Romantic comedy below the Mason-Dixon Line: fast-paced, funny and as sweet as iced tea.

THE TIARA CLUB

Southern-fried chick-lit.

Georgia Elliot is a founding member of the Tiara Club, a support group in small-town Mississippi for “recovering beauty queens.” She’s also an inventor, but she keeps that passion to herself. Such a vocation is hardly appropriate for a well-bred lady, particularly one who learned deportment on the pageant circuit and whose mama, herself a pageant veteran, is the very embodiment of gentility. When Georgia gave a Miracle Chef—her finest creation—to her best friend, she just wanted to help a busy single mother put food on the table, but friend Callie’s appreciation for this kitchen marvel—she has no idea her friend invented it—goes a little too far for Georgia’s liking: Callie writes a letter about the Miracle Chef to the host of a cooking show, and he comes to Ocean Sands to challenge the wonder appliance to a cook-off. Unfortunately for Georgia, not only does TV gourmet Daniel Rogers know her secret (he found out through some nifty research at the U.S. Patent Office Website), but he’s a Yankee, and he’s gorgeous. Yes, this plotline is farcical in both its complexity and its improbability, and, yes, a romance between star-crossed Georgia and Daniel is clearly inevitable, but Brandt (four previous mass-market titles) turns this potentially trite material into a charming, funny and big-hearted entertainment. It would have been easy for Brandt to people her story with a generically colorful cast of slapstick rubes and Southern eccentrics, but, instead, she creates a vivid community populated by unique and believable characters. The Tiara Club is an inviting bunch, as are the other inhabitants of Ocean Sands; Georgia is a thoroughly appealing heroine, and Daniel is the perfect match both for her sass and smarts.

Romantic comedy below the Mason-Dixon Line: fast-paced, funny and as sweet as iced tea.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-34122-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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