I first became familiar with her work when I fell upon her book Slightly Married, part of her six-volume historical romance “Bedwyn” series. Her new “Survivors’ Club” titles concern six men and one woman damaged (psychologically and physically) during the Peninsular Wars. Years later, they continue to meet annually to reinforce their recovery, move on with their lives, and find romance, of course. Only Enchanting, the fourth book in the series (Signet, Nov.), is the story of Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby, suffering memory loss and a stammer after a head wound and being thrown from his horse. He does remember, though, the woman he met last autumn at a house party, thinking her “enchanting.” Back in the area for the club’s reunion, Flavian discovers Mrs. Agnes Keeping is still enchanting and a good deal more. I asked Berkley/NAL associate director of publicity and marketing Erin Galloway about Balogh’s move from Bantam Doubleday Dell (e.g., The Escape, LJ 6/15/14) to NAL’s Signet. “NAL vice president and editorial director Claire Zion is a longtime fan of Mary’s work. NAL originally published Mary in the Signet Regency line, and we’re thrilled to welcome her back with the ‘Survivors’ Club’ series,” Galloway says. My recommendation is to read Balogh, devour Balogh, become addicted to Balogh. You will find yourself in excellent company.
Last, but never least, is the next title in Tessa Dare’s “Castles Ever After” series (after Romancing the Duke, LJ 2/15/14). In Say Yes to the Marquess (Avon, Jan. 2015), Clio Whitmore goes toe-to-toe with her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Rafe Brandon, over her plans to break her engagement to his brother. Determined female vs. a rake and prizefighter; place your bets. And fall in love with librarian Dare.—Bette-Lee Fox