A quick read to get you in the holiday mood, but not as strong as Hilderbrand’s best.

WINTER STREET

Hilderbrand leaves the beach for this Christmas novel—though it’s still set on her beloved Nantucket.

The whole island is looking forward to the annual Winter Street Inn Christmas party, except for the inn’s owner, Kelley Quinn, who's just discovered the hired Santa kissing his wife, Mitzi. Mitzi and Santa inform Kelley of their 13-year affair and Mitzi’s imminent departure from married life. Kelley, retreating to bed with smokes and booze, blasts Mitzi on Facebook and lists the inn for sale, its extravagant restoration having eaten through his once-sizable savings. Thankfully, he has grown children to help, though they have problems, too. Eldest son Patrick lives in Boston with his wife and kids, but the feds will soon be at the door to charge him with insider trading. Bartender Kevin, whose life was derailed by a bad woman, is now on track: He’s in love with Isabelle, the Winter Street Inn’s beautiful French manager. If only he can muster the courage to pop the question. And finally there’s Ava, a schoolteacher with the perfect boyfriend, except that he’s really not that into her. But Assistant Principal Scott is. Perhaps the only one who can tie up all these loose ends is Margaret Quinn, Kelley’s first wife and mother to the three kids, who sacrificed her family life in order to become the most famous journalist in America but whose arrival on Nantucket just may save the day. Increasingly, best-selling authors are producing Christmas novels, family dramas in which the Christmas Spirit prevails. They often seem like rushed marketing ploys, though occasionally they hold up to the author’s own standards. Hilderbrand’s falls somewhere in between; her skill at creating character is present, but the plot feels constrained and a little predictable.

A quick read to get you in the holiday mood, but not as strong as Hilderbrand’s best.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-37611-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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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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