A light, entertaining novel about greed, marital love and the inexplicable desire for solitude.

THE BIG IDEA

In Archdeacon’s debut novel, a 58-year-old millionaire and member of the Queen’s Counsel sells his house and belongings in an attempt to begin a new life alone while his wife is away.

John Penry-Hudson is a hard-working, respectable lawyer en route to fulfilling his dream of serving as one of Her Majesty’s judges. His wife, Phyllis, has been spending increasingly lengthy amounts of time with her aging mother a few hours away. When Phyllis takes a three-month leave, John suddenly decides to simply up and leave his wife, his lucrative career and his native country—seemingly without forethought or motivation. The day Phyllis departs, John embarks upon a hasty, complicated plan to sell the house (which was solely in his name), write a series of letters to cover his tracks and convince everyone that his wife has left him. Just as everything begins falling into place and John successfully escapes to Spain briefly in an attempt to foil potential pursuers, Phyllis suddenly appears at his hotel with a detective, resulting in an international chase that takes John to France, Switzerland and an imaginary country called Grundia, where he intends to settle. Because John has technically done nothing illegal, he’s off the hook—that is until his wife, either spurred by love or vengeance, takes matters into her own hands. Written in clean, safe prose that occasionally drags—particularly in the overwrought dialogue and while John gets his affairs in order—Archdeacon’s novel is a fun, domestic thriller reminiscent of some of Graham Greene’s work. But something is missing; from the beginning, John’s motivations are frustratingly unclear. “He had originally intended to teach Phyllis a lesson she would never forget,” the narrator explains nearly a third of the way into the book, and until this point, aside from explaining that John and Phyllis’s relationship was fairly stable, that is as much information as the narration provides, leaving much of the storyline feeling frivolous without any context for their relationship. Still, the confusion behind John’s apparent lack of impetus offers enough tension to keep the pages turning.

A light, entertaining novel about greed, marital love and the inexplicable desire for solitude.

Pub Date: July 22, 2008

ISBN: 978-1434338686

Page Count: 302

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 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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