A highly enjoyable thriller with lots of intelligence and heart.

Assassin's Trap

In Shaftoe’s (Forged in the Jungles of Burma, 2010, etc.) thriller sequel, a newly married couple finds out that marriage can be difficult when people are trying to kill you.

MI-5 agent John Brock has recently returned from the jungles of Burma with his new wife, Caroline, who now works as his administrative assistant. She’s eager to start field training, but after going through hell in Southeast Asia, all John wants to do is to carry out his duties as the head of the counterterrorism unit and keep Caroline safe. But it appears that someone has other plans, and sent an assassin after John. He thinks it’s in his wife’s best interest not to tell her, but Caroline’s desire to be an agent proves to be more forceful than he expected. Soon the couple is working together, and the action moves from London to Oslo to South Korea as they race to find out who wants John dead and why, and what lengths they will go to for revenge. This novel is as much an exploration of what makes a marriage work as it is a spy thriller, interweaving scenes of the Brocks’ relationship with adrenaline-fueled action set pieces. Shaftoe crafts a sequel that stands on its own; the previous book’s plot is easy to pick up, and the new story quickly reels readers in with a mixture of James Bond-style action, political intrigue and sympathetic characters. Although the book is a bit slow to start, it’s difficult to put down once it picks up speed, as this isn’t a generic spy story, but a thoughtful novel populated with real people. The book contains some Christian themes, but these interludes are never preachy or offensive. Shaftoe’s gift for suspense and willingness to put her characters in real danger ups the stakes, resulting in a vividly realized adventure that one can easily imagine seeing on the big screen.

A highly enjoyable thriller with lots of intelligence and heart.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469700595

Page Count: 324

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2014

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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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