An intriguing, ambitious literary work that will reward more patient readers.


Another complicated, multi-layered plot from English novelist McGregor (The Ice Child, 2001), this time concerning an upscale art appraiser obsessed with the work of a mad Victorian artist.

Catherine Sergeant left a promising position at Bergens in London some years ago when her usually dependable husband, Robert, took an accounting job in the countryside. Now working at a fancy auction house in Dorset, she feels baffled and betrayed by Robert’s sudden, inexplicable, but clearly intentional disappearance. A subtle, intelligent writer, McGregor is not satisfied with dwelling on the domestic crises of a newly abandoned wife. Catherine has entertained a fixation throughout her art career with Victorian painter Richard Dadd, an early genius who was incarcerated in mental asylums for 40 years after cutting his father’s throat with a penknife. Grieving over Robert, Catherine meets John Brigham, an eccentric, wealthy architect 20 years her senior who lives in a gorgeous Arts and Crafts cottage in the area. Grandson of the artist’s attendant at Bedlam insane asylum, John happens to know quite a bit about Dadd and even possesses a secret cache of his work. Startlingly, Catherine reminds the architect of a character in one of Dadd’s paintings. To further confound the rather contrived plot, John suffers from a mysterious, romantically fatal heart ailment, adding urgency to his affair with Catherine. The novel would disintegrate in less capable hands, but McGregor deliberately builds her narrative and manages to invest it with suspense by alternating between the contemporary story and grim glimpses inside Bedlam in the mid-19th century as Dadd paints his fanciful masterpieces. The author also offers just enough detail about chilly, callow Robert to attract and repel. Ultimately, however, the promise of John’s jealous, unstable sister, Helen, to reveal family skeletons stuffed in the closet (or, in this case, under the house’s floorboards) throws the story verily over the top.

An intriguing, ambitious literary work that will reward more patient readers.

Pub Date: July 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-553-80359-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet