Despite some shortcomings, the story is a solid page-turner sprinkled with clever observations about the nature of romantic...

COLD FEET

Before Emma Moon ties the knot, she wants to know why her father walked out on her months after she was born.

Emma has always lived by the motto "Be the first person to jump ship." Her aversion to commitment is understandable after a lifetime with a mother who's kept her at arm’s length and a father who walked out of her life. This parental combo has left Emma with a gaping hole she feels can only be filled when she finds her father, Hunter Moon. Emma and her best friend, Liv, ditch a pre-wedding Napa getaway and head to San Francisco for an often funny paternal scavenger hunt. Fitzhenry’s plot is reminiscent of the 1996 Ben Stiller comedy flick Flirting with Disaster but lacks the heart and complexity that made the movie truly special. Through a series of too-convenient coincidences, Emma discovers secrets that rock the foundation of her past and threaten her future. Readers may buy the random run-in with a long-lost friend who reveals that fiance Sam might not be all he seems. And, OK, Liv’s ex-boyfriend could just happen to be at the same bar as Emma and Liv. But when a postcard for a Hunter Moon art show conveniently appears at just the right moment, debut novelist Fitzhenry slides quickly into eye-rolling territory. (To her credit, the author acknowledges the unlikeliness there by dubbing it “the Magic Postcard.”) It’s also hard to swallow that a character capable of such emotionally rich flashbacks to her childhood can be so one-dimensional in her analysis of present-day relationships. She's quick to label people as liars and cheats when there is clearly more nuance to situations. Still, Emma is easy to root for.

Despite some shortcomings, the story is a solid page-turner sprinkled with clever observations about the nature of romantic love.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-425-28111-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

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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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