Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, October 26, 2012

Week ending October 26, 2012

Lowenthal, Michael. The Paternity Test. Terrace Bks: Univ. of Wisconsin. 2012. 284p. ISBN 9780299290009. $26.95; eISBN 9780299290030. F
Pat and Stu are a long-term gay couple struggling to stay connected; Pat worries he is losing Stu to a world of cruising made ever easier by the Internet. Like many couples before them, they decide a baby, long a wish of Pat’s, will help solidify their family. One move to Cape Cod later, they are interviewing surrogates when they meet Debora and her husband, Danny, who seem perfect. The intimacy of the surrogate relationship and the complications of getting pregnant soon absorb both couples; Pat and Debora grow closer, but Stu begins to pull away as attempt after attempt fails. Most readers will predict the action of the novel, but the characters are thoughtfully drawn, and the emotions and stresses of artificial insemination (AI) are sympathetically, but realistically, portrayed. Never easy, the AI here is further complicated by how society, family, friends, and even Pat and Stu see gay men as father material.
Verdict Lowenthal (The Same Embrace: Avoidance; Charity Girl) offers a solid read on how relationships hold up or wither away under great stress and what it means to be a family. Sure to appeal to both heterosexual and gay/lesbian readers.—Devon Thomas, Chelsea, MI

starred review starMorton, Kate. The Secret Keeper. Atria: S. & S. Oct. 2012. 463p. ISBN 9781439152805. $26.99; eISBN 9781439163092. F
In 1959 rural England, 16-year-old Laurel Nicholson sees a stranger walking up to her house. The stranger encounters Laurel’s mother, Dorothy, and dies after Dorothy stabs him. Although in shock that her warm, imaginative, loving parent is capable of such violence, Laurel keeps the family secret. Many years later, as Laurel and her siblings gather to be with their mother in her final days, a photograph of Dorothy and another young woman in the early days of World War II triggers Laurel’s curiosity about her mother’s youth in London during the Blitz, and Laurel gradually uncovers her mother’s secret. Flashbacks of Dorothy’s life reveal the high emotions and rash actions that severely impacted her and the lives of those around her.
Verdict Best-selling Australian author Morton (The Distant Hours) has written an absorbing tale of friendship, desire, and jealousy set against the turbulent backdrop of a country at war. Cleverly revealing more of each character’s strengths and flaws as the layers of the secret are exposed, Morton’s riveting novel startles the reader with an unexpected ending. Sure to be in demand by Morton’s many fans. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/12.]—Joy Gunn, Henderson Libs., NV

Sayer, Mandy. Love in the Years of Lunacy. Atria: S. & S. Nov. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781451678468. pap. $15; eISBN 9781451678475. F
In 1942 Sydney, Australia, 18-year-old jazz musician Pearl Willis plays the saxophone in an all-girl band at an upscale nightclub. She and her twin brother, Martin, also a saxophonist, relish the sparkling new jazz scene afforded by the presence of American GIs in Sydney. Together, Pearl and Martin frequent the late-night American clubs and occasionally jam with the musicians. When Pearl meets James, an African American soldier from Louisiana, they embark on a momentous love affair clouded only by their knowledge that social prejudice may ultimately keep them apart. The narrative gains momentum when James is transferred to the jungle battlefields of New Guinea and Pearl hatches a plan to follow him by posing as an Australian soldier.
Verdict Although this is ostensibly a love story, James remains a one-dimensional character, and Pearl’s friendships with her military cohorts are far more compelling than her love affair with James. Nevertheless, award-winning Australian writer Sayer (Dreamtime Alice) has crafted an atmospheric story highlighting a little-known chapter of World War II history, and it will appeal to fans of romantic historical fiction.—Kelsy Peterson, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"