An imperfect debut that may still capture the audience’s attention and affection given its appealing themes and...

THE SASSY BELLES

The mysterious disappearance of her local celebrity boyfriend sends Vivi McFadden to her best friend and attorney, Blake O’Hara Heart, and together, the two women explore history, friendship and matters of the heart to get to many different truths.

When Vivi is certain she’s killed her boyfriend, Lewis Heart, by, ahem, loving him to death, she calls the one person in the world she trusts to take care of her: Blake, her best friend since childhood and a crack attorney. But when the police get to the scene, the body has disappeared. Tracking down clues at first throws Vivi under suspicion, but the case gets more mysterious and complicated as the days pass, especially since Lewis is Blake’s brother-in-law, and Harry, Blake’s  husband, has political aspirations. Also, the lead investigator on the case is Blake’s high school sweetheart, Sonny, which confuses Blake, since she and Harry suddenly seem to be moving toward different goals in life. The salacious nature of the whole story is embarrassing to Harry, and for a man who hopes to be a Senator, a sprawling, colorful cast of secondary characters with distinct Southern flairs can be troublesome. As Vivi, Blake, Sonny and Harry follow Lewis’ trail, secrets, attractions and attachments will play out in surprising ways, with distinct nods to the strength of family, the friendship sisterhood and the indomitable Southern spirit. Albright’s first novel is a frothy, frolicking story with enough over-the-top characters and quirky plot points that many readers won’t notice, or will be entertained enough to forgive, the roller-coaster pacing, the occasionally awkward storytelling, and the characters who do things that don’t always make sense for them or show them in admirable ways. 

An imperfect debut that may still capture the audience’s attention and affection given its appealing themes and high-spirited style.

Pub Date: May 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1528-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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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