I, VICTORIA

The prolific British author of historical romances (Fleur, 1993, etc.) and the Bill Slider mysteries gathers here an attractive nosegay tribute to the legendary marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert—though the author's queen is no violet of sentiment (or risible caricature) but ardent, shrewd, and tough. In a modern idiom, Victoria tells her own story near the end of a long life. Born in 1819, offspring of the gallivanting Duke of Kent, she had a miserable childhood, thanks largely to her mother's platonic but simple-minded attachment to a con-man/social climber determined to control the future queen. Finally, however, after dear Uncle William's death (William IV), she's queen at last—and free! The triumphant, exhilarated young Victoria has a cherished champion and guide in the prime minister, Lord Melbourne. Then Uncle Leopold of Belgium sends over a brace of cousins, and one, of course, is Albert. True to her lusty Hanoverian blood, Victoria exclaims: ``He was beautiful!'' Marriage brings fabulous flight but also an inevitable clash of wills. Studious, dutiful Albert demands work and a husband's authority, but Victoria is not about to give up royal responsibilities—those she waited so long for—to anyone. She does capitulate, however, with a revelation: ``It is perfectly possible to love someone absolutely . . . even though you may be fighting with them for your very life.'' Through the years of parenthood (nine children, including poor Bertie, the Prince of Wales), grueling work, tragedy and triumphs, Albert's hard efforts and dedication grind on but his spirit flags. He dies at age 42. The old Victoria, still mourning, still besotted, states a bald truth: Her ``perfect'' one had a sad want of what they call pluck. With sure historical detail, Harrod-Eagles offers a gentle, lively, never oversweet portrait—with entertaining suppositions about the real Victoria behind that ``old woman in a bonnet'' on bottles of Bombay gin.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-13516-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1995

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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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