Not for those who prefer tarter holiday fare.

WINTER SOLSTICE

Fourth in Hilderbrand’s Christmas series about a family-run Nantucket inn.

Changes are looming at Winter Street Inn, seemingly portending the end of this Christmas series. Innkeeper Kelley, patriarch of the Quinn family, is in hospice, dying of brain cancer. Kelley’s oldest son, Patrick, is struggling to grow a hedge fund after serving time for insider trading. Due to their straitened finances, wife Jennifer, an interior decorator and former addict, hesitates to tell Patrick she lost a sizable account due to a banker client’s sexual harassment. Characters from Hilderbrand’s recent summer novel, The Rumor (2015), make an appearance: disgraced realtor Eddie Pancik, now out of jail, his wife, Grace, and her erstwhile lover, master landscaper Benton Coe, now returned from temporary exile in Detroit. Kelley’s ex-wife, iconic anchorwoman Margaret, is regretting, with near-retirement hindsight, that she allowed his second wife, Mitzi, to raise their three children, Patrick, Kevin, and Ava. A new relationship is working out well for Ava until a visit from her boyfriend Potter’s son, PJ—who's over-the-top bratty even by today’s standards—threatens to upend everything. Kelley worries about what will happen to Mitzi after he's gone; she has no family except their only child, Bart, a former Marine who suffers from PTSD after two years of imprisonment in Afghanistan. Mitzi is already planning to list the inn for sale with Eddie, and judging how well Nantucket real estate has bounced back from the crash, this promises to replenish the depleted coffers of both. Hilderbrand has quickly put her witty and at times profound stamp on the Christmas genre. In this latest outing, however, the most interesting crises evaporate too soon: Bart’s trauma is quickly eased by love at first sight, Jennifer spins addiction dross into reality TV gold, a little FaceTime tames PJ, etc. Perhaps these neatly tied-up plotlines are appropriate at series' end—except that the ambiguous close suggests the end may not be so near after all.

Not for those who prefer tarter holiday fare.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-43545-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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