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THE SUMMER PACT

The time-honored post-breakup trip—“Eat, Shop, Party”—has life-changing results you needn’t believe to enjoy.

The suicide of a friend creates a lifelong bond among three college classmates.

The latest from the author of Something Borrowed opens at the University of Virginia, where four freshmen are about to find the connection that will sustain them through the next four years. They are Lainey, an aspiring actor from California; Tyson, a Black man with law in his future; Summer, a star scholar and varsity athlete; and Hannah, whose conservative Southern mother is going to be very disappointed that she’d rather hang with these three than pledge a sorority. Shortly before their graduation, the unthinkable happens: For reasons no one will ever fully understand, Summer takes her own life. This leads to the eponymous pact: The trio of survivors agree never to take “drastic steps” before reaching out. They are in their early 30s when the first reach-out occurs: Hannah has walked in on her fiance screwing the local Instagram influencer in the bed she just bought for their future marital home. Lainey, now a Hollywood actor on her way up, drops everything and jets in from California to extricate Hannah and exact revenge. Tyson shows up, too, though he has to quit his job and ditch his girlfriend to get there. Once that mess is cleaned up, the three leave on a fantasy getaway on which each gets to pick a stop. The rest of the story unfolds mostly on Capri, always a desirable setting in fiction, where our protagonists hit places like “that beach club [from] TikTok,” La Fontelina. (Do Google it.) Though shocking life changes befall each member of the trio during their Italian sojourn, none are much of a surprise to the reader, who will likely notice the exact moment each plot twist became inevitable. Be quiet and drink your Aperol Spritz.

The time-honored post-breakup trip—“Eat, Shop, Party”—has life-changing results you needn’t believe to enjoy.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9780593600290

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

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A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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