Far superior to most of Anne Rice’s empurpled Gothicism, and, quite possibly, the best vampire novel since Dracula.

THE REVENANTS

The ghoulish misdeeds and conflicted psychology of the undead are memorably explored in this classic supernatural thriller, published in England in 1983 and previously unavailable in the US.

In the terse, atmospheric opening pages, an unnamed narrator finds a partially charred manuscript in the vicinity of an abandoned country house in Cornwall that has mysteriously burned to the ground. It’s the “Narrative of John Richard Le Perrowne,” born in 1830 to middle-aged parents, sickly and reclusive throughout a lonely childhood—and the chosen victim of his ancestress Helena, a vampire whose seductive presence leads John into a thrilling new anti-world of empowerment and glamour. But the initiate vampire retains a conscience, and Farrington expertly contrasts his reluctant surrender to the lure of the night with the amoral Helena, a coven of inordinately bloodthirsty fellow creatures, and the young farm girl (Elizabeth) who becomes John’s creation, far outdistancing him in calculated villainy. The story is exactly as baroque and lurid as it needs to be, and its most effective set pieces (John awakening in bed to find Helena lying beside him; a feverish dream that’s prelude to an equally appalling reality) have a truly cinematic intensity. Farrington’s prose is pitched agreeably high, and his protagonist’s increasingly fearful intuitions are expressed with vivid emotion and mordant irony (“Death . . . seems much sweeter when you know you cannot have it”). And the closing sequences build impressively, as Perrowne discovers the truth of the ancestral secret that has shaped his fate, travels to Ireland in search of the “Master Revenant” rumored to be the father of them all, undertakes a climactic “journey to Hell,” and experiences a grotesque parody of the Resurrection. Thus summarized, it sounds egregiously flamboyant; in fact, it’s smashingly effective.

Far superior to most of Anne Rice’s empurpled Gothicism, and, quite possibly, the best vampire novel since Dracula.

Pub Date: April 23, 2003

ISBN: 1-903517-04-4

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Dedalus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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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