An engaging romp propelled by Susan’s infectious voice and determined resilience.


Illegitimate pregnancies lead to a career in lactation in Chapel Hill bookseller Eisdorfer’s inventive first novel.

Victorian ladies who couldn’t or wouldn’t breast-feed their infants hired someone like Susan Rose to do it for them. Susan, one of ten children, leaves her farm family in the English village of Leighton to work as a scullery maid at the local Great House. Soon, however, her Rubenesque figure and generosity with her favors lands her in trouble. After several meetings in the pantry with the master’s son, Freddie Bonney, she leaves the Manor; unbeknownst to her employer, she is about to give birth. Furious at the prospect of one more mouth to feed, her venal, drunken father Tom is mollified when his wife, herself a retired wet nurse, finds Susan lucrative employment as live-in milk source for a succession of families in nearby Aubrey. But she can’t take baby Joey with her, and he dies after being weaned too soon. While in Aubrey, Susan has a brief affair with a Jewish dentist. When work dries up, she goes back to the Manor and resumes trysting with Freddie. Assuming (erroneously) that Freddie is the father of Susan’s second out-of-wedlock baby, Tom blackmails the Bonneys, who farm out infant Davey to their London cousin, Mrs. Norval. Insinuating herself into the Norval household as a wet nurse, Susan soon discovers that Mrs. Norval is decidedly not the maternal type; in fact, she’s psychotic. Playing on her mistress’s delusions, Susan concocts a subterfuge, too delicious to reveal here, that enables her to rescue Davey from the Bonneys’ misguided charity. Periodic set pieces illustrating reasons for surrogate suckling reflect exhaustive research but interrupt the story’s flow. Susan is such an appealing narrator and heroine, however, that readers will cheer on her quest for a true home.

An engaging romp propelled by Susan’s infectious voice and determined resilience.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-15576-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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

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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

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