Bunkley (Starlight Passage, 1996, etc.) has toned down her tendency toward purple prose, but, ironically, while the writing's vastly improved in this new outing, the plot could use some livening up. Elise Jeffries and her husband Blake have been through some hard times; ever since Elise lost her hospital p.r. job in a scandal, the couple has struggled financially and emotionally. Now, however, when Elise gets an opportunity to be the media spokesperson for ScanTron Security International, a company based in her hometown of Flatwoods, Texas, the tide appears to be turning for the better—until the massive ScanTron complex explodes in flames, and the townspeople, some of whom were injured in the fire, want answers and want them now. Was the company complex, as seems increasingly likely, housing toxic chemicals? To Elise's frustration, Al Patterson, the surly, seemingly racist and outspokenly sexist manager of the ScanTron site, won't provide pertinent information to anyone, least of all Elise. And while vain, handsome TV reporter Carlos Rico gets on Elise's case, harassing her for answers in an attempt to boost his own profile, her parents, her best childhood friend, Damita, and all of her old acquaintances in town say can't understand why she's working for the enemy. When it appears that ScanTron's been keeping some deadly secrets, threatening those that Elise loves most, her crisis of conscience, troubled marriage, and spotted past are all brought to the forefront, causing her to make hard decisions that will alter the course of many lives. Fast-moving and realistic, though readers will wish that Bunkley had found ways of tempering all its somber business with other kinds of liveliness in characters and events. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-525-94010-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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


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.


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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