Lemongrass Hope

In Impellizzeri’s debut novel, a history professor chooses between free-spiritedness and stability.
Kate, a mother and history teacher, contends daily with a decision made in her youth. The story skips through the decades of her life, revolving around a romantic compromise. While completing her master’s and working as a waitress, a young vivacious woman, Benton, takes notice of Kate, and Benton’s friend Ian can’t help but do the same. Although Benton knows of Ian’s infatuation with Kate, as the women become friends, she decides Kate would prefer her friend Rob. Kate goes on a date with Rob, but things quickly fizzle. Ian swoops in, and the two become inseparable, until he leaves on assignment. Kate—uneasy with his uprooted lifestyle and unsure of her feelings—loses hope for their relationship, despite Ian’s assurances. Rob re-enters her life, and following a miscarriage, the two decide to get married. Their marriage suffers more blows: job instability, adultery. When Kate feels as if she’s lost control, she receives an invitation from Benton for a “heartbreak cruise.” Relieved to spend a week with other scorned women, Kate finds that Ian is also attending the holiday, and she realizes this may be her second shot at love. Kate’s story speaks to the ways optimism and pessimism may affect choices. Rob condemns her for pessimistic attitude, while Ian will always cherish her as a “true optimist.” The way in which Kate grapples with their opinions of her reveals her own self-perception; she is often insecure, questioning her parenting and professionalism. The nonlinear structure makes her story unique; it switches from her days as a student to her experience as a newlywed to her failing marriage to her chance for redemption with Ian. The complex decisions at each turn build reader interest and investment in the characters.
A layered, bittersweet romance that questions consequences and explores second chances.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-939288-53-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2014

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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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