An enjoyable romantic drama that keeps readers guessing.

I CAN HANDLE HIM

This romantic-suspense novel brings together a man who’s a trouble magnet with a woman who’s determined to prove his innocence.

In his mid-20s, Nick Allen is bad news, or at least that’s what people have said since his girlfriend, Sienna Brown, blew up in a car explosion. She was driving Nick’s Mustang, but her family blames Nick for neglecting to maintain the car, which he bought from the Browns’ dealership. Al Thomas, owner of the San Antonio, Texas, coffee shop/bookstore where they all used to work, says “The best thing for Nick would be to leave town”—though self-interest plays a role; Nick is opening a rival place just as Al is retiring with plans to leave the enterprise to his son, Blaine, a cocky 24-year-old. Quinn Corbin and her BFF Tory Taylor, both 24, think Nick is innocent—and “delicious.” The summer before Quinn starts teaching second grade and Tory returns to law school in Austin, Quinn begins exploring a relationship with Nick while Tory does some legal work for Al, somewhat uncomfortably given his anger over Nick’s coffee shop. After a tragedy that Nick is again blamed for, Tory vows to clear Nick’s name. Through twists and turns full of danger, surprise, and drama, more than one truth emerges. Lum (The Doctor, the Chef or the Fireman, 2017, etc.) writes a fast-paced novel full of emotional highs and lows. At times, the melodrama is overstated; for example, simply catching sight of her reflection in Nick’s sunglasses is “crazy strange” to Quinn. In general, though, Lum nicely captures the big feelings of young people getting started in life, like when Quinn’s excited about buying school supplies for her first time teaching solo. Some elements are too familiar, like the sassy gay best friend (“Honey, you know I moved to San Antonio for the street tacos and brown men”) or a contrived reason for jealousy (it’s just a big misunderstanding, naturally), but Lum keeps the plot suspenseful with alternating present-tense narrators, effective red herrings, and unexpected revelations.

An enjoyable romantic drama that keeps readers guessing.

Pub Date: April 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944463-12-0

Page Count: 362

Publisher: DKLit LLC

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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