Facile, silly and insulting to both sexes. Will probably be a big hit.

MAN CAMP

Two Manhattan women decide the urban men in their lives need retooling in order to be worthwhile spouses—or at least first dates: a chick-lit debut by the founding editor of Zoetrope.

Lucy is a Columbia biology professor with a wimpy boyfriend, Adam. Still in the throws of his econ dissertation and practically living off Lucy, Adam also proves himself pathetically inept on a Valentine’s Day camping trip. Lucy’s best friend, Martha, is a struggling actress. Out of frustration with her own first dates, Martha has just begun a business called FirstDate, through which she offers her critiquing service to improve men’s dating skills. The women, who live in the same building, spend a lot of time together in a bar dishing men, in particular New York City men in all their (white, middle-class) varieties: metro-sexual preeners, overly sensitive neurotics, techno-gadget addicts, self-important tycoons. In contrast, Lucy’s best college buddy, Cooper, a dairy farmer from West Virginia, is both manly and a gentleman. Why Lucy and he never got romantic remains vague, but when he visits New York, she watches with some jealousy as sparks fly between him and Martha. Nevertheless, the three of them hatch a plan to start a camp to train men how to be men. Next thing you know, Martha’s rounded up some of her clients and her sweetly neurotic brother—while Lucy’s tricked Adam into thinking he’s attending as a counselor—and they’re all off to West Virginny, where the men are soon having a great time changing tires and shooting guns. Martha is having less fun because Cooper’s mother is a steel magnolia doing her damnedest to thwart Martha’s romance with her son, while Cooper himself is distracted. Cooper’s secret soon comes out—and, suddenly, urban skills start coming in handy. Even poor Adam gets to shine.

Facile, silly and insulting to both sexes. Will probably be a big hit.

Pub Date: July 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6214-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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