It’s not Dallas’ Southfork (yet), but this ranch-set series offers plenty of room for growth.

THE SUN

A MYSTERY

From the Sun Ranch Saga series , Vol. 1

A Boston pediatric oncologist inherits a spectacular New Mexico cattle ranch that is literally to die for in this series launcher.

Dr. Bryce Miller cannot fathom why a distant uncle would bequeath to her free and clear The Sun, a 140,000-acre ranch near Alameda, New Mexico. She has given herself a week to sell the property before returning to her “deeply urban life.” But to whom? The mayor is pushing for development catering to the wealthy. One interested party wants to drill for natural gas. Another wants to purchase the land for conservation. A fourth, Mister Nibble, works for a company that has bought all the land north of The Sun. “No one knows what he’s up to,” a neighbor tells Dr. Miller. The sky-high, competing offers make her gasp, but her uncle, she is told, had a different vision: “He wanted it to be a model ranch. Healthy land, healthy food.” The ranch foreman seems desperate to talk to Dr. Miller about something but disappears before they could meet. When he winds up dead, the doctor has a murder mystery to solve while struggling to determine what she will do with the land. White’s (Grassroots, 2017, etc.) ambitious fiction debut does an efficient job of scene setting, from “the rich colors of the high desert” to the locals with their competing agendas, and his appreciation of the American West shines through. He grapples—albeit ham-handedly at times—with issues such as overdevelopment (“And to think it was a sleepy little place just a few years ago,” a real estate agent enthuses) and fracking. Dr. Miller is a plucky, likable hero, but the fate of the ranch is something of a foregone conclusion. Seeds are planted that her uncle didn’t die of natural causes, but the blasé kicking this can down the road (“that’s a mystery for another day”) may frustrate readers.

It’s not Dallas’ Southfork (yet), but this ranch-set series offers plenty of room for growth.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73275-610-6

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Early Hour Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2019

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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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