New Zealander Baltakmens (The Battleship Regal, 1996) captures the flavor and scope of classic British fiction. Adventure...

THE RAVEN'S SEAL

A young hedonist falls under a false murder charge in 1776.

On a cold evening in the British city of Airenchester, Thaddeus Grainger attends a lavish ball at the town home of Lady Stepney. Despite the music and lively talk, he leaves early, more interested in drink and women than idle flirting. It takes him days to learn the name of the beautiful girl he spots in a public house: Cassie Redruth. Still, he dutifully fulfills his many local obligations, including those to the family of Miranda Pears, whom many observers believe he is destined to wed. Airenchester is densely populated with faux Dickensian characters: Grainger's best friend, the free-thinking William Quillby; Cassie's ex-grenadier father, Silas; and Mr. Trounce, a starchy barrister. When Grainger's self-appointed rival, righteous Piers Massingham, makes the mistake of manhandling Cassie, harsh speeches soon escalate into fighting words. At the duel that ensues, Massingham stabs Grainger in the thigh after the latter loses his footing. The strike is not serious, but still more angry words follow. And when a watchman finds Massingham murdered later that day, the news spreads with lightning speed. There seems little public doubt that rakish Grainger is guilty. Once he's taken to dingy Bellstrom Gaol, Cassie seems carried away with her newfound celebrity, leaving Quillby to embark on an uphill quest for justice.

New Zealander Baltakmens (The Battleship Regal, 1996) captures the flavor and scope of classic British fiction. Adventure overshadows mystery in his colorful yarn.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9852787-5-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Top Five Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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