The novel’s predictability will likely delight Steel’s die-hard fans, but it won’t win any new ones.

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A PERFECT LIFE

A highly successful woman ponders romance with a younger man.

Steel (Until the End of Time, 2013, etc.) returns with her latest romance. Blaise McCarthy is our heroine. With huge green eyes, red hair, fine features and a fantastic figure, Blaise could easily pass for a woman in her 30s, even though she is practically pushing 50. With stark exposition, Steel outlines a life littered with romantic troubles. Her first husband, a cameraman, died while covering news from an unspecified war zone; her second husband, a venture capitalist 22 years her senior, gave her a beloved daughter, but they soon drifted apart from each other; her next serious relationship crashed and burned when she discovered that charming Andrew Weyland had no intention of ever divorcing his wife. Luckily, her daughter, Salima, thoughtfully understands that Blaise’s job as a renowned television journalist must take precedence over time together. Blinded by juvenile diabetes, Salima still lives with a personal caregiver on the grounds of the Caldwell School in Massachusetts. It’s a perfect life, if you disregard the loneliness of coming home to an empty apartment and limiting love to dinner dates with billionaire Saudi oil executives. It’s a perfect life until Salima’s caregiver dies, the Caldwell school is shut down under quarantine, and Salima is sent home with Simon, her gorgeous, new, very male caregiver. And then there’s the arrival of Susie Quentin, the beautiful, younger new anchor jockeying for Blaise’s job. Forced to take Salima and Simon into her home, Blaise must not only endure disruptions to her routine, but also face the fact that she is strongly attracted to Simon. But could he possibly want an older woman who may not be able to give him the family he wants?

The novel’s predictability will likely delight Steel’s die-hard fans, but it won’t win any new ones.

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53094-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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