A warm, sparkling and heartfelt novel that explores the power of second chances in life, in love and in following our dreams.


Ten years ago, just out of college, San Francisco department store heiress Cassie Blake chose a life in Berkeley as a professor’s wife and a volunteer in an educational organic garden; now her husband might be cheating, and her mother is luring her back to Fenton’s with a gourmet food emporium.

When Cassie Blake discovers her husband, an ethics professor, has cheated on her at least once, she flees Berkeley to stay in a Presidio Heights mansion with her best friend, Alexis, the rich, bored wife of a hedge fund manager who constantly flies all over the world. Cassie’s mother, Diana Fenton, takes the opportunity to press Cassie back into the family business, asking her to oversee the store’s conversion of a full floor into a high-end gourmet food market. When once Cassie would have declined out of hand, her unsettling marriage situation leads her to agree to managing the design and the grand opening. More troubling is the quick attraction she feels toward James, the architect of the project, and the increased tension she feels with her husband, who resents her work and puts pressure on her to forgive him for his small indiscretion and come home. With the life she loved crumbling, Cassie must ask herself some unwelcome questions about who she is, what she wants and what’s worth fighting for. Set against the backdrop of glamorous high-society San Francisco, this is an entertaining, satisfying women’s fiction novel that reads like a reverse fairy tale but still ends happily. Hughes has a witty, charming writing style and the ability to create characters that are both larger than life and down to earth (Alexis, in particular, and her motley crew of ultrarich society scions). There is humor, wit and style, all of which enrich the arc of Cassie’s journey to true, authentic happiness.

A warm, sparkling and heartfelt novel that explores the power of second chances in life, in love and in following our dreams.

Pub Date: March 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-64333-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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