If the corn that suffuses this novel were likker, we’d all be too drunk to finish reading it. Perhaps that would be best.


The fortunes of a prosperous Georgia turpentine farmer’s beautiful daughter wax and wane incessantly in this florid successor to Rubio’s Oprah-chosen debut, Icy Sparks (1998).

Toward the end of the 19th century, hard-drinking and probably syphilitic Monroe Miller earns the hatred of his ailing wife, Violet, and spirited 15-year-old daughter, Dalia; professes sodden love for Dalia’s blind younger sibling, Nellie Ann; and risks the family fortune on cockroach races before succumbing to grief following the death of his favorite horse in a stable fire. Dalia relocates to the hamlet of Samson, where she looks for love and settles for dentist Herman McKee. After bearing him a son (Marion), Dalia is re-bereaved when Herman dies. Bolstering her feminist credentials by joining the matron-dominated Samson Historical Society, our second-rate Scarlett O’Hara, with no Rhett Butler to misguide her, marries adipose mama’s boy Walter Larkin. He fathers her daughter, Clara Nell, a natural-born tomboy. During the WWI years, Clara Nell fights for independence by running repeatedly away from home, learning about Margaret Sanger and women’s rights to control their own bodies and wedding dapper Dayton Morris. One small problem: The groom’s father, Dalia bitterly points out, “stole my family’s land after my papa died.” Despite homecooking, herbal wisdom, and sassy moral support offered by the Millers’ exiled cook, Katie Mae, who rejoins Dalia in Samson, things go from bad to worse. Clara Nell won’t listen to her elders and persists in the folly to which Dalia must put a stop, bringing on Further Tragedy and an epilogue that describes Dalia’s progression into madness and despair.

If the corn that suffuses this novel were likker, we’d all be too drunk to finish reading it. Perhaps that would be best.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03321-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

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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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